Skateboard ramps are a way to create different terrains or obstacles. Skateboarders are constantly looking for alternatives to skateboarding on flat surfaces or long hills. During an extended drought in California during the 1970s, skaters learnt to ride up and down empty swimming pools. Once this technique was developed, a natural progression was to make "artificial" pools out of different materials. These ramps can be as complex as complete skate parks or as simple as a small incline for doing different tricks and manoeuvres.
Ramps come in several types usually related to pool or large pipe configuration. A quarter pipe is a ramp transitioning from a flat surface up to 90-degrees (vertical) or 45 degrees. Half pipes are two quarter pipes facing each other so the skater can skate back and forth between the two sides. A bowl ramp is any ramp with a curved or fully round shape. This allows skating in different directions and tricks along the top edge of the ramp. Ramps can be either vertical or have no vertical surfaces. Vertical means the top of the ramp goes to a true 90 degrees and the skater goes straight up. Some ramps have "over vertical," which means the top of the ramp curves over more than 90 degrees.
An early material used for making ramps was clear acrylic sheeting. The quarter-inch plastic has a very smooth riding surface which is good for maintaining momentum, and is very flexible. This allows the sheets of acrylic to be formed to different contours and shapes. Also, the clear plastic makes for excellent photography in front and behind the skater. Attached to metal framing, acrylic ramps are durable and very resistant to the elements.
Metal ramps are constructed for indoor use. Although a ramp with a sheet metal surface can be used outdoors, bright sunlight can make the surface very hot and painful to the touch. A metal ramp has the same advantages as acrylic, but can be more economical. Thin sheet steel or aluminium costs less than sheet acrylic. Metal ramps are durable and can be easily cleaned and painted. The one disadvantage to metal is it can dent and lead to divots and inconsistencies in smooth ramp surfaces.
Concrete ramps are constructed similarly to swimming pools and can be above or below ground. Concrete provides a hard riding surface and can be shaped into many different configurations. Although a single concrete ramp can be very expensive, a large concrete skate park can be the most economical design. The concrete requires little or no maintenance and when poured over several hundred square feet the price becomes relatively inexpensive.
Skatelite is a composite manufactured material designed just for skating. Lightweight and flexible, skatelite sheets can be attached to metal frames configured in a variety of shapes: half pipes, full bowls, small freestyle platforms and portable quarter pipes. Skatelite is weather resistant and good for indoor or outdoor use.