Skateboarding Prohibited!

Do these signs look familiar? They’re pretty much everywhere in the majority of U.S. cities where we try and skate-posted on the sides of buildings in huge business complexes, parking lots, schools, public parks … public parks? Yeah, even in the most public of public places-common areas that are meant for everyone. Skateboards aren’t allowed on sidewalks in downtown business districts-not even for transportation. But these signs are so prevalent that as skaters we become blind to them. We can’t see them anymore. And we don’t really care. If we see something skateable, we’re going to at least attempt a trick once-or until we’re given the boot.

As much as that seems like a hassle, it’s also what’s fun about skateboarding-getting away with something you’re not supposed to be doing. I mean, it’s almost as much of a hassle to go and skate in a designated area called a skatepark. Do you have your pads? Admission is five dollars. Where’s your rec card? Come on, how many hoops do we have to jump through just to roll around?

For many years, skateboarding has been statistically proven to be safer than all mainstream sports like hockey, football, baseball, and soccer, and you’re just as likely to get injured jumping on a frickin’ trampoline. Anti-skateboarding legislation-like not being able to use your skateboard for transportation or forcing the choice for a legal adult to wear protective gear at skatepark-is a joke and the cities that pass them need to wake up and become part of the solution and not part of the problem.

In a recent article in San Diego’s Union Tribune, skaters were blamed for the destruction of a historic fountain in Balboa Park. Everyone wanted to know what skateboarding was going to do about it. Authorities have suggested a PSA (public service announcement) like alcohol and tobacco companies legally have to run because they are responsible for millions of deaths yearly. Maybe something like, “Skate responsibly-think before you skate!”

Maybe if, instead of banning skateboarding everywhere, cities provided hassle-free skate zones, they wouldn’t be battling this sort of problem. San Diego County is a perfect example of what not to do. Besides the overall terrible design of Carlsbad skatepark, the mediocre layout and construction of Vista, the pad-sting operations in Poway, Coronado skatepark needed sections of its parks jack-hammered because the cement job was so bad it was deemed unrideable. That comes from poor planning-instead of actually hiring a reputable contractor, they take the lowest bidder, who usually doesn’t know a thing about building a skatepark. And in the end, it costs the city more money than if they had just hired the right person in the first place. They should look at examples of cities who’ve built skateparks that benefit their communities like Louisville, Kentucky, Denver, Colorado, or any park in Oregon.

Barrio Logan skatepark is built in one of the poorest neighborhoods in San Diego, yet it costs five dollars per session to skate there. What kid in the neighborhood can afford the fee? Where’s the logic? They’re not making it easy for kids to want to skate in their designated areas.

If skateparks aren’t going to be hassle-free, then the problem with us taking to the streets to find a ledge to grind, a glossy red curb to slappy, a set of stairs to ollie, or a parking lot to have a game of SKATE in will never go away. That’s what skateboarding thrives on-being free.-Eric Sentianin