Future skateboarders’ ground zero

August 8, 2018

Home to two cradles, one of which is a stunning 22 feet in length, the Lee and Joe Jamail Skatepark in Buffalo Bayou Park has attracted pro skateboarders from around the world, including legends like Tony Hawk and Tony Alva.

This fall, girls and boys as young as 6 can try out the sport when the public park offers its final novice skateboarding workshop of 2018. And, later this month, registration opens for biweekly fall skateboarding classes for kids. Both programs are free.

Louis Moore, a senior superintendent for the Houston Parks and Recreation Department, says the skateboarders park attracts elite-level skateboarders because of its challenge and unique setting against Houston’s skyline. And, because the park offers separate areas suited for beginner, intermediate and expert skateboarders, it’s a safe environment for those just starting to learn. Skilled athletes can show off their tricks, turns and jumps at a safe distance from newbies.

The instructors at the skatepark are certified skateboarders and their primary role is to make sure kids are skating safely, Moore said. Helmets are required. For children who are not able to afford one, free helmets that kids can keep are distributed at the staff’s discretion.

At the novice workshop Sept. 8, kids will learn basic skills, which starts with balance and safety tips.

The four-week class that begins in September takes those same fundamentals and adds more skills, including learning how to fall safely. Kids will begin to understand skateboarding etiquette, as well, which involves the order in which skateboarders “drop in” to a bowl to avoid crossing another skater’s path.

By the end of the sessions, Moore said most participants will have mastered an ollie, the trick where a skateboarder jumps off the board, uses his or her feet to flip the board, then lands back on it.

Dax DeVon, 7, has been practicing his ollie at the Jamail skatepark for years. He regularly goes with his parents and brother, Mo, 5, who is just beginning to skateboard.

Dax’s mom Sarah DeVon said she is less fearful of Dax improving his skills at Jamail skateboarders park than she has been at some indoor facilities they’ve visited.

“He can be on his own and not be in anybody’s way, but there are guys flying right next to him,” she said.

She called the atmosphere positive and family friendly. In her experience, the older kids are “on their best behavior” and she’s not worried about what her young sons will be exposed to.

She also likes the camaraderie. Kids learn in part by watching other kids, she said. “Even the best skaters out there are falling and continuing to improve,” she said, which builds the confidence of aspiring skateboarders like Dax.

“He’s around kids that are really into their craft. They give him that encouragement to keep trying and to keep getting better.”

Allison Bagley is a writer in Houston.

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