Noah Armstrong and Taj Bartle grew up skating Bato Yard together on the Central Coast.
Taj is 15 and has been skating for about seven years. Like a lot of young skaters, he was a surfer first and took up the sport to beat the flat days on the beach.
Noah is a few years younger than Taj, but he's a fierce bowl rider and went up an age category to compete in the Under 15s at the King of Concrete bowl riding competition at Bar Beach Skate Park at the weekend.
Noah, who's 12, has been skating for three years. His dad, who was also a skater until he suffered a shoulder injury, introduced his son to the sport.
As he drops into the bowl, he balances muscle memory, adrenaline, and the plan he has been running in his head constantly. Some skaters turn up days early to skate the bowl, learn the lay of the land, and iron out the kinks. When the competition begins, Noah's mind races two of three tricks ahead of him. He builds speed by hitting the corners, grinding over the lip, and then flies up the vertical walls and into the air.
"I think about the trick after I the trick I'm about to do," he said, "I have to get that, to this one, and then that to this one, and then once I'm on my last trick, it's just relief.
"The feeling of the wind in your face while you're in the air or the sound of the grind."
The Bar Beach bowl is one of the best in the country, the competition's organiser, Renton Millar - a former champion pro-skater and now a celebrated international skate judge. It's maintained well, he said, and the location is iconic. It's hard to find two bowls that are similar, and none are exactly alike, he explained. Skating is as much a work of art as a sport, and the infrastructure is no different.
Bowl skating emerged around the late 1970s in the US when a fierce Southern Californian drought saw residents in 1976 and 1977 emptying backyard swimming pools to conserve water. They were two of the driest years in the state's history, but innovative young skaters like Tony Alva, Steve Olson, Steve Alba - known as the Grandfather of Pool Skating - and the late Jay Adams suddenly found a concrete playground for their sport.
The history of skating is wrapped up in invention and necessity, finding new ways to traverse urban spaces and pushing the limits of what is possible on skate wheels.
Kalani Salussolia grew up on the Gold Coast and skates at the Level Up Academy in southern Queensland. He and his family travelled down to Newcastle for the weekend so that he could compete with his friends from around the country.
"I had a friend who skated," he said, "And he took me to the park one day, and I just loved it. I kept going.
"It's fun; you can travel, win prizes, and see the world."
Some of Australia's best skaters, from the Under 9s to the Masters, were at Bar Beach on Saturday, December 9, to test their metal in the middle of a scorching heatwave.
Millar, a World Cup champion in 2009 and Australian Bowl Riding Champion in 2012, 2015 and 2016, now dedicates his skating career to judging and finding the next generation of talent. He was a judge at the Tokyo Olympics when skateboarding was one of four new sports added to the roster in 2020, and is the head judge for WorldSkate, the governing body for all sports performed on skating wheels.
He said King of Concrete was about offering young amateur skaters the chance to experience a competition that closely aligns with what they could experience on the professional stage.
"I was lucky to grow up with a pretty solid peer group of skaters in Melbourne," he said, "We used to skate competitions all the time - almost every weekend - and it's cool to do that with the kids now with bowls, there's really no other series of events.
"There are a couple of other competitions that are pretty good. But, that's why I tried to create this, where we go to different places and make a little bit of a tour for the kids and give them a platform to show their skills, meet new kids, and have fun."
Valentine skating prodigy Taj Wolfenden was chasing his second consecutive crown in the opens on Saturday, but ultimately conceded to the 17-year-old Victorian Keefer Wilson from Nyora. 15-year-old local Isla Lillie Bower won the open women's category against 14-year-old Imogen Tanti from the Central Coast.
Anthony McIntyre grew up around Cardiff and has been skating for 40 years. He started when he was 14 when skating had a different reputation than today.
"I was a surfer," he said, "But then I got my license, and I realised I could drive to the skate park when the beach doesn't have the waves.
"Mum wouldn't take me to the beach or anything like that ... We didn't really have any facilities, and you had to go to the council ... (and) they would go to build something in a park, and the residents would complain about it because they'd 'bring the riff-raff to the park', all that sort of thing.
"Now, when you look at it, the community welcomes us ... All these facilities are for the kids, for the new kids coming along."
Mr McIntyre grew up building his own ramps to skate, and remembers when the Bar Beach Bowl was built back in 2010. He said it cost about $570,000 then, but you wouldn't find a better one for less than a million now. He said the local council, who maintains the facilities, had been careful with its upkeep, and the quality showed.
"This has been resealed a fair few times and the coping has been redone a couple of times. The council are really good. They look after us."
"It's just friends," he said, "All my mates are all skateboarders and just that scene. I'm into the music scene as well and I've always been into it just because I like it.
"This facility has brought people from around the world. We've had people from America, South America, all over the world and we've had big events here."
The life-long local took third in the Masters category at the weekend but said the competition was about fostering the younger skaters, who showed up with a tenacity that was only outdone by their fearlessness in the bowl.
"I had one good run, but that was about it," he said, laughing, "I haven't skated here for a month and a half. But you see, these kids, mate, were here most of the four days before the week to practise. We're not into it. We're just into it because we can do it."