By Darby Moore | firstname.lastname@example.org
Bodie Walker doesn’t believe he’s the Santa Claus of skateboarding, but skaters in St. Augustine beg to differ.
Walker has created a skate mecca within the Pit Surf Shop located on St. Augustine Beach. Trucks, wheels and decks line the walls of a designated room within the shop, looking like a miniature version of Santa’s workshop.
“My goal with the skate shop was exactly that. I didn’t want a skate room in a surf shop. I wanted a skate shop in a surf shop.” Walker said.
Walker started as a sales associate at the Pit Surf Shop, while also giving surf lessons five years ago after quitting his job as a prep cook at a local restaurant. The job couldn’t have come at a better time.
Depressed, unable to drive due to a DUI and looking for a more fulfilling line of work, Walker found salvation in the skate room of the Pit.
“If I didn’t get hired, I’d be dead or working in the back of a kitchen somewhere wishing that I was dead,” Walker said.
Half a decade later, Walker has made a name for himself within the surf and skate community of St. Augustine, as well as in Jacksonville and surrounding areas. He’s known as the expert, as the man that knows all you need to know when looking for a new board.
Perhaps what’s more important than Walker’s reputation in the field is his reputation with the younger members of the skating community. Walker has earned it through his naturally giving nature, paired with his love for the sport itself.
Before Walker took over the section, sales for the month of June were $700. After the previous manager quit, Walker took control and raised sales the next June to $1700, and, the following year, to $8000.
Walker is also responsible for creating a skate team to represent the Pit, including local skaters Shawn Aruthur, Ethan Arnold, Will Woods, Ean Spencer, Lance Alexander and Brian Romero.
It’s an endeavor Walker took on himself – and funded himself.
Walker’s goal with the team was to create a group of talented skaters to represent the shop, to push each other to improve their individual skating, as well as to progress the sport as a whole.
“Skating is such an individual hobby, sport and art form. We are able to do that together with like-minded individuals that are working to achieve something that they see as being great,” Walker said. “Skateboarding is something that you can do by yourself, but when you’re in a group of people, it makes it that much better.”
Skating is something personal to Walker, dating back to his youth. Growing up, skating was all punk. Videos were raw, and paired with music from bands like Black Flag, the Ramones and the Dead Kennedys. He remembers the days when skaters were fined or even arrested for skating around town in the early 1990’s.
Now, skaters are sponsored by huge names like Redbull and Nike. Walker embraces this change, along with many others. He realizes that such large brands are going to keep the sport alive, and that athletes are finally beginning to get paid for being a part of the sport that he loves.
He has a positive outlook on the future of skating.
“There aren’t really any limits to what you can do with it,” Walker said. “It’s just your own personal limits that you place. The kids are definitely the future of skateboarding.”
Walker creates several skating events to keep the future of skating looking bright. He has formed a personal relationship with several brand representatives, which allow for him to get products either free for events, or heavily discounted. Walker then will create a product toss for handing out products to skaters attending the event.
“Seeing that the kids are happy, and, more importantly, that the parents are happy, means that you have done a good job and that it was a successful event.” Walker said.
Walker casually mentions that he will buy up different skate parts at cost when he has the personal funds available, to be able to ensure a quality product toss for the kids. He jokes that this generosity has become a double-edged sword when it comes to putting on events.
On one hand, he feels obligated to impress the kids and their parents every year, requiring himself to create a toss just as good, if not better, than the previous event held.
“I feel like, with the kids, at one point I became Pavlov’s dog of skateboarding. They see me and think, oh there’s the sticker guy. He must have stickers,” Walker said.
He not doing tosses for the notoriety, though. He’s barely aware of the respect and admiration local skaters associate with his name.
He does it for his love of the sport that began back in 1985. He does it because there were times in his life where skating was the thing that kept him alive. He does it because he too has an addiction to the sport all true skateboarders suffer from eventually.
In St. Augustine, Santa Claus may not have a large belly or a long white beard. He may just be a guy that loves skateboarding.