With the quick snip of red and blue ribbons, a mass of anxious skateboarders are unleashed onto the barely touched concrete of the new outdoor Vans Off The Wall Skatepark in Huntington Beach on Saturday, March 22. Clinks of metal, whirring wheels, oohs and aahs from the crowd and music from the last few decades fill the air, which is already thick with high hype, energy and fearlessness. Three years in the making, the 42,500-square-foot pavement paradise for skaters serves as a crucial community addition to HB, one that does not cost a penny to enjoy.
A partnership between Vans, Jack's Garage and the City of HB, the skatepark features a playful terrain of ramps, rails, rollers, bowls, gaps, stairs, kickers, planters, a 40-foot kinked handrail and a volcano component—some adorned in Vans classic red and blue colors and checkerboard patterns. California Skateparks, the minds and hands behind the skatepark, incorporated design and style elements influenced by skateboarding legend and longtime Vans rider Christian Hosoi and the Vans Pro Skate Team into the composition.
Adjacent to Old World near Center and Gothard and bordered by train tracks, the park includes a 17,500-square-foot upper transition area, complete with a hybrid backyard bowl and flow bowl combination as well as a full-sized competition clover bowl. The lower 25,000-square-foot street plaza levels offers real-life street elements, like over 2,000 feet of grindable metal edges and over 250 feet of grind rails. Flatbar rail in the park was reclaimed from the now demolished original HB skatepark on Main Street.
On opening day, skateboarders of all levels and ages drop in on the bowls, grind the rails and score air above stairs, and wipeouts are aplenty. One especially graceful skater sprays the street plaza with dirt while smashing into a planter along the park's edge. Socks prove to be the most important fashion accessory of the day.
Joe Ciaglia, CEO of California Skateparks, nods to Vans' dedication to the locals of HB and Orange County during the grand opening ceremony. "Vans is really about you guys and the community," says Ciaglia. "It's not about Vans. Every time we talked about the park it was about what could we do to make it better for the community." The park is located, after all, in the backyard of the Cypress-based company, which was founded in 1966 by brothers Paul Van Doren and James Van Doren, Gordon Lee and Serge D'Elia.
Following the ribbon cutting and rightful christening of the park, the inaugural induction of the SoCal Sole of Fame honors skateboarding legends Hosoi, Ed Templeton and Tosh Townend. Vans Pro Skate Team members also grace the event and sign autographs for fans.
Free and open to the public, the skatepark welcomes wheels of just about any type daily from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Opening day, however, keeps the park exclusive to skateboards and wheelchairs and closes at 4 p.m. BMX riders are invited to ride the park every Wednesday. Scooters, Razors, wave boards and motorized vehicles are banned from the park at all times.
Safety is a major concern at the skatepark, which is apparent in the stringent list of park rules. Helmets are required for riders of all ages, but riders 18 and over are allowed to skip full protective gear, including hard-shell elbow and knee pads. Riders must be at least 6 years of age, and all riders must sign a waiver to ride. Riders under the age of 18 must have their parents sign their waiver in the presence of a Vans employee or notary public.
Another perk of the park is a fully-stocked, 3,000-square-foot onsite Jack's Garage store. Vans gear, obviously, lines the shelves, along with other popular skate brands. Skate equipment is available for purchase and rental at the Jack's pro shop.
Skate or die, Huntington Beach.