Hurley ABC: The Story Behind the Bowl
On February 9, 2013, Newcastle’s community members gathered at Empire Park to watch their local heroes skate with international pros in Hurley’s Australian Bowl Riding Championships.
Photography by Michael White, archives courtesy of the Bogaerts.
Only a few years ago, the majority of the cheering crowd members were plotting against the completion of the Newcastle skate park, afraid that it would destroy their community.
Since 2008, Australian legend John Bogaerts has been leading the fight to change the town’s negative perception of skateboarding. Bogaerts said that when he first proposed the idea to build a proper skate park in Newcastle, the townspeople were so “vehemently opposed” to it that they went as far as creating a sustained propaganda campaign against skateboarding.
“Each week, the local paper would highlight any bad things that happened at or near a skatepark,” said John’s wife Jo Bogaerts, who also played a crucial role in the fight for the park. “Accidents, fights, drug deals, graffiti,” she said, “anything they could find, they would publish.” The town seemed convinced that a skate park would raise the level of crime in Newcastle.
These driven townspeople didn’t stop at the weekly paper, they made a website that would ensure up-to date statistics highlighting injury rates, any crimes loosely associated with skateboarding and any news stories that helped to negatively portray skateboarding. This website even had an affiliated Facebook page that encouraged followers to “Protect Empire Park” from skateboarding.
A 2010 ABC news article, “Tensions run high in Newcastle council,” quoted a Newcastle councilor as saying that the idea to build a skatepark in Empire Park is “appalling,” “inappropriate” for the community, the local residents and the sporting groups that use Empire Park. “I think it is just plain wrong,” said councilor Osborne.
It seems almost surreal that despite the amount of forces working against them, the Boegarts got a state-of-the-art skate park completed in less than three years. The Newcastle park is a smooth concrete haven across the street from Bar Beach. The vert bowl, complete with well-maintained pool coping, is considered one of the best bowls in all of Australia. It’s lined with ledges and adjacent to a street plaza complete with stairs, rails, and tricky trannies.
“We just kept pushing forward,” said John modestly. “And we stayed civil, ” Jo added. They were able to gather letters of support from local professionals. For example, doctors and surgeons that explained that skateboarding is great for your health and supports increased bone density.
Since the park’s inception in 2011, many of the locals have personally apologized to the Bogaerts for challenging the park. The positive energy at the Hurley ABC demonstrated that the very thing they feared would tear them apart brought the community together.
Families and friends crowded the bleachers all day as the AMs, Girls, Masters and Pros charged through the bowl.
Even though the park is only a handful of years old, its friendly design has allowed the local kids to progress dramatically. The 18 & under division was packed with graceful airs and proper McTwists.
Skaters came out from the US, England and all over Australia to ride what many Ozzies dubbed as the best bowl in Australia.
Roll In//Hurley Australian Bowl-riding Championships 2013 – Highlights from Frontside Events on Vimeo.
Highlights of the day included: Sorgente’s Cabellarial Saran Wraps, Charlie Blair’s huge front stales to fakie, Ngoho’s stylish lines, Palmer’s head-high McTwists, and Olsen’s alley-oop airs over the hip.
Extra special congratulations go out to John Bogaerts for not only making it into a heated Masters’ final but also for working so hard to get such an amazing park built in the city of Newcastle!
1. Alex Sorgente
2. Josh Stafford
3. Jack Fardell
4. Charlie Blair
5. Nathan Beck
6. Renton Millar
7. Nilo Pecanha
8. Lizzie Armanto
1. Pat Ngoho
2. Adam Luxford
3. Lester Kasai
4. Sergie Ventura
5. Sean Gulf
6. John Gray
7. Luke Jones
8. John Bogaerts
1. Keegan Palmer
2. Jakob Robinson
3. Luke Russell
4. Noah Fuzi
5. Lachian Abbott
6. George Richards
7. Ryan Helm
8. Julio Medeiros
1. Poppy Oslen
2. Jordyn Barratt
3. Sabre Norris
4. Shanae Collins
5. Sockie Norris
6. Gracie Earl
7. Eleanor Wright
Extra Special thank to John Boegart for the drive to get the park made and for the assistance with this article.