Even though I’m no skater, I’ve always considered Rochester to be a perfect location for an outdoor skatepark. Being a place that misses out on some of the pleasures awarded to big-name cities like New York or Chicago, Rochester fosters a grungy, do-it-yourself attitude in the pursuit of having fun, which breathes unique life into the cultural centers of the city, and gives them that singular Rochester flavor. So, when I noticed a skate park was being built under the highway on-ramp downtown, I was excited — not because I wanted to learn to skate (I’m a coward), but because a skate park is a perfect setting to facilitate the DIY charm of Rochester, acting as a sort of melting pot for people of all walks of life to bond over sick tricks and scraped up shins.
So, this past Saturday, I decided to visit the skatepark for the first time; not only to take a closer look at its physical design, but to take a peek at the sort of crowds it attracts.
When I approached the skatepark on foot, I noticed that all the skaters took cover from the rain under the highway, concentrating on a small slab of concrete with a ramp on the far end and a few rails to grind on. It was fascinating to see this small group of skaters take refuge under the highway together, but before I’d have a chat with them, I wanted to take a closer look at the rest of the skatepark itself.
I was struck by how much care went into the park’s upkeep and design. Totally clear of any litter, the half pipes, grind rails, and bowls were designed with a consistent blue and yellow color scheme. There were even multicolored rows of tile that lined the top edge of the park’s bowls (see featured photo). My favorite touch was the Rochester city logo acting as a sort of support beam for a few of the grind rails.
After asking if I could take some photos for this article, I began chatting with Rochester skater Angel Vazquez.
“All you need is a slab of concrete and a ramp, and you can spend thousands of hours learning hundreds of tricks,” Vazquez said, gesturing towards the small area of concrete protected from the rain. “And once you’ve learned them all, you can do it all over again with a different stance.”
He then pointed toward the other skaters. “Look at all these people. So many people from different walks of life come here to skate. No matter the color of your skin, or your denomination, everyone is brought together here by skating.”
He then specifically pointed out a young man doing tricks on a nearby grind rail, saying, “See him? He’s my best friend. He’s not able to understand me because he’s deaf, but we love to skate together. We communicate with each other through a notepad.”
After this conversation, I took a few videos of Vazquez doing a grind on the quarter pipe and got this bitchin’ action shot.
Soon after my conversation with Vazquez was over, I had to run off to my car because the parking meter I barely paid for was about to expire. And as odd as it sounds, while I was strolling back over the pavement thinking about our conversation, it felt as though the ground under my feet had a pulse. Even during a rainy day, life’s heartbeat can be found at that park, pounding to the rhythm of polyurethane wheels rolling over concrete.