Don’t Build It
And Leave It
A guide to programming
in action-sports parks
By Julia Tew
ON ANY GIVEN RAIN-FREE AFTERNOON, inline skaters, BMX riders, and skateboarders of all ages can be observed enjoying a local skatepark. Since the revitalization of skateboarding in the late 1990s, parks and recreation agencies across the country have been striving to provide free outdoor action-sports complexes. It’s been a job well done, but is the job over? What about the traditional idea of providing programming for popular recreational activities?
Providing programming in action-sports parks can be daunting at first. The spirit of skateboarding is rules-free, and there are no age brackets or schedules. However, skateboarders share a love of their sport and a sense of camaraderie. The majority of skateboarders are dedicated to events and programming that build their community and that will welcome the next generation of skaters. With this in mind, multiple programming options are available.
Clinics And Workshops
Workshops are a great way for beginners to be introduced to the sport. Skatepark etiquette (how to use the natural flow of a skatepark and take turns to avoid colliding with other skaters), safety precautions, and proper balance and foot placement are not innate; they are learned. An effective instructor can help beginners conquer these concepts quickly so they can get into the fun stuff, which is, of course, learning how to ride a bowl, ollie, and do other tricks. Most beginners or their parents are happy to pay a fee similar to that for a session of dance or karate classes to attend a few lessons and ensure they can enjoy their new activity with success and safety.
Clinics are also a fun way for beginner or intermediate skaters to focus on a troublesome trick. Skaters who are rolling around on their own but are still struggling to learn how to drop in or ollie will make a great deal of progress with some specialized instruction. Clinics focused on more advanced tricks, such as kickflips or 50/50’s, are also popular.
Finding a qualified skateboarding instructor (if one is not available in-house) is as easy as calling the local skate shop. Most skate shop employees are passionate and capable skateboarders who are happy to have the opportunity to earn extra money and impart some of their knowledge.
Contests are enjoyed by skaters of all ages and levels of ability. They can take place on one obstacle, such as a ledge, stair set, or bowl, or they can take place in the entire skatepark. Traditionally, there are three ways to organize a skateboarding contest:
• Best trick • Jam • Best run.
Best trick contests focus on one obstacle, and skaters perform their tricks on that obstacle over several heats. At the end of each heat, skaters are eliminated, and the winner is chosen from the final heat. Jams are organized by dividing contestants into even-numbered groups. Each jam lasts a predetermined amount of time. During a jam, there are no turns. Skaters simply perform their best at every opportunity they have. Judges determine which skaters will advance to the final jam. Best run contests allow each skater to have a turn — usually 60 to 90 seconds — for two or three runs. Each skater’s best run is scored and compared with those of the group. The skater with the highest score wins.
Each of these contests requires a panel of experienced and impartial judges. This is where partnering with a local skate shop is very beneficial. Not only will the skate shop provide judges, but most shops also have a certain number of promotional products each year, such as boards, wheels, stickers, or T-shirts, to give away at demos and contests. These items can be used to supplement or replace a cash prize for contest winners, or can be used in a “product toss” to add more fun to the event.
There are multiple reasons to hold a contest. They make great fundraisers, which can support a community project, a community member in need, or a foundation, such as The American Cancer Society. Contests are also a good way to celebrate a holiday or a grand opening of a park. International Go Skate Day is June 21, and is always a popular day for a contest.
Demos are fun and popular events that excite seasoned skateboarders as well as generate interest in people who have been thinking about skateboarding for the first time. Most local skate shops have a skate team, and are usually happy to do a demo on their own, or in conjunction with a contest to make the event even more fun and exciting.
Professional skateboarding demos always draw a crowd. Most shops are aware of the touring schedules of professional teams, and can provide assistance in adding a stop at your park.
While pro teams usually charge for demos, a partnership with a skate shop can help defray costs by sharing the cost of the demo in exchange for being able to host the event.
A short “best trick contest” for local skaters is a fun addition to a pro demo. Skaters are always excited to meet and skate with their favorite pros, and charging a small entry fee will help offset the cost of the demo.
Providing activities and programming for action-sports parks may not follow the traditional model for other sports, but it is without a doubt appreciated and well received within the skateboarding community. With a little planning and partnering, relationships can be established and traditions can be built that will excite those who already love skateboarding, and will also help usher in the next generation of skaters. PRB
Julia Tew is a Recreation Specialist for Gwinnett County Parks & Recreation at the George Pierce Park Community Recreation Center in Georgia. Reach her at Julia.Tew@gwinnettcounty.com.
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