Surfrider Skatepark opening at Helen McCall Park in Santa Rosa Beach

July 7, 2020

What started as an idea among friends, and quite a bit of community effort has finally come to fruition. The new Walton County Skatepark, called Surfrider Skatepark is now ready to open.

This new skatepark will provide opportunity for not only skateboarders, but BMX bikers, scooters, rollerblading and wheelchair freestyle. The skatepark features the following:

  • 4′ High Starter Bank Ramp
  • Flat Rail
  • Manual Pad
  • Plaza Stage with Rails, Up Gaps and Hubba Ledges
  • Pump Bump
  • Banked Hip With A-Frame Ledge
  • 4′ High Quarter Pipe
  • 6′ Deep Bowl Pocket
  • 4.5′ Deep Bowl Pocket with Extension
  • 3.5′ Deep Mini Ramp Bowl Pocket

The Walton County Skatepark is a project that began in July of 2015 with discussion with local non-profit Walton Skate Society.  By April of 2017, the County had raised over $100,000 towards the project to begin the design of the park.  These funds were a combination of District 5 Recreational Plat fees, a Tony Hawk Skatepark Grant and a donation from the Walton Skate Society.

In August of 2018, the WCBCC awarded the design contract for the skatepark to New Line Skateparks.  In September of 2019, the WCBCC approved the de-obligation of $462,098.00 of excess funds form the South Walton TIF to be used for the Construction of the Helen McCall Park Skate Park, and ultimately awarded the construction contract in February 2020 to Spohn Ranch, Inc in the amount of $499,749.23.

Mike Sturdivant is one of the founding members of the Walton Skate Society and a driving force behind getting the Surfrider Skate Park started. Courtesy photo

Walton Outdoors had the opportunity for a bit of Q & A with one of the founding members of the Walton Skate Society, Mike Sturdivant. Walton Skate Society is the driving force behind the creation of the park.

Who are the founding members of Walton Skate Society?

“Myself, John Cross, Frank Berte, Justin Gaffrey, Callie Clark-Wood, Brian Wood, John Jacob, Craig McLaughlin, Scott Jehl, and several others including every spouse and child affiliated. It took a village of folks willing to stay with the project.”

About how many members in the Walton Skate Society?

“Our membership is by deed rather than signing up. We consider everyone who donated or contributed time, energy, and skills to be a Walton Skate Society “member.” Our core group has about a dozen folks who routinely drop what they are doing to pitch in when necessary. Our fundraising events usually attract a few hundred people. By our social media counts, we have just over one thousand active online supporters. Donations came from as far away as Oregon and Japan. There are plenty of folks who wanted to see a quality skatepark built in Walton County. I believe you will see many more supporters as word about our park gets out.”

When was the Walton Skate Society established?

“The Walton Skate Society was formally established in 2015. An earlier group consisted of members, including myself, Bobby Johnson, Phil McDonald, and Nick Gullo who had begun laying the foundations as early as 2008. Also, during the Gulf Oil Disaster of 2010, our beaches were not safe for surfing. A group of Surfrider Foundation members began advocating for alternative recreation facilities including this skatepark. This Surfrider group took the idea to County officials, State leaders, and even submitted it along with other recommendations in person at the Federal NRDA hearings held in Washington DC.

Our skatepark efforts accelerated when M.C. Davis invited me to help plan and advocate for the proposed new South Walton Sports Complex (now nearing completion behind Dune Lakes Elementary School.) At the time, politics were not kind to our skatepark efforts and the skatepark was eliminated from the overall plan to make room for pickleball courts. The unfortunate insult reinvigorated our supporters and helped us to fundraise and further demonstrate community support.

Finally, local surfing legend and skatepark supporter Dave Rauschkolb helped us present our case yet again with County officials and implored them to take action to preserve Walton County’s surf and skate culture.

You can see that there have been several groups involved. Preserving our local culture is very important to me. I stuck with this project from its earliest days because the effort combines many of my passions: surfing, skating, youth education, outdoors, art, creativity, exercise, and fitness. It’s all in there. I can’t wait to put on youth clinics, concerts and skate contests. I hope this is the start of a larger effort to bring the healthy and low-cost sport of skateboarding to more in our community. I would like to build a skatepark in Freeport, DeFuniak Springs, Red Bay, and Paxton. When folks see how well utilized this Surfrider Park truly is, I think the decisions regarding future parks in Walton County will be easy to make.”

Learn more at the Walton Skate Society Facebook page here.