Features Aug 6, 2014 at 4:00 am

A Rant About the New "Skateable Art" on Beacon Hill—and Other Goofy, Useless Skate Projects

Not very skateable. Chauncey Peppertooth


"Why do we live in a city that specifically outlaws skateboarding in Westlake Park—the one well-lit, centrally located plaza with ample smooth, flat ground and plentiful low, straight granite ledges in the city—yet refuses to build something similar anywhere else even though it could afford to 50 goddamn times over?"

We could just not build skate parks and consistently ticket people that skate. The fact that the government is paying for your hobby is something you should be grateful for.
As a non-skateboarder who personally doesn't care about skateboarding, I disagree with #1. The same could be said for swimming beaches, and parks, hiking trails, bike trails and even roads. Just because we should be grateful that "the government" - this system we all pay into - is (ostensibly) supporting a wide-variety of recreational activities and transportation methods doesn't mean we can't also advocate for their sensible, economical construction and maintenance.
@1,2 Imagine the backlash if the majority of the city's baseball diamonds were missing a base, or had no outfield. Or if the basketball courts just had one hoop right in the middle, or were round or on a steep hill. The government is paying for a lot of people to enjoy their hobbies, but it's our money that they're spending and they should be spending it wisely.
I grew up, a skater in Mountlake Terrace in the late 80s, early 90s. The closest skatepark was Air Radical in fucking Yakima. Yakima! We would have to beg my friend's senile grandparents to make the 4 hour drive just to skate some shitty ramps. OR we could skate the loading dock behind Olson's grocery store, the stair-set outside the art room at Brier Terrace Middle School. No park? Build something. We all had fly-ramps, quarter-pipes and rails that we built with dad's power tools and sheer desperation for something, anything to skate.

I only mention this because new skaters, growing up today have no fucking idea how good they have it. There are skate parks fucking everywhere. Every little town in the sticks, every middle-to-upper-class suburb. Even Soap Lake, tiny dirt bowl of a town in Eastern Washington has a skate park. It sucks, but at least they can skate there without fear of getting tackled and hog-tied by police (I saw it happen once at UW's Red Square). So when you complain that there aren't enough parks, or they could have built more parks for less, my response is, at least nobody is shooting at you with rock-salt for skating their shitty loading dock.
Hey #4 you forgot to tell those damn kids to get off your lawn. We're still looking forward to the story about the time you caught the ferry over to Shelbyville with an onion tied to your belt though...
Hey #5. It is a funny story actually. I missed the ferry not because i had to skate uphill in the snow to get to the terminal but because I spent my nickel fare on penny whistles and moon pies.
Big Bertha Skatepark

You know you want it

They have to cancel it anyway, need something there
I've never heard of you before, and your article is a misinformed rant. Try calling some sources and getting some quotes instead of just flinging shit. This is how journalism used to be at the Stranger, back when its staff was politically informed, and connected to the people who actually advocate for skateparks. Thanks for your support.
Scott Shinn
Parents for Skateparks
Thank you #8. If this was truely written by a skater, then I hope he gets shunned. Agreed, the red bull sculpture is a hideous piece of crap that could have been soo much better. But it is what it is. I too grew up skating when there were barely any skateboard in Washington. Be grateful. As for everything else you ranted about, grow up or better yet tap back into your imagination and find the fun again. There is more than the Westlake ledges out there. This spoiled brat has no idea how good we have it in Seattle.
Where are the condos by westlake park? That's the one on pine & 4th,isn't that all offices directly around it!
Thank you, Scott Shinn. What a cranky article Tobias has written. When my kids were growing up there was no place to skate and I got involved with some fantastic people like Scott Shinn and many others to make sure we got some facilities and we were successful in our advocacy. I'm very grateful (and so are my now grown kids) that we've been building a variety of skateparks all over town to serve a very wide variety of skaters. Seems like Tobias wants to skate Westlake and is willing to dis nearly every skatepark in town to make his point which is unfortunate. Tobias should consider lending a hand to skatepark advocates in Seattle, not throwing everyone under the bus.
Thanks for your comment, Kate, and for co-founding Parents for Skateparks with me 10 years ago. I'd like to personally invite staff from The Stranger to our next meeting with the Skate Like a Girl organization. Our first one happened yesterday. Marshall just brought me up to speed on Tobias, and he is also welcome to attend, and represent, if he would like, on behalf of himself, or The Stranger. Details and ongoing commentary are available here:
nicely done. its true. Just cause Torey Pudwell can backtail anything he wants doesn't make him 'an artist'. That sculpture looks like some art deco piece of shit he picked out of a book from the 80's. Not to mention that shit is dangerously tall. Cant wait for a kid to fall off that and have another article to write about its dangerous nature, and impracticality.
Seattle has the best system of skateparks of any city I have ever been to. There are more skateparks of much higher quality with easy acces by bus from the city center than anywhere. I live in souther California now. The skateparks alone are almost enough to make me move back home. I grew up skating west lake it had been illegal to skate there for almost 20 years and there are no condos near by that I know of.

