By Chriss Goschie
When you think of the typical skater, a lot of negative images come to mind: drugs, graffiti and deviancy. It doesn’t sound like the type of person you’d want in your community. Justin James might be the last person you associate with skating, if you look at him in that light. He may dress in typical skater fashion, sporting skinny jeans, a baggy sweater and oversized beanie, but his attitude and outlook offer nothing similar to the mischievousness connected with “typical” skaters.
But James grew up a skater. When his best friend, Jessie Hunt, got a skateboard as a gift when they were both younger, they spent days messing around on it. Today, riding is life, but back then, it was just something different. When a complete stranger, watching them skate, approached them, the kids were skeptical at first. But when he gave a complete board to James, they were shocked at their luck. A board for each of them, for free.
Since then, skating has become a part of him. His goal isn’t just to pursue skating as a possible career, it’s to promote the skating community within Eugene, and remove the old stereotypes plaguing the culture since its inception. He spends his time at the City of Eugene Outdoor Program at the Riverhouse, teaching younger kids how to skate in the warmer months. He is a voice in the community in regards to it’s dealings with the city, including the development of the Jefferson Skatepark.
The project had been in development for the past 10 years, and actively the past 5. James was compelled to show up to the meetings, he wanted to have some input in the development of this park – it was the first time the city had ever tried anything like it before. It also tied in perfectly with his job at Tactics, a local board shop. Many of James’ coworkers are as active as he is within the skating community, and the completion of the project would only benefit their local business.
Mitch Moore, one of James’ coworkers at Tactics, has only positive things to say about what he’s done for the community. “All the work he’s done at the Riverhouse position, all the hard work and sweat he’s put into it. I can respect that.” There’s only one way to describe someone like that, “(he’s) a super, positive, rad dude. I truly mean that.”
James also has hopes to go pro. If he could, he would skate 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Oregon doesn’t really agree with those hopes, and James can think of 8 close friends that have already moved to warmer climates to pursue skating. As James skates up and down the covered ramp at Tactics, he mentions his own desire to move to California with his crew. “It would happen at the end of next summer (at the earliest).”
No guts, no glory. James has already shown he has what it takes to compete, taking a third place finish in Volcom’s Wild in the Parks in Portland this past year. “I still have a ways to go,” he mentions, with regards to going professional. “You think you’re good til you see a pro.”
The community in Eugene is so small, in comparison with Portland or anywhere in California. The top tier skaters like James all know each other, and any competition ends up being a session with your friends. “If someone’s good, they end up going to California or Portland,” he mentions. That’s why he’s so adamant about being a voice here.
People are self-motivated, according to James. He wants to make sure he remains an active voice in the community in the future, letting the city know there’s a demand for more community input, like the Jefferson Skatepark. Hopefully, now that the skating community has begun aging into parenthood, their image will change with them. For now, there’s not much more James can do but keep skating.