The story of Malta Skatepark
- Oprettet: tirsdag, 16. februar 2010 17:00
- Skrevet af Påske
Long time skateboarder and grafik artist, Christian De Souza Jensen has played a big part of making the skate scene in Malta better for the youth.
I had just graduated from art college in Dublin, Ireland and in the summer of 2003, I came back to Malta (where my folks live) to save cash and plan my next scheme which was to come back to Denmark... I quickly got work as a storyboard artist and had planned to stay for 5 or so months. That original plan of 5 or so months turned into 2.5 years because of my obsessive mission to see that our local skate spot, Msida Subway became a skate park...
The old spot before.. Msida subway.
The Msida Subway for the few skateboarders on the island at the time, became the last proper skate spot on the island. It was an underground pass from a roundabout with a huge open space in the middle. This made it isolated, much like a burnside spot, meaning we were lef½t alone while the natural state of the place was filled with gaps, and many pads making it very ideal. It was the only spot in Malta where skaters weren't treated with mental and physical acts of intolerance & abuse which was a massive problem since skateboarding came to the island circa '78. I have quite a few myself that are somewhat entertaining (at least now, not back then).
Fatty Mc Fat Fat..
We had some weeks, in 2003, where our extra skate obstacles were missing, mainly Portable rails and Grind boxes. While, we assumed it was scumbags during the night stealing or breaking them, we quickly found out it was government cleaners doing this. A cleaner was taking away a box(built by a pre-teen and his loving father most likely), and as the skaters were pleading with him to stop taking it, the cleaner got angry, and just plain unjustifiably cussed at the kids. An older skater came in at that moment and tried to diplomatically talk him out of taking it, by saying that they would stash it away during the night. The guy got angry and attempted to battle ram the box into my friend. He later confessed the government was planning to turn the Msida Subway into a garden and it was vital to move all skaters objects away. That day was a wake up call, and we needed desperately to start an association, to voice the rights of skateboarders on the tiny island as well as adressesing the massive problem of losing the Msida Subway. The Misda Subway simply had to be a skate park and in its natural state, made it perfect to be built on. It took around 2.5 years to get the go-ahead, and in 2008, The Msida Skatepark became the first official skatepark suited for the needs of skateboarding.
The park is getting build, but the lack of a real skateshop on Malta was also a problem.
Sacha Schembri testing the new park.
The problem was not that there wasn't a skateshop but the attitude of business around 2003. When one particular shop has no competitors they will mark up the prices of skate product to anything they want. However, Skateboarders are different type of costumer, especially when they were 15 on average at the time and with no jobs. And despite, that particular shop having good product, the owners were not skateboarders either so they weren't 100% on board with how the art-form is and how its enthusiasts are like. Also, the shop, when first meeting us didn't quite fully grasp the kind of support the skateboard scene needed from the skate shop.
In short, we found this to be a problem.
Therefore, fellow associate James Grimaud and I decided not only to create a small company that would sell skate product at affordable prices, but something that would give back to the scene with much needed skate related things from ramps to making events. Besides starting up the legal procedures, we also got contact with Thomas Kring, from "Rend og Hop" of whom I knew each other already from the CPH skate circle. I called him up, told him what we wanted to do in Malta, and hooked us up straight away. That guy is truly the nicest guy and was refreshing that I didn't have to present a business pitch as he was skateboarder and knew that this was important to us, as he played an important role in developing the local Danish scene. Our company name was called "GRIM JENS & sons" which was James GRIMAUD, me, Christian JENSEN, and "sons" were like our skateboard disciples and shit. HA!
Our company was short-lived , but the positive part was that it indeed made cash for the stuff we needed at the Msida Subway, the kids got cheap priced goods, and it kinda helped bring down the prices at the skate shop at the time. We had to stop eventually, because 2 other skate shops had opened during 2003 & 2004. It was a conscious decision to stop.
Unfortunately, the 2 other shops had to close down so right now, there is that original shop of 2003. However, things seem to be grand. Malta Skateboard Association & that shop have a good relationship, and it’s only because the owners understanding where we came from, made their business a lot better.
We wish there were skateboarders owning shops, but what can we do? We hope that day will come, but the deal right now is pretty grand. That very same shop actually organized an amazing event with the European DC team. We are very proud to have worked with the shop and to see that they are putting loads of love and support into the scene. Time and experience can do wonders for shops and people.
Grafik work for Virus Skateboards.
I got through to Alex Kyourkiev, the owner of Virus skateboards through my old friend and Virus rider, Stevie Thompson. Both of these guys actually lived on Malta in the early 90's. When I moved to Malta, in 1996, I had missed Alex by a couple years, when he left to Bulgaria, but was skating with Stevie every weekend & odd weekday when school was out. I had known about Alex's good nature and amazing skating skills from Stevie for quite a while. I would also like to mention that Stevie has always been a wiz kid on a skateboard, even then, he had a local legendary status all over the UK. When Alex started his company, he hooked up his homeboy with a board sponsor.
After many years, when I was in London, I found Stevie (now living in Brighton, UK) on Myspace. We got in touch, and he quickly found my artwork, and wanted me to design for Virus. He passed the word to Alex, and in just one email to Alex, I had the job. He wanted happy hippy illustrations and listened to only 60's music for the duration of the work.
Virus was created sometime in late 2002 I believe, and Alex started it with the intent to boost up the Bulgarian Skate scene. His company, as Stevie has mentioned, has become quite the dynasty and he's the king of Bulgaria. Alex named it Virus, because once skateboarding is in you, it never really leaves, like a virus.
Advice & Shout out...
So much blood and sweat went into the park, and it’s truly an amazing thing that finally, after 30+ years, a proper skate park was granted to us. However, the Malta skater man has got to keep it going and give back to the scene as much as possible. Document the scene with Video, Photo's blogs etc. Make events, keep it fresh for the current generation to enjoy and progress in. Use whatever skill you are learning at school/Uni that could help. Having a skater with construction, video, or business skills would be extremely useful, esp. the thought of having a business taught skater finally owning a skate shop. As a matter of fact, as far as this, if there are any skaters in Malta that want to start a shop, please contact me. I have tons of useful people who could help you out.
The biggest problem in Malta with the old skate park issue, was unfortunately, and I hate saying this, not that authorities and public were against us, but it was skateboarders attitudes, lack of enthusiasm and motivation to keep their "fight" going. So, let us not forget and learn from our mistakes, and not take what we NOW have for granted. This should make us want to do things more. So Much Love and respect and keep the "blood fire" lit.
I would love to thank every person that has helped MSA (Malta Skateboard Association) with their support incl. the Maltese government to the ordinary citizens... Most of all I would love to thank every Malta Skateboarder that has given us a hand over the years, Thomas kring at "Rend og Hop", James Grimaud and Michael Damarco at MSA... Give yourselves a pat on the back
More art work from Christian De Souza Jensen.http://prosimian.net/blog/