Pros Gone Wild

Archery, wilderness survival, and skateboarding. No, it’s not exactly what comes to mind when thinking of the Element team.

But combine that with the environment and energy of Visalia skate camp, and that’s what campers got during the last session of camp last summer.

Ryan Kingman marketing director at Element skateboards, says “Elemental Awareness is a program set up by Element skateboards to elaborate on the fundamentals of what Element stands for: wind, water, fire, and earth.

“It was set up in conjunction with the YMCA Visalia skate camp after we went up there for a week to participate in Element’s weeklong skate camp with our team and campers. Johnny Schillereff (president of the company) met up with a couple of guys who were participating in their own wilderness and survival course-who now teach Elemental Awareness to the kids.

“After Johnny met with the camp directors, we saw the opportunity to teach young skaters about what Element means beyond skateboarding. Elemental awareness is shelter, fire, water, and food.

“A combination of forces that were Johnny Schillereff, Dave Metty, and Michael Kershnar developed the idea of Elemental Awareness,” adds Kingman.The summer of 2002 was the first year the program was offered to campers. Michael Kershnar and Todd Larson teach the program. Kingman describes them as skateboarders “who have the elementality-which we were fortunate enough to cross paths with at skate camp in 2001.”

As to how he feels the program went this year, Kingman says it was a great success: “Kids came to skate camp and left with knowledge of how to survive in the wilderness with just a knife. It’s an amazing development.”

Kingman further adds that the Visalia YMCA responded very well to the program. The skate camp-Camp Millwood-is one of three YMCA skate camps in Visalia. “They were stoked on it. It’s a win-win situation because kids develop skills beyond what they came to camp for. Kids leave skate camp with a more enriched understanding of the YMCA, skateboarding, nature, and life itself.”

Kershnar and Larson both participate in Tom Brown Tracking schools, which teach both the fundamentals and advanced skills of wilderness survival, to further their expertise. Both were attending tracking school at press time and were unavailable for comment.

Element subsidizes the camp’s program, specifically for the Elemental Awareness course, and the Element campsite skate facility.Elemental Awareness is a five-day course, teaching the basics of wilderness survival. How to build a shelter, a fire, how to collect and boil drinkable water with fire. How to hunt wildlife for survival. Other notions such as archery, making a bow drill out of natural products-wood and fibers-and different ways of preparing food.

Longtime teamrider and skateboarding legend Jeremy Wray is one of the pros who participated in the Elemental Awareness program this year. “It went really well because the stuff they were teaching was stuff you could really use-being survival techniques,” he says. “Kids from all different areas were into it. That might have even been their first experience camping. So it was really cool for them to learn about surviving in the wilderness. It’s stuff they couldn’t learn in their neighborhood, and now if they ever had to, they could probably survive in the wilderness.”

Not exactly what every company does, but it’s enough to make any kid come home from camp with a good story.