When 27-year-old Kaleigh Herald and 30-year-old Chris Lowe met in Nelson in 2015, they never could have imagined their passion for skateboarding would take them so far together.
Herald found her love for longboarding at the age of 18 in Vancouver. She quickly climbed the ranks, fine tuned her skills and became a professional in the sport.
“Between 2012 to 2015, I did downhill racing and I was sponsored by Landyachtz out of Vancouver,” said Herald.
“We travelled around in a team van and went to California, Oregon and across B.C. to do all kinds of sanctioned races.”
One of the most iconic races Herald remembers competing in is the Sullivan Challenge in Kimberley. Racers start at the local high school and travel up to 90 km/h on their skateboards to try to be the first one to cross the finish line down at a nearby pub.
“The race is so fun and technical. The guy who helps run it every July also operates a skateboard shop in Kimberley,” said Herald.
“He’s such a big influence on the entire downhill skateboarding scene in the region.”
Herald later moved to Nelson to have a simpler life and start a family.
Lowe, who immigrated to Nelson from Brisbane, Australia in 2015, said the social aspect of skateboarding was one thing that made him fall in love with the sport.
“I’ve always been an athletic and sporty kind of guy in school,” said Lowe.
“Skateboarding was one of those things that always gave me satisfaction and I kept getting encouragement in it from my peers. The skateboarding community is so awesome here and that’s kind of what drew me in.”
Lowe discovered his own niche in street skateboarding and picked it up more during his twenties in the Kootenays.
After Herald and Lowe had their first child and had lived in Nelson for a few years, they started looking for a new place to raise a family and build a business around skateboarding.
The couple soon discovered that Castlegar hit all the right buttons.
“After we had lived in Nelson for the longest time, we found it really hard living there and trying to stay on top,” said Lowe.
“We decided to move to Castlegar because we found it had lots of potential in terms of development, growth and a place that’s really open to new things.”
The couple wasted no effort getting established and opened up The Shop Skate and Snowboard Supply in downtown Castlegar this past summer. The retail shop offers a variety of skateboarding gear and will sell snowboards heading into the winter.
Adding to the excitement, the couple has plans to build a small ramp in the shop to allow people to skateboard inside during the winter months. Students at Stanley Humphries Secondary School in Castlegar have already committed to helping with the project.
“The school is donating some supplies to build the ramp and some of the students from a shop class, who are also avid skateboarders, will be donating their time to help build it,” said Herald.
“This project is something that they’re passionate about and it will teach them valuable life skills in construction. This is also a crazy and stressful time for students during the pandemic and hopefully this project will give them purpose and something to look forward to.”
The couple is also in talks with the staff from Mt. Sentinel Secondary School in the Slocan Valley to help convert one of their tennis courts into a skateboard plaza.
Lowe said skateboarding will help West Kootenay residents weather through the COVID-19 crisis.
“While it’s really easy to stay at home and get stuck in your own thoughts, skateboarding is something that has allowed us to get outside while follow social distancing protocols, make new friends and get those endorphins going. It’s a win-win situation,” said Lowe.
“We just want to keep pouring our passion into skateboarding so that the community can benefit from it.”