ON A ROLL: Top Canberra skateboarder Matt Cheney throws down a move. Photo: Luke Brown
How is Canberra so deliciously rad? What makes it such a hoot, such an awesome scene?
Far too much of this centenary year's spruikings of the wonders of our city has fallen to heritage-listed, moss-covered old burghers (like this wizened columnist) mumbling about our city's distinguished dead, our dear old trees, our heritage-listed, moss-covered buildings. What joy, then, to touch antennae with the youthful evangelists of Belcopalooza, who as well as contributing the lovely new word Belcopalooza to the English language are organising the Australian Pro/Am Skateboard Championships of that name for the Belconnen Skatepark on Saturday October 5.
We find from them that unfashionable, under-appreciated and in some ways underachieving Belconnen (no sign, yet, of a Belconnen Symphony Orchestra) turns out to have a facility that is the best of its kind in our hemisphere. They say that the Belconnen Skatepark is our hemisphere's most awesome and have sent us a video (enjoy at sba.org.au/Blog/belcopalooza) in which assorted accomplished skateboarders sing, with obvious sincerity, from the same hymn book.
What's more these same youngsters rejoice, obviously from the heart, that Canberra is a kind of heaven for skateboarders and is ''rad'' and ''a hoot''. What fun, we think, for the rest of us who appreciate the city for so many other more genteel reasons, to see it through the eyes of skateboarders whose skills, at their best, are virtuosic and breathtaking in the extreme. They say this is Australia's ''skate capital''.
Skater Mat Casey enthuses that ''[In Canberra] there are more skateboarding obstacles and skate parks and [stormwater] drains than you could poke a stick at!'' and skater Brenden Wood (his cap attractively arranged back to front on his head the way bogan legend Lleyton Hewitt taught Brenden's generation to wear their titfers) rejoices ''Oh it [Canberra] is sick! [meaning Canberra is wonderful]. We've got heaps of parks, heaps of spots, everything in the one town. An awesome scene.''
Luke Brown, president of the Canberra Skateboarding Association and a Belcopalooza mover and shaker, says a panel of judges will watch every entrant and notice how well they use ''the whole terrain'' of the park, ''like a game of chess'', to use all of its many features to produce ''terrain tricks''.
The Masked Plover.
Late in their displays, he promises, the accomplished virtuosos will go in search of bumper points with feats of special degrees of difficulty. These are called ''hammers'' and skaters doing them are ''throwing down their hammers'').
He promises they'll go for the hammer of ''a big aerial trick or a very technical trick'' and one of the latter requires skaters, hearts surely hammering, to zoom up on to a skinny handrail (next to some steps) and sizzle along it like a kind of high-speed tightrope walk. Local star Matt Cheney, one of our hopes in the Belcopalooza, is doing just that in our picture.
Belcopalooza (pronounced ''Belco-Palooza'' as if two words), featuring the invited cream of Australian skateboarding, is a Centenary of Canberra occasion. It promises to be a hoot. Typing the awesome word ''Belcopalooza'' into your search engine will tell you all about it.
Nothing yellow about plucky pair of lovebirds
Your soccer-mad columnist was at Saturday evening's thrilling ACT Premier League soccer grand final at McKellar Park.
There, two of the most passionate and noisiest spectators managed to shout and scream the whole evening away without (unlike some other unattractive elements of the partisan crowd) uttering a single obscenity.
They, the two loud but inoffensive ones, were a male and female masked lapwing or plover (Vanellus miles) setting a good moral example to the unrepresentative few foul-mouthed soccer fans (Bogan hooliganoides). The two birds sincerely believed one quarter of the pitch to be their territory. Before the match began they defended it by swooping on fans who came close, and for most of the match returned again and again to that quarter whenever there was no play going on there.
The birds' high-pitched war cry (a kind of ''Kerr-kick-kek kek-kek'') resounded all night.
This was an exciting reminder of just how bushy the bush capital is. Here was a major human occasion in our young city, still being impinged on by a species that has been here, in this spot, for millions of years before our own species was sufficiently evolved to be able to invent and play the sophisticated beautiful game being played on Saturday.
Masked lapwings have evolved to make their nests (just a scraped depression in the ground) in exposed and stupid-looking places (like much-used football fields and traffic islands) and defend them to the death with a pugnacity you don't see in bird species that make cleverly camouflaged nests.
Then, when the chicks emerge, the parents hurry them away from the daft, exposed nesting places to sensibly concealed shrubby spots.
This works well for the species. They abound in the ACT and the Canberra Ornithologists Group considers them a ''common breeding resident''.
If, in the next few days, anyone in or around the McKellar Park arena can tell us any good news about the breeding success of these plucky McKellar lapwings (look out for two or three fluffy chicks), please let us know.
Any tragic news about the lapwing family will be suppressed for the sake of our territory's already fragile post-election morale.