Ever felt like you were floating through life? Like one moment all was clear, and the next you were drifting out to sea? Elliot did.
Thankfully, with over a decade of coaching martial arts under his (black) belt, discipline beat depression. In 2019, this California-dwelling 33 year old left his old life behind and took to the road. Destination? Mexico. Who would have known that the future held a total switch in his career and lifestyle and that, today, he would be the self-proclaimed “manifester” of MazunteSkate. Over the past years, Elliot has guided the build of Oaxaca’s newest skatepark with the primary goal of both grounding and elevating local youth of Mazunte. Working with our partners, Wonders Around The World, THE SKATEROOM is proud to have funded part of this build – but it’s time to tell the story behind the story.
Elliot Stone (middle)
Elliot, tell us – how on earth did you find your way to Mazunte?
I was transitioning out of my first career, which was teaching martial arts. I found Mazunte when I booked myself into a month-long retreat at a Yoga and Meditation School. I fell in love with the waves here, they have really good surfing. And since I was looking for a new home, I decided to pack up a van and drive over.
Hang on! That’s a big deal to shift your career like that. What was going through your mind?
Yeah, I owned a martial arts school. I had a 10 year career doing that. But the Lord giveth, the Lord taketh away. My life changed suddenly and honestly I was depressed, not doing anything. It’s not that cool to have no purpose in life. [Laughs] So I booked in that retreat, and once I had clarity again, this project was the perfect thing. It helped me recover.
What was that trip like? Ever look back?
You know, along the way I’d stop at skateparks every, like, 5-10 hours. It was a four day drive. As I did that, I was awakened to the depth of the skateboarding community on the road. It didn’t matter that I was an out of towner, I could just show up with my board and meet friends. I would spend nights at people’s houses, go on trips, and I became immersed in this culture. Sure, I’ve skateboarded my whole life, but this was something else. Being able to travel with my skateboard – it was like a big warm hug wherever I went.
So, you finally arrive in Mazunte…
Yeah, so when I arrived I realized there was this thriving surf community – water board sports go off here. But they had nowhere to skate. I knew skateboarding would match perfectly with the wave sports, so I thought, you know, let’s build this place a skatepark. Mazunte deserved one.
Again, a big decision. How come you can just decide to do something like that?
I have the capabilities to manifest things. Set goals, face up to challenges, take risks. I’d never built a skatepark before, I’m not into construction, but I knew it was a good idea so we set off on the journey to find property. We made sure to start with the vision of building a community skatepark – within walking distance for everyone, centrally located – and we just went from there.
You’ve clearly been able to harness discipline through your background in martial arts – has this gone into your work within skating too?
Skateboarding and martial arts are completely identical. They’re parallel paths. During my time off I was journaling, and I advise this to anyone looking for direction. I journaled my interests and my strengths. Over and over and over. Using those interests and strengths, I was able to start making this skatepark happen, and passing these skills on to the kids.
How would you describe the day-to-day reality of these kids?
The kids are buckwild down here. It’s the Wild Wild West. Half the kids don’t go to school, they run the streets. But they’re genuinely good kids, as all people are, and just as easily as they can be influenced negatively, they can be inspired. They fight, they rough-house. If they want the cartel life, they can easily sign up for that. But they can also become positive role models.
“On our main wall it says “Why do all rivers flow to the sea?” – that’s a Taoist sentiment about being humble. I hope this will sink in gently, over time.“
I constantly point out how the “pros” around here (basically anyone that’s good at skateboarding) operate. They aren’t yelling, fighting. The kids are constantly stealing turns, but the pros wait, give way. I’m teaching them the way of humility. I say, look how the pros do it, they wait their turn. Our mission with this park is to slowly show them how to be good people. On our main wall it says “Why do all rivers flow to the sea?” – that’s a Taoist sentiment about being humble. I hope this will sink in gently, over time.
Encouragement and kindness prevail, where force fails.
But we’ve totally got their respect too. Myself and Lalo, the guy I work with who lives out here, have given over 30 skateboards away. These kids are here everyday, for like 6 hours, skateboarding. We totally keep their attention, their respect, and if they rough-house we can say, you know, give me your board. And they do. They know this is a place of respect and love.
So how did the build itself go, and who was involved?
Manifesting is about believing and taking action, and not waiting for somebody to hand it to you. At first, a friend of mine, Sendr, came down and we built a little DIY section. Then we did a bunch of fundraisers, started the Instagram account, got the scene popping, and slowly that was built up. It wasn’t clear what was next, but we claimed it and let it grow.
“It was incredible to have those teams together. A riot, the whole time. And the kids were hyped.”
And at one point, when I was injured in California – dreaming of being back in Mexico – I heard that we had a connection with Wonders Around The World. We started talking, told them that we had the property, we had the money, the scene, we just needed a boss to get it built. And they were down to come to Mexico to do it.
Run us through that timeline.
July of 2021, Wonders showed up for the first build – Phase 1. They were scheduled to come back in January for the second build. I’d invited Dreamland Skateparks to come for that part. January to February that happened, both Wonders Around The World and Dreamland showed up with a solid crew. It was incredible to have those teams together. A riot, the whole time. And the kids were hyped.
How do you feel about the park going forward, are there plans for more development?
We definitely have a Phase 3 manifesting. The park works great, but we’re missing a lot of street components. We need ledges and rails and stairs. We have room for that construction, but it’s going to take more infrastructure. It’ll tie the whole thing together. I’m working on that now, and aiming for that to be completed by January 2023.
Sounds like this is already a foundation for young people to empower themselves and manifest their own futures, nonetheless.
Yeah, you know the park design actually fits Mazunte really well because of the wave community. The bowl and transition matches the surf. A lot of the kids continue to skate without shoes, so the fact that there’s no street course – nowhere you have to ollie – means kids can do that without injury. Everyone can join in.
We can’t wait to see this amazing community grow, Elliot. Thanks for everything you’ve done so far.
pics by @boresbodi and others