What's Happening at Alchemy
A place for updates, announcements, and stories.
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Alchemy's Euro Tour. Chapter 2.
Chapter 2: Canterbury England and The Far Academy
We began this trip with the intention of connecting with other non-profit or grass roots organizations that focused their programming around the educational elements of skateboarding. We were looking for a program exchange and opportunities to learn and grow with other organizations. After scouring the vast depths of the internet we found the Far Academy! Their mission is “changing lives through education and skateboarding,” and we knew right away that we found just what we were looking for!
We boarded a train from Victoria Station that would take us to Canterbury where the Far Academy was located. We stepped off the train into a beautiful city full of kind people. I was amazed by the beauty of the cathedral, castle, and old graveyard with tombstones more than twice the age of the entire country I’m from. After checking into our hotel we ate a traditional English dinner, kinder eggs (chocolate), and cheese burgers (we put an American twist on it).
The next morning, we headed out to find the Far Academy. We headed onto the campus at The Canterbury Academy (The larger school that houses the Far Academy) and checked in at the front office to get our visitor badges. We waited in the school cafe sipping on coffee while we waited to meet, Brent Lewis (Founder and Director) and his incredible staff. They led us through the campus into their facility, where they design and build boards. There were several work tables and a tool wall stocked with an assortment of tools: power tools, clamps, glue, files, foam molds, and vacuum bags, all designed and specifically stocked to help students move from design through their build process to create their finished, skate-able boards. In the next room were all the art supplies: drafting tables, and reference books for all elements of design and completion. To top things off, they built a mini ramp for the students to skate, Brent explained how valuable it has been for students to blow off stream if needed as well as using it test their boards and have fun. The students all seemed stoked, we all were. They wore blazers and ties (school uniforms) while skating. Energy filled the space, and you could tell the Far Academy went through enormous effort to create an environment where the kids felt at ease, open, and ready to work. It truly seemed like they spent years creating their program, a space, and a philosophy that values youth, with a commitment to having fun along the way. We say often at Alchemy: “the invitation to play is irresistible if communicated well.” The Far Academy communicates play while developing several skills within youth’s education, future employment or entrepreneurial aspirations.
The Canterbury Academy, which houses the Far Academy, specializes in an alternative teaching style for young people who have become disengaged with traditional classroom based education. Youth are able to acquire credit for their passions and interests. The Far Academy was especially designed to encourage youth to grow as well rounded people by applying math, English, science and entrepreneurialism into board design, building, brand design, and skateboarding courses. The students even learn how to market and sell their products upon completion, working with online sales platforms and a local skateboard shop!
We have so much in common with this organization, and there is so much to learn from the Far Academy. The head master at the school seemed to be an English version of John Kettler, the head of SOTA and SAMI (schools we partner with to offer our Skate Class). We talked for hours about the shared work we do with designing programming that reflects the community it was designed to serve. There are not a lot of non-profits that focus on the educational elements that skateboarding has to offer, so we were all very excited to know we are not alone in our mission, and look forward to the partnership opportunities with the academy.
Bailey and Taylor had looked up an awesome indoor skatepark at the hotel, but to their dismay realized it seemed just too far to visit on this trip. Luckily as we wrapped up our first day with the Far Academy one of the program leads, Dan, offered to take the boys out Revolution (the skatepark) the next day. Bailey and Taylor could hardly sleep that night.
Dan picked the boys up at the hotel and drove them off into the country side to check out the park. Along the way we chatted about all sorts of things from skate history and politics, to architecture what it’s like growing up skateboarding. When we got to the park, Dan generously paid for the boy’s admission (we felt like royalty), and showed them around the facility. We skated, fell, laughed, and talked for about three hours all the while filming skate clips and talking to other skaters that were using the space. The park was absolutely beautiful with several rooms dedicated to different styles of skating. One room had a proper vert ramp and two bowls, while the other two rooms were a wonderful collection of ramps, rails, boxes, and other fun obstacles to skate. It was truly one of the highlights for Taylor and Bailey to be able to skate a beautiful park with good company and a cup of coffee. Thanks again Dan (We can’t wait until you visit so we can return the favor)!
