North By Northwest: Vancouver, Portland, and Seattle.

by Tara Ryan

If all you know about the Pacific Northwest is rainy weather, Burnside, coffee, and The Slam City Jam, then you know nothing. These three cities are blowing up right under your nose, so look and listen, and you just might learn something.

Vancouver, British Columbia is a large city located in southwestern British Columbia about 26 miles northwest of the good-old United States border. A couple of years ago, in order to keep kids off the streets, the City Council funded about fifteen amazing concrete skateboard parks. This makes for tons of free (as in “no cost to you” and “no pad wearing”) parks and an enormous downtown, which offers some great skating. The only things to look out for are the rain clouds (you can only skate about six months of the year), and the cops while you’re in the business district.

As you can see by the photographs, some notable parks in and around the greater Vancouver area include White Rock, in the southeasterly direction, Richmond and Ladner parks just south of the main downtown area, Ambleside in North Van, and Aldergrove and New Westminster east of the city. Also, while in Vancouver be sure to visit the Capilano Suspension Bridge. We were lucky enough to stop there the day after some disturbed mother threw her eight-month-old baby over the railing and down 90 feet into the ravine. Those crazy Vancouverans.

Sleepless in Seattle are what the skateboarders in this city must be from all the sick spots they have to skate. Located in the western-central region of Washington State, this fine city offers gaps, rails, ledges of varying sizes and lengths, stairs galore, hills, bowls (another one was being erected while we were in town), and banks to anyone who comes to visit. The scene in Seattle, once again minus the nine months of Pacific Northwest rain, is positive and lowkey. The area is big enough that there’s tons to skate, and even more of the metropolis to soak in. Definitely check out the West Lake ledges in the heart of downtown, the Waterfront area, the bowl sculpture under the famous Space Needle, Red Square, and Gasworks, which you’ll need a car for. Oh yeah, the burritos are not to be missed, and the coffee isn’t actually half bad.

Portland, Oregon is a place like no other. Besides having the world’s most famous skatepark and a ton of nearby parks, this city also has a downtown with spots around every corner. Now we all know who, what, when, where, and why Burnside was created. The capsule bowl, pool, vert walls, pyramid, trannies, quarterpipes, hips, and humps are legendary and still continue to evolve. Portland’s downtown area is chock-full of skate obstacles as well. Love Joy, Magic Five, Waterfront Park, and some local schools such as Creston and Lincoln High are all fun spots with gaps, steps, ledges, and rails. Loading docks and banks are also abundant in Portland, you just have to do a little searching.

So that’s basically a rough summary of three sick skateboard cities that could easily fill a magazine on their own. I’m sure you get the picture: these places rank in the forefront. Between the parks, streets, friendly people, and scenery in these cities, you’ll find you hardly even notice all the rain. Well, maybe not.