In the early 1960s my family was living in Hermosa Beach, California. Our friend, Don Guild owned the local drugstore. Appearing one day in his front window was an 18-inch piece of wood painted red with a roller skate nailed to the bottom. On the top in big white letters it said “Bun Board.”
A friend of his had been trying for six months to get Don to sell them in his store. Finally Don took six of them on consignment. The boards were all gone in three days. I am not saying this was the first commercial skateboard ever built and sold but it was my first experience with one. As a 10-year-old kid when the wheels began to wear out on my roller skates I nailed them to the bottom of a board.
About a year or two later, word began to spread that there was a storm drain in nearby Torrance with steep sides in which the skateboarders could carve graceful turns along the sides. They also found unoccupied homes with empty swimming pools and rode their boards to a new level of high performance.
About this same time, the skateboard explosion occurred in Venice and Santa Cruz, California.
Within three or four years someone opened the first commercial skateboard park in the world. They tried to operate it like a ski resort by charging riders by the hour or selling them an all-day ticket.
Ed Siegel from the ski resort management business was able to land the job as general manager and had to improvise the rules as he went along. A lot of kids tried to ride free after hours when the park had closed.
In about 2000, I decided that Orcas Island needed a skateboard park as I watched the kids ravage the grocery and drug store parking lots. I was fortunate when the superintendent of schools gave us a quarter-acre of land so all we had to do was raise the money to build it. In the next couple of years we managed to raise $64,000 from friends.
One day, Paul Garwood, who owns the local lumber yard, and I were sitting where the park would eventually be located and decided that if we dug the hole the money would start showing up. And it did, in big numbers.
We hired Monk Hubbard and Grindline Builders of West Seattle to build the park for us. Next was the job of convincing the potential island donors to help support the park. Thinking in terms that kids who are worn out don’t get into trouble, we were able to secure great support resulting in donations of $250,000 – $50,000 of which went into an endowment for upkeep of the park for the future.
The city fathers where most skateboard parks are built assume control from day one. Those active in the project on Orcas Island instead told Grindline, “You are the world’s best, surprise us.”
In 2004, a Skateboard Magazine editorial said, “It’s one of the three best in the world.”
Halfway through the summer we purchased two sets of bleachers so that people could watch the skaters destroy their bodies crashing them against the concrete. Luckily, the park was located very close to the medical center.
During the summer months, van loads of young people with skateboards come across on the ferry to camp out in nearby Moran State Park. In the early evening, Coleman stoves heat up and cook whatever they find at the market that works for camp food.
I believe the cure for restless kids is the freedom we found in the skateboard park.