Skaters: Battle boredom with boards

Teenage trio, insisting it would give youth something to do, help get skate park built in Yacolt

By Tyler Graf, Columbian county government reporter

Published:

 

Skater terminology

Since evolving from the Southern California surfer community of the early 1970s, skateboarding has taken on a life, and language, of its own. Like any specialized sport, the lingo that goes along with skateboarding is a treasure trove of jargon. To better understand the ins and outs of skater-speak, here's a quick glossary of terms.

Ollie: A basic trick where a skateboarder leaps into the air, feet on the board, without the use of his hands. The jump is achieved by the rider shifting his weight from front to back on the board and then lifting off. Landing it is the real tricky part.

Powerslide: Using momentum, the skater whips around, gets low to the ground, and slides his board along the ground.

Longboard: Sometimes called the mountain bike of skateboards, a longboard — as the name suggests — is longer and a bit wider than a traditional board. They've gained popularity over the past decade. In some cases, skaters will add heavy-duty traction wheels to the board so it can be taken off road.

Funbox: A flat-topped box-like device with ramped sides that allows skateboarders or BMX riders to go up them and perform aerial tricks.

Grind rail: A simple rail, like you'd find on a staircase, on which skaters can perform tricks such as "grinding" the side of the board against the rail.

YACOLT — Clark County's newest skate park developed with the help of three teenagers who took their passion for ollies, powerslides and other skateboarding tricks to the highest level of power — all the way to the Yacolt Town Council.

With the help of town leaders, a grant from the Parks Foundation of Clark County and a little creative moxie, a skate park has taken shape around an existing concrete surface at Yacolt Town Park. The skate park -- replete with obstacles skaters and BMX bikers use to pull off tricks including a grind rail, funbox and OC ramp -- opened last month.

When the park was just a flat surface, "it wasn't much of a skate park," even though it was considered the only place in town skaters could go, said Taylor Carothers, 19, one of the three teens who made a pitch to build an actual skate park. "It was just a slab of concrete before all of this work."

That work came after the county's smallest incorporated community received $16,000 from the Clark County Parks Foundation last year to build a skate park.

It was the realization of a plan that's been in the works for more than a decade, city leaders say.

Crystal Lewis, the town's customer service clerk, wrote the successful grant application that paid for the skate park. The town had long planned for a place for young skaters to go, she said, but the town never had the money to move forward with the plan.

The town sought input from teens as a way to give them ownership in the project, Lewis said. That way, the town wouldn't have to worry so much about vandalism.

"If it was something they were a part of rather than something a bunch of adults designed and came up with, I thought that was just better," Lewis said. "So that was the direction we took."

On a sunny March afternoon, Taylor and his buddies made their way to the tricked-out skate park for the first time since it opened. They came with their longboards, which are bigger, more durable versions of skateboards.

Between grinding out slides on the slick concrete slab, and ollying off the funbox, the three friends explained how they contributed to the skate park. Taylor was the ringleader of sorts for the band of longboarding bros. He and Zach Carothers, 18, are related by blood, while friend Mark King, 16, is simply a "brother by another mother."

Last year, as town officials began talking about adding obstacles to the concrete slab, questions arose about how safe the place would be; whether it would attract the wrong element. And that's when the trick-loving triumvirate entered the picture, Taylor said.

They'd act as the face for the new skate park.

And for the Carothers brothers, they had someone else on their side: Their dad, Jeff Carothers, is the mayor of Yacolt.

In talking to the community, Taylor tried to quash the notion that the skate park would attract unsavory characters. He said it would simply give younger kids a place to go.

"There aren't even enough kids to be much of a problem," Taylor said. "At most, there might be a couple of squabbles. That's it."

Mayor Carothers said the skate park -- and a possible second-phase expansion -- would give the town's kids something to do. The closest skate park is in Battle Ground, half an hour a way and inaccessible for younger skaters unless their parents provide transportation.

Before the skate park opened, options for Yacolt's skateboarders were few and far between, the skaters said.

There was the school's parking lot, but that was a place where skateboarding wasn't allowed. There was the old service station, used for years as a de facto skate park because it provided a flat-slab surface and was abandoned. It was less than optimal.

And then there were the more extreme options.

For one, there was the ominously named "Dead Man's Hill," so named, the boarders surmised, because that's where people often crashed. "That was an awesome hill to bomb down," King said.

But there was no place in town to do tricks. So the new skate park was actually designed by the town's youth, who provided their input in the form of pictures.

The town's teens say the skate park's obstacles provide a welcome diversion.

"It's nice to have a place to do tricks," King said.

Huffing and puffing after a riding up and down the funbox, Taylor agreed. "The skater kids here are younger," he said, "so this is their place to go."

But if there's one thing they'd really like to see added to the skate park in the future, it would be a kidney-shaped bowl, like an empty swimming pool with curved sides, in which skaters could fly around the edges.

They agreed: That would be pretty cool.

Tyler Graf: 360-735-4517; http://twitter.com/col_smallcities;tyler.graf@columbian.com.

Clark County's skate parks

Yacolt Skate Park: East Jones Street, Yacolt.

Battle Ground Skate Park: 912 E. Main St., Battle Ground.

Swift Skate Park: East Fourth Plain Boulevard at Fort Vancouver Way, Vancouver.

Extreme Sports Park at Pacific Community Park: 1515 N.E. 164th Ave., Vancouver.

Endeavour Neighborhood Park Skate Spot: Northeast Four Seasons Lane at Northeast Angelo Drive, Vancouver.

Gretchen Fraser Neighborhood Park Skate Spot: Southeast 155th Avenue at Southeast Mill Plain Boulevard, Vancouver.

Harmony Ridge Neighborhood Park Skate Spot: 18208 N.E. 28th St., Vancouver.

Little Prairie Neighborhood Park Skate Spot: Northeast 142nd Avenue, north of Northeast 76th Street, Vancouver.

Oak Grove Neighborhood Park Skate Spot: Northeast 159th Avenue at Northeast 71st Street, Vancouver.

Tenny Creek Neighborhood Park Skate Spot: Northeast 88th Street at Northeast 31st Avenue, Vancouver.

Ridgefield Skate Park: Simons Street and North 3rd Avenue, Ridgefield.