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He was a skater boy

Now he’s the owner of AMPT

Fourteen-year-old Derek Russell and adult Derek Russell have many things in common: both love to skate, talk to people and have fun.

The biggest difference between teenage Russell and adult Russell is that one dreamed of owning AMPT Skate Shop in Arcata, and now one of them does.

This has been a long time coming in Russell’s life. He moved to Arcata from Port Washington, New York in the 1990’s and has lived a block away from APMT Skate Shop since its opening in 2002. Though he has moved away from time to time, Russell seems to always be attached to this store.

“My whole life I dreamed of owning this shop,” said Russell. “Whenever I was thinking of careers, I just said to myself I wish I could buy AMPT.”

Russell’s love of skating started when he was 14. His many skating influences include greats like John Cardiel and Tony Trujillo, but his initial influence is less obvious.

“Initially it was (the Teenage Mutant) Ninja Turtles,” said Russell. “And that’s really why I think skating is cool.”

Russell said he was never good at competitive sports like basketball or football, but skating was always there for him. Like many who delve into competitive individual sports, he liked the challenge being solely on him.

“I liked skating because of how it’s just you against yourself,” Russell said. “And really other than that everyone is just homies.”

Humboldt’s skateboarding community, like many in the U.S, really became solidified after the creation of the counties first public skatepark.

“When the skatepark was built in 1998, that was a big drive and got a lot of people into it,” Russell said.

Russell feels this community is built on the mutual respect for the sport. Russell said that there are many types of skill tiers and groups for skaters but only one thing is important.

“It really stops mattering about how old you are or who you are,” said Russell. “It’s all about your love of the sport, which kind of creates a type of equality for everyone.”

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AMPT Skateboarding has been an Arcata mainstay since 2002. | Photo by Sean Bendon

A skatepark is vital to the sport of skating, as well as a skate shop, to the culture of skating. Steve Melillo, a local skater and Russell’s friend, moved up to Arcata 10 years ago and said the shop means a lot to him.

“For me it’s been pretty much everything,” Melillo said. “It’s been the hub of the skate community for Humboldt, and I have met a lot of friends here, some that are my best now.”

Russell and AMPT have a bigger part to play in the community than most think. They support everything from skate competitions to building DIY skateparks in low income communities. But for Russell, skateboarding’s impact is simple.

“The best part of skating is the community,” said Russell. “Getting together and having fun and feeding off of each others good vibes.”

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