Kennesaw’s skate park off Old U.S. 41 was filled with the sound of boards scratching on the pavement and wheels clicking as skaters gained speed down slopes.
The first skateboarding contest, March Radness, had crowds of spectators lining the two bowls, called “pools,” and standing on the perimeter of the plaza area, a street-style obstacle course.
The $1.8 million state-of-the-art skate park, the only one of its kind in Cobb, was funded mostly by 2011 SPLOST funds and some private donations.
The 30,000 square feet of skateable area opened right before Thanksgiving Day.
When it opened, Mayor Mark Mathews said he expected to have skaters flood the park from all over the country to practice and compete.
On Saturday, Landon Brown, 11, of Kennesaw took Mathews up on that offer.
Brown, who learned to ride a skateboard six years ago, said the sport is fun and “it keeps you from not gaining weight.”
Wearing a red, green and yellow knitted hat over his blond dreadlocks, Brown, who has competed out of state, was anxious to show off his skills.
His favorite move is the “fakie full cab flip,” which involves multiple twists and rotations in the air.
Organized chaos fills the skate park scene
The plaza is designed to have a skater perform multiple tricks without stopping or pausing, continuously hitting piece after piece, which is a requirement for the competition that runs throughout the space.
March Radness started with a street contest, where 64 skaters competed against each other in four-person jams.
In each round, skaters shoot from one end of the space to the other, hanging off rails and grabbing the board to jump gaps in ramps, either resulting in minor falls or excellent flights into the air.
Jams are four minutes in length, with the top skater moving on to the next round. The first place finisher receives a $250 cash prize, with many raffles and T-shirts also given away throughout the day.
The second division, the pool jam, has 32 skaters alternate to complete two 45-second runs each. The finale bracket pitted two top skaters head to head for 10 minutes.
Will Boatwright, 31, from Tucker,
has been competing for the last five to six years, in two or three competitions each year, often traveling down to Florida.
Boatwright said the Kennesaw venue is amazing.
“This is the stuff I always wanted to skate on,” he said.
Boatwright said he never knows what the judges are looking for.
“I normally don’t think about the judges,” he said. “I just focus on keeping on the board and completing the run.”
Boatwright does plan some tricks in advance, “then it is just winging it after that ... If you think about it too much, you choke.”
City, business, community support
Ambush Board Co., a sports retailer based in Kennesaw since 1997, sponsored the first competition Saturday at the new skate park.
Lee Elliott, general manager of the family-owned business, said the company is dedicated to building the skateboard community and taking care of the park.
“The best part about (the skate park) is having a city that is so willing to host events,” Elliott said. “Being the first (sponsor), that is a compliment from the city of Kennesaw.”
Ambush Board Co. offers skateboard apparel and gear in a 12,000-square-foot space on Cobb Place Lane off Barrett Parkway.
Elliott said the park is a place where skaters can be themselves, without fear of being told to leave.
“It is a very free and open park, with no rules to stifle creativity,” he said.
The new generation of skaters, Elliott said, will be able to learn fast with an encouraging environment and access to a world-class street skate park with challenging obstacles.
Although older guys are scraping it up with the kids at Swift-Cantrell Park, it takes some young kids only two years to learn what the past generation took 20 years to perfect.
“They are gonna rip,” Elliott said about his expectation that the Kennesaw park will produce skaters on the same caliber as professionals coming out of California over the past couple of decades.
Joe Rademacher, 39, was not competing at the event, but joined in on the fun deep in the skate park’s two pools.
Rademacher, who started skating at 13 years old, said he took a hiatus for 20 years before getting back into the sport four years ago.
While growing up, Rademacher said he was lucky if a friend had a half-pipe ramp constructed in their backyard or if he got a few minutes of practice on city property before being forced to leave.
On Saturday, Rademacher came down from Danville, although there are other skate parks closer to where he lives.
“This one is just really cool,” he said. “We do the old man Sundays out here.”