This year the Jesus Skateboarding Classic, the event of the year for those who are into skateboards, baggy shorts, God and crucifixes, is being held in Reigate. Organised by Christian Skateboarders UK, the competition started small but is now one of the most popular events in the skateboarding calendar.
There are Christian Skateboarders all over the country, from the heartlands of Surrey and Hampshire to the Outer Hebrides. There is even a one-member chapter in West Hartlepool, but most chapters have several members. Some traditional churches remain uninterested or suspicious but others believe that through skateboarding they might attract a younger crowd to their congregations.
Arthur “Big Wheelie” Wilmington. national director of Christian Skateboarders UK, said the group was concerned with drawing skateboarders in to Christianity and also introducing Christians to the joys of skateboarding. He said: “When you are sitting out there with the ramp dropping steeply down in front of you and you are looking at the skatepark all around you, I think a lot of people wonder where this all comes from”.
He had to admit that his faith was sorely tested this week when heavy rain was forecast and other competitions were being cancelled. “I did wonder whether we should call it off but I felt God was telling me to keep going,” he said, “In the past we have suddenly been sent fine weather in the midst of a downpour”. When he got up on Saturday morning and saw that it was raining—in his own words—“Ollies and Hippiejumps”, Mr Wilmington thought perhaps God had got his timing wrong. But then brilliant sunshine started to roll down Reigate High Street and, to borrow skateboarding terminology, he was “popped over”.
It is not just in the UK that skateboarding and Christianity are increasingly closely linked. There are many Christian skateboarding organisations, of course, in the US, the biggest of which is called The Four Wheels of Hiram (from 1 Kings 7:32 And under the borders were four wheels; and the axletrees of the wheels were joined to the base; and the height of a wheel was a cubit and half a cubit.) Its founder, Ziggy Simpkins, said, “I think Jesus was a rebel, a radical. That attracts many skateboarders who tend to be revolutionaries and, sometimes, misfits”.
In Britain, skateboarding commuterbelt towns report bigger congregations. In Reigate and Redhill, the three churches are all thriving, and in nearby Westerham the Wesleyan chapel got a boost this summer after rebranding itself The GodBoardPark and replacing pews with a skateboarding ramp.
Acknowledgements to today's Guardian.