Costa Rica Skate Park Honors Fallen Youth Advocate And Builds Community

“When Luzo was killed, it seemed like a big red flag that San Rafael could really use a safe place for these kids to go to.”

Luis Diego “Luzo” Zumbado was loved in San Rafael, Costa Rica.

As a member of the skateboarding group San Rafael Extremo, he encouraged local children to skate and tried to establish safe places for them to do so. Locals saw him as a protector of youth, and through skateboarding, he had hoped to provide a safe haven away from the gangs that had infiltrated San Rafael.

But tragedy struck the community when Luzo was murdered by drug dealers while he was reportedly trying to protect his youth skateboarders from an altercation. Moved by their grief, Extremo rallied together, wanting to find a way to honor Luzo and keep his legacy alive.

Members of the San Rafael Extremo skateboarding group. Photo courtesy of DivertCollective.

Word spread about Extremo’s mission, eventually reaching David Monhait and Zach Adamson. “When we heard Luzo’s story, it brought tears to our eyes, and we said, ‘We’ve got to go do something about this,’” says Monhait.

As the founders of Divert Collective, which aims to inspire youth through action sports, Monhait and Adamson partnered with a Costa Rica-based group called Journey in order to build a new skate park in Luzo’s honor.

Adamson sees himself in some of the kids Luzo helped get on the right track through skateboarding.

“I was somewhat of a rebellious kid,” says Adamson. “I got in trouble at school and got expelled. It got to the point that my parents decided to move me to a completely different environment.”

After moving from Denver to the mountains of Keystone, Colorado, Adamson began to snowboard and skateboard. It was there that he began channeling his energy into activities that wouldn’t get him into trouble. Instead, he became a sponsored skateboarder and all-American snowboarder.

“I witnessed friends getting sucked into drugs and gang life and I had a goal to become a professional athlete,” he says. “But as I reflect[ed] on it, most kids just want to have a positive outlet and be creative — and not have some coach yelling in their ear.”

Monhait and Adamson both went on to have successful careers in the corporate sector. They partnered to create DivertCity, which Monhait describes as “a mix of action sports, and the surrounding lifestyles of it, like photography, videography, music, and art.”

As part of DivertCity, another initiative was born out of it: DivertCollective.

“When Luzo was killed, it seemed like a big red flag that San Rafael could really use a safe place for these kids to go to,” says Adamson.

With the help of more than 90 members of the community and the American Ramp Company, DivertCollective built the Luzo Skatepark in San Rafael, which opened in April 2017.

Ruben Villalobos, a Costa Rican who helps oversee the skatepark, believes it’s more than just a park to the kids. “This is our home. We care about it, and know how hard it was to get it done,” he says. “And now the San Rafael Extremo kids are helping the community by generating activities, participating as local youth representatives, and helping indigenous communities with volunteer programs.”

According to Villalobos, an estimated 100 kids come to use the park daily.

Kendall Campos, 15, who has been skateboarding for three years, says of the park: “I like it a lot. It’s helped me feel better to have this community, and it keeps me away from making bad choices.”

Kendall Campos. Photo courtesy of DivertCollective.

Adamson and Monhait believe that sports that require creativity — like skateboarding — can help kids find their voice and identity. “I think one thing that that gets missed in a sport like skateboarding is that it is a community that respects the individuality of each person,” says Adamson.

Villalobos agrees. “Everyone is cheering for each other at the park, like when someone is learning a new trick,” he says. “They share knowledge with each other and there is teamwork involved in helping each other become better skateboarders.”

With the success of the Luzo Skatepark, Monhait and Adamson plan to build two more skateparks in other parts of Costa Rica.

“We plan on having a sustained impact,” says Monhait. “We’re not here to put on a show, but to really make a difference.”

Julian Meehan

Young leaders from around the world are gathering at the United Nations Headquarters in New York Saturday to address arguably the most urgent issue of our time. The Youth Climate Summit comes on the heels of an international strike spearheaded by Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden, who arrived in New York via emissions-free sailboat earlier this month.

Translated from Swedish, "berg" means "mountain," so it may feel fated that a young woman with Viking blood in her veins and summit in her name would be at the helm. But let's go out on a limb and presume Thunberg, in keeping with most activists, would chafe at the notion of pre-ordained "destiny," and rightly so. Destiny is passive — it happens to you. It's also egomaniacal. Change, on the other hand, is active; you have to fight. And it is humble. "We need to get angry and understand what is at stake," Thunberg declared. "And then we need to transform that anger into action."

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