“Longboarding for Peace is a movement forward. We embody the spirit of all that is good and pure about Longboarding. We empower people to step on, step up, and make great things happen in their communities. We strive to increase joy and happiness, and decrease pain and suffering.”
Founder, Longboarding for Peace “I’ve been trying to get Mikey on record about what ‘Longboarding For Peace’ is all about for quite a while, but no luck. I tried ass kicking, browbeating, and badgering; none of it seemed to work. Exasperated, and out of options, I finally decided to put Fatty on the case. He’s from Jersey, so he knows how to get stuff done. The brass knuckes and the kilt really work wonders sometimes.” Bud StratfordExecutive Director, Concrete Wave Magazine Michael Brooke and I go way back. My old company, Longboards by Fatboy, Inc., used to advertise in Concrete Wave, and International Longboarder long before that. We have been what I would consider to be good friends for all those years. We have seen each other sporadically, sometimes skating together, other times just hanging or maybe having a meal; I’m fat, it’s what I do. We talk about the business, both manufacturing and media. Sometimes we fanboy out on skaters from our youth – he knows WAY more of them than I do. Maybe we’ll chat aboot music; we’re similar in age, so we like a lot of the same stuff. Or maybe we’ll just get together and make fun of Bud. Whatever. It’s always time well spent. I’d heard about this new venture he’s been working on, “Longboarding for Peace”. Peace, people, not piece; he’s not trying to pick up chicks with skateboards. He doesn’t have a white van with “Free Longboards!” written on the side. Interested in what he’s up to these days, I took some time to investigate some of the stories surrounding this movement. Obviously, being a fat douche, I don’t have time to read them all, what with the constant flow of sandwiches that needs to happen just to keep me upright and typing. But I liked what I read, and proposed an interview with Mikey where I could ask those pressing questions like, “Starbucks, or Tim Hortons?” or “boxers, or briefs?” Y’know, crap like that. So enjoy my teasing of a real swell guy, with a really swell cause. -Fatboy Mike in Jamaica, April 9th, 2017 Soooooo……….you just roll up at some place with a bunch of skateboards in your car, and ask people to ride around on them regardless of their athletic ability or age or gang affiliation, and they just drop their Glocks and hop on, and that puts a stop to decades of persecution and hatred? If only it were so simple. Actually, it takes a bit of planning and an ability to think creatively. Yes, that was a very general yet douchey synapsis of what you do. But seriously, do you hafta get permits to do this? Is there some kind of security present? Sure, you’re a burly dude and know how to throw knuckles on the mean streets of Toronto and whatnot, but I’m guessing riots are out of your current defense wheelhouse.Not really burly, but I know people who know people. Here’s how we started: probably six ago or so, I learned about this skateboarding non-profit called Skatistan. I was both impressed, and inspired with what they were doing. In January of 2012 at the Surf Expo tradeshow, Abraham Paskowitz of Carver Skateboards told me about his work with Surfing for Peace. A few weeks later, I decided to start my own initiative and I called it Longboarding for Peace. I got in contact with a guy called Matthew Olson, who had done work with the Peres Center for Peace. Once we contacted them, the process of sending longboards and helmets to the middle east began. The Peres Center also coordinated our tours throughout Israel and the Palestinian Territories. You can’t just roll up to the West Bank and start skating with kids. There are formal procedures that are in place and when you work with locals, it all comes together. Longboarding For Peace at work in Israel. Photos by Efrat Sa’ar. Do the cops show up and hassle you like any other event involving skateboards?No issues whatsoever. The kids are happy. The adults are happy that the kids are happy. With each new initiative we do, I see smiles and joy. It is the embodiment of what it truly means to spread the stoke. How do you approach these folks? Yes, you’re a delightfully charming and classically handsome man that reeks of success and personality, but how do you engage them if they don’t even speak Canadian? Are you multi-lingual? Or do you bring interpreters? I’m assuming you have SOME sort of connection with a local or two. It’s about connecting the dots. I know a lot of people. And once I meet someone and they are intrigued about LFP, I bring them in. Once they are in, it’s simply a matter of bringing in the volunteer. This just happened with our Spanish operation. Julie Quenneville is based in Quebec, and does a lot of travelling. She contacted me last summer before she went to Brazil. We loaded her up with stuff, and let her do her thing in Brazil. Now she is off to Spain, and I put her in touch with Jacobo Ramírez Barroso of the Carving Social Club. It’s all about harnessing the energy that people