Which sport ranks in the top three most popular sports for American teenagers, and is not football or baseball? Which sport’s foundational technique was invented in South Florida in the mid-70s? Which sport is legal, contrary to some people’s assumptions?
Skateboarding and other extreme sports are among the most effective ways to present the good News of Christ, not only in the United States, but worldwide, as the sport has gone international with a vengeance.
About thirty-five years ago, Alan Gelfand invented skateboarding’s essential technique. It came to bear his nickname: the “Ollie.” Now, Skate Conference 2010 is coming back to South Florida, from Oct. 13 to 16. Over a hundred professional skaters, pastors, and youth and skate Life leaders will come together to celebrate what God is doing within the hearts of skaters worldwide, as He moves among the ramps and railings, redeeming and restoring.
Hosted by Christian Skaters International, this four-day conference features representatives of ministries such as Boarders for Christ, Livin’ It, Ramp 48 and Skate Church. They have extensive experience inspiring skateboarders with the Gospel. They will use this event to network with teachers, pastors, youth workers and parents who are eager to discover whether this extreme sport is what God wants to use to revolutionize the next generation in their neighborhood, community, state or country.
A vision for skaters
Founded in 2005 by Uli and Toni Frallicciardi, Christian Skaters International networks skate ministries around the world, as it identifies, equips and encourages those interested in using skateboarding and the skateboarding culture to share the good News of Christ. Even as skateboarding has been increasing in popularity nationally and internationally, the current economic climate has encouraged current skate ministries and those interested in launching skate ministries to strengthen their connections and to share their wisdom.
Breaking down the cultural barriers
There will be informative seminars, such as “Building a Skate Life from Start to Finish,” and “Intercultural Life : Skateboarding as a Mission Field.” The seminars will be led by those who have earned the right to teach, in fellowship, others who are passionate about affecting the next generation. Christian Skaters has arranged every element of Skate Conference 2010 to provide a unique opportunity for professionals, church workers and skaters to celebrate “unity above uniformity” – in the words of Jeff Pieper, of Livin’ It.
A passion for more
Uli Frallicciardi explains: “The vision of Christian Skaters is simple. We want to equip those in Life, seek out those who are lost, support those serving, pray for the skateboarding industry and promote what others are doing around the world. Together as a body, we can do even greater things for Christ than we can individually. We can share more. We can reach more. We can stand stronger.”
Skate Conference 2010 is your chance to learn more about what God is doing within skateboarders. Sessions and workshops will continue Wednesday through Friday with a huge free public event all day on Saturday for anyone interested in impacting the next generation. Just a few yards away at the Ramp 48 indoor skate park, the professionals and instructors will be hosting free skateboarding lessons for every age and level of experience. Skateboards, pads and helmets will be available to rent. To register or for more information, log onto ChristianSkaters.com.
In skateboarding, it’s all about relationships. The following are some of the stories behind the tricks, music and Life that will be a part of Skate Conference 2010.
Sonny Sandoval/The Whosoevers
Sonny Sandoval watched as his mother lay dying of cancer, unwilling to let go of life out of concern for Sonny’s eternal destiny. It was her fierce determination to hold on until she knew that Sonny had committed himself to Christ that caused Sonny to cry out to God in the hospital’s parking lot as he pleaded with God to reveal himself. God made himself known to Sonny and after years of partying and getting high with his high school friends, Sonny surrendered his life to Christ.
Anxious for his mom to know of his decision, Sonny returned to her bedside and whispered to her of his decision and that he would see her again in Heaven. Soon afterwards, his mother passed into eternity.
In the midst of his grief, Sonny’s cousin invited him to front a band he had started, P.O.D. (Payable On Death) named for the fact that our sins have been paid by Jesus’ death on the cross.
Over the next two decades, P.O.D. toured the world multiple times, sold millions of records and saw for themselves the desperation of many of the young people who attend their concerts, “There’s such a hurt around the world. There are a lot of kids that are hurting and struggling with everything, from suicide to broken homes, drugs, pornography, and rape–everything. I know it breaks the heart of God and that Jesus loves them, He loves them so much.”
This passion to go after and love people who would not normally listen to a message of hope let to Sonny’s vision for the band The Whosoevers: ” I started to really, really find out what it’s like to be a Christian and not just go through the routine and the practices. In doing that, I believe God has called us to go out into the world, where we can relate with these kids–where we don’t judge them.”
