Montreal skaters light up the Olympic Stadium's new bowl — a first for the city
The already world-famous skate spot just got better as the first phase of the new skatepark opens
Kids, don't try this without protection.
Wearing no pads, no helmet, not even a shirt, 20-year-old Philipe Dulude flew in and out of the concrete bowl in the shadow of the Olympic Stadium, making it look easy as he pumped his skateboard around its high, curved walls, launching off them to perform aerial stunts.
A professional skateboarder from Saint-Constant, on Montreal's South Shore, Dulude was one of the first to test the Olympic Park's new bowl this week, in preparation for the action-packed skateboard competition now underway to inaugurate the new Vans Pro Skatepark.
"I have never seen something like this in Montreal, and I think it's a good start for all the young skaters," he said. "It's the first pro bowl that we have had."
Skateboarding as Olympic sport
The bowl's undulating shape forces skateboarders to draw on all their skills. It's deep — about the height of a basketball rim in some spots — and sprawls over an area about half the size of a soccer field.
With skateboarding set to debut at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, the bowl's location on the Esplanade of Montreal's Olympic Park is fitting.
Vans, the shoe company, donated the bowl of the terrain park, one that is similar to skate parks it's built in cities in Sweden and Brazil. The bowl sits atop underground parking in an area already known around the world as a skateboarder's paradise.
The $5-million park is being built in two phases, with the Olympic installations board (RIO) adding street-style elements, shade, lighting and other fixtures to be added next summer.
The entire plaza will be refurbished in the process, said an RIO spokesperson.
This weekend's event, part of the Vans 2019 Pro Tour, not only demonstrates the high-flying athleticism of modern skateboarding, but it also aims to inspire more young people to take up the sport.
The Vans Park Series World Championships are two months away, and Dulude is among those feeling the pressure to showcase his best moves today as the event enters the finals.
"I hope I'll be ready for it," said Dulude Wednesday, as he was getting ready for the competition which began Friday.
A place for skaters to dream big
Once the competition ends, the Vans Skatepark will be free for skaters of all levels — and that's a good thing for Montreal, says local pro Annie Guglia who is busy training for Tokyo.
"It's crazy to think that this is in Montreal, right next to the Olympic Stadium," she said. "This is the best terrain park we have in Canada."
The 28-year-old is a street skater, meaning she prefers obstacles a bit closer to the ground, such as rails and boxes. Still, she is loving what the bowl means to Montreal's skate scene — a scene with a deep, world-renowned history but no first-class public terrain park until now.
"It's great for the community," she said. "All the skateboarders from Montreal will be able to skate and hope to make it to Tokyo 2020 or Paris 2024. This is the perfect park for practising for an international level of skateboarding."
Big for Montreal. Big for Canada
Vancouver-based skateboard professional Adam Hopkins, who grew up in Thunder Bay, has competed all over the world.
He said Canada has no other professional-sized bowl with enough vertical planes to challenge elite skaters.
"I feel like Montreal has waited a really long time to get a proper bowl like this," said Hopkins, 29. "I am really excited for everyone out here. I am a little jealous."
Elizabeth "Lizzie" Armanto, an American vert skater who has no problem flying high out of bowls and half pipes, was all smiles as she eyed the new bowl.
"It's really special just because in the past years that I've come out to Montreal, they've never had any parks to skate, like, anything of this size," she said.
She said with this playground now open, she looks forward to seeing the level of skateboarding in Montreal improve.
With files from Doug Gelevan