What's cooler than a sweet new skateboard? How about one you could say you made yourself?
A number of Key West High School students got a chance to answer that question on Tuesday when they were invited to try their hands at crafting their very own "eggs" "Logs" and "Alaia"-style skateboards from scratch at a Stock Island workshop.
The teens were mostly freshmen of KWHS teacher Rob Eggers' world cultural geography class, though a student refugee from chilly Ohio was also on hand for the event, held at the Coast on Front Street.
With Monroe County students on spring break this week, Eggers and Coast Founder and Creative Director Billy Kearins decided to offer the high schoolers an opportunity to learn how to build their very own sidewalk surfers at the workshop space he shares with several other local artists, woodworkers and crafters. No fees were levied for the crash course, though attendees were encouraged to chip in for the cost of the supplies, including wood and fiberglass.
"It turned out to be a great group of kids and we were excited with how enthusiastic and attentive they were throughout the process," said Kearins, who has a five-year-old son of his own. "Everyone walked home with a completed deck, so they were all pretty stoked about that.
"The boards we were working on are all based on classic surfboard shapes," he said. "Not only do they resemble surfboards from a profile standpoint, but they also have the same ride characteristics."
Eggers, who has taught at KWHS for a decade, was also pleased with his students' work -- as well as with their temperament during the exercise.
"They were all getting along fabulously, working together," he said. "And that isn't always the case at school. I think the board that [student] Naomi Newton made could be sold at any shop downtown, as a memento of Key West, with the painted palm trees and sunset."
What's more, Eggers said, the students gained an insight into how things work at a creative collective like Coast, which offers another path in life than the high school-college-work route most of them have been told is the "normal" way to live.
"None of them knew about Coast before today," Eggers said. "And I think seeing how these people work has left them with a different perspective on how you can live your life, and what you can do with it. At the beginning of the school year, I tell my students that life is a journey, and what you do with it is up to you. The longest journey begins with a single step, and with life, you either do it to yourself, or do it for yourself. This is something that some of the kids already understand, because they've seen an older sibling or whoever, who hasn't ended up where they could have."
Student Therin Smith, an avid skateboarder, said that while he's used to working on his boards at home, creating one from a piece of wood is a totally new experience.
"It actually turned out very well, and I had a lot of fun building it," said Smith, who is considering a career in videogame programming. "It took about four and a half hours from start to finish. Spending the day at Coast gave me a new perspective on how these people work, and gave me some ideas about things I could do as side jobs when I graduate from high school."
Coast opened a little less than a year ago. It offers courses in screen printing, as well as skateboard building, by appointment.
"We're basically a group of builders and designers, commercial artists and fine artists," Kearins said. "We all share space and ideas, and everybody's able to help each other out with opinions, and actual work. Once or twice a month we have some kind of a concert or artistic show. We're really focused on the community we've created, as well as the one outside our doors. We always have the studio open."
The students' finished skateboards will be posted at http://coastprojects.com/ in the near future, Kearins said.