He does have a point about the red bull sculpture it sucks and is almost as much of a waste of money as the energy drinks that funded it. Not our money so who cares?
You want ledges? Green lake, judkins, seaskate, delridge, roxhill and beacon hill to name a few. Get on a bus they are all less than 20 minutes away!
Keep up the good work Seattle all you need is a good indoor park for the winter rains!
@1, what an inane comment. Seattle is a huge skateboarding city with thousands of skatepark users. It makes perfect sense to have diverse features in our parks. Just like hiking trails, tennis courts, soccer fields and playgrounds make our city fun, beautiful and live-able so do our heavily utilized skateparks. Though we don’t have the reputation that California has, we actually have a thriving skate industry here in Seattle. We’re home to not just indie skateshops but manufacturers and skateboarding brands (Lib Tech, Amigos, Sausage, Dirty Bearings, Fellas, Midnight Ice Cream to name a few) as well as (ironically in the context of this article) one of the world’s premier skatepark design and build firms Grindline. It’s not just some little hobby, it’s a fucking industry. It’s also a huge tourist draw. We would be foolish to dismiss it.

But if you’re still convinced that skateboarders are just a pack of entitled brats cruise on down to East Marginal Way and South Hanford and take a look at the skatepark under 99. Marginal Way has been build with 100% volunteer labor and 100% donations from the skateboarders of this city. In addition to being world famous Marginal is no anomaly. DIY skateparks are fixtures in most major cities—google Burnside, Leeside, Washington Street, and Channel Street for just the most famous DIY parks on the west coast. When was the last time you saw tennis enthusiasts pouring a slab for a free public court? Or golfers making and maintaining free courses for the city paid for entirely with private donations?

Skaters have had to fight an uphill battle at every turn to advocate for facilities for their sport. They’ve become one of the most industrious and creative groups around. Red Bull put in this godawful (but well-intentioned) sculpture because they want an in on skate culture. You may never take skateboarding seriously, but plenty of other people and industries do. Seattle will do well to follow suit.
It looks better than pretty much any other public art project in the city. Perhaps Tobias can skate on the giant flowerpot down by the Sheraton.
If you can look past the snarky tone of this article (isn’t that a requirement for getting published in the Stranger?) there’s some solid points. Yes, it hurts to hear criticism of the skatepark plan that has taken a decade as well as plenty of sweat and tears to enact, but it doesn’t mean the process couldn’t be improved.

Scott, Kate, and Ben—I know you all (this is Sally) and I know how hard you’ve worked and the fruits of your labor are present in the fantastic skateparks we have in this city.