have, and directing that energy into teaching others. Where do the boards come from? Where do babies come from?Boards and various skate products are graciously donated from a wide variety of companies. This includes Kebbek, Carver, Bustin, Landyachtz, Loaded, Abec 11, Neversummer, Sector 9, Honey, Aluminati, Sunset Wheels, Rainskates, and Triple 8. There are so many people that have stepped up to help, it’s overwhelming! As for babies, you’re going to have to phone a friend. Are there any sorts of snacks provided at these events? Your careful answer may sway my decision to support and/or attend one of these things?We had pizza in Jaffa, Israel, and magnificent patties in Jamaica just recently. I will have you come down for the next adventure there. Michael in Jaffa, Israel. Since you and I have both been in the skateboard business for decades, and we are of course subsequently thigh deep in hookers and blow, how can someone assist you in your philanthropic adventures? Is there a Kickstarter/GoFundMe thing? Can we bake and send cupcakes? Is there a need for volunteers for your skate sessions?All you need to do is email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will endeavour to make something happen. Remember, we are NOT a charity or a non-profit. We are a movement. Whatever we do, it must impact on the areas of peace, balance or justice. I won’t get involved with things like drag racing or hot dog eating contests. Is it a skateboarding thing, or a world peace thing for you? Is it your eternal quest for more and more wheelie plankers for your dynasty and inevitable world overthrow and domination, or would you just like to stop watching people fly planes into buildings on the news?You know it’s funny… I think about this quite a bit. The truth is that I became a skateboard magazine publisher because no one was writing about the kinds of skateboarding I was doing. The mags at the time had declared that rails and ledges were pretty much all that was necessary within skateboarding. Sure, there was vert here and there… but it was tunnel vision up the wazoo. So, I stepped up and did something. And in stepping up, it taught me something valuable. If you really want to know what skateboarding has taught me – it is simply this: just get out there and do it. This do-it-yourself, creative spirit has driven me for 40 years. A lot of people look at the pursuit of peace, balance, and justice the same way they look at the weather. They talk about it, but don’t really do much about it. I decided, “I am going to do something”. The benefits of creating more interest in skateboarding is that we get more skaters. This helps the industry. The benefits of LFP far exceed anything I can even comprehend.
I call this “The Butterclip Affect”. It marries “the butterfly affect”, and “the red paperclip story”. “The butterfly affect” is not the movie starring Aston Kushner; rather, it is the idea that a butterfly flapping its wings can cause a hurricane halfway around the world. Put another way: Small things lead to dramatic consequences. (Editor’s note: this analogy is the most simplistic, and possibly the most famous, explanation of Chaos Theory)As for the red paper clip… well, through the course of 14 trades, Kyle MacDonald wound up with a house. And he started with something that most would see as practically worthless. (Editor’s note, from Wikipedia: “The website One Red Paperclip was created by Canadian blogger Kyle MacDonald, who bartered his way from a single red paperclip to a house in a series of fourteen online trades over the course of a year.”)Visionaries might not always know what is at the end of 14 moves, but they know the process. And process starts with something small. That, in a nutshell, is what I am doing. How do you handle the logistics of these events, especially in foreign countries? Like, how do you get dozens of skateboards and gear into third world places without throwing up red flags all over the place? I was once detained by, of all people, Canadian Customs for having like 10 skateboards in my car for a skatepark safari.We work with locals and we know the ropes. Enough said. What’s the big picture for LBFP? Is it more events like you’ve been doing? Or are you looking to not only expand globally, but in attendance as well? Will there be factions of your concept featuring hosts other than yourself?We want the movement to grow organically. I am putting it out there that a visionary philanthropist will say, “Okay, Michael, what do you need to make it happen?” The truth is that pump tracks combined with skateparks are the final goal. We come in, we stoke the crap out of everyone, we get funding, we build the parks, and everyone is super happy. I just keep repeating until they pry the skateboard from my cold dead hands (albeit with a smile on my face) Is it embarrassing when fans recognize you in foreign countries, and experiencing them throwing bras and panties at you? I’m sure it confuses the locals. I gotta tell you, it was unquestionably treacherous skating near you at The Board Meeting, dodging all the undergarments. Panties and bras dodged? Zero. Bullets dodged? Also zero.