KELVINGROVE

During the mid-70s, skateboarding exploded onto the scene. In those early days, it was all about bombing hills and skating down the high street. Joe public was horrified by this new ‘dangerous’ sport and authorities were under pressure to do something about it. In response, new skateparks started popping up in major cities throughout England, and it wasn’t long until Scotland wanted a piece of the action. Those early days saw a lot of trial and error, and with most outdoor parks being built from concrete, any design errors or mistakes were literally cast in stone.

In 1977 Glasgow District Council announced that they were going to construct a Skatepark in the Westend park of Kelvingrove. Not much is known about its designer other than his name, Mr Richard S Wrigley, who is also credited with designing the legendary London park ‘Rolling Thunder’. The council pledged £50,000 for the build and a further £50,000 for the trees, landscaping, fence and outbuildings. Utilising the natural slope of the hill, the skatepark attempted to replicate most of the features that were expected for that era. Halfpipe (with no flat bottom) Cloverbowl, head to head Slalom Run and a Snake Run. The freestyle area used an already existing 1950s era concrete dance floor roller rink which was probably one of the main reasons that this area of the park was chosen.

Construction started in August 1977 and by the end of October, they flew in a Dog Town skater called Dave Ferry to test the park. He was less than impressed and called certain features dangerous. After a quick conflab and a few re-draws, the Cobra snake run had a new left-hand bowl constructed and the original bowl had a new entrance and sidewall added - later nicknamed Jaws, because it was sure to eat people.

By late November it was possible to climb the fences during the workies’ lunchbreak and skate the bowls. Skipping over the muddy skeleton of the park and grabbing our first-ever vert runs was a buzz. Of course, we would get chased off as soon as they returned, but after a while there were so many skaters turning up that they had to let us skate the freestyle area as long as we promised not to skate the bowls. Then the great opening day arrived on a sunny weekend in May. The gates to the ‘Kelvin Wheelies’ skateboard park opened and the crowds came flooding in. The park had an onsite burger cabin, first aid room and office space with an attached team room. Sessions were £1.80 for three hours with summer sessions available from 10.30am til 9pm with a green/blue/red and black badge system that was used to determine which areas you were allowed to skate in.

 

Here we have the entrance to the skatepark with the typical queue you’d need to wait in. The cabin served as both the cash desk and the hire room where you could rent helmets and pads required to use the park. Approximately 15 skate marshals worked the park in shifts throughout the day  with session times lasting roughly 3 hours. 

 

 

A group of skaters gathering around the bottom section of the ‘hauf pipe’. You can see the tarmac pathways that ran all around the bowl section of the park. Initially, they were only for walking on and anyone caught skating on them would hear a whistle from one of the many skate marshalls that were employed to keep order. After a year or so those rules were relaxed, so round the park races and giant games of skate tig were held. The paths also gave you a longer push in to let you boost airs. The kid with the number 26 t-shirt is Cameron Brown, a fellow KG team member. His father Billy built skateboards and was responsible for the first-ever council sanctioned graffiti on the Freestyle ramps. 

 

 

This shot shows KG team member Cameron Brown carving the newly built Cobra bowl section. The Cobra had a long run in section with a couple of banked turns that were great for learning lip tricks. The actual bowl itself was a bit of a kinked nightmare, though lots of fun was had rolling into the lip (where the wee girl is standing) with early lipslides and grinds being learned there. The cool dude lounging about on the lip of Jaws is Danny Oji, the first person in Scotland to pop and land the mystical ‘Ollie Air’. With no video or sequential footage to examine we often had to scratch our heads and work out how to land tricks from a single shot in our bible, ‘The Skateboarder Magazine’.

 

 

Slalom racing was a big part of the 70s skateboard scene. Before pools and parks became the ‘big thing’, bombing hills and timed downhill runs attracted big crowds in the States, with slalom racing being an ideal way for racers to test themselves against each other. Originally the Torpedo and Bazooka runs were meant to be the focal point for this but the amount of speed generated on those two head to head runs meant that by the time you reached the bottom you were absolutely flying, at which point the idea was to carve around the two bowls on a super twitchy slalom set-up at full speed. After a few near-disastrous wipeouts and on the advice of the pros, the road (which had a better gradient) became the focal point for slalom racing. 

 

 

Cameron backside kick turning the slope lip of Jaws. Behind the skaters (from left to right )you can see the Torpedo and Bazooka end bowls, the new slalom road run-off and the bottom corner of the freestyle area ramps. The kids in the foreground are wearing the typical hodgepodge of clothing. Flares, old t-shirts, along with the park-supplied cooper pads and helmets. Note the adidas and Dunlop Greenflash footwear!

