Robby Hargreaves started skateboarding when he moved to the Central Coast. Landing in Vandenberg Space Force Base with his family, he had a skateboard but no place to skate, he said.
“We didn’t have a skate park and my parents didn’t feel comfortable with me at 14 going to Lompoc skate park and staying there,” Hargreaves said. “I kept getting in trouble on the base; the only way I would be able to continue to skate was if Vandenberg got a skate park.”
Hargreaves set up a meeting with the Wing Commander of the base and pitched his idea to construct the skate park on the base. It was later accepted and Vandenberg built a 2,000 square-foot concrete skate park—the largest skate park on any U.S. military base, he said.
“Skateboarding has made me feel a certain way, and I’ve been very strong about those feelings for 25 years of my life,” Hargreaves said. “Even from a young age, I thought it would be cool to make skateboarding more known on the Central Coast.”
Now, Hargreaves owns and operates Solvang Skate Shop where he sells skateboards, wheels, T-shirts, and other equipment and apparel. He added a mini skate ramp inside the shop where he teaches beginning lessons on Wednesdays; an “interactive mural” where people can take sharpies and sign, leave a message, or draw a picture on the wall; and has opened up the space’s floor plan to allow him to host events in the store, he said.
“My idea for the store is to have something that’s welcoming for everyone. It doesn’t matter if you skate or not,” Hargreaves said. “The basis of the skate shop was the community’s need for it.”
Solvang Skate Shop will be hosting the Solvang Skate Contest on Nov. 18 and will be part of the Solvang Christmas Parade on Dec. 2 and Buellton Winterfest on Dec. 3, he added.
“Right now that’s all we have locked in, but we’re constantly doing events and constantly doing fun things,” Hargreaves said.
A lot of Hargreaves’ motivation to create a community space stems from childhood when he was diagnosed with a rare children’s multiple tumor cancer, he said.
“My doctor told my parents I would never make it to my sixth birthday. That has been a big driver and motivator that this is my second opportunity,” Hargreaves said. “When I found skateboarding, it drove me not just to be passionate about it, but how do I share it with other people and help others find happiness that I found through skateboarding?”
In the future, he’s hoping to expand his reach in the community by eventually launching a nonprofit that will provide people interested in skateboarding with the proper equipment, lessons, and teach skaters how to advocate for themselves.
“We have to talk to City Council, we have to talk to the mayor, those are the people who are calling the shots on whether or not we get funding for new facilities, lights, or shade,” Hargreaves said. “Helping skaters understand that we can do this, but we have to do it the right way.”
Cities like Buellton still don’t have a facility for people to skate, and the closest option is either in Solvang or Lompoc, leaving gaps in access to a positive sport in people’s lives, he said.
“The process has been difficult,” Hargreaves said about starting the nonprofit. “I’m going slow because I just bought the business in August . I rebranded, remodeled, and reopened in December.”
At first taking on these challenges alone, he’s now in the process of selecting board members to help guide the nonprofit. He didn’t want to release the name quite yet since it’s still in the beginning stages. However, the Youth Empowered Sports Club works with Hargreaves as a financial guarantor and can accept donations on behalf of the nonprofit until it’s officially established.
“I’ve faced adversity in my life that was out of my control with cancer. I’ve also faced adversity in my life that was within my control,” Hargreaves said. “I just really want to share [that] throughout adversity, if you’re really passionate about something and you’re disciplined, focused, and envision your goal, I believe you can accomplish whatever you want.”
• The Santa Barbara County Association of Governments (SBCAG) will be hosting an unmet transit needs listening session on Dec. 6 on Zoom from 4 to 6 p.m. The public is encouraged to stop by anytime during the two-hour virtual listening session to share comments or concerns about bus systems, dial-a-ride and paratransit services in Santa Barbara County, or express needs for new or expanded services in the county. Spanish language interpretation services will be available during the listening session. Those unable to attend the Dec. 6 listening session can take an online survey in English or Spanish until Dec. 15. The public can also submit comments in writing to SBCAG at 260 North San Antonio Road, suite B, Santa Barbara, California 93110, or by emailing [email protected].
Reach Staff Writer Taylor O’Connor at [email protected].