There was a time skaters had to enact ‘guerilla’ tactics (a term coined by the Dogtown skate crew), using streets, curbs, alleyways, slopes in pavements, etc to make riding more challenging and exhilarating. Much like motions suitable to those in wetsuits, the original street skaters carved, curved and ‘bottom turned’ atop pavements like water.
As the sport and intensity of riders progressed, engineers and avid skaters orchestrated skateparks, a controlled environment, crafted for the sole purpose of skateboarding, replete with ramps, half pipes, rails, bowls and more.
Of course the finest skatepark is the one nearest home. Skateparks have evolved to indoor settings as well for riders to practice their skills regardless of the weather. The crew at Black Sheep Store have been leading the way in Manchester UK by backing indoor skatepark initiatives.
The ‘guerilla’ mentality of riders makes no terrain safe from skaters who thrive on versatility; yet, the following five skateparks are recognized as among the world’s finest. When skateboarders take a vacation, they head to the following locales.
Malmo is in Sweden, nestled within an old harbor area and engineered by Oregon-native, Stefan Hauser. Since Hauser likes to ‘handcraft’ his skateparks, he travels on-site with a group of riders and seers to construct something unique and aesthetically inspiring and Malmo is nothing short of that.
The curves of the skatepark are smooth, lined in metal and include a kidney-shaped pool. The inviting slopes make it possible for riders to continuously lap and zigzag the Malmo peaks and valleys of concrete. To get to the next skate destination, we’ll have to carry-on skateboards, traveling to the eastern coast of the US.
#4 Livingston, Scotland
The ‘Livi’ is fitted with two bowls, 4 and 8-feet deep respectively. The park is structured like a jungle gym for skaters, replete with reservoirs, 30-foot long straightaway extensions, mole-hills, etc. Find local UK skaters like Stuart Graham, Ben Layden, and rising talent tearing up concrete during the week or at local organized events.
The park opened in 1981, when some commercial parks were waning in popularity. The free, unsupervised ‘state of skate’ was a major triumph of the sport; the creation of the park inspired further developments around the nation, including Philadelphia and parts of California. A number of amateurs and pros alike consider the ‘Livi’ to be among the world’s greatest and must-skate parks. The park is open to all, yet curators organize skate competitions and parties for kids. Many British skaters herald the park; some remembering the park’s creation as the greatest event of ’81.
#3 SMP Shanghai
SMP’s name is exercises brevity, yet those brave enough to peruse the course had better have the longevity to travel its 44,000-plus square feet. The park, infamous around the world, hosts “The Showdown,” yet non-competitors are always welcome at ‘the world’s largest skatepark,’ enjoying food and beverages on its 12,000 square-foot deck.
Like surfers who target world destinations such as South Africa and Hawaii, China, specifically Shanghai, is often on avid skaters’ lists of must-go destinations. As expected, like a well-curated Master’s golf course, the SMP has areas inviting to skaters of varying skill levels. While some bowls and sections are designated for professional-level skaters, riders may save their bravery for later dates, opting for less-advanced portions. Back to America’s western hemisphere to visit the second top-rated park.
Portland, Oregon is known for lax, liberal attitudes, yet natives are quite serious about skateboarding, a mode of transportation as well as extreme sport within the city confines. Burnside, the production of blood, sweat, tears, and visions of a small number of people, has quickly gained notoriety around the world.
Nestled almost unassumingly beneath the Burnside Bridge, the skatepark is public, free and hosts no pad or protective gear requirements. While at any time, the city holds the rights to condemn and/or destroy the park, hundreds to thousands of avid skaters come to the grounds each month to enjoy a shared passion, discuss tricks, and most of all, shred concrete.
#1 Black Pearl
One would think the Cayman Islands hosted enough attractions, yet many skaters believe THE go-to park in the world is there, the Black Pearl. The Cayman Islands Skateboard Association owns and runs the park. Yearly member fees apply as well as visitor costs. The park offers 62,000 square-feet of concrete surface. Those responsible for creating the park are authors of notable skateparks around America, such as those in Arizona and Las Vegas.
One of the parks added benefits (not offered by those above), is the variety of surf-and-turf goers enjoy, getting to shred concrete as well as mechanically-engineered waves in the respective surf portion of the park.
This ride is over but just beginning for those who now have five, new vacation ideas for upcoming ‘skater’ trips. Check local listings for parks in your area or research ways to build advocacy and inspire action in your own community. As with Burnside, a world-renowned skatepark begins with the vision and passion of a few. Do you need an adrenaline fix? Get to the above parks.
Paul Harrison spends his life with his skateboard. When not practicing tricks, he enjoys blogging about popular boarders and creative venues.