When the city of Bellevue got its first skate park in the 1990s, the sport was still on the fringe.
Televised competitions like ESPN’s X-Games were only just breaking on the scene, and mainstream elements like the popular Tony Hawk video game that would further legitimize skating to the masses were still years away.
Two decades later, Bellevue’s indoor skate park continues to bridge the gap between generations, and will soon revel in its 20th anniversary with a celebration that will double as the annual fundraiser for a departed youth skateboarder.
“Twenty years ago, skateboarding was a different beast,” Joe Moorman said. “It had more of a rebel element.”
Moorman would know, with his hand on the pulse of the sport as the director of the Bellevue Indoor Skate Park since it opened in 1994.
While the image of those participating has changed, skateboarding’s ability to offer a place of respite to kids who often find themselves disenfranchised by team sports and other activities still makes it a treasured pastime.
“There is a certain amount of self confidence that is built from doing something you didn’t think you could do,” Moorman said. “At the end of the week of camp, they don’t want to leave.”
Most of the staff that help run the camps and operate the skate park are former youth campers and patrons themselves, drawn in by the state’s largest indoor park and called to return as volunteers and eventually employees by a man they call, ‘Grandpa Joe.’
Logan Feaster, a member of the Class of 2016 at Interlake High School and longtime boarder, said he first met Moorman at one such camp, and has never looked back.
“It’s a really friendly environment,” he said, adding it is common for 20-something boarders to spend time with elementary aged skaters. “Joe is like a father figure for everyone. He welcomes everyone, scooter kids, too.”
In 2011, Moorman was approached by the Make A Wish Foundation with the hope of putting together an event that would bring professional skateboarders, community members and the area’s youth to honor 10-year-old Ethan Zakes.
The event, titled “EZRocks Skate for the Cure,” was a massive success in raising awareness for Adrenoleukodystrophy, a condition that affects the myelin sheath around the brain cells.
This year, the event will grow again, as Moorman brings back pros with area ties and the rest of the skateboarding community to honor Zakes.
“There wasn’t a dry eye in this place,” Moorman said of the first event. “In all my years, I have never seen skateboarding come together for something like this.”
The 2014 version of EZRocks Skate for the Cure is set for Sept. 19-21 at the Bellevue Indoor Skate Park (14224 Bel-Red Rd.), and will include a Mega Ramp, which will stretch across the outfield at the neighboring baseball field.
While Moorman said the grand scale of this year’s event leaves some logistical uncertainty, there is no questioning the importance of raising awareness for early detection of ALD.
“It could be any one of these parents or these kids we work with,” he said.” It is the most important thing we do.”
For more information on the event and how to donate to the cause, visit ezrocks.org.