By Tim O’Connor
For my son Lewis’ sixth birthday, he asked for a “real skateboard.” Mom had her reservations, but his involvement in tackle football and dirt bike racing seem to have softened her opposition to skateboarding (when he was three he rode with me on my down-hill longboard). So when his birthday came, we fulfilled his wish. A full complement of pads, and a nice helmet also helped ease mom’s tensions.
But as many parents experience, Lewis’ siblings soon took notice. Just a month later, his sister Amber got her skateboard for Christmas. Soon after, Oscar got one, too.
Not happy with the idea of simply turning them loose in the streets with their new boards, my family began a tour of Maui skate parks. We started in Lahaina.
Built in 2012 out of concrete, the Lahaina skate park is one of the newest parks on Maui. It came after seven or so years of residents asking for a Westside park. It was finally completed thanks in large part to various members of the community, including Lahaina Skate Company owner Donovan McNabb and resident Pamela English, whose grant-writing raised a half a million dollars to complement the County of Maui’s funding.
As usual, it was a beautiful day when we arrived at the park. We spent hours there skating in the sunshine.
People of all ages were there, ranging from four to the mid-sixties. Everyone was kind to us. While Lewis tried his “tricks,” Amber negotiated the rolling slopes. I sat in the shade snapping pics until the kids were worn out. But they were hooked.
Our next skatepark was Kahului. The Kahului park has a wide array of concrete and wood ramps and quarter pipes as well as rails for rail slides. This park also offers a 10-foot half-pipe. I was also surprised to find that the drops my six-year-old made regularly were humbling me–so much so that I later purchased elbow pads. Still, the kids there were kind and supportive of one another, and just seemed to be out having some good, clean fun.
Our spring break camping trip to Hana included a few trips to the Hana skatepark. Like Lahaina’s park, Hana’s skatepark was completed in 2012, and is a popular addition to Pai Ani Mai Park in Hana Town. The skate park was made possible through county funding, extensive public donation and cooperative efforts from the Hana community. Though currently very nice, the Hana skatepark is supposed to get an additional section sometime in the future.
There, my son made a new “best friend” out of a kid who was giving him pointers on dropping in. Not surprisingly, Lewis was seriously disappointed when it was finally time to go. Though the rest of us were starving, his new “best friend” was still skating. Still, it was time to go.
Next on our list was Paia’s skatepark. This park is run by the Paia Youth Center and was the only one to charge for admission. The money collected helps support the center, so I had no problem contributing. There was also an uncle there monitoring the kids. He took time to help the keiki with pointers and offered encouragement and advice as they tried new maneuvers.
By now, our tour had just one stop left–Kihei. Located in Kalama Park, this one offers a concrete/wood street/obstacle park as well as a small pool, a 9-foot and a 4-foot half-pipe. Not long ago, the Kihei skate park was near demolition, but the local skate community, led by a few Maui skateboard pioneers, rallied to save it.
The County of Maui maintains all these skateparks, and one free event is held at each park throughout the year. Drinks, snacks and awards are provided for the participants of these events.
County officials, as well as the YMCA and The Boys and Girls Club of Maui, have at times managed the island’s skateparks here. They also managed to get ongoing maintenance of Maui’s skateparks as a line item in the county budget. While recent county budget cuts have defunded past skate programs, there is hope for the future. In fact, students at King Kekaulike are actively working to bring a skatepark to the Upcountry area.
I know that for many people, skateboarding remains a radical, counter-culture sport for hooligan, ne’er-do-well delinquents. It’s still banned from many public streets and privately owned neighborhoods and commercial centers.
But the time we spent at the county’s skate parks has proven to be only positive for us. The parks are spaces of exercise, camaraderie and creative expression. The kids using them weren’t disrespectful, counter-culture skate punk delinquents–they were just finding their way through life and enjoying the freedom and creative expression that skateboarding and these skate parks allow them.
They were supportive and creative, often filming videos or snapping pictures of each other. We didn’t see them smoking (anything) or littering the area with foul language. And nearly every visit has proven that skateboarding still appeals to adults as much as kids.
These publicly funded spaces provide a positive place for the people of Maui. We’ll be visiting them many times in the future.
Photo of Kahului Skatepark: Darris Hurst