“As a skateboarder, this is a game-changer,” Isaiah Secrest said of Eau Claire’s new Boyd Skate Park. “I think it’s all kind of a dream come true.”
The new 5,200-square-foot skate park near downtown Eau Claire is a concrete playground for skaters of all kinds – from rollerbladers to those on trick bikes, and of course, skateboarders. More than double the size of Lakeshore Park’s skate spot, Boyd Skate Park is loaded with the kinds of features Chippewa Valley skaters have been dreaming of: a large half pipe, stairs, a hip, ramps and railings, and more. Even weeks ahead of its grand opening, beginner and advanced skaters alike have been gathering at the park from sunrise to sunset.
Boyd Skate Park’s official grand opening will be Saturday, June 17, with a ribbon cutting slated for 10am and a skate contest at noon, hosted by the Eau Claire Skaters Association.
“WE’VE BEEN WAITING YEARS JUST TO GET SOMETHING LIKE THIS.”
The Eau Claire Skaters Association was formed back in 2009 by local Gabe Brummett with a mission to unite local skateboarders and work with the City of Eau Claire on skateboarding-related projects and advocacy efforts. Members of the association and its presence have been key in Boyd Skate Park's ideation and fruition; the group was founded before the the skate plaza at Lakeshore Park was built.
Longtime locals may recall when the Eau Claire City Council approved $55,000 to go toward the construction of Eau Claire’s first free, public skate spot at Lakeshore Park (900 Broadway St., Eau Claire). An additional $1,000 was raised by community members, and Lakeshore Skate Plaza officially opened in the summer of 2013.
Lakeshore’s skate spot was the hopeful beginning of what could have been a series of smaller, 2,000- to 4,000-square-foot skating areas throughout the city. Detailed in the Eau Claire Comprehensive Plan in 2015, the city identified the community-wide desire for skateparks and listed skateparks as one of its objectives – “Create several small concrete plazas of 2,000 to 4,000 square feet in various parts of the city for skate parks” – alongside supporting additional disc golf courses, tennis and pickleball courts, community gardens, Fairfax Park and Pool, and more.
Yet Lakeshore’s skate spot remained the only one for about a decade. As Volume One noted in June 2013, “The 2,000-square-foot plaza will cater to beginning to intermediate-level skaters and will include features such as stairs, railings, and low curbs … but no quarter pipes, bowls, or other large structures.”
The local skating community has rallied together for decades, and Boyd Skate Park is a piece of that commitment come to life.
And despite a longtime – and arguably outdated – view of skateboarders and skateboarding culture as wholly made up of risk-taking daredevils and punks, skateboarding has an extensive history as a professional sport parallel to its distinctive youth-led subculture. That daring style of street skating marked by a punk aesthetic and roguish, impressive tricks is what made legends out of Mark Gonzales, Rodney Mullen, Tony Hawk, and so many others. The X Games and other alternative sports competitions further established skateboarding in its place among professional sports – the Olympics recognizing skateboarding as a competitive sport for the first time in 2021 – though its individualistic style distinguishes it from traditional team sports. Those same elements continue to be a draw for skaters today, including those who are spending time at Boyd Skate Park.
“When I was in high school I played baseball and the ‘normal’ sports, but I never clicked with those kids,” said Finn Larson, a local 17-year-old skater who first started at age 10. “When I started skateboarding, I progressed because all the older guys were teaching me. It’s something else; you can bond with people of all ages, all kinds of people, and it’s not weird because we’re all enjoying one activity – it’s pretty cool.”
While preparing to write about Boyd Skate Park's grand opening, I headed to the place in question, mostly standing at the sideline and observing (something I am quite attuned to as a writer).
I watched about 25 skaters flying across the cement all at once, some standing at the top of the bowl or at the top of the hip, kids suited up in helmets and knee pads alongside clearly experienced adults, all grinning at one another and shouting words of encouragement after a trick pulled off or totally botched, and it was clear: This sport that demands individuality from its athletes is also one which creates flourishing community, completely crossing the typical boundaries of age and background.
