Conor is climbing the skate boarding ladder

Conor is climbing the skate boarding ladder

Conor Ratcliff in action at the new Skate Park in Haverfordwest


No-one was more delighted than 17 year old Conor Ratcliff when the Pembrokeshire Skate Park was recently opened at the Picton Recreational Field in Haverfordwest because he is a very talented skate boarder who will use the superb facility to the full.
Balance, speed, judgement of distance and a willingness to take on new challenges are all part of the skate boarders make-up and Conor has them aplenty – and as well as honing his own skills at the new skate park is also one of the designated ‘Skate Mates’ involved in helping to see that other less experienced participants are looked after.
 Conor is climbing the skate boarding ladder

Conor’s a good ‘mate’

He joined another small group called ‘Bike Mates’ who have been appointed in attending a course held over two days where they learned basic first aid and elementary skate board or bicycle maintenance. Their role is to keep an eye on newcomers and novices, giving advice where appropriate, and knowing where further help can be found in less straightforward situations. All the ‘Mates’ have a tee shirt with their status emblazoned across it – and he is more than willing to be involved in this very important voluntary role..
Like most other youngsters on skate boards, Conor is self-taught and spent time previously in skate boarding behind ‘Iceland’ in the county town and on ‘The Ledge’ there, where passing shoppers grumbled about their being in the way. But all that has changed now because the new skate park is rightly regarded as one of the best outdoor skate parks in the United Kingdom, right down to the floodlights that enable skate boarders to enjoy themselves in the dark on dry evenings up until 9pm.

Unique record

Conor also has a unique record of the park’s development from the time that the very first sods of earth were dug out, right down to its opening, because almost every day in the intervening period he has popped down there and taken a photograph. So he has real documentation of the work done, which was a help to the developers as well as being important historically when locals look back on its growth in the future.
“I enjoyed doing it,” says Conor, “and hope it will be of use in years to come.”
He began skate boarding when he was about nine years old and fell off more than a few times in learning the general rudiments before he went to the local indoor skate park near his then hConor is climbing the skate boarding ladderome in Aberbargoed, Gwent, which was known as ‘Hangar 81’.
“I was very lucky that I had some unofficial tuition there from Jamie Bodman, who worked there,” admitted Conor, “and I was soon ready to move away from just keeping my balance to  more serious skills like riding the ramps, shooting the bowls or the range of turns available as you get more experienced.”

Lots of experience

Although he is very modest about his accomplishments, there is no doubt that Conor is held in high regard by his fellow skate boarders in the county town and few can match his experience locally because he has competed at a range of competitions in England and across the M4 corridor of South Wales, up as far as Corby (Northants) and through Bristol to near London. He finds out where they are going to be held from the internet or by word of mouth from people he has met previously at competitions, who keep in touch.
“It has been great to take part because everywhere you go there is not only competition but everyone talks about new tricks to be learned and gives plenty of sound advice.
“There is a real friendship gained with many of the skate boarders and the competitions are secondary to that.
Be that as it may, Conor forgets to mention until prompted that he has acquired his share of first and second places in a number of the events!

Anticipating the summer

Small wonder then that he is already anticipating next summer when the Pembrokeshire Skate Park will be able to hold its own competitions and see others come from all over the country to see just how good it is.
“There will be another sort of official opening with a competition in May,” said Conor, “and others after that which I am really looking forward to on my own territory.”
Once they have faith in their own skills, experienced skate boarders move away from the basic boards, bought in chain stores for £50 to £60, to boards costing more than double that price in specialist skate board shops which offer separate decks and wheels to fit individual needs.
“My deck is currently from ‘Plan B’ and I bought my wheels from ‘Bones’ and I usually change them fairly regularly, say every two months or so because they soon wear down.”

Looking forward

Ask Connor about skate boarding ambitions and he is very honest.
“I just want to be a rounded skate boarder and I’m always on the lookout for developing new tricks or routines. They take a lot of work to master but with the new park we have so much more floor space to work with.
“I find some on ‘You Tube’ or in chatting to other skate boarders – and it is great fun trying to master the moves.”
There is no doubt that he is always up for the challenge but also enjoys helping others to develop their skills. There is no doubt that whilst skate boarding is relatively new to the county in terms of having a regular practice area of real quality, it has a huge following around the county.

And finally . . .

One only has to visit the Pembrokeshire Skate Park, sit on one of the seats provided and marvel at the skill levels. One of those you are likely to notice is Conor Ratcliff, as we did, and if you chat to him you would see that his modesty and good manners match his undoubted skills.
We did just that and can say that he is a great advertisement for his sport!