Switch Skatepark R.I.P.

Derry, Northern Ireland, yes the same Derry that once boasted 3 city centre skateshops, that once had a pro skate demo with close to 500 spectators, that also had sold out skate sessions at Templemore complex, has recently lost one of its 2 skateparks. That’s 50% of our indoor facilities gone in an instant. One day it is there and we’re debating wether to go or to hit the dry streets, the next day it’s assigned to the history books and we are left wishing and wondering.

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Justin McDermott. Airwalk the driveway.

I don’t know what it is about this city but the peaks and troughs the skateboard scene goes through here are so extreme that the skate population might go from 100 strong one summer to 5 weak the next, from a packed out skate jam on the quay one easter to a 2 man army flatbar session under Sainsbury’s undercroft the following halloween. I’m in no way wise in the ways of social patterns but I know it sucks to have to skate on your own and sucks worse to lose a skatepark.

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Marc Beggan. Hippie Jump at one of Switch Skatepark’s many competitions.

Switch is gone, gone for good they say. Switch was once a beautiful thing, it was once Rosy Surf N’ Skate, it once had cafe DOD serving cafe cultre to wee skitters with no dosh. The wildest pipedream turned into a plywood reality for all to shred, any age, any discipline and creed, any ability. Toddlers to pensiors set sail there. Local champions bred there too. The good ship Shiner sailed through in 2011 with pros like Stu Graham, Manhead, Jake Collins, the brothers Lynn pushing the place to new realms, opening local kids’ eyes wider than they though possible. That demo was the biggest event in the history of our city’s skateboarding. It will not be beaten, ever. At one stage, when the spectators were finally cleared from the arena, a professional demo on immense proportions ensued. Now personally I’ve watched every pro I’d care to see live in action at the best parks on the globe, but during that half hour of carnage I’ve yet to be as moved or simply stoked. The soundtrack was The Drunk Injuns if I remember correctly. We were proud to view and to be part of it, only in Derry could a kid approach a world class pro skater to an autograph only to be handed a hug, t shirt, beer, box of stickers or all the above. Thanks Jerome.

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Josh ‘Manhead’ Young. Backside Air on the Shiner Ship Tour

What the future holds for Derry now is again slightly uncertain, our biggest and longest running park gone, one smaller, but also well used and fine park, remaining. I guess positivity must prevail, we still have a park, we have fine street spots, at least 3 DIY projects and a strong scene where many great friendships have been forged. It must never be a matter of winners and losers, politics or backstabbing. It can only be about skateboarding, having fun onboard and pushing yourself to new limits and expanding your horizons through the greatest lifestyle in the world. Stay strong, and remember to be grateful and to show your gratitude to those that give so much to our world. The stark reality kids, is that there is next to no money in skateboarding, those that do pursue a life in the local industry do so for the love of it and for the lifestyle it brings – so they don’t have to stack shelves in Spar and you don’t have to stand outside Joyland on a Friday night. For now I’d say give a thought to those that had the vision and the dream to open the first ever skatepark in Derry and if you see them sometime offer a hardy handshake. It was them that enabled many of us to live some of the best times of our lives, and the balls and madness to make it a reality.

Words and Photos by Jay Dords

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Jay Dords. Backside Ollie. Bogginzine R.I.P.

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