Since the mid 90’s MacLean Park has been my haunt. ‘The Rink’ as we affectionally called it, is located in Paraparaumu Beach on the Kapiti Coast. An hour north of Wellington, Param Beach is a quiet holiday location with a small shopping village and an ice-cream licking tourism ‘industry’. The jewel in the crown of this quiet community is in my opinion MacLean Park.
Hang on, let’s step it back a sec.
I had a skateboard back in the ‘chocolate fish’ days in my home town of Dunedin. My friend down the street had a basic quarter pipe on his drive. It was one of those ones that his Dad built with a sloping surface and no real transition. More a ‘wedge’ I guess you’d call it. We spent a lot of time skating it because we lived in a cul-de-sac with a steep hill at either end. The hill wasn’t really worth the climb unless you had somewhere cool to go and unfortantly all that was on offer were a school and some shops.
When my family and I moved to Wellington in my 6th form year, we settled in Whiby – a suburb of Porirua City. My brother and I joined the small crowd of kids that trained up the coast to attend college. When checking out the area prior to moving, we discovered MacLean Park and I was instantly motivated to get back into skateboarding!
I spent most of my weekends during my final college years at the rink. I made friends with a couple of local skaters from school and I would bring my gear on a Friday, skate all weekend, then train home on Sunday evening smelly and exhausted. We used to skate all hours too. We’d be there early morning until whatever time of night we were knackered, or they killed the lights.
Back in those days the rink was surrounded by a large wire fence. During daytime hours you’d have to enter via the kiosk over the duck pond and pay $2 to get in. If you were early (as we often were) then you’d get in for free, or sometimes they’d come round and try to convince you to pay a dollar.
The thing that overwhelming made the park an insane place to be (besides the friendships) - were the obstacles. At some point the park has undergone a major redesign and the cool stuff that we used to go there for, consigned to history. :-(
How it used to be
The bowl han’t changed – so I won’t go into a lot of detail there. Check out the accompanying pictures to get an idea. It flanks the southern end and eastern sides of the park. Starting at the southern end with a raised hip (we skated that area a lot) if you head west it accumulates to a large pool like bowl and then mellows along the eastern side into a series of surf like waves where it eventually joins the flat section via a series of decreasing banks.
In the middle is a large flat ground section. Once upon a time in the middle proudly stood two large wooden structures – a full sized vert ramp which backed directly onto a mini ramp. The mini ramp was actually pretty gnarly and steep compared to the concrete ramps which reside there now. Both were great for doing tricks onto, riding across and then doing another trick off. The mini ramp was essentially just a lip high, but the vert was two and a half curbs to get on.
Down the northern end on the bowl side stood a quarterpipe. A metal framed wooden ramp which was always a pretty ragged surface. The wood seemed to be flaking all year round and although we used it a fair bit to build up speed, there was always a good chance of hanging up in the small wheel days. I only saw a handful of skaters with the steel balls and inclination required to drop in! (Max)
On the other side of the miniramp was a nice long rail. It was made of metal square box section – that’s the best I can describe it. It was mounted to the ground and perhaps 12-13 cm high and 3 – 4 meters long. The advantage of it being only a little higher than your average curb was that it was really accessible to everyone and great for learning boardsldes, nose slides and grinds. My best trick by far, was a meter long fakie nose grind 5-0.
Making your way back towards the kiosk, the next obstacle was a manual box. This was basically a bigger more rectangular version of a pallet. Like the vert ramp, lots of fun to flip onto, manual and flip off, or switch ollie 180 on backside ollie off, etc.
There was a funny spine ramp. Quite small. Good to transition across, and the odd person blasted it, but generally used for turning around or fakie rock to line up something fakie or switch – the manual box for example.
Lastly I remember a fun box. Again like almost everything described so-far, made of wood and a little unpredictable in winter due to water logging. I didn’t really skate the fun box much. I could backside kickflip from one transition to the other, but I wasn’t big on railing stuff. One time my mate max used the long rail attached to the fun box - for the ultimate in long sloping boardslide action. That was rad!
Why is everything so gnarly?
As you can see from the pictures, times have changed at MacLean Park. The flat section has been totally redesigned, I wish I could say for the better, but alas... I’m not sure if it’s personal preference or I’m just an old grommit but it feels like MacLean Park has lost its mojo. Its definently lost the variety of accessible obstacles that made it a blast to skate back in the day. I found an old petition online calling for the return of the miniramp. It dates back to 2012 and gathered 245 signatures but obviously didn't get the required traction. Quite a few of the permanet concrete structures that are there now are essentially un-skatable in my opinion (unless you’re at an advanced level), but the overall flow of the obstacles just doesn’t work either – the worst being the obstruction of the fabled hip at the southern end (see pic below).
It isn’t just MacLean Park either. It seems that skate park designers are building most new parks with Eric Koston in mind.
A tourists observation
I wanted to end on an interesting observation from a British tourist. He uploaded this video to YouTube that he filmed while here on holiday in 1991 and made the following observaton in the description:
“Looking online it appears the park has since had a revamp. Now I am not, and never have been a skater but the new layout looks a pathetic affair compared to this. I wonder if New Zealand has a Health and Safety paranoia like we do in the UK?”
Did you skate MacLean Park back in the old days?
Do you agree with my comments or maybe you like the new design better?
Feel free to share your thoughts by posting a comment.