Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Kona Skate Park - First Impressions

Well let's start with in in GINORMOUS (a word I might have heard from Sk8terdude today if Kona weren't so large that I couldn't see him half the time, much less hear him)... The skatepark covers so much area, in fact, that I needed to pan the camera from two separate angles in order to video the entire thing.

Now for some annoying technological reason that is beyond my sleep-deprived brain to comprehend, I haven't been able to get those videos onto this post, so hang in there and I promise to post them...somehow...eventually, so you can see for yourselves. In the meantime, you'll just have to take my word for it. (Or go online and search YouTube for some Kona videos. I'm sure there are a gazillion of them.)

We pulled into the parking lot a little after 5 p.m. Since it's Jacksonville in May, the sun was still shining, the sky was bright blue, and the temperature was just under 80 degrees fahrenheit. I don't think we made it to the check in desk before I was bitten by the first mosquito. (note to self: buy bug spray along with sunscreen tomorrow a.m.!)

I filled out the waiver while Sk8terdude watched the REQUIRED Kona orientation video, which explained park rules ( your moves...yell "loose board" if your board gets away from you, etc.), and showed him which areas of the park were for beginners and which were for advanced skaters. I have to say I was really glad to see the video (I mean, I was glad that it existed and that Sk8terdude had to watch it). The park is really intimidating to newcomers and the video helped explain a lot. I love that Kona takes skateboarding safety seriously.

While he was watching, I was paying - or not paying - for him to skate. During a quick look at their website during our planning stages, I noticed that kids can skate free for five consecutive days if they have all As and Bs on their report cards. Luckily for me, Sk8terdude's most recent progress report qualified him for free skating, as well as a discount ($5 instead of $7) on the one-time registration fee. I brought a copy of the report card with me and took advantage of the opportunity to save the cost of entry for our three days here.

The park was busier than I would have expected on midweek after 5 p.m., but the bigger surprise to me was the number of parents (fathers) skating with their kids. Kona has a "parents skate free with paid admission for children" policy - but I promise that's not enough to get ME on a skateboard! It was great to see, however, and one dad gets a big shout-out and thank you. He called in his two kids and their two friends and introduced them all to Sk8terdude and, within minutes, Sk8terdude was skating with a pack of "new best friends." Later, as we were leaving, the dad said he would be out of town tomorrow, but he would make sure his daughter drove the boys over after school to skate with Sk8terdude again. Talk about a warm welcome!

My advanced planning paid off in a few other ways, but failed miserably in one really important one. When I called Kona last week to finalize details (and book a private skate lesson for tomorrow), I was careful to ask key questions.

Does Kona have a parent lounge?

They told me the parent lounge was an area in the skate shop with booths and tables.

Does Kona have free wi-fi in the parent lounge?

They told me the parent lounge does indeed have free wi-fi.

They neglected to tell me (but I was delighted to see) that there are also many areas outside where parents can watch the action. In addition to bleachers near the "street course," there are picnic tables on a deck overlooking the lower half of the park and, my personal favorite, picnic tables in a covered area up above the bowls. This is a view from down below:

And here's the best part: there is an electrical outlet up there and...MAYBE...the wi-fi signal will be strong enough for me to sit outside tomorrow and work (or blog, or waste time surfing the internet) while enjoying this beautiful weather.

As for my big research failure - it was a question I never thought to ask:

What about the bathrooms???

If you've been reading this blog from the beginning, I can already hear you snickering. (If not, you can read my very first post, which includes the bathroom saga, here.)

Well it turns out that the Kona bathrooms are currently being renovated. That's probably great news for local folks and future visitors. But for us, this week, the only options are the port-o-potties outside in the hot Florida sun or a trip down the road to anyplace with running water. I'm sure Sk8terdude won't care...but I will!

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