Concrete and Abstract
Skateboarding grows up without growing old
Photography: Mark Oliver
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Twenty-year-old Jens Peterson, who grew up in the Valley, said the parks here are among the best he’s ever skated, a testament to the craftsmanship of Dreamland. “Dreamland was great, because their employees would build a section, skate it and see how it feels, then build another section and see how it feels,” Peterson says.
Having skated parks all over the Pacific Northwest, as well as parks in Europe (Amsterdam and London), Peterson says the Valley’s parks are among the best. “The transitions (from flat surfaces to the coping of bowls and pipes) are pretty much perfect,” he says. “There are no waves or bumps (that could send a skater off-balance). The quality of our parks is top-rate compared with others parks.”
Quinn Baser, a 17-year-old Community School senior, has skated parks all over the Northwest, as well as in California, and says the parks in Ketchum and Hailey “are among the best [he’s] ever skated, if not the best.”
Yet, perhaps the most ringing endorsements a skatepark can have are those of the community at large, and by local governments, in particular.
At this moment, skateboarding occupies a place in American history that it never has before: the kids love it and the adults support it.
“Kids of all walks of life should have the opportunity to have somewhere they can go and just have fun in a safe way,” Scott says. “A skatepark is nothing but a positive thing for a community. I have not yet seen where a community has been disappointed.”
“We wanted to build a park that would challenge kids forever, one they wouldn’t ever get tired of using,” Andrews says. And, as a bonus, Andrews says, the kids in his community got a hands-on civics lesson in how government works (they gave presentations to the Hailey City Council, where they learned the art of bureaucratic gymnastics through small successes and disappointments), and they also learned the lesson that with enough perseverance, one can effect change. And Slanetz and Andrews both agree that not only has each city provided a place to be, but that they stay out of the way. Helmets and pads are not required (though Slanetz says that everyone should always use them), allowing people to use the parks for what they’re made for in the first place: play.
After all, everyone who’s ever skated has suffered injuries. Besides a series of cuts, scrapes, mashings, gashes and bruises, Peterson has broken a foot (left), but it never stopped him from competing or from just playing around. Baser has broken both wrists three times each, while 18-year-old Wood River High School senior Scott Pike, whom Baser calls “one the best boarders in the Valley,” and who has built his own mini-ramps at his house has never suffered a broken bone—just three concussions, one lost tooth, one chipped tooth, a gnarly split lip and numerous rolled ankles and sprained wrists.
While all three enjoy skating immensely, neither wants to compete on a professional level.
“I like skating just because it’s really fun,” Pike says. “It’s a good way to just hang out with your friends.”
While Baser doesn’t want to compete, he still sees some form of skateboarding culture in his future. Currently applying to art school, Baser says he can see himself one day becoming a graphics designer for a company that manufactures skateboards or skateboarding products. And he’s currently pining to spend his senior project capital overseas in Shanghai, home to the world’s largest skatepark (180,000 square feet), where he wants to teach skateboarding.
Skating since the age of 10, Peterson, while having successfully competed locally in many competitions, says he no longer really cares to compete. He’s in school now, studying visual arts. He says he’ll skate, but because it’s something he simply enjoys doing.
“The lifestyle of skateboarding appeals to me,” says Peterson. “I think skateboarding culture is interesting.” And by culture, he says, he’s not celebrating the guerilla ethos of older generations. He’s got a more meditative meaning.
“It’s simplicity and freedom,” he explains. “If you play football, you need pads and helmets and teammates; if you ski or snowboard, you need the gear, lift tickets and transportation. All you need to skateboard is a skateboard and an area to skate. I like how simple it is in its best form.”
Baser agrees. “It’s just a piece of wood with wheels on it. You can progress as an individual at your own pace, and you can do it anyplace, anywhere,
Chad Walsh – Chad Walsh is a freelance writer living in Idaho who learned while writing this story that you can, in fact, take it with you