The recent opening of the Black Pearl Skate and Surf Park at Grand Harbour may have evoked elements of fear and trembling in the hearts of parents who may now feel they have to brace themselves for the inevitable requests by their kids and teens to go and ride the 11 foot wave or do an ‘ollie’ in the concrete bowl, but there is one local mom who could not be any happier about the new attraction in the Cayman Islands, and supports the venture 100 per cent.
‘Michael Bell [developer and owner of the Black Pearl] has performed a miracle,’ declared Carole Appleyard, a Caymanian status-holder who has lived here for several years. ‘On behalf of the skateboarders in the Cayman Islands as well as the skateboard population of the entire world, I want to thank Mike for making good on a promise he made to a small group of local skaters who came to him two years ago and asked him to build a skate park. Mike not only kept his promise to the local skaters but has built a world-class facility that every skateboarder in the world is talking about, and I have no doubt that on the day the Black Pearl opened, the Cayman Islands became the number-one vacation destination of every skateboarder on the planet.’
Carole’s affinity for skateboarding began about 14 years ago when her son, Mark, 8 years-old at the time, jumped on a skateboard and fell in love with it. Next, he begged her to send him to the Muskoka Woods Skateboarding Camp in Ontario, Canada where she learned from the skate pro at the camp that Mark had an amazing gift for skateboarding and who recommended that Mark pursue it because he would be a great skateboarder one day.
Pursue it Mark did, and today Mark Appleyard, now 22, is one of the world’s best street skaters, having won numerous awards and titles, including TransWorld magazine’s Rookie of the Year 2002, Street Skater of the Year 2003 and Readers Choice 2004 and Thrasher Magazine Skater of the Year 2003. He also placed 4th in the ESPN X-Games held in August 2004.
Carole is quick to point out that her son’s phenomenal success as a skateboarder is incidental to her love and support for any sport or career her son decided to pursue.
‘I don’t support Mark simply because he’s an amazing skateboarder,’ said Carole. ‘I support him because he’s my son and I love him. I would make the sacrifices all over again, even if Mark was not an amazing skater and had no prospects of ever developing to the professional level that he has. The fact that he is a worldclass skater is just a bonus’.
There were indeed many sacrifices to make, and Mark happily made them. Once it became evident that Mark was into skateboarding for the long run, Carole and Mark began clocking hundreds of miles throughout Canada visiting skate parks where Mark could indulge his passion and develop his gift. The outcome is a world class professional skater who is currently a member of the top skate team in the world.
‘I don’t consider myself any kind of superstar skater. I just skate,’ said Mark. ‘I got in with the right people that motivated me. I don’t live for anything else. The only way I can be happy is filling my day with an accomplishment through skating.’
Carole adds that although Mark is highly interested and involved in photography, videography, music and art in addition to his extensive travel assignments throughout the world, these activities will always encompass his primary passion for skateboarding.
As a parent, Carole recognizes and appreciates the apprehension and concerns that many parents feel about skateboarding and other action sports, particularly the safety aspect. Although she admits that she never experienced these emotions herself, she does have some words of advice, as the mother of a skater, for those parents whose children are showing an interest in skateboarding.
‘If your child has a gift for skateboarding, or any other activity for that matter you should support your child 200%!’ exclaims Carole. ‘I know that parents are concerned about safety but my answer to that argument is to have them respectfully remember how many wonderful young persons within our community have been lost during the past few years in tragic car accidents. We can no longer deny that our young people have a need for the release of energy and frankly, I would prefer to deal with a few cuts and scrapes or at the very worst a broken bone from doing a switch backside flip on a skateboard than to lose my son forever, whether in an accident or some other mishap.’
However, Carole emphasizes that the Black Pearl Skate & Surf Park has made safety priority one and that parents should feel secure in that knowledge. Carole should know as she has been working closely with Michael Bell from the planning stages of the Park, addressing such issues as safety, and has been earnestly marketing the skatepark overseas to the many skateboarding industry contacts she has made over the years through Mark. Everyone who wants to skate or surf in the Park is required to wear the proper gear which includes elbow and knee pads and a helmet.
Carole also recommends that parents of young new skateboarders buy their new skaters ‘grommie’ skateboards, which are a smaller version of the original full size skateboard and an ideal fit for newcomers to skateboarding, who will need to master the basics first before graduating to the bigger skateboard.
‘Another thing parents should know is that they should not be concerned if their kids regularly break their skateboard decks,’ says Carole. ‘Broken skateboard decks are a sign that the skater is progressing and improving and not an indication that something is wrong. Mark was breaking one skateboard deck a week soon after he started!’
Instead of parents perhaps being annoyed that the skateboard deck is broken yet again, they need to ask the skater how the deck was broken, suggests Carole, and show enthusiasm and give the skater praise when learning of the new skateboard trick that was mastered as a result of the broken skateboard deck.
‘In this way parents are building upon the skater’s confidence levels required for progression instead of inhibiting the skater’s confidence for fear of snapped boards. If in doubt notice how many spare decks the pros carry around!’
As for Mark, he is unable to be in the Cayman Islands for the grand opening as he is traveling with his skate team to Spain. However, he has skated the Black Pearl many times already in its various stages of development, and is excited about the Park opening.
‘My thoughts are with the local skaters on their special day this weekend,’ said Mark from his home in Huntington Beach, California. ‘Tell them that I look forward to being with them in a few months time.’
The grand opening of the Black Pearl Skate & Surf Park at Grand Harbour takes place on Saturday, 23 April starting at 11:00am with the official ribbon cutting taking place at 11:30am. Ten professional skaters will be on hand to celebrate the occasion, including number one vert skater Tony Hawk. The public can watch demonstrations by the pros and experience the wave or the concrete bowl themselves. Admission is free.