Whether you’re skating a park, a plaza or some random spot, there’s a high chance you’ll run into an assorted collection of weird and wacky characters. Some are just bystanders, keen to see something go down. They don’t really care if it’s a trick or the skater themselves, they just want to catch something for their Instagram story. Others aren’t there for the skating at all. Spend enough time at enough skateparks and city spots, and you’ll know it’s not just skaters drawn to the concrete and coping, the marble and masonry; there’s a host of pests always lurking around. From junkies and juvies to over-protective parents, here are a few we always seem to run into...
Words by Harvey Ferle. Illustration by Indi Russell.
Meth-Head On A Mountain Bike
This guy could be anywhere between 20 and 45 years old. It’s hard to tell though, because the chemicals have taken their toll. Like Agent Smith in The Matrix, he always seems to be wearing the same thing, regardless of where in Australia you see him. Straddling his suspiciously new bike, he’s usually rocking a Ford or Holden cap, trackies and trainers from the early 2000s, and a faded Jim Beam or Jack Daniel’s shirt. He doesn’t stick around for long. If you’re at a park, he’ll do a few laps, taking the weirdest lines, before launching out of a flat bank but getting nowhere near as high as he thought he would. At a spot, he’ll pull a mono that disappoints everyone who sees it – even himself. Before he rides off into the sunset, he’ll ask you what ABEC bearings you’re riding or if he can “borrow” a smoke.
One of the more frustrating skatepark characters, Lolly-Pop Lady brings her kid to the park despite it clearly being way too young; her little bundle of joy seems to have only recently learned to walk. Her kid is usually riding one of those little wooden bikes with no pedals, slapping around with no idea there are other people trying to use the park. She sits eagle-eyed and nervous until a close call sets her into action; Lolly-Pop Lady then decides to take it upon herself to direct traffic in the skatepark so her kid can plod along unimpeded for the rest of the afternoon. Unfortunately, the section she chooses as her own is usually the exact part of the park you want to skate.
Free Child Care Karen
The polar opposite to Lolly-Pop Lady, Free Child Care Karen drops her kid at the park and perches up to read Facebook posts about vaccination, essential oils or the Royal Family. To her, this is an hour or two of “me time”. Despite her child also being far too young for the skatepark, Karen couldn’t really care what happens; every time her child screams, “Watch me mummy!” she answers with a disinterested “Mmm-hmm, that’s nice, sweety.” She then seems genuinely surprised when the kid eventually eats shit on its plastic primary-coloured tricycle. She looks for someone to blame, seemingly oblivious to the fact her child has the coordination and motor skills of a baked potato.
This kid means well, and you don’t want to be a dick, but they just won’t stop talking. They have an inability to pick up on the social cues that you have a bit going on and aren’t really up for a chat. There you are, about to give it another shot, when they ask: “What size board do you ride?”, “Have you seen the latest Berrics?”, or most annoying of all, “You should try...” The Vortex loves giving other people tips and advice on how to land their tricks even though you’ve never seen them land any of their own.
A variation of The Vortex is the Skate Dad. Mainly seen at skateparks, he’s likely to be rocking a trucker hat, knee-length Dickies, high socks and Old Skools – extra points for a wallet chain. He could never skate himself, so he’s living out his unfulfilled dreams through his kid. On the sidelines every afternoon, he won’t stop boasting about the tricks he’s been pushing his little protégé to learn, how many likes “we” got on Instagram, and all the potential sponsorship prospects he’s been cooking up. The kid will most likely burn out on skating before they hit 16 and never touch a board again. Thanks, Dad.
The Rat Pack
These kids usually travel in a group of three and there’s always a clear Alpha Rat with pronounced vermin-like features. Typically around 14 years old, they think they’re badass and don’t seem to do a whole lot, apart from smoking cigarettes and trying to look tough. Decked out in classic eshay attire, from the TNs to the Nautica polo shirt, the most annoying thing about the Rat Pack is that for every drag on a cigarette they take, they spit on the ground three or four times. Make sure you don’t end up with their spit on your grip. And keep an eye on your gear when the Rats are around. They’d never directly confront you, but if they can sneak off with your stuff, they will. One of them might ask for a go on your board. If you let them, there’s a 100 per cent chance you’re about to see an attempt at either a double-flip or a varial flip.
There’s nothing more uncomfortable than seeing a middle-aged man on a scooter. If you’re in the city on a weekday this guy will be scooting his way through the CBD in a suit, talking quarterly reports and metrics on his Air Pods while thinking he’s killing it. In reality, the only thing he’s killing is any chance he has at procreating.