Redondo Beach Police host skateboard contest Saturday – Beach Reporter

“Skateboarding is not a crime.” Once the mantra of defiant skaters in the 1980s, that message is now coming from the Redondo Beach Police Department, which hosts a skateboard contest for kids on Saturday at the Redondo Beach Pier.

Organized by PCH Skate Camp, an affiliate of Beach City Sports, the King of the Harbor Skateboard Championships starting at 11 a.m. on Saturday Oct 14 will bring in amateur and professional skaters with special guest Jason “Wee-Man” Acuna.

The City of Redondo Beach will haul out its own set of ramps and other skateboarding obstacles it stores at Perry Park along with those from PCH Skate Camp to create a virtual skatepark on the octagon at the Redondo Beach Pier near the Fun Factory.

Police Chief Keith Kauffman, 46, who went to West High in Torrance and grew up skateboarding in the South Bay, said the event was a way for the department to engage with the community in a positive light.

Kauffman said the idea for the contest came about shortly after he began as police chief in 2015 when Redondo Beach Officer John Bannach confronted a group of skateboarders in an underground parking garage. One of the skaters there that night was Wee-Man, and to show off his skateboarding chops, Bannach pulled off a kick-flip. The trick was photographed by Wee-Man and posted to his Instagram feed where it went viral.

Kauffman said the photo sparked a conversation within the department on whether that was a good thing or a bad thing with some people arguing it was a liability risk and others praising the move as a creative way to engage the public.

“Not that I encouraged my officers to jump on people’s skateboards and do tricks while they are on duty, but we are portrayed on a pretty bad light in many communities and that impression that officer left with those people was probably worth the risk,” Kauffman said.

Earlier this week, as a way to promote the event, Kauffman was featured in a video with skateboarder Caedyn Curto who clears a set of stairs on the upper deck of pier plaza. The spot, previously featured in skateboarding videos, is actually barred to skateboarders. But Kauffman, who has old 1980s era skateboard decks adorning the walls of his office, said he would make an exception just this once.

“Our officers still have to enforce the law,” he said.

For the event on Saturday, kids aged eight to 18 can choose to enter one of the contests in their age bracket or just free skate, said Dinah Lary, community services manager, who was charged with putting the event together. Lary, whose son Greg Browning was a professional surfer, worked for Body Glove, so she is well-acquainted with the surfing and skateboarding community. Still, she said, she was surprised at how much support the department received from local skaters and sponsorship from area businesses.

“The kids of our city are our future and they need to have a positive connection and relationship with the police department,” said Lary. “Right now there’s no skate park in the city, so it makes it more of a challenge for the kids to be skateboarding without somebody calling and saying you know there’s a kid over here skateboarding.”

Chris Shaeffler with PCH Skate Camp, one of the judges on Saturday, said that with more officers like Chief Kauffman on the force who grew up skateboarding, the stigma around the sport has certainly changed. That and skateboarding is now an Olympic sport, he said. 

“It’s definitely more mainstream and acceptable now,” Shaeffler said. “It used to be if you were a skateboarder you had a negative stigma about you, but now a lot of the parents want their kids to skateboard, especially since a lot of the parents now are at an age where they skateboarded when they were younger.”

Shaeffler remembers being kicked out of many places by police for skateboarding.

“I definitely like where things are headed now,” he said.

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