Today skateboarding is as popular as ever, and even though its reputation of recklessness and rebellion remains, San Diegans have come to accept skateboarding as an irrepressible rite of youth. In deference to the old “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” adage, civil governments and civic organizations like the YMCA have taken the step of building and maintaining skateboard parks around town, so there’s less conflict on busy streets and sidewalks. The ESPN X-Games, NBC Gravity Games and a whole line of commercial products and video games have brought skateboarding into the legitimate mainstream. Skateboarders as a whole seem to be more respectful of the public and much of their hardened attitude and hard-core appearance these days is just part of the persona.
Among the first to mass produce the skateboard were local surfboard makers like Gordon and Smith. Now, skateboarding has grown into a multi-million dollar industry, and leading manufacturers like Birdhouse and Sector Nine keep San Diego at the forefront of the international skate movement.
San Diego's superstar skate talent pool includes: the legendary Tony Hawk, Andy Macdonald, Danny Way, Ryan Sheckler, Bob Burnquist, Bucky Lasek, Cara-Beth Burnside and numerous up-and-coming kids. A growing community of pro snowboarders spend their off-season here skating and surfing, Olympic Gold Medalist Shaun White among them. San Diego is also the home of skate industry manufacturers, skateboard magazines and the annual Action Sports surf and skate trade show.
Street skaters make the most of whatever terrain is at hand, expressing themselves on an urban landscape of stairwells and retaining walls, park benches and planters. It goes without saying that not all property owners and public officials appreciate this unique form of art, and you'll see deterrent speed bumps plastered to handrails and other obstacles throughout high-impact, metropolitan zones. Many areas have strict codes that forbid skateboarding altogether. So, if you intend to leave your own mark on the San Diego skate scene, make sure it's because you rip and not because you wrecked the place.
There are great skate parks all around town, and with really good talent to boot. Whether you're ready to ride, or just like to watch, take a visit to the Ecke YMCA in Encinitas, where pros and bros can be found on virtually any day of the year. There are excellent municipal parks in Coronado, Ocean Beach, Oceanside and elsewhere throughout the county. Most San Diego skate parks are concrete, outdoor, open-air affairs. In addition to bowls, most have some kind of interesting transitions, walls and rail slide features. There are indoor half-pipes and wood ramps around town, but most of these are private and you have to know the right people to access them.
Sometimes all you want is to go from A to B and, when it comes down to it, skateboards offer a fun and easy way to get around. Non-driving kids use them to visit their friends, students use them to get to and from school, and adults use them to grab a gallon of milk at the corner store. Soul skaters carve hills on their longboards, or cruise the beach when the parking lots are full. You'll find people of all ages, all over San Diego, using their skateboards as a means of transportation.
Roller skates, the traditional four-wheeled kind, are pretty much limited to indoor roller rinks these days, but you can still find some roller advocates getting their groove on, down around Belmont Park and up and down the Mission Beach Boardwalk. More popular are inline roller skates which, though there are radical folks that use them for pipe and street tricks, are seen mainly on fitness jaunts around Mission Bay Park and other public path networks.
First timers should be prepared for some hard knocks. The vert ramp at the local skate park probably isn't the best place to learn. Get a feel for the board on flat ground and you'll be up and riding in no time. In addition to the helmet (which all skaters and cyclists should wear), newbees should consider knee pads, elbow pads and wrist guards. There is no shortage of skate, surf and other sporting goods stores around town that sell skateboards and protective gear, but few that rent them. Hamel's next to the Belmont Park roller coaster is your best bet.
For beginners and veterans alike, there's no shortage of pavement in San Diego; just make sure you pick the right patch. Officially, skateboarding and skating are not permitted on any streets where cars drive, nor on sidewalks in commercial districts. Some public walkways, most private parking lots and all school campuses prohibit skateboarding as well. The good news is, there are miles of boardwalks and bike paths throughout the city, built specifically for this type of free-wheeling fun. Obey posted signs and use your common sense.
Find the spot that's right for you in a comprehensive directory of skateparks throughout San Diego County. All skateboard parks require approved helmets and safety gear. Privately run parks require liability waivers, in addition to membership and/or admission fees. As a general rule, San Diego City skateboarding parks are open from 10 a.m. until dusk every day of the year. Minors are required to be supervised by an adult. You can find specific information about park locations, hours and regulations on the San Diego Parks and Recreation website or other municipal websites for the city in which you are visiting.
Follow this link for more information on the sports and recreation activities available on your next visit to San Diego!