10 things to know about running a skatepark event:
A youth worker’s guide
With experience spanning over 250 events at skateparks around Australia, here are some valuable insights we’ve picked up along the way…
1) Don’t run a skate event. Despite ‘skate’ being the iconic discipline for skateparks, in our experience scooters outnumber skateboards by 10:1 and BMXs outnumber skateboards by 5:1 – so it’s a good idea to include all three options in any skatepark event.
2) Scooter riders are rarely respected by skaters and BMX riders, this is mainly due to the fact that it’s easier to learn to ride a scooter than a BMX or skateboard. As a result there are often young riders who populate skateparks who haven’t yet learnt the basics of skatepark etiquette, which frustrates other users. With this in mind, when you mention scooters to skaters or BMX riders you might encounter some resistance.
4) Be authentic. Freestyle BMX (the type you’ll see at skateparks) is wildly different from BMX Racing (the style you see at the Olympics). Similarly longboards are quite different from skateboards. Bear that in mind when selecting images to promote your skatepark activities.
5) Encourage action sports & filmmaking synergy. With the domination of social media there’s nearly as much interest in documenting progression and events via photos and film as there is in actually participating in action sports. As a result, photographers & filmers are held in high regard, so consider including media minded young people in your skatepark events.
6) Encourage young people to provide feedback and spread the word. While they might appear ‘stand offish’ at first glance, skatepark users generally relish the opportunity to share their opinions and spread the word about activities relating to the skatepark. In addition, skaters and riders are a wealth of information about what works and what doesnt in relation to skatepark maintenance and upgrades. Dont be afraid to ask them for their opinion.
7) Competitions equal recognition. While most young people will encourage any type of activity at their local skatepark; we’ve learnt that the most desirable events are competitions because riders and skaters get the chance to be recognised in their sport. This is completely understandable considering that those in traditional sports get far more opportunities with swimming/athletics carnivals, organised team competitions & tournaments.
8) Positive Reinforcement: Skatepark culture has evolved without interference from teachers, parents or other authority figures. Chances are that you will see and hear things at the skatepark which would make your grandmother blush and the OHS Officer go into meltdown. There are clever ways to combat this with positive reinforcement, for example Eurobodalla Shire Council has introduced a bonus points scheme for participants who bring (and wear) their own helmets to the local competitions.
9) Be thoughtful with prizes. Many young people aren’t yet earning an income so the opportunity to
win useable prizes is a massive drawcard. This means prizes like wheels, bars, tubes, grips, bearings and quality apparel is much more valuable than promotional merchandise.
10) Quality competition & event procedures. Show respect by making sure that the competition is properly structured and judged. Often small communities will be wary of bias and the best way to combat this is have 3 judges and to ensure that the competition is run professionally. In addition, be considerate of your spectators by having short run times and minimise free skate/ride times so the event is delivered quickly and efficiently.