PAB Skating Club celebrates 50 years

PORT AUX BASQUES — The Port aux Basques Skating Club is celebrating 50 years this season.

April Dicks is President of the club. She has been with them for 13 years, has served as President for the last three seasons, and said it is a significant milestone.

“Everyone is pretty excited. At first we didn’t realize we were into our 50th, not when we first started our season,” said Dicks. “Most of our past members, you see them start to phase out as they graduate and move on, so we’ve got a new group of people. Some have been with us for quite a few years, but we are pretty excited. We’ve got some big things in store for our skaters this year too, so we’re looking forward to that.”

The PAB Skating Club offers a variety of programs dependent on skill level.

“We actually have several programs. We have our CanSkate program, which has always been a huge success in the community. We always seem to max out our numbers. At the beginning of each season we seem to carry a wait list. We are a learn-to-skate program, so with Canskate it’s a discipline where skaters can learn mobility and skating skills and carry that on to other ice activities,” said Dicks. “We also have our StarSkate program, which is a program you would enter once you complete CanSkate, and that would be more disciplines of figure skating. We also offer a synchro program, and synchro has probably been one of the most exciting parts of our club for some skaters.”

As popular as the synchro program is, it wasn't always offered.

“When I started about 13 years ago we actually didn’t have synchro at our club,” said Dicks. “One of our coaches who came on board within a couple of years after that, she actually recommended synchro and we took it. We were excited, because people like myself who were volunteering with the club, we were past skaters at one point. We understood synchro and we knew how much fun that was going to be for the kids. So we ran with it as soon as she offered and now we currently have two teams with synchro who have been traveling out of province, within the province, and going to different competitions throughout the season, so that is a really big part of our club as well.”

The popularity of their programs didn’t diminish, even while strict COVID measures were in place.

“We did keep a healthy number of skaters in the first year of COVID, and in the second year we did as well. However, we did see a slight decline in our Canskate members,” said Dicks. “This year we went right back to normal and we are back to a waitlist for our Canskate program. We can’t accommodate everyone who would like to be part of the program. We do our best, but we do have maximum numbers on the ice surface.”

The group was able to pivot and make adjustments to their program, which Dicks believes helped them retain so many skaters throughout the pandemic.

“When COVID happened, of course physical assistance was an issue. Of course, we had to be able to handle these children who are not able to move on their own. They need some physical assistance, so we changed our program to allow parents on the ice so they could have physical contact with the skater, but we had a coach with those skaters as well, directing them and teaching them the skill of skating. It was a program that was needed at the time and it worked extremely well.”

Now that things are getting back to normal, a popular year end event is also set to return.

“This year we anticipate we will go back to what we would call a ‘traditional ice show’. We hope to have a full house. We usually do. In past years we’ve never had issues with numbers there. We’ve packed the arena for sure. We are also hosting an event for all of our skaters in March, The Winter Golden Skatetacular. That event will be for all skaters free of charge, and we want all skaters to come together and have a day at the arena, show off the skills of our skaters, and it will be more of a competition style where kids can come out and show their parents and friends what they’ve been working on all year. We’ll probably have a 50th anniversary cake to celebrate and we’ll have some gifts and such for our skaters.”

Competitions have also made a return this year.

“It was really hard trying to recover from the time that we lost, but we’re seeing some skaters back on the competition circuit,” said Dicks. “We have a synchro team that just returned from PEI. We just won a gold medal there at the Atlantic championships, so that was really exciting.”

Dicks said the community the club has built is like a family.

“I get choked up when I think about it,” said Dicks. “For me, these kids that carry through, I’ve been with them since they’ve been three or four years old. This year we have five or six graduating skaters, and they will be showcased in our annual show as well. A lot of these kids that have been with us through the StarSkate program, they’ve stayed with us and we’ve stayed with them through all of the changes and all the things we do throughout the year, so it’s a pretty emotional thing. It is a skating community. It’s a skating family, and you’re always so excited for the kids and their achievements.”

One of the most important things the organization does is celebrate those accomplishments.

“We always post their achievements and let our friends, family, and community see the development of these skaters. That’s pretty special too, because we all get to see these skaters achieve what their goals are.”

Dicks is extremely thankful to each person who has helped make the club what it is today.

“The club never would’ve been as successful as it is, if we didn’t start on that day 50 years ago. We are what we are because we have such wonderful volunteers, coaches, skaters, and we have tremendous support from the community and parents alike,” said Dicks. “To think where we were and where we are, that we’ve continued to grow and we’re able to give this back to our community and our skaters and help them learn the skill of skating and find the love on the ice, is really overwhelming for me.”

Jaymie White, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Wreckhouse Weekly News