Board to be wild

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      Does your neighbourhood skate park have what it takes? Like a snake run? A peanut bowl? A hubba kink bar? A whoopdee? If not, maybe you should consider moving closer to one that does.

      With more than 40 skate parks sprinkled around the GVRD, there's no reason to feel shortchanged. Not that we couldn't use a few more, particularly on Vancouver's West Side. Which is where Julia Davis comes in. The 23-year-old child-and-youth programmer with the Vancouver school board's downtown-community-school team is also vice-president of the Vancouver SkatePark Coalition ( Besides creating in- and after-school programs for elementary-grade students, she leads what one might call skateboard empowerment clinics through her Spearhead skateboarding groups at the Douglas Park and Roundhouse community centres. There, instruction includes pointers for kids on how to effectively lobby for their own local skate parks.

      “There absolutely is a need for more parks,” Davis commented when reached by phone in the middle of a busy playground. “Skateboarding is a phenomenon that keeps on growing. The only problem is that most skate parks in this city are located on the Downtown Eastside, and I lost two good friends there in the past year, Lee Matasi and Rachel Davis [no relation]. I don't feel comfortable telling young kids who want to skate to head there. We need more skate parks in other accessible places.”

      Of Vancouver's half-dozen skate parks, only the recently opened Quilchena Park sits on the West Side. To help explain this disparity, the Georgia Straight phoned Michel Desrochers, a park planner with the City of Vancouver and one of the driving forces behind the “Skateboard Strategy for Vancouver” report approved by the Vancouver park board last October ( “In general, this is a good-news story,” Desrochers said. “In 1999, there was just one skate park, China Creek. In 2006, we now have six facilities. The supply has expanded massively. Two of the parks—Hastings and the [Downtown Skateboard] Plaza—are considered pretty hunky-dory, from what I understand,” the non-skater allowed. “We're looking to build more, to build them better, and to offer a better variety. Compared to tennis courts or skating rinks, every skate park is unique. Skateboarding as a sport has variety built into it, which makes it unique in this regard.”

      When pressed to pinpoint some possible West Side sites for new skate parks, Desrochers said it's a tough call. “We need to find adequate open spaces in our parks. There may be room for a small one at Douglas Park or a larger one beside the Kitsilano Community Centre.” He also mentioned that staff at the False Creek Community Centre are improvising by placing movable skateboarding features, like ramps and boxes, on one of its tennis courts from time to time. What Desrochers has in mind is smaller skate parks, like the $35,000 one in Strathcona Park. The locally published Canadian Skatepark Guide ($5.95 at calls sites such as 260-square-metre Strathcona and the newly opened Coopers' Park beneath the north end of the Cambie Bridge “skate spots” rather than skate parks.

      North Vancouver–based skate-park designer and builder Jim Barnum is working flat out across Canada, and in Mexico and Cambodia, to keep up with the demand for more facilities. In 1998, Barnum launched Spectrum Skatepark Creations ( His first project was for the Resort Municipality of Whistler. This summer, the 32-year-old's company is building three parks in Toronto alone. “It's almost a cliché now,” he told the Straight. Once Spectrum puts in a park, we get letters of thanks from town planners saying, ‘This is the best recreation dollars we've ever spent.' They can't believe how well-used they [the parks] are.” Locally, Spectrum completed Burnaby's massive $1-million Metro Skate Park last year and put the finishing touches on another in Squamish this spring.

      Working just as hard to take skate parks to a new level is New Line Skate Parks' Kyle Dion ( For as long as he can recall, the 30-year-old Maple Ridge native has built ramps and jumps to skate on. In a phone interview, Dion told the Straight that so far, New Line is responsible for more than 100 concrete, wood, and steel parks, from Haida Gwaii to Bathurst, New Brunswick, with 42 others in the planning or construction stage in Canada, the U.S., and Sweden. Perhaps best known for the Downtown Skateboard Plaza, which debuted in 2004, these days Dion is most proud of RailSide Youth Park's skate bowl, a voluminous new installation in Port Coquitlam.

      It seems that no town worth its wheels can do without a skate park. Based on an informal survey of Lower Mainland skate-park builders, designers, and, most importantly, users, conducted by the Straight earlier this month, here are our top 10 picks.

      1. Best International Showcase

      Metro Skate Park

      Design: Spectrum Skatepark Creations

      Size: 1,860 square metres

      Location: Northwest corner of Imperial Street and Jubilee Avenue, Burnaby, adjacent to the Bonsor Recreation Complex

      Features: According to Peter Ducommun of P.D.'s Hot Shop, over the past decade Vancouver has become a destination for international skateboarders, many of whom journey here to ride at places like Metro. “This is because there's no charge, plus no chance of getting thrown on the roof of a police car for skating down the street like you would in most U.S. cities, like Philadelphia,” Ducommun told the Straight. Metro's distinct terrains define the three schools of skating: a shallow street-style area, steep-sided bowls, and a mellow cruiser zone. The centrepiece is the imposing Bonsor Pipeline, a 360-degree full pipe surmounted by a viewing platform, a good place to catch all the action. One caveat: don't linger when accessing the viewpoint's staircase or you're fair game to be buzzed.

