Green Skate: An Interview with Ross Baradoy
Patrick Switzer: Alright Ross, you sound very passionate about this event. Why did Green Skate start?
Ross Baradoy: The history of it was grown out of the community in Calgary. First basically what happened was, we had a person die in Calgary, Jamie McBrian. And we had negative backlash from the public, and basically they wanted to open a conversation about possibly banning longboarding in the city. Lots of communities still face this issues today. So we started S.L.A.C. to show it was a safe thing. And then we wanted to start doing events, doing community-building events. We wanted to hold an event that was accessible to all people, in all facets. We saw that we were at the top of the pyramid, so like the hard-core guys. The guys going three wide into a golf course corner and parkading and stuff like this. But there was a completely different part of the community we weren’t connected with, the average person who was just pushing around. So we wanted to have an event for them. We wanted to be centered around something too, and there were some issues during the time in Alberta about the Tar Sands. So we figured, hey maybe we should do something around an environmental day to make it special and because longboarding is kind of connected. So Paul Kent and I decided we should do something on Earth Day.
In 2007 it was just Calgary. I made some connections in Chile, After going to race in Rio de janeiro. I emailed some of my connections from racing, Deano in Spokane, Wayne from New Haven, Connecticut, and Edmonton Local 124 guys. So then it kind of went international, and it kept growing from there. We had some people help support us, some community media.
Did you use a website?
The first year, Calgary Skate was the website. Then after, it was just so much work, and to be honest we’re just lazy. We wanted to keep it simple, so the next website was a blog and then that converted to another blog and now we have Aaron doing the WordPress website and it works.
How does Green Skate work?
It’s a funnel of a whole bunch of events connected through one portal, the interesting thing is, Green Skate isn’t so much an authoritarian event. It isn’t said, this is how it should be, and this is how you should deal with your issue and what you should address. Each community has its own autonomy over what they’re doing. The reason they label their event “Green Skate” is because they’re connected to a bigger movement. Obviously we’re centered on environmental change and things like this. But we’re also centered around the longboard community so it’s two things going on at once. The environment is a topic, which affects us all, it’s important!
You have Green Skate connected through Earth day. What were the reasons and the ad/disadvantages?
When Green Skate started out every event was registered on Earth Day. EarthDay.org now is “A billion acts of Green.” By being connected with Earth Day we legitimize our connection to an even bigger picture. This is the first year that one of the reps contacted us, wanting us to partner with them. So this year we have a special page and write up on their website!
How do you feel as an organizer, now that it’s an international event?
It’s so simple. That’s why it keeps on going. It doesn’t take a lot of time to be an administrator. That’s all I am, just a middleman that connects the people together and runs the website, but I don’t organize Green Skate’s anymore.
Why have the Green Skate dates grown?
This year we added a new date, “The United Nations Environmental Day,” so now we have two dates. This is the first year we added this because we had so many complaints in cold countries like Sweden, Norway, Finland and Canada. Like in Calgary, people didn’t show up once because it was too cold! The first year Paul had to sweep snow off the streets and the path. It’s another environmentally centered day, it’s different and we haven’t worked with them before.
We span both dates through about a week, April 22nd is Earth Day so, April 16-22 and UN Environmental Day is June 5th so June 1-5th so people have flexibility and can work together. There are other events going on in longboard communities, and we don’t want to conflict with other events.
How do you feel for the average Joe?
Lots of people skate around just for transportation. Green Skate brings that average Joe into the community. It connects them with the community. The pushers who are bankers using boards to travel. It would be nice to see them come out and say, “I’m apart of this. My act every day of going to work is good, and now I can go back to the office and share the story.” Now they can go back the office and maybe show pictures on their Facebook page or whatever, you know. “I went to Green Skate, and I’m a giant banker guy and it’s cool.” This would be really interesting you know!
How do you deal with traffic?
What we recommend, whatever your event is and this is something I want to reiterate, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a push event. It could be a slide competition, could be a slalom or downhill event. Hopefully it is an “in law” event. So whatever your community is into, this event is whatever you want to celebrate.
In relation to a push event, dealing with vehicles and cross walks you have a very large group potentially, and depending on how large your group is you can contact the city and let them know. We have events in South America that are so large they have to have a police escort. I assume the NY race also had an escort, no?
PS: (shakes head)
RB: That’s crazy! Anyways… um, so… You should have a designated route, a leader or a group of leaders who are easily visible, and that you have a person in the back. Now the leader needs to keep a pace to not let the group get spread apart, because if you go too fast the average Joe can’t keep up. So when the group comes to lights or things like this you can cross the intersection all in one group, so that you don’t have one person running across trying to catch up cause he’s the last guy. You don’t want to encourage that, because he may not be able to control his board so well, and now a car hits him. Now I have a problem, now we have bad publicity and someone emailing me, an angry parent saying “It’s my fault” and I don’t want that email. So if you’re an organizer, please don’t hurt anyone!
