It’s the Olympic sport that’s grabbed the public’s attention. Who could forget 13-year old Sky Brown’s flying around the Olympic skatepark in Tokyo on her way to a bronze medal?
The success of skateboarding at the Olympics has only served to ramp up the interest in the sport with more people flocking to skate shops and parks. However, for the skaters, BMX riders and scootering fraternity on the north coast, it has only added to their frustrations at the lack of an urban sports facility.
So much so a petition, Get Portrush a skatepark, has been started in an attempt to persuade Causeway Coast and Glens Council to develop a suitable park for the ever increasing urban sports fraternity .
Andrew Rodgers (21) from Portstewart, one of the skaters behind the petition which has notched up almost 1,000 signatures in less than 24 hours, explained the reasons behind it.
“We started this petition because we need to shine a light on the fact that Portrush desperately needs a skatepark,” he said.
“We see skateparks appearing all over Northern Ireland and obviously there have been talks about a skatepark in Portrush for years and it’s getting to the point everyone is so frustrated.
“Portrush has been the most iconic place for skateboarding for years and yet we don’t have a park granted to us.
“It’s so hectic at Station Square because there are so many people skateboarding, scootering, BMX and rollerblading and then you have all the people who come along to watch. It’s almost at the stage where there is hardly room because of the increasing number of participants.”
Unlike many people’s perceptions that skateboarding is for unruly teenagers with nothing better to do, a visit to Portrush proves it’s much more than just the tricksters showing off their skills. The older daredevils perfect tricks on their BMXs or skateboards whilst a whole new generation of youngsters from the ages of six and seven years upwards discover the thrill of ollies, kickflips and grinds.
“It’s for all ages,” continued Andrew who has been skating for 10 years. “We have a few wee girls who are about eight years old and they are doing amazing and their parents are so supportive. They absolutely love it and you can see the smiles on their faces when they do a trick.”
As a major Portrush tourist attraction disappears with the closure of Barry’s Amusements, the skaters are proving to be a major draw for tourists to the area.
“During the summer months and at weekends the number of holidaymakers and locals who come along to watch the skaters perform their tricks is crazy,” continued Andrew. “It’s almost got to the stage where there is barely room between them and the increasing number of participants and other youth groups using the area – it’s just hectic now.
“I think the council are missing a real trick not providing a park because the amount of people that a skatepark would draw to the town should not be underestimated.
“It would be so beneficial in terms of tourism, which our council is always so passionate about. Just think about the skate jams and contests and the many other events that could bring people from all over the country to have fun in a dedicated safe space, break down barriers, build friendships and come together as one big community.”
The north coast skateboard community has been calling for a park in the Triangle area for well over 20 years now and despite a number of applications having been made to the council in the past they have failed to progress.
In 2013 CAUS (Causeway Association of Urban Sports) attempted to secure the lease of land at Metropole Park and following the June meeting of Causeway Coast and Glens Leisure and Development Committee it was agreed the matter should be referred to Land and Property to look into an offer of land to CAUS by the legacy Coleraine Borough Council.
Supporting the petition, Jesse Gordon from CAUS said; “This petition is to show council that this isn’t a passing fad, it’s a priority.
“We are at the stage now between council and CAUS where we have done all the presentations, we’ve done all the meetings, we’ve done the consultations, we’ve done the workshops, there’s nothing left apart from ticking the box and getting the design done and that’s what we want to do.
“We want to help design this park and assist the council and other parties involved to create our dream, our park. We aren’t looking for a blank cheque book or anything like that, we just want our input.”
There’s no doubting the passion the skaters have for their sport and the desire for a park in Portrush but this sport is about much more than the tricks.
“It’s a community and no one cares who you are or where you are from,” said Andrew. “Skateboarding has meant I am out meeting new people all the time, it has kept me sane. It is so good for everyone both physically and mentally and I think the council are missing the point.
“It would mean everything to the urban sports community to have a skatepark in Portrush and it would be fantastic for the kids.
“The council are missing out on a lot of potential talent that is coming out of this area. Just think in five, 10 or 20 years we could have a skater or BMX rider from Portrush skatepark competing at the Olympics. I think it’s time they started to listen to everyone and embrace the sport.”
Get Portrush a skatepark petition: https://www.change.org/getportrushaskatepark