Went to the grand opening of a new skatepark this weekend. They say it’s the largest outdoor covered skatepark in the country…more than appropriate for rainy western Oregon.
I’ve said it before, but I trace my passion for the arts to skateboarding. Prior to getting my first board (a fully-stocked Mike McGill with Indy’s, some 85A Powell wheels…yes, 85’s!…and nose, rail, AND tail guards) I was playing club soccer. And while team sports were a hoot, and I’m still a fan of watching them, nothing was better as an introverted teenager than skating away the days with my buddies; waxing curbs, thrashing the streets, launching jump ramps, trekking downtown to the “fountain”, or sketching it out on mini ramps we would throw together with whatever wood or metal streets signs we could find or steal.
We didn’t think of it as a sport at all. It was a lifestyle that combined athletics AND aesthetics, and most importantly, it was rooted in an individualism that instilled confidence in me at the most awkward time of my life. But back in the day, it wasn’t exactly a lifestyle the general public was fond of. People didn’t realize how much good it could do for the kids who didn’t want to play team or traditional sports, so the “fountain” eventually got barred up, the “No Skateboarding” signs appeared, and the few skateparks that existed at the time, most notably the Pipeline in Upland (to where I still have my membership card) and the Del Mar Skate Ranch in San Diego (where Tony Hawk cut his teeth), closed down due to insurance and liability issues.
Fast forward a couple decades and skateboarding is part of our culture. Eugene has 4 or 5 skateparks alone, and now the largest outdoor covered park in the country, apparently. Things have certainly changed. And the “sport” itself has evolved in ways OGs like me find unbelievable. Guys like Nyjah Huston have taken it to an obscene level of skill and precision.
I wasn’t planning on taking my camera, but I knew I’d regret it if a pro showed up. None did, unfortunately. But there were a couple shredders out there anyway. I didn’t get this kid’s name, but he was busting some sick lean to tails, madonnas, one-footed ollies to fakie, and even a couple 540 attempts for show, and all with style. (At one point he pulled off a big finger flip to fakie and my buddy Rob, who I met skateboarding when we were 12 years old, let out the loudest “YEAAAAAH!!!” in the whole place.) The kid also slammed HARD at one point, but in line with the skate or die ethos, he was tearing it up again in no time.