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San Jose Transplant finds joy in coaching skateboarding

Felipe Franco spends his 46th birthday skateboarding with teens like Jade Trevizo, 13, at Plata Arroyo Park in San Jose, Calif., on National Skate Day, Friday, June 21, 2024. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)

Jade Trevizo crouched over her skateboard at the Plata Arroyo skate park in San Jose, once again trying to master a basic maneuver that makes the skateboard jump off the ground and stay underfoot while the rider sticks the landing.

With a bang, the 13-year-old, who started riding six months ago, slammed the board’s wooden tail into the pavement, launching herself and the board upward. But she couldn’t land on the board. Instructor Felipe Franco reached out to calm her down and gave tips to “ollie” as she tried again. Ten minutes later, she and her skateboard were in the air, then she stuck the ollie and smiled broadly.

“You’re ollieing, you know that, right?” Franco, 46, shouted excitedly.

Felipe Franco spends his 46th birthday giving skateboarding lessons to teens like Jade Trevizo, 13, at Plata Arroyo Park in San Jose, California, on National Skate Day, Friday, June 21, 2024. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)
Felipe Franco spends his 46th birthday skateboarding to teens like Jade Trevizo, 13, at Plata Arroyo Park in San Jose, California, on National Skate Day, Friday, June 21, 2024. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)

Based in San Jose, Franco teaches throughout the Bay Area – Gilroy, San Francisco, Union City, Livermore, Sunnyvale, Fremont, Milpitas and Palo Alto – with lessons costing between $60 and $200, depending on location and skill level.

But on Friday – the 20th edition of Go Skate Day, when skaters from around the world come together to celebrate skateboarding – he organized a free one-hour skateboarding lesson at the Plata Arroyo skatepark on behalf of GOSKATE, a website that connects beginning skaters with teachers.

Jade, who started skating in December, had come to the skate park on Friday hoping to learn how to ‘drop in’ on one of the concrete ramps for the first time. She learned a lot more during her hour-long session.

“I didn’t expect to learn so much,” she said, “but I’m glad I did.”

A handful of skaters and bikers roamed the park, but Jade was the only skater who showed up for the lesson. Franco wasn’t surprised; more advanced skaters typically spend Go Skate Day at large events downtown. He was “really happy to see Jade show up” and spent an hour giving her one-on-one coaching to develop her skills.

Franco grew up in Arizona and Southern California and learned to skateboard at the age of 10 from his older cousins. He has continued to skate ever since, driven by the ability to continually learn new things.

“To this day, I’m still learning new things and challenging myself,” Franco said.

As an adult, Franco worked in the real estate and property management industry in Seattle until he, his wife and their 5-year-old son temporarily moved to San Jose last year to care for her parents, who had recently been diagnosed with cancer.

Felipe Franco spends his 46th birthday skateboarding to teens like Jade Trevizo, 13, at Plata Arroyo Park in San Jose, California, on National Skate Day, Friday, June 21, 2024. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)
Felipe Franco spends his 46th birthday skateboarding to teens like Jade Trevizo, 13, at Plata Arroyo Park in San Jose, California, on National Skate Day, Friday, June 21, 2024. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)

When his in-laws’ health deteriorated, the family had to come up with a more permanent plan for their life in the Bay Area. Franco needed a part-time job with flexible hours and was able to turn to two of his old passions: skating and teaching.

He started coaching through GOSKATE in October 2023 and now teaches four to six classes per week in the Bay Area. Although his students range from 4 to 55 years old, he typically teaches young children.

Through his classes, Franco hopes to “explore every neighborhood and really get to know this area” as the family considers getting their own place in the area. So far, Franco says, he loves the entire Bay Area.

Franco believes he’s taught thousands of skaters how to ollie, a fundamental skill that serves as the foundation for more advanced maneuvers. For each trick, Franco begins with an explanation, breaking down the movement into its mechanics. Skaters then go from holding Franco’s hand to a “ghost hand” hovering a few inches away, to finally performing the trick themselves, with some encouragement and high fives from him.

A big part of coaching is helping students overcome their fear and “know that someone has your back,” Franco said.

“It makes me happy to see someone trying something new because it’s a challenge,” Franco said. “For some people, it’s hard to just stand on a skateboard, to take that leap of faith.”

“I just try to make them feel safe because it can be scary, and that’s the honest truth. I just like it when someone even tries. That’s where I get the most pleasure.”

Felipe Franco spends his 46th birthday skateboarding to teenagers at Plata Arroyo Park in San Jose, California, on National Skate Day, Friday, June 21, 2024. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)
Felipe Franco spends his 46th birthday skateboarding to teenagers at Plata Arroyo Park in San Jose, California, on National Skate Day, Friday, June 21, 2024. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)

As Jade worked on her drop-ins, a trio of teenage boys descended on the park and attempted the trick with her. Franco offered to help and the boys accepted. After a few attempts, one of them also managed to do the drop-in.