Alex Frost Reveals Secrets of F51 – Folkestone’s Skate Park
Alex Frost is the Project Officer for Folkestone 51 – Folkestone’s multi-storey skate park. It’s a world first and is one of the most anticipated buildings opening in 2021, as mentioned in The Times. Alex grew up in Folkestone and after returning home from University, he joined The Shepway Sports Trust, the charity behind F51. Folkelife met up with Alex for an update on the project.
Thanks to Maverick Skateparks for the drone footage of the interior of F51.
“The thing that people have been most excited about recently is the bowl floor, which is nearly finished. We’ve had the decking put in, and the copings have been reinforced and lacquered around the suspended concrete bowls on the first floor. This is a tribute to where skating first started back in the 1970s. People used to use empty swimming pools as their bowls and skate ramps. So around our bowls we’ve got these tiles like you’d see around a swimming pool. They’ve been lacquered now and are really shiny and it looks fantastic. It’s just not quite ready to skate on yet! Every time I come down to the site I skate, so I have my board with me, but the Site Manager, Nigel, always says “Don’t think you’re getting in there with that!””
Coaching sessions on the upper floors
“Maverick Skateparks are the specialists and have designed and made the whole first floor. The two upper floors are made of timber and have been engineered by Cambian Action Sports. Maverick has been involved in the design process for each floor, and are just waiting to get some elite skaters down when the floors are ready, to show us just what’s possible.
“The two upper floors will have timber ramps, which are almost good to go. But first, the cladding has to go on. These floors need to be protected from the rain and wind before the ramps go down.
“Above the Street Floor, which has loads of ramps, is the Flow Floor. This is now complete and is , essentially another giant bowl made of timber. Wood is more forgiving so, if you’re a beginner, this is going to be much more mellow to work on than the concrete bowls on the 1st floor. The transitions will be mellower here too, so that’s really where you start. You can then work up to the Street Floor, for those with some experience, more challenging ramps and so on. And, this is where we’re going to run our coaching sessions. There’s something for everyone on each floor.”
“The climbing wall is going to be 15m high with over 3000 holds. There will be routes for everyone, from beginner to really experienced, endurance climber. You’ll be able to do speed routes with built-in timers, and there are vertical, steep and slab overhangs. There’s also a boulder area which is up to 4m in height where you can test your dynamic jumps to compressive, awkward body positions and condition finger strength on the hang boards.”
getting in shape before f51 opens
“It’s tough at the moment, and when the weather’s bad, to get practice in for skating and climbing. With the climbing you have to drive out of town. With skating, it would be nice to have somewhere undercover to skate as it’s dangerous in the wet. SkateFolkestone on Instagram supports the local skating scene and posts about meets and stuff. We can all keep in touch through there and if there’s a chance of meeting up in a socially sensible way, then that’s where you’ll find out about it.”
“Speed climbing and skate-boarding will both feature in the postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympics. But when the Olympics comes to Paris for 2024, we’re only a few hours on the train away from there. The training facilities we’re building at F51 are certainly going to have an impact on who goes to the Olympics in the future. There’s nowhere locally that has anything like these sorts of facilities.
“It’s crazy but the kids growing up now will look at the concrete bowls – which are challenging, and will just slip in there and it will be nothing to them! These are world-level competition bowls. The kids are fearless and have the confidence to tackle them. It will be amazing to watch. So the nine, ten-year-olds, that grow up playing here are going to be contenders for the Olympics for sure!”