The Rise and Fall of Skatewave Skatepark continued
Skatewave Logo from original Skateboard Park Application
SkateAlabama Facebook Page
As the 70's wound down, options for skateboarding were getting slim. Not only did the Mobile City Council cancel the bid for a new skateboard facility at Municipal Park, the council also banned skating in ditches (a local favorite) and made it illegal to skate in most downtown areas. The need for a Mobile skateboard park was greater than ever.
The work that Bob McKinney and Emil Graf began in 1977, continued under the name of the Gulf Coast Skate Parks company. The company's first priority was to locate a suitable location for the skateboard park. The company settled on a heavily, wooded area near Highway 90 where new neighborhoods were under development.
Construction of a clubhouse began at 5105 Girby Rd in July 1979. But just as the project was taking off, mother nature intervened again. September 12, 1979, Hurricane Frederic, the first hurricane in 40 years to strike Mobile, blew through the Gulf Coast wreaking havoc and further delayed the project.
The Skatewave clubhouse (later renovated for a mini-golf course)
Google Maps, 2011
As the summer of 1980 approached, Mobile's first skateboard park finally neared completion. While officially named "Skatewave," membership cards referred to the park as "Skate-A-Wave," causing confusion that lasts to this day.
Mike Folmer's original Skatewave membership card
With the park set to open in July, park manager, Bill Everett, invited the Mobile Press Register to a demonstration by local skateboarders.
Introducing..."Skatewaves". Even the paper struggled to get the park's name right.
Mobile Press Register, June 25, 1980
Team Zorlac skater and future entrepreneur, Dana Buck, and his brothers, Ross and Randall, showed off the park's pool. Mark Smith and his five-year old son, Todd also appeared. Todd became a park mascot of sorts, even appearing in a full page photo in Thrasher Magazine promoting the park.
Park manager, Bill Everett, sent in this photo of Todd Smith and accompanying letter to promote the park
Thrasher Magazine, August 1981
Despite the initial excitement, the park remained open for only one year. But what a year it was.
Team Sims skateboarders, Mike Folmer and Brad Bowman, appeared at the park and demonstrated tricks for the locals.
Skat'n News reporter, Mike Apperson, joined Bowman and Folmer for the event and reported on the local talent including: Greg Bloodsworth, Dana Buck, and Greg Abernathy.
Apperson writes in the February 1981 issue that the local skateboarders learned new tricks as fast as Folmer and Bowman could demonstrate them. He goes on to say, "Never in all my travels to skate parks, have I seen a park so hidden in the woods, reap with such talent and energy."
Brad Bowman and Mike Folmer were two of the pros to make an appearance at Skatewave. Seen here competing in Upland, California
Thrasher Magazine, January 1981
Perhaps the biggest event in Skatewave's history occurred shortly after the park opened. That August, Team Variflex put on an demonstration at the park drawing 2,000 attendees.
Variflex, a family business operated by the Losi family, took their team on the road like a skating Partridge Family. Six skateboarders made the trek in a van driven by Greg Losi and his wife.
The Team Variflex van that toured the country in 1980
Old School Skater Archive on Pinterest
Team members consisted of Eric Grisham, Steve Hirsch, Pattie Hoffman, Mike Siegfried, Fred Desoto, and Allen Losi.
An ad for the 1979 amateur Variflex team tour featuring a young Lance Mountain
As the park approached its one year anniversary, plans included the installation of a half pipe. But like many other parks of the era, Skatewave was not destined to last.
In the book Stalefish, Lance Mountain explains his experience as the world of skateboarding collapsed:
"I was an amateur when I went on the Variflex tour in 1981 and it went on for over a month. I was with six other Variflex riders and Gil Losi and Mrs. Losi in one van. The older skaters had told me how amazing these skateparks were. Before we even took off, Apple and Cherry Hill skatepark closed. Gone.
Another one in Texas closed down while we were on the way there. We went to Mobile, Alabama, for the Skate Wave, and it had also just closed while we were on the road... It felt like skateboarding was dying in front of you."
There are many explanations given for why the early skateboard parks didn't survive. Many parks were losing money. Insurance companies began refusing coverage. Parking lots became sites for loitering. For its part, Thrasher magazine attributes Skatewave's closing to "poor design".
It would be five more years before skateboarding returned to Mobile. But that is a story for another time.
The Skatewave itself would be re-purposed as a mini-golf course in 1986. The land is still in use today and remains a popular destination for local teens.
Aerial View of the Skatewave site which now serves as a mini-golf course
Next week: We shift gears with an episode dedicated to Custom Car Shows
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