By Tim Lemke
Kevin Brock has his skateboard in position, a well-worn Kyle Walker board that indicates just how much experience he brings to Columbia SkatePark and its 17 elements.
He takes off and soon takes on a course that includes the pyramid, jump boxes and a 20-foot straight rail. There’s also a 4-foot spine, a bank-to-ledge and even a 10-foot vert wall. And then there’s a fly box and hubba ledge, plus the park’s newest additions: a mini half-pipe and a six-foot halfpipe.
“It’s just perfect,” Brock says of the new mini half-pipe. “Really mellow.”
The 16-year-old has been coming here for years, so much so that he’s now one of the SkatePark’s 17 employees. For him, Columbia SkatePark has all the elements he needs to test his skateboarding skills, but also a laid-back and friendly vibe that makes it great for beginners and experienced skaters alike.
“I grew up at this skate park,” Brock says. “It’s safe, and no one ever harasses you.”
Nestled behind the Harper’s Choice Village Center alongside Columbia SportsPark, the park is free for Columbia Association members and $5 per visit for Columbia Cardholders. Non-members can skate for just $6.
The SkatePark’s hours depend on the time of year and are listed at ColumbiaAssociation.org/skatepark.
Dennis “DJ” Wands has come here since he was a child, often spending entire days hanging out and observing skaters before someone would eventually lend him a board. Nearly two decades later, he now leads the SkatePark’s instructional and camp programs.
“Most tricks are really just combinations of little things put together,” Wands says. “My goal is to build a foundation and then build upon that. For some kids, it’s all about the basics — and for some kids, it’s all about refining.”
Recently, he’s been helping Brock master a new trick: a nollie tre flip. In simple terms, this trick involves standing on a board and kicking one end to lift it off the ground, then flipping it 360 degrees underneath your feet.
An individual hour-long lesson with Wands or one of the other instructors at Columbia SkatePark costs $40 for CA members and $45 for non-members. There are discounts for groups of 2-4 skaters, and for a package of four lessons. In addition, the park offers birthday parties for groups of up to 10 skaters, with packages that include pizza, cake and 90 minutes of activities for just $10 per skater.
Columbia SportsPark, meanwhile, has batting cages, an 18-hole mini-golf course, an arcade and snack bar. Plus, there are pavilions for birthday parties or even corporate outings.
“If someone wants to come and skateboard, they can, but you can also do other things,” says Columbia SportsPark General Manager Lance Kerr. “There’s a lot to do in one area. You can have a whole day of fun here.”
Kerr says Columbia SkatePark staff are excited for the new mini half-pipe and six-foot halfpipe, and they are always eager to hear from skaters for suggestions on new elements. The park attracts skaters from all over the region and drew a big crowd for a skateboarding competition in May.
Amanda Finnegan, an assistant manager at Columbia SkatePark, began skateboarding last year and has learned from Wands, Brock and many of the other regulars, who are eager to offer tips.
“It’s really rewarding, even learning the basic stuff,” Finnegan says as she finishes up a flawless run on the new mini half-pipe. “It’s cool, because you can do it by yourself, but you can learn stuff by skating with other people.”
Columbia SkatePark is located at 5453 Harpers Farm Road, Columbia. For more information, visit ColumbiaSportsPark.org.