Since bursting onto the scene in the early 90´s skateboarding has been a staple of pop- and youth culture. With its lack of organized leagues, associations or pretty much hierarchies in general, the sport distinguishes itself from most other sports. These traits also give skating a certain anti-authoritarian vibe that appeals to many young people. Considering all this and the fact you basically only need a board and a flat ground to start, skateboarding has become widely popular around the world including Germany. But what does the local skate scene look like in Kiel? To answer this question, I talked with my brother Ole. He´s 21, from Kiel, skates since he was 10 years old and pretty much whenever he has free time.
Saturday morning the sun is shining. It´s the first day in over a week without rain and Ole has about 10 messages of people on his phone asking him for a skate and film session. Since there is no indoor skate park in Kiel, skaters long for sunny days. To make matters worse, the skate parks are also currently closed due to corona regulations which leaves street skating as the last option.
Street skating is basically doing tricks on everyday objects in the streets like stairs, gaps to jump over or rails and ledges you can grind on. Although it´s the original way of skating it´s been somewhat of a lost art in Kiel. There are a bunch of reasons for this. If you want to see this in a positive light, you can say that there are many good skate parks in and around Kiel. While that is certainly true, it´s also true that there aren´t many good street spots in Kiel. Street spots need a flat ground to gain speed before the tricks and to land after the trick and they need to be at a place were you aren´t chased away by locals, security or the police. With all these problems in mind there are still some places you can go. Ole himself tried to push street skating and filming over the last year and he thinks it´s starting to pay of, pointing to the film requests he gets as soon as the weather allows skateboarding. If you´re interested in his videos and are curious where some of the street spots are, then check out the link below.
Problems during winter
Finding a good spot to skate becomes especially hard during fall and winter, because there is no indoor skating facility in or around Kiel. Or in Schleswig-Holstein as a whole for a fact. The closest thing is a small indoor park in Damp as part of a resort. The next real indoor skatepark is the I-Punkt Skateland in Hamburg. With a lack of indoor options, you have to bite the bullet and go on the days without rain or snow and to spots and parks that have lights. At least if you want to skate past 5 p.m. Or you have to get as creative as Ole by bringing a small construction spotlight to spots so they can stay longer. Another popular solution for this problem was going to empty public car parks, to be at least somewhere with a roof over the head. The ikea car park was pretty popular for a few years, but the security and the police put an end to this. Up until last year the Fördeparkhaus was the most popular one and pretty much the only one that still turned a blind eye. At the moment there aren’t any car parks that don’t immediately throw you out.
Now you might think why isn´t there an indoor skatepark in Kiel if skaters go to such extreme lengths to find somewhere to skate. Well there are initiatives from time to time, but they are always stop short in their tracks. Ole theorizes that there are a few reasons for that. The biggest one is not having a strong lobby. Skaters as established generally aren’t organized in big groups, the biggest community hubs are the Support skate shop and the Skate Kiel e.V.. Support does things for the community and is a big part of it but doesn´t have that much political influence. Skate Kiel e.V. is an organization founded to act as a voice for skaters in Kiel and they accomplished big things like the contributing hugely to the overhaul of the Uni skatepark near the CAU in 2015. Since then however they’ve been mostly inactive.
Other possible reasons could be that you have to do much more cleaning and upkeeping with an indoor skatepark as opposed to the outside ones. Basically, the upkeep cost would be pretty sizable, which in turn would mean the city would’ve to demand an entrance fee. Maybe the city doesn´t want to risk losing money on such an endeavor. Ole for his part is pretty sure it would make it´s money back and then some. “I´m sure people from all over Schleswig-Holstein would come”, he says, “Back when we could still go to the Fördeparkhaus there were 30-35 people there.”
Contest and Community
Community is an important factor of skating; everyone is welcome at a skatepark (except maybe scooter drivers) and you can in most cases just talk to the skaters. Most of them are happy to give tips on tricks or maybe help filming for a video. Even younger kids with their parents are welcome, as long as the park isn´t too full and they get out of the way. That is probably the most important thing for a newcomer in a skatepark, pay attention and don´t stand in the way of someone’s approach for a trick, because they are fast and it can be really dangerous. Many people start skating because of their friends or their siblings and over time they develop a crew of people with whom they spent most of the time skating. You won’t know every skater in Kiel, but after a few years you know the bigger crews and the groups are all on friendly terms.
To bring the community closer together Support und Skate Kiel e.V. host different Events mostly during spring and summer. Summer parties at the skatepark or skate contests are important events in that regard. Contests are skate competitions in which skater perform tricks against each other with judges scoring them. Support organize one or two contest a year sometimes even organizing food trucks for food and drinks. “The community needs events that act as link, around which the different groups can orbit around”, says Ole. Just skating with your friends is cool, but during these events it seems like every skater from Kiel is there and it almost feels like a class trip. Everyone is excited and you even have time to catch up with people. While he knows that it´s not easy, Ole wishes that there would be more contests or events.
Currently Support runs a campaign called #supportskatesundays where people can tag them in pictures and videos on Instagram and they shout them out on their channel. With the campaign they want to highlight and motivate the community and bring them together, even before the pandemic. They also organize movie nights with skate films.
Once it gets better
When spring rolls around and the skateparks (hopefully) reopen, skaters have many options to choose from. Over the last ten years many of the parks have been overhauled and upgraded to modern standards. The parks in question are Heikendorf in 2013, university 2015, Gaarden 2017 as part of the “Sport- und Begegnungspark Gaarden”, Laboe 2019 and Holtenau 2019. So, if you want to give it a go yourself, Oles home park is Heikendorf. However, his is current favorite is Holtenau because he got a bunch of good filming sessions there and what more could you want from a day at the park?