With rain clouds brewing over Rand Park on a recent afternoon, Xavier Harris glided along a concrete ledge on his skateboard before making a smooth landing.

He wasn’t done. Working a quarter-pipe, he landed with the loud thump of wheels and board meeting pavement — to skaters, a sweet sound.

At 23, coming to the park to skateboard has been a part of his life for roughly a decade. The other day, joined by his friend, John Dougherty, he negotiated the swoops and turns with the ease of an old pro, which in a way he is. 

He and Dougherty have been coming to the Rand skate park since they were middle schoolers and have seen it grow from a few curved pipes and railings to a fuller obstacle course. More is coming.

In the first week of December, a contractor is scheduled to start installing eight new skateboarding sculptures for a new skate park. The timeline aims for the project to be ready before the holiday season.

The refurbished skate park will include state-of-the-art skateable sculptures designed by Alexis Sablone, an Olympic skater. It will be the first in the United States that Sablone, an MIT and Barnard College graduate, has designed. 

At the moment, though, the Rand Park course consists of hand-built ramps, half pipes and other challenges laid out on the tennis courts, all put together by the skaters themselves.

“I’m just hype people are carrying on the Rand tradition,” Harris said the other day, paying little mind to the darkening sky. 

The park, at the corner of Chestnut Street and Essex Avenue, draws skaters from Montclair High School, a block away — including the skateboarding club — as well as skaters from other area schools and clubs. 

Nina Allen is the president of Boardroom Skate, a collective for women and nonbinary and trans people of all ages and experience levels. As a male-dominated activity, the importance of creating a safe and comfortable environment to skate in is something Allen views as vital. She takes pride, she says, that the organization has fostered a community of diverse skaters. 

Standing in the park recently, before her group would gather, she watched a girl of about 6 testing her abilities on a skateboard. The girl was decked out in knee pads and a helmet. Allen said that Boardroom Skate supplies boards to people who may not be able to afford one.

“It’s really nice to give them something and give back to the whole community,” Allen said. 

Jamie Siwinski, a trustee for Skate Essex and the faculty adviser for the Montclair High School skate club, has witnessed the importance of skating for young children. The benefits of skateboarding range from neurological to physical, Siwinski said, adding that there is a thrill that comes with learning something new, with having people cheer you on for sticking a landing. For some, just the vibrations of riding on a board are soothing, he said.

Rand Skate Park Kids is a venue for lessons. Max Mohr works with Shred Co. to teach a younger generation how to skate. “It’s been proof that it builds community,” Mohr said. His experience working with children and utilizing the park himself after work has shown him the reach of skateboarding across age groups. 

The skating community has existed in Montclair long before the current setup on the tennis courts. Harris, who graduated from Montclair High School in 2017, recalls building a ledge on the courts when he was just 13, alongside his friend Dougherty. 

The other day, just before it began raining, Harris tested out a recent addition to the park, a concrete ledge outfitted with an angle iron. He used the middle of the skateboard to maneuver along the edge. Speaking in skateboarding lingo, Harris described the trick as intermediate and a “boardslide on the rail.” 

With new construction on the way and a range of groups using the park, Harris said he was looking forward to the community of skaters growing and carrying on a tradition that remains an essential part of his life.