Seattle: Land of the Free and Home of the Pour

My alarm wakes me up at 5 am, and I grab my camera gear, a bag of clothes, and hit LAX for my flight to Seattle. I arrive in Washington state with no plans other than to call my friend Tim Hayes of the band The Fakies who I met through Juice Magazine a few months ago in Venice.

After landing in Seattle, I jump on a train and head for Pike Place Market in the heart of downtown. I get off the train and decide to check out the closest skate shop I could find. Black Market Skate Shop sits high on a hill surrounded by massive gentrification of the area. The shop stands out and is a stronghold of old Seattle. I walk into the shop and, to my surprise, Tim is there doing some board shopping. The feeling of seeing a friendly face in a town where you know nobody is pretty rad. Tim is stoked to see me and agrees to show me around the city while he tries to hook me up with some local skaters.

Lower Woodland Park near Green Lake in Seattle

Tim takes me to Lower Woodland Park near Green Lake in Seattle. This park was built by Wally Hollyday in approximately 2008. Tim tells me that the park has a rough feeling to it with beautiful imperfections. There is nobody skating the park when we get there but, true to the skate culture in Seattle, there are a couple of Tim’s friends just hanging out drinking some beers and shooting the shit.

The park features a sick clover shaped pool with high walls and vert in the deep end. There is also a street plaza that connects to a flow section. The skate area is enclosed by a small fence and just outside the park is a dirt BMX area. The street plaza is full of scooters and I’m quick to learn that scooters are all over the local parks and that most of the skating happens at random times when groups of skaters will show up together and take over.

Delridge Park, Egg bowl.

Tim and I jump back in his car and we head off to another local park. Twenty minutes or so later, we arrive at Delridge park, a Grindline built park located in West Seattle close to where Monk once lived and built “The Big Bowl” and later “The ButterBowl”. This park features an egg-shaped bowl with deceptively deep walls in the big end of the pool. I see that the park is being skated by a couple of guys and decide to try to get whatever photos I can.

Delridge flow section.

Seattle is a mix of intense city development and amazing tree-lined mountains cascading down to the pristine waters of the Puget Sound. I am immediately struck by the beauty of this area and the quality of the people who I’m introduced to.

Chris Noll with a backside grind on a wave wall at Delridge park.

Tim drives me to the headquarters of Grindline and, when we arrive there, we pull up to a building that is shrouded by amazing trees and forest growth. The natural beauty of the environment is staggering and I’m just in awe being in its presence. Tim knocks on the door of the office building and asks if it’s cool for us to check out the ramp. Tim then says, “Follow me.” I push past some bushes and there, in front of me, is a small trail leading to the mother of all ramp covers. I can’t describe the feeling I had stepping in the footsteps of so many amazing skaters who have taken this very same trail to the ramp. I notice a cabin and ask Tim about it and he tells me, “That’s Monks place.” I’m struck by the surreal feeling of being in this hallowed ground.

Tim Hayes leading the way dow the trail to Monk’s half-pipe known to the locals as Seattle Vert.

The moment I laid eyes on this magnificent work of skate art it was like seeing the holy grail of half-pipes. Every screw and every layer of wood was masterfully placed with care and precision. Standing at the threshold to this ramp made me feel like I was entering a church, a skate cathedral. I snap a shot and slowly climb the ladder up to the deck.

Monk’s half-pipe known as Seattle Vert

There wasn’t anyone skating the ramp that day, but I know I will have a chance to get somebody there before I end this trip. Standing on the deck and seeing the size and quality of this master-crafted half-pipe was simply amazing.

Tim Hayes standing on the edge of greatness.

My first day in Seattle and already I’ve seen some amazing spots. Tim gets a phone call and hooks me up with Black Market Skates owner, Kyle Minahan, who tells me he will assemble his skate team and meet me at Marginal Way the following day. I’m stoked already and getting excited about shooting with his crew.

I wake up the next day and head out to Marginal Way. I arrive there and am welcomed by a group of skaters in a way that made me feel like they were all homies that I had known for years. Marginal Way is one of the best DIY spots that I have ever been to. As always, with most DIY spots, it looks awesome, but make no mistake – it’s intense and you’ve gotta be on point if you expect to tame her walls!

Some of the crew chillin’ at Marginal Way

I begin shooting the crew and starting my interview process. The first skater I shot and spoke with was Nygel Mayfield and this is what he told me.

