People who love longboarding say there’s nothing quite as liberating as cruising on a board. It’s a state of physical and mental zen that’s not just a sport but a way of life — a concrete jungle art form.
And riding a longboard — a skateboard that’s longer, more stable, and has more traction than its traditional counterpart — isn’t so different from the balance and harmony needed to achieve peace, Michael Brooke, the founder of Longboarding for Peace (LB4P), told The Times of Israel recently.
Brooke, a Canadian in his 40s who runs the skateboarding magazine Concrete Wave, started his peace initiative in Jaffa last July with the help of the Peres Center for Peace. He brought Jewish and Arab kids together to try their hand at longboarding and learn new things about themselves and their peers in the process.
To get LB4P up and running, Brooke got people from the professional skateboarding world involved, such as local skateboarding companies Slick and Da Silva Boards, and Arthur Rashkovan of the Surfing4Peace project, and even Israeli pro longboarder Yoni Ettinger. Last summer, they held coexistence events in Jericho, Sderot, and the Shuafat refugee camp in East Jerusalem. More such events are being planned for this summer.
Sivan Hendel from the Peres Center said they’re also developing long-term programs where teens who have been to LB4P events will mentor novice kids, ages 7 through 12. Brooke also hopes to bring his startup to Beit Shemesh in order to integrate secular and ultra-Orthodox kids.
Yet no one, not even Brooke, expected the peace project to “ignite” and spread around the world.
LB4P now extends to Canada, Peru, and several American cities including San Diego, Los Angeles, and Houston, where the focus is to help young gang members and underprivileged kids find cool alternatives to violence and drugs — and stay out of prison.
Mikey Seibert, a ranking ex-gang member of the Gangster Disciples who grew up in Houston’s crime-ridden Fifth Ward, brought LB4P to his hometown. Seibert told The Times of Israel that six of the 20 kids involved in the previous project were rival gang members “who put down their guns and joined together through longboarding.”
The next LB4P session includes two kids from the Bloods, four from the Crips, and one who’s a Latin King. To help the kids through the pressure of leaving a gang, Seibert also started a mentoring process, by which the older kids who are more familiar with the sport (and who’ve already left gangs) encourage the newer kids to do the same.
“I got them all to agree not to bring guns or drugs to any of our classes,” Seibert said after one of the kids brought his weapon to an LB4P session.
Last February, the Peres Center in Jaffa hosted 35 kids for some four-wheel fun. Alongside a shiny promenade for skating, next to the silver-crested ocean waves, the group laughed, played, and explored unchartered territories.
“It was an amazing moment. We had the Mediterranean Sea on one side, and a building of peace behind us, and a huge slab of concrete in the middle that’s smooth and ideal for skateboarding,” Brooke said. “It was the perfect moment — a synergy of body, mind, and soul.”
Here is a collection of photos that tells the story of Longboarding for Peace.