With the news that Paarl is getting a skate park so many skaters have been asking us a ton of questions of where, when, how it’s being built and more, so we decided to get the real story directly from Dave Emmerson, visionary and leader of the project.
- Hey Dave, tell us where the park will be located in Paarl and why is it in Paarl?
The Park will be located at the MCM Sportsground on Orleans Avenue, Paarl. We wanted to build a park here because there is a growing skate community that is largely isolated from access to other local parks due to distances/ finances etc. Paarl is a very conservative place so the attitude towards skaters here isn’t great. The kids are skating in the road and in places where they constantly get chased away or are in physical danger.
We wanted to make a safe place for every skater in Paarl.
- How did you manage to get the slab funded?
I’ve been running a chapter of Christian Skaters Africa here in Paarl for about 4 years. During that time I’ve also been the youth Pastor at a local church. As a church we’ve had a desire to bless the skate community and reach them with the love of Christ in practical ways. At the end of the day we decided to put our money where our mouth is and fund the concrete, with the help of a sister church in California
- How big is the space?
BIG! It’s about 900 square meters. It’s rectangular, 20 meters wide by 40 meters long.
- Will the park be free and open 24/7? Will Christian skaters be running it?
We are really stoked to be able to partner with MCM, who are an NPO in Paarl that do also sorts of rad stuff like feeding the homeless, helping the sick and impoverished. They also run this sportsground where the park is being built. They will be overseeing the day to day running of the skatepark. As far as I know the park is open 8am to 8pm every day and yes, it will be completely free.
Christian Skaters will still very much be involved. Our head honcho and all round legend Chris van de Merwe (a roller blader but equally passionate about skateboarding) lives in Somerset West and will be travelling through to inspire the kids. Some of the local Groms and Ou Perds are also stepping up to keep the group going and organise regular sessions!
- Who is building the park? You mentioned it’s pre-fab from America.
Well the concrete has been laid as you can see, it was done by a local construction company but with all the right specifications for a skate surface (nice and thick, has the fiber-glass strengthener etc). The actually park is coming in from the states yup. It’s been donated by a charity from the U.S. who’s whole deal is recycling play parks and shipping them to areas that can’t afford ’em. They are called Kids Around The World and deserve a special mention for helping make this happen.
They had to dismantle the ramps to get them into the shipping container. This is due to arrive on the 3rd of August, sadly the same day I fly out and back to Scotland! It will take a little bit of time for the municipal safety clearance but they’ll be getting build ASAP. Right now the park staff are taking on the task for building them, under the guidance of Fransisco Naude, who runs the whole sports ground and is just a visionary guy. I’m sure he’d love help from as many skaters as possible to get the build done as quickly as possible. If anyone is keen drop him and email – firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also Tino Pietersen who lives and skates in Paarl is going to be helping plan the layout so that is flows, rather than just being a bunch of ramps on a concrete slab!
- What is the current Paarl scene like?
Vibrant. Growing. Community. Words I’d use to describe the scene in Paarl right now. This is one of the things that I love most about skateboarding – generally speaking it brings people together. As I said Paarl is very conservative and in honest it’s still quite segregated. But the skate crowd here is mixed, diverse and there is a genuine sense of acceptance and community. Kids from all different walks of life, faiths, social and economic positions are all united by the common ground of skating. I’m stoked on it!!
- You said you are going back to Scotland, how come you need to leave after finally getting this project under way?
And the award for bad timing goes to Dave Emmerson! As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been running the chapter here for about 4 years and I’ve actually been trying to get a park established pretty much that whole time. The MCM space was offered to us 2 years ago and it’s taken all this time to research and fundraise etc. I was hoping to have the park up and running long before I left but sometimes it just doesn’t go the way you hoped.
I love South Africa, I really enjoy living in Paarl and running the CS chapter has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done in my life. I’ve has so much fun pulling our little ramps out and just hanging with the kids, trying to share wisdom and encouragement with them, and to communicate something of the love of God to each skaters I’ve met. But sometimes things have to change. It’s very hard to live half way around the world away from all your family. And my wife and I have really been sensing that it’s important for our kids to grow up back in Scotland where they can have an actual relationship with their grandparents, aunties, uncles etc. As I’ve gotten older I’ve realised how important my family is to me. Don’t take your family for granted folks, they’re all you’ve got at the end of the day!
- Any last words?
I’d just like to take the opportunity to say thanks for the opportunity and exposure bro! I’ve got tons of respect for what you are doing for the skate scene and skateboarding community here in SA. Thanks a million. Also just an encouragement to all the skaters out there – your municipality might not care enough to build you a skatepark but don’t let that discourage you. Keep dreaming, praying, trusting and looking for opportunities. Persistence pays off!