If you call a copy of our latest yearbook your own, you have already discovered the poster inside of it and hopefully hung it above your bed. Australia’s Keeks Vaughan (@keeksonwheels_) just won The Few Studio’s Most Valuable Skater Award in Australia/New Zealand. There are many reasons why voters and the jury chose the skater for the trophy. Keeks hosts events, runs Big Mood Skate, supports community growth while being a mom, full-time employee, and overall badass. We have no idea where they take the energy from, but if you keep on reading, you’ll find out.
Keeks, congrats again on winning the MVA in Australia/New Zealand. How does it feel to win a prize like this?
It is incredibly exciting and I am honored to have received such an award nominated by my peers. It has been nice to feel as though there is more of a formal recognition for my efforts within the community.
You are a roller skater but you invest way more time in community work and events. What made you become involved in this part of the community and what’s the most rewarding about it?
When I first began roller skating, I never had the intention of going in to be the next best thing. I was very fortunate that I started skating with some incredible skaters (Garry, Crooks, Cathh B). Watching the incredible athleticism and time they took to hone their craft was awe-inspiring. I started off by helping host local meet-ups and workshop events. This helped me see that there was room in this growing community space for everyone and made me feel like an important piece of the puzzle. It meant that the shredders could focus on shredding and I could focus on facilitating fun events and competitions for them to flex their skills.
Since I began facilitating workshops I soon realized that fostering and supporting the beginner and intermediate sector of our community is integral to growing a powerful and pumping scene.
The most rewarding part about hosting events and workshops is probably the “first-time” moments. There’s nothing quite like seeing somebody face their fears for the first time whether it its the first time lacing up, the first time dropping in, or their first time attempting a new trick or obstacle. I find it a little funny when people often say how important my role is within the growing community but I always remind people it’s about US. Hosting an event is one thing, but showing up, supporting each other and growing as skaters, individuals and a community is the most incredible thing that comes from being a part of the park skating community.
The other rewarding thing would have to be the wonderful people I have had the opportunity to meet and am lucky enough to call a friend both locally and internationally.
Your big two babies are Big Mood and Rampalooza. How did you start the projects?
Big Mood came about as an embodiment of my core morals and values of park roller skating; to support, uplift and encourage skaters of all backgrounds and skillsets. I think it’s important to amplify all different kinds of skaters. At its core, Big Mood is a collective to showcase skaters doing what they love, but we then moved into apparel (new line dropping soon!) coaching and events. We even initiated our first sponsorship program last year and have a team of 15 skaters from all different backgrounds, orientations and skill levels of skating. We wanted to celebrate all kinds of skaters and support them where we can.
Rampapalooza came from my love of park skating, music and events. I wanted to create a landmark event to incorporate having great coaches from around Australia and internationally to facilitate workshops in a supportive environment, as well as promote up-and-coming local music acts. Throw in a rootin’ tootin cowboy theme and RAMPAPALOOZA was born. I am super proud of the annual event that has run for the past 2 years. Not only have we seen hundreds of skaters travel locally, interstate and internationally to attend, but we have also been able to help support local artists shops, and musical acts and have integrated a program where we can provide work opportunities for people with disabilities and at-risk youth.
Be sure to keep an eye on @bigmoodskate_ for more news on the upcoming events for 2024!
Everyone who listened to Drop In podcast knows that you are a mom, you work late nights, you study, do so much community work. Does it ever get too overwhelming? How do you find balance?
Wow, when you see it on paper it sounds overwhelming haha! The short answer is yes, it certainly does. I’m human and doing all the things at once can become exhausting. The long answer is, I wouldn’t do all of it if I didn’t love it and if I didn’t have the drive and passion to do it. I think sometimes the pressure and expectancy from others can take a toll, which is why I believe it is so important to take breaks. Remember why you’re doing it. Not just skating, anything. I’m currently on a skate/business hiatus pretty much since October to focus on my career and family life. Whilst it’s been hard, it’s nice to remember that I am also loved and respected outside of my skate universe.
Skating is something that will always be a part of my life. Whether it’s creating events, aiming for a new trick, skating for mental health or even as simple as just keeping up with all the wonderful skate mates I have online.
The roller skating industry seems to struggle a bit and many people seem to just be happy with a few Instagram posts. What do you hope to do for the future of roller skating?
I am pretty happy that people are leaning more towards not being consumed with social media and short-form content and leaning more toward long-form content. Don’t get me wrong I LOVE myself an IG reel but with so many skaters out there, I prefer to see personality and style ooze from content. IG-wise, I much prefer to see what makes you, you. Do you have a signature style on wheels? Maybe your fashion sense is incredible? Maybe you’re a class clown and like making humorous content. If you’re sticking to short forms like reels or stories I think keep it that, short, snappy, to the point and entertaining, but in reality, no one else’s opinion really matters.
For the future of roller skating, I really do wish to see more people creating meet-ups and fostering community in their local scenes. You can have the best tricks in the game but injuries happen, we age and our bodies slow down. Finding mates and hanging out on wheels is to me, the core foundation of park roller skating.
It can be as easy as starting a local FB group, approaching another skater at a park, putting out flyers etc.
Do you have tips for people who want to create a community or events?
My biggest tip for people looking to create events or community is to dream big but start small. Have your end goal in mind but remember why you’re doing it. That way if 1 person or 100 people get involved, it’s a win-win situation. Reach out to your peers. It’s so cool when you realize what skill sets your mates may have off wheels; whether they’re incredible artists, photographers, networkers etc. When all else fails, YouTube and Google are your friends. I have spent hours learning basic graphic design and marketing tools via YouTube tutorials!
I love that you used to ride horses. Are there any similarities between the horse-riding scene and the quad scene? What’s more fun?
There is a similarity between the equine and quad community in that the sport within itself is a solo practice, yet like-minded people who are into the same thing support and befriend each other.
You’re not riding anymore but you have a motorcycle. What model do you have?
I sold my last 7 horses around 5 years ago before taking up skating and more recently, motorcycles. I have a Royal Enfield Meteor Stella 350. It’s the tits!
Do you like the thrill of speed?
More so the sense of freedom as opposed to speed, although a little speed can be fun. I suppose I take the same aspect from roller skating, horse riding and riding motorcycles; the unknown element and harnessing unpredictability.
As the year just started: Do you have any big or small plans for 2024?
I always go into a New Year with an ‘overall’ game plan, this year would be to grow within my professional career, continue to network both professionally and socially and to pull off another successful RAMPAPALOOZA. Realistically though, as long as I’m happy and enjoying whatever it is I do and doing it with passion and a purpose… that’s enough for me!
Thank you so much for the opportunity to be involved with Dogdayz. It’s been such a wicked experience. I would like to take this time to thank a few people. My partner Beni, my son Ned for always putting up with me and holding the fort when I’m out hustling, my mum Helen for picking up the slack when I’m too busy, Chris and the tram at Rampfest Indoor skatepark, Ritz for always helping with Big Mood since day 1, Slam and Sugu from Chuffed not only for being rad friends for 5 years but also for being the best business peers and mentors, Garry and Crooks from Brunny Hardcore for always having my back, Brad from the Few for providing countless opportunities for Big Mood and myself, Kiowa for the time dedicated to shoot the poster shots whilst on her holiday, my best mate Sarah and Kat for always listening to me mid breakdown during peak event time or just letting me vent and to all my wonderful friends on IG who are always down for a chat, meme or unhinged voice memo.
Roller skating is for everyone. Remember the love of it and chase that feeling forever.