The Wanaka Skate Chronicles

PHOTO: NINA HENDERSON, www.ninahendersonphotography.com

JULIAN BRAY looks into Wanaka’s local skateboarding history, 1994 – 2012.

Why does Wanaka love skating? To me, it’s about the feel-good vibe and sense of community that skateboarding generates. Young people and adults can skate together and often it is the adults learning from the kids. It is a sport that gives people confidence to express their individuality.  It’s inspiring to watch and the creative side of skateboarding is limitless.  Each person evolves their own unique style and can invent new tricks.

Wanaka has a rich skateboarding history. In the 1990s there was a legendary skate ramp on Dunmore Street in a vacant lot where Spencer Mall now stands.  It was famous across the globe amongst a core crew of people.  If you could skate this three foot wooden half bowl with an extension at one end, you could skate pretty much any ramp you were faced with.

Originally built in Queenstown by Tony Woolston, it was moved to Wanaka by locals Ollie, Reon, Callum (of Cinema Paradiso fame), Paddy and Deady and set up in Dunmore Street in response to QLDC’s banning of skateboarding around town. For many Wanaka kids this was the best introduction to skating because it prepared them for anything.  For the adult skaters, the Dunmore ramp provided a challenge that satisfied even the pros. It was to become the epicentre of the Wanaka skate scene.

At least 12 ramps and parks have existed locally over the last 20 years, of which seven are currently in use. For example, the Mitre 10 mini, the ‘Secret Spot’ at the Sadowsky-Synnotts, Kate and Wayo’s ramp in Hawea Flat, Benny Bright’s ramp in Cardrona Village, and the Wanaka Skatepark.

A few hardcore crew will remember the Fade Lounge off Gordon Road.  An indoor skate park open to the public for a fee of $2, it was built and run by entrepeneur Tim Waite.  You can check out a video which tells the awesome story of the Fade Lounge at On mag’s Facebook page. I think facilities such as this were before their time, because equivalent businesses are now big money overseas in similar places to Wanaka such as Woodward in Copper Mountain, CO, USA.

How about Rick and Jeans’ 4 ft mini in Luggate?  That was an institution for many skaters drawn to Wanaka for the snow.  Or the little ramp at Possum Lodge in Albert Town?  All these facilities influenced people to reach for their dreams and won’t be forgotten.

Wanaka’s own Public #1 is the concrete park in Pembroke Park.  It is a council funded park and is acknowledged as the most used sporting facility in Wanaka.  It is free to use and is considered the best childcare service in town.

Currently Wanaka Skate Club is actively fundraising to extend the park.  The goal is to make a ‘Destination Skate Park’ to attract more tourism into town.  There are many examples of this around the world and Wanaka is the perfect place to make this dream a reality.

A “Destination Skatepark” is any park that can potentially have an economic impact on a community by drawing people from more than 150 kilometres away. The Skate Club has raised $8500 plus a committed $10,000 from benefactor Dick Schultze. $185,000 has been allocated from the 2013/14 annual council budget and a further S200,000 is still needed. To get involved, support the cause on Facebook and talk to Wanaka skater/mover and shaker, Wayne Pretty.

Skateparks not only provide a training ground for super athletes like Jossi Wells and up and coming snowboarder Stefi Luxton, they provide an environment where young people can exercise.  Based on the 2001 census, SPARC figures indicate that over a 2-week period, 9% or 64,700 of New Zealand Young People (5 -17 year olds) skateboarded. That’s more people than played tennis or hockey for example in that same period, and the same percentage (9%) that played basketball or or participated in athletics.  All this shows that skateparks are important to our communities and should be embraced.

Wanaka and skateboarding have a long and colourful history together and skateboarding is here to stay.  Don’t be shy have a go: the facilities are there for everyone to use and enjoy, whatever you ride.  Wear a helmet if you care about your brain and prepare to get an adrenaline rush.

JULIANE BRAY

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