Every skateboarder’s dream is to build a half pipe at home. This goes way beyond the improvised or purchased driveway features, like boxes, ramps and rails. For those who don’t know, a half pipe, or mini as they are called by skaters, is anything but mini. The typical mini is 16′ wide, 32′ long and goes about 6 feet in the air. Plans are available from any number of online sources. The Whitefish Skateramp Co. is a good resource and we have used them successfully. Their people are very knowledgeable and helpful.
In concept a mini is similar to a half pipe in snowboarding. At each end of the mini, the skating surface arcs upwards some 80- 90 degrees onto a platform that runs the full width of the half pipe and is about 4′ wide. This platform, or deck, is where the skaters start and finish their runs. This structure is repeated at the other end of the mini, so the completed structure looks like a soup bowl with the sides cut off and a very, very wide lip. Often the mini’s decks have two levels. One might be at an elevation of say, 4′, and run for 12′ of the total width of 16′, and the other might be at a high of 6′ and run for a total width of 4 feet. This gives the skaters the ability to vary their runs and speeds. The lip of the ramp typically has a length of iron pipe set in it to protect the joint between the ramp and the platform or deck. This called the coping, a term borrowed from swimming pools, which were the first skateboarding bowls back during California’s big drought of the 1970’s. During that time pools were drained of water and presented irresistible surfaces for skateboarders to skate. The coping allows the skaters to slide along the lip for a few feet before dropping down into the pipe again. This can simply be an appropriate length of 3″ diameter pipe with some angle irons welded to it. These angle irons enable to pipe to be fastened from the back on the structure, creating a smooth surface along the front edge of the platform.The frame of the half pipe is typically constructed from 2″ X 8″ and 2″ X 4″ boards cut to shape. The ramp itself and the decks are sheathed with plywood. Be careful to select weather and moisture resistant plywood, such as marine grade. The next major question (and expense) is the actual skating surface. Sure, you can stick with plywood, but that will soon be chewed to pieces by the skateboarders fairly quickly. And once the plywood surface begins to deteriorate, total destruction follows soon. So it is best to cover the plywood with special “ramp armor”, such as Skatelite. This is weatherproof and creates a great skate surface.
Of course, you can have your half pipe built professionally and pieces and parts can be purchased in many forms. For example, you can get all steel systems (very, very noisy), steel frames and Skatelite surface ramps, as well as the traditional word frame and Skatelite surface types. Or you can get a bit of professional help. We bought plans, assembled all the materials, and with the help of two carpenters, built the mini in a couple of days. Our skateboarders did the painting and it really looks good.
Two additional things need to be done. First, other neighborhood kids will flock to your half pipe. They could be injured and as it is on your property, you generally are liable. So it’s a good idea to get an iron clad waiver and get the kids parents to sign off before using the mini. Secondly, dark comes early during the winter and you should consider adding outdoor lights. We did and it pays dividends. We were careful to orient the lights so that they do not disturb our neighbors.