Sunday, July 16, 2017

Bays and Ports

The days spent in the bay area were wonderful and relaxing. Having spent our first day in Santa Cruz, we took one day each to check out San Francisco and San Jose. Our day in San Francisco began with a trip to the Presidio district and a working session at a coffee shop, followed by a meetup with a fellow Appel fellow. Afterwards we hit skateparks for the rest of the afternoon, going to Under the Bridge Skatepark on the northern part of the Mission and Portrero skatepark on the south side of the Mission. 

Under the Bridge skatepark reminded me of the skatepark I go to most often at home, FDR skatepark in South Philly. With a DIY vibe and a busy crowd going back and forth, the place was bursting with energy and a vibrant community of people who were enjoying the day. Earlier that morning an incident had occurred nearby during an annual hill-bomb, where many skateboarders go down a hill all together, with prizes given out and the spirit of the community renewed. That morning the police had gotten involved and a tense exchange broke out, largely due to the injury of a skateboarder trying to avoid police at top speed being clipped off his board by an officer, sparking outrage. The tension of the event could be felt at the park, one man talking about how he had seen his friend knocked off his board by the officer, and the frustration of having a tradition vilified and polluted with by the fear and misunderstanding of the police and the community in the area. But the day went on. People skated, bought beers for each other and kept pushing on. 

At Potrero skatepark I had a glimpse at a skateboarding legend, Andy Roy, who left just a few minutes after I arrived. A true skater's skater, Andy Roy is an embodiment of skateboarding's punk origins with his wild personality and an affinity for the ridiculous. He is well known for hosting Thrasher magazine's King of the Road, encouraging and facilitating debauchery and incredible skateboarding alike. My impression of him was more tame, seeing him end a run and stand quietly to the side, leaving without ceremony soon after, picking up trash on his way out. I met a few people around my age at the park a little bit later, who came through to remember their days as skaters, and I played one of them in a game of skate. I lost badly but learned new tricks along the way, even landing a trick on the first try which I had never landed before. On my last try to land a trick at the park before leaving, I split my pants completely down the middle, from crotch to backside, and had to carefully make my way back to the car without being too indecent. We headed back to San Jose laughing, and shared a pleasant meal with our host before getting a long night of sleep. 

Our day in San Jose was slower, getting brunch in the adjacent city of Los Gatos and then going shopping to replace my ripped pants and deal with a minor phone issue. We then went to the San Jose skatepark where we learned that the park had an entrance fee. Learning that the park required payment was disappointing to me for a few reasons, most importantly that it is not accessible to all. Kids or teenagers or even adults who skate for the love of it but do not have the ability to pay a few dollars to go to a skatepark will not be able to go, and this takes away from the personality of the park, making it exclusive and insulated. Many places that require payment are indoors, sheltering the skaters of the area from the elements of cold winter or rainy summers, however this skatepark was completely outside, and therefore was solely aimed at creating a controlled environment out of a sport that is inherently full of risk and danger. Much of the ethos and pride of skateboarding comes from braving the dangerous elements, experiencing failure and success, obtaining the ability to brave those dangerous elements and come out damaged but not broken. 

Leaving the paid facility behind we drove to another nearby skatepark, and Mira left me to go work nearby. However, just a few minutes after starting I fell going down the side of steep bank which would have not normally challenged me, but with a combination of legs that were not warmed up and my diagonal trajectory down the bank I was thrown off my board and onto my back. After a couple moments of shock from the impact I limped away and surveyed the damage, having reopened a cut obtained two weeks earlier and obtained a new, swelling bump on the right side of my lower back. Calling Mira, I asked for a speedy pick up. We returned back to our lodging and I applied ice and ingested ibuprofen, hoping for a speedy recovery. I have since made some improvement, but the latter part of this trip may be of limited skateboarding ability for me. 

The next morning we took what will be one of our last long, eight hour drives on our trip for a while, making our way up to Eugene, Oregon. We spent a fun evening there, and I popped into the WJ skatepark there for a bit, but we left quickly. The next morning we drove up to the Portland area and got settled with our new hosts in Cornelius, Oregon. We visited Multnomah Falls and a delicious area of food trucks called Cartlandia, and we even stopped at the Burnside Skatepark, one of the oldest and most revered DIY skateparks in the world, an ongoing building project by the community of that park. 

We have a couple more days in Portland and then we will be off to Seattle. The Pacific Northwest is full of incredible skateparks, passionate people and positive energy. I'm hoping for the health to experience the skateboarding with full gusto, but the people will make it all meaningful regardless. 

If you want to see video roundups of our weeks on the road as well as wonderful photography and more description of our daily activities, check out Mira's blog at

Top to bottom: Fog rolling in over the Santa Cruz mountains into San Jose, Multnomah Falls, Portrero skatepark, Under the Park/Soma West Skatepark.

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