A mother’s grief, a friend’s compassion: the two forces will soon be coming together to honour the life of Paul Kaji, a Hope resident who had a life-long passion for skateboarding.
Kaji died on August 20, 2017 of accidental fentanyl poisoning, said his mom, Linda on Monday. He was Linda’s only offspring.
“Even when he passed away, he had a cast on his wrist, from a skateboard accident,” she said.
“Paul was a skateboarder from an early age,” she recalled. “Over the years, I accompanied him to the hospital many times — or met him there. He had broken both wrists and had concussions for sure, knee injuries and a dislocated shoulder.
“I believe it’s so important for children to choose a sport that their heart is really into — and parents should fully support them, no matter what,” she said. “But be sure they wear their safety equipment.
“I was a skydiver as a young adult and my parents supported my choice, though I know it was not easy for them,” said Linda. “I made 149 jumps but stopped when I was pregnant with Paul. I guess that’s where he got the Kamikaze attitude.
“Paul had many skateboard-related injuries and surgeries but his family was always 100 per cent behind him. Other big loves of his were snowboarding, kayaking, surfing and his dog. He packed a lot of living into his 43 years.”
Mom graduated as Linda Smith from Hope Secondary in 1968, before moving out of town for her working years. She moved back when she retired in 2010. Paul had moved here the year earlier.
When the skateboard bowls were built at Seylynn Park in North Vancouver in 1978, they were a magnet for Paul, said Linda. It was the first facility in all of Canada, according to Mike Faux, who moved from Ontario in 1998 and soon met Paul at skateboard competitions.
Faux, known as “Hippie Mike” is now a Sunshine Valley resident, after spending over a decade developing skateboard and bmx parks and organizing programs and competitions in Surrey. This summer, he taught skateboard skills to local kids, as part of the rec centre’s summer programming.
“Paul and I competed a lot in North Vancouver, in the Bowl Series that runs through the bowls that were built in the 70s and 80s,” said Mike, Monday.
“He was known for being one of the most caring people around,” said Faux. “He would do anything for anyone, whatever they needed. He loved skateboarding, music, and helping others.
“When his mom showed up at my skateboard lessons this summer with a bunch of complete skateboards to give away, I almost cried. I knew why she was doing it and it meant a lot to me.
“I realized then that we needed to have an event for Paul,” said Faux.
The Paul Kaji Memorial Skate Jam will run this Saturday, September 15, at the Hope skate park, from 5 to 8 p.m., rain or shine. (Yes, there are lights.)
“This event has three purposes,” said Mike. “One, is to give the kids in Hope something fun at the skate park to participate in. Two, is to give Paul’s friends a chance to hang out together and share memories — and three, is to give away a bunch of skateboard gear in Paul’s honour, to kids that need it. I’ll have boxes of prizes and pretty much everything I bring will be given away.
“We’ll pick on certain obstacles in the park and have kids go at them for best trick competitions,” said Faux.
Visiting skaters will want to show their skills as well — and Faux has some park-designing friends who will attend and give their ideas on how to improve the facility, which was built in the early 2000s.
“There should be a bunch of top amateur and Lower Mainland pro skaters coming,” added Faux. “Our goal is to promote skateboarding in a positive light and to always build a better community for tomorrow’s children.”
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