Skaterboarders and rollerbladers watch as Michael Landsey, 15, of Clovis attempts a trick Saturday at Greene Acres Park. Landsey said, “I’m out here every day, It’s a great way to stay in shape.” (Staff photo: Andy DeLisle)
He unzips his black backpack, pulls out a screwdriver, and flips the skateboard on its belly. Resting the wooden board on his lap, Michael Lindsey begins to loosen the wheels of the little vehicle.
Lindsey is applying fresh griptape to the board. The gritty, sand papery layer is lain over the top of a skateboard to allow the rider’s shoes to grip the board. Observing the mini-operation is a circle of boys, a poster for various stages of adolescence, some as young as 7, others in high school.
“I am, like, a mobile skate shop,” said Lindsey, 15, his hair a curly, messy, mop, falling over his forehead and across his blue eyes.
This gang has turned the new skateboarding park on Mitchell Street into an all-day hangout. Five years in the making, the Clovis skate park opened in May.
“This is really a place for them to go that is theirs,” said Clovis Parks and Recreation Director Rob Carter, who lobbied to have the park built.
Since school ended, at least a dozen children can be found zooming through the concrete haven on any given day. According to Carter, nearly 100 children use the park every week. They fly down ramps, skim across rails, practice tricks. And fall, a lot.
But that’s the draw for Lindsey, his wrists bearing tiny scratches, the edges of his skateboard banged and chipping.
“It’s a rush,” he said.
Lounging atop a picnic table near the skate park, Isaac Ramirez, 11, tugs his shirt down to reveal a scab on his shoulder. He bends his elbows to display more scabs on each knobby end. In the world of skateboarding, scraps and bruises are badges.
Later, Isaac joins a group of four who take turns riding down a ramp, attempting to end their coasts with ollies. The foundation of skateboarding, an ollie is generally the first trick a skateboarder must master, wherein he and his skateboard pop into the air.
At this, Isaac is unsuccessful. Skidding across an elevated plank on his back, he smiles up at his friends, and pinches his finger and thumb together, as if to say, ‘almost.’
“When you fall, you just tell yourself to get up. If you stay there, you just start to put yourself down,” said Tim Norris, a 17-year-old from Lubbock who frequents the park when he visits his brother in Clovis.
At the park, the boys often slip into conversations which would sound foreign to an outsider, flinging around skateboarding lingo and boasting of their feats. A favorite way to refer to each other is ‘dude,’ and the word is clipped onto the end, the beginning, and middle of their sentences.
At dusk, the skateboarders become stark, solitary silhouettes. Only when it is dark do they abandon the park. The father of the four Ramirez boys, who are fixtures at the park, supplies a cooler of sodas, juice, and water every day, and the boys take short sojourns for food, either to their homes or nearby restaurants.
“There is a risk they will get hurt. But they love it,” their father, Jorge, said. He paces around the rim of the concrete plot, checking up on his boys several times a day. Soon, the family will make a trip to California, where skate parks dwarf the one in Clovis.
“It is better for them to be here, doing this, than on the street,” the father said.
Before the park was built, the boys said they roamed the town, sneaking into parking lots, where they are banned, to hone their skills. Most are novice skaters, who learn from watching each other and movies, and are only a year into the hobby.
At least now they have a place to go, they said. And they are fiercely protective of their new hangout. BMX bikers have tried to encroach on the arena, and they are not happy.
“It will ruin the ramps,” explained Lindsey.
A sign listing the rules of the park was recently stolen. But a couple of boys hunted down the culprits and re-hung the sign, according to Carter, who has plans to expand the park and possibly carving out a separate area for bikers.
“Skateboarding has made a big comeback,” Carter said.
His board temporarily at rest by his side, Norris said, “I used to play baseball and basketball. I worked too hard and didn’t get any recognition.
“I still don’t get a lot of recognition. But, with skateboarding, there is always something to learn.”
The anatomy of a skateboard
Truck — The skateboard steering devices on the bottom of the board.
Deck — The wooden platform the skater stands on. Also called a board.
Tail — The back end of the board, from the back two truck bolts, to the tip of the deck.
Nose — The front end of the board, from the front two truck bolts, to the tip of the deck.
Griptape — A gritty, sand papery layer that is lain over the top of a skateboard to allow the rider’s shoes to grip the board.
Ollie — The foundation of skateboarding, an ollie is generally the first trick a skateboarder must master, wherein he and his skateboard pop into the air.
Boardslide — A trick where you lift your front axle over a rail or ledge or any object and slide. Sometimes referred to as a railslide.
Fakie — Riding backwards.
Nollie — An ollie off of the nose of the board where you pop the nose with your front foot and slide your back foot towards the tail to lift the board.
Kickflip — Ollie, front foot goes toward the heel side of the board, flicking the board with your toes, board flips, land.
Goofy-foot — Someone whose normal skate stance is with the right foot forward.
Regular-foot — Someone whose normal skate stance is with the left foot forward.
Mongo-foot — A style of pushing where the back foot is kept on the board, and the pushing is done with the front foot. Very common with switch-stance skating.
Grind — Moving along an edge with your trucks, scraping your trucks against the object being grinded as you skate.