I’m looking down at what feels like a 50m drop, my toes gripping the insides of my trainers for dear life. I am about to plummet down into a large bath or pool shell devoid of water (I’m told it’s called the Bowl), and this on a wobbly skate board, or maybe it’s just me that’s wobbly. The last time I attempted this was possibly a distant 25 years before and even then I wasn’t very good. Yes, I am at a skate park!
When my son told me about The Shred Skate Park in Paarden Eiland, and how he wanted to have his next birthday party there, I thought we better go check it out first. So armed with knee pads, elbow pads, and helmets, my noisy gang of excited boys arrived at the very trendy and industrial-styled skate park.
The interior of the building is just what you would imagine any skate park to look like, at least what I have seen on American television. I’m acutely aware of the sound of rolling wheels and kids voices as we make our way through to the chill room. There are other moms and dads chatting and watching their little ones from the funky restaurant and I’m seriously impressed with the graffiti artwork on the walls and the general good vibe all round.
As my son, aged 10, and his buddies head over to what appears to be a space for beginners, following my instructions for them to “take it easy” at first (yes, I got the rolled-eye “Mom!” response), I cast my eye over the various levels of the skate park. There are seasoned skaters ripping through the dips and ramps, and I am amazed at their dexterity and balance. This really is a sport not built for the faint-hearted nor the unfit. The skaters propel themselves through the maze of obstacles and when they land firmly on the skateboard, scooter or their rollerblades, I realise I have been holding my breath through every one of their jumps.
My son whizzes by and I almost jump up to grab him out of harm’s way as a rather large guy whips past him, propels himself with ease onto a railing, slides along it arms out airplane style, and lands on the other side with no effort at all. But, I stop myself, sit back and take a sip of my Latte, realising that these kids are perfectly safe. Even the pros are very aware of and patient with the newbies and I can see there is an amicable system that works well for all.
As I get chatting to the another mom, whose son is busy taking lessons, lessons which are dirt cheap by the way – only R280 a lesson! and, they have a 10 session loyalty card for skate sessions for R300 too! She tells me that The Shred often hosts music events here and of course skate competitions. She goes on to say that they recently attended their Cheap as Chips Market, where they host various brands selling their wares super cheap (hence the catchy name), serve food, have DJ’s playing tunes, and a Bowl Jam, where the pros show off their skills.
I smile and think to myself that I can see The Shred becoming a regular haunt for my son and his pals. My adrenalin-juiced offspring has already been spying out the trendy gear, in particular a brightly coloured skateboard, in the skate shop and asking about whether he will be getting money for his birthday.
So, how did I end up on the edge of the Bowl, with my heart in my hands and my knees shaking like a leaf in a storm?
Well, if you can’t beat ‘em, you better join ‘em, right?
Oh, and also take a look at this video to whet your appetite.