Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

More Neighborhoods Should Wish for Skate Park, Its Benefits

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

More Neighborhoods Should Wish for Skate Park, Its Benefits

Article excerpt

Byline: Bill Longenecker

At 3 p.m. on June 9, it was hot and humid in Atlantic Beach's Russell Park. One does not expect to meet philosophers wearing skateboarders' helmets.

"The 'wrong' people just might be the 'right' people. They are here and not out there doing bad things," Scotty Clelland said of the skaters who use the new Oceanside Rotary Skate Park. He was talking about how some areas don't want such parks.

Scott, 20, dripping in sweat, was one of the two skaters that day who went high up the wall and "off the lip" over the "hole-in-the-wall," the drain for the skate park bowl. He and Corey Kolb, 19, were the most polished of the crew of about 10 skaters out "carving" artful moves at this work-of-art park.

Corey said skaters who want to be at the park by its opening time at 8 a.m. might just be home at night earlier to get in a good night's sleep. He said those skaters are less likely to be out late getting into trouble.

"It gets real rad in the morning and evenings. The dynamics of the group are interesting to watch," he said of the way the skaters find their way into the line-up to ride the bowls.

Scotty, quite enthusiastic about the health benefits and the challenge of the sport, said of those who use the park, "You have people who just come on a certain day like Tuesdays. It gets kids who aren't good in mainstream sports to try extreme sports."

The new park is, quite simply, a work of art set in concrete for the practical use of active athletes. All the skaters agreed the park's design is wonderful. Watching these guys -- and all of them were guys that afternoon -- was like watching a fine ballet on wheels.

"You can carve like [riding] a wave," said 13-year-old Jackson Griffith of Neptune Beach. "It's got everything, even a pocket [the sweet spot in a breaking wave]." He should know. He is a team rider for Sunrise Surf Shop who will soon be surfing in Hawaii on his second visit with his brother, who is stationed there with the Navy.

Jackson's simple, clear description of what the skilled skaters were doing that day fit quite well. After selecting the right spot, then switching from potential to kinetic energy, they dropped into the bowl to ride the smooth, shaped walls.

They glide with a rhythmic flow into long free rides until, with an often quiet, skilled motion, they come out over the wall and stop. It is much like the elegant "kick-out" ending of a wave by these skilled surfer/skaters. Each "ride" is unique. It seems that an almost infinite selection of lines can be drawn along the bowl's flowing lines.

All agreed that the course was well designed by guys who actually skate. It is an amazing joint city/service-club project. In this era of litigation, and as others look down at skateboarders, it is refreshing to see such a unique place. …

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