If you've gotten past the title of this article, chances are a.) you skate or b.) you were intrigued/alarmed/frightened by the word "asshole" in the headline. Whatever it might have be that inclined you to read further, I'm here to discuss one of the most relevant tragedies facing our society today: people who are jerks at skate parks.
Here are seven rules to live by if you want to be considered a chill person at the park.
1. Don't be wasted
This one should be a no brainer. Skateparks here in San Francisco are few and far between and should be considered sacred, holy grounds because they truly are a rare and precious commodity. It's illegal to drink alcohol and do drugs on the streets, but so many people (read: hippies at Waller Street park and raucous drunks at Portrero del Sol) seem to think that areas frequented by skaters are a totally chill spot to hang out and get their fix.
Cops and most people in general have a bad impression of skaters for this reason: Most of the places skaters frequent tend to be littered with empty beer cans, broken whiskey bottles, joint roaches, and the occasional burnout in a smelly corner laying in a pool of his own vomit. Don't get me wrong: sometimes you do skate better and have a bit more confidence if you've got a tall can of PBR in you. But drinking a 30 pack yourself and then dropping into the bowl to find a "sick line" always ends in disaster, usually an ambulance and a lot of disappointed park-goers. Be smart and know your limits; if you're planning on going on a bender, skate the curb in front of your house instead.
2. Don't stand inside the park if you are not skating
Few things are more comical than a middle-aged dad in flip-flops wandering aimlessly through the middle of the park with little to no regard for his own safety or anyone around him. I've seen some really close calls with parents in parks, especially when they're clutching a toddler in their arms. There are spectator benches outside of the parks' perimeter for a reason. Then there's the token park chillers, the "I used to skate" or the older-brother types just lurking. Often times these guys tend to be also guilty of rule No. 1 above, but sometimes they're simply just as clueless and as much in the way as any other outsider.
3. Don't rollerblade, ride a scooter, BMX or track bike in the park, especially if there is a sign telling you not to
I have left parks five minutes after arriving because of the literal takeover of people riding things that aren't skateboards at skate parks. Recently a friend went back to the park where we grew up (San Ramon in the East Bay) and was horrified to witness a scooter instructional class being held inside the park (when we were young bucks back in the day they had a skate program taught by an ex-pro skater). This is essentially proof of the impending apocalypse.
Most skateparks specifically state what you are allowed to ride in the park (most also tell you not to drink or do drugs, so go figure). Many parks have certain hours where it will be BMX only, which is fine because then they can endanger their lives around those of their own kind. Nothing is scarier than a BMX bike unexpectedly hurtling toward you, and having collided with a few before, I know the results can be devastating (a metal peg to the shin = crutches for a week). Scooters and track bikes (fixed gears) and are just as dangerous. And rollerblades? Lately the rollerblading scene has become a lot more underground and mellow, even if they do put too much wax on everything.
4. Don't throw tantrums, heckle people, or swear profusely
Don't be "that guy" -- the type that screams profanities and throws his board whenever he doesn't land his trick, zooms through the park like he owns it, and growls at anyone in his path. It always seems to be the case that whenever "that guy" is present, so are impressionable young children in full pads and a too-big helmet, clutching their boards to their chests and fighting back tears. I was that kid once, and luckily my friends and I had a fairly welcoming community, without too many crazies running around to discourage us from learning how to skate. But inevitably, every park has a few, and they ruin the experience for everyone around them.