REGINA -- The Tiki Room has been part of Regina’s skateboarding culture for 25 years and now it’s seeing a surge in popularity of the sport.

Noel Wendt was working at another shop before he opened the Tiki Room in May of 1996. He noticed a growing demand for skateboards, so decided it was time to launch a store dedicated to selling them.

“I had been skateboarding for a number of years at that point. I had been working for a retail store called World of Trout here in town,” Wendt said. “We started selling skateboards just out of the back of that space and it just grew to the point where it needed its own identity.”

Over the past 25 years, he’s noticed the popularity of the sport has fluctuated.

“Right now it’s a very high wave for sure, when we started it was a very high wave and there was a couple of years where it’s been a little bit slimmer, but there’s always that core group,” he said.

With the launch of Tiki Room’s online store, their products are now being sold outside of Regina as well.

Wendt believes social media could be one of the reasons why skateboarding has become increasingly popular.

“When you think of skateboard videos, it’s kind of the best of the best and it’s maybe not attainable for some people or they see it as unattainable,” Wendt explained. “With social media, people see other people just having fun skateboarding and that’s fully attainable, so I think that’s helped a lot.”

The pandemic also seems to have drawn more people to the sport.

“There’s been a huge rise due to COVID-19,” Wendt said. “Skateboarding is an individual sport. You can do it anywhere and do it solo, so a lot of people have gravitated towards it.”

It’s become so popular in Regina that a non-profit group, Regina Skateboarding Coalition (RSC), is now working on re-launching an indoor skate park in the city that could operate year round.

Shane Reoch, the president of RSC, said Regina was once home to the longest running indoor skate park in Canada. It was open from 1997-2013, but it was torn down when the new Mosaic Stadium was being built.

“It’s a growing sport and you can go to any of the number of outdoor parks right now and see they’re almost overcrowded,” Reoch said. “This is seasonal, so just to get us through those long Saskatchewan winter months and have kids training and developing their skill set, that’s why it’s so important to make it year round.”

Initially, the park was planning to launch in March. It was set up to run at the Agribition Building at Evraz Place. Due to public health measures, they were not able to open it.

RSC has been working closely with the City of Regina and the Regina Exhibition Association Limited to narrow down a new space for the park.

It does not have a launch date or location yet, but they are hopeful it will be open before winter hits.

Reoch credits The Tiki Room for helping the sport of skateboarding reach the popularity it’s seeing now.

“I would not be exaggerating if I said that Noel, through skateboarding, has positively influenced more youth and young people than anyone I’ve met. He’s on par with some of our great local coaches in baseball or football,” Reoch said. “[The Tiki Room] has been an open and inclusive place for 25 years.”