Against All Odds: 5 Inspirational Skateparks That Changed The World
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Even with the increasing commercialisation of skateboarding, there remains at its heart a plucky underdog spirit; an up-yours to the man, the establishment, and the rules. And so, with those words ringing beneath your eyelids, here's a collection of some skateparks we think defied the rules and stood tall in amongst the ashes of a burning world.
Here's to the fighters, the survivors, and the builders; the people, parks, and makeshift skate-spots that makes skateboarding what it is today. Because skateboarding is more than just a sport, it's a movement.
1) The Southbank Undercroft (London)
The undercroft of the Southbank Centre has long been a beating heart of the London skate scene (40 plus years, if you're looking to be more precise). It's against-the-odds triumph can be seen in the way it survived proposals to be converted into retail units.
The Long Live Southbank Campaign, more commonly known as the LLSB, was established in April 2013 as a direct response to the Festival Wing's redevelopment plans that were announced in March 2013. At first, many thought this was a doomed mission; destined to be another case of "money-talking" and London's soul being chiselled away at yet again.
Watching the campaign, initially, felt like witnessing Tim Henman at Wimbledon; a noble cause to cheer for but one that was bound to lose against the ruthless efficiency of Pete Sampras and his corporate heavy-hitters.
But somehow, against all the odds, the campaign stoked the public's imagination with a genuine ferocity. The people of London, not necessarily those with any previous any affiliation to the scene, wore t-shirts and badges in support of the cause. Pens were unsheathed and petitions were signed; the momentum shifted.
On the 18th of September 2014, Long Live Southbank signed a Section 106 agreement with the Southbank Centre. In a nutshell, it guaranteed the space's long-term future for future generations. So if someone ever tells you that something isn't worth fighting for, that the establishment can't be beaten, tell them the remarkable story of the Southbank and change their opinion.
2) Shred Skatepark (Ayrshire)
"I have a dream...that one day...me and my friend Craig Maxwell from Ayrshire will build our own skatepark," is presumably what David Hunter said to his parents when told them he wanted to build a skatepark with his friend Craig.
This story is one that shows how someone can create options out of nothing, how young people can build opportunities out of dreams, thin-air, and the wisp of an idea.
It started just over three years ago when Craig and David revealed their plans to build their own skatepark. For years, they'd been travelling all over Scotland with their friends to hit up skateboarding spots but the pair both wanted something closer to home; a place to call their own.
"The day it opened, it had reached full capacity after an hour and had people queueing round the block to have a go."
Many people told them it was ridiculous, that it couldn't be done, that it wasn't a good idea. But the pair both felt they knew better and, after finding a warehouse, they finally managed to turn their vision into a touchable reality. The day the park opened, it reached full capacity after less than an hour and had people queueing round the block to skate it.
The tale of the Shred Skatepark in Ayrshire is a real against-the-odds success story (probably the greatest one Ayrshire has ever seen).
3) Skateistan Kabul (Afghanistan)
When you think of skateboarding, the war-torn Afghanistan of your imagination probably isn't the first thing that springs to mind. But, thanks to the incredible work of Skateistan, this connection isn't anywhere near as far-fetched as it might sound.
Skateistan is an international organisation dedicated to providing empowerment, and improving the lives of young people, through skateboarding and educational activities. Founded in 2007, the first Skateistan facility was opened in Kabul (Afghanistan).
"When you think of skateboarding, the war-torn Afghanistan of your imagination probably isn’t the first thing that springs to mind."
In a country recovering from a bloody war, and the oppressive rule of the Taliban, the sight of children finding joy in the beautiful simplicity of skateboarding is one of those sights that really warms the heart.
Skateistan now have facilities in a variety of surprising and unlikely locations (including Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan; Phnom Penh, Cambodia; and Johannesburg, South Africa). The organisation, and the parks they have created, have given us some of the most genuinely incredible against-the-odds skateboarding stories in history.
4) Skate House - Itanhaém -São Paulo (Brazil)
A Brazilian man, called Anselmo Arruda, has claimed skateboarding saved his life after the death of his parents when he was just a teenager. Anselmo found solace, escapism, and hope in the freedom he got from skating; using it as a method to get over the loss of those that had raised him.
Anselmo didn't just want to skate though. He wanted to build a skatepark and so set about transforming the house he had inherited into a skateboarding wonderland. Not wanting to keep it to himself, he opened the doors of his skateboarding home (aka "The Cave House"), to other skateboarders in São Paulo in the hope that they too could beat the hardships life has thrown at them.
The inspirational story of Anselmo Arruda, and his skatepark-house, proves that beauty can emerge from the blackness of grief. As an orphan, with no one to turn to, Anselmo was able to dust himself down, grab his skateboard, and build something amazing (turning his life around, in the process).
5) Skatepark In La Paz (Bolivia)
Levi's make jeans. That much is obvious...unless you've spent the last 3000 years cryogenically frozen in an underground bunker somewhere in the Alaskan wilderness. But, something you might not know about Levi's, is that they've also been known to build awesome skateparks in impoverished areas of the world (in Bolivia, for example).
This skate park in La Paz is 21,500-square-feet of skateboarding fun. When you consider that 60% of Bolivians live beneath the poverty line, it's seriously great that such an outlet exists for the young people of Bolivia. It's existence is also testament to the fact that big companies are not always the total sh*tbags we think they are.
"Who would have thought, when it first started, that skating around on a plank of wood could give birth to so much hope?"
Skateboarding is a universal phenomenon now and skateparks, like this nice one in the capital of South America's poorest country, really do shine a spotlight on that idea.
Who would have thought, when it first started, that skating around on a plank of wood could give birth to so much hope? Skateboarding, perhaps more than any of the parks on this list, is the ultimate against-the-odds success story.
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