DIY LIFE: Built By Skateboarders for Skateboarders

EXCLUSIVE STORY FROM JUICE MAGAZINE #76 ARCHIVES

Mark “Monk” Hubbard, founder of Grindline Skateparks, had a unique way of seeing skateparks and DIY spots as multidimensional intergalactic portals. When you enter the zone of a skater-built spot, the stars align and all is right with the universe. There are no rules, only camaraderie and making the impossible possible. This is the true guts of skateboarding. 

We dedicate this retrospective story of DIY skateparks and skater-built spots to Monk, one of skateboarding’s greatest DIY heroes. We want to recognize not only his revolutionary efforts at Burnside and multiple backyard bowls and the 350+ skateparks he built in the name of Grindline, but the DIY spirit that lives on in skateboarders and builders who picked up the torch and are building DIYs all over the world. 

In a literal planetary explosion of concrete, DIY life is growing at the speed of light. Take a trip through just a few of these portals, along with a DIY timeline of some of the earliest, biggest, best and most recognized DIY skateboard parks on the planet.

HISTORY OF DIY

In order to define DIY, its origins can be traced back to the 6th century BC. Archeologists have discovered a Greek structure in Italy built by the Spartans that came with detailed assembly instructions. Professor Christopher Smith, director of the British School at Rome, said that the discovery was “the clearest example yet found of mason’s marks of the time. It looks as if someone was instructing others how to mass-produce components and put them together in this way.”

In another interesting note, as builders of one of the first DIY structures, the Spartans were famous for their military prowess and excellence in maximizing proficiency, while Spartan women enjoyed a status, power and respect that was unknown in the rest of the classical world. Spartan women also owned property and funded public projects, in the same way that happens today with DIYs where everyone pitches in.

To further define DIY, it has been described in this way, “Rather than belittling or showing disdain for those who engage in manual labor or skilled crafts, DIY champions the average individual seeking such knowledge and expertise. Central to the ethic is the empowerment of individuals and communities, encouraging the employment of alternative approaches when faced with bureaucratic or societal obstacles to achieving their objectives.”

Fast forward to the 20th Century and, in the ‘70s, the DIY mantra became rooted in punk rock as indie record labels and self-taught musicians created their own distribution and touring networks. Bands made their own albums and merchandise, while news of these DIY activities was shared through zines and independent media. 

While the DIY philosophy became entrenched in music, the first skateparks built in the ‘70s began to disappear. Wooden ramps were the solution for a lack of skateable terrain and self-sufficiency was the name of the game. Then something magical happened under a bridge in Portland.  

(L) CHRIS RUSSELL @ BURNSIDE. PHOTO © DAVE SWIFT
(R) RAVEN TERSHY – MARGINAL WAY. PHOTO © SAM MULLER

BURNSIDE – 1990

From its very beginning in 1990, Burnside was set to become the ultimate template for DIY skateparks, thanks to Mark “Red” Scott, Sage Bolyard, Osage Buffalo, Kent Dahlgren, Bret Taylor, Jay Grahm, Chuck Willis, Mark “Monk” Hubbard and its devout locals whose names humbly evade the fame game. As DIY life was born and flourished under the bridge in Portland, the addiction to grind concrete became an obsession for a significant few.

As one segment of the original Burnside posse threw down the first sacks of concrete to build small banks to wall, another faction envisioned bigger banks and bowled terrain. Thanks to Kent Dahlgren, the first bowl was pick-axed by hand, and dug out with the help of an ever expanding crew, while Monk set the pool coping, spurring an onslaught of advancement and the endless possibilities of DIY construction. 

Mark Scott spoke of the Burnside effect, “I tend to think that Burnside probably helped the whole skatepark revolution because it came about with pretty good timing. There was some stuff to skate, but there wasn’t a whole hell of a lot to skate in the ‘90s.”

As the founder of Dreamland Skateparks, “Red” fully endorses public skatepark building as well as DIY builds, “Do it yourself or DIY skateboard projects are common these days and I strongly urge skateboarders, parents and even city staff to embrace these projects. With support, such projects give so much positive energy to the young adults and community. They bring people together as one force for a common goal.”

