Where there was once a rickety abandoned concrete slab off of Trenton Avenue, there is now a burgeoning community skateboarding scene.
It’s bringing together youths and adults in the community and mobilizing civic groups.
Two years ago, an abandoned roller hockey rink at E. Hazzard Street and Trenton Avenue was transformed into a skate park. Local groups like the Friends of Pops, the organization in charge of the park, and the New Kensington Community Development Corporation (NKCDC) worked with Fishtown skateboarder Jessie Clayton and others to build the park.
To raise funds there were events at the local VFW and a concert at Kung-Fu Necktie. The NKCDC received a $10,000 grant from the Tony Hawk Foundation.
Now, the park draws dozens of kids almost daily. Last Saturday, Pop’s Skate Park got more attention when 45 competitors between the ages of 7 and 17 participated in the Exit Uncapped Skate Contest, sponsored by Exit Skateshop, located in Northern Liberties and Vitamin Water.
Contestants glided across the course, jumped from one ramp to another, slid across rails, and flipped their boards and landed on them amidst the traffic of at least six other skaters at a time — all for the chance to win a free one-week trip to Woodward East. Woodward is the nation’s most famous and the world’s largest skateboarding camp, and is located in Woodward, Pa. outside of State College.
“We’re looking for the kid who skates the hardest and skates the best,” said Clayton.
“It’s pretty much the Mac Daddy of prizes for kids in a skating competition,” said Steve Miller, 25, founder and owner of Exit Skateshop, located at 825 N. 2nd St. Miller was also a significant player in the long process of the park’s eventual construction, from conception to inception.
All participants were invited to participate in a Best Trick Contest after the main event. They also received prizes ranging from T-shirts, hats, skateboard decks, bags and other skating equipment.
Fishtown resident and Father Judge student Joey Lineman, 16, started skating two years ago and won the competition last week. Kevin Corkery and Tyler Neisser won second and third place. Lineman skates at Pop’s “everyday,” he said.
His best tricks Saturday were a “bluntslide” (a move where the rider navigates the trucks of his board along a rail) over a gap between ramps and a 360 over the hip, Lineman said. That’s one full rotation over about a four-foot ramp that juts out in one location from the wall that rides along a fence of the park like a backwards C.
The contest took shape over the past two-and-a-half months, after Robert Norton, a district marketing manager for Vitamin Water, told Miller he had a scholarship to Woodward provided by his company. From that discussion, brainstorming led to the organization and production of the contest.
The contest was also a showcase for Pop’s, a park that was designed to incorporate street skating structures and replicas of local skate spots, like the piece modeled after a statue in front of the African-American Museum at 6th and Arch streets.
“It was really a team effort,” said Clayton, the project’s lead designer, as he pointed out a number of individuals whose welding and concrete work made the park possible. Volunteers built the park, with help from more than 100 community members.
“I wanted to see where I was,” said Delkiphah Haynes, a 16-year-old Merchantville, New Jersey resident who traveled to Fishtown Saturday to compete. “What my level was. I found out I need to go for it more without being scared.”
“I seem to end up at a lot of these things,” said Rodney “The Ancient” Wats, the owner of Philly-based One Skateboards. Wats was supporting his kids from Powerfulnailya, a skate team he runs that takes kids from the local scene and tries to get them sponsored or backed by an official skate team or shop. To skate for Powerfulnailya, students must keep a grade average of 80 percent.
Wats’ group is one more indication of a growing skate scene in Fishtown.
“[Uncapped] gives kids the drive to earn something they want,” said Chris Clark, 30, who did a lot of brickwork around the park. “To come out and see your friends land a trick they haven’t landed before gives them the inspiration to go out and work harder … and it’s all supporting local businesses and the community.”••