Nygel Mayfield at Marginal Way

Nygel is 23 years old and was born in Everett, Washington, about 20 minutes north of Seattle. He has lived in Seattle and the surrounding area for his entire life. He says he started skating at 12 years old because his father would take him to local skateparks. Nygel says his father actually started skating at 41 years old and I found that pretty rad! Nygel has been riding for Black Market Skates for about eight months now and he says it’s been sick getting to skate with the team since most of them are already longtime friends.

I asked Nygel how he finds the skate scene in Seattle.

“I feel like we’re all pretty much a family, like no matter where you are, what park you go to or how good you are, everybody is going to accept you simply because you want to skate.”

What if you wanna ride a scooter?

(Laughs) “Um, that’s a completely different story.”

What’s your favorite spot in Seattle?

“It’s definitely Marginal. You can just come here and chill. There is nobody here except for skaters so pretty much, if you come here to skate, people are going to accept you and be stoked to see you skate no matter what your level is.”

Marginal Way is always a work in progress, right?

“Yeah. It all started with the one big wall over there. (See photo below). There were mostly crackheads and people like that here. In fact, a meth lab blew up over there and you can still see the black on the wall  Slowly, the build just kept growing and eventually the skaters took it over and now it’s here.”

Nygel wall ride on the birth wall of Marginal Way.

What’s your plan for your future in skateboarding?

“I started out just skating and not thinking about the future and now I just really want to keep skating and having fun.”

Do you want to skate competitively?

“I stay neutral on it. It’s not my main goal. If the opportunity presents itself, I might compete, like last year there was a contest and I didn’t even want to compete, but my buddy was like, “Hey, man, I paid $10 for you to enter in the Am contest.” So I did and I ended up actually winning it, so that was cool.”

Nygel Transfer at Marginal Way

What would you tell any skaters coming to Seattle?

“You better come to Marginal Way.”

Burnside isn’t that far from you guys. How do Seattle skaters and the skaters from Portland get along?

“We go there a lot and they come here too. We get along good. I think were all accepting of each other. We’re hyped when people come here and skate.”

A lot of people are intimidated by DIY parks. What are your thoughts on that?

“Hey, it’s rad to watch people show up here and skate and then they drop in and it’s way more gnarly than they expect. I’m always stoked on it. You better skate it before you leave here, Chris!”

I agree to skate Marginal, but refuse any photos!

What does skateboarding mean to you personally?

“Skateboarding is life. I use it to get through life. Besides my biological family, this is my family now and we’ll be together forever as long as we continue to skate together.”

What would you do if you could never skate ever again?

“I’d probably just lay on my board in full pads and bomb hills!” (I tell him that doesn’t count.) “Ok, well, if I can’t ever skate again, then I’m going to continue to show up and support my friends and still be stoked to be around it.”

Nygel Boneless inside Marginal Way

I sat down with Kyle Minahan, the owner of Seattle-based Black Market Skates and this is what he said.

Kyle is 35 years old and was born in Seattle. He has lived in Arizona and San Diego, but he came home to be in Seattle with his family and friends. He says, “Skating in Seattle is mellow, and there are a lot of good parks and during the summer it’s great. The rain in Seattle can get pretty heavy, so we all have rain boards with cruiser wheels.”

Kyle Minahan riding the tiles in the pill at Marginal Way

When and why did you decide to open Black Market Skate Shop?

“We started in 2010, I did it because of necessity. It was really hard to get quality products locally. When I was living in San Diego, my friend had a shop called Route 44 and I thought it was really cool and I decided it would be cool to have something like that at home.”

Would you mind telling me your thoughts on Mark Hubbard’s passing. How has it affected the skate community here?

“It’s really tough. He was a good friend and an inspiration for all of us. He’s definitely somebody we thought of as immortal really. I’ve known him my entire life and I used to go skate his bowl when I was 12 years old. I looked up to him. We all did. He helped us build Marginal Way. He did some of the original pours here. It’s a huge loss for us.”

What does skateboarding mean to you?

“To me, it’s all about my friends and everything we do along the way. It’s not just doing tricks. It’s more about the family we have together as skaters.”

Where do you like to skate? What spots do you want to go back to?

“Well, thanks to Monk, there are good spots everywhere now – pools, parks, spots and DIYs. All that stuff started because he did that.”

What’s next for Black Market?

“For me, what it’s all about is keeping skateboarding in the hands of skateboarders. I’ll never give up my store to corporate!”

Where would you tell people to skate if they came here?