The Burnside crew’s obsession with building sparked the creation of one of the greatest and most longstanding DIY skate spots in the world. Not only did they build a skateboarding mecca, but more importantly to the lifeblood of skateboarding, they showed what was possible and inspired others to do the same. 

As Monk once said, “My favorite backyard or do-it-yourself skate park to skate is definitely Burnside, of course, for more reasons than I could possibly list. It’s a spiritual place for me, and for many others. It’s heaven and hell. It’s the dark side of skateboarding, the alpha and the omega. The force is strong there. I probably rode Burnside more than any other park in my lifetime so, of course, it’s my favorite; let alone the movement it started. I am proud to be a small part of that, very fuckin’ proud.”

Donate to Burnside at www.gofundme.com/burnside/donate

(L) KEVIN KOWALSKI – FS INVERT @ BURNSIDE. PHOTO © DAVE SWIFT.
(R) DANE BURMAN – BACKSIDE ROCK @ FDR – PHILADELPHIA, PA. PHOTO © BART JONES

FDR – 1994 [1996]

As 1994 rolled around, the city of Philly designated a 16,000 square foot  “skatepark area” under a highway, and threw down some blacktop with a few pyramids and a grindbox, as a way to pacify skateboarders in the area. By 1996, Philadelphia had begun a full-on quest for its very own DIY skate mecca known as FDR. Just don’t make the mistake of calling it Phillyside. Carlos Baiza and the original crew of South Street skaters, Jim Young, Tim Guza and Gabe Strain, stinging from the closure of Love Park, began construction under an I-95 overpass. 

Carlos remembers the beginning days of FDR, “I met up with Jim Young, Tim Guza and Gabe Strain, the South Street crew. They lived on South and 11th and I lived on South and Broad and so we met skating. Those guys had a change jar and they were collecting money for concrete. They said, “We want to pour a quarter pipe up one of the pillars at the park, and we heard that you know how to cut tranny.” I’m like, “Boom. Yeah. That’s what I do.” They told me their idea and we went for it. I said, “I’m down to help.” So I started talking to some heads that I knew. I had a bunch of homies that skated vert and, the next thing you know, a bunch of us met at Reading Skatepark with five cars and two trucks and got this load of cinderblocks. It was just skaters, at that point. We loaded up a bunch of cinderblocks and drove it to the park. I wanted to match Jimmy Young and his crew, and their idea of making the Indian wall, so we did the CIA pocket down at the far corner. When we hauled in all of these cinderblocks, the wall only came up four feet. We were like, “It has to be way higher than this.” The park used to be lined with all of these concrete barriers, so we just flipped those on their sides and rolled them into place. We made a row of them and put our cinderblocks on top of that and poured concrete over them.”

With remnants of vert ramps and cinderblocks from old defunct skateparks in the PA area, the vert crew jumped into the effort and built an outdoor vert ramp sheathed in metal to bear out under the harsh Northeastern winters. In a rare occasion where the desire to ride street and rip vert collided, FDR Skatepark grew into the largest DIY skatepark in America. Respect is due, as George Draguns said, “If you can skate FDR, you can skate anything. it’s a gnarly park.”

After 24 years, the legacy of FDR is strong, as Dan Taglialatella said, “The funny thing about FDR, and every cement park that has been renegade-built, is it’s a part of history now. FDR could be there for 100 years. It’s weird to think that a bunch of scrapper skaters were stoked and built this thing.”

As time goes on, construction continues with the newest addition of the Pentagram bowl and cradle. As Carlos explained, “Every year there is something new. So many different crews popped up and there were multiple crews at different points in time. It was amazing to see this thing grow. So many good people showed up and worked on it. I would like to think that we made up a crazy way to build things. Nobody but crazy skaters could come up with this stuff.”

