52-year-old Skateboarding legend Tony Hawk recently landed what is likely to be his last 720° trick*. Battling cracked concrete, holes in the ground, weathered ramps and eroded obstacles, Groningen skaters are more likely to land on their faces …or at least they were, until corona-related lockdowns started being imposed.
The city of Groningen currently boasts six tiny outdoor skate parks with horribly outdated facilities, and an indoor one, currently closed due to corona.
Nevertheless, street skateboarders, who, in spirit, share a lot with other urban brethren like tracers**, are known to make the best out of whatever concrete arrangements their environments present them with.
“The skate parks here are crappy and small, but the lockdown is like heaven! – we can skate everywhere”, says Klaus Schmitz, who picked up skateboarding a few months before the first lockdown, after a years-long hiatus.
Like other skaters in the Groningen scene, which measures over 120 WhatsApp group members and mainly consists of internationals and Germans, he makes the best of the “lots and LOTS of empty (public) space” the corona-related lockdown has practically created.
The Poelestraat, with its now closed terraces, is one such spot. The IKEA parking lot which, thanks to its rooftop, provides dry ground for skaters, and headaches for the security guard (who according to reliable sources was originally understanding of the skaters’ newfound presence but is now classified as “not so cool anymore”), another.
There are other spots too; Nondescript hangouts in public with guaranteed dry ground, -an especially important asset for outdoor, winter skateboarding. Like under bridges perhaps… but the exact locations are not to be carelessly shared.
Skating in the brave new corona-world also means that encounters with community service officers are more likely.
“We are skateboarders, we don’t care about rules”, says a defiant Klaus, who is likely to continue enjoying the newly freed public and private space for a while, as streets will continue to remain empty, and parking lots deserted.
“It’d be nice to have a proper skate park – for when all this is over too”, he admits. “The Kardinge park is decent, but they went and built a sports building next to it, cutting off space from the park!”, he continues, eye-rolling.
For all we know, new skate parks, classified in the Groningen Gemeente (municipality) as “playground equipment” according to the Commodities Act Decree on Attraction and Play Equipment (WAS), are in the cards for the city of Groningen. It is, after all, a busy day for the Gemeente, which gracefully communicated that “real journalists have a priority right now”, without sparing some time to confirm or deny the possibility.
Then again, when all is said and done, “street skateboarding is the best anyway”, as Mr. Schmitz noted with a wink.
* a 720°, one of the rarest skateboarding tricks, involves turning two full mid-air rotations after jumping off a ramp. It was first done by Tony Hawk who also created certain variations (Stalefish and Varial).
** parkour practitioners are known as “tracers”.