“Well, skate all the parks, the Grindline parks, Marginal Way, of course, and street spots. Come here and skate, but then go home.” (laughs)

Brick Straight @toast_law backside deathbox nosepick on the tall wall at Marginal Way.

Chris Tarrosa @cuttycurbcuts invert to ceiling stall at Marginal Way

Chris Tarrosa nosegrind inside Marginal Way

I spoke with Reese Record and this is what he told me. He was born in Kent, Washington, and has been in Seattle his entire life. He is 28 years old and likes Seattle because it rains a lot. He grew up watching all the OG skaters in Seattle and spent a lot of time at Marginal Way. He said, “Being able to meet people like Hubbard and getting to work with him has been amazing for me and that has always hyped me.”

So you helped pour Marginal Way. When was it officially open?

“It officially got the okay by the city in 2004, but it was going way before that. The wall was the first thing and that was it for a while. Also, it was super gnarly down here, like ghetto and sketchy. We basically ran everyone out of here and the skaters took it over.”

When did you start skating?

“I got my first board when I was five, but I didn’t really start skating until I was 11.”

What’s it like being part of the Black Market Crew?

“Well, Kyle was the first guy who came to me and said, “I’ll give you free shit if you wanna ride for me.” That’s how that happened. BMS has always been really tight. It’s ridiculous how tight our family is. Other shops don’t sell the stuff we all like, so that’s where it’s at.”

How long do you think you’ll be skating?

“Well, I see old dudes out there, like 60-year-olds, still skating, so that would be cool if I could still be skating then.”

Reese Record IG @greesemoney stalls one on the column off the wall at the edge of Marginal Way

Reese stands next to RIP Monk GL4LIFE with a piece of skateboard art created by Reese to honor Monk at Marginal Way

While I was shooting at Marginal Way, I met up with another talented local skater Griffin Chase aka Grif. He rides for Moonshine Skateboards and this kid was killing it! I spent about an hour shooting with him and getting to know him a little bit.

Griffin Chase IG @grif_chase stalefish off the hip and into the wall at Marginal.

Grif is 19 years old and has been in Seattle his entire life. He says he started skating at five years old. He has traveled and skated in California as well as Hawaii.

What’s it like skating here in Seattle?

“It’s a crazy good scene up here. Everyone is super supportive and passionate about it. Here, it’s not about who’s the coolest, it’s just about having fun skating.”

How did you end up riding for Moonshine?

“Well, I was riding for another company and they ended up going under. A couple of days later, Moonshine hit me up through my Instagram and asked me if I wanted to ride for them and I said, “Of course.” I have been riding for Moonshine for about the last five years.”

Grif hits a fat Madonna Marginal Way

Do you like skating contests?

“Yeah, I do, but I’ve been kind of out of it lately because of injuries, but I definitely want to get back into it.”

What are your goals for your skating?

“I’m really just having fun with it and I want to see where it takes me.”

Street or Vert?

“I prefer skating tranny, DIY and half pipes but I have a lot of respect for street though. It’s crazy.”

How did Monk’s passing affect you?

“Well, it’s still affecting everyone here. He did so much for the community here. I wouldn’t be the skater I am today if it hadn’t been for all the parks he built. That’s where I learned to skate.”

Grif ollie transfer at Marginal Way

What’s the best part of skating in Seattle?

“Honestly, for me, it’s the people here. Nobody is too good or stuck up here. People are friendly and the skate family is great here.”

Where have you traveled for skating?

“I’m always traveling to California and Hawaii. I love skating there. In California, I like the people I’ve met there and skated with.”

Where do you think you’ll be at age 25?”

“I have no idea where I’ll be, but I hope I’m still skating, I’d like to be competing and for sure I’d like to turn pro soon. For me, school comes first and, as long as I’m continuing to skate and getting better and learning new tricks and I keep progressing, I feel like I can make skating my life.”

What would you tell young skaters coming up? What advice would you give them?

“Well, it’s gonna hurt, but as long as it’s fun for you, do it. If it’s as fun for you as it is to me, then you should keep skating. Just always have fun.”

Grif back disaster Marginal Way

Do you think it makes a difference to young kids who want to skate if they have the support of their parents?

“Support from parents is awesome, but I’m not into these dads that stand there yelling at their kid and stuff like that. It just doesn’t seem like it would be fun, but if they’re just helping the kid skate spots and progress then I think it’s huge. My dad was always supportive and pushing me, but he was never overbearing. I have to say that the support I’ve had from my parents has been awesome. I love them so much.”

What doe skateboarding mean to you?

