There’s nothing quite like the sound of skateboard wheels on cement against a backdrop of “Know Your Enemy” by Rage Against the Machine. If you grew up in the ‘90s, it’s a classic thrasher scene: music blasting from speakers, young people hanging out, the cheers when a trick is landed, and the sound of palms and board slapping the ground when it’s not. But there are some differences, too. There are adults and young kids here, and the adults aren’t there to harass the skaters; some are intently watching while others are trying to land tricks of their own. It feels healthy and the sun is shining — everyone is in on the fun.
The Saranac Lake Skateboard Park is a somewhat-hidden treasure in downtown Saranac Lake. Discretely tucked between two roads, Broadway and Church Street, the park sits where there was once a little-used parking lot beside the Saranac River. Now it’s a hangout that attracts crowds of people when the weather is nice. Seasoned skaters string moves together as they flow from one feature to the next while newbies work up the nerve to take the quarter pipe a little higher.
Completed in 2015 after receiving a lot of support from the community and a grant from the Tony Hawk Foundation, the park quickly become a destination unto itself. There’s camaraderie there, a supportive environment that’s sparse on competition and high on praise and encouragement. For some, skating is a hobby, a way to unwind, feel challenged, and get some exercise, but for others it’s more akin to a way of life.
“Skateboarding really saved my life,” said Timmy, a regular at the park. At 34, he calls himself old.
Timmy noted that to him, the act of skating is all about going against gravity. But gravity comes in many forms, and for Timmy what pulled on him down most was the accident he had years ago that left him needing hip reconstruction surgery. Life became difficult for Timmy as he struggled through recovery. It wasn’t until he reached for his skateboard about four years ago that things started to turn around, and now it’s as if nothing can stop him.
“I personally evaluated it,” Timmy said. “It’s gotta be the euphoria-slash-adrenaline rush you get from landing a sick trick, learning a new trick, or seeing your homie land a sick trick. It’s that rush kind of feeling. Skating is what does it for me.”
The camaraderie does it for him, too. Besides the locals who frequent the park, Timmy said there’s a constant flow of young people, mostly from the Northeast, who pop in during the summer.
“A lot of families from the city come up to visit their camps, and a lot of their kids come here,” Timmy said. “We’re talking Long Island, Rhode Island, Connecticut — there was a kid from Montana here last week.”
Evan has been skating in Saranac Lake since he was 9. The 26-year-old called the skate park a dream come true, and he echoed a lot of the things Timmy said.
“I grew up doing a lot of street skating, and I was always getting in trouble for riding around,” Evan said. “This is a place where we can come, congregate, and do our thing and not have to worry about what’s going on in the world.”
Evan said the park is relatively small, but it’s well designed. It has a good, natural flow thanks to the transitions and there are a lot of obstacles to practice on. There have been some loosely planned skate clinics in summers past, and sometimes they’re completely impromptu — many of the skaters who frequent the park will let kids try their boards.
One of those kids might be Tristan, who often rides his scooter at the skate park as his dad, Sean, watches. Sean said Tristan, who just turned 7, wants to graduate to either a skateboard or BMX bike someday, but in the meantime he’s enjoying cruising the quarter pipes on the scooter.
“The guys are really respectful,” Sean said. “They encourage him and show them how to do tricks. It’s really built up his confidence.”
The Saranac Lake Skateboard Park is open every day from dawn to dusk.