It’s a brisk sunny afternoon. I’m making my way through Fairview Park over to the skate park. It’s 1.26pm, I’m 34 minutes early. The sun is shining but there a winter’s breeze that’d cut you in half. Glad I stuck on the mountain climbing socks this morning.
I can see skaters bobbing up and down in the distance as I march through the windy park, numb-faced but excited.
There’s a sound of grime in the air. Must be thirty skaters here. There’s four or five lads in North Face jackets and grey tracksuits playing tunes, set up with chairs, beers, and a BBQ.
One of the lads is Michael O’Casside who is armed with a megaphone. He is an organiser and hype man for the event.
He tells me the skate jam is Fairview Life’s first skate jam. “This is to support not just the skate community but the street culture. From skateboarding to graffiti, to hip hop, to break dancing. Whatever. All street culture, this is what it is about.
“[Fairview Life is] a platform and promotion for all skateboarding companies around Ireland. That is our ambition, that’s our goal. This is not for profit, this is purely for the love of skating and the community around it,” Castle says.
There’s a real palpable sense of communal excitement in the air. Everyone seems to know each other and greetings are done through enthused fist bumps.
This is Fairview Life’s first skate jam and attendance is good. The clear skies could be a factor, giving the skaters a dry surface to skate on.
When I arrive, everyone is warming up and no competitions or ‘jams’ have started. There are two “jams” planned for the day, one on the mini ramp and one on the high ledge.
“Tricks for cans and tricks for prizes on the high ledge in 20 minutes,” Michael Castle shouts out on his megaphone at 2.09pm.
The mood changes as everyone gets into the head space for competition.
The ‘jams’ are a relaxed type of competition with no formal winner or set time for any single skater.
As veteran skater Michael ‘the American Dream’ McMaster says, “the best part of the jam session is that is a free-for-all. It’s not like in some competitions where everyone will get two minutes to do their best run. This style is throw down as fast as you can, do a trick and then get cash, cans or prizes.”
Michael O’Casside commentates and judges the first jam session. In this role, he calls out the best tricks – worthy of a can of Tesco Lager, a t-shirt or cash – on his megaphone while also keeping track of the time left for the skaters to pull off tricks.
“So everyone keeps throwing them (tricks) out until they get something (a prize). It is such a good format. It is real laid back but it gets mental when everyone is running back and forth,” McMaster explained.
The first jam on the high ledge was organised chaos. Around 25 skaters throwing themselves one after another from either side of the ‘high ledge’.
There is no queue. They work off intuition and instinct. Often not leaving much time for people to clear the ledge before the next skater comes in.
It is a messy process but no one gets hurt.
The next competition is the mini ramp – a sort of half pipe that doesn’t quite reach full semi-circle shape.
In this competition, each skater puts themselves forward by signing a sheet, then the commentator calls each skater up and gives them two minutes to pull off their best tricks.
The prizes for this are more substantial: two new skateboard decks – one for first place in the underage competition, and one for first place of the overage competition.
Cans of beer are plentiful around the park. The most common choice is Tesco Lager. An obvious selection given its economical advantage.
The skaters have no problem drinking while skating, with some holding a beer while they pull off tricks. The two go hand in hand at an event like this.
The organisers have put out refuse sacks for cans, bottles, wrappers from snacks or whatever other litter the skaters might have. Despite the number of people, the ground is clean.
I check my watch and see that it is 4.33pm. The familiar Dublin grey is back in the sky but still, there are more skaters and spectators joining. I estimate around fifty people in and around the skate park.
Evan ‘Minty’ Fogarty is collecting funds for the barbecue while Castle announces that the open mic will take place in the next few minutes.
There are two rappers MCing the open mic, Don Kobbler and Duke Dimez. Duke Dimez kicks things off with a freestyle followed by another by Don Kobbler.
Then they call out any other MCs to freestyle on the mic.
A young lad called Shane takes his chance and gets the crowd bouncing. It starts to rain and the speaker is dragged to the shade under a tree.
The open mic continues. Such is the spirit of the event.