“Honestly, I know it sounds cliché, but pretty much it’s everything. It teaches you so much like how to get back up after you fall down. It allows you to meet so many kinds of people and have so many types of experiences. It pretty much helps you live life in an awesome way. So much comes from skateboarding. It’s really hard to just say one thing about what it means.”

What would you say if somebody told you that you could never skate again?

“I’d probably tell them to fuck off.”

Marginal Way Roskopp Graffiti

With the day starting to pass, the boys decide to take me to Stargate for another session. We pile into the Black Market team van, which has two front seats, and the back is full of plastic lawn chairs. I’m told I can have the passenger seat because I’m old and, “Up here we respect our elders.” I’m happy that being the older guy actually led to something good for once! The van is driven by Randy Hanford. He is a staple in the community there, kind of the crazy glue that binds the boys together. Randy told me he has helped build and pour many of the parks and DIY spots in the area and many times side by side with Monk. We arrive at Stargate and meet up with more local skaters.

Tim Hayes stands in the portal under the watchful eye of Monk. Art by Jay Meer.

Located in South Park Seattle, the Stargate skate spot was built by Grindline and is one of the earlier parks created by Mark Hubbard. The park is built in the shape of a circle with four portals and two straight lines connecting and intersecting at the center of the circle. The place really has a mystical vibe to it, and it feels like some kind of alien-made landing pad or an intergalactic launch zone. I was told that the original concept was to eventually include some kind of bowl or pipe at each doorway, allowing skaters to flow in and out of the center area.

Standing in the center of Stargate and facing the Monk portal.

Griffin Chase front tailslide over the Monk portal at Stargate

Another tribute to Mark lines one of the circular walls inside the gates.

At the center of Stargate, there is a circular stone that seems to have an Aztec feel to it. This definitely contributes to the mystery surrounding this one-of-a-kind and very intense skate spot.

The most recent addition to Stargate includes a tall quarter pipe with a cement run up and return area behind the circular area of Stargate. There is also a small bump that can be used to pump into the wall or as an ollie launch pad. There is also a small corner section at the far end located behind the Monk portal.

Michael Ellis @not_as_drunkassellis666 hurricane on the latest pour at Stargate

Chris Tarrosa ollie up to blunt

This crew of skaters hangs tough during a typical session at Stargate.

The music is blasting as the crew takes time to chill and drink a few beers behind the wall at Stargate park. Pretty much, whenever these guys pull into this park, they break out the lawn chairs, let the dogs run loose, and continue to push each other to keep skating. The time I spent there with these guys was one of the most amazing days I’ve had shooting and exploring the skate life. If you make it to Seattle, you must get to Stargate. It’s worth the time and I promise you there’s nothing else like it.

James Edward Denton @hadhadiovich Black Market Skate Shop rider pops a fat ollie off the bump while still smoking his cig!

Yoshi Obayashi @bbqk9 layback varial through the Monk portal on the new corner section behind the gate.

The entrance to Stargate and the newly laid cement run up area to the quarter pipe.

On the last day I had to shoot in Seattle, I met up with Grif at a local park. He picked me up in this monster truck he says he pretty much built and maintained since he got it. I open the door and water bottles and skate parts kinda fall out. He fires up the engine and the thing is a beast! We drive out along the waterside and Grif is trying to find the dirt road we need to take to get to the paved road leading far into the hills where we will finally arrive at the headquarters of Grindline and the home of the Seattle Vert ramp.

Grif front nose grind tail grab at Seattle Vert.

Grif Stalefish at Seattle Vert

In closing, I have to say thank you so much to everyone in Seattle who made this trip so amazing for me. I highly recommend making Seattle one of your summer destinations. The parks and the people there are simply the best. The public transit system there is amazingly easy and affordable, but plan on taking short Uber rides to get to places like Marginal Way, Delridge or Stargate.

I spent most of my time chasing parks and vert while I was there but I would also like to point out that Seattle has some amazing street skating and, unlike many major cities, the people and the police don’t seem to mind skaters doing what they do. I was able to meet up with 2016 Seattle skater of the year, Dane Reising, who told me he had been checking out this one spot and wanted to get a photo of him hitting it. We arrived on the corner in downtown and I said, “I don’t see any spots here.” Dane pointed up to a three-story glass roof and said “I’m going to kick flip into that roof.” Though I was sure he would either die or get arrested, the photographer in me replied, “Cool, man. Let’s see it.”

Dane Reising @risingdee kickflip to glass embankment three stories high.

– Words and photos by @ChrisClicksDigital

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