I also understand Tobias’s frustration. Why does their have to be a massive bureaucratic planning process, including separate design and build bids and community forums where curmudgeon old property owners get to air their many grievances about the existence of skateboarders at length when all we want is a couple of ledges—naturally occurring features in an urban environment!—that have a street light or two on them? Yes, a lot of this rigmarole is unavoidable, but I think it’s possible to streamline the process a bit to put in some inexpensive and simple street plaza features in our parks. Or simply legalize skateboarding in Westlake park. And the city could potentially save money doing it!

It is unfortunate that the Red Bull skatespace is the highlight of this article because it’s a poor example as it was privately financed and designed. But the point that simple, lit spots are sorely needed is a valid one. We skateboarders are doing well in this city, but we can do better.
yeah that was truly a rant. whiny, unfocused and all over the map. If Tobias is actually trying to accomplish something other than blowing off steam, he may want to work on articulating it in a more well crafted manner.
As it is the targets are scattered all over the place as can be witnessed in the comments.

That said, I agree with Tobias about that Red Bull skate abomination (and the corruption of the public process that got it there).

On the other hand I totally disagree about Tobias wanting more small nondescript skate spaces with "straight fucking ledge"s. They're a dime a dozen. I'm for the big feature that can only exist in a skate park. For example the Jefferson Park skatepark had the chance to get a full pipe, but it got voted down by all the flatland skateboarders (like Tobias). More same old generic street like concrete rather than a truly landmark iconic 'doesn't-exist-anywhere-in-Seattle' feature like a full pipe. Now that would be awesome.

On the bright side I'm glad the Stranger did a feature piece on skateparks in Seattle. They're a fairly big deal and it's great to have a conversation about them!

@18, why not both fullpipes and flat ledges? I'm with you for what it's worth, I can't ollie high enough to skate westlake, but I'll drive up to Arlington or even *shudder* Kent to skate those full pipes!
Is that about 5 pounds of weed you're holding in your Facebook profile, Tobias? That would explain your batshit crazy rant.
Huh. I had no idea this thing was supposed to be a skatepark (or that it was funded by Red Bull). As just a sculpture I think it's kind of cool. When I've been to the park I've seen little kids climbing all over it while their parents sit on pieces that become benches. Can't comment at all on its merits for skating, but I like it.
"When it comes to skateparks, Seattle has no idea what it's doing."

Toby has succeeded on getting his tears posted publicly. I think you should move somewhere else!
If you're older than 15 and riding a skateboard, you're an incredible loser.
Thanks Kate Martin and Scott Shinn (and Matt Johnston) for being a part of the skatepark advocacy movement, helping getting a variety of terrain built, and not just venting without action to support a change.

A small core of us helped form the Seattle Parks Skatepark Advisory Committee (SPAC) and guided, to the extent possible in the Parks bureaucracy, skatepark design and construction in Seattle since the early 2000's. We successfully obtained funding, design and construction for more skateparks than most other "skate friendly cities" in the US. For each of these parks we lobbied for designers that are skaters (Grindline Skateparks, Newline Skateparks, Dreamland Skateparks) and construction by skaters. The design process included tons of venues for public input - even internet forums for folks that work at night like Toby. And after every design there is always a group of haters that rant THEY did not get what they want. Unfortunately you cannot please everyone.

Integrated skate dots has been one of our large efforts/goals for years and Summit and John was our first victory. The King of Thrones neighbors put a lot of heat on Parks to shut down the spot and we had to put in that much more heat to keep that simple ledge alive. Following tons of volunteer hours, we barely won that one but it was clear to Parks that integrated skate dots (like West Lake Center) is a hornets next. Toby and any other are invited to spark another campaign to attempt to get integrated skate dots, including at West Lake Center. We have your back.

