Joe Haire and Mark Page took a break from their skateboarding runs Wednesday afternoon to catch their breath in the shade inside of the Lathrop Skate Park.
With the hot summer sun beating down on the treated plywood, Haire – a Bay Area resident visiting his father and grandmother for a few days – eyed the metal coping, the steep 90-degree drop ins and the handrails that unfolded before him and planned his next line.
While he has more than 10 years of experience on a skateboard, some of the more technical aspects like clearing the gap onto one of the handrails or dropping in from the quarter pipe still elude him. The Lathrop Park’s street-heavy influence, however, is something that he looks forward to when he comes out.
“It’s cool that we’re the only ones out here because you have more room to skate, but it’s fun to be out with other people too,” Haire said. “I like the handrails that they have at this park. You get the chance to skate those and you don’t have to worry about the cops or security guards showing up and chasing you out.”
Page – who made the trip over to Lathrop from Tracy for the day – liked finding a deserted park that features above-ground ramps and rails and not the in-ground bowls and lips that are so prevalent in most public skate parks.
For most of the afternoon Page worked on riding a manual – keeping the front-wheels of his board off the ground as he traversed from one ramp to another – for as long as he could before launching into another trick.
Being alone was nice, he said, but it still had its drawbacks.
“When you skate with other people you push each other and you learn new things,” he said. “This isn’t what I expected to see when I came down here today.”
And if he would have made the five-mile trek down to the Manteca Skate Park – nestled between the Union Pacific railroad tracks and the Tidewater Bikeway near Center Street – he would have discovered an entirely different scene.
Out of more than two dozen young people who were spending their afternoon at the park, only Andrew Zapien was there on a skateboard. Everybody else was either on a razor scooter or a BMX bicycle – both of which signage explicitly prohibits from being ridden inside of the cement bowls.
Zapien said that he’s glad that Manteca has a skate park for him to enjoy, but noted that there are more than a few things that could be done to make it more accommodating for those who spend long blocks of time traversing the drop ins, the boxes and the walls.
“The coping here is in pretty bad shape and the cement is really slippery,” he said. “Also there’s no shade and there’s no drinking fountain. You have to go all the way out to the street if you want to get a drink. When it gets hot it gets really hot here, so it would be nice if we had something a little bit closer.”
Even though the improvements could make for a better overall experience, Zapien – who picked up skateboarding a year ago from his older brother – likes pushing himself every single day to get better and improve upon the tricks and the techniques that are getting easier for him.
“What I love about skateboarding is all of the hard work that goes into trying to do a trick and finally pulling it off,” he said. “That’s a great feeling. Then you get to move on to the next one.”