Boys love things that go vroom, splash and splat, so it’s no wonder why Dustin Deck’s six-year-old son Taigen has taken to ATVing. What is astounding, however, is that the little Skeg Pirate (more on the name in a moment) has a legion of followers on social media: over 1,200 likes on Facebook, over 500 subscribers on YouTube and a whopping 13,000+ followers on Instagram. With a fanbase that strong, Taigen might be the most popular second grader in Western Canada.
How it began
Dustin has been a powersports enthusiast since he was a child. He preferred snowmobiles until recent years, when he met his wife, Alanna, and her son, Taigen. “We found we could do more together as a family during the spring and summer with ATVs, so we decided to go that route,” said Dustin.
“If Taigen wants to try burning a doughnut or wheelie or a new trick, I let him,” Dustin said. “Everyone has to find their limit and I encourage him to do it with me.” — Photo courtesy Dustin Deck
Feeling comfortable behind the handlebars of an ATV can be daunting for a child, but they can come around with exposure. “At first, Taigen was terrified of the loud exhaust so it took a little bit of work for him to warm up to them,” Dustin said. “Take it one step at a time. Don't push the child. Make sure they are comfortable with riding. Make it fun. Start with small rides around the yard or field and go from there. There have been times Taigen has been scared from going into really deep water—it took some time to shake that off him. If they fall off, encourage them to get back on.”
Taigen’s first dip into ATVing turned out to be transformative. The Deck family resides in Provost, Alberta, but tend to do much of their riding at Chitek Lake, Saskatchewan. A couple of years ago, Dustin got stuck in a muddy hole on a trail in the area. Since Taigen was a light-as-a-feather four-year-old, he was able to ease into the hole and ride out Dustin’s quad without a problem. “After that, his love for quadding grew instantly,” Dustin said. “The following Easter, my wife and I decided to buy him his own little 90-cc four-stroke ATV so he could start riding along with us and participate in longer family rides.”
Within two years, Taigen has gone from first-time mud bogger to savvy social media ATV savant. “I decided to take some photos and a short video of him riding to show his friends and family across Canada,” said Dustin. “Then I created an Instagram account. Once I started uploading and figuring out how hashtags work, the page took off from there. I learnt little tricks and tips along the way with editing videos for YouTube, seeing what fans really want, what works and what doesn't. It made it a lot easier to build more of a fan base.”
A lot of parents are wary of their young children being online as the Internet can be a magnet for negativity and bullying. The Decks are an example of what a social network should look like. “We receive a lot of positive comments in regards to our parenting—how we get our kids outside to enjoy the outdoors and teach them how to respect their equipment,” Dustin said.
The Skeg boys love to ride—two-year-old Kayne, newborn Shay and the Skeg Pirate himself—Taigen. — Photo courtesy Dustin Deck
Any good name has a story behind it, and Taigen’s alias as the Skeg Pirate is no exception. “When we started to put together our social media, Taigen was missing teeth and he had a thing for pirates,” Dustin said. “So from looking like a pirate and us loving the nasty northern Saskatchewan muskeg we ride in, we decided to put the two together and call him Skeg Pirate.”
All in the family
Taigen isn’t the only Skeg in the Deck household either. Newborn Shay is tentatively titled Baby Skeg and two-year-old Kayne goes by Skegger 2.0. If you’re wondering when children feel the need for speed, it’s earlier than you might think. “Kayne has a major obsession with quadding,” Dustin said. “When he was about a year-and-a-half old, we bought him a little six-volt quad which eventually proved to be useless because his legs could move faster than the quad could drive. He now has a 12-volt quad that he kills the battery on every time he rides. Over time, we will either get a 24-volt quad or his own DS50.”
Most boys like playing in the mud. Taigen revels in it. — Photo courtesy Dustin Deck
Transitioning from toys to ATVs can be tricky. Dustin has advice for parents who want to introduce their kids to the sport but aren’t sure what age they should be. “I don't believe there is an appropriate age—there is an appropriate maturity level that a child has to have prior to riding an ATV, sled or even a lawnmower,” Dustin said. “They should be aware of the dangers that can happen.”
Keeping kids safe
Protecting children is a priority for parents whether or not they’re riding an ATV. Safeguarding kids on four wheels means having suitable gear. “With our side-by-side, Kayne still has to sit in a car seat with a helmet, seat belt and a neck brace,” Dustin said. “None of our kids are allowed to operate or ride an ATV without a properly-sized CSA-approved helmet, riding gloves and eye protection. For longer rides we use neck braces and chest protectors.”
Once a child—or an adult for that matter—develops a need for speed, it can be problematic to rein them in which is why Dustin employs a different approach. “If Taigen wants to try burning a doughnut or wheelie or a new trick, I let him,” Dustin said. “I would rather watch and teach him the dos and don'ts than find out he tried behind my back and got hurt or something was wrecked. Everyone has to find their limit and I encourage him to do it with me.”
The trial and error approach may result in bumps, bruises and property damage. “Taigen has had a few minor accidents: running into a fence, a greenhouse and a garden shed,” Dustin said. “He tried showing off doing doughnuts and rolled the quad. He pulled a sick water wheelie resulting in the machine flipping over backwards and him falling off into the water. He popped up from under the water like a champ, standing beside his upside-down quad. Only his pride was injured that day.”
Taigen isn’t the only one who benefits from quadding in the mud. Adventurous kids make proud parents. “We have a lot of pride in watching our kids,” Dustin said. “Seeing them making new memories and meeting new people brings us joy. Watching them learn new tricks or a hard lesson such as swamping his quad is good to see. It shows us that Taigen isn't afraid to try new things.”
There are no guarantees that your children will fall in love with ATVing the way you have, but with a bit of encouragement and guidance you too may have a little Skeg Pirate to follow in your tracks.
Social media Skeg Smash
Dustin and Taigen host an annual social ride known as the Skeg Smash to allow Taigen the opportunity to meet and ride with riders who follow him on social media.
“Kids tell us how we have inspired them to get outside and try new activities out of their comfort zones,” Dustin said. “We get lots of kids asking for stickers or pictures with Taigen, which he is not shy about giving.”
Besides other kids meeting the six-year-old celebrity, the Skeg Smash is Taigen’s chance to meet his heroes as well. “The greatest reward has been seeing Taigen meet some of the riders he really looks up to: Ostacruiser and Blackie from ExtremeATVOffroad,” Dustin said.
The second Skeg Smash took place on August 12, 2017. Plan on attending next year if you’d like to meet the celebrity Skeg Pirate and the rest of the Deck family.