Gavo Rosenberg skates FDR regularly and he shared his thoughts on the Philly-based DIY, “I’m always looking for different ways to skate the park. The vert ramp has been getting fired up lately. A year or so ago there wasn’t much going on at the vert ramp. People weren’t skating it very often, and if they were, it was just people coming through town. Now we have a lot of us that have been padding up and skating the vert ramp. It’s sick. It’s Sean Miller’s memorial vert ramp and people like Darren Menditto contribute a lot to it. It’s so sick to see that. We’ve got a vert ramp at a DIY spot and it’s been fun learning how to skate vert. Ishod Wair comes to FDR and kills it. He lays it down and has such a good style. He’s one of the best street skaters ever and he’s just killing vert. It’s so sick. I get to skate with Darren Menditto when he comes out to skate the vert ramp and that’s always a good time. Willy Akers moved away to Hawaii, but he was always one of my favorites to see at FDR. One of my favorite homies to see skate that place is Dante Tonella. He’s been skating there since he was a little kid and he has so much control on a board. My plans are to stick around here and skate FDR with my homies and help build this bowl we’ve been building. It was a work in progress for over three years and it’s insane. It’s one of the gnarliest bowls to skate ever. FDR is going to be bigger than it already is, and it’s so gnarly already. We have a lot of good stuff going on. There is still so much more that we can build at FDR and make it even bigger, which gets me stoked. We’ve got a bunch of younger kids that are stoked to take the time to build more down at the park and it’s just hype that we’re keeping it going. It’s one of the longest running DIY spots and it’s definitely one of the best.” 

Donate to FDR Skatepark at www.gofundme.com/fdrskatepark/

(L) ADAM HOPKINS BOOSTS A FRONTSIDE BONELESS IN LEESIDE’S NEWLY CONSTRUCTED SOUTH END. PHOTO © LOGAN HENDERSON
JAMIE MALEY, LAYBACK FRONTSIDE FEEBLE GRIND TO FAKIE ON ONE OF LEESIDE’S STEEPEST WALLS. PHOTO © LOGAN HENDERSON
(R) CONLAN KILLEEN, PIVOT FAKIE WHERE NO ONE ELSE DARES. PHOTO © LOGAN HENDERSON

LEESIDE – 1999

In 1999, Lee Matasi took the lead on a DIY in Vancouver, Canada, now known as Leeside. With the snake runs of Seylynn Skatepark just across the river and the concrete bowls of Hastings just down the way, Lee began his renegade claim on an abandoned bus loop tunnel by dragging wooden ramps into the space. 

In 2005, a senseless tragedy of gun violence, unrelated to the skate spot, claimed the life of Lee, and also spurred the local skateboarding community to take on the custodianship of this sacred terrain and continue to build and maintain an ever expanding concrete vortex of skateboarding, art and creativity that still stands tall today. Read more about Leeside in this issue of Juice featuring its history told by Leeside locals.

Donate to Leeside at www.gofundme.com/leeside

(L) JAGGER EATON – FRONTSIDE BLUNT @ MISSION VIEJO. PHOTO © DAVE SWIFT
(R) NICK GARCIA – BACKSIDE SMITH 180 @ RIVERSIDE. PHOTO © DAVE SWIFT
BEN HATCHELL – FRONTSIDE FEEBLE @ WASHINGTON STREET. PHOTO © DAVE SWIFT

W.S.V.T. -1999

In 1999, the Terror crew in San Diego began its concrete assault on Washington Street under the Pacific Highway. While the city of Portland embraced the DIY spirit of Burnside, the City of San Diego did the opposite, declaring war on the spot and surrounding it with jersey barriers to prevent further action. As bulldozers made their way to obliterate the spot, skaters refused to stop skating and brought the attention of the media to the plight. For three long years, determined crews fought the good fight and jumped through every hoop the city threw at them. 

Thanks to Ken Lewis and Matt Miller, a required non-profit was set up and, with the backing of founding fathers Glenn Wagner, Joe Pino, Sage Bolyard, Sam Hitz, Slob, Luke, the Terror posse, and the local skate community, they battled acres of bureaucratic red tape to make the DIY a reality. With the ongoing dedication of the core locals, a historic detente was reached with the City of San Diego, and construction resumed in 2002, and today, W.S.V.T. is one of the gnarliest DIYs in California. 

