Skatepark Westblaak provides lee for anybody who spends their time breaking bones and mastering tricks. Wedged between two three-lane main arteries of the city's traffic system there's this concrete oasis packed with ramps, rails, and kids who'll tell you this is what they call home. In the summer it gets so bright you can dial up to 1/4000th and get some crystal sharp shots of the skaters risking their necks and ankles to land hardflips and fs smiths, playing HORSE, or rolling joints. The watching itself is a peaceful activity, meditative almost, as always when you watch people who excel in whatever they're doing. I know from 17-year-old gluteal bruises the challenge involved in riding a skateboard, let alone the remarkable coordination necessary to lift the board up - making it seem as if it's stuck to the underside of your duct-taped shoes. The hours of exercise and pain of self-improvement result in a soothing spectacle when any skater turns a corner, makes an ollie, or practices flips.
There's a gentle ebb and flow to a body leaning this way and that on a board, the momentum causing off-center of gravity that reveal motion and torque even in a still image. Faces betray mindless concentration that includes not just feet and arms contorted in awkward angles but the board as well, a remote body-part that is manipulated like a finger - to raise an arm I do not consciously tense up any muscle or tendon, but there it goes, the arm waves, the leg kicks, the board flips. An ollie is an incredible feat of human learning and an awing demonstration of the flexibility of the 'self'.
It's a solipsistic sport - the skate park is everybody's home, but you'll always have to nail the trick by yourself. Once it comes down to landing a flip, it's all you. Your friends are practicing their own tricks and rolling their own joints but when you wind up to lift yourself up, spin the board at just the right angle and velocity, there is nothing but your own two feet and four wheels. And because everybody's been there, there's an acceptance hanging over Westblaak - little kids crashing through without any respect for right-of-way on their scooters are dodged and maybe sighed over, but never reprimanded as harshly as the unspoken power dynamics might allow for.
On the brighter summer days there's a glow around the skaters here, floating up through the thick fumes of Westblaak.