Park Spotlight: Thrashers Skate Park – An always-evolving skate park, creating space for community expression in the heart of Pretoria
Deep beyond the boerewors curtain, crossing solidly into two-tone territory and skirting the edge of Blue Bull country, there’s a friendly little oasis of alternative culture that you might not expect – Thrashers Skate Park.
Words by Natalie Murfin. Photos courtesy Werner Lamprecht.
Thrashers Skatepark is the only one of its kind in Pretoria. Its culture of DIY, community closeness, and welcoming make it the starting line and finishing point for many of the city’s skaters.
“Thrashers has always been a home to many people,” Bianca van Zyl, the park director, tells us, “and it’s one of the few places where the freaks, the geeks, and everyone in between can be themselves.”
blunt took a closer look at what keeps our northern skate community coming back and gained some exciting insights into what’s coming up for the thrashers of the 012.
“Thrashers is 26 years old now, so naturally, it’s gone through many changes,” Bianca explains, though it still remains the only facility of its kind in South Africa. Though the park’s legacy speaks for itself, having been the early testing grounds of some of SA’s most accomplished skaters, it’s a combination of the technical deck wizards and the wobbly-kneed lighties that genuinely represent what Thrashers means to the city.
“Thrashers has always been a home to many people, and it’s one of the few places where the freaks, the geeks, and everyone in between can be themselves.” – Bianca van Zyl, Thrashers Skate Park director.
“To this day, Thrashers is still built by the Pretoria community,” she elaborates, “and Thrashers has embraced and encompassed the rich culture of Pretoria.” Through the park’s illustrious run, there have been plenty of big skate contests, live shows, and events that stand as a testament to that fact. “Every Pretorian has a gnarly Thrashers story,” laughs Bianca.
And now, there’s a whole new generation of stories to be made.“We have an amazing community who builds obstacles,” Bianca says, “and if there’s a new obstacle, we’ll have a day around it. When you come back to the park, you’ll always find something new to look at.”
This means that Thrashers evolves with the needs of the community who use it as their home base, and works to build dynamic skating skills you likely wouldn’t be able to practise in a park with no such fluidity.
“The community itself makes sure that the park stays fresh, with new obstacles, DIY on weekends, and loads of social gatherings,” she says. “We have an inviting culture in which we listen to the needs of all stakeholders and do our best to accommodate that. We really believe in people being free to express themselves.”
This isn’t an exclusive club of veterans by any means, though. “We notice new faces when they come in, and we’re delighted,” she explains. “We appeal to the veteran skater who’s chowing through shoes and decks, but also new skaters and older guys who used to skate and are now getting back into it. Thrashers is a family.”
Along with offering individual and group skating lessons, the park provides various options for other sports, including BMX and roller sports. “We’re a venue for various disciplines,” Bianca tells us. “We offer rollerblading lessons, and we host inline hockey and roller derby.”
An amazing community that builds and changes the obstacles in the park means that Thrashers evolves with the needs of the community who use it as their home base, and works to build dynamic skating skills you likely wouldn’t be able to practise in a park with no such fluidity.
The park also boasts a large, well-stocked skate shop where you can pick up gear on the go, and a cafe where you can grab the snack the roasties on your knees just earned you. “Nowhere else is really like us,” she elaborates, “most venues are really structured with loads of rules, and though we preserve what’s important, we want to create a space for people to enjoy.”
There’s nowhere like Thrashers for residents of Snor City looking to band together because “it’s an institution to the Pretoria community. Throughout its history, it’s been the hub of everything alternative up here: skate, music, art, and expression of all kinds.”
We can also say, with 100% certainty, you’ve never had a braai until you’ve had a braai on the grass at Thrashers on a sunny Pretoria afternoon. The chops smaak different. We’ll put money on this.
As a venue, Thrashers also does its part to solve the age-old ‘alt-kid’ problem. So much of alternative culture plays out in dive bars, festivals, and age-restricted spaces that stop under 18s who want to be boldly authentic from participating.
By creating a space that maintains cool while still being somewhere “parents feel comfortable bringing their kids, and knowing they’ll be safe,” a whole new generation is becoming exposed to the vibrant culture of skateboarding in a safe, healthy environment.
“Our customer experience prioritizes safety, cleanliness, friendliness, and freedom,” Bianca tells us. “The biggest challenge the Thrashers team had was to somehow marry the personality and legacy of the spot with the fact that we want kids to be skating.”
And they managed to turn that challenge into an asset, with the everyday turnout of the park reflecting that they’ve nailed that edgy/appropriate balance. “It’s a difficult line to navigate,” Bianca notes, but Thrashers gets it right.
“Thrashers is the home of PTA skateboarding,” Bianca tells us, “even if people are going to go skate street, they’ll still start those missions here.”
And that home wouldn’t exist without the skaters who act as pillars of the community. Some of Thrashers’ prime skaters to watch are Charl ‘Skipp’” Steyn (@skipper_skate_87), Shaun Berger (@shaunburger00) and Kyle Stoffberg (@kylestoffberg1).
If you want to keep an eye on some up-and-comers, make sure to take a look at what’s coming from Ettiene Le Roux (@et012_ ), Zuko Makuzeni (@just__zuko), and MK Selepe (@ikarionthebeat ).
Bianca also mentions “mad love and respect” to the Slappy (@slappyskateco) guys: Nico Van Der Werff (@nicoskhateanddestroy), Deon Fourie (@donfury) and Hartmut Martin (@ickedet_kiekemal). Also Werner Lamprecht (@werries_87), Reuben Els (@something_else2do), Mike Schmucker (@onkel_mike_schmucker) and “anyone else who has helped build the park!”
Community lies at the heart of Thrashers. “The Pretoria skateboarding community has always been a staple which gave us a sustainability which might not have otherwise existed,” Bianca says.
And it’s the support of the community that can help keep the park flourishing. If you’d like to support the team at Thrashers, the first thing you should do is strap on that helmet, get hype, and drop in (in both senses.)
“The park itself is an ever- changing organism,” she tells us, so you’re bound to find something new and exciting. Next, make sure to get to their next big competition, Hop ‘n Pop Fest, on April 16, whether to support, or shred, or both.
You can also keep Thrashers in your sights by following them on social media where you’ll find sick competitions, event announcements, and videos that give you all the more reason to come to visit.
“As long as Pretoria has skaters, Thrashers isn’t going anywhere,” says Bianca.
And neither are we. You’ll find us parked on the grass, board under arm, cracking a well-earned dumpie.