The first time I heard “Ska8er Boy,” I was overwhelmed by the possibilities of an endless youth, stretching indefinitely, in media res, like her voice or like the powerful, uplifting thuds of those ’00s pop drums. It was a story about being cool and then about not being cool enough. At any rate, I remember thinking it was really cool. It was the culmination of an era; of possibility that could bounce from the elevated walls of concrete like the sunlight itself. Avril Lavigne’s soft punky voice, the alluring, dangerous boys that lurked in the background of Harmony Korine’s Kids, or anything from the two-decade plus Tony Hawk era, did it matter how we got here?  

Over at the Martinez Playground in East Williamsburg, the skaters got here by way of the largesses of the Vans footwear brand, part of an ominously-named billion dollar clothing conglomerate called the VF Corporation. They are located in Denver where they control “55% of the U.S. backpack market,” among other accomplishments. As part of its solicitation of the skater market, the brand has been behind a variety of skate parks in Brooklyn over the last decade, from the since-shuttered House Of Vans in Greenpoint to the Vans’ “Skate Space” that the company opened shortly before the pandemic in Bushwick and which recently reopened last October.

More recently, the company has thrown some money at refurbishing a once-popular skate space that had been located in a corner of a playground named after Thelma Martinez, described as “a 30-year resident of the near-by Williamsburg Houses,” according to the Parks & Recreation Department. More casually, this corner was known as the “Blue Park Skatepark,” and had been known as “the neighborhood spot for skaters,” per a local news report. The refurbished park re-openeed to mild fanfare a week ago; a Getty photographer had shown up and a photo of an anonymous boarder, pulling one of those gravity-defying feats, later appeared in Atlantic magazine. “You say [Blue Park], and I bet skateboarders across the country are going to understand what you’re talking about,” estimates Alec Beck, a longtime skateboarder who eventually landed a job working for the Tony Hawk Foundation, which was recently renamed the Skatepark Project, but is still run by Hawk. 

But maybe none of that matters. What matters is that on a typical Sunday afternoon, the 7,000 square feet of concrete slabs are being occupied by all walks of weekend life. Moody teenagers scoping out the park while waiting their turn; middle-aged men surfing in the air, quietly and confidently; unsure college graduates searching for their opening, painfully grasping their boards for the first or second time. They’re all here.  

The Martinez Playground is located at 195 Graham Avenue.

Images taken by Andrew Karpan.

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