LIHUE — In the do-it-yourself spark that runs in any skateboarder’s blood, a local ripper, with a little help from his friends, built an indoor skate park in a large warehouse in Kapahi, which opened last month.
“We just needed something modern that we wanted to skate, ledges, benches, basically we were trying to simulate the street in a private location,” said Cameron Lovelace, owner of I.T.F., short for Yes I Training Facility.
The 100-foot long by 25-foot wide skate park opened June 6, and since then it has been receiving a steady flow of users, all just from the word-of-mouth.
Lovelace said Kauai skateboarders have been waiting for a while for the county to move forward with a partnership with the nonprofit Kauai Skate Ohana, which eventually may produce four county skate parks.
“The Kauai Skate Ohana guys are working really hard, everybody is trying to work to get the (county) skate parks going, but no one really knows when they’re actually going to happen, so I just kinda took it upon myself,” he said. “I was, ‘All right I’m just going to do this and see if it works.’”
Lovelace rounded up some friends and together they put the hammer to the nail. In the beginning, he thought he could do it all in one month. His friend Zack helped him to design the park, and a few other friends, including a couple guys from KSA, helped him to build it. But it was basically Lovelace and Ryan Robbins, of Creations by Design, who did the bulk of the construction.
In the end, it took twice the amount of time Lovelace thought it would take to finish the park, and he spent the last two weeks of the project working by himself until midnight. He said it put a strain on his personal life, specially on his young family. But now that the park is finished, everything is smooth.
“I just did this in two months, with my own money,” he said. “Hopefully I can get my money back.”
On June 6, I.T.F. skate park opened its doors for the first time. It costs $5 dollars to skate all day, or for $50 per month, skateboarders can use it every day.
As soon as I.T.F. opened, there was a rush of people every day for a full month, he said.
“Lately it has been a steady flow of kids, people who are serious about skateboarding, that’s what it’s really for — it’s not a playground, it’s not like the skate park (in Kapaa New Town Park), no razor scooters or bikes; it’s just strictly skateboarding,” he said.
Lovelace said most just pay the daily fee, but there are a bunch of serious skateboarders who have paid the monthly fee and are there every day.
“There is one six-, seven-year-old kid that skates here every day,” he said. “In one month, he got amazingly good; in just one month.”
Lovelace is no stranger to successful businesses.
About two-and-a-half years ago, he opened Yes I Skate shop in Kapaa. For the first 18 months or so, his shop operated tucked in a tiny corner on the second floor of a commercial building, far from the customers’ sight, but on the radar of the thieves who did away one night with more than a handful of brand-new skateboards.
Despite the adversities, Lovelace’s shop survived, and about a year ago, he moved to a bigger location near Safeway in Waipouli, where his business really took off. Yes I Skate is the only strictly skateboarding store on Kauai, and offers everything from equipment to clothing and safety gear.
“The skate shop is going good, so I decided to start a new project,” he said of the I.T.F. skate park.
“It’s basically a branch of my company but it’s a separate business, but it goes right along with my business.”
I.T.F. is one of the very few indoor skate parks in the entire state, according to Lovelace. He said the only other indoor park he knows of is at Oahu’s Hickam Airport, where there is a park under a hangar.
By having an indoor facility, Kauai skateboarders now can practice every day, regardless of the weather.
“It creates a safe place for us to practice our tricks, you can progress faster,” Lovelace said. “When we finally do get our (county) skate parks, the kids are going to be more ready.”
I.T.F. park is open to all ages and skills. Lovelace offers skate lessons for those wanting to learn the ins and outs of the sport.
“I really need to get the skate lessons going,” he said. “A lot of kids need to start the right way, the right way to push, the right way to fall .”
The park is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, but once school starts, it may open later, probably by 1 p.m., according to Lovelace. The skate lessons are usually during the first three hours that the park is open.
“Everybody needs to sign a waiver form, and I require young kids and beginners to wear helmets and stuff, but for the advanced skaters I let them slide on the helmets,” he said.
I.T.F. is also available for rent during off hours for $50 an hour.
Nowadays, Lovelace said, skateboarders are making more money than professional surfers, with many events broadcast on national TV.
“There’s more and more opportunities now for skaters,” he said.
And providing opportunities is what the young business entrepreneur likes to do. Lovelace has already put together five or six skateboarding contests at Kapaa New Town skate park.
On Saturday, he is throwing the first contest at I.T.F., which has at least 10 sponsoring brands. The contest is open to all ages, and there will be $1,000 in cash prizes and giveaways. The $10 admission includes a raffle ticket for a complete skateboard valued at $110.
I.T.F. skate park is at 5611 Kawaihau Road, right before the Old Cannery, and next to Kapahi Feed store. Call 222-5076 for more information.
• Léo Azambuja, staff writer, can be reached at 245-0452 or email@example.com