The Ocean Bowl 40th Anniversary was more for the people who won’t see 40 this decade or the next than people who already have. Over the years, the Ocean City skate park has clung to tradition. To summer people and locals, to fighting and embracing stereotypes but most of all, to the notion that skating is a very specific endeavor that is for everybody once, but not for everybody always.
Recently, the skate park celebrated its 40th anniversary. There didn’t appear to be a ton of fanfare that wasn’t for the participants themselves, but the skaters were left to their own devices, which is really where they shine.
Landmark Ocean City skate park
Show up in the middle of the week unannounced and it is more than a little impressive how the park runs. To kids, it might look as if there are adults in charge, but in my experience it is a teen- (or 20-something-) run endeavor. But that has been the beauty of it in my experience. The people in charge know how precarious their hold on this massive amount of freedom is, and they treat it with maximum respect.
I have never walked unchallenged into the Ocean Bowl, although walking into a school never has been a problem for me. The people in charge (here I fight the temptation to call them kids) are relaxed and respectful but always a little wary. Their attitude seems to be that people who aren’t following the rules are either too caught up in their own endeavors or trying to get away with something. In either case, there is not a lot of leeway for shenanigans.
Give respect, etc…
They were announcing the winners of what they called the “One Trick Pony” award up on the stage, but there still were skaters in the bowl. There seemed to be a pretty steep divide between the people who were skating and the crowd listening to the presenters, but it wasn’t the divide you might expect.
The younger ones, the kids who hadn’t been around for the 25th Ocean Bowl Anniversary sat rapt, answering trivia questions and listening as the park’s history was recounted. There were families at the picnic tables getting a little respite from the heat and enjoying snacks as the event pushed on. In the bowl, however, there was an amount of gray.
Maybe it is a timing thing, but what I go out to take photos at the Ocean Bowl I’m the oldest person in the park by 15 years at least. That wasn’t true this day. There were a couple of teens and people in their 20s taking runs, but there were more than a few older guys getting in runs while the kids were otherwise distracted.
It felt right, though. The next generation, the kids who would eventually get jobs working at the park and then become taxpayers who attend council meetings to fight for funding, were listening to the awards and the history. They were getting invested. In another decade or two, when the question of replacement or maintenance comes up at a town hall meeting, or when some half-scandal or misguided excitement gets people who have never skated interested in the future or the process of running the Ocean City skate park, these kids will be there. But they’ll be grownups. They’ll not only defend the Ocean Bowl but talk about sitting in the hot sun at the 40th Anniversary and make the case to ensure that the oldest skate park in America see it’s 80th anniversary. It’s 100th.