Secrest, who’s been skating for 20 of his 25 years, reflected similar sentiments: “I think (the wide age-range of skaters) just speaks to skateboarding in itself. It’s kind of universal; you could travel across the world and see it doesn’t really matter what age you are, just pick up a skateboard and have fun with it.”
FOR ANY PARENTS OUT THERE ... LET (KIDS) SKATE HERE AT A SAFE PLACE ... LET THEM GET INTO THIS COMMUNITY, BECAUSE THEY'RE GOING TO MAKE LIFELONG FRIENDS. IT'S DEFINITELY HAPPENED TO ME.
Chippewa Falls native Bradley Dorwin, 17, picked up skateboarding as a sixth-grader after Larson introduced him to it. “I always thought (skateboarding) looked cool, but I didn’t know where to start,” he recalled. “Then every day after school in sixth grade, I came out (to Lakeshore Park) all the time, just hanging out with new people, meeting new people, and (Larson) showed me Passion Board Shop.”
The Eau Claire skate scene wouldn’t be what it is today without local skate hub Passion Board Shop (218 N Dewey St., Eau Claire), which all of the skaters I spoke to mentioned. Some bought their first boards there, some work there, some head to it as the usual meet-up and hang-out spot, and others just know its owner as an “awesome guy.”
Chris Johnson, owner of Passion Board Shop and host of the successful Passion Pod podcast, is deeply intertwined with the local skating community and its progress. From seeing Lakeshore’s skate area come to life after being part of its fundraising efforts for years, to filling the city’s void of a skate shop by opening Passion Board Shop, his mission – and that of the skating community – has largely stayed the same: creating a safe space for the skateboarding community to gather, grow, and flourish.
“This (effort) has been the majority of my life,” Johnson said. “We have a very welcoming community – more than most people would expect – and (Boyd Skate Park) is an exciting thing. Skateboarding has been on the rise for a variety of reasons for a long time, but specifically in Eau Claire before Lakeshore, there wasn’t a free park or community hub (for skateboarders).”
Johnson recalled Lakeshore’s skate spot’s creation marking a pivotal moment for the local skate culture, though it too had problems almost immediately. Its size made it far more intimidating for new people to get into skating or improve, and not having a large enough space or skating resources set skaters up “to fail rather than succeed,” he added.
Boyd Skate Park is the space and opportunity local skaters have been waiting decades for.
“Whenever I get here and I see my friends skate, it (leaves) the biggest smile on my face,” Dorwin said. “We’ve been waiting years just to get something like this.”
From a non-skater’s perspective, I was nervous to approach the skaters and ask them to share their thoughts on the journey of Boyd Skate Park and their community. It wasn’t that I felt anyone was too intimidating or standoffish, but rather that I was interrupting: interrupting their conversations with one another, interrupting their next trip up and down the ramps, interrupting the seemingly anti-gravity twirl and flip of the board under their feet.
As it turns out, they’re just a bunch of people hanging out together at the park, taking part in a sport they love (albeit with much more coordination than the average person). Each skater encouraged folks to come to the park, regardless of what their perception of skaters is, which they acknowledged is pretty mixed in this community. Dorwin encouraged the kids who hang out at the playground and watch them to come over and try out a board. Larson encouraged locals to come watch them in their “natural element.” Secrest encouraged parents to allow their kids the opportunity to learn a new sport and find a new, supportive community.
“For any parents out there … let (kids) skate here at a safe place, make sure they’re comfortable trying certain tricks before they try it, and let them get into this community, because they’re going to make lifelong friends,” Secrest said. “It’s definitely happened to me.”
The Boyd Skate Park’s (1202 Fairway St., Eau Claire) grand opening event is on Saturday, June 17, starting at 10am. Free pizza, raffle, and a skate competition will be held following the ribbon cutting at 10am. Follow the Eau Claire Skaters Association on Facebook to keep up with them.