Shredn’ @ BC Park

Published 11:00 pm Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Walking up to the Bennett’s Creek Park tennis courts Wednesday afternoon, it was obvious there would be no match played that day.

“Bohemian Rhapsody” was blasting from the speakers.

The metal gate that surrounds the courts had been pulled back. Inside were a series of ramps, beams and steps.

The American Ramp Company 2009 Skatepark Demo took over the tennis courts, allowing dozens of young skateboarders free reign to show their stuff on their boards. The event was originally scheduled for Aug. 14, but was rescheduled because of bad weather.

“We wanted to use this as a test for the level of interest for skating in the city,” said Suffolk Parks and Recreation Assistant Director Helen Gabriel. “Through our research and surveys, we’ve found we have a lot of youth in the city of Suffolk who were traveling outside the city to skateboard.”

To help put on the expo, Suffolk Parks and Recreation called ARC, which is a leading designer of obstacles and park layouts for skaters to ride. The company travels throughout the region setting up and tearing down sets where skateboarders can try out their boards.

More than 30 children, ages 8 to 18, showed up Wednesday afternoon to skate, learn from some skateboarding professionals and have a chance to win free T-shirts and merchandise.

Included in that group was 11-year-old Matthew Horne.

“It’s fun and it’s good exercise,” Horne said of skateboarding. He added that more children should try skateboarding, because it’s a great way of dealing with stress.

“If they have problems at home or if they get frustrated, if they learn a new trick or figure something new out on the (skateboard) than that can take their minds off things for a while,” Horne said.

Whether for stress relief or just entertainment, the skateboarding industry has a massive following.

According to an article on Shop-eat-surf.com, skateboarding has about 11 million participants in the country, which translates to a market of about $4.8 billion each year.

Will Suffolk see some of that market coming here?

It looks possible.

Gabriel said the turnout proved the interest level in Suffolk warrants the city’s attention.

“This is just a demo with a few pieces. Imagine what a full ramp (would bring),” he said.