With regards to the Red Bull Skateable Art sculpture. Yes, it is hard to skate and it is not a simple ledge, QP, rail - all of the other things constructed throughout Seattle. Red Bull wanted to push the limits and build an art sculpture all for FREE TO TOBY AND THE REST OF SEATTLE. Don't use it if you don't like it, simple enough. Did not cost you a dime or the 15 months of advocacy that I put in to get it through the insane Parks process. But I have seen some sick photos of others using it creatively and multiple other public forums have commented positively. Again, impossible to please everyone but at least some are stoked.

It is easy to hate on something that does not fit your fancy but try to steer clear of pooping on all of the work others have put in to try to get what your vent is really after - skateable terrain throughout the city in various forms that attempts the please the greatest common good. Hopefully your next article will lay out a proposed means on how to get skate dots throughout the city and legalize skating in West Lake Center. I will be right there to provide you my support.

Ryan Barth
Former Chairperson, Seattle Parks and Recreation Skate Park Advisory Committee
Too bad this article didn't come out BEFORE the Park District formation vote. Expect more overdone, useless crap from a rogue, unaccountable district in the future.
For the record the Red Bull skate space has the intention of making a lasting impact on the local skateboarding community, Torey Pudwill and artist C.J. Rench collaborated on a project combining two of Seattle's passions: art and skateboarding.

The concept is a true celebration of culture and skateboarding that is ultimately reshaping the way people view and interact with public art.

Tobias is just a shitty skater. Get better and learn how to skate it.
I live up near Jefferson Park, walk there all the time and so far have NEVER seen anyone skate it. Didn't cost us a time? How naive? It's an eyesore and rammed down the meek Beacon HIllers throats when the more umm, let's say, wealthy why don't we, folks near the Sculture Park said "no damn way" do we want that thing. Lucky for Red Bull, the dwellers of little ole houses up on Beacon Hill said, well mostly they said nothing because like the mountain bike park, it got sneaked through with very little public comment.
Sorry, But I really have to agree with the STRANGER... I think Redbulls intention was right, but the design was way off.. Really, a raised painted metal outdoor sculpture, when it rains here 80% of the year!? Wouldn't a COVERED cement skatepark have been a better use of all that money here in Seattle? Wake up people, MAJOR FAIL... :-(
Thanks for chiming in, Sally. Yes, I think Tobias does a good job of representing the "Clubhouse" argument of skateboarding rhetoric in this article. Traditionally, when framing public arguments about this topic in Seattle, these types of claims have been distinguished from "Playground" rhetoric, which frames skateparks in a similar manner to other park features, such as tennis courts. The complete academic and historical breakdown of this analysis can be found in former SPAC Chair John Carr's PhD Dissertation at the University of Washington:

I also like the way Tobias begins to broach the subject of Integrated Skateable Terrain in Seattle, the title of this 2005 paper by Matt Johnston, containing the original vision for the thing that Red Bull just built in Jefferson Park:

Having worked as an advocate for both phases of the Benefit Park skatedot myself, I agree with his assessment of that excellent project too. One skatedot his rant fails to mention is Summit Slope: a major political victory, a well-built concrete bench, but a poorly integrated and ultimately designed-to-death piece of shit. In the near future, I believe we will see more skatedots that go beyond Summit Slope, Benefit Park, Red Bull Skate Space, and into some bold new territory. Now is a good time to rethink many of the issues Tobias raises here, especially design details and site selection.

Thanks for generating hype and controversy around this important topic. I look forward to continued, in-depth analysis of skatedots by Seattle skateboarders everywhere.
Holy Hell, it's a piece of art.


Do some fucking research.
You know what Seattle no longer has and needs? A goddamn INDOOR skatepark. It's Seattle. Yea we have nice days here and there, especially in summer, but what about if you want to skate on a rainy day? Just go out and ruin your bearings? Come on Seattle, get your shit together.
Fuck you @1.
Dude your whining because they are too many great skate parks and the downside is that they are forced to allocate a small percentage of the budget for beautification (all public works not just skate parks). I grew up in the 70s when the built crappy skateparks that we loved to death and then watched them bulldