Riverslide skate park on a roll

Riverslide skate park on a roll

By Emma Hartley

Riverslide skate park has seen exciting changes in its community – and the introduction of skateboarding as an Olympic sport is only one of them.

Riverslide skate park manager Ryan Harbottle has seen a different group of skateboarders in the park over the past few years as women have started to pick up boards.

“Some of the feedback that we received was that it was somewhat of an intimidating space for beginners and females to enter,” Mr Harbottle said. “So, we created the girls only space – during that time girls take priority use of the skate park.”

Skateboarding emerged out of California during the 1950s and has been associated with younger age demographics. Sport Australia AusPlay 2021 data estimates more than 187,000 Australians participate in skate activities, the most predominant of which is skateboarding.

But despite skateboarding included as part of the 2020 Olympic games, Mr Harbottle wanted to foster an environment that celebrated individual achievements rather than only “the best”.

“It’s become a lot more open for people to participate rather than being, if you’re not good enough, you shouldn’t be doing it,” he said.

“With women coming into the sport, that’s probably helped with that as well.”

Both thanks to the Olympic spotlight and COVID, Riverslide has seen an increase in activity recently. Skateboarders have come both locally and from outer Melbourne to meet at the park.

“It’s a real melting pot,” Mr Harbottle said. “As much as we have people who live locally, we also have the people that are our locals in that they are the people who are here every day and make up our community.” •

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