By: Ryan Bishop and Liz Norton
The world’s oldest operating skate park is unexpectedly nestled next to the busy Arlington Expressway in Jacksonville, Fla. Here at Kona Skatepark, skaters of all ages and skill levels come from near and far for the chance to skate the Guinness World Record-holding park.
In 1979, Martin Ramos’ father bought the struggling skatepark just two years after it opened. From there, the skatepark was passed on from father to son while it still continued to operate.
Over the years, the once-struggling Kona began to grow into one of the most prominent and well-known skate parks. Martin’s daughter, Cassidy Ramos, spends her days working at her family’s skate park and believes it’s a top spot on almost every skateboarder’s bucket list.
“Kona is such a destination for skateboarders,” said Ramos. “It has so much history and original concrete and stuff and so many pros have been here when they were younger. It’s just something people want to see especially when they’re skateboarders.”
Inside hangs a signed picture of one of those aforementioned pros – Tony Hawk. Soon after, Kona made its debut on one of the levels of a Tony Hawk video game.
But Kona is more than just a skatepark: it’s a safe haven for the skaters that visit. The Ramos family strives to make it a place where kids are encouraged to embrace more than just the ‘punk skater’ stereotype. They offer free admission for skaters who receive all As and Bs on their school report cards.
Jose Chacon is an amateur skater who calls Kona home and can be found shredding the bowl there.
“It’s definitely been a place where old-school skaters and as well as new generation skaters can come and basically get their skills…some can reminisce on the good ol’ days,” said Chacon. “Some can learn new [things] on stuff you don’t really see just anywhere in the country.”
Chacon first heard of Kona a couple of years ago when they hosted an all-star competition that featured some household skate legends.
“Pros and amateurs came out and, you know, had a big competition and I first got to see all this, you know, legendary skateness.”
For the last 39 years, Kona Skatepark has inspired the skate minds of amateurs like Chacon and pros like Hawk and they hope to continue to do so for as long as the name lives on.