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05 Apr 2020

Sasha Senior Is Paving The Way With Windsor's Only Skateboard Shop Featured

Sasha Senior never imagined her first business; Bliss Skateboard Shop, would be the only one of its kind to serve skaters in the border city of Windsor between Ontario and Michigan. After an inspiring conversation with the owner of the Wood Shed Skate Shop in Westland, Michigan - she jumped at the chance to secure the perfect space in a prime location.

Bliss is walking distance from the University of Windsor and the closest spot to Riverside Skate Park in Detroit and Windsor’s Atkinson Skate Park. Meanwhile, one of her best friends Mario Notice – an Olympic hopeful and team member of the Jamaican Skateboarding Federation - offered his talents as a graphic designer and came up with the name and logo. “Bliss is gender-neutral, so everybody can relate to that. It doesn’t matter what the trick is, it could be a kickflip or an ollie. As soon as you land it, you have that perfect moment of happiness.”

Although the March opening of her brick-and-mortar was a success, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic prompted her to move all sales online. The avid skateboarder of seventeen years is also the mother of two sons under five and works full-time with the Windsor regiment of the Royal Canadian Armoured Corps. When she became a wife and mother she focused on her family responsibilities and the need for self-care became less of a priority. The recently separated Senior says in the midst of life’s inconsistencies, her board has always grounded her.

“It has never left me. That’s one thing I love about the sport because it’s an individual thing. It’s great when you do it with people but you don’t always need someone to go skateboarding. I used to play basketball and there were two occasions where I thought it was going to be my sport but no matter what I did, it just never went that way for me. I feel like I can’t get as much as a passion or work out from basketball. If you want a full game of basketball you need more people. But if you want to get into your own zone, and get to that next level you can do it on your own. Even if I was only skateboarding a little bit, It has always been there."

A ROSE FROM CONCRETE

When she was 13 years-old the Seniors packed up and moved from Brampton to the much quieter Ontario town of Caledon. A day or two before her move, she says her friend’s brother had an old skateboard lying around and she decided to bring it along with her. When she and her four siblings arrived in their new neighbourhood, she remembers how they stood out as the only Black family. Unsure of how to fit in, the athletic teen noticed everyone was skateboarding and decided the sport would help her to make new friends. The board didn’t have any grip tape and she had only used it a few times but was determined to master the ollie. After a year of practicing, her determination paid off. Her rider style parallels her approach to life’s challenges - instinctual and relaxed.

“I prefer to street skate. There are those skateboarders who go out and are able to ride up to an obstacle and do a trick and land it every single time. But they might not do as well if they’re skating in the street. When you’re skating at a park or in a competition everything’s smooth and perfect. The ledges are waxed, the roads are smooth and there aren’t that many cracks. Everything is pristine, everything is crisp. But when you skate in the streets you don’t have that. You have to adapt to your surroundings."

KICK, PUSH

Growing up, Senior says there weren’t many skaters that looked like her. Stevie Williams was her biggest influence for his ability to switch stances, his rebellious swag, business acumen and Black pride. After almost two decades of dedication to the sport, she says there have been some pivotal moments that made people step back and take notice. She recalls a time when she surprised herself during a competition in the U.S.

“The trick I did was an ollie to manual and then a kickflip out. It was kinda crazy because in that moment  I didn’t really expect to land it. Even though when you skate you should expect to land your tricks because you get hurt when you doubt yourself. I would say it’s definitely a more advanced trick because you ollie up onto an obstacle on your two back wheels or your two front wheels and then you do a kickflip, which is when the board spins 360 degrees in a vertical motion off those two wheels. So you’re already balancing on those two wheels and then you’ve got to pop the board and flip out again. I almost felt like I was out of my own body when I did it cause it was kinda crazy.”

As someone who started off as an underdog and is now part of an international circle of respected skaters, Senior is a strong believer of bringing people together. When she learned there was a growing divide within the Jamaican skateboarding community, she called on her friends to throw their support behind a good cause. 

In December 2019, she hosted Skate of Emergency, a volunteer-led event organized by Mario Notice who wanted to unify skaters through friendly competition. Bliss along with Adrift, Impact Skate Club, CJ Skate Park and Woodshed, donated items for the local youth who frequented a popular makeshift skate park located in Bull Bay. Described as a gully with walls seven feet high; kids riding barefoot is a common sight in the often flooded and impoverished neighbourhood.  

The sacred space is not usually welcome to outsiders - but Notice’s co-sign gave Senior the necessary support. Prizes included decks, sheets of grip tape, shoes and wheels.  Senior - a first-generation Canadian of Jamaican descent - has learned the art of turning play into purpose. 

“That is what brings us together as a skateboarding community. It doesn’t matter what colour or gender you are. it’s just, oh, you enjoy skateboarding? Let me teach you this trick. None of that other stuff matters. When you go to a big skateboarding event, you see everyone there. In every single race there is a skateboarder who is amazing at what they do. If people were to see me skate, they would say I’m really comfortable on my board but they would not expect me to skate at the level that I do, given how I look, as a Black female skateboarder. And that’s the thing about skateboarding, you never know what to expect.”

True Daley is a proud Parkdalian, community worker and filmmaker with an unhealthy attachment to vintage clothing. Follow True Daley on Instagram @truedaley

Photo credit: Jermaine Senior

20200413 ByBlacks Patreon

Read 670 times Last modified on Tuesday, 14 April 2020 15:43
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