Tourists flock to skate, surf park

The Black Pearl Skate and Surf Park at Grand Harbour is providing thrills and spills for residents and a growing number of tourists.

Black Pearl Skate and Surf park

The impressive light show takes place at the Surf park every Saturday night, where viewers can watch pros show how it is done. Photo: Cliodhna McGowan

On a busy day the park can see about 375 cruise tourists pass through, and a growing number of stayover tourists are becoming aware of the facility and using its attractions.

Vacationing in the Cayman Islands, primarily because of the skate park, is the Volcom Skate Team. Known prestigiously across the globe, it has some of the best skaters in the world such as Rune Glifberg and Mark Appleyard. In all more than 20 people are believed to be on vacation here, consisting of the Volcom team, Independent team, filmers and photographers, editors, team managers and European pros.

‘They are coming here because they wanted to vacation somewhere they can skate together,’ explained Cayman Grand Harbour Marketing Manager Leesa Beeson.

‘They selected Cayman because of the skate park, along with what Cayman has to offer in terms of beauty, weather and amenities,’ she said.

Mark Appleyard incidentally, states on the Volcom website (www.volcom.com) that his favourite place to travel to is the Cayman Islands.

Stressing that skateboarding acts as a tourist attraction for those interested in it Ms Beeson added that it’s the fastest growing sport in North America.

The Volcom team, which arrived Sunday and is here until Thursday, will be enjoying and touring the island but may be spotted, perhaps in the late afternoon, practising its moves in the impressive park.

The skate and surf parks are popular with cruise tourists. Resort Tours have been offering packages in conjunction with Stingray City trips, whereby the passengers stop in at Grand Harbour marina by boat. Cruise guests can opt to have lunch or partake in skating or surfing activities at the park.

Some of these cruise tourists have expressed great interest in returning to Cayman to let their children enjoy the park some more, said Ms Beeson.

‘Kids want to have fun, they don’t want to walk around George Town and shop. Families really love it out here. It’s such a wonderful facility,’ she said.

The park is beginning to receive more interest from stay-over tourists also, said Ms Beeson, because of a new push for hotel concierges to suggest the park to guests who have children staying with them.

Another positive for Cayman’s tourism product comes from international skating star Tony Hawk’s new DVD, Tony Hawk’s Secret Skatepark Tour 2.

In this, he and his team praise the Black Pearl Skate Park as one of the best skate parks in the world. The 20-minute feature not only showcases the 62,000 square foot skate park, it also showcases Grand Cayman itself as one of the best tourist destinations in the Caribbean – with highlights on Stingray City and the abundance of diving and snorkelling.

The DVD was sold out over Christmas across North America.

Owner of the skate and surf parks, Mike Bell, believes this will be a solid boost to awareness of the Cayman Islands and will definitely assist with tourism.

‘Over 1 million of these DVDs are expected to be sold in 2007. If we garnered even a half of a percent of those fans coming to Grand Cayman to experience the island and the parks for a week, the economic impact to our island would be in the 10s of millions of dollars,’ he said.

Mr. Bell has the infrastructure in place to install an evening lighting system and bleachers on the skate park for night skating.

‘In order to satisfy the great demands we have from local skaters to be able to skate at night and for their families to be able to watch, it is imperative to install a night lighting system and bleachers,’ said Mr. Bell. ‘This will also make the skate park a major player in being able to host major international televised skate events, which are also in the works for 2007/08.’

And Mr. Bell has approached the government and its tourism entities to help impress on them the potential impact the parks can have on tourism and to help expedite the lighting at the skate park.

‘We need the support and assistance of our government officials and tourism agencies to take this next step. We believe that in working together we will achieve the common goal of higher tourism numbers over the next few years.’

Although the skate park is a world-class facility, the second largest in the world, it is under-used, said Ms Beeson.

‘Bringing international events here would be great and it would do wonders for creating awareness about the destination. Not a lot of islands can say they have a world class skate park.’

Lights were just installed in the surf park two weeks ago.

‘This has been over two years in the making,’ said Parks Manager Jarrett Nicholson. ‘This lighting system finally gives us the opportunity to provide instruction in the evenings to locals that can’t attend in the daytime due to school and work; and naturally it helps create awareness for the sport of surfing.

‘When the lighting show is used in full production for the Black Pearl Surf Show, it’s a light show like nothing else in Cayman – or the Caribbean for that matter,’ he said.

In fact, Mr. Nicholson leads the Cayman Islands’ pro surf team, which also consists of Furius Whelan, J.R. Cameron and John Graham-Taylor. They perform at the surf show every Saturday night at 7pm along with some other ladies and men hoping to becoming pros.

The park is now seeking sponsorship in order to send the pros to overseas shows to represent Cayman.

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