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One-stop skate shop

REDFERN: Basement Skate is a new specialist skate shop in Regent Street (downhill a short distance from the BP service station). Director Dave Robertson is assisted at Basement by chief collaborator and champion skater Maga McWhinnie, this month taking part in various competitions in Europe. Dave talks to the SSH about the thrills and simple pleasures of skateboarding.
Maga McWhinnie at Basement Skate in Redfern. Photo: Kat Hines
Maga McWhinnie at Basement Skate in Redfern. Photo: Kat Hines

You’ve relocated from St Leonards to Redfern this year. What led you to make that decision?

I’ve lived in and around Redfern for about 15 years and I’ve watched it evolve from a gritty street neighbourhood to a very vibrant and eclectic place. Explosive population growth in the area has made it a real living place and I guess the businesses are now coming in to satisfy this new community. There are a couple of really great skate parks right near the shop – at Redfern Park and Fernside in Waterloo. The continued lack of skate facilities in the city makes the Redfern-Waterloo area a focal point for skaters, and Redfern station close by makes it easy to draw people in.

Is the shop similar to the one you had in St Leonards? Are there differences?

The shop in St Leonards was a big warehouse space with a large destination-style shop. I built a big indoor half-pipe in the store, initially to satisfy my childhood dream of having my own private half-pipe, but, as you can imagine, word gets around quick, and before I knew it the shop became the local youth clubhouse.

The skate-able environment and general vibe around the Redfern space just doesn’t need its own private skate ramp. In Redfern it’s just a lot more accepted that young people and adults in general use the public space, so people just come by and have a chat and then venture out into the community to have a skate. The shop at Redfern becomes a sort of meeting place as much as a retail space.

Skateboarding is in many ways an emerging sport. Is that a fair comment?

I guess it’s a sport that is emerging in the public mind. It’s a sport that has come from one of the great counter-cultures and become relevant not just to your classic y-gens but it’s become meaningful again to mums and dads as a reminder of individual fun. In a busy world, it’s a sport you can participate in for five minutes a day outside your house, it’s a fun way to get to work, and for a lot of the OGs (old guys) out there it’s the perfect mid-life crisis. We have a lot of parents that pick the sport up again as a way of both connecting with their youth, and, more importantly, a really fun way to spend time with their kids who are just taking up the sport.

What do you enjoy most about the sport? 

Like most alternative sports it becomes as much a lifestyle as a sport. Skateboarding is both challenging and rewarding, and unlike jogging or bike riding, it never feels like a chore. While it requires a bit of practice, you don’t feel like you’re training for something. In skateboarding you just do it. In the inner city there never seems to be a place you can’t take a skateboard so it feels relevant, and when you’re off travelling the skateboard just naturally comes with you.

How would you like to see skateboarding promoted in South Sydney? What opportunities do you see for the development of the sport?

Skateboarding in South Sydney and more generally should really be promoted as a healthy form of legitimate transport.

What advice do you have for somebody curious to try skateboarding?

Nobody needs to start off as an expert – there really is no pressure in skateboarding to do that. Just ride to a limit that feels comfortable. Visit a real skate shop and you’re going to leave with the right skateboard for the sort of skating, the purpose, and the level that you are at. You’ll get proper advice about where to start, and likely a hookup to an awesomely new and positive community that will help you along in your skateboard journey … and as a side-effect your level of cool is gonna skyrocket!

Follow Maga’s European adventures:

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