” … a state where vibers are a distinct minority, harsh winters instil transition skills, and wallies fetch as many hoots as hardflips.” by Mike Windisch
Late Memorial Day afternoon during a blistering barbecue session at a backyard ramp in Fairfield, just moments after a four-foot vert extension was bolted above the steel surface, Naugatuck-gnarler George Martin blew minds with a few unbelievably burly pivots to fakie. Minutes later, when a photographer and videographer had their equipment rolling, someone suggested it would be a good trick to repeat for documentation. Blantantly ignoring the request, Martin continued working on another trick, completely unaware that his actions revealed a larger truth: his skating, and that of many Connecticut skaters, is validated from within, and external concerns about coverage, sponsorship, and industry machinations are as far away from what really matters as this small New England state is from Southern California.
Connecticut is a mostly suburban state nestled between New York, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island on the southern coast of New England. The little state is home to Martha Stewart, the birthplace of Naugahide, and a low-key-but-thriving skateboard community. By car, Connecticut’s dimensions are two hours east to west and one hour north to south – a scale which gives the entire state a small-town feel and lends a friendly familarity to the skateboard scene. While its major cities offer much skateable terrain and considerable amounts of urban decay, all but New Haven lack the cosmopolitanism and culture that characterise nearby metropolises like New York City, Boston, and Providence.
By virtue of its East Coast location, Connecticut is unfettered by the issues and intrigues of the skateboard industry. Connecticut Yankees seeking fortune and glory through sponsorship, coverage, and the benefits of perfect weather, make proactive moves to California. Homegrown rippers who have transplanted to success include: Donny Barley, Brian Anderson, Mat O’Brien, Tim Upson, Jim Greco, Jim Gagne, Judd Hertzler, Tony Dasilva, and photographer Brian Gaberman. Others whose skill and dedication have earned underground noteriety throughout Connecticut and beyond include Baito, Merckle, Batterson, Shark, Abirim Bathgate, Adam Sullivan, Scott Benoit, Jason Case, Jeff Paprocci, Mike Riddick, the nomadic McGraths, and school-year resident Tobee Parkhurst.
For those whom school, work, or life destine them to stay in-state, shop hook-ups, backyard ramps, and weekend missions with tight-knit local crews are the norm in a state where vibers are a distinct minority, harsh winters instil transition skills, and wallies fetch as many hoots as hardflips.
“I think the attitude of skating in Connecticut is different because the way kids skate here is about skateboarding,” says 24-year-old Harley Carrara, a lifelong skater and independent proprietor of Mass Appeal skate shop in Manchester. “It’s not about what tricks you can do, or what gear you’re wearing. In Connecticut, if you’re technical, you can hang out with the burliest of kids and still get along. Whereas when you go to New York City, everybody is more styled-out and tech. They care about how fresh they dress. Up here, kids are wearing Dickies and mesh hats. I hear people who come through my shop say, 'I don’t skate this, I don’t skate that.’ Here kids skate whatever you have.”
The season cycle of the Northeast breeds adaptable skaters who can find lines and throw down on all terrain. When frigid temperatures and the plowman’s bounty of sand render winter streets unridable, Connecticut skaters head indoors for masonite infusions at spots like B-17 and Todd’s Tuesday Night Fights ramp in New Haven, the CT Bike and Skate vert ramp in Bristol, and southeastern Connecticut mini ramps like Blayman’s Newbury’s.
When the rubble is removed from the roads in early spring, the best street skating is found after business hours in downtown Harrtford. Starting from the police-sanctioned ledges at Heaven – located in the park next to the highway – you can push around to all manner of marble, metal, and banked terrain between Constitution plaza, the Civic Center, and the State Capitol. New Haven’s many street spots (concentrated around the Yale campus) are best sampled via seek-and-destroy cruises from one to another, as extended sessions anywhere lead to Smokey And The Bandit-style sprints from the law. Stamford, Danbury, Waterbury, and New London are not as rich with ridable terrain, but each harbors hidden gems, and all are worth an afternoon’s exploration.
In the past year, town governments across Connecticut have warmed to the concept of public skateparks. Fairfield, New Milford, and Chester currently have wooden parks in operation, while Manchester, Ridgefield, and Groton are planning to pour concrete soon. Commercial parks, like Eastern Pulse in Milford and the soon-to-open Two-Pi in New London, are vying with the recently refurbished Bristol park to replace the defunct Playground as the locus of progressive skateboarding.
While new spots, more skaters, and higher levels of progression are absolute certainties for the future of Connecticut skateboarding, the native attitude of camaraderie, diversity, and adaptability will surely remain. As such, Harley Carrara’s summation of the essence of the Connecticut scene should endure for years to come: “We’re all friends together, skateboarding, having fun. That’s what it’s about.”