DAVE SWIFT TRAVELS BACK TO YMCA SKATE CAMP
Walker Ryan, frontside flip.
Words and Photos: Dave Swift
Nestled in a giant Sequoia forest sits Camp Millwood, or better known as YMCA Skate Camp. It just happens to be the first of its kind on US soil and dates back to 1986 when it was located in Santa Clara, California. The camp moved to different locations over the next two years (Fresno State in 1988 and San Diego State in 1989) and found a permanent home on the edge of the Sequoia National Park in 1990. I happily spent a few days at the camp in 1990 (mainly to skate the wooden bowl) and did an article for TransWorld Skateboarding which featured amateur skaters Omar Hassan, Wade Speyer and New Zealand’s Andrew Morrison. Video footage from this can be found in the hard-to-find Schmitt Stix video Schmitt Stix Goes To Camp. Two years later in the summer of 1992 I found myself at the camp for a night, but have not been back since.
Well, since those days in the early 1990’s the camp has gone through a lot of changes and in the most recent years was known as Element YMCA Skate Camp. This year though, the "Element" in the title has been dropped and the original YMCA Skate Camp is once again the official title, opening it up to support from other skate companies in the industry (Element Skateboards included).
Jump ramp into the lake.
If you are a parent looking to send your children to skateboard camp for the first year, then I highly suggest this camp. Skateboarding is the activity of choice and yes, the kids get plenty of time on the ramps and street courses. Beyond that they also have the opportunity to learn outdoor survival skills (Elemental Awareness Program), Zine publishing, Woodworking, DIY concrete, music, fishing, swimming, and much more.
Collage of camp fun.
The camp is set up like a traditional Y-Camp where kids are broken up into cabin groups with a counselor and have assigned duties like setting up tables for meals. Fun events are held on different skate courses during the week—jump ramping on a skateboard into the ramp, campfires and movies at night are all included in the fun. The counselors are all awesome and show a genuine love for all things skateboarding. They are skilled in the ways of handling children of all ages, keeping things fun yet well supervised. From what I could tell, many of the counselors were once campers themselves and use their positive experience to give the kids the same sort of memories.
Each week also finds different skateboard teams, pros, ams and industry types that donate their time to enhance the kids' overall experience. The interaction is real. Kids are encouraged to skate with these skate celebrities and ask questions about their lives in skateboarding. Who better to ask how to do a trick, film a line, take a photograph or cut out a skateboard deck than experienced professionals?
At the end of the week the kids pack up their belongings and ready themselves to head home, but not before watching a video of their week at camp filmed by Rickyflip and Izzy (all edited overnight by the aforementioned Rickyflip). All the campers crowd in the camp shop and cheer loudly for their cabin mates and all the new friends they met at camp that week. It’s truly an awesome thing to witness. They also go home with a zine handmade by fellow campers that puts in print a tangible keepsake they can take home to review their time at the YMCA Skate Camp.
For more info visit YMCASkatecamp.org.
Ryan Lay, nollie over a stump.