It’s 10 a.m., Sunday morning, July 16, and people are already gathering at the Aloha Gas Station in Kapa`au for Kohala’s 9th annual Go Skate Day. Skating doesn’t officially start until 10:30, but now people are gearing up for the event: practicing moves, greeting friends, buying Roots Skate Park tee shirts at $15 each. Go Skate Day is, in part, a fundraiser for the skate park just down the road. But mostly, according to Richey Riggs, volunteer director for Roots Advocates for Youth, this day is “a community party,” a chance for everybody to have some fun.
A family fun event, riding in the streets of Kohala!
Friendly game of SKATE keeps things FUN
Shortly before 10:30, the skaters gather for group photos; even some of the photographers are on skateboards. The atmosphere is festive. Skaters hold up their boards, excited to be part of the action. And they’re off!
Suddenly the road teems with people on wheels, and a few on foot. Vehicular traffic has been blocked to give the crowd safe passage as they travel toward Kamehameha Park, where Roots Skatepark waits in the far back corner, across from the Intergenerational Center.
Richey estimates that the number involved in today’s Go Skate Day falls between 120 and 150 people. Not all of those are on the road–aside from skaters, participants include sponsors, people manning the concessions stations, parents and friends and supporters–but the colorful flock streaming along the pavement must include more than 80.
Not all of those on wheels are kids; some adults fly along the road, too. And not only skateboards join the parade. Bicycles, roller skates, razor scooters with handles, ripstick boards on two wheels, even a few motor scooters join in. At least three of the bicycles pull wheeled attachments with babies or toddlers riding behind. Parents or older siblings trot along or cycle next to some of the younger skaters. At least one surfboard (a shortboard) has been converted into a skateboard.
The first Go Skate Day took place in 2009, although the skate park didn’t open until 2010. The community event helps to raise funds because not enough money has been raised to cover costs of building and expanding the facility. Earnest Moody donated the land in 2007 at a value of 280 thousand dollars
Margaret Wille, Kohala’s former councilwoman, advocated for $70,000 from the county council, which was approved. However a matching fund contribution from the COH parks and rec department has been rescinded which is a major setback to the budget.
Various sponsors have contributed cash, equipment and labor to build the skatepark, designed and constructed by Brian Sandlin of Abstract Concrete Pumping. But even with all that help, more is needed. Currently, Roots is actively fundraising to begin phase 2 of the project, and contributions are always welcome.
Once at the skatepark, the skaters are eager to show the admiring crowd what they can do. Many, though not all, wear helmets and kneepads. The audience sees some impressive stunts and some wipeouts, too, but no one is hurt. How do you start learning this sport without killing yourself? Richey laughs at the question. “You’re going to fall while you’re learning.”
Bonnie Stevenson says, “When I separated from my husband, skateboarding is what saved my son, David.” Kohala didn’t have a skate park at that time, so Bonnie and David have been avid supporters of Roots. “There are lots of stories like that,” Richey says. His statement is easy to believe after watching the level of excitement, dedication and sheer self-discipline that grips the skaters.
Story written by Anne Fojtasic for Kohala Mountain News
Photos by Anna Pacheco and Richey Riggs