Ask a Yukon teenager if they’ve ever hit the pavement on a skateboard and the answer will likely be yes. However, pavement’s hard and skateboarders fall, so not everyone sticks it out.
Chad Dickson is someone who did.
Now a pro, he spent much of his youth on wheels, living back and forth between Teslin and London, Ontario. He attended elementary school in Teslin but spent most of his high school years in London, returning north periodically in the summer months.
The skateboarding season is short in the Yukon, and even when the ice and snow do finally melt the skate-able surfaces in Teslin are few.
“When I was around 15 I stayed in the Yukon for a bit, and at the time Whitehorse was the only place that had a skate park,” says Dickson. “But I was in Teslin, so I never really got the chance to skate that park, and the roads in Teslin were super bad because they were all chopped up. Winter destroys the concrete — everything cracks and nothing’s level. But there was an abandoned road that had a smooth patch, so my friends and I hung around there to try some tricks. We also built ledges and little obstacles in the back of the school and skated around there.”
Dickson received his first skateboard on his tenth birthday. Seven years later, his favourite pastime began providing opportunities. He was offered a role in a small skateboarding movie, where his skill on the board and his skater look overshadowed his minimal acting experience.
He traveled to Vancouver for the film, and became close friends with another skater in the movie who convinced Dickson to move to Vancouver permanently, and chase his dream full-time.
“He saw talent in me,” Dickson says. “He told me, ‘I have a room open and you can stay at my house rent-free, so just come here and skate.’ I actually dropped out of high school, booked a plane ticket, and was there by the end of the week.
“Everyone who skateboards – they try to move to California to make it big. But Vancouver is the California of Canada. You want to move to Vancouver because it’s where all the sponsors, magazines, and social media are at.”
Now 28 years old, Dickson is sponsored by 14 different companies who have sent him all over the world to do what he loves. He’s skated throughout the United States, China, and Europe, but still calls Vancouver home.
“Once you start getting your name out there, that’s when they’re like ‘Oh wow, he’s a talented skater and we can make money off this guy.’ So they invest in us. We’re basically their walking billboard.”
Throughout his 18 years of skateboarding, Dickson has overcome his share of injuries, which tend to be both the most common and the most difficult obstacle for a skater to conquer.
Dickson has broken or fractured his ankles seven times, in addition to various injuries to his elbows, ribs, and knees.
“If I have an injury I go straight to my physiotherapist,” Dickson says. “I’ll find any possible way to recover in half the time.”
“I’m feeling it now, though. When it gets cold outside I feel the pain in my bones.”
When his body finally asks him to stop, Dickson believes he will continue to work in the skating scene.
“I see myself trying to get in to the skateboarding industry. Maybe working for a company, not being a performer, but being a team manager. You can find so many kinds of jobs within skateboarding. There’s always options.”