A Tale of Two Skateparks

On Friday I had the good fortune of visiting two skateparks that I’ve never been to.

The first stop was Derby Park, which is in a residential beach area and was first built in the 70s. It’s been modified and improved over the years but it’s maintained it’s quirky nature and is not easy to skate. The park consists of a snake run with a small open section at the top and a wider open bowl at the bottom. The snake run does not have smooth transitions and it changes from one section and side to the next. The bowl is pretty mellow, but the lip is rounded and very waxed and slippery. You can get your truck on and grind, but it’s not easy to lock in because of it being so round. When I arrived there were about 8 people skating the park. Four adults and four little kids. The youngsters were mostly riding on their knees and butts, just cruising the snake run and being kids–having fun. The older guys were perfect locals. They knew every nook and tranny, gathering speed and hitting all the right spots to launch, grind and flip off the varied hips. You could tell immediately that these guys had put in the work necessary to learn this park. They paid their dues and were reaping the rewards. It wasn’t like they were just good at this spot. All of them had some very technical skills and were throwing down both big spinning, flipping tricks as well as ultra-technical lips tricks while traveling at top speed. It was a joy to watch while I took my baby steps navigating the new terrain. The locals weren’t overly protective or possessive of their domain. Everyone was friendly and positive–while also making clear what the rules of the house were. When someone got in the way, or was standing stationary in the wrong place, they were corrected clearly. This is how the kids learn, they have to be told without malice and with honesty. I stayed for about 45 minutes, trying my best to find the lines, watching the locals and learning from their experience. It was an awesome session and I can’t wait to get back there.

The second stop on the skatepark tour was Scotts Valley Skatepark a new, all concrete, modern day park in the suburbs. It was pretty amazing looking. A large, eight foot deep bowl with round and square sections, a wide open street area with an outlet to another eight foot bowl wall, a smaller three foot mini bowl and a slew of metal edged ledges and steps. It was really well built, clearly thought out (if a little tightly packed in) and it was packed with kids–at least 30. About a third of these kids were on scooters of course. It’s sad to see them taking their scooting so serious. You can call me an old man, but I can’t back the scooter lifestyle. I’ll stop ranting. The age level was much lower here, mostly pre-teen kiddies and a few older men. The kids weren’t really using the bowls for the most part. They seemed to be focused on the ledges and stairs. I kind of understand this, but it’s a little odd. Don’t they have stairs and ledges in this town elsewhere? Did they ban skateboarding in town after the park was built? I like a good ledge as much as anyone, but there’s all these awesome things built just for you to skate… Some of the kids seemed to have some technical talent and were trying some difficult ledge and manual moves but the difference between Debry and here was striking. The locals weren’t learning the park, they were just taking their interest area and applying it to the section that fit their needs. There were no flowing lines, no movement from area to area and very little I could pick up from the locals on where the lines might be. Once I was skating myself, it was pretty easy to find the lines–the park is very well designed. I stayed for about an hour and skated every section of the park. It’s a big park and there is a lot to learn and figure out. Just like Derby–I can’t wait to get back there, hopefully on a school day when the scooter posse is learning.

I’m not trying to make some judgement call about how a skatepark should be or what is better. This is simply an observation of two parks on one awesome Friday and what I saw. I had a really good time at both places and I’ll be back to both.

The questions I have are more like this…

  • Is there something about a more difficult spot that heightens the abilities of those who dare to learn its secrets?
  • Are the suburbs, even with the best facilities, not the most nurturing to skateboarding talent?
  • Why do kids like scooters?
  • How did that one guy at Derby get more speed uphill than going downhill?
  • Am I really too old to learn new tricks?