When the boys returned to the Far Academy (sweaty and out of breath) we were greeted by a beautiful spread of homemade sandwiches and snacks! They knew by now of Bailey’s obsession with Kinder Eggs and had plenty of those as well. We talked for hours about programming, skateboarding, education, Go Skate Tacoma, and the possibility of setting up some sort of skate exchange program.
Bret and a few staff members mentioned they would like to come to Tacoma to see our park and have a bit of fun while starting to make moves to set up a student exchange. We can’t wait to have them over and attempt to return the incredible hospitality they showed us. It’s important to find like-minded people ways to work with them towards a common goal. The Far Academy and Alchemy Skateboarding have different elements and approaches to education but the same end goal in mind. We have so much more we can learn from them, and we cannot wait to see what our future looks like with the Far Academy!
Stay Tuned for Chapter 3: England to Denmark, Inside Street Dome.
Alchemy's Euro Tour. Chapter 1.
Three skater’s journey across Europe to exchange the ideas and values we’ve learned through skateboarding.
It’s been a wild ride. Late nights on planes, trains, and busses, early mornings without coffee, illness, exotic meals from McDonalds, and a healthy dose of skateboarding everywhere we’ve been.
We started out on this voyage leaving from Seattle-Tacoma International airport not knowing what to expect but hoping to meet inspiring people who share our perspective on skateboarding and see it’s inherent value. Nothing could have prepared us for the incredible hospitality and passion we were welcomed with everywhere we went.
Our plan was to meet up with the people at the FAR Academy, a board building program working with RoarRocketthrough the Canterbury Academy in Kent, England before heading off to see the huge indoor skatepark in the small city of Haderslev, Denmark called “Street Dome”. We never expected we’d reconnect with old friends halfway around the world or the instantbonds we would experience with all the new ones that we would make. It’s been a beautiful journey and we could never have expected the wealth of information and strong connections we’ve made with people across our planet.
Collected below are some of the highlights, and memorable experiences and characters from our travels, recorded as best they could be by Taylor and accompanied by pictures from his phone.
Chapter 1: London, England
We took a red eye flight that had a lay-over in Iceland andwe experienced our first regret of the trip. Having only a one hour lay-over we were un-able to go explore. Even from the small windows of our plane it was easy to see that Iceland was a beautiful country and one in which we plan to return and explore as soon as we can.
Our next flight, which was only about two hours, brought us into Gatwick airport, and looking out the window as we arrived, we couldn’t help but feel we were entering “the shire” about to begin our crazy adventure as skateboard ambassadors from the Northwest. Sleep deprived and foggy brained we made our way from Gatwick airport to Victoria Station in London by train, sitting in the only available seats next to some women who chattedwith us about about where we were from and what wewere doing in England. They were surprised to find out our purpose so far from home was exploring and networking with other crazy like-minded skaters to promote the positive benefits of skateboarding. One of the women, who had been living in England for over 60 years ,was not shy about sharing her opinion on American architecture, and our general lack of history compared to Europe. We wished them well as and thanked them for their advice on navigating the city as we got off at our stop at Victoria.
Victoria station was a hive of activity as commuters rushed around past us with purpose and direction as we stood, dizzied, in the middle of this huge station surrounded by trains, and shops, and signs for different tube lines. We managed to find our line and sleepily herded our luggage down the escalator and onto the trains. We had made it to our first destination, an Air B and B in London that we were staying at for two days before we headed to Kent tomeet up with the FAR Academy.
After checking in, we needed food and to stretch our legs so we headed out on our boards to explore the city. Not five minuets into our skate we discovered a little food shop called the Baghdad Cafe and stopped in for some wraps and kebobs. This cafe happened to be right across the street from a beautiful brick bank that we decided to have a little skate session on before heading back to our room.
A random skater happened to be pushing past us as we skated, and decided to turn around to talk to us. He asked if wehad just come from the skatepark. “What Skatepark!?” we asked shocked that there might be one nearby. He told us that his favorite skatepark in all of London was only a five minute push from where we were, and even though he was heading home, said he didn’t mind delaying himself to take us there. We talked as we pushed through the city about what we were doing in England and asked how long he had been skating. He told us he had just recently started, but that the community was so fun-loving and supportive that he has been doing it every chance he could get. He took us to the park and introduced us to some of his friends that were skating there before taking off. We are still incredibly grateful for his kindness and wonder if he will ever read this, if you ever do, thank you.
