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Grinding the Rails

By Jennifer Beauvais






Outdoor parks, such as the Huntington Beach Skatepark, provide free havens for street skateboarders to ride


Far surpassing the reputation of a popular hobby, skateboarding has created a booming industry and a thriving sub-culture of its own.

  • 74% of skaters are males, 26% are females.
  • Most skaters are between the ages of 12 and 16
  • 61% have been skating between 1-4 years
  • 1 in 10 teenagers own a skateboard
  • Female participation in skateboarding increased 23.7% in 2001
  • Skateboarding is the sixth largest participant sport in the US, and has had the largest increase in participants in the last ten years of ages 7 and older (106.3% increase)
  • Roughly 9.3 million skateboarders will ride the streets this year

The numbers show it: skateboarding is growing in popularity. From young children to young adults, skaters are riding the streets and local skateparks (and if it's snowing, there's always the video game version), learning new tricks and perfecting the old ones. Female interest in the action sport is growing, as the girls learn to keep up with the boys. And, with 10% of teenagers owning a skateboard, riding is a type of mobility that kids without drivers' licenses can appreciate.

Skaters get a home:

  • More than 600 skateparks were built in 2001 in the U.S.
  • More skateparks have been built in the last three years than in the previous twenty
  • 75% of communities that built a skatepark reported that it significantly reduced the street skating problems
  • 94% of communities agreed the skatepark was a benefit to their community
  • 50% of communities who built a skatepark have plans to build another

Skateparks are a lucrative industry, and a cooperative solution to the street skating issues that began to rise several years ago. They provide a place for skaters to trick off of rails, steps and ramps without getting in trouble, and cities have less damage to their own infrastructure. Could this be the first time that skaters and city planners hold hands in a human chain of love and sing? While the situation may not be that idealistic, free outdoor parks provide a place for skaters to flip their wheels after school and on weekends without the challenge of pedestrians. Larger skateparks with corporate designers give skaters the chance to ride larger obstacles, and to diversify their skills.






For a more intense experience, skaters can pay to ride at a park, such as the Vans skatepark in Orange, with larger obstacles, such as pools and ramps.


Skaters and rollerbladers at the Vans skatepark in Orange, have choices between large ramps, a pool, and even a halfpipe to ride in this 40,000 square-foot facility. Helmets, pads and payment are required here, which may discourage some skaters from showing up, but not enough to keep the place from filling up a bit after school hours. Employees at the Vans store named the street course and the mini ramp as their favorite obstacles, which also seemed to be some of the more busy obstacles out on the floor.

Skaters at the skatepark located next to Huntington Beach High School in Southern California (a cement park with rails, banks, a manual pad among the features), explained the kinds of conditions they like having in their territory. Many of these skaters ride 5 – 7 days a week for several hours a day, and they know what they like. The general consensus seemed to be that the more realistic and street-like the obstacles, the better. This reflected the preference of the street course by some Vans employees.

Skaters CHOOSE THE COURSE

LASN surveyed skaters at two Orange County, CA skateparks. The obstacles they prefer include:

Rails:

  • Small rails on which to learn.
  • Rails no higher than right below the waste (not too high!)
  • Flat bars (rails on the ground)
  • Stairs with rails (All the skaters around chimed in with a "Yeah!" when one skater called this out)
  • Banks with rails
  • Wider hand rails

Banks:

  • The skaters really emphasized long mellow banks (the short ones are scarier), to give them more room to perform
  • Ledges off of banks.

Ledges:

  • Another biggie. "Stress the ledges," they said. Grind ledges with angle iron allows skaters to slide easily across edges.

Also popular were the step-up bar and the manual pads. And, of course, the skaters pointed out that they enjoy the whole outdoor element of this particular park, and that they would rather be outside any day. Of course, in Southern California, the sun shines most days of the year, so this is possible even in the middle of winter.








Skaters are pretty vocal about the obstacles they don't like. Considering how much time some they spend riding per week (several hours a day, 3-7 days a week), distaste for some skate structures seems only natural.

Of the obstacles they have ridden, the Huntington Beach skaters named pools, transitions, wavy ramps that you don't find on the street, and short ledges off of a bank as their least favorite. One skater also brought up that the plastic material some ramps are made of is more difficult to skate.

These riders also expressed their dislike of pads (for elbows, wrists, and knees). They explained that the equipment is hot and that it restricts movement, making it harder to perform the tricks that require all the nimbleness they can produce.

Sources: LASN Research and Statistics Department; www.skatewave.com; International Association of Skatepark Companies; skateboardiasc.org; Skatepark.org

Source: www.skatewave.com



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June 16, 2019, 10:36 pm PDT

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