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In perpetual motion

Brendan Corrao of Port Angeles frontside grinds the 8-foot bowl at the new Rotary Skate Bowl Saturday morning. - RYAN SCHIERLING/Staff Photo
Brendan Corrao of Port Angeles frontside grinds the 8-foot bowl at the new Rotary Skate Bowl Saturday morning.
— image credit: RYAN SCHIERLING/Staff Photo

Perpetual motion may never be achieved, but island skateboarders can come about as close as physics allows.

The curves, contours and transitions of the new Rotary Skate Bowl are designed such that a skilled rider can zoom from one end to the other, swoop around the various bowls and make it back to the other end without taking their feet off the board.

And for those able to scale one side of the largest, 8-foot bowl, turn around, and fly back to their starting point – and then do it again – there’s literally no end to the fun.

“No pushing required,” said Brendon Corrao, age 28, between forays. “That’s awesome.”

The island’s new skateboard facility made its formal debut Saturday at Strawberry Hill Park, 200 cubic yards of concrete shaped into a series of bowls and ramps, with smooth pool coping around the edges.

Three dozen skaters turned out; at times, the scene resembled an air circus, or perhaps aerial combat. Daring riders sped around wildly and tested their resolve against that of gravity, often reaching the top of the bowl only to lose their balance and go skidding back to earth on padded knees.

Neat maneuvers and near collisions alike were hailed with whoops from those looking on.

“It’s the best park I’ve ever skated,” said Carrao, who came down from Port Angeles for the opening “It’s the best park in the world. It seriously is.”

Corrao was one of a number of skaters who hailed from off-island to try out the new park.

Word among skateboarding adherents does get around; a week before the park was even open, a contingent of riders from the Bay Area, on a tour of West Coast parks, showed up unannounced to try it out.

The park reportedly will also appear in an upcoming issue of Thrasher magazine, a venerable journal of the sport.

“Most of these guys are from Seattle,” said island skater Adam O’Brien, age 17. “With a park this good, you can’t keep it under wraps for long.”

Skating 101

Skateboarding has traveled light years since the rollerskate-wheel days of the 1960s.

The evolution of the boards themselves is ongoing, with an array of polyurethane wheel sizes and densities tailored to the tastes of the individual rider.

While its popularity has waxed and waned, skateboarding can now be said to be in the forefront of a group of “extreme sports” that include oddities like “street luge” and performing gravity-defying tricks on BMX bicycles.

Riders often reflect a certain youthful anti-aesthetic, unified by what can loosely be described as punk rock.

“It’s fun, and it keeps me out of trouble,” said Luke Sawyer, a 31-year-old skater who came over from Seattle for the opening. “You meet a lot of good friends through skatboarding.

“Everybody’s really supportive of each other. It’s a big brotherhood, really.”

While there’s always been a market for skateparks, the facilities themselves have traditionally maintained an uneasy relationship with the insurance industry.

In the 1970s, a number of gigantic parks opened as for-profit ventures across in California and other warm-weather states.

Operators, though, found that admission fees couldn’t keep up with their insurance premiums, and one-by-one the facilities went under.

The 1980s saw the heydey of backyard skating, as enthusiasts constructed wooden “half-pipes” for neighborhood use. A few such facilities were constructed on park grounds, often operated by youth organizations.

But like trampolines, skateparks were generally excluded from the insurance coverage of park districts because of concerns over liability, Bainbridge Park District Director Dave Lewis said.

Over time, though, actuarial studies showed that claims for injuries at public skateparks was equal to or less than those caused by other park amenities. That opened the door for coverage, and eventually the parks themselves.

“The people who are skating very much realize that they’re doing so at their own risk,” Lewis said Saturday.

There seems to be an understanding among skaters, he said, that filing a successful claim for a skatepark-related injury could result in facilities being closed for everyone.

Under the park district’s policy, helmet use at the new facility is required, although a third of the riders Saturday flouted that rule.

Uphill ride

Dedication of the park represented the successful end to a three-year project by Adam O’Brien and his father Kevin, an island businessman who coordinated the fund-raising.

“I didn’t think it was going to happen at all, to tell you the truth,” said the younger O’Brien.

Until the O’Briens came along, island riders were marginalized to parking areas and such areas where smooth concrete could be found. Also popular were the often property-damaging “grinding” tricks that rider perform against curbs, benches and stairway rails.

Kevin O’Brien credited the support of the park district, Bainbridge Rotary and others for bringing the $100,000 project to fruition.

Half the funding came from Bainbridge Island Rotary; members said Saturday that the organization saw a chance to support a segment of local youths who don’t often make the headlines for their achievements.

“It allowed those kids who didn’t fit into organized sports to have somewhere to play,” Rotarian Larry Sears said.

The park was designed by Morris Wainwright of Seattle, with construction and a few refinements by skatepark builder Mark Hubbard.

Construction took place in late summer; park officials and contractors then faced the largely unsuccessful challenge of keeping kids out until it was finished.

Saturday, the wait was over, and riders swarmed the bowl from the first moments.

Riders were in full regalia, with decals and T-shirt slogans on display including “Support your local skatepark” and “kNOw SKATEBOARDING.” Riders praised the “flow” of the design, with one likening it to “one big bowl.”

For Michael Spellman, age 13 and a Woodward Middle School student, the park will end his trips to smaller and less challenging facilities in Silverdale and Seattle, and another that opened over the summer in Poulsbo.

“I started, and it kind of became an addiction,” said Spellman, who has been riding for four years and who recently took his skateboard to school for a class presentation.

“I like it.”

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