For the people in the world, Sonny has a message, “God is gonna meet you where you’re at. God will clean you up, and will take away your guilt your shame. He will forgive you if you repent of your sins, and He will change your lives.” He also has a message for the kids who are playing church, “Jesus wants to have a relationship with you guys. This isn’t your mom and dad’s religion. This isn’t your pastor’s religion. This is a relationship Jesus wants to have with you guys.”
“That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.”
Jeff Pieper – Livin’ it, and the next-generation alliance
Jeff Pieper is director of Strategic Relationships for the Alliance Ministries of the Palau Ministries. Pieper is passionate: “We are always trying to push the envelope and to be innovative. What are the fragments of society that have been marginalized even by mainstream Christianity? It seems like (they are) many of the people who are involved in the core action sports like skateboarding and BMX. Jesus went everywhere and talked to everyone. It didn’t matter what they looked like, what they smelled like or where they came from. Why don’t we do the same? When Livin’ It was birthed, all these guys who used different sports as a hook for the gospel we wanted to give away what we’ve learned. We don’t want guys to make the mistakes that we have. We want to raise up the next generation. “Unity Above Uniformity” is not just the title of an article Pieper wrote about his experiences in Kigali, Rwanda, in East Africa – it is also his heartbeat: “What God is doing through core sports around the world is bringing us together, and that collaboration touches the heart of God,” states Pieper. “God blows us away with provision and favor, and we see large numbers of people respond to Him. When we say we are going to work together and serve their vision, (it is) whether it is the church down the street doing an event or an international festival. When we collaborate, we’re not all going to look the same or have the same approach, but we are going to unite for the common cause of Christ. When Christ is lifted high, we touch the heart of God.”
On the value of attending Skate Conference 2010, Jeff explains, “We want to see everyone who comes with a vision to be inspired and provided the practical tools to accomplish it. You’ll hear stories from real people, (whom) society has put on a celebrity platform, who can share, ‘Everything I do is because of what Christ has done.’ We want everyone who attends to know, ‘You can do it. God has put it on your heart for a purpose.'”
Zac Archuleta/ King of Kings Skateboard Life, Reliance Skateboards
One of the athletes involved in the Kigali outreach was pro skater Zac Archuleta. “I remember being that kid that was so excited to see a pro skater. From the second I picked up a skateboard, I wanted to be pro but living in Boise, my chances were slim. Now, I’ve traveled around the world doing demos and preaching the gospel to tens of thousands of people. It’s crazy how God uses a piece of wood to glorify himself around the world. We want to break down the stereotype that people have of skateboarders. When parents see their kids making a genuine commitment to Christ- that’s huge.” Zac continues, “We got the News that Tech Deck is mass producing my board which is full of scripture. It’s going to be in Walmart and Target and when kids look me up, they’ll see my testimony. I was on a plane recently and someone looked at my long hair and tattoos and asked me what I did. I told him that I was a pro skateboarder and that I travel the country to share the gospel. I’m not ashamed of what I look like or of my God- I trust that it is the aroma of Christ that makes people want to know me. I think I’m right where God wants me.”
Christian Hosoi X-Games Gold Medalist
The time line is stunning in its simplicity and in its ramifications. At the age of seven, he started skateboarding and by fourteen he had turned professional. By seventeen he had launched his skate company and soon plunged into a decade long addiction to crystal meth. He is credited with revolutionizing vert skateboarding and became known for “Christ Air”, a signature move with his arms and legs extended in a gravity defying signature move. Ironic in that he had never read the Bible. In 2000, professional skateboarder Christian Hosoi was sentenced to ten years in federal prison where he ultimately discovered his freedom in Christ. Christian was released from prison in 2005 and has spent the last five years as an ordained pastor sharing God’s love with as many people as possible as he uses the platform that God has given him to proclaim the Good News.
At the recent Skateboard Park Legends Final competition at X Games 16, Hosoi scored his second consecutive gold medal with the crowd pleasing big air, finesse, and creativity that made him famous. In his testimony video featured on the site I Am Second, Christian sums it all up as he reflects that he has experienced every type of love that the world has to offer but they pale in the light of the love that God that he has experienced. Christian Hosoi has moved from “rock star” status to committing each day to pointing people towards the rock of ages, Jesus Christ.