There is an awesome local skateboard shop in Baltimore called Vú, that also happens to run an awesome summer skateboard camp. Vú and the owner, Gary Smith, are well-known for being down-to-earth, laid back, grass-roots supporters of free skate.
The shop stocks everything you need, from decks to curb wax, and has an always fresh apparel line. There are two shop locations, one in Hampden – right next to the Skate Park of Baltimore, and another on Harford Road in Parkville. The Harford Road location has a mini ramp in the back that patrons can skate for free, and it is within a mile of Big Bad Wolf. In case you didn’t know, Big Bad Wolf has the best barbecue and cookies in Baltimore (sorry Mr. Nelson). So being within walking (or skating) distance of that is a win in my book.
Vú hosts several weeks of skateboard camp each summer, at both the Cockeysville Skate Park and the Ocean City Skate Park. The camp is staffed with plenty of experienced Vú
team riders who are friendly, and offer instruction and support to the kids. The experience levels of the kids range from 4 year old prodigies to teenage newbies. From my perspective, the smallest kids tend to be the most balls-to-the-wall skaters at the park. It is funny to watch a 1st grader give my teenager a pep-talk when trying new tricks. That same 1st grader probably spanked him in a game of S.K.A.T.E., too!
This is the second year that my son is attending, and his 4th session at the camp. He is a novice skateboarder and a very cautious skater. Last year he showed great pride and progress at camp in learning to ollie, manual, and to ride a tabletop. This year he was hoping to learn to drop in on the quarter pipe ramp. That is not to say that the camp staff did not try to teach him to drop in last year, he just was not mentally ready for it, and they respected that. With each passing day, he gained more and more skill and confidence. During the last day of camp, when the group was asked if they had any unmet goals for camp, he raised his hand and nervously stated that he wanted to drop in. Gary stood close by and supported (and maybe bribed) him to commit to his goal and get over his fear… and he did it! I think that in that moment my son felt more pride then he has the entire year, and deservingly so, dropping in for the first time is scary!
There is no shortage of games at the camp. Nearly everyday my son came home with loot from various games and competitions that were held that day. He had more stickers, beanies, and cheap sunglasses than you could shake a stick at. Which is actually great, because he loses more sunglasses and hats than you can shake a stick at, too. Games vary in skill, so everyone gets a chance to play, and the games help encourage the kids to push out of their comfort zone a little and try something new. There are some pretty sweet prizes, too, like new skateboard decks and wheels. Speaking of sweet loot, all attendees get a custom camp t-shirt and skateboard deck, too. The design is pretty sweet!
I can’t speak for the OC camp itself, as my son has only attended the Cockeysville camp, but I can say that the OC skate park is really nice, and the program and camp staff are primarily the same at both locations. The Cockeysville skate park is a large facility with a variety of ramps and obstacles for every level. There is a nice sized half pipe that was pretty popular, especially with the kids who were still getting the hang of riding ramps. There are several quarter pipes, a large table top, a pyramid, a funbox, as well as several curbs and rails. The park and ramps are property of Baltimore County Department of Recreation and Parks and the Cockeysville Rec Council. The grounds are well maintained and clean, and there is plenty of parking. Spot-a-pots are on site (yay)! Coincidentally, or not, there is a firehouse right next door… so you are in good hands if there is any sort of emergency. There’s also a Target across the street for the parents, like me, who always forget something, or those who prefer the simple pleasures of flushable toilets and soap.
It has been ridiculously hot in Maryland lately, with the last week of camp being around 100° by noon. The camp supplies water for the kids, but I sent a few large frozen water bottles with the boys and encouraged them to take breaks often to hydrate and cool off. Some kick-ass parent brought a fan and misting system on one of the hottest days. Yes, it was that hot. Typically it is a bit more comfortable, especially during the earlier camps, but it is summer. Oh, and sunblock! Damn it, I forgot sunblock. Like every single day. Pack sunblock. Snacks and extra (frozen) water is always a good idea, even though the camp supplies water. There’s a pizza party on Friday, but otherwise, lunch is not provided. You will also need a helmet, at a bare minimum. Knee, elbow, and wrist pads are optional, but I find my son feels a lot more confident with them on. You are only a sissy if you cry, and you won’t cry if you have pads on. Well, you might, but you better suck it up before anyone else sees!
My son has had a great time at the camp, even though some of the ramps were out of his comfort zone. There were plenty of ramps and open spaces for him to ride, and plenty of kids at his level. He was given the choice of several fun summer camps, and he did not hesitate to pick two weeks at Vú skateboard camp again this year. He brought his cousin along this year, and I think it is safe to say that they are both hooked. I suspect that you will find them both at camp again next year. As a matter of fact, after attending his first session, my nephew called his dad and signed up for another week at skate camp next month!
You can sign up for Vú’s skateboard camps here. The cost is $150 per session, and sessions run Monday through Friday, from 9 AM until noon. There’s a pizza party on Fridays, and Cockeysville skaters get a free t-shirt and skateboard deck. You should check out the store, too. They have a great line of Vú apparel, and their shop deck designs are on point. Last year at camp, my son scored a sweet Edgar Allen Poe shop deck, which they also stock at the store. That one’s getting hung on the wall – sorry dude!