In the beginning, Peter Hewitt predicted the future, “We’ve got Washington Street down here and it’s close to being done. It’s a challenging park. It’s crazy. There’s nothing easy about it. It will be fun to ride for a long time because you’re not going to get bored. It’s going to be challenging forever.”

The story of W.S.V.T. is unique because, not only did the skateboarders take on the anti-skateboarding mentality of the municipality and local police force, they educated and fund-raised and refused to take no for an answer, resulting in a highly unusual scenario of the city agreeing to match funds the skaters had raised to build the park. In a rare combination of activism and city cooperation, everyone came together to see the project through and now this DIY is here to stay with the approval of all.

Washington Street is heavily guarded and maintained by its locals, so bring gifts when you enter these hallowed grounds. Fundraisers are vital to its ongoing existence and generate the revenue needed to pay for insurance, maintenance and construction, with three trucks of concrete poured in 2017 in the “Back Country” section, so don’t pass by the donation box at the gate. Do your part and pay the toll to this righteous DIY.

Donate to W.S.V.T. at https://washingtonstreetskatepark.org/donate/

(L) TOM REMILLARD- NO COMPLY @ WASHINGTON STREET. PHOTO © DAVE SWIFT
CLAY KREINER – PILLAR RIDE @ WSVT. PHOTO © DAVE SWIFT
(R) LIZZIE ARMANTO – FINGER FLIP LIEN TO TAIL  @ CHANNEL STREET. PHOTO © ANTHONY ACOSTA
DAEWON SONG – CHANNEL STREET OLLIE UP 50-50. PHOTO © ANTHONY ACOSTA

CHANNEL ST. – 2002

In 2002, Channel Street Skatepark in San Pedro, California began under the 110 freeway overpass with founders Andy Harris, Robbie O’Connell, Bill Sergeant, Robert Yamasaki, Scott Smith and Gabe Solis leading the DIY charge. As the local skate community rapidly grew in its commitment to LA’s only DIY build, many years of world class skateboarding took place until 2014 when the park was “temporarily closed” by a freeway widening project. Although the freeway construction was completed in 2016, as of August 2018, the park remains closed, and this has many wondering why. The short answer is government red tape. 

The tight knit crew of locals, who long ago formed the San Pedro Skatepark Association non-profit to oversee the park, are proceeding with an amazing amount of patience and confidence that they will soon prevail in getting the park reopened. The land Channel Street Skatepark stands on is jointly controlled by the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, so the battle has been long and stringent with requirements. While the authorities insist they are intent on reopening the park, the locals have maintained pride in their creation with regularly scheduled clean ups and fundraisers. 

The latest official update from the San Pedro Skatepark Association, in June, stated, “Official Plans for Channel Street have finally been submitted to LA City Dept. of Planning via Joe Buscaino’s city council office. Thank you’s are in order as the council office also paid the $13,000 in fees necessary to make this happen. The SPSA has been told this process could take a couple months or more. If everything goes well, the SPSA is hoping to have the plans moving to the Dept of Building and Safety by end of summer. Not the quickest of operations but progress nonetheless.”

A previous update from Andy Harris of the San Pedro Skatepark Association said, “Members of the San Pedro Skatepark Association (SPSA) met at LA City Councilman Joe Buscaino’s office with officials from the Port of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety (DBS) and discussed the steps necessary for the re-opening of the skatepark. 1. The SPSA needs to have site plan and cross section drawings done by a licensed engineer showing dimensions of the park and typical construction methods used in the building of the park. These drawings will be accompanied by photos showing construction of parts of the park which we shot over the years. 2. New guardrails encompassing the entire park will need to be designed and installed (by SPSA or an outside source), then inspected and approved by DBS. 3. Liability insurance, the $$ amount to be determined by the Port of L.A. real estate office, will need to be obtained. Port real estate office is working on this $$ amount and plans to gives that info by next week. Once #1 and #2 are realized, DBS will approve a permit deeming the skatepark safe for use. Once #3 is realized, the Port of LA will issue a revocable land use permit to the SPSA. This is basically a lease for the land the skatepark sits on. That’s where we are at for now. We have a few contacts for the engineering portions discussed above and we’ll be shopping for insurance as soon as the Port gives us a $$ amount. Any insights and advice, leads, etc would be greatly appreciated.”

