IOWA — You won’t find it on any map, but the next Olympic skateboarder may have already perfected their newest trick inside a hidden skatepark in the metro.
Ryan Kenens and his friends have a passion for skateboarding, so they created their dream of a private, hidden, indoor park called Helter Shelter. “They see a little sketchy building out front and then drive by and don’t see anything and all the sudden you open up to this and, wow, this is cool,” said Kenens.
With skateboarding’s only U.S.-based Olympic qualifying event beginning Wednesday in Des Moines, the secret facility has now seen a list of who’s who in the sport. Kenens said, “So far we’ve had Japan, Russia, London, Canada and Brazil.”
Olympic hopefuls are using the facility as final preparation for the competition. “It’s insane watching them. You see stuff done you never thought would be done before,” said Kenens.
American Alec Majerus is one of the top 300 skateboarders on earth invited to compete. “I never expected there to even be an event here, and when I heard they were building that huge skatepark, I was like ‘what in Des Moines?’ So cool and it’s in just a good spot right on the river. So beautiful,” Majerus said.
Majerus heard of Helter Shelter by word of mouth. “We came out here and it’s been raining and so our practice got canceled today and a couple locals were like ‘Hey we got this park Helter Shelter, come through,'” said Majerus.
Raised in Minnesota, Majerus appreciated a Midwestern invite from strangers. “Everybody is friendly and especially skater to skater. As long as you skate and they skate then you are friends,” said Majerus.
From pro skaters needing practice time in the metro to young kids wishing for skateboards instead of soccer cleats, the residual effects of Lauridsen Skatepark are already creating waves. “It’s the biggest competition of the year for the Olympics and just putting Des Moines on the spot,” said Kenens.
Skateboarding will make its Olympic debut in Tokyo and for Majerus the road to Japan must go through Des Moines. “Kind of scary, a little nerve-wracking and more pressure than a usual event because you know what could come out of it,” said Majerus.
While Helter Shelter’s whereabouts remain hidden, with Lauridsen Skatepark’s debut on the world stage, the secret is out when it comes to Iowa’s love for the sport. Kenens said, “The younger generation growing up right now has this whole place to work with for years and years to come. There are going to be some rippers coming out of there for sure.”