A good street skate spot requires a remarkable coincidence of unintended features. You need the right combination of smooth surfaces, stairs, ledges and gaps. But you also need them to be configured in just the right way, and not in a place that is choked with crowds, like most of the downtown areas where plazas holding these obstacles exist. While skaters will always find a place to shred, these perfect conditions come together only rarely. On these rare occasions, city planners or school designers build a landscape so well-suited to skating that skaters themselves might never have dreamed it up. Here are seven of the most famous skate spots ever to grace the sport of skateboarding.
What skate spot could be more classic than the Brooklyn Banks? Located underneath the Manhattan side of the Brooklyn Bridge, the banks are a hidden and forlorn corner of the city, loved by skaters and unknown to everyone else. It was a perfect accident of civic architecture that created this three-block long expanse of smooth red bricks, complete with a perfectly-banked wall of varying heights, wallride spots, stairs and handrails. The best skatepark designers could hardly have done a better job. The banks have nourished generations of East Coast skaters whose cities are often lacking for prime skate spots. Skaters have had to fight, though, to keep the place safe from demolition. They’ve been successful for the most part, but Brooklyn Banks is currently off-limits to skaters while it undergoes a four-year hibernation period so the city can renovate and repaint the bridge.
Love park, in Center City, Philadelphia—known for its iconic LOVE scultpture —couldn’t have been better designed for skateboarding. It’s circular construction makes it ideally suited to long lines, and skaters can make use of every staple of street skating obstacle, all made of smooth granite. There are ledges short and tall, ledges going off of stairs, benches, manual pads, handrails and more. The granite tiles can also be pried up and propped up to make launch ramps. This compilation of skateable obstacles has made LOVE a skating haven for decades, and as skaters make increasingly creative use of its resources, it has kept up with the evolution of skateboarding. The main event at the spot, of course, lies at its center: a water fountain surrounded by four long steps, perfect for huge tricks that land in the fountain’s smooth basin.
Today one of the most recognizable concrete skate parks in the U.S. started as a forsaken coincidence of urban infrastructure. The space underneath the east end of Portland’s Burnside Bridge was out of the way, dirty and forgotten until skaters started building concrete ramps that made the bridge pilings into walls of ad hoc vert ramps. Eventually, skaters got permission from the city to let their skatepark persist and Burnside’s ramps, bowls, hips and pyramids have only gotten better and better. Skaters who grow up at Burnside learn to skate fast, air big and shred over rough spots and uneven coping.
Southern California schools are not just centers of academic education, but training centers for generations of skateboarders who have learned their craft at the school grounds. At the Lockwood School, the region’s vastness has allowed the building of untold acres of smooth blacktop, equipped with plastic-covered benches and picnic tables, well-suited for grinding and sliding, and ready to be stacked and arranged any which way. But even better, school architects often built smooth banks at the schoolyard’s edges so that errant basketballs and volleyballs would roll back to playing children. Of all these SoCal school skate sports, Lockwood Elementary School has held a special place in the annals of the sport, featured heavily in classic skate movies such as Girl and Chocolate’s 1996 “Mouse.”
Demolished by the city of San Francisco two years ago, Hubba Hideout will always remembered as a simple but impactful place that played a major role in the progression of skating. It’s construction was simple: a set of six stairs flanked by enormous ledges descending at a gentle angle. The obstacles helped skaters push the limits of ledge height and the tricks that could be done on them. This forced a marriage of technical ledge tricks and daring attempts at big air maneuvers.
Another famous skate spot long demolished by city leaders – The Pit played an enormous role in the explosion of ledge skating through the 1990s (seen here at :06). The enclosed pavilion on the sand in Venice Beach was covered in an ever-changing layer of florid graffiti and frequented by only skaters and vagrants. By its last days, the edges of the concrete tables and benches were extremely rounded from years of heavy grinding. It can be hard to see in videos, but the pit’s tight corners made performing lines extra difficult.
Los Angeles High School
Yet another unwittingly perfect creation from Los Angeles Unified School District – this spot holds a place in the street skating hall of fame (seen here at 1:20). The attractions here are the banked planters covered in small, smooth tiles. The rapid-fire sound of the skateboard wheels rolling over the tiles only adds to this skate spot’s magic. The famous banks aren’t the biggest, and the stairs and handrail aren’t the tallest, but the overall aura of the orange banks, the smooth tiles and the opportunity for lines that include the banks and the rail make this spot one of the greatest of all time.
Cover Photo Credit: Incase / Flickr.com