Collingwood Half Pipe
photo: Cam Wells
One of the Hill brother’s early skate collaborations was the indoor halfpipe upstairs at Collingwood’s Skate City roller skating rink. This monster wooden ramp was about 111⁄2 foot deep with a couple of feet of vert, 40 feet long, with no flat bottom. You could skate there day and night, and boogie through your runs to the sounds of the Bee Gees and other roller disco greats. Although it was a bit too big to easily learn tricks in, the smooth expanse of ply and perfect coping made airs and huge sweeping slide variations a breeze.
Collingwood Under Construction
photo: Cam Wells
Collingwood night sessions made skating and work compatible at last, but it never seemed to get too crowded. Ching skated well there, along with Russell Morrison, Peter Crae and the Hills themselves, but I never ran in to too many faces from very far afield. Collingwood would still be called “challenging” today, so possibly it’s size and level of difficulty were contributing factors to the place never really becoming commercially viable. Under construction, but never quite finished, was an accompanying hemispherical fibreglass bowl. Had the bowl gone through to completion, Collingwood would finally have given Melbourne a facility to rival Sydney’s Manly Skate City, but alas, the nagging problem of commercial realities sealed it’s fate, along with several other commercial skateparks of the early 80’s.
Collingwood Skate City
MELTON - SHRUNKEN IDOL
The first full scale, U.S. style, commercial concrete park was built at Melton, a place most of us had never heard of until the skatepark was built.
Supposedly this was to be a carbon copy of Skatopia in California
.....and a similar sister facilty in Auckland. Someone must have had a few problems converting Imperial measurement to metric, because when finished, the half pipe was only 14 feet across, instead of the regulation 20 plus. The “vert pool bowl” was a joke, having bank/vert trannies that were so screwed up that you were hard pressed to reach the top. The “Giant Slalom” run was actually pretty rad, except it allowed you to build up warp speed before ending abruptly in the brick wall at the rear of the pro shop. Ok, so this may be a fairly harsh assessment, but it was disappointing, even back then, to see a potentially awesome layout screwed up by concrete shapers and engineers who clearly had no idea about skateboarding or what was actually required.
As usual, none of this mattered to a bunch of Melbourne skaters hungry for new terrain, and Melton’s long, tight half–pipe was quickly mastered by rising Melbourne hotshots such as Tony Hallam, Terry Probin, Ching, Mark Fagan and Russell Morrison. The shallow end of the half pipe was great for learning roll ins, rock and rolls and lip moves, and the long downhill run into the deep allowed plenty of time to set up for bigger airs.
Adrian Jones, John Foxx and Biff made the trip down from Sydney several times, and showed the locals that they were definitely a long way ahead of Melbourne in style and 3rd generation vert moves. For some reason, the regular Sydney incursions prompted an endless round of tit–for-tat car demolition, and Adrian’s mum’s hatchback in particular copped the brunt of some duco “re- surfacing”, with honey, eggs, stones and enough fine red soil to plant a corn field.
There were a few major comps and punk gigs run out at Melton, and it certainly served to spur on interest in skating from Melbourne’s west , an area so heavily multi-cultural that it was previously devoid of virtually any skate activity at all. After struggling financially for years, Melton was filled in at some stage, and is no doubt now the site of a few dozen cookie-cut tract houses.
NORTHLAND COMMERCIAL TITANIC
A similar commercial facility was built shortly after Melton at West Heidleberg, although I think it was generally referred to as Northland. The concrete finishing was considerably better than Melton’s sandy, trowelled surface, but there were similar issues with the scale and proportion of the bowls. The most heavily ridden was the keyhole pool, which was steep and deep, with virtually no flat bottom. It had protruding coping and, at over 11 feet deep, was a bit of a handfull really. Also showing a lot of promise, but never finish coated, was a capsule pool with more rideable dimensions, being about 9 feet deep. The surface was only marginally worse than Doveton and it could still be ridden, as long as you had softer wheels. There was a “clover” bowl too, but this was rendered almost unrideable due to the bizarre dimensions - the deepest section was about 6 feet deep and was so critically tight that you couldn’t enter it and then get out again.
There was also the obligatory giant slalom run which was actually kind of fun, even though there were no slalom riders left to slalom in it.
Seemingly doomed before it even opened, the park was dogged by a series of break-ins, graffiti attacks and poor attendances.
Unbelievably, a big heist at the pro shop was traced back to their own store manager, who was seen around town shortly afterwards hocking a wide selection of brand new U.S. skate equipment. Ronald Biggs he was not.
Northland would probably have been lucky to be open 12 months and soon went the same way as all the rest...