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Black Pearl Skateboarding at the Grand Cayman Islands

bp1David Knoles, Demand Media

One word that has been used to describe Grand Cayman island, nestled in the turquoise blue waters of the Caribbean Sea, is “paradise.” Skateboarders visiting the beautiful island might think they’ve really gone to heaven once they lay eyes on the Black Pearl Skate and Surf park ( situated on the shore of Grand Harbor a little over two miles south of George Town. To say the least, it’s a big park — the only word that might actually fit is “ginormous.”

Biggest Park in the Western Hemisphere

Designed by SITE Design Group, Inc., and opened in March 2005, the Black Pearl Skate & Surf park advertises itself as the biggest skateboard park in the Western Hemisphere. At over 60,000 feet of concrete bowls and half and quarter pipes, the park lives up to its claims. At the its grand opening, legendary pro skater Tony Hawk said, “It looks huge, but you can’t really get an idea of depth or how far back it goes. It really is one of the biggest ones I’ve seen.”

Skate 3Street and Flow Runs

The park includes three main courses — advanced, intermediate and beginner runs — with both a street and flow course for each level. A street run doesn’t include bowls, vert ramps, pipes or pools like a bowl park would. Black Pearl’s street run includes stairs, grind rails, planters, benches and about everything else you’d want to pull tricks on in a city courtyard. Most skate parks are either bowl parks or street parks, and the flow park incorporates both worlds.

The Main Event

The main event at the Black Pearl Skate park is the advanced flow course, which looks like a ride through a valley of vert ramps, half pipes, vertical bowls and nearly every concrete shape you can scream up the side and get air from. There is also a full pool complete with a shallow area ending in steps for old-school ’70s-style pool riders. It’s fast and furious, but it’s not for the inexperienced. Fortunately, the intermediate and even the beginner runs are good enough to delight skaters of any experience level, and “Concrete Wave” magazine gives the park an overall rating of 10.

Skate 1Safety First

As with any skateboard park, safety is a major issue. The Black Pearl Skate park is completely supervised, and safety gear requirements are vigorously enforced. All riders under 18 must wear safety gear, including helmets, knee and elbow pads, and wrist guards. Skaters have to wear closed-toe shoes to even enter, and skaters under 8 must be supervised by parents. Along with skateboards, safety equipment is sold in the skate shop — situated in what looks like an old bus — at the entrance to the park. For those who don’t skate, professional instruction in a variety of levels is available as well. The park is open weekdays from 2 p.m. to dusk, Saturdays from 10 a.m. to dusk and Sundays from noon to dusk. A day’s skating, including full equipment and skateboard rental, costs about $22 in Cayman Island dollars or about $28 U.S., at the time of publication.

Skate 2David Knoles is an award-winning journalist and artist. He began his career as a wartime photojournalist for the U.S. Air Force. Knoles later served as a staff writer and editor for various L.A. newspapers and magazines, including “The Beach Reporter” and “The Palos Verdes Peninsula News,” winning awards from the California Newspaper Publishers Association and the California Newspaper Advertising Executives Association.

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