By Janene Carey
In the industrial zone behind Woolgoolga, there’s a place called Skate and Create, where people of all ages learn about street surfing, explore their creativity and pick up some life lessons along the way.
Founded a year ago by former youth worker and long-term skateboarder and coach Matty Day, Skate and Create offers not only classes but also a philosophy of resilience and determination.
“Skateboarding exemplifies the saying that it’s not how many times you fall over, it’s how many times you get back up,” Matty said.
“We live that. We practise tricks, we fall over on the concrete, it hurts. We make the necessary adjustments until we get it right and we practise that trick until we master the skill.
“I think that’s a good example of how to approach life. Skateboarding has given me a mental and physical practice that’s helped me in other ways, in business and relationships.”
Matty grew up in Melbourne and scored a skateboard for Christmas when he was 12. In the summer of 1988, he was permitted to follow the bigger kids around to different skate spots and watch them doing their daredevil moves, if he could keep up.
“What I was not allowed to do was to try and perform any tricks in their presence,” Matty said.
“Some of those cool guys would heckle, snicker and flat-out laugh at us younger wannabes, when we gave skateboarding a go.”
But there were other riders with a different attitude, who would smile when you passed them. They could do the big, fast tricks, they had a style of their very own, and they looked happy as they rolled around the vacant carparks and schools.
So, Matty began to practise and practise and his balance got better. Skateboarding became his transport everywhere; it combined well with public transport.
He went on to become a sponsored rider featured in national and international magazines and videos, a team manager, a mentor for other professional skateboarders, and an accredited coach with Skate Australia.
In his early 30s, he moved from Melbourne to Alice Springs and opened a skateboard school and shop there. He chose Alice Springs because of the opportunity to work with young Indigenous people and to use skateboarding and artmaking as a community development tool.
In 2015, Matty and his family came to the Coffs Coast, and he began growing the sport in this region, offering coaching and working with council to upgrade facilities at the skate parks. Last September he started Skate and Create, an indoor skate park, art studio and shop at 5/24a Hawke Drive, Woolgoolga.
“The aim of Skate and Create is to build confidence and skills around skateboarding and around art,”
Matty said. “It’s about flipping that negative narrative that people have, ‘I can’t skateboard, I’ll fall off and kill myself’ or ‘I can’t make art, I’m not very good at drawing’. I’d like to encourage and teach people to build their confidence so that they can. Because I believe that everyone can.”
The centre is open from Tuesday to Saturday and it’s big on diversity and inclusion – there are skateboarding classes for toddlers and for adult women, half of the attendees are female, and the age range runs from 18 months to 63 years.