Kona Skate Park
Constructed in the summer of 1975 and opened in 1977, Kona skatepark holds bragging rights as the oldest operating skatepark in the world. The skatepark has been owned by the Ramos family since 1979. The skatepark is known historically for its contests, events, and being a catalyst to the foundation of moder skatepark construction. 40 years later they are alive and thriving, supporting Jacksonville with all different events for the community.
Backstory and Context
Originally constructed in 1975 and opened in June 1977, Kona
Skate park in Jacksonville Florida is todays current oldest operating skate
park. It is known as a legendary skate park worldwide throughout the
skateboarding community. They’re known for their many community events and
annual contest that they host. The park was even featured in one of the Tony
Hawk Pro Skater video game installments. The skate park has stood strong since.
Most of the concrete is still the original. They’ve survived bankruptcy,
gentrifications of the city, and multiple hurricanes. It seems by now there is
no end in sight for Kona.
Construction for the park first began in 1975 in the Arlington neighborhood of Jacksonville. After the opening, local skaters began flocking the park. It was originally a fully concrete skate park, with installments of wooden ramp sections added years later. For its time, Kona was a very state-of-the-art skate park. Its layout consisted of two snake runs (long, curvy downhill paths), bowls, a pool, and the first vert ramp. Skateboarding the 70's was still in a very primitive form. People we’re generally just riding down hills and sidewalks at that point, so these huge ramps and flowy snake runs must have been amazing to first witness. Skateboarding was made as an attempt to imitate surfing, and these new ramps we’re essentially the concrete waves all the skaters we’re searching for. After being open for only 8 weeks, by demand of the local skaters, the now famous "Tombstone" extension on top of the “big bank” at the end of the snake run was added. This particular obstacle is known worldwide for being a difficult yet extremely fun addition to the ramp. Kona hosted the skateboarding contest the US Open in 1978. This contest had brought in many skateboarders from the west coast that have never seen the park before. This was before skateboarding videos we’re being made or contests broadcasted on television, so spectators from across the east coast migrated south to see these west coast pros in action.
Skateboarding has gone through multiple recessions, the first being in the end of the 70s. Skate parks and skate shops we’re closing down. In 1979, Kona skate park faced bankruptcy, but was bought out by the Ramos family. Martin Ramos Jr, the son, is the current owner and operator today. The Ramos’s had a vision for the skate park. They understood their resources and how they could make a positive change in the community. Kona also stood by their family values, not allowing smoking, drinking, or even cursing inside the park. The Ramos’s had dedicated the park in their reopening to the “Youth of Jacksonville”. They also made the addition of their own skateboard shop, which allowed more people in the community to skate. This was a huge help for the skateboarding community considering the lack of skate shops during the period. Kona was thriving and alive while the rest of skateboarding seemed almost dead throughout the rest of the country.
Once the early 80’s hit, skateboarding had taken its next step in skate-able terrane. Kona had built a ramp which is called a Vert ramp, that consists of two ramps parallel to each other which allow you to keep riding back and forth on each other. If looked at from the side, it looks like a giant U. Kona was the first skate park to have one of these. The original was wooden, then they built a concrete one, then later, building another wooden one bigger than the first two combined. Kona also hosted the first ever Pro-Am vert ramp contest within skateboarding. This sparked a flame for rest of the decade of the 1980s. Vert skating had become the most popular form of skating worldwide at the time. Kona had claimed fame to being the host of over hundreds of contests throughout the following years. To this day their reputation still holds up for putting on these amazing, all-inclusive events for the local community.
In June 2017, Kona happily celebrated their 40th anniversary, hosting a huge skate event that included contests, free foods and prizes, along with other events. Current owner Martin Ramos spoke on how Kona is different than other skate parks now a day. It’s not only a safe and fun environment for adventurous wayward children, it’s becoming a multi-generational landmark for families. Ramos stated in an interview last year with the Visit Jacksonville website, “Jacksonville is a multi-generational skateboarding community. It’s common for a grandparent to bring his son and grandson to Kona, and all three are skating. The grandparent would be talking about being here the first-year Kona opened, and how he brought his son here.” (Ramos 3). I have personally only been able to go to this skate park once, but I plan on going again soon. Kona is a ray of sunshine that keeps shining through any cloud that may come over skateboarding. They have made an impact on not just the skateboard community in Jacksonville, but the on the community worldwide.
“Kona Skatepark - World's Oldest Operating Skatepark.” Kona Skate Park, www.konaskatepark.com/.
“Kona Skatepark: 40 Years of Gnar Celebration in Jacksonville, Florida.” Juice Magazine, 4 Aug. 2017, juicemagazine.com/home/kona-skatepark-40-years-of-gnar-celebration-in-jacksonville-florida/.
Patty. “KONA: 40 Years Strong.” Visit Jacksonville, 8 May 2018, www.visitjacksonville.com/blog/kona-40-years-strong/.