A space where everyone can come together

Eyethu Skatepark Project co-ordinator, Vicki Scheffel, with Simamkhele Kholiwe and other youngsters in the programme, at the newly-launched skating facilty at the Hout Bay sports complex.

A common goal, dogged determination and the hard work done by everyone involved, helped to make the dream come true, says Eyethu Skatepark Project co-ordinator, Vicki Scheffel.

A mother to many budding skateboarders, some of whom had been with the project since its inception, Scheffel called the opening of the park a labour of love. The smiles on the young faces of the budding skateboarders as they went about kick-flipping and zigzagging across the park, bore testimony to her observation.

“If we didn’t start the project four years ago and immediately started creating a community around the skate park and started the narrative around the skate park, we wouldn’t have had these kids all prepared and ready for this beautiful skate park, she said.

After four years of endless fund-raising efforts, the project gained momentum late last year when the City of Cape Town finally gave the green light for the park.

Construction work on the
950 square meter site started about six months ago and cost R1.5m.

The spectator-friendly park is designed to accommodate both newbies and seasoned skaters at a world-class, state-of-the-art facility, complete with a bowl, multiple ramps, rails and other features.

Although hardly able to conceal her delight, it is with a bit of relief and a hint of sadness that Scheffeld remembers the tough times. A devastating fire that destroyed many homes almost crippled the project at birth, she said.

“This project had its fair shares of ups and downs and challenges.

“The first year we were all very excited. We got crowd-funding going and we had people filming us, really ready to take this narrative to the masses,” said Scheffel.

“The weekend of our crowd-funding video launch the devastating fires, happened. I think about 9 000 people were displaced in Hout Bay and our site became a disaster relief area. For us that was incredibly difficult because, out of the 70 kids that used to skate with us on Saturdays, roughly 70-80% of those kids were affected by the fire.

And, as people began rebuilding their homes and lives, those involved with the project remained steadfast.

“Since then, we’ve grown from strength to strength, we moved past the whole fire disaster and we managed to get all the kids back on to boards. It’s been incredible to see how the kids have really taken to skateboarding and the sport and how well they are skating,” she said.

In paying tribute to all the relevant stakeholders, she described the opening of the park as a culmination of the efforts of many people, starting with that very first Facebook post by Matthew “MJ” Johnson, a local skater who identified the need for a public space, specifically around skating and to eliminate the dangers of children skating on public roads.

Scheffel said that right from the start everyone involved with the project felt that skateboarding is the perfect sport to bring communities together, hence the name Eyethu, a Nguni word that means “ours”.

“We were quite set on that name, because our vision for the park was that it would be inclusive for all the kids in Hout Bay, it doesn’t matter where you come from. It needed to be a space where everyone can come together, that was really important for us.

“The Eyethu Skatepark Project was born shortly after our first meeting and this is where we all took hands
– the community volunteers, Rotary Hout Bay and then we set on this journey to create this new park.”