What other recommendations do you have?
If I was to give you a quick outline of what a successful Green Skate is:
Basically what you do is register on GreenSkate.org, give us a little profile and your dates and then send us a poster if you want to make one and we can send you our logo.
– Keep it short, 2-3 kilometers, maybe a circle route or start and end at different locations.
– Start at a central public place so people can meet and other people can see who you are.
– You go around on a specific, hopefully safe route. If you have bike paths or designated bike lanes, use those.
– A few different stop locations where you can gather the group then start again.
– A break point where people can buy water, or if you have sponsors they can give you water and a snack.
– Then at the end we like to see a barbecue where people can start meeting each other and hanging out and say, “I didn’t know you were a banker too!”
A route, water and what about safety?
Helmets, and we would like to see slide gloves. If you have two helmets, bring two helmets for someone who doesn’t have one. This is something we want to encourage in the longboarding community in general. I was out the other day and everyone in the gondola had a helmet on, except my wife, and I and it’s like hey… Yeah… So yeah helmets, like, okay maybe I should wear a helmet going tobogganing too! Definitely for longboarding we want to encourage helmets on everyone.
What was last year’s Green Skate like?
I dunno… The largest has always been South America with Santiago, Chile, Buenos Aires, Argentina and Mexico City. Panama also is quite big. But now there’s going to be competition I think. The best things we have are group photos. The group shot is one of the things that really tie all the Green Skate’s together because it’s really cool to see all these different group shots from all around the world. There was one sent in last year from Mexico with a twelve year old kid, his little brother and two other little kids. They had one little board and they only went around the block, but he registered and has a group photo and it was published in Concrete Wave. At the end of Green Skate, you send in a photo and a 75 word write up and depending how much room they have in the magazine you might be published! Definitely you’re going to be on the blog. This is what creates the movement and makes you feel apart of something. Last year based on the number of events we had 30-300 people, so we estimate about 3,000 people last year. That’s pretty cool!
What other creative ideas have communities had?
In 2010 we had a group of guys that went and picked up garbage in Indianapolis. This is another interesting thing we see, every community does a little bit different thing. Seattle with Deano they have a Green Skate booth and pamphlets, most are push events, and Edmonton has a downhill thing. Some people really take it to the next level because they’re very passionate about the environment; they’re longboarders and really jump on board. We’ll see what happens!
How does sponsorship work for the event?
That’s the nice thing; Green Skate is a neutral party in this and not affiliated with any company. We don’t restrict people from having a Green Skate. Hopefully people are all friends and can put their stupid commercial interests away for one day and come to ride together as a union. If this doesn’t occur in your community, you could actually have two Green Skates in the same week, in the same city in different locations, we’re not restricted.
We’ve had people who register in the same city on different days so what I try to do is put the organizers together and ask them to talk to each other. It’s not like Green Skate has a sponsor, Aaron and I pay the website fees, that’s nothing.
This is how it works, keeps everyone happy, neutral. The events are organized by community leaders, shop owners or companies who want to promote the community. And maybe they want to promote their company by giving away product and Green Skate doesn’t try to control these things. This is why we’re so successful, there is very little control. And I don’t like control…
You, no way…?! Only people who have had legal debates with you will understand. Do you have to wear a green shirt?
No. In Zurich last year we had shirts. Other communities have also made shirts. If you want to make shirts, you can use our logo and put it on there, I don’t care. Just let us know! Some people don’t like green shirts… We don’t push it; it’s more of a utopian view to have all the photos all green.
That’s the idea of Board Meeting when you wear a dress shirt and tie.
It’s not an essential thing. This isn’t the point. But if you would like to wear a green shirt, it would be cool! I’m not saying you have to do anything; you don’t even have to have a Green Skate! Just go skateboarding! Even if you go for a skate during that week, register with us! If you’re going out for your weekly ride, register cause then your part of something. It’s not necessarily about showing the public about the cause, it’s also about those guys in Indianapolis picking up garbage.
Any last words?
Our wheels aren’t made out of, you know soybeans yet, but someone is working on it in a lab somewhere.
We want to see people getting out of their cars. If we’re going to promote longboarding as a form of transportation and you’re a biker, go biking! I’m not negative rollerblading, or biking. We’ve had people come to Green Skate with rollerblades. Now I’m not saying that’s what I want to promote, but we’re not saying they can’t join.
Green Skate is about what is happening in your community and your environmental issues. If people are flooding the rain forest to find gold in South America, like large amounts of rain forest…
Off topic, off topic!
If that’s your local community issue and you want to address it, good for you! It’s not up to me to tell you what it is.
Thank you. That’s a lot of good information.
You wont be able to write all that.
Not all of it.
Yeah filter it out. If you need more details, go to GreenSkate.org