A little gray house on Second Street near downtown Fort Myers has more going on than what meets the eye.
The House of Ride Nature —a religious and mission organization that focuses on action sports— provides free skateboards and surfboards to children in impoverished countries.
Mark Koch, executive director, said a part of the House of Ride Nature’s ethos is essentially “becoming one with nature,” through surfing, skateboarding, or participating in other activities.
The original organization, Ride Nature, started in 2009, but it has since evolved into the House of Ride Nature with its location at 2464 Second St.
For barista Mikey Frenchko, the House of Ride Nature was a welcoming place where he could make connections.
“So it’s a family,” Frenchko said. “It’s a place to come and just hang out.”
Koch said he eventually hopes the organization will “forge the four corners” to allow other branches to be able to delegate help for more specific areas. He envisions franchising the organizations so it has outposts worldwide that can help people in specific locations.
‘They’ve never owned a board’
The group’s mission helps to satisfy a need for people who express interest in action sports, but don’t really have the opportunity to, Koch said.
“I mean we go into countries all the time where kids watch tourists come in and surf and skate, but they’ve never owned a board their whole life,” Koch said.
The organization has led 52 mission trips in 27 countries, and have distributed 1,530 boards, according to the website.
Corporate sponsors and campaigns such as “buy one give one” allow the organization to provide boards to kids.
Neil Schneider, director of Wake and Surf, shared how some children who receive a skateboard or surfboard cannot fathom having something worth approximately $1,000.
Schneider said on trips, after the kids receive the boards, attendees also teach the kids tricks if they’re interested. He added the age range of people receiving the boards varies from kids to young adults.
Koch acknowledged the outreach given on these mission trips is somewhat nontraditional, but praised other organizations working to provide people in developing countries with basic human needs such as food, water and supplies.
“I would say like a lot of what we do is very niche,” Koch said.
Why action sports?
For Koch, a fundamental portion of the House of Ride Nature deals with mentorship.
Most traditional sports involve a team, but action sports are mostly done alone. Koch said part of the original thought process behind making mentorship an integral part of the organization was to fill a hole in the action sports community.
“The kids who are skating are doing that because they didn’t have anyone doing any of that with them,” Koch said.
Fostering these relationships at the skate parks here in Southwest Florida allows an opportunity to mix different ages and demographics, Foster said.
“You don’t see that playing basketball and like other traditional sports,” Koch said.
In the action sports industry, Koch added if the skateboarders and surfers are participating in unsavory activities, “it’s almost glorified.”
“There’s not, the mentorship within the skateboard community is far from positive,” Koch said.
Fostering relationships and mentorship roles is an important pillar within The House of Ride Nature.
“Setting an example of what it’s like to be a good father and a husband, friend to someone,” Koch said.
Koch stressed the importance of positivity and encouragement.
“I’m a firm believer that it’s like the words that you say to someone; there’s no such thing as a neutral word to someone,” Koch said.
Outreach in SWFL
Another facet of the House of Ride Nature includes merchandise. The shop sells a variety of products ranging from coffee to apparel to equipment.
While not everything is local, Koch said proceeds from sales support the nonprofit organization.
“Our hope is everything has a story,” Koch said. “So the idea that what we’re selling is purposeful or supports something.”
House of Ride Nature also holds community outreach events here in Southwest Florida including barbecues and cable park outings. They’re also holding bible studies at skate parks in Lehigh Acres, Naples and Cape Coral each week.
For more information on House of Ride Nature, visit the organization’s website.