In the 90s as skateboarding grew in popularity around the world with the X Games and other extreme sporting events coming into mainstream media it set in motion a movement that would lead to Freedom Skatepark being open twenty years later. A small but growing community of skateboarders emerged with a passion and love for the sport that was undeniable. This small group has been very underground, and the Bull Bay skate crew 'Sk876' have used their creativity to transform an abandoned gully into a DIY style skate plaza with self-built concrete ramps, ledges and abandoned street furniture. The gully offered a refuge which was missing for the boarders who had no other place to call home.
Flipping Youth travelled to Jamaica in 2016 to learn about the skateboard community, establish the needs within the community and begin the journey to try and establish a professional skatepark on the island. This trip was inspired by the heartbreaking story of Andre Thompson, aka. 'Wildfiyah', a Kingston skater who was sadly killed in 2009 whilst trying to make steps towards getting Jamaica it's first skatepark. Flipping Youth then teamed up with Kevin Bourke from Tmrw.Tday Culture Festival, the Concrete Jungle Foundation, Seprod Foundation, Sandals Foundation and Bull Bay Football Club to make the Freedom Skatepark a reality. “We were all inspired by the passion, creativity and resilience demonstrated by the Jamaican skaters and wanted to join forces to help bring their dream to life. Local organisation 'Sk876' deserves a lot of credit for developing skateboarding in Jamaica to this point, by teaching younger kids how to skate, giving away skateboards and hosting competitions”- Flipping Youth.
Their collaboration would create the magical park which now has its home in Bull Bay St. Andrew a mere 20 minute drive from the heart of Kingston. The skatepark has been designed in such a way that it gathers all the basics of a skatepark: you’ll find a manual pad, a Californian bean bowl, a mini ramp, rails, ledges, etc. They’ve also added some fun elements such as a skateable turtle, and a rainbow rail. The idea was to create a flow that merges the classics of skateparks with some more unique elements that provide different types of feeling when skating. It is also designed for beginners to learn, as well as to challenge more advanced skaters.
More than a place to have fun, the skatepark is hosting Edu-Skate classes, Concrete Jungle Foundation's CJF’s educational program that uses skateboarding to stimulate internally motivated self-improvement and psychological well-being for disadvantaged youth, employs local skaters to develop vocational skills and facilitates the organization of community based activities like workshops, events and contest. Skateboarding is a great physical exercise and a great platform for satisfying your psychological needs and an accessible activity for socialization.
“The chance to understand how a skate park is built was the first big eye opener in the journey. The fundamentals of building a good park are not to be underestimated. The chance to interact with internationals allowed me to see the world through them which made me feel 'travelled' if you will. As far as the community here in Jamaica and myself, we're obviously excited about the park. The space breeds creativity and new experiences, so I feel we're excited about the doors opening to us and the potential to see more growth here in Jamaica. - Kayla Wheeler, local skateboarder.
After twenty years of perseverance skateboarders like Kayla, now have a space where they can not only showcase their own skills which they have carefully crafted but also pave the way for the future of the sport on the island.
“I can see Jamaica having a skate culture that can create opportunities for people who choose to pursue skateboarding as a career. Many talented youths who never had the chance to try the sport will now be able to enjoy it a lot easier and with the proper facilities and guidance. I can see Jamaica having athletes who can compete on the pro level with the best in the world. The skatepark will be a gathering place for all those people looking to be a part of the community and in that we will have unity and growth. One day everyone in Jamaica will know what skating is!”
Freedom Skatepark promises to be filled with fun and excitement for all ages and skill levels, whether it’s enjoying sitting in the stands and watching the skaters or getting out on a board and trying it yourself. “Your first time on a skateboard can be a thrilling experience: you’ll have to step outside of your comfort zone as you might not be very balanced on 4 wheels yet. It's the art of remaining relaxed and focused while putting yourself at the risk of falling. You’ll have to believe in yourself and overcome your fears in order to succeed: the feeling of achievement you get from arising victorious when putting yourself in the risk of falling will surely leave you with a feeling of empowerment. Just try it! If you don’t try it you won’t learn it or experience the benefits, if you do try and practice it you will (Edu-Skate lesson #1: a positive mental attitude). ”- Concrete Foundation Jamaica.
With the expertise and vast experience in the area of charity and community development from both Seprod & Sandals Foundation, as well as other stakeholders like The SkateRoom the project was able to move forward. Their dedication to seeing the dreams of the skateboarders come to life was important for the creation and establishment of the park. We can’t wait to get out there and experience the freedom that the park promises for all. Remember, always be safe when trying a new sport, wear protective clothing and don’t leave your wings at home- grab a cold can of Red Bull and have fun! To learn more about out the Freedom Skate Park and the Concrete Jungle Foundation here.