Passing through San Tomas Expressway off Cabrillo Avenue, one might catch glimpses of skateboarders gliding across bowls and ramps, sometimes performing gravity-defying stunts, as they practice their craft at the city’s 16,000 square foot Skate Park, accommodating skateboarders of all levels.
“The official open date of the Skate Park was Sept. 20, 1999,” says Darrick Oba, recreation coordinator at Youth Activity Center. “It has provided a supervised space for kids to skateboard in. [The Parks & Recreation Department’s skateboarding class] is very basic for beginners. The teacher teaches them how to correctly stand on the board, push on the board, and cruise on the board in a forward motion. Some kids get it faster than others. The faster ones go on to ramps. They go forward and backwards to maneuver the verts, which are transitions, and the bowls. We have a rail for the kids to skate on. We have stairs, two small reservoirs and a large reservoir with an eight feet vert.” (Verts are vertical ramps skateboarders use.)
Oba considers skateboarding a legitimate sport, one where the learning curve requires the willingness to fall down quite a bit.
“It’s an extremely physical activity that requires balance, core strength and mental toughness,” Oba says. “It’s not easy to learn these tricks.”
During a recent Friday class open to students ages five to 12, learners showed up in their helmets, elbow pads and knee pads.
“Right now, my favorite thing to do is grinding,” says Kate Kovrova, 11. “That’s basically when you get on a ledge or a pipe by jumping on to it with your skateboard and grinding it with the metal part of your wheels.”
“I have four children, two twin boys and two girls, and all four kids are enrolled in the class,” says Daniel Wan, accompanied by wife Maricar. “This is my kids’ first class. We want them to learn the basic fundamentals and safety aspects of skateboarding. I’m surprised the boys were going down the ramp on their first day.”
“I’ve seen people who didn’t ride a skateboard before, and by the end of the first skate lesson, they could maneuver a board by themselves,” says Kristopher Gabriel, class instructor. “For some people it could take a bit longer. I encourage people to practice on their own time, not just in class.”
According to Oba, a skateboarder doesn’t have to be in a class to come here, as the park allows free skating during open hours. Use of the Skate Park is restricted to City of Santa Clara residents and Santa Clara Unified School District students only. Chris Moon, 14, meets the requirement.
“I come here once a week,” says Moon. “It’s easy to skate in this park and it’s the closest park from my house.”