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Get Active: Barking Sporthouse takes skating and scaling to new extreme

PUBLISHED: 12:00 10 June 2015 | UPDATED: 15:22 10 June 2015

Barking and Dagenham College student Shannelle Sweeney photographs Post reporter Sebastian Murphy-Bates climbing

Barking and Dagenham College student Shannelle Sweeney photographs Post reporter Sebastian Murphy-Bates climbing

Archant

Being an avid thrash metal fan as a teenager, I inevitably spent most evenings cruising culs-de-sac on a skateboard to sounds of Slayer.

Jamie Ross grants Sebastian Murphy-Bates mercy and lowers him down the Parabolic SlideJamie Ross grants Sebastian Murphy-Bates mercy and lowers him down the Parabolic Slide

So it was a bit of a step-down when Jamie Ross at Barking Sporthouse’s Extreme skatepark strapped a bright orange helmet on my head and handed me knee and elbow pads.

But, as I spotted a fresh injury on his hand and discovered my legs were shaking at the unimpressive effort they were making of balancing, I thought his judgment sound.

After mastering the basics of not falling off, which was a triumph considering Jamie had told me I probably would fall, I even took on a double bank ramp.

True, Jamie was holding onto me at the time and I felt ill before, during and after – but I definitely made it on my own eventually.

Shanelle Sweeney photographs Sebastian's first go at a Shanelle Sweeney photographs Sebastian's first go at a "double bank"

And what’s more, I was told I’d successfully experienced the thing that makes skating so addictive.

“It’s that rush as you’re going down, that fear,” Jamie explained. “That’s what keeps people coming back.”

I can’t say I follow the logic of waking up on a Saturday morning and rushing out to terrify myself, but I definitely felt a rush.

I wasn’t quite ready to tackle Extreme’s flagship feature – a giant keyhole-shaped bowl carved.

“It’s constructed just like the concrete ones you get on outdoor skateparks, but we’ve done it with wood,” Jamie said.

When I asked if this was to prevent injuries, Jamie looked me dead in the eyes and put me right.

“No,” he said. “And you definitely can injure yourself.”

More reason for the helmet, I thought as he dropped into the bowl and all but glided comfortably over its curves.

I thought I’d got away with not facing one of my many phobias, fear of heights, and was quite happy to leave the 7.5 metre climbing walls I’d spotted on the way in unexplored.

But I was strapped into a harness and told that wasn’t an option.

If you share my phobia, climbing walls are a problem as the best way to distract yourself is to keep climbing and focus on the wall as opposed to the floor, which grows continually further away.

But this is nothing compared with being taken out of a harness and hoisted 7.5 metres high with only your arms holding you above a vertical slide.

“This is literally my worst nightmare, can you actually let me down?” may have escaped my mouth before I was lowered a little only to find dropping into a human halfpipe wasn’t quite as bad as dangling in mid-air.

And, to be fair, that was the only falling I did on that day and it was almost entirely voluntary.

Extreme officially opened on Saturday.

View times and prices at http://bit.ly/1IAJmPS


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