A skateboarder’s mecca: Region’s first indoor skateboard club opens in Easthampton

Easthampton Skate Club owner Noah Halpern-McManus recently opened his club for all ages in space at the Eastworks building on Pleasant Street.

Easthampton Skate Club owner Noah Halpern-McManus recently opened his club for all ages in space at the Eastworks building on Pleasant Street. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Easthampton Skate Club owner owner Noah Halpern-McManus recently opened his club for all ages in space at the Eastworks building on Pleasant Street.

Easthampton Skate Club owner owner Noah Halpern-McManus recently opened his club for all ages in space at the Eastworks building on Pleasant Street. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Divante Clark of Springfield goes over a ramp  at the Easthampton Skate Club at Eastworks.

Divante Clark of Springfield goes over a ramp at the Easthampton Skate Club at Eastworks. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Skaters Jamie Payne, from left, Liam Stapleton, Tanner Kelting and Kegan O’Keefe wait on deck at the recently opened Easthampton Skate Club at Eastworks.

Skaters Jamie Payne, from left, Liam Stapleton, Tanner Kelting and Kegan O’Keefe wait on deck at the recently opened Easthampton Skate Club at Eastworks. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Ben Carton of Leeds takes his turn on a ramp at the Easthampton Skate Club at Eastworks.

Ben Carton of Leeds takes his turn on a ramp at the Easthampton Skate Club at Eastworks. STAFF PHOTOGRAPHS/DAN LITTLE

Divante Clark of Springfield rides a rail  at the Easthampton Skate Club at Eastworks.

Divante Clark of Springfield rides a rail at the Easthampton Skate Club at Eastworks. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

By MADDIE FABIAN

Staff Writer

Published: 01-03-2024 1:00 PM

EASTHAMPTON — On the ground floor of Eastworks, a converted old mill that now houses artists, writers and nonprofits, a different type of tenant can be found — one where its customers practice “ollies” and “grinds,” “pop shove-its” and “kickflips.”

All of these maneuvers and more happen inside Suite 030, where skateboarders of all ages can be found at the Easthampton Skate Club riding along pipes and ledges, standing on the windowsill filming friends and learning new tricks from more experienced skaters.

The club, which opened about a month ago, is the only indoor skate park in western Massachusetts, with its closest competitor 45 minutes away in Worcester.

“I just noticed there was a huge void to fill,” said owner Noah Halpern-McManus, who has a 20-plus-year history with skateboarding.

Not only has he traveled across the country for the sport and taught an after-school skateboarding program, but 34-year-old Halpern-McManus also manages a skateboarding magazine called Skate Jawn.

Halpern-McManus grew up in Amherst, where he tagged along with his friend’s older brother’s crew of friends who liked to bike, skate and rollerblade.

“We just sort of gravitated to skateboards, and then it was like game over after that,” Halpern-McManus said. “We always had our boards skating in the dead of winter. … All other sports went out the window, and we were just totally hooked on it.”

“It’s empowering. It gives you this sense of freedom, this sense of achievement and learning how to fail,” he said. “It gives people power to do what they want to do and have the confidence to do it.”

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Halpern-McManus added that, more than anything, skateboarding builds community.

“Most of the people I know now are skateboarders or I’ve met them through skateboarding,” he said. “It has this huge power to it.”

In his 20s, Halpern-McManus and a group of friends moved to San Francisco “just to do the skateboard thing,” he said.

“It’s kind of every New Englander’s dream to go to California … and San Francisco is like the mecca of skateboarding,” he said. “A lot of the industry is based there, so we just moved out there with no plan, no money in our pockets, and just kind of figured it out.”

Within about a year, Halpern-McManus landed a job as skateboard instructor with a community nonprofit that did after-school programming.

“I never imagined I’d be able to do something like that and share skateboarding with little kids,” said Halpern-McManus, adding that he built up the program for sixth to eighth graders over the course of five years or so.

Eventually, he left the field, moved to New York and went into the trades because he needed to earn more money than youth work provided. During the pandemic, he went back to college at UMass Amherst’s online University Without Walls program, where he completed his degree in urban studies and community sustainability.

Last winter, he started privately teaching skateboarding again and, over the past year, it grew into the Easthampton Skate Club, now based in Eastworks at 116 Pleasant St.

“I’ve gotten to do all these crazy things just because of this little toy, and maybe I can help another kid do that as well,” Halpern-McManus said. “I’m honored to be able to play a small role.”

Getting the space up-and-running was a community effort between Halpern-McManus, his wife and friends.

“Everyone has lent a hand and swept here, screwed something together there,” he said.

The 2,700-square-foot space now contains several ramps, a small quarter pipe, a long ledge and a “weird element you don’t really see too often,” which includes a bank, a “funky spine thing” and a concrete curb on top.

“The idea is that there’s stationary objects and then there’s more modular stuff, so kids can get creative and move stuff around,” Halpern-McManus said. “There’s clear levels for learning.”

Halpern-McManus also supplies boards and helmets that students can rent, and he has a parts box so that if someone’s board needs a small repair, he can “get them rolling again,” as he puts it.

So far, the skate club has attracted skateboarders and rollerbladers from across the Pioneer Valley. Private lessons are predominantly for kids under the age of 13, but that varies — Halpern-McManus recently held a lesson for two dads and their two children.

Open skate hours, on the other hand, are meant for ages 13 and older, who can drop in during open hours and skate for $10 per person.

“We’ve got a UMass professor, the city planner and a kid from Northampton High School, and they’re all sharing the space like a normal skatepark,” Halpern-McManus said. “It’s cool to see.”

Maddie Fabian can be reached at mfabian@gazettenet.com.