Typically the first to roll out their boards at any skate park, childhood friends Wyatt Russell and Owen Slater took a step back on May 6 to admire the joyous scene at the Nipomo Skate Park.
Dozens of locals of all ages zipped around the 10,000 square feet of concrete peppered with quarter pipes, stairs, rails, boxes, and bowls amid the cacophonous sounds of skidding wheels and live punk music.
Now 21 and 19 years old, respectively, Russell and Slater were just adolescents when they started a campaign to lobby San Luis Obispo County to build a skate park in Nipomo. About a decade and “a billion meetings” later, that vision is now a reality.
“I didn’t think it would ever come, honestly,” a smiling Slater told the Sun at the skate park’s grand opening. “It took a lot of helping hands to get here. This wasn’t just a couple of grants. It was everybody.
“And it’s cool seeing all the youth,” he added. “Now they get to a go to a skate park, you know?”
Slater was only about 13 when he and his dad, Tom, first sold a batch of custom Nipomo Skate Park T-shirts to help raise awareness and funds for the fledgling project. At the May 6 ribbon cutting, Tom Slater proudly donned that original orange shirt.
“This was the start,” the elder Slater told the Sun. “You’re sitting around with a bunch of eighth graders, like what do we do?”
“We sold them to all of my friends and stuff,” his son said. “We raised about $1,000, brought it to the county, and then they were like, ‘Oh, people actually want to do this.’”
The skate park’s final price tag came out to $3.5 million, and the planning and construction process took more than five years, interrupted by funding shortfalls, COVID-19, utility realignment issues, and this winter’s brutal storms.
SLO County officials, elected leaders, and Nipomo community advocates all gathered for the skate park’s ceremonial ribbon cutting on May 6.
“What’s the No. 1 word that skaters hear?” SLO County Parks and Recreation Director Nick Franco yelled out. “‘No!’ Right? Don’t you hear that all the time? ‘No, you can’t do this. No, you can’t do that.’ Well, this is a big, ‘Yes, you can do this.’ That’s what you wanted, and that’s what we delivered.”
Located on the southern edge of the Nipomo Community Park on Tefft Street, the skate park is easily accessible, with a spacious parking lot, bathrooms, and other facilities.
It’s already seen a huge amount of use since it officially opened on May 2, locals told the Sun, and the turnout on May 6 affirmed that.
Guadalupe resident Salvador Sandoval, 14, paused his skate session to share how much he loved his new “local park.” He said he doesn’t have to street skate as much now.
The younger Slater and Russell expressed their gratitude for the final product, which they also helped design. The duo shared how they spent their childhoods at an unsanctioned, makeshift skate park in town known as “The Rec” (which is now a Grocery Outlet).
“That was the place that birthed me, Wyatt, all of the OG skaters,” Slater explained. “It was super fun and taught you how to skate, but super sketchy.”
“It wasn’t legal, and it was never going to stick,” Russell added. “So it feels great to just have something that’s ours.”
While they were among the catalysts that delivered the new park, Russell noted that they weren’t alone. The broader Nipomo community identified it as a recreational need long before he and his friends did.
“I have to give credit to people before our time. It’s been in the plan,” Russell said. “The community of Nipomo made a list of things we wanted to get done, and the skate park was put on that. And that was about 20 years ago.”
About 45 minutes into the celebration, as the ribbon-cutting crowd dissipated and local band Nova Haze launched into a set of music, Russell, who’d been lurking on the periphery, began riding his board into the park.
While it didn’t arrive in time for his childhood, that won’t stop the Nipomo resident from enjoying it on the regular.
“It’s one of the reasons I’m sticking around,” Russell said, grinning as he rode away.