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Best of 2012: Skating solutions to boys' education

  • 08 January 2013

They don't tell you about indoor skateparks. They show you the ultrasound, they hand you the wrinkly baby and say, 'a little boy'. What they don't say is, 'you will spend every day of the school holidays at an indoor skatepark.'

My son is eight and rides a blue scooter. He got it for his birthday and for about ten minutes was content to ride it up and down the sidewalk in front of the house. Then he decided we should go to a small skatepark.

It was a largely concrete affair, covered in graffiti, and populated by kids with low slung jeans and battered skateboards that they rode intermittently between cigarettes. My son experimented with the various ramps, chatted to teenage boys and got some fresh air while I sat on a bench and read.

One day, he met a kid from school and came over to tell me about a magical place called Rampfest.

I held off as long as I could. I pretended I couldn't find it online, that it had closed, that it was for older kids. One rainy day, however, I relented. The outdoor venue would no longer be good enough. He took out a membership at Rampfest and it was there that we would be spending our time.

Rampfest is in a suburb called Braybrook, 9km west of Melbourne, a place whose very name can cause those sensitive souls east of the Yarra, or even east of the Maribyrnong, to shudder in fear. The truth is that it we will all be wishing we had bought there ten years ago soon. It's close to the city, pleasant enough, and well appointed, as they say, with things like, well, Rampfest.

I live in snooty Yarraville, an overpriced renovation ghetto just a couple of minutes away. Nice place, but no indoor skateboard facilities.

Rampfest is housed in a large warehouse that echoes with the sound of bmx bikes, scooters and skateboards landing implausible jumps. Or not. The soundtrack ranges from hip hop to metal that sounds, to my ear, like Dio era Black Sabbath but probably isn't. The park is a maze of wooden ramps, foam pits and swimming pool shaped valleys where boys, and I mean BOYS (girls rarely appear), practice moves with names like tailwhips and grinds.

I sit in a sort of indoor/outdoor (as they call it in Yarraville) arrangement near the front desk, set my laptop up on a metal