 

 

Originally conceived as a head to head slalom run, this part of the park was never really used for slalom racing because the gradient was way too steep. It could be done but after a few attempts to race, it was quickly evident that a good rider might be able to make it, but negotiating the bottom bowl runoffs was almost impossible at approx 35 miles an hour. The area did get used a lot by younger riders when the park was busy and after a few years, the locals really started to exploit the small transitions for slappies, grinds and boardslides. It also had a great wee pump bump in the middle to generate more speed.

 

 

High jumpers could clear about 4 1/2 feet on a good jump, but a clean landing and ride off on the board was essential. One of the big debates at the time was the need to wear kneepads. Not wearing them was frowned upon by the park authorities and caused a bit of a controversy at the time. In the background, you can see the semi-permanent wooden bank which actually outlasted the concrete bowls. Also on display is some council approved Graffiti which was pretty revolutionary for the time. ‘No More Heroes’ lyrics from The Stranglers’ song, and beside it the ‘Kelvin Wheelies’ Dogtown inspired wings logo.

 

 

The trophy table for the 1978 Scottish Skateboard Championships. Teams from all over Scotland came to Glasgow to compete in the first-ever National Skate Competition. Glasgow understandably dominated the Bowl Riding comps but the Freestyle, Slalom and High Jump competition winners were from all over.

 

 

Jaws had all sorts of little features, including this little high to low section right by the roll in. Grinds, airs and even little ollies due to a tiny wee bit of overhang on the drop section were possible. After a few years, we were ollieing all the way across to the far lip. This is a shot of me from the Scottish Champs. I’m riding a dog town Jim Muir with Cadillac Hotlips and Tracker mids. If you look closely you can see a weird ‘cheater bar’ experiment attached to my back truck. In those days a lot of crazy ideas were tried and tested. Funny how I can’t remember what I had for breakfast this morning but know the exact setup I rode in 1978! 

 

 

Around the summer of ‘79, the Benjyboards team came to demo at the park. Huge crowds of skaters came to see the most famous UK based skateboard team and they were not disappointed. This photo shows Jeremy Henderson’s freestyle demo in the old freestyle area of the park. At this point, Henderson had the biggest bag of tricks so he was the man to see. He was accompanied by his teammates John Sablosky and Mark Sinclair who tore the bowl section to absolute shreds and gave us all new lines and ideas about the park’s potential. 

 

 

Long Jump, another hybrid skateboarding activity that’s been quietly placed on the shelf of history. Basically you would hurl yourself across the gap and hope to make it clean onto the landing board. Fairly easy for the short distances but pretty sketchy when the last few souls were at the 14 or 15-foot mark. Full backward body slams and total unconsciousness were fairly common occurrences. Note the Nevisport sponsorship banner on the background ramps. 

The old concrete roller rink was repurposed for the new ‘Freestyle Area’. A large concrete bank was added to boost speed for the wooden ramps that were built on-site. This was the first area that was completed before construction really began on the bowl sections. A large wooden ramp was built right around the entire west corner and was still regularly skated until 1986. When too many winters had taken its toll and with missing sections and loose timbers it was eventually removed by the council without any fanfare or farewell. This old freestyle area remained up until the construction of the new park in 2005 and was the main focal point for Glasgow skating throughout the decades. 

 

 

Dee Urquhart looks on as a skater backside turns the centre bowl. This was a classic clover set up with the stem as the run-in. The netting around the bowls could be a complete nightmare if it was windy; blowing into the bowl and catching your wheels for a guaranteed slam, and therefore were quickly dumped. Plenty of speed could be gained for airs on the straight wall and then forever carves from bowl to bowl. After a few years, we figured out that it was better to use the side bowls back to back allowing us to have some flat bottom and even four little hips to pump for speed. The Clover eventually became the most skated bowl section of the park and was rode right till the end. Dee and her husband Iain were instrumental in the early Scottish skateboard scene, running comps and organising demos. It was Iain’s inspired design that was used for phase one of Livingston. 

After a few years, with skateboarding taking a massive dip in popularity, the park became silent. By ‘82 the fences were coming down and the skating was free. The scene in Livingston was now king and poor old Kelvingrove was largely forgotten. There was a small band of diehards who continued to regularly skate there, but lack of maintenance resulted in some of the bowls filling up with water. This horrified the council and the decision was made to de-skateify the park. At first, large planters were placed in strategic points (but they were simply dragged aside or skated around). They then poured bricks into all the main bowls (that were painstakingly removed by the diehards) before the final mindless decision was made to bulldoze the ‘hauf pipe’ completely, smash up all the lips and permanently fill them in. It’s still possible to see some evidence of the old park peeping out from the undergrowth, and over the years there have been a few calls to do a dig and get back to some old school action.

 

Photography by Iain Urquhart
Words by Jamie Blair
 
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