My first introduction to Little Rock, Arkansas was an HBO special about the plague of urban gangs, spreading throughout America, and how it affected smaller cities throughout. The result was a frightening look at Bloods and Crips, in the form of average white kids that made me nervous as a teenage traveler, visiting new cities.
I became more familiar with the legend of Little Rock, through a friend, Ryan Corrigan, who grew up around some of the people featured in the TV special, and had plenty of rebel rousing stories to back up the cities reputation.
Some old school skaters were riding the bowl and one of them tried an invert and ate crap badly in the deep end, falling all the way to the bottom and compound fracturing his leg.
My first visit to Bill Clinton's stomping ground wasn't until years after, on the way home from Interbike in Las Vegas, with Gilly, Dave King, and the infamous Chris Sales. Ryan had given us the phone number of his good friend in Little Rock, a BMXer who was running a skatepark, called Ferguson's, right in the heart of downtown Little Rock. As it turns out, it was Jud Ferguson, who was also well known as a former pro skater who had a section in the groundbreaking first Zero Video.
The drive into town was typical, a scary city, late in the evening, people drinking 40's and rolling dice on the corners, and a few BMXers arguing while trying to navigate themselves from being lost in a Ghetto. We finally showed up and instantly became friends with Jud and the locals.
Any rate, the real legend of Little Rock, was a crazy bowl we'd always heard about, during an era, when most cities didn't have skateparks. It was called Kanis and it was nuts. I asked Jud some history about the park; this is what he had to say,
"Kanis history (as I recall) somewhere around 1988 two skateboarders approached the city about building a public skatepark, there was a previous outdoor park called Skateworld from the 70s. When skating started to boom again in the late 80s, the city agreed to build another skatepark, the original design was going to be more of a square shape with angled hips leading into the shallow end. By the time of construction, the city decided to just use a peanut shape and hire the cheapest labor they could find, hence the different trannys, over vert, and lop-sided hips. Anyways the bowl was finished in the late spring of 89, and the street course about 6 months later. (The "street course" was 30' long curb with angle iron and a 30' long 1&1/2' tall angled wall with a curb on top). me and my friends would spend our summer days there skating and hanging out, watching all of the older dudes shred, drink beer, smoke weed, etc. of course over the years it was used less and less, they finally tore down the street course, and eventually the sessions were few and far between. It slowly became a place for graffiti kids to paint without getting busted, many gang initiations went on, and then it became the hangout for all the alternative persuasion people to park backwards and do god knows what. In the late nineties Little Rock had an indoor park that hosted skateboard demos, somehow these pros had heard of a local pool built by the city, thus sparked a resurgence of people wanting to use the bowl for it original purpose-skating and BMX. List of pros-chet childress, Ron Whaley, Richard Kirby, Magilla, Tag, Maniac, Bas Keep, to name the most memorable. Now Kanis is probably getting more use than it has in 10-11 years there has been a group of skateboarders with a D.I.Y. approach, they have constructed concrete obstacles where the street course used to be and have bonded and painted up the old bowl. They host a benefit jam once a year to raise money for more crete and tools with auctions, bands, etc. Oh yeah crazy stuff- we used to make muriatic acid bombs with two liter coke bottles and throw em in the deep end and watch them release pressure and carve around the bowl till they blew up..."
The last time I was there, I was on a road trip and the FBM team was BBQing at Kanis with Jud, and his family. Some old school skaters were riding the bowl and one of them tried an invert and ate crap badly in the deep end, falling all the way to the bottom and compound fracturing his leg. We had to carry him out of the bowl, with a makeshift splint, and put him in a jeep Cherokee, so his friends could get him to the ER. It was gnarly, never a dull moment at the Kanis Bowl.