Skaters get creative with the shutdown of skateparks and the lack of designation of skateboards as an essential mode of transportation.
The skateparks in Los Angeles are unusually quiet. There are no sounds of skaters grinding or smacking the tail ends of their boards against the ground to congratulate another skater for a gnarly trick. There are no people waiting to drop into a bowl or hit a rail. There is just complete silence.
It hasn’t been this way since the early ’80s when skateparks started to close after liability issues arose and adults deemed that the “fad” was over. Back in the day, the mostly male skaters knew what to do about being pushed out of the parks.
They went back to their roots: building backyard ramps, finding empty swimming pools at abandoned houses — if they were lucky. Eventually, street skating became a discipline of its own, as park benches, curbs, stairs and even handrails turned into skate-able obstacles in improvised urban courses.
Fast-forward to 2020 and a global pandemic. Outdoor skateparks, indoor training facilities geared for skateboarding and even roller rinks in Los Angeles have closed, albeit temporarily, and skaters are left at a loss. For some, the yellow caution tape was not much of a deterrent. Probably because skaters are used to being kicked out of places, yelled at and even chased when skating anywhere that is technically off-limits.
But when places like the Venice Beach skatepark were filled with sand and others like the El Dorado and Caruthers skateparks had mulch deposited throughout, it’s time to go old school and get creative.
“I couldn’t believe it when I saw Venice filled with sand,” says Julie Daniels, who skates there almost daily with her daughter Quinne. “The visual was just heartbreaking, but I also knew the city was dealing with trying to keep COVID in check, so on that level, I understood.”
Since the beginning of the pandemic, skaters have worked together to save an industry and lifestyle they love. Spearheaded by the Go Skateboarding Foundation and the International Association of Skateboard Companies, skaters banded together on Change.org.
The idea was to petition California Gov. Gavin Newsome to recognize skateboarding as an essential mode of transportation, which would pave the way for skate shops to reopen immediately as essential businesses. So even if the parks weren’t opening, their favorite local skate shops would hopefully not die off from being closed.
Most of the “next” generation of skaters has grown up during a time when skateparks have been numerous in L.A. But when a situation this drastic arises, they not only become activists to protect the hobby they love, but they also learn what to do quickly to be able to keep skating, by turning to DIY and what is within immediate reach.
These female skateboarders, ages 5 to 55-plus, have each found unique ways to keep skating while staying safe at home or in empty spots right in their neighborhood. Parking lots, driveways, some wood propped up as a launching pad, skating inside their homes — that is now their new normal.
Longtime skateboarder Amy Bradshaw immediately took it back to the parking lots near her home, skating curbs and learning tricks she can then execute at the park when things get back to normal.
Tracie Garacochea from Santa Monica immediately called 2×4 Miniramps. The SoCal company produces portable ramps, and she had one built to her exact specifications so she could launch airs — a type of skateboarding trick usually performed on half-pipes, pools or quarter-pipes — while in her wheelchair in her long sloping driveway.
Others, like 9-year-old Briel Weingartner, headed over to the local church parking lot where she was able to set up a DIY situation to practice rail slides and airs. “It’s not as much fun as skating at the park with my friends,” Weingartner says, “but at least I still get to skate!”
Mimi Masher was hit with a double whammy. Not only were the skateparks closed, so was the local outdoor roller rink where she throws roller disco parties weekly. She’s making do with some indoor speed runs at a local parking garage and having solo disco sessions while skating on the wood floors in her living room.
Mother and daughter skateboarders Julie and Quinne have taken different routes to deal with their favorite park being closed. Julie prefers to skate the alleys and streets near their home, while Quinne opts for the mini half-pipe in the front yard.
Five-year-old newly minted skateboarder Mackenzie Lester misses her group skate classes at South Bay Sk8Kids, but she is determined not to lose the skills she gained while there, so now there is a small, pink quarter-ramp that fits perfectly in her driveway at home.
If you’re asking yourself, why it is so important for these women and girls to skate, you’ve never been on a board, skates or a wheelchair outfitted to ride at a skatepark. It’s freedom, sanity, pushing yourself, a workout and elation all wrapped up in one. It’s part of who you are and something that not even a stay-at-home order can diminish your craving for.
As of now, skateparks remain on the governor’s closed list, and these skaters are finding as many options as they can out there to keep the stoke going.