BY AIMEE MURPHY
Photo provided by Michael Brooke.
Michael Brooke is a wavemaker.
His dream is peace and his heart is in the work; he lives out his dream by continually working daily for a culture of peace in the world. But he lives the message in a quite different way than you might expect: he is a longboard skateboarder whose mission for peace has been realized in what he loves to do most. Though the dominant paradigm surrounding skateboarding is that of the hoodlum and hooligan, Michael and other longboarders around the world have found that longboarding instead promotes a globally cohesive community which stimulates a culture of unity and peace. I had the honor of interviewing Michael and learning more about the Longboarding for Peace Initiative which he began just a few short years ago to bring people together and demonstrate the common ground that we share in our humanity.
Aimee Murphy: Tell us a little about yourself -- where you're from, why you're into longboarding.
Michael Brooke: I was born in Leeds, England in the mid-1960s. I lived in Buffalo, New York in 1970 for a year and in 1972 moved to Ontario, Canada.
I've been skateboarding for 37 years. It's the one thing that has always made me feel great. It's never let me down and it keeps me balanced! I feel that longboarding emulates the act of surfing in many ways. If you don't have the good fortune to live near surf, longboarding is the next best thing!
The magazine I publish [called Concrete Wave] was started in 2002; prior to that I wrote a book on the history of skateboarding (also called Concrete Wave). My magazine was created to promote the pure stoke of longboarding!
AM: Why did you choose to start a peace initiative with longboarding, of all things?
MB: I am convinced that when it comes to changing the world, you need to take a two-step approach. This means, you can't go around and shout "Hey, live in peace!" You need to provide people with something that is tangible that takes them out of their "comfort zone" and is an intermediate step to doing good.
Skateboards? Sure . . . It's counterintuitive -- but it works. Getting kids and young adults to interact with their sworn enemy is no easy task. But longboarding provides an opportunity for sharing the joy and freedom on four wheels. It's exhilarating, different and gets people working together -- for balance! Plus, unlike team sports, there are no winners or losers -- there are merely people participating for fun! I knew this in my heart and the four demos we did in Israel and the Palestinian territories proved it. The kids had fun and the adults had fun too. From here, the seeds of peace can be sown. It's a long haul . . . but that's why we are using longboards!
AM: What do you hope to achieve through your work with the Initiative (both short-term and long-term)?
MB: For the short term I want to continue programs around the world. We've just set something up in Comox, British Columbia. We've got natives and non-natives working and skating together. It's going to lead to so much more. That's the spark that will lead to real change. [Our] long-term goals [include to] continue to build programs worldwide and document them in Concrete Wave. It took 15 years or so for longboarding to become a real force within the world of skateboarding. My plan now is to take the next 30 to 40 years to make longboarding a real force within the world of peace initiatives. I have my work cut out for me!
AM: What is your reach currently, and who comprises the demographic you are trying to reach?
MB: We have 100,000 readers. We want to reach all those who love longboard and truly understand its incredible ability to heal, transform and rebuild. We are talking about a soulful and truly spiritual journey to make this world a better place through longboarding. It makes no sense to most, but the truth is that longboarding is about balance. And once you have physical and mental balance, you achieve harmony. And with harmony, anything is possible. I know this in my heart . . . and so do my readers.
AM: Tell us briefly about your experience with the Initiative in action.
MB: It was unreal. The Peres Center for Peace coordinated the various demos and we worked with Surfing for Peace. Without these two groups, it would still be a dream. At one point, I was in Jaffa and remember thinking to myself "Wow . . . I can't believe we're doing this! It's really a happening. The kids -- Arabs and Jews are not fighting . . . they're enjoying the vibe of longboarding together. I was so overwhelmed by the joy that was pouring out of these kids that I literally stopped for a moment and almost wept.
Photo provided by Michael Brooke.
AM: What were the impressions and reactions of the people with whom you worked and served?
MB: We made Israelis feel like tourists in their own country! Folks were nervous; they were worried; but I knew in my gut that things would be OK. Everyone in the group was stoked out of their minds. People were so happy to participate. The kids were begging us to come back!
AM: How can the average dude/dudette help to spread the stoke of the Longboarding for Peace Initiative and help to spread peace throughout the world?
MB: That's the beauty of what I have built. I don't want money from anyone (well, maybe one benefactor) but the truth is that Longboarding for Peace is a movement, not a charity. It's really there to get people to step up and get involved in their own initiatives. You can spend time on the sidelines or you can get in the game. So, if you want to be involved, all it takes is for you to start something. We have stickers that help spread the message of "Search/Spark/Stoke." This message means many things but when it comes to Longboarding for Peace, it means:
SEARCH for Opportunities for PEACE;
SPARK the PEACE;
STOKE the PEACE.
It can be peace between neighbors, peace between nations and peace of mind. We have no limits to the pursuit of peace, because in pursuing peace, [we are making] a better world.
Liking on Facebook ain't going to get you in the game -- if you want to really change the world, you gotta step on and step up!
But we enable this!
AM: Thank you, Michael, for telling your story and getting the word out about your groundbreaking initiative. We are so grateful for your work and your example.
MB: Thanks for the opportunity to help spread the word on Longboarding for Peace!
Logo provided by Michael Brooke.