Feature Article

Rio Sul’s Bowl fully renewed

Rio Sul Bowl Brazil construction overview
Rio Sul Bowl Brazil construction overview

It was mid-nineties. The skate industry was broke in Brazil, I was a young guy in my late teen years figuring out how to earn my living from music, as I didn’t see a possibility of paying my bills through skateboarding. I’ve never turned pro, but my firsts salaries came from skateboarding in the early nineties. Unfortunately it was no longer happening. The sessions in Rio Sul’s bowl were still alive, but two other ramps in the neighborhood were demolished and the scene was getting smaller…nineties. I remember pretty well when Cardiel showed up with his dude’s in Rio Sul’s bowl.

No pads, gnarly airs and smith grinds, Hell Ride Crew was there. Cards smashed his face in the bowl and, bleeding like a pig, put a sticker on his cut eyebrow to continue the session. I’ve never seen so suicidal padless-bowlriding like that before. Those were the days of that place – smooth, perfect, riders from everywhere. The shopping mall next to the spot had a contract with the municipality and was responsible for the maintenance of the square, including the bowl. Until late nineties the bowl was an exception amongst Rio’s concrete parks. The square was safe, guards were there 24h/day and the bowl was still brand new. The first time the bowl really needed repairs it took a while to convince the shopping mall about our needs, and I remember that in 1995 the firsts contacts between locals and shopping’s administrators began.

Scanned photos taken from an article published in - Skate e Bordas mag - our first attempt to make regular contacts with the shopping mall. Photos by Guto Jimenez.
Scanned photos taken from an article published in – Skate e Bordas mag – our first attempt to make regular contacts with the shopping mall. Photos by Guto Jimenez.

Even with a maintenance contract running we had a hard time to take care of the place. After the end of that contract, the bowl became completely abandoned. Until now, only the locals took action from time to time and made regular maintenance. After almost 20 years, the conditions were extremely bad and all the big efforts made by the skaters weren’t enough to make the place as good as it were before. The locals continued skating and keeping the position, eventually great legends from all over the world had sessions there, but the bowl was in terrible conditions. Recently, the coping was full of holes, rusted and loose in many spots. The surface was so rough that every piece of gear wore out pretty fast: wheels, shoes, pads, skin and bones as well. Actually it was better not to use pads as we learned from Cardiel and his fellows. Run, when you missed a trick was much better idea than knee slide (It wouldn’t slide dude!). This bowl went from nice-and-smooth-well-constructed to raw-skate-punk-spot in almost 25 years of existence.

Can you see the sky through it? Bad coping. Photo: Bartolo
Can you see the sky through it? Bad coping. Photo: Bartolo

But the city is hosting the soccer world cup in 2014 and the Olympic games in 2016. And what the hell skateboarding has to do with it? Nothing, of course… but, there is another possible answer: many investments are on target for the next half-decade, so it’s a very good time to request a proper attitude from our public administrators to repair and rebuild with quality our (numerous and iconic) public skateparks. Skate is not a sport, as we know, but it easily can be seen as one through the eyes of these public administrators, so we can take advantage of it. On the top of that, we are 4 million skateboarders in Brazil according to a census made three years ago (requested by CBSKA, the national confederation) so it’s time to organize ourselves to achieve good skateboarding conditions. Good pavement on the streets, well constructed parks.

The bad thing is that we’ve learned from present and past that corruption is even bigger than we thought. We had the illusion that infra structure and investments would be huge, and they weren’t. Actually the government is spending fortunes in new football stadiums, questionable projects of public transportation and infrastructure that, in general, are more profitable for the constructors then for the population. One way or another, skateboarding is very visible now and we, skaters, are managing to organize ourselves around local causes. As a consequence, we had in Rio a considerable number of new parks and refurbishments of old ones in the recent years.

Many factors lead to this situation: strong local scenes (DuÓ, Praça XV, HZC Crew and others) an active association, USR, that lasted only 2 1⁄2 years (but managed to call the attention of the administrators to our cause and made important bridges between public institutions and skate localities) a warmed-up market around skateboarding and, of course, public funds available. Actually, the municipality have a policy of whenever is possible, include a private partner putting some money on everything they do. I personally think that this can be a good thing (not necessarily) but as a Brazilian and seeing the endemic corruption that corrode our system I must distrust many of these partnerships…well, that’s another issue.

Anyways, we are in very rare confluence now: the shopping mall wants to refurbish it’s surroundings for the Olympics, the municipality wants to develop a good relationship with skaters (as we are many voters, got it?) and this specific locality got strong because of it’s own efforts to keep the place skatable and safe through out more than one decade. All this things said, I must bring the good news: Rio Sul’s bowl is being fully renewed. This is it. After years presenting projects to the shopping mall and asking for funds we finally got a budget from them. Due to all this facts, and to local’s ability to make it visible. Regarding details, I must mention that we still have few trusted companies specialized in skateparks, and we are lucky that this job is being made by a trusty one. What more can I say guys? Come over here, bring some cold beers and get to the session! It’s time to skate the old bowl feeling like brand knew.

Allan Weber - Frontside smith grind.
Allan Weber – Frontside smith grind.
Arthur Santiago - Invert
Arthur Santiago – Invert
Nilo Peçanha- Big Indy grab
Nilo Peçanha- Big Indy grab
Bartolo - Test driving the new version with a frontside air
Bartolo – Test driving the new version with a frontside air

This is a huge success in Rio’s recent skateboarding history. I’m glad to be alive and ride it. You should be too! I’d like to thank Guto Jimenez, Leonardo Avelino and Thiago Almeida for the photos and Penseskate.net for helping me doing this article.

Here’s our Skatepark Directory Listing:

Rio Sul Bowl – Rio De Janiero

Here’s a related article from way back: