A low rumble signaled the arrival of about 1,500 skateboarders coasting through the streets of San José on Sunday.
For the third time, the skaters joined others from 70 countries around the world in celebrating International Skateboarding Day. In Costa Rica, the skaters gathered at Parque Morazan in central San José for the morning skate.
“There are so many skateboarders (in Costa Rica),” said José Miguel Villa, 21, who sported a funky rainbow-colored tank top as he skated. “You can meet skaters from everywhere.”
Skaters from both coasts swarmed the park at 10 a.m. for a trick contest, with the best tricks earning cash prizes from sponsors. Those not entered in the competition encircled the pavilion in the center to watch participants kick-flip from the top of the stairs to the ground below. “Ooohs” and “aaahs” were reserved for both solid landings and hard spills.
Some observers stood on their skateboards to catch a better view. Skaters found other ways to turn the board into an extension of one’s body. Some rested on top of the boards under the shade of a tree. When it started to rain, the skateboards were transformed into mildly-efficient umbrellas.
To ride a skateboard means to be a part of a counterculture. Riders wore skinny jeans, knit caps, long hair and tattoos. Many skateboarders managed a piercing in some exposed area of flesh on the face (neck, nose, lip, chin, eyebrow). A couple dozen skaters wore shirts that said “Calma, Estas Calles Son Nuestras” (Easy, these streets are ours.)
After the competition, skaters flocked into the streets again. Traffic weaved through and around skaters as the stampede cruised toward Parque de la Paz south of downtown. The San José Municipality supported the event and helped secure the streets for the skaters.
At Parque de la Paz, organizers had installed ramps, grind rails and benches for a free-for-all skate. Riders overtook the park grounds trying their best to stay upright after going airborne.
Marlon Solano, 21, and Brandon Castro, 15, excelled among the pack. Both had arrived from Jacó, a surf town on the central Pacific coast, to take part in the skating frenzy. Castro, who flipped a tongue ring around in his mouth as he talked, had won competitions in his age group in Jacó, while Solano has skated for six years. While most skaters bailed while using the ramps, Solano and Castro consistently came down with feet firmly on their boards.
But celebrating the skateboarding holiday was not about competition.