By Victoria Williams
Skaters in St Neots are mourning the loss of Steve Bayless, one of the original “Pirates” who tragically died of a heart attack last week at the age of 42.
Steve Bayless, who has been with the St Neots skating community from the beginning sadly passed away after having a heart attack, he had two daughters and a wife. The UK skate community were sad to hear of this tragedy.
The ramps has a rich history, it all started in the eighties when a small group of 12-13 yearold boys were skating around St Neots town in a local Waitrose carpark and discovered a talent they wanted to express. Being inspired by ‘The Back to the future’ and ‘Police academy four’ films, the young group decided to build a small DIY ramp in the woods.
Joe Gacon one of Steve’s friends, now 42 was given a Jeff Kendell skateboard in aid of his talent and with the help of Ron Saunders a new movement was born. Ron Saunders, the chairman of the St Neots pirates formalized the group and introduced them to shows and events, skaters met pro skaters like Sean Goff and Gary lee. This caused fundraising events.
In 1989 the first legal structure was approved by the council and the ‘Old Red Ramp’ was built for the skate park, which was used by over 400 members. The ramps officially opened on Sunday 30th July 1989 by TV personality comedian Tom O’Connor.
Old red soon deteriorated. Jason keen was the new person to organise and help develop the ramps. Fundraising was made and Clever curves built a section for the ramps in the mid 90’s. Local BMX’s became pros and got sponsored. Graffiti artists and Local DJ’s started to use the ramps to express their art and music. In 1994 a wooden vert ramp was built.
After the old ramps became so deteriorated a new group called the new ramp group (NRG) was born in 2004. A new appeal started through the NRG. Dan Keen became the chairman for the group and talked to Huntingdon district council, videos were made to help fundraise. Riverside wheels park appeal was an event that raised money towards new structures.
The National lottery and Huntingdon district council helped to raise money for the skate park, and with over 300 thousand pounds the skate park had the vert ramp was built in 2006.
The Vert ramp was built and is ‘international competition size’ and is particularly unique as it is one of the only outdoor competition ramps in the UK which is free to the public. St Neots ramps is also unique as it is one of the fastest ramps in the UK.
Joe Gacon says the ramps are unique because “The Skaters designed the skate park. It’s outdoor, you don’t have to pay to use it, and St Neots skaters are a family, if you’re a graffiti artist, good on the Decs, a good DJ, you’re part of that community, everyone is involved. The ramp family is well recognised within St neots.”
However, a company called GBH who initially built the new vert did not built it to the specifications of the skaters. The radius of the ramps was built by 7 foot instead of the initial 8 foot which was suggested. The ramps were too small and the mini complex that was meant to be rebuilt did not get done, Joe Gacon said “We were gutted; we raised a lot of money for the changes to be made”.
Alongside the issues with the structure of the ramps the GBH also applied the wrong paint on the ramps. They used a paint which was put on too thickly and caused the surface of the ramps to chip away which became dangerous. Unfortunately because the ramps are built on a floodplain the paint cannot be taken off by paint stripper as the chemicals would run into the river and cause potentially damaging effects on the environment.
In order to fix the problems with the paint on the ramps a new group formed called ‘Revamp the ramp’. They applied for funding from the Huntingdon District council for a new surface called Skate Lite Pro which was granted.
The council are responsible for the upkeep of the ramps to prevent it from falling into a state of disrepair. Huntingdon distract council says “A new skate group was set up called “Revamp the Ramp”, for the St Neots Skate Park. Their first and main mission was to tackle the issue of the vert ramp, which over time developed an uneven surface which made using it extremely difficult.
“HDC has been working closely with the group, attended all site meetings, and listened to their views and thoughts on how the vert ramp should be resurfaced. This has now recently resulted in the ramp being completely re-surfaced with a “Skate Lite Pro” sheeting material.”
“We will now continue this partnership with the group to secure the future of all the ramps at this facility. The committee are now hoping to hold international competitions on the vert ramp as it is one of the best in the country, and by doing this will be able to help raise funds for the future development of the skate park and apply for external funding.”
“HDC has always inspected and maintained the skate park. This includes weekly inspections, insurances, painting contracts and repairs.”
In 2023 the Huntingdon district council have discussed the possibility of handing responsibility to the skaters in the case of future events, fixtures and building.
Steve Bayless was known for passing his fellow crew a liquorice paper role up and a fizzy drink of coke. Bayless always made people feel good and influenced people to carry on developing their skills through skating. Steve had been a skateboarder for over thirty years and is an active campaigner for the skate park.
On one of the social media pages for the ramps
it says “We will be making contact with HDC today to discuss the possibility of a memorial plaque or something we can have to remember him for generations to come at the skate park.”
£2000 has been raised for Steve from the skateboarding community for his family alongside cups and t-shirts being made. The response has been phenomenal.