Tony Hawk, the undisputed king of the skateboarding universe, stamped his approval on Grand Cayman’s Black Pearl Skate and Surf Park Saturday. Hawk and several of his professional colleagues from the United States ripped up the course and praised its design.
‘This is the biggest park I’ve ever seen,’ said Hawk. ‘It’s almost twice as big as the biggest park in the US. It has a lot of variety. It’s fun and it takes a while to get used to because there is so much. Everything leads into another bowl; it’s great. I know the guy who built it [Mike Macintyre] and he always does a good job. In fact, he built the skateboard park I have in my backyard.’
The 52,000 square foot park is located in the Grand Harbour shopping plaza. It has bowls, quarter-pipes and half-pipes. It includes areas for the expert, intermediate and beginning skater. Black Pearl owner and operator Mike Bell says a 60-foot wide professional-class vert ramp will be added soon, so too will lighting to allow night-time skating. Bell says the Black Pearl will host major skateboarding competitions on a regular basis. Most importantly, however, he says the park offers something positive for Grand Cayman’s youth to do.
‘I’ve been a baseball coach for eight years,’ said Bell. ‘I sponsor a Little League team. I love children; I have two children myself. Kids just don’t have enough to do here. By bringing these pros here we can show our kids how these guys are successful and dedicated themselves to a sport and made something positive out of their lives. This park is for the children of the Cayman Islands. Sports builds up a child in many ways, whether is football, basketball, baseball or skateboarding. There is nothing like it.’
Bell says he is pleased with the public’s reaction the Black Pearl. He also believes the park will generate significant international exposure for the Cayman Islands.
‘There is no doubt in my mind that we have a park that can compete with any other skateboard park in the world.’
Leader of Government Business McKeeva Bush praised Bell for his new business during Saturday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony. The park is a welcome addition to Cayman’s tourism product, Bush said.
Bev Sinclair of the PR firm Kelly Holding Ltd. (hired by the Black Pearl) says the park is a significant contribution to Cayman society. ‘The visiting pros say this park is great and they are going to help spread the word that this is the place to skate, not just in the Cayman Islands but in the world. Hopefully, the Black Pearl will host major events every year. This is a wonderful alternative activity for kids and it’s a really good thing for Cayman.’
There was no denying the appeal of Tony Hawk and the sport of skateboarding on Saturday. A crowd of several hundred were drawn to the Black Pearl’s opening and young skaters clearly were enthusiastic about having some of their heroes on the island. Unfortunately, many who came to see the pros skate on Saturday left disappointed because spectators were kept outside the park’s fence. Therefore, seeing the pros work their aerial magic was difficult at best for most.
The Black Pearl Skateboard and Surf Park also has a pool capable of generating an 11-foot wave. It’s the largest of its kind in the world, according to Bell. Water flow can be adjusted from 10,000 gallons per minute to 150,000 gallons per minute.
Hawk gave it a try on Saturday and showed that his unique grace and style is not limited to the world of concrete (see photo on page 20).