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Elemental Awareness: Todd Larsons

08:18 8th July 2008 by Sidewalk Magazine
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As mentioned in the ‘Element in Crawley’ article in Sidewalk 142, which should be available up and down the country by the time you read this, we did a quick interview with Elemental Awareness director Todd Larsons about the tour and the project, but due to space restrictions in the mag, we’ve had to bring this to you in digital form via the website.

Read on to find out what Todd thought of Crawley, Brighton, the rest of the tour and their hopes for the future…

Element Europe pro Michael Mackrodt and filmer Yves Marchon, and the Crawley crowds.

Can you explain for us exactly what Elemental Awareness is?

Elemental Awareness is a non-profit charity that works with kids through skateboarding and social and environmental education.

Where did the idea for Elemental Awareness come from? Who was behind it and how did you identify the need for its creation?

Elemental Awareness originally started as a wilderness survival skills program up at Visalia YMCA skateboard camp. It was a way of teaching kids about the natural environment that surrounds our beautiful skateboard camp in the sequoia mountains. The program was started by Michael Kershnar, Marc Falkenstien and Myself while we were still in college. Founder and President of Element Skateboards, Johnny Schillereff visited camp and took part in the program. He thought that the program was too good to only be happening for a couple of weeks each summer, so with the help and support of Element, Elemental Awareness as a year round organization was born.

Can you tell us a little about the education and camp programs that you run? How has the response been?

Our educational programs range from hands on wilderness experience to school tours through the Element offices. The goal is to inspire kids to follow their passions and give them the leadership skills that will propel them into a successful career. So far, the response from participants and parents has been very positive and enthusiastic.

Have you any plans to take them international?

Yes. This tour was the first step in taking Elemental Awareness international. We would like to set up branches in Europe, Australia and Canada in the next few years.

Onto the Elemental Awareness European Tour then, how has it been from your point of view?

The tour was similar to the tours we do in the US, the only difference was that each place we went to, people spoke a different language. This was a challenge for us since we had to rely on people translating what we were saying during the events. Other than that, we were able to all come together through the common love for skateboarding and have a great time.

Who did the crew consist of throughout the trip?

The trip consisted of US Team riders Tosh Townend and Levi Brown, Europe team riders Michael Mackrodt, Guillaume Mocquin, Bas Janssen, Evelien Bouilliart and Jo Lorenz, Europe Team Manager Christian Vankelst, Element Europe filmer Yves Marchon, Element photographer Marc Falkenstien, Element advocate and skateboard artist Michael Kershnar and myself, Todd Larson Elemental Awareness Director.

Other than Crawley, what were the other stops on the tour?

After Crawley, we did an event in Lille, France, Weisbaden in Germany and Wevelgem, Belgium.

How did you decide on which countries and parks to take the tour to?

Since I have never been to many of the places we went on the tour, we left it up to Element Europe and their distributors to select locations where they thought that kids might benefit most from an E.A. event.

Levi Brown gets his sign on.

Which of the stops on the tour did you enjoy the most and why?

Every stop was different and unique in some way. I liked the outside part of the Lille France contest because of all the graffiti. It gave the contest a very rootsy street feel. I liked that.

Elemental Awareness events aren’t run like an average company demo. What does an E.A event consist of?

The difference between EA events and other demos is that EA events are all about the kids. Instead of the kids coming and watching the pros skate and taking more of a spectator role, they actually get to be the main focus. We bring the pros to watch the kids. This is the main difference.

How did you feel the Crawley event went?

I thought the Crawley event was awesome. It seemed like everyone was really excited about the contest and getting to skate with the pros. One of my favorite parts of the event was the Worst Board Contest. I couldn’t believe how many kids were riding boards with no nose or tail. I haven’t seen that many chipped up boards in one place ever. We tried to give as many kids new boards as we could, but there were just so many crappy boards. I guess it was a good place for us to be.

Were you pleased with the turnout and response?

I was very pleased with the turn out and the energy of the event. Whether 5 kids or 500 kids come out, we try to give everyone that comes out to an Elemental Awareness event a positive experience. We are here to let then know that the industry that they support is giving back to them and saying “if you keep it up, so will we.”

In all honesty, what did you make of Brighton? And what one incident sticks out most in your mind when you think about your brief stay there?

The one thing that stands out about Brighton was the rock beaches. I have never seen anything like it before. The rocks are the perfect size to throw at someone. After dinner, we all went down to the beach, every time someone would get up to go pee on the beach, they were bombarded with rocks from the entire group. Eventually everyone had to go, so everyone got to experience the joy of pebbles hitting them in the back.

What are your future plans for Elemental Awareness? Any plans of coming back to the UK?

For now, we are working on building our scholarship foundation so we can send more kids to Element YMCA Skateboard Camp. We would love to come back to the UK to do some more events in the future and hopefully have a permanent home for EA in Europe.

Anything you’d like to say to the people reading this?

Yeah, although Elemental Awareness promotes a positive message, it isn’t all about rainbows and lolli-pops. Some of our programs consist of a hardcore wilderness survival experience. We teach the basics of Building shelters, making fires, finding and purifying water and foraging for food. These skills teach kids awareness, confidence and gives them the tools to potentially save their own life. It definitely give a new meaning to the words “Skate or Die”.

Check out Sidewalk 142 for the full Element in Crawley article, and click here to see the footage from the event!

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