Brian Fitch: Skate for Peace Host
R: Give us a quick breifing on how you started longboarding and how you started riding for Faceplant Boardriders? B: I started longboarding when I was 16; my twin brother, good friend and I picked up a couple boards and would take them to the streets before and after work. When I went off to school, and then out to Colorado, I bought my first Faceplant Board; the Ricky Wheeler Signature shape (commonly known as the Signature shape) and skated more for transportation than for fun. It wasn’t until I moved home that I really appreciated getting sideways and leaving thane. After only a few short months I was at a Faceplant shred sesh and Ricky asked me to be a team rider, I was STOKED!
Brian Fitch taking a celebrity slide run at the first Skate for Peace
R: You're 25 years old now right? What makes you stay motivated to keep progressing on a longboard?
B: Yep, I turned 25 in November this past year. What keeps me motivated to skate now is the same motivation when I started longboarding nearly 10 years ago (f**k!). I want my riding to take me further. New riders show more and more potential, and with it my bar keeps getting pushed higher. In addition, Faceplant keeps setting us up on more and more shapes, each one making me think it’s the best board to be released yet! What keep me on the board during the progression (PAIN for progression) is buckling down and wearing gloves and pads. They’re bulky, uncomfortable, hot,sweaty and dirty, but I can stand up after a big fall. They don’t hurt any worse than they did, I just care more.
R: How did you end up at KidsPeace? How did you start the skate program? B: I ended up at KidsPeace entirely by accident. I was unhappy working nights in a warehouse and wanted any job elsewhere that I could refocus. I was a lifeguard since I was 16 and in searching for lifeguard positions stumbled across it. The job turned out to be much more involved and I decided to stay. After seeing the treatment programs and different avenues I proposed a ‘Learn to Skate’ program as another outlet that can be utilized, and after a few months of proposals and patience, it got approved and I started my first group. R: Give us some more background on the skate program-who is in it? How long is the class/course? What is expected of them? What do you teach them? Who has contributed/helped? B: The kids in the program, now associated with and an extension of Longboarding for Peace, are adolescent residents of KidsPeace Residential Treatment Facility for kids in crisis. It is currently a reward program for those who demonstrate progression in their treatment, and an interest in learning to skate. Kids, now both boys and girls, ‘apply’ for acceptance to the program, highlighting their progress at KidsPeace, what skateboarding means to them, and what they want or believe to get from the program. The riders then learn basic balance, skating, and carving skills with an emphasis on persistence and overcoming frustration when things don’t go as planned. My main goal is for them to explore their own possibilities with the board, and to feel the reward for pushing their boundaries in a positive way. Many people have helped! Above all, Rob and Ricky with Faceplant Boardriders and WheelRZ backed by the volunteers, riders and sponsors that make the Skate for Peace (charity longboard jam benefitting this program) what it is. The brothers have also put in many hours, and were the first to offer product to the program followed by incredible deals to keep the kids riding quality equipment. Also rather early on, Michael Brooke and Longboarding for Peace caught wind of the program and set us up with complete boards and protective gear from various companies with a retail value around $2000. Finally, coming in for 2015, Triple 8 Protective Gear has set us up with gear at wholesale costs, and donated over $500 in protective gear to send home with program participants. R: How did you start a longboard event at KidsPeace? What were the main obstacles you had to overcome? B: “If you build it, they will come” – Field of Dreams. When I started at KidsPeace I had been riding for Faceplant for about 6 months and skated at my first competition two weeks before starting there. My first thought driving onto and through campus was that it was perfect for an event. After the first year of the Learn to Skate program I proposed to my boss a charity event on campus where proceeds would go straight to equipment costs. He liked the idea, and had me write a formal proposal to be sent up the chain of command. That was rather nerve racking, and I would have to say was the biggest obstacle; convincing a management team to bring 60-80 skateboarders to their private residential campus. After highlighting how respectful and willing to act the skating community is, and the benefits that could come from a charity event, it went fairly smoothly.
Skate for Peace tee is designed each year by a student in Brian's skate class at KidsPeace!
R: How has the turnout been at Skate for Peace the past 2 years? How much money was raised from the event? How has that money helped KidsPeace and your class? B: The turnout for the Skate for Peace always blows me away. Both years we’ve had 50-60 riders shredding for Peace, but that’s not what stands out to me. The caliber of rider, or even a good person, really shows to me at this event. Both years of handing out prize money some of the winners will hand some of their prize right back to me. With that mindset right there the Skate for Peace has raised nearly $2500 towards the success of the Longboarding for Peace – KidsPeace program. In 2013 that set the program up head to toe with quality equipment from Landyachtz, Riviera, Faceplant Boardriders, Triple 8 and Paris Trucks. In 2014 that sent home 10 kids with their own longboard and helmet. This year’s event goal is to send 30+ kids home with their own board and helmet, and I think we can do it. R: Most memorable moment at either Skate for Peace events? B: It’s hard to pinpoint ONE most memorable moment. One of my favorites with the riders was seeing Ethan Sanchez, youngest rider at the event two years running, won the Amateur Slide Comp last year (I reference FB archives for that fact). As far as Longboarding for Peace goes, seeing one of my Learn to Skate kids shred in the ditch style session was incredible. He was calling his drop, and looked just as eager for turns as any other rider. Overall, the start of last year’s Chinese Downhill was intense. I could feel the energy on full blast as we pushed into the hill, it was breathtaking.
All smiles and skate faces during Skate for Peace events...come join us for the 3rd Annual!
R: What can we expect from this year's 3rd Annual Skate for Peace? B: I’m very excited for the changes we’ll be implementing this year. The biggest change is that the downhill will now be at the bottom of the campus, incorporating the hairpin left and finishing after the steep and treacherous slide hill drop. This aims to keep the competition centralized and have a homier feel. This doesn’t mean we won’t be hitting the top! The event day will start out with the Chinese downhill before the DH sprint race. On top of that, the slalom race is coming back, and the ditch style session is FREE for event participants! Being the first stop on the Mid-Atlantic Longboard Series is a big deal too. Riders at this event set the stage for what competition will be like, and who we’ll be seeing throughout the season. R: What makes Skate for Peace different from other events? B: Skate for Peace is different from any event that I’ve been to because you really get a feel for what you’re skating for. The fully sanctioned event is held on the beautiful Orchard Hills campus of KidsPeace in the rolling hills of the Lehigh Valley. Riders often will stick around through the weekend for other local shredding/hiking/swimming etc. The coolest part for me is incorporating the Longboarding for Peace kids with the event. The riders help out as line judges, slalom runners replacing cones, and will probably do a kids choice award for the slide jam. Whether doing our spectator judging, or a hand-selected judge’s panel, the judging is always fair and unbiased. I don’t want to say that the vibe is‘better’ at Skate for Peace, it’s just different. If you are a rider who appreciates the small things we can do, the Skate for Peace will make a difference for you.
Skate for Peace 2013 Official Event Video^
Skate for Peace 2014 Official Event Video^