Words: Anthony Pappalardo / Photos: Zander Taketomo
Once known for little other than being a quaint predominantly Polish neighborhood and the site of one of the largest oil spills in US history, Greenpoint, Brooklyn has undergone a change as dramatic as the entire NYC skate scene in the past decade. As the kickoff site of adidas Skateboarding’s Skate Copa Court series, an overlooked public space was transformed into a pop-up skatepark, featuring a marquee “Blackbird” obstacle designed by a different team rider for each event.
Amidst the tight confines of the American Playground Court was a generation spanning swath of people. Baby carriages, father-son skate duos, and a gender diverse blend of skaters on the course, that played out as part shop competition and part jam. Even the obstacles themselves, specifically the Tyshawn Jones designed centerpiece was a call back to the fun boxes first featured in the ‘80s at the historic Ohio Skateout and Savannah Slamma contests. Some 30 years prior, current adidas rider Mark Gonzales participated in both contests, unveiling one of the first known switch-stance tricks at Savannah Slamma. This time around he chose to ride an oversized deck shaped like an ironing board with random notches taken out of it.
Gonzales’ painterly looseness sharply contrasted the speed and power of teammate Jake Donnelly, who refused to be constrained by the gated square. Donnelly bounded into the black chain link fence several times after kickflipping over a sushi plate shaped, concave manual pad, as Mark Suciu dissected the tight transitions and space behind him. The pro and am jam continued on, with Jeff Pang and Tim O’Connor providing color commentary and, in typical East Coast fashion, providing some levity by way of trash talk. With no topic off limits, O’Connor took shots at anything from outfits to skaters’ penchant for mishandling money, just days before the tax deadline.
Whether it was the abundance of FA product in attendance or the anticipation of seeing a local icon, it was obvious that the crowd was awaiting Tyshawn Jones’ arrival. A few hours in, wearing a red, black, and green Hardies Hardwear hoodie and wielding two dogs, Jones popped through the gate, before switching into a pair of skate shoes and handing said dogs off to a friend. Devoid of any warm up, Jones immediately bounded, grinded, and slid around every object in the court, as if he grew up skating the newly constructed obstacles.
At 18-years-old, he carried the gravitas of a veteran, shaking every hand, and later handing out “best trick” money, while holding a dog underarm. In a matter of 30 minutes, he set the bar for what could be done at the Skate Copa Court, including the Blackbird obstacle designed as homage to a fun box he skated at a contest early in his career, then spent the remainder of his time happily holding court. For Jones and the entire team, the first stop on the tour displayed the melding of competition and community, building anticipation for the next stop, one-of-a-kind obstacle, and irreplicable experience.