A friend and fellow skateboarder was rad enough to volunteer his time for this blog. He goes by the name of Jonny Wilson. And not the skate filmer from New York that films with Max Palmer, Ishod Wair and others.. Jonny is a resident of Lexington, KY that spreads a different (and positive) message through skateboarding and his friendships.
The conversation was share-worthy, and we’re stoked to present…
Skateboards.com: Hey man, how’s your day right now?
Jonny: It is going pretty well. Woke up around 9am and made a mental to-do list of the things I need to accomplish today, but I’m not ready to leave the house yet so I figured I would start this and finish my coffee.
Sick. Sounds like a good day so far. Where are you from? How old are you? Where do you live now?
I am from Raleigh, NC. Lived there my entire life ’til I moved to go to school at Appalachian State University. I met a girl in my senior year of college, she got a job in Lexington, KY and I followed her here and married her, haha. We have been in Lexington now for three years.
How’s Lexington? Skating in Lexington? Otherwise?
Lexington is awesome. It is a smaller city so it’s not super busy all the time. It is the horse capital of the world and there are some crazy horse farms all over. Like multi-million dollar farms and stables for a horse! Also, Lexington and the surrounding area provides 90% of the world’s bourbon. Something about the limestone in the water and changing temperatures during the seasons. Outside of those two, everyone who is from here lives and dies by UK (University of Kentucky) sports. They don’t have a pro team so college sports is life to them.
Skating here is pretty tight-knit. After about a month of going to either of our two parks, you have probably seen most of the people who skate. Similar to other places you might go, it has its clicks, but everyone here has the idea we are all skate family and get along. The two parks are called Berry Hill and Woodland. There is another park called Kirklevington, but I can’t count that one for how small it is.
Cool. The Berry Hill park looks fun! What are some other favorite places to skate in Kentucky? Other favorite road trip spots?
The college campus has some fun spots. There is a basketball court that cops don’t hassle you at and has plastic benches down the whole side of the courts, all kinds of stairs, manny spots, and rails. But lately, I have been going to this street spot that is a circular stair set. It starts as a one stair and ends as a five stair. You can grind the stairs, use it like a manual pad, there is a mellow kinked hand rail, and is never a bust. It is called Thoroughbred Park and in my opinion is the best warm-up spot before going downtown. People would disagree with me here, but my favorite skateboarding day would be just parking downtown and exploring the city to skate with no specific spots in mind and just see what happens. That might explain why I like it.
If you are coming through Kentucky, you have to hit the Louisville extreme skatepark. That park is huge and amazing! Has everything you would ever want, lights for night that never turn off and park never closes. Louisville, Lexington, and Cincinnati make a triangle and are connected with major highways only an hour and some change drive. We go to skate the downtown spots there and make a day trip out of it. Nashville isn’t far, about three and half hours from here and can hit that for the weekend.
Sounds fun! What’s your main job in Lexington?
I work for a non-profit called Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA). It has been about two years with them and before that I was a janitor.
Movin’ on up! What’s your favorite part of the gig?
It really is such a cool job all around. The vision for them is to see the world impacted for Jesus Christ through the influence of coaches and athletes. Most of the staff members are your traditional baseball, football, basketball kind of guys, but with me, my favorite part is working with the kids who skateboard. When I was getting into skateboarding it was because of my friend Daniel. He is a few years older than me and we would go skate, but what I now see was that he was mentoring and discipling me. He taught me about life, drugs, girls, skateboarding of course, but all the things he went through to help me not make the same decisions. My dad wasn’t around due to a serious illness and passed away while I was in high school. Daniel used the love for skateboarding to kinda do the things a father would do while being my friend no matter what. Now that I realize all that, I felt like God wanted me to do that for other kids who skate around here. That is the best part, it’s my job.
It’s nice to get paid for the doing the thing(s) you love. How did you get into Christianity? Do you think kids you see find skating first or Jesus first?
I was raised in a Christian family and saw the faith and the way my mom lived. She is legit, and everyday I saw her living a specific way. As I grew older, it was a mix of exploring for myself what this world had to offer and comparing it to the love Jesus talked about. Jesus won and I am a Christian.
Haha, I would guess to say skating first! That is what I wanted more than anything as a kid. Just to skate. But that is okay and I totally get it. Somewhere along the way I hope they experience a desire to see what God wants of them. I think the kids I meet with do love to skate, but they become curious to see what the Jesus thing is all about when skating doesn’t fix the other problems. Not all of them are Christian, and they are still welcome and can be a part of what we have going on. I am learning how important it is to be in community with others. When you can’t find that, it is hard and depressing. Like moving to a new place, it is lonely and you feel isolated. Skateboarding is an outlet I ran to for community, and I know the kids here do also.
Everyone needs something positive in their lives, and skateboarding is a savior for a lot of us, for sure. What’s the usual schedule like (or is there one) when you’re with the kids?
I do have a general schedule with the kids, but I have other responsibilities with work that have to be taken care of first. I have been given fifteen school campuses that have FCA as a school club. I oversee those during the school hours, meet with coaches, prepare and present different messages to sports teams, and work on any upcoming events we are hosting.
Each summer, I host a skateboard camp. We hit about ten parks in four days with thirty kids. It is crazy! From that camp, I ask some of the guys if they would like to meet weekly and talk more about the Bible and skate together. Typically, they are always down. I meet with the kids individually during the week, and then buy them dinner and talk about school, family things, share a Bible verse with them and pray, but the big thing is just listening to them. Each Thursday, we all meet up together at one of their houses after school and skate, eat dinner and do a Bible study all together. Once a year, I’ll take the older guys on a skate trip for them to adventure and get out of Lexington and shred. Last year we went down to Wilmington, NC and went surfing and camped out.
What would you say to the nay sayers of Christianity (or religion in general)?
I think about Christianity and how it is always described with the verse of John 3:16. God loves us all and sent his son Jesus to die for everyone. If you believe that, then it says you will have eternal life. I believe that Jesus came and died for everyone and if I want to be more like Him, wouldn’t I want to love everyone like Jesus did? The Bible says that He came to give life, hope, joy & overflowing love. Sadly, there are many people who do not love others and proclaim Christianity, similar to someone who says they skate, but then never goes and skates. They are all over, you just have to find the ones who actually skate, see the people who actually live Christianity out.
Also, I understand that not everyone is going to think or believe the same things that I do. I love them as they are, unless they scooter, nah I am just kidding haha. I believe that one person is not better or more important than another. This is what I believe, not what you have to. The last thing I want to do is argue or debate about who is right. I hate that stuff.
Final words or thoughts?
Everyone has a different story, and I’m thankful to share mine. Anyone is welcome to contact me at [email protected] if they want to ask some questions or know more about what I do.
“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many”
Mark 10: 45
Thanks so much, Jonny.