We skated the park for about an hour or two, striking up conversations with random skaters about how long they’ve been skating and asking what it was like skating in London. All generally positive responses. We learned that the city came together to build this park and sanction a legal graffiti wall in the back where people could spend as much time as they wanted painting. It was truly beautiful seeing all these different people from different backgrounds congregating in a shared space, skating, painting, playing music, and talking to each other. The place was not packed, but there were at least 20 people skating, and easily another 10-15 hanging out watching, and painting. Finally we decided it was time to head back and settle into our room for a little break. We knew we didn’t want to fall asleep too early and mess up our sleep cycles so we went for a push through London to find a place to get dinner.
We pushed for a while, asking strangerswhere their favorite places to eat were, but struggled to follow their directions. We ended up on a road called “Brick Lane” which as we found out later was notorious for hassling walkers-by into coming into their restaurant to eat. “For you, tonight only, free beer, and I’ll take 10 pounds off your ticket!” or “Big special for the skaters, in here, best curry in the world!” It almost got uncomfortable trying to decline their aggressive offers. We found out later that it is a sleazy sales tactic many of the shops use to compete with the nearly 50 other curryrestaurants on the strip, and after you eat your meal, you discover a 25-30% services charge that more than diminishes the “special deal” they sell you on the street. Luckily we made it through and found a nice little pub to get Fish and Chips, a Ham and Cheese Sandwich, and a Cheese Burger (if you know us well, you can probably guess who got what). After dinner, about 9:00pm we decided we still were not ready for bed and headed back to the skatepark to skate and maybe get a few clips. We found an old tire and decided to skate with it for a bit seeing if there were creative ways to use it. It turns out there are, most of which didn’t end great. You can see the short clip on the GritCityGrindhouse instagram feed if you are so inclined. When we realized it was after midnight, and Bailey’s legs started cramping we decided to call it a night and headed back to our room for some much needed sleep(did I mention we hadn’t slept since we left Tacoma?!).
We awoke the next day to start our exploration of downtown London and caught the tube to Westminster so that our Ben could meet Big Ben. We wandered around taking in the incredible architecture in the vast sea of people with selfie sticks (there were ALOT of selfie sticks). We crossed over the Westminster bridge and found a city map that had the House of Vans listed on it and decided that was obviously where we needed to head next. After getting lost and asking directions from a local bar we accidentally stumbled into an underground tunnel absolutely covered in beautiful graffiti. No House of Vans there, but Taylor was able to buy a minute of use from a locals can of spray paint for 1 pound, and crudely wrote the moniker of our fair city on the wall. After some more snooping around we found the House of Vans! However, our hears sank as we read the sign postedon the door that they would be closed until January 29th.
We decided to cut our losses and head to the National Gallery to take in some art. Entrance to the museum was free and we spent a good two hours bouncing from room to room blown away by the quantity, size, and quality of the pieces, including a large section of work from Picasso and Monet. Bailey was able to clip together a great spoof of the art museum scene from “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”. After the Museum, we headed back to the room to try and connect with one of Taylor’s high school friendswho lives in London. Only an hour of wrong turns and frustration (the street signs are impossible to find in London) we managed to link up with Stephanie and she took us around town to several local spots, including a covered eating pavilion where we decided to try out the burritos in England (not half bad). We ended the night at our apartment sharing stories about growing up in California, and reminiscing about high-school shenanigans before Stephanie caught a bus home at 4:30 am.
We woke up the next day at 10:30, just enough time to pack and be out by our 11:00 checkout time. After a quick traditional breakfast of eggs, bacon, turkey bangers, baked beans, mushrooms, toast, and a cup of tea we headed to the tube to catch our train to Kent. There was a sense of excitement, mixed withtremendous exhaustion as we boarded our train headed for the next stop on our journey. Sleep was very welcomed on the train as we power napped between waking moments of pictures and videos out the window as the English Countryside flew by. Only two days in and it had been an incredible trip. Little did we know things were about to get so much better, so very much better.
Stay tuned for Chapter 2: Kent and the FAR Academy