Fane Smeall’s team sticking to essence of skating to grow sport in community
Skateboarding is engrained into the fabric of American culture. In Canada, there are also deep roots. However outside of metropolitan cities like Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, many people fail to recognize its presence in smaller northern markets. In Winnipeg, this narrative continues to be challenged by local skaters.
Fane Smeall says he has been skating since he was 9 years old and began to take it seriously in his late teens. He became a member SK8 team as an 18-year-old and began running the group’s store Sk8 Skate, one of Winnipeg’s only skateboarding shops, when the owner sold it to his parents in 2020.
Since the pandemic ended, Smeall says skateboarding in the city has been on the decline after an early surge during the first lockdowns. Additionally, there have been less contests and a reduced number of pro skaters doing demos in Canada.
Although he believes skating is thriving in North America and larger Canadian markets, he did admit Winnipeg is being left behind. Smeall said skaters in the country were getting a lot more coverage when he was growing up, than they do today.
“Winnipeg used to be a pretty good hotspot for skating back in the day” he said.
“There's definitely pros doing demos around stuff, but that's kind of like more in the ‘States. I feel like in Canada there's not as many big brands coming as much anymore,”
Smeall stated the biggest barrier to growing skating in Winnipeg is the lack of an indoor skatepark available to everyone. During the winter, snowboarding is the easier option due to Winnipeg’s frigid temperatures.
Although The Edge indoor skatepark in Winnipeg’s downtown is a new facility, it is run by Youth For Christ, a group that has policies pertaining to sexual orientation and religious beliefs that some skaters say exclude them from participating.
Because of this, Winnipeg skaters as well as Smeall’s family have been fighting to find solutions for the upcoming winter. Thousands of dollars have been raised in the effort to give people an inclusive space to skate indoors.
Additionally, Smeall’s team scheduled demo tours in communities across the province where they hope to introduce skating to the younger generation. He’s hoping to convince some skaters living in northern Indigenous communities to pick up a board this summer.
“It probably never will grow crazy up north 'cause they're super isolated, but it’s still cool to do that in the communities.” Said Smeall.
“Next year or the next three years, my goal is to be able to bring pros out there and get fans do something out there. It’d be super cool to get like Joe Buffalo or someone to come out there and do like stuff with the kids”
He said the way to attract pros is by growing his Sk8 team’s following online, since they are the only reps in the city.
Last year, the group posted a 30-minute video called Stone Cold that was reposted on Thrasher Magazine’s website. The video is jam-packed with tricks and highlights from various members and friends of Sk8.
This year, they changed the format and message of their latest video Dean, which has helped gain the team and store some decent attention.
The lighthearted film features skating over party remixes, giving the impression viewers are watching a group of friends having fun, rather than a team looking to gain followers.
Smeall believed this vibe perfectly reflected the groups mindset at the time.
During filming, multiple Sk8 members were unable to skate due to injury, placing their annual video in jeopardy. However, they managed to get some quality footage in a short time frame while still having fun traveling around the country.
“We were kind of blowing it. I didn't feel like we were actually going to film a video.” Smeall said.
Smeall admitted he was personally not as happy with his latest footage as in Stone Cold but was glad the final edit showed how much fun they had as a group, which he believed helped the video become a success.
Thrasher once again posted the video and noted in their caption how much fun the crew appeared to have.
4 weeks after the video was posted, Dean had nearly reached the same view count as Stone Cold.
Smeall says he plans on continuing to try growing the Sk8 brand by posting Tik Tok’s online, reaching out to other skating magazines, and doing outreach programs in Manitoba.
Although he is happy with Sk8 team’s and Sk8 Skates’ growth over the last few years, he is still hungry to get the brands name recognized in the skateboarding community.
“We’re literally the only people really doing skateboarding in Manitoba right now, so we just gotta grow it everywhere.” he said.
“All we gotta do is film video’s and build our cred.”
You can visit Sk8 Skates on 564 Main Street in Winnipeg Manitoba Canada, or check out their website at Sk8skates.com.