Returning to the scene of the crime as it were, I decided to swing by the old Thrashers Skate Park in Menlyn. It served as a beautiful juxtaposition as I stepped out of the high sealing lobby of the Maslow Hotel @ Time Square. With the sound of elevator music still ringing in my ears, I decided to skate the 400m gap between the hotel and the skate park. Halfway down the road I realised that the days of staying up late and waking up early to go pop ollies down stairs are long gone. Like the little engine that could I had to sit down on the pavement and regain momentum. It was either that or risk my heart exploding on the side of the road as eager gamblers drove past shaking their heads.
As the oldest surviving skate park in the country, Thrashers first opened its doors in 1996 and except for the addition of a corner bowl and stairs up to the roof, Thrashers Skate Park has not changed much. I was pretty stoked to see that Puddy Zwennis’ mini-ramp is still there – it was the first ramp I ever dropped in on without falling on my face. In fact, I was stoked to see that Puddy Zwennis is still skating and actually plays a big part in the local skate scene. For those of you who don’t know, Puddy and his brother Jarques have been tearing up Pretoria since the late 90s, skating the big stairs at TUKS, and taking on handrails in the CBD. Speaking of Puddy, his skate shop, Alleyoop, can be found at Thrashers.
The park has gotten much better and the crowd a lot friendlier – there used to be these rollerbladers that would roll in in gangs and just scare 14 year old Shawn. With weekend craft and food markets, the roller derby rink actually being used for roller skating and not under age drinking (we were bad kids), and skate lessons on offer, Thrashers had to adopt and adapt in order to survive. The demolition of Boogaloos in Bright Water, and the closing down of other parks across the country, Thrashers had no choice but to expand beyond the handful of cash kids would pay to skate at the park. Besides, the dudes who used to skate their have grown up, got married, and now bring their families to the park. Full circle, as it were.
As one of the few privately owned parks left in the country, Thrashers Skate Park has a historical value that goes beyond the kids that scrape their knees every once in a while. In fact, one of the first people to grind the entire snake rail was international pro skater Eric Koston during his South African tour circa early 2000s (I want to say 2001 but think it might be 2002… but according to then Blunt photographer Sven Martin, it was 1999). There are more memories made here than at the mall down the road and that is something that needs to be preserved as development and construction tears and builds all around the park (Menlyn Maine, we’re watching you).
In closing, the park is exactly the same even though there have been some changes made. In fact, I am going to make a mission back there next weekend to skate the park again.
By Shawn Greyling