Tucked away off a side street in the city’s Arlington neighborhood lies the world’s oldest private skatepark.
Kona Skatepark first opened on Kona Avenue in 1977. It initially struggled significantly, going bankrupt twice in two years.
Following the second bankruptcy, the park was briefly shut down. The Ramos family stepped in and purchased the property, re-opening it in 1979.
Upon purchasing the park, the family dedicated it to “the youth of Jacksonville.” They wanted Kona to be a safe space for kids to find and explore their passion. Drinking and smoking was forbidden, and park patrons were expected to behave appropriately and respectfully.
Under the Ramos family’s ownership, Kona would become one of the country’s most iconic skateparks. The park pioneered the first-ever Vert ramp – combining a half-pipe with a flat bottom portion – and subsequently held the first professional Vert ramp competition. Well over a dozen pro skateboarders started off skating at Kona.
The skatepark is even immortalized in the fourth edition of pro skateboarder Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater video game franchise. Hawk, considered one of the most influential skateboarders of all-time, competed in – and won – several competitions hosted by Kona.
Kona has survived through economic downturns and the decline in popularity of action sports. It celebrated its 40th birthday in 2017, and it’s been recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s oldest surviving skatepark.
Kona, still owned by the Ramos family, remains an active part of Jacksonville’s vibrant skate culture, now hosting multiple generations of local skaters. While the mass popularity of action sports has reduced dramatically from its peak, skateboarding is as popular as ever in Jax.
And though the city now has other great skateparks, both public and private, but none have the history and culture of Kona.
To learn more about the park, check out their website.