JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Not many places can say that they have been open and serving the public for 40 years, especially in the skateboard industry, but Kona Skate Park in Arlington is not like many places.
Martin Ramos' family bought the skate park out of bankruptcy in 1979 when Ramos was "a little kid" and he runs the park today. After 40 years, Ramos said, he and his family have grown quite a bit.
"This is like a family reunion out here," Ramos said Saturday afternoon after he just finished skateboarding himself. "I've seen all my friends that I have grown up skateboarding with and traveling the world with and it is just humbling to see everyone jump on planes, trains and automobiles, and come all the way to Jacksonville to get together for the weekend."
"It really is a who's who of skateboarding legends from yesterday and today," he added. "It is pretty much everything you can love about skateboarding."
Kona has been around for much of skateboarding's young history, having thrived in the boom of the late 1980s and early '90s and survived the times after that.
Ramos says that through those down times in the sport, he is humbled by being able to celebrate this milestone.
"It is amazing to still be out here after all these years," Ramos said. "There is no way we could ever think that I'm going to make it all this time. You just keep going year after year and next thing you know, it's been 40 years. So it's really humbling and means so much."
Looking around at the hundreds of skateboarders who have come to Kona for the celebration, there is a cross-section of not only the sport, but society in general. Having the older generation teaching the younger generation allows skateboarding to not only survive, but thrive.
"There are multigenerations of skateboarders now, Ramos said. "It is not little dirty, grungy kids going out there and being rebellious,' Ramos said. "It's families now. It's dads skating with their daughters. It's grandparents taking about when they started skating. It truly is the adventure-family-action sport that lives in skateboarding today. With all the public skate parks all over the place making it so accessible, kids are taking skating vacations and going park to park with their parents. It just seems like Kona is that grandfather of the parks that brings everybody together."
If you want to get together at Kona for its 40th anniversary celebration, you still have one more chance.
The final day is Sunday, where there will be an appearance by skateboarding legend Chris Colburn in addition to live music, a best trick contest and much more.
Free entry will be offered to those who bring in two canned goods, benefiting Feeding Northeast Florida.