New facilities provide hope for competitive skateboarders – ABC listen

New facilities provide hope for competitive skateboarders – ABC listen

Sally Sara: Skateboarders in Australia’s capital are hoping that a new half-pipe will help return the scene to its glory days. Perhaps surprisingly, Canberra was once at the forefront of Australian skateboarding, even attracting the likes of superstar skater Tony Hawk. And the city has no shortage of potential skateboarding talent, including at least one Olympic hopeful who’ll now have a better shot at global success. Declan Gooch reports.

Declan Gooch: 18-year-old Katie Pike only just missed out on qualifying for the Paris Olympics, in the sport she loves.

Katie Pike: Skating’s a big part of my life. I just love the fact that you can show your personality and style through something you love, like skating. And I just love the feeling of achievement and resilience you learn along the way.

Declan Gooch: Now the Canberra teenager’s got her eyes on the 2028 Games, and a brand new ramp in her home city will help to make her more competitive.

Katie Pike: Previously I had to travel to Sydney most weekends, as well as the Gold Coast, so this will save me a lot of money and stress with travel and stuff. So yeah, I think it will improve my training a lot.

Declan Gooch: The vert ramp is a form of halfpipe, but with imposing vertical sides to help skaters catch air. Brenden Wood from the Canberra Skateboarding Association says it’s been a long time since the city’s had one that meets competition standards.

Brenden Wood: It means that we’ve got this missing piece that Canberra hasn’t had before, like a proper competition spec vert ramp that people can learn to skate vert on and practice on.

Declan Gooch: Despite the capital’s reputation as a quiet place full of public servants and professionals, it’s always had a big skateboarding scene. David Pang is a skate photographer and public servant.

David Pang: Canberra’s always been at the leading edge of skate parks, but over the years and with skateboarding gaining in popularity, other councils and other areas around Australia have moved ahead. So this sort of starts to position Canberra towards being world class.

Declan Gooch: He says the new ramp in the northern suburb of Belconnen recalls the glory days of Canberra skateboarding.

David Pang: Through COVID and a few other things it got some delays, but we’ve got this fantastic world class ramp, which is based on Tony Hawk’s vert ramp that’s used for most of the competitions around the world.

Declan Gooch: It’s not the city’s only connection with the skater considered the greatest of all time. Yeah! In amateur footage posted online by Tony Hawk himself, he’s skating another Canberra ramp back in 1988. That was on the other side of the city in Woden, where skater Joel Bliss grew up.

Joel Bliss: We’ve been waiting for decades for a ramp like this. I grew up in Woden, luckily near the wooden ramp that used to be down there, which was a wooden vert ramp that was built by just local skaters. And when we were skating that, like, pretty much we could only dream of a ramp like this. So to actually have one now and not have to travel to Melbourne or Sydney to skate, such a facility is awesome.

Declan Gooch: Joel Bliss isn’t in the stereotypical skateboarder demographic, but he says that’s part of the magic.

Joel Bliss: It basically just keeps me fit. Like, I’m almost 50 now, and I feel best when I’m skating, you know? Like, and I feel good for a day or two after it, you know? And then I start feeling old again. Then I go for a skate. Some people say it’s like the fountain of youth, and I suppose most sports are, but this fountain of youth makes you fly. And that’s the best thing about it. It feels amazing.

Sally Sara: Maybe I should give it a shot. That’s skater Joel Bliss there, ending that report from Declan Gooch and Courtney Barrett Peters.

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