What an ugly night. It’s dark, pouring rain, and there are still remnants of slushy snow melting in the driveway, making me wonder why I don’t live in a drier climate. It feels strange loading my dusty old BMX bike into the truck with a southeaster howling through the tall fir trees around our house. What feels like months of relentless rain and wind have me and a couple buddies looking for an alternative to the couch and yet another Netflix series. Realizing it had been far too long since we had ridden together—or at all, for that matter—we decided to head for adult night at The LINC’s indoor skatepark.
The LINC Youth Centre in Courtenay opened in 2006. Although it’s primarily for those aged eight to 18, it offers some adult hours. The facility houses a concession, games room, computer lab, meeting room, and an indoor skateboard park open on a drop-in basis to all ages Wednesday through Saturday. It’s reserved for over-16s every Monday night, and adults dropping by to use the skatepark around 8 or 9 pm will usually have the space mostly to themselves.
All types of wheels are welcome, including, but not limited to, skateboards, scooters, and bikes without pegs. Alexis Forbes, The LINC’s Youth Services Coordinator, tells me, “We’ve had the roller derby girls, rollerbladers, and even a unicycle!” The transitions are tight, so I recommend a BMX rather than a mountain bike for any two-wheeled readers.
The skatepark consists of a small street section and a Skatelite-clad bowl with a mixture of metal and pool coping. Unless you find the park empty when you arrive, good etiquette is very important: each section can safely handle only one rider at a time. In my experience, everyone is good at waiting their turn and coexisting with other users. It’s rarely busy, but if there are a few groups riding at once, you may spend some time sitting on the ramp deck. However, watching the rider on the ramp is usually entertaining enough to keep you occupied.
It’s still raining sideways as I pull up to the modest industrial-looking building that houses The LINC. I step out into the soaked parking lot, grab my bike in a hurry, and rush inside. After signing in, paying a small fee, and removing my pegs, I make my way to the skatepark. Before opening the door to the park, I can hear the familiar echoes and thuds of wheels cruising around the bowl. The sounds almost take me back to the mid-’90s, when my friends and I first started using BMX as a creative outlet. It was the perfect way to start exploring our own backyard and meet like-minded people, each with their own style and personality.
The smiling faces of old friends greet me on the deck of the ramp as I pull the small bike under me and take a seat. In the bowl, my friend of over twenty years is flowing around the bowl corners, blasting hips and showing us subtle little lines that make us smile. His tires make a zipping sound as he accelerates through each corner, producing impressive speeds before popping out onto the deck, breathing heavily. It’s my turn now, and, as I step on the pedals and hop my back wheel over the coping, I’m immediately focused on the next transition and the feeling of pumping the bike through the tight corners and small airs. In an instant, I forget about the never-ending parade of rainstorms.
I’m glad this place is here for the kids of the community. But tonight, I’m even more glad it’s here for my buddies and me, so we can feel like kids again ourselves.