By Anthony Clark Carpio
4:46 PM PDT, March 24, 2014
It only took minutes for the hundreds of amateur and professional skateboarders who attended the opening Saturday of the Vans Off the Wall Skatepark to seemingly cover every available surface.
Each rail, ledge and pool coping was grinded. Each stair set, kicker and hip was ollied on — or over. The air was filled with the sound of skateboard trucks — the axles that secure the wheels to the boards — sliding on rails. Also audible: spinning wheels on lubricated bearings and the occasional applause after a skater landed a hard-practiced trick.
The 42,500-square-foot facility wedged between Golden West College and Old World Village on Center Avenue in Huntington Beach is a welcome sight for aficionados of the sport. And the icing on the cake is that it is free to the public.
"It's pretty tight," said Kevin Scott, a 15-year-old amateur skater from Lancaster. "... All the rails are grindable, and you don't even need wax. Everything is all good."
Scott took a quick breather to retie his laces before going back to the skate plaza and landing a 360 flip without breaking a sweat.
Mayor Matthew Harper stood on his 1980s skate deck, sporting a pair of checkered slip-on Vans.
"Thank you so much, Vans," he said during a ribbon cutting . "You have done a great service for our community, and this isn't just for Huntington Beach. This is for Orange County and the region."
Weaving his way through the complex was professional street skater Geoff Rowley, a legend to millennials who grew up playing "Tony Hawk's Pro Skater" video game.
"We need more of these places where kids can come and do positive stuff, be safe and progress skateboarding," he said.
On the other side of the park were vert — or ramp — skateboarding legends Steve Caballero and Christian Hosoi, who were busy carving the walls of the 10-foot clover bowl.
"People always ask me what the best era in skateboarding was for me, and I always tell them, 'Right now,'" Caballero said. "This is a dream come true for anybody, and even for me.... I've been in the sport since 1976, [and] I would have never dreamed of a free skate park being built like this."
While Huntington Beach is known as Surf City, skateboarding has been nipping at the heels of the city's namesake sport, Hosoi said.
"We want to let everyone know that skateboarding has a huge following as well, and it's also a culture that needs a place like this to express itself," he said.
It took VF Outdoor Inc., a subsidiary of Vans' parent company VF Corp., about two years to complete the estimated $2.5 million project, which was funded solely by the company.
"The first time coming down here and seeing dirt back when we first stuck the shovels in and then coming here and seeing it finished is just beyond expectations," said Vans President Kevin Bailey. "It's super exciting to see everything from an area where beginners can start to an area that's more technical for the advanced kids. It's really a place for local kids to build their skate skills."
If You Go
What: Vans Off the Wall Skatepark
Where: 7471 Center Ave., Huntington Beach
Free to the public; open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.