Whitehorse’s skatepark is rather modest compared to some you’ll find in larger cities.
In Vancouver, for instance, the $250,000 Skateplaza features more than 2,400 square metres of rails, embankments, curbs, walls, ramps and stairs — a veritable maze of street furnishings to challenge and, in some cases, foil the most accomplished skateboarders.
In contrast, the unassuming concrete park called Second Heaven off the north end of Riverdale’s Lewes Boulevard provides the bare minimum of trick-oriented objects to allow the local high school kids practise a few moves.
Cruise down there on a sunny weekday afternoon and you’re not likely to spot the real professionals you’d see in the big-time parks of Vancouver, L.A. or San Diego.
But, if you’re lucky, you might see one.
His name’s Chad Dickson.
The 20-year-old Teslin Tlingit comes to the park from time to time, just to relax, catch up with a few friends and maybe bust a few grinds and kickflips to keep warm.
“I like it here because I don’t have to do anything big,” he says. “It’s like a vacation for me.”
Dickson’s been skateboarding since he was 10 years old.
His astonishing skills have since landed him sponsorships from some of the biggest skate companies in North America.
DC Shoes paid for his last tour, a five-month video and photo shoot that saw him and a handful of fellow pro skaters hit the big cities up the West Coast between Tijuana and Portland.
Last week, Dickson spent some downtime in Teslin with his mother’s family before heading off yesterday for another tour — this time across Canada.
At the Riverdale park, Dickson is sporting black basketball shorts, a black T-shirt and a black designer Boston Red Sox cap with the gold manufacturer’s sticker shinning off the top of the brim — true to contemporary hip hop style.
He’s got a shaved head, a silver chain and, of course, DC shoes.
As he roles casually around the park, effortlessly popping 360 and 540 kickflips off of ledges, and sliding down the rails, he apologizes.
“I don’t have any energy,” he says. “I just got two hours of sleep — I stayed up all night and watched movies.”
He then jumps onto a box and rides off without the back wheels even touching.
“It took me forever just to get to know the tricks; there are so many — I really had to do my homework,” he says.
“After a while, it just all made sense.”
He demonstrates some of the basics: ollie, nollie, kickflip, heelflip, switch stance, fakie.
All are executed with pinpoint precision.
And the best move he’s ever done?
“It’s kind of technical,” he says. “I don’t think it had ever been done before.”
He said he was at the skatepark in Vancouver one day when he pulled it off.
“Everyone was like, ‘What the fuck?’”
He did a kickflip nosegrind nollie backside heal flip.
“It’s only a one or two in a lifetime thing,” he says.
Dickson grew up in Iona Station, a small town outside of London, Ontario. But because his mom is from Teslin, he visits the Yukon often.
“Now I go wherever I can to make my skateboarding that much better.”
He’s spent the last eight months living in Abbotsford, BC, with a couple of skateboarding buddies — both of whom are sponsored.
“Vancouver’s the place to be if you want to make it big; there are thousands of skateboarders there,” says Dickson.
One day he was skating at Skateplaza, when a team manager from DC Shoes came up and asked him if he was sponsored.
“He told me to send him a video.”
Luckily, Dickson had already made a two-minute video of his best tricks.
Before he knew it, he was signed by DC Shoes, and was receiving phone calls and e-mails from managers of other companies looking to sponsor him as well.
“It’s just luck,” he says. “I was skating well at the right place at the right time.”
His other sponsors include Zoo York skateboards, Underworld skate shop, Diamond Hardware and Bearings, LRG Clothing and Independent Trucks.
“It’s really difficult to get sponsored by these companies,” he says.
On Monday, he had a meeting with the Coca-Cola company to work out a sponsorship deal.
Now he skates full-time all year round, and plans on skating until he’s 40 years old.
“Tony Hawk’s in his 40s and he’s still going,” he says. “And he’s rich as hell.
“If it’s not raining, or snowing, I’m skating.” Then after a short pause he adds: “I don’t skate if I’m hung over either.”
There’s no better feeling like it, he says.
“But it hurts when you bail.”
Dickson has fractured or broken both his wrists and both his ankles three times each. He’s also cracked two ribs, hyper-extended his elbow and broken a couple of toes.
Oh, and he’s also cracked a bone in his knee.
“That one kept me out for half a year,” he says.
In 2004, he starred in a feature film called Sk8 Life directed by Canadian filmmaker Wyeth Clarkson. It will appear in festivals this year and, if it wins, might come into theatres, he says.
“Christian Slater was in it — I didn’t get to meet him though,” he says.
The video that came out of his American West Coast trip is called Yesterday’s Future and will be premiering in Montreal, Vancouver and Toronto in September.
On Tuesday, DC Shoes flew him out to Montreal, where he will be starting off a month-long tour that sees them going to Toronto, Ottawa, Quebec City and then to various cities across the country on the way to Vancouver.
They will be shooting another video and photos for the magazine SBC Skateboard Magazine.
“All we’ll be doing is basically skating, filming, and partying,” he says.
“Then they’ll fly everybody home.”
Dickson plans on coming up to Teslin next summer to build a house with a $54,000 grant he says he’ll get from the Teslin Tlingit First Nation.
“I’ll spend a month there with some friends and just relax, he says.
“I’ve been working hard non-stop for a few years now.”
He stops talking to say hi to a friend, who comes over to show off his brand new black and white DVS skate shoes.
“DCs are better,” says Dickson.