Words and Photos by Skeeto.
Events at the Skate Barn, despite year or theme, are always the same. They are a family reunion. The Skate Barn Hampstead 500 Skate Contest held in Hampstead, North Carolina, on Saturday, May 22, 2021, had arrivals from in-town, out-of-state, and also from places nobody knows. There were those we have seen a thousand times and known for 20 years to those that we have never met and will never see again.
The stoke is on high. The music is loud. The grinds are deep. The buzz can be sensed from all around. The slams achieve a collective, “Ooohhhh” from the spectators. The riders eat it with a smile, and scrape themselves up with a spatula to try again. Those on heckle hill use words of intimidation not to put down, but to lift up, and to drive one to fight through the fire and do it again. And again. And again. “Walk it off!!”, and “Get in there!!” are common expressions. All the while, the stoked smash their tails on the coping, and yell “Yeaaaahhh!!” until voices are sore from a day of yelling at each other. It’s all love. This event was no different.
Allow me to paint you a picture. Imagine a heavily wooded area off a state highway. Dirt and sand roads are like veins through the clearings of foliage. Within this area lies a swamp with waterways, cypress trees, raccoons, squirrels, bugs, freaks of nature and the whole 9. Trees literally grow sideways in some areas.
This swamp contains a dry patch of area where skateboarders have created a private, yet welcoming, haven. The Skate Barn is a skatepark that has been around since 1996. A brick face with a pitched, metal roof, nearly 20 ft. high, perhaps 50 yards long and 25 yards wide, roughly, give or take, is encased in corrugated sheet metal.
Outside is a 6′ tall, 24′ wide mini ramp, with a sheet metal surface. “The Throne of Skate Barn” I like to call it. There are murals and graffiti on the giant metal doors on the face of the building. There is a beautiful memorial mural of waves, and the names of fallen family, on the mini ramp. We ride for them, as they cannot.
Two large decks, on either side, provide seating with benches, and an overhang on one side to provide cover. A concrete playground exists beyond the half pipe with uniquely crafted scoops, bumps, chutes and walls. It’s a carver’s heaven that lines the length of the barn structure and perhaps another 25 yards across. There are a few standard obstacles, with names like “quarter pipe” “waterfall”, and “love seat”, but the rest of the surfaces don’t really fit for labeled names. There are areas deemed as “the taco”, and “the battle zone”, and “Hans’ Run.” Hand-molded concrete coping fits most of the lips, with bull-nosed brick coping for a stretch across the love seat.
Indoors lies a dusty but trusty skate shop with a shop attendant. You pay a small fee to this attendant for access to the skatepark, and he provides you the opportunity to buy drinks and snacks, or boards and wheels, should you need them. I lovingly refer to this attendant as “The Barn Tender.”
As you walk through a doorway and up a set of stairs, the scene changes to a wooden paradise of transitions. Bowls, pipes, hips, a pyramid, and a big bank-to-wall, are all set up for endless carves and no need to push. Pool coping, metal coping, no coping… There are vertical and narrow surfaces as well as wide and mellow playtime areas all with transfer opportunities galore. Time to go fast!
This event aimed to raise money for park projects and bring the community together, and contests were held inside and outside. Vendors lined one side of the skatepark selling trinkets, repurposed skateboards, artwork and there was even a massage therapist! Spa at the Skatepark… somebody had a brilliant idea with that one! A food truck was posted outside to feed the need for speed. Kids, parents, rippers, musicians, artists, contestants and homies made up the bulk of attendees.
This contest began in the 3′ bowl, inside, for beginners and intermediate riders. There was a woman’s division as well and some of the girls rode roller skates! Rad! Winners were announced, prizes were given and a product toss ensued with victors raising their earnings proudly. The place was packed!
There was another division held for the indoor “park” section at different skill levels. This is when the “advanced” crew began to really tear around the park. The level of control was widely noticeable. Each skater had a few runs to fly around and strut their stuff. Good, strong energy!
Then to the 5′ Bowl for an “Open” format contest. Riders of any level took to the kidney-shaped bowl, shredding wood, metal and concrete to hype up the crowd. There were winners, and losers, but everybody had fun.
Afterwards the contest moved to “The Throne”, the mini ramp outside with another open format event. People were hucking themselves across the metal surface, into the air, and across the coping rails at their best. Spills, makes, and plenty of stoke filled the area of this ramp, until each rider had put forth all of their effort.
Winners were announced for prior and recent divisions, and it was onward to the concrete section. This is where the bands set up and played through the skating. That is always the best, when live music fuels the drive to pull out the stops. Songs like “Bring Beer or Go Home”, and “How Are You Coping” pervaded the airways and eardrums. A best trick contest wrapped up the divisions of competition.
Even during competitive events, skateboarders flooded the other areas of the park. Once the last division finished and all winners were announced, everyone began to skate all over the park while more bands played. Friends and family shared stories, caught up on the times, and joked with each other throughout the entire day.
Some even stayed the night, camping in their cars. That’s what always what completes the family reunion. To stay up late and enjoy some cold brews, fortify our bonds, and sleep under the stars of the swamp. I found myself near a campfire, late at night, meeting new friends, discussing old memories and visions of the future. Maximizing the experience until I was too tired to stand. Sleep.
Then the next day comes, the sun over the cypress, body busted and crusty, and it’s back to real life. Or is the family reunion ‘real life?’ Are they separate? It’s hard to tell. I do believe, in those moments, we feel the most alive. The instances of heightened vibrations and connections between like-minded individuals push one’s spirit to its maximum expression. To make it, or die trying. To die trying, and then make it!
To see those people you love, ones you don’t see every day, remember those who can no longer attend, and create memories that can potentially last a lifetime… THAT–is a Skate Barn family reunion. There have been many like it before, through The Barn’s 24 years of activity, yet every one is different in its own way. The only thing that never changes is a love for skateboarding. This is tough love at its finest, making us stronger for it. Together, we ride!
Special Thanks to park owner, Jimmy Ellington, and event organizer, Mark Houdeshell.
Saturday, May 22, 2021, @theskatebarn presented the inaugural Hampstead 500 with a prize purse for the Advanced/Sponsored Concrete Skate Jam. The Skate Barn after party featured bands: Shr3dcrust – The Girls – Patriot – American Oi
The Skate Barn is located at 155 Pansy Ln., Hampstead, North Carolina 28443. Offering 6000 square feet of indoor ramps and obstacles, with a new skate track, the skate park is a paradise for skaters, now with a new egg shaped bowl out back in the woods. Learn more about The Skate Barn at https://www.theskatebarn.com.