At the last clean up session at Channel Street, Gabe Copeland, talked with those that showed up. What is remarkable is that there were over 50 people on hand to clean a skatepark that is currently closed. That tells you a lot about the community of San Pedro and the SPSA. This is the real deal.

As the crew took away dozens of bags of trash after the clean up work was done, Andy Harris, one of the founders of Channel Street, said, “The park closed three years ago while they widened the freeway overhead and it was supposed to be open by now, but it’s taking a little longer. Hit our councilman of the 15th district of LA up. His name is Joe Buscaino. @joebuscaino on instagram. Let him know in a respectful way how important Channel Street and other DIY parks are to the communities they are built in. Since we are a district of Los Angeles, feel free to let Eric Garcetti (Mayor of Los Angeles) know about the positive influence of Channel Street on the local community and beyond. His Instagram handle is @mayorofLA. Thank you for the support.”

As one local explained, “It’s been a detriment to not have Channel Street Skatepark open for the kids and the community. We need to do something about it. I was born and raised in San Pedro, and this is a great place for people to come, and it’s also a great place for art  activities. It’s become like Watts Towers. They are contributing art and tiles and it’s art for our community and that’s a wonderful thing. There’s a lot more investment in the community with a DIY skatepark. The community is putting in the effort and the backbone and the design plan. Once they open it back up, you’ll see a boost in area business from the people using the park, and also a way to bring others into the community.”

One local skater said, “We love this place, so we want to keep it clean at all times. Rob O’Connell, Yamo, Gabe, Billy, Andy Harris, Derek and a bunch of dudes built it and there’s soul in this DIY skatepark, as well as seniority and respect.” 

Skaters come from all over to lend a hand on clean up days. One skater, from the Bay area, said, “Channel Street is a lot of people’s home, so we are here keeping it clean. I didn’t grow up here but I respect the people that did and I want to help bring this place back. Even though I’m not close family to these guys, any skateboarder is my family. It’s been closed over three years and that’s three years too long. I’m from the Bay and I’m here at 7:45AM ready to work. Channel Street is the best DIY in Los Angeles and it feels terrible that it’s closed down. I’ve always wanted to skate this place and I’ve never had the chance. It’s been a bummer that the city isn’t doing anything about it. There are other skateparks in LA but it’s not the same as here. This is built by the people.” 

Cassie, who has been skating the park for ten years, said, “I’m bummed about it. It’s been closed three years and they said they were going to open it two years ago. Now it’s just a place for drug addicts to stay and we have to clean up all the leftover stuff that they leave around. It’s gets me   really upset. It’s taken so long for something to happen. I think the property owners just have other agendas that they’re working on. We’re trying to be patient, but the younger generation isn’t so patient. We just want our skatepark back. We hate to see what’s become of it. It’s really sad. Hopefully, the people that promised that they would help will keep their word. This skatepark brings so much joy to this community. All the people here are like family to me. I’ve skated here for the last ten years and I have a daughter now and I met the love of my life here. A lot of people here are like brothers and sisters to me. All the older guys that helped build the park are super inspiring. They all have families now and they still take time out of their lives to come down and keep this place going. Everyone that skates here takes time to come down here and keep it clean. Reopening it would bring back a lot of the community. A lot of the younger guys are settling down and having families and we want our kids to be able to come here and skate too. This place not being opened has kind of divided a lot of friendships and families, because we all used to come down here. It’s like a big tribe. Hopefully, once it reopens, we can get that back.”

