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.
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.