Skater's school Nek Level

Boarding star launches free kids' classes

DANIELLE STREET
Last updated 05:00 15/02/2013
Levi Hawken
JASON OXENHAM/ Fairfax NZ

DROP-IN: Levi Hawken is helping kids learn how to skateboard for free with the launch of Nek Level Skate School at Victoria Park Skate Park.

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Skateboarder Levi Hawken is taking kids to the ''nek level'' with his latest venture.

The 37-year-old who shot to fame with the ''nek minnit'' video has launched a free skateboarding school in conjunction with Youthtown, a charity which organises events for kids.

''The main idea is that you come down and skate and if there is something you want to learn you can come and ask me. I'm there more as guidance. That's the way I look at this particular skate school,'' he said.

The idea for the Nek Level Skate School was conceived after Hawken held a skateboarding competition for Youthtown at Auckland's Avondale skate park last year. Realising his popularity with youngsters, the non-profit organisation asked if he would be interested in teaching skating at the park one afternoon a week.

The skate lessons are run alongside a free sports programme where kids can play games including football, cricket and touch rugby.

''In a place like Avondale all the kids come down to the park after school to play anyway, so it's giving them stuff to do as well as teaching them a little bit about respect and working together,'' he said.

Following on from the success of the Avondale-based lessons Hawken convinced Youthtown to extend the programme to the inner-city Victoria Park skate park this term.

''While teaching kids to skate you can inadvertently teach them other things,'' he said. ''And I think kids who are a little bit different can relate to me because I'm different looking.''

The programme is aimed at 13 to 18-year-olds, but nobody is turned away.

It operates on a drop-in basis - kids can sign in for the afternoon and Hawken will take them under his wing.

The veteran skater said teaching children to skate had also taught him a thing or two.

''It's been a learning curve really. Learning how to deal with situations that arise, like kids getting into fights or hurting themselves. At the end of last year I did my first aid certificate just in case anything happened.''

He adds that it can be difficult to get keen kids to take the time to learn basic techniques before tackling bigger tricks.

''It's a bit of a battle to get them to slow down, but after a while they find it starting to pay off, which is amazing. It's such a good feeling when the kids start to get it.''

Hawken started honing his skills at the age of seven when there were few skate facilities in the Auckland region.

He said the immense popularity of the renovated Victoria Park skate park meant it could afford to be three times bigger.

''The amount this park gets used on the weekend or in the holidays is crazy. It doubles as a kindergarten, playground, a training ground and it's also where the professional stuff happens.''

With winter approaching Hawken would like to see lights installed in the park to accommodate different groups of skaters.

Visit facebook.com/neklevelskate for more information.

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