      2. Best Bowls

      Hastings Park

      Design: Spectrum Skatepark Creations

      Size: 1,375 square metres

      Location: 300-block of Renfrew Street, Vancouver

      Features: Be careful when dropping into the 3.3-metre-deep bowl: it takes a pro to rocket back out. Championed by sidelined park-board commissioner Allan De Genova, the fenced-in park also features a panoramic view of the North Shore plus some tasty graffiti.

      3. Best Vert Ramp

      RDS Skatepark

      Design: Kevin Harris, Colin McKay, Rob Boyce

      Size: 1,860 square metres

      Location: 14380 Triangle Road near Steveston Highway and No. 6 Road, in the Riverport sports-and-entertainment complex, Richmond; 604-271-7275;

      Features: The brainchild of three legendary local skateboarders, this indoor facility is every rider's dream, split between two gymnasium-sized rooms, one with a street course, the other a bowl-and-ramp wonder. Open seven days a week year-round, RDS includes a kids' mini area, a skateboard shop, bowls fitted with pool tiling and coping, and the world's longest indoor vert ramp, a 4.1-metre-tall monster with five-metre extensions and a steeply angled roll-in bank: only for the truly committed.

      4. Best Street Style

      Downtown Skateboard Plaza

      Design: New Line Skate Parks

      Size: 1,860 square metres

      Location: Beneath the Georgia Viaduct at Quebec and Union streets, Vancouver

      Features: This park is pure street. Its mixed-material surfaces of brick, concrete, exposed aggregate, and nickel-plated steel replicate the feel of city thoroughfares with the added benefit of zero vehicular traffic.

      5. Best Night Riding

      Lonsdale skate park

      Design: Spectrum Skatepark Creations

      Size: 1,485 square metres

      Location: Corner of Upper Levels Highway and Lonsdale Avenue, North Vancouver

      Features: An exclusively street riding park, complete with movable elements that make for continuously changing setups, plus a powerful lighting system allowing skaters to play with their shadows night and day.

      6. Best History

      Seylynn park

      Design: Nelson Holland, Rob Leshgold, Niko Weis, Monty Little, and Terry Snider

      Size: Small

      Location: 500-block Mountain Highway, North Vancouver

      Features: Canada's oldest surviving skate park opened in 1978 on the banks of Lynn Creek, whose rushing sound still stokes skaters' minds today. Monty Little secured his place in the pantheon of Vancouver skatedom when he produced the first local skateboard competition at Brockton Oval in 1976. Seylynn remains the 59-year-old's favourite place to ride surf-style down the 43-metre-long snake run that empties into a two-metre bowl. Late last year, George Faulkner released his documentary on the history of Seylynn (

      7. Best Survivor

      China Creek south park

      Design: City of Vancouver

      Size: Small

      Location: East Broadway and Clark Drive, Vancouver

      Features: A quiet, inviting place to learn, China Creek isn't much to look at, just a bowl whose surfaces have seen better times. Its fate has been hanging in the balance for the past several years as the Vancouver park board debates whether to upgrade it, ditch it, or relocate it to another park entirely. A decision is expected this fall. China Creek represented a big step forward in 1978, but its 3.1-metre keyhole bowl is small by today's standards.

      8. Best Sea-to-Sky

      Squamish skatepark

      Design: Spectrum Skatepark Creations

      Size: 1,485 square metres

      Location: 1135 Carson Avenue, next to the Squamish Youth Centre

      Features: A big, fluid park like Whistler's, created as much with snowboarders as technical skaters in mind. Comes complete with a killer view of Stawamus Chief Mountain.

      9. Best Community Access

      the RailSide

      Design: New Line Skate Parks

      Size: 3,250 square metres

      Location: Lions Park at Lions Way and Shaughnessy Street, Port Coquitlam

      Features: Stairs and more stairs, an enormous bowl section, plus a unique “overt cradle” with a 2.5-metre radius and a 4.1-metre lip that curls above the wall like a breaking wave. With plenty of landscaping at this site, spectators feel welcome to walk into the park and watch from strategically placed benches comfortably integrated into the design.

      10. Best Learner

      Ladner Leisure Centre

      Design: Corporation of Delta

      Size: 1,255 square metres

      Location: 4600 Clarence Taylor Crescent, Ladner

      Features: Big banks, wedges and ledges, a quarter pipe, and plenty of rails make this an ideal place for beginners to work out. Like many decade-old skate parks, Ladner's doesn't see nearly as much use now as when it was considered state-of-the-art in the 1990s. Thus there's no fear of getting bombarded with thousands of kids flying around, as is often the case in newer places such as Burnaby's Metro Skate Park.

      To learn more about B.C. skate parks, pick up Des Moore's Volume 1 ($16.95), available at