Catching air


Skylar, 21, rides his skateboard down a ramp on Saturday, April 10, 2021, at Woodland Park in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

Natalie Parks

Gray concrete, gray sky: the skateboarding bowl at Woodland Park sits empty, at the moment not much more than a bowl for catching another smattering of rain.

Then, the clicking of wheels on pavement as four teens roll into view, swapping two skateboards and a tricycle between themselves.

“We got nothing else to do, for real,” said Kayli Bellia. “And we just knew no one else would be here.” Bellia and her friends normally go to a skate park at Valley Park, where there’s not much to do. But for her skateboarding is less about tricks and more about state of mind.

“It’s like a way to just get away,” Bellia said. “You listen to music, you put your headphones in and just, you know, skate.”

She does have the scars to prove her previous attempts at tricks, but kept it tame on Saturday and mostly watched her friends wheel around the miraculously puddle-free skating bowl.

21-year-old Skylar, who asked that his last name not be used, was convinced by his friends’ encouragement to take on the steepest ramp.

“You gotta commit, bro,” one friend called after a failed first attempt that left Skylar running down the ramp to keep from a face plant.

“Commit to what, life?” Skylar called back. He said trying new tricks can be scary, but that’s why he has to try them.

“If you want me to be honest, it’s actually the more people that watch, it just gives you that confidence to try to succeed better. I think it’s more or less that,” Skylar said. “And then having friends that will tell you, ‘you can do it.’”

Friendship and community are bigger factors in why he likes skateboarding than the activity itself.

“A lot of people that do skateboard have had really good personalities,” Skylar said while perched on the rim of a bowl at the park. He rode into the park on the tricycle, which was originally his younger brother’s, he said.

“My brother got it for Christmas, and it extends, so I just started riding it and then started doing more tricks on it and got better at it. So I just brought it down here,” Skylar said. The trike is too low-riding to go over some of the features at the skate park, but makes for a slow ride that mirrored the afternoon’s mood.

Skylar, Bellia and their two friends snuck in their visit to the skate park between two afternoon showers that kept most other visitors home. With the ground below and sky above almost mirror images of the dreary afternoon, their skateboards left the group looking like they could go back and forth between air and earth.

But stopping to laugh and chat and switch boards, the small group made it clear that the skate park was an incidental location for the real reason for the outing – being with other people in the simplest ways.

“There’s not a lot of stuff to do there,” Bellia said. “But it’s still pretty fun when you have all your homies.”