Riding the concrete wave has opened the world of surfing to the masses. All you need is a skateboard with burly trucks, grippy polyurethane wheels, and a sturdy deck to recreate the joys of “The Endless Summer.”
Dedicated skateboard parks, specifically designed to enhance the rider experience, abound in communities north of Boston. So there is no reason for X Games or Dew Tour competitors to have all the fun.
Most parks fall into one of two categories — poured concrete, similar to an empty in-ground swimming pool, and street courses featuring customized “elements” such as vert ramps (half pipes), rails, and fun boxes (a flat-topped box with ramped sides).
Just remember, concrete and asphalt are not as forgiving as saltwater. Even if skateboard parks do not require protective equipment — helmet, wrist guards, and knee pads at a minimum — they are a smart investment (especially compared to a costly emergency room visit). In fact, Massachusetts law requires helmet for riders 16 and under.
So when you need to channel your inner Tony Hawk, here are a handful of favorite spots to drop in:
Known as Nooby to the skate crowd, this fantastic facility is the crown jewel of Essex County skateparks. Highlighted by three large bowls of super smooth, swirling concrete that flow together seamlessly, with ramped edges ranging from 10 inches to 10 feet, the park provides plenty of options for boarders of every ability level.
Situated on Low Street, tucked alongside the Rupert A. Nock Middle School, the park attracts boarders from throughout New England.
“But it’s never crowded,” said Paul Tuzzio of Enfield, Conn., before a three-hour session with his son.
The park’s design favors big, carving turns, transitions, and aerial moves. Newburyport does not offer a street course, but even street aficionados acknowledge that’s a minor transgression.
“Newburyport is a great free outdoor park that has stood the test of time,” said Ken Doucet of Lynn.
The park also stands as a testament to private/public partnerships, as private donations — both money and labor — helped spare the facility a few years ago when public funding evaporated. While the park falls under the auspices of Newburyport Youth Services, it is maintained and monitored by the volunteer Friends of Newburyport Skatepark.
Next Monday from 5 to 8 p.m., the park will host SkateFest 2013, featuring Wounded Knee (a brand of skateboard) riders Doug Moore and Will Mead, food, music, and raffles.
Andover Community Skate Park
Like Newburyport’s, this park is nestled behind a school (West Middle), and comes under the umbrella of Andover Youth Services. While it does not boast the same number of high-quality bowls as Newburyport, Andover has a greater variety of elements, both permanent and temporary, including boxes, rails, ramps, and quarterpipes.
The Andover park first opened in 1998, but was renovated just two years ago with the addition of a glassy concrete bowl. Some veteran boarders chafe at the park’s hands-on supervision, but with a wide disparity in user ages, most accept it. The park allows skateboards, inline skates, and scooters.
‘Newburyport is a great free outdoor park that has stood the test of time.’
The park does charge a fee ($7 per day, or $150 for a season pass for residents/$200 for nonresidents) and is closed on Mondays. Andover also offers lessons, clinics, and a calendar of events (including the annual Paul King Memorial Skate-a-Thon every October), and is available for private rentals.
Ipswich River Park, North Reading
Not fancy — the skateboard park is for the most part well-designed prefabricated ramps and street elements — but the setting is simply beautiful. Located close to Route 62 as it winds through North Reading, Ipswich River Park is wedged into a 49-acre nature preserve that also has recreational fields, tennis and basketball courts, wood-chip walking trails, jungle gyms, a sheltered picnic area, and a roller hockey rink. In short, it offers something for every family member, making it an ideal destination.
The skate park is clean and well maintained, with a perky 5-foot miniramp, launch ramp, flat-bar rail, pyramid bump, and quarterpipe. Park hours: 8 a.m. to dusk, and protective equipment is required.
Pepperell Skate Park
Situated alongside the town athletic fields behind the Pepperell Community Center, this relatively small park is a smooth operator that is especially friendly to beginning riders or intermediate riders hoping to expand their repertoire of tricks. The poured-concrete layout offers silky rollers and ramps, a nicely banked corner bowl with a tabletop ledge, and several street-course elements.
Open dawn to dusk, the park is free but unsupervised, and boarders skate at their own risk. Required equipment includes helmet, elbow pads, and knee pads. Bikes are not allowed. Parents are asked to accompany little shredders age 10 and younger.
Built in 2000 and situated a few miles north of Lowell, the David W. Deane Skateboard Park has been luring boarders ever since with a steep-pitched traditional bowl and a street course boasting ledges, rails, and grand bars.
“I like Nashua for the flow, the burly pool, and the lights and the locals,” said Doucet.
That’s right, lights, allowing boarders to rip it up well after sundown. However, if you want to visit Nashua, go soon. The park is slated for demolition as part of a downtown construction project (most likely next spring). Skateboard advocates have petitioned the city to construct a replacement park before the Deane park is razed. Currently, city officials are considering setting aside $270,000 to help rebuild the park at an undetermined site. The park is named after David Deane, an alderman who is spearheading the committee charged with finding a new location for the park.
Rye Airfield, Rye, N.H.
Inclement weather can put a damper on a skateboard session, especially now that indoor facilities in Woburn (Boardwalk) and Haverhill (Frozen Waves) have closed. But a quick drive up Route 1 to the Rye Airfield can cure those rainy-day blues. Rye bills itself as “New England’s premier skate and bike park,” and it has the goods to back up that claim.
The 50,000-square-foot indoor facility boasts three concrete pools (smartly divided into beginner, intermediate, and professional sections), a flow park, two street areas, a 60-foot vert ramp, an enormous plaza, and even bathrooms. Need help with your board? Mechanics are available at the Airfield’s full-service pro shop.
Elsewhere in the region
There are plenty more parks to sample in the North region, including decent facilities in Arlington (McClennen Park); Amesbury; Beverly (McPherson Youth Center/Innocenti Park); Burlington (Simonds Park); Chelmsford (Drum Hill); Dracut; Everett; Lowell (Koumantzelis Skatepark, Clemente Skatepark, Hadley Skatepark); Lynn; Melrose; Malden (Tartikoff Park); Peabody (Tanner Park); Rockport (Matt Waddell Memorial Skateboard Park, Mike Fork Memorial Park); Salisbury; Westford; and Winchester.
For a terrific resource on where to ride, check out www.concretedisciples.com.Brion O’Connor is a freelance writer based on Boston’s North Shore. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.