Before Vic there was ‘Park Royal’, the red-bricked plaza constructed in 1989 and nicknamed after the adjacent uber-starred hotel, architecturally paying homage to Freud with a ‘splayed legs’ floor plan.
Conveniently located a short skate up from our first real skate shop—the groundbreaking alcove located inside Penny Farthing Cycles—Park Royal was the first real hangout for Christchurch’s first-born generation of street rats: Daniel Logeman, Eli Foley, Jody Gread, Paul Smith, James Scott, Rhys Mclachlan, Max, Garage, Grubby, Donald Mckechnie, HITH, ‘Christian’ Blair, Raphael Doige, the Skinner brothers, James ‘Riddle’ McKee, Mike Oudshorn, Justin Cunningham and the Tamaki Twins. I’d like to claim that there was some seminal skating that took place, a catalogue of NBDs, but the reality is that Park Royal was established as meet-up destination; other than a few rudimentary ‘firsts’ down the five-stair (ollie, 180, kickflip, nollie), the groundbreaking skating took place at Hagley or across the river on the banks at Arthur Young. To be fair, our generation was more jump ramp and railslide inclined, rather than the flatground wizards and ledge ballerinas who followed in our footsteps, and who better utilized the natural playground that Park Royal offered. Around ’94/’95 the Park Royal baton was passed to the next generation of Christchurch skaters, lead largely by the sensation that was Gregg Timms (and who, despite his likely claims to the contrary, was one of the main bridges between the generations; I can distinctly recall him skating a jump ramp at Park Royal back in ’93, though in his defense he was using the ramp to tre flip up the five-stair, à la Euro gap style). Sentimentality has no role in skating. Looking back provides a warm nostalgic glow but as skaters we are collectively progressive in our nature, and the Timms generation quickly set about dismantling and reinventing the Park Royal environment to reflect the needs and requirements of contemporary skate culture. On my first return to Christchurch in early ’98 I was awestruck with their impressive reimagining of our old stomping ground, including the anointment of the newly acquired moniker of ‘Vic’. I believe that we never truly appreciated the natural skate park provided to us. It was when skating London’s legendary South Bank in ’94 and paying homage at SF’s Embarcadero in ’97 that it really struck me what good fortune we had in the largely pedestrian-free smooth paving and open spaces of Park Royal. On my first post-quake return to the city, I made a concerted effort to slip inside the cordon beside the crumbling Town Hall, to stand alone atop the weed-infested five-stair and reflect in my good fortune of spending my formative skate years in such an environment. Long live Vic. All photography by Brian Carney