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91Sk8 Life

The Green Country skateboarding scene — especially in Tahlequah — offers plenty of opportunities for camaraderie, cardio, and creative expression.

Article
Jennifer Zehnder
Photos
Jennifer Zehnder
Posted
December 28, 2019

Wyley Henson fell in love with skateboarding the moment he stepped on his first board. Nearly two decades later, he is pursuing pro status, is a team sponsor, and the owner of Avenue Skateshop located in his hometown of Tahlequah. Henson, 25, is three years into the business portion of his skateboard life and counts himself blessed to live, work, and skateboard in the 918.

“I started to become a solid figure for these local kids around 2014. At the time, I was working at the local skate shop where the skaters liked to hang out. We began going on skate trips every weekend, and a brotherhood of sorts formed,” Henson shares. “After an impressive 13-year run, the previous skate shop owner decided to move on. So, when he offered the business opportunity to me, I knew I couldn’t pass it up.”

While Henson’s business venture was perhaps based more on aspiration than numbers, statistics from Grand View Research, Inc. show positive growth with the global skateboard market expected to reach $42.4 billion by 2025 — up 3.1%. North America led the market in 2018, banking 31.7% of the overall revenue — with teens doing most of the buying at 44.1%.

Aside from its obvious nod to improved balance and cardio, skateboarding provides an outlet for stress and an expression of creativity. (Photo: Chris Ray))
Aside from its obvious nod to improved balance and cardio, skateboarding provides an outlet for stress and an expression of creativity. (Photo: Chris Ray)

“I would classify skateboarding as a sport, hobby, and a lifestyle — because of the amount of dedication and athleticism it takes to be good at it. You have to be crazy about skateboarding to take slams and continue doing it over and over again. It’s pure love for the sport,” Henson explains. “It could be considered a hobby for others because it’s so much fun and is a good source of transportation. The lifestyle aspect is the best part. When a skater walks into a skate shop, it’s a home away from home. Regardless of race or background, skateboarding brings us all together.”

Aside from its obvious nod to improved balance and cardio, skateboarding provides an outlet for stress and an expression of creativity, Henson notes. Better yet, skateboarding is also a pretty inexpensive sport to pick up in comparison to others with a basic skateboard set up costing between $100-$200.

Skateboarding is a pretty inexpensive sport to pick up in comparison to others with a basic skateboard set up costing between $100-$200. (Photo: Jennifer Zehnder)
Skateboarding is a pretty inexpensive sport to pick up in comparison to others with a basic skateboard set up costing between $100-$200. (Photo: Jennifer Zehnder)

Henson is currently sponsoring a team of more than a dozen skaters aged 10 to 30. His skate shop serves as home base for young people to hang out, and he is passionate about providing a positive example and the support and encouragement they need to pursue both their skate and life dreams.

“Skaters get stereotyped in with other things. I think this is because people tend to look at skaters negatively. Some of the nicest people I’ve met were skateboarders.”

To combat the negative stigma, he regularly organizes volunteer skater groups to clean up and assist in their community.

Outside of his shop and work with his team, Henson is most proud of Tahlequah’s $350,000 skate park remodel and expansion, which was completed between winter 2017 and spring 2018.

The rehab design was created by Intertribal Development, formerly known as Native Skateparks. According to their website, Hunger Skateparks was able to transform the space into a 17,000 square foot park that is street heavy in design and includes features like an A-frame, a pyramid to rainbow ledge, multiple stages and elevations changes, two stair sets, ledges, extensions, a 70-foot long quarter with an extension, and rails, rails, rails. The extensive existing flats allow for locals to add moveable pieces to change up and add to the park for contests. On the east end of the park is an all-new transition area with a pool coping extension.

“We met a lot of resistance for the idea,” Henson admits. “We combated that with the fact that it would generate a lot of revenue for the town and state. It would also bring a lot of people into Tahlequah from out of town — which it does every weekend.”

The Tahlequah Skatepark Project was a multi-generational success, he contends. Families, parents, and even the local fire department stood up for the cause. Then mayor, Jason Nichols, actually broke the tie to funding the skatepark.

“Skateboarding in the 918 is amazing. We have one of the best skate scenes around. You have to come out and see for yourself!”  

SIX Must-Skates in the 918

Nienhuis Skate Park
3201 N. 9th St. | Broken Arrow

Owasso Skate Park
456 S. Main St. | Owasso

River Skate Park
474 W 23rd St. | Tulsa

Sand Springs Skate Park
1050 W. Wekiwa Road | Sand Springs

Tahlequah Skatepark
201-261 Water St. | Tahlequah

The Gathering Place
2650 S. John Williams Way | Tulsa