These winding paths and vertical ramps have been inspiring skateboarders for nearly half a century.
Skateboarding dates back to the 1950s, when surfers in California were looking for a way to ride when the waves were uncooperative. They affixed wheels to shorter boards and a new sport was born. As it spread around the country—and the world—skaters soon realized that sidewalks and roads weren’t always ideal for this new invention.
Tucson, Arizona, gave skateboarders the perfect place to perfect the nascent sport in September 1965: Surf City, the world’s first skatepark. It offered skaters a curved track made of smooth concrete. Surf City ceased operation in 1979, but not before it spawned others across the country, including Jacksonville, Florida’s iconic Kona Skate Park, which has been recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the “longest surviving privately owned skatepark” anywhere on earth.
The park opened in 1977, but the first couple of years were an uphill battle. Following its second bankruptcy in two years, the Ramos family purchased and reopened the property in 1979, dedicating the park to “the youth of Jacksonville.” The new owners made a number of changes which ranged from banning smoking and drinking to pioneering the world’s first vert ramp, all of which has enabled the skatepark to endure and thrive.
Just how iconic is Kona? If its concrete hills and snake run seem familiar, it might be because it was featured as one of the levels in the video game Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4. It’s also launched the careers of more than 20 professional skateboarders in the last four decades. In addition to regular open skating, they also offer camps and lessons and host a variety of events and competitions.
Know Before You Go
Kona Skatepark is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Tuesday through Friday, and 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday. It's closed on Monday.
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