Go Skateboarding Day: June 21
The skateboard park on the grounds of the Epworth United Methodist Church on Holland Glade Road may not be the largest park in the world. That honor goes to the 182,000 square foot GMP Skatepark in Guangzhou, China.
But on any given day when school is out and the weather cooperates, Epworth SK8 Park attracts a loyal clan of enthusiastic skateboarders. A special celebration takes place world-wide on Summer Solstice Day—June 21. Go Skateboarding Day is an annual promotional event originally organized in 1995 by the International Association of Skateboard Companies to encourage participation in the sport.
Madison Coviello, Taylor Hurley, and Sean Duffy are typical of the many (mostly) young people who flock to Epworth to hang out with friends and hone their skills. Members of this skateboard community look after each other and make sure the park is kept up, according to Duffy. They even collaborate with a scout troop to help maintain it.
Skateboarding has about 85 million participants world-wide with the most recent US statistics approaching about nine million participants. The majority are in the western part of the country. There are about 10 parks in Delaware.
Local skateboarding icon James West operates the first and only mobile retail shop from his vans. A First State Skate Supply van often is perched outside the Big Chill Cantina on Coastal Highway. He heads up the skateboard committee that oversees maintenance and guidance for the park. He was one of the founding members of the group that helped make the park a reality.
West plans to organize a skateboarding celebration in conjunction with Go Skateboarding Day but possibly the weekend before or after the actual date, which falls on a Wednesday.
Anyone who has visited Epworth, either for religious services or concerts, has probably seen the skateboarding park just south of the parking lot. What most probably don’t know is that the park was designed and built via a collaboration between two skateboard companies—Langhorne, Pennsylvania’s 5th Pocket Design, and Portland, Oregon based company Evergreen Skateparks. Both companies have built parks all over the world.
Back in 2014, Epworth worked with the Rehoboth community to raise money to build the park. Pat Loughlin was the assistant pastor at the time and was a driving force behind its development. Engraved bricks were sold to raise funds and they make up a small wall that still serves as the entrance to the park, which is free of charge for anyone who wants to use it.
West says that the Epworth SK8 Park now attracts followers who range in age from two to 60, with about an even split between male and female. Most “regulars” are from local communities.
“We get people from all over the state, other parts of the US as well as other countries,” he said. “Skateboarders will travel anywhere to try a new or different park. People may be surprised at the multiple generations of people who participate.”
The sheer existence of the Epworth SK8 Park has helped to spawn and sustain other local businesses that sell products related to the sport.
Skateboarding is a lifestyle that attracts a certain type of person, much like ski, snowboard, surf, or motorcycle enthusiasts, according to Teague Hastings, manager of the Sierra Moon Surf and Skate Shop in Rehoboth Beach. “It’s like a homing beam for like-minded people who want to share the experience and meet each other,” he says. Sierra Moon is a local shop on Rehoboth Avenue, not far from the boardwalk. It was founded in 1995.
Gabby Serfass, manager of Zumiez in the Seaside Tanger Outlet Mall agrees with Hastings. Since Rehoboth is a well-known destination resort anyway, it is logical that it would attract skateboarders from all over the world. She also adds the fact that there is another element that binds skateboarders together—a heavy dose of art and music in the mix. Zumiez operates more than 700 stores world-wide although the majority are in the US.
Like First State Skateboard Supply, both shops sell boards off the rack or they custom build for customers. All three carry a wide range of hard good products, apparel, and accessories.
Skateboarding has its share of professional skateboarders from the LGBTQ+ community. The National Museum of American History chronicles some of the struggles encountered back in the 80s and 90s with a blog entitled “A Place in the Park: LGBTQ + Inclusion and Skateboarding.” More recently, transgender skateboarders Leo Baker and Cher Strauberry are hoping to enlighten the public via videos and music. Both are from California.
Could it be that the seemingly accepting attitude of today’s skateboarders is an indication that inclusion is alive and well—at least at Epworth SK8 Park? ▼
Mary Jo Tarallo is a former journalist and public relations professional for various non-profits including a ski industry trade association. She won a Gold Award for a United Way TV program starring Oprah Winfrey.
Photos: Mary Jo Tarallo