As the fight continues to #FreeChannelStreet, we encourage you to donate as much as you can to assist in re-opening a cultural landmark. 

Donate to Channel Street at www.sanpedrosk8.org/ or www.gofundme.com/channelstreet

(L) RANEY BERES – HURRICANE @ LOS ANGELES, CA. PHOTO © ANTHONY ACOSTA
JACK FARDELL – FS OLLIE. PHOTO © CAMERON MARKIN
(R) MARK “RED” SCOTT – FRONTSIDE AIR @ BURNSIDE. PHOTO © DAVE SWIFT
CHRIS TARROSA – NOSEGRIND @ MARGINAL WAY. PHOTO © CHRIS DANGAARD

MARGINAL WAY – 2004 

In 2004, Marginal Way in Seattle was born under Highway 99, transforming another garbage dump into a skate oasis with Tim Demmon, Dan Barnett and Shawn Bishop at the helm. As the Ballard Bowl was getting ready to be taken out and the City of Seattle was taking out other existing parks, MW searched out a covered spot to begin its build with the DIY philosophy that “it’s better to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission.” 

After a wall ride and the original quarter pipe was built, the city found out about it and made plans to demolish it. As skaters gathered together, they made their voices heard by showing that the construction was backed by local businesses and local donations. Communications were set up with the property owners and, finally, permission was given to continue the build. 

With donations raised at skate jams and punk rock shows, this park is proof of the dedication of its creators and community. Construction continues on a regular basis fueled by the limitless imaginations of those that skate it and build it. Marginal Way is now one of the must skate spots in the Northwest with one of the strongest communities supporting it as any DIY could have.

Donate to Marginal Way at www.gofundme.com/marginalwaydiy/donate

(L) BEN RAYBOURN – INDY FAKIE  @ VISALIA. PHOTO © DAVE SWIFT
WILLIS KIMBEL @ W.S.V.T. PHOTO © DAVE SWIFT
(R) RANDY PLOESSER – FRONTSIDE 180 KICKFLIP @ SHITSIDE – ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI. PHOTO © BART JONES
ALEX SORGENTE – NOSEBLUNT @ DEL MAR DITCH. PHOTO © JAMIE MOSBERG

DIY LIFE:

While this timeline highlights DIYs that are mainly accessible to the pubic, the list of DIYs continues to grow as they pop up from east to west and north to south and all over the globe. 

Not only do independent builds happen under bridges and freeways, now they are happening on concrete slabs in the middle of nowhere. Sacks of concrete are dragged to ditches and spillways and jersey barriers to create skateable transitions on natural terrain. 

Wherever the DIY spirit lives, you probably don’t have to look too far to find a spot that has been transformed by the hands of skateboarders. As the community learns the trade of building with concrete, they take these techniques with them wherever they may roam. In this way, the revolution continues.

As the skate army gets bigger and better, younger and older, all are making use of DIY spots in new ways. These pages are just a taste of what lies within reach. To all of you that have invested in skater built projects around the planet, we salute you. 100% Respect.

Mark Monk Hubbard of Grindline Skateparks

We leave you with these words from Mark “Monk” Hubbard… 

“People all around the world are ripping their own creations harder and faster than ever. More and more DIY spots are born every day as our solar system spins out of control, throughout the ever-expanding galaxies. The Milky Way is host to a plethora of concrete continuums, creating chaos, yet giving us hope and order. In the times we live, I consider us very blessed to have this brotherhood of hard working creators. Never say forever, for we must fight to keep our moment from ever passing the hearts and minds of future generations. We have lots to learn, but we also have a little bit to teach and leave behind. To the people I’ve met, the good times we’ve had, you know you’re having a good time when you look around and see your boys [and girls] having a good time. This is only the beginning of the end of the beginning of the raddest world we could have created together. You are a creator, amidst the chaos. Congratulations. We did it. Now go out there and make some waves.” 

For the print version of this story, get Juice Magazine #76 here.

Juice Magazine 76 Mark Monk Hubbard Cover by Arto Saari

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