x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Indoor skatepark open for boarders young and old

Zoo Skatepark, at a rough and ready warehouse in Al Quoz, will have its official opening at the end of the month.

Hirman Asnadi, a Zoo Skatepark instructor, teachs a child to skateboard. Clint McLean for The National
Hirman Asnadi, a Zoo Skatepark instructor, teachs a child to skateboard. Clint McLean for The National

DUBAI // A new air-conditioned indoor skatepark will officially open at the end of the month.

Set up by a group of skateboard enthusiasts and the Ignite Group, a fitness company, Zoo Skatepark, which caters to restless youngsters during the hot summer months, is located at a warehouse on the corner of a major junction in Al Quoz.

It has been operational since May.

“We noticed there was a void in the market for kids to be able to do skating or extreme sports in a safe environment that was air conditioned and that they could take advantage of for 12 months of the year,” said Guillaume Mariole, the chief executive of the Ignite Group.

Aside from the words “skate park” daubed freehand in black paint on a whitewashed warehouse wall, the venue is not immediately obvious to passers-by. But it will have its signage put up soon, according to its manager, Jeremy Klynsmith, a 29-year-old South African.

“It’s been just a soft opening, so we haven’t been too aggressive on the marketing,” he said. “But we’re slowly getting the word out.”

There are several outdoor skateparks in Dubai, including the Tashkeel skatepark, a half-pipe park in Al Mamzar, and an indoor bowl in the World Trade Centre run by local skatewear brand Rage.

Mr Klynsmith, a skater for 18 years who has been living in Dubai for the past six years, said the sport was becoming more popular.

“There’s a range of people – from the beginners at five years old to the more experienced guys at 35 or 40,” he said. “Recently I’m seeing more and more kids getting involved.

“Because we mostly have outdoor areas here, there are normally fewer people skating in the summer. That’s why I think this place will be popular.”

He had previously designed a skatepark of a size similar to Zoo Skatepark when the Ignite Group approached him to manage its project. Mr Klynsmith worked with No Plan B, a local company, and Carl de Villiers, to design and build the skatepark.

More then Dh500,000 was invested in the skatepark, and with user fees at Dh30 an hour and Dh75 a day, Mr Mariole said he did not expect the skatepark to become profitable for at least two years.

He said he had plans to attract private bookings for events such as birthday parties and corporate events, as well as seeking brand sponsors.

Zoo Skatepark has beginner slopes and steps, quarter pipes and half pipes, a grinding box, and an intimidating slope that is known as a “vert bowl”.

Skateboarding lessons are available for Dh195 an hour.

Parents have to sign a legal waiver for their children even though children have to wear protective gear, such as helmets.

“We teach them the basics and make sure they’re not throwing them down anywhere dangerous,” said Mr Klynsmith. “But at the end of the day, this is a place where kids come to try to express themselves and get creative.

“Skateboarding is an extreme sport and it has its risks.”

Although skateboarding encourages children to exercise and be more sociable, there is more to skating than that, according to Mr Klynsmith.

“Skateboarding is really a subculture, and it’s a lifestyle. It’s not so much about getting fit as it is an art form and a form of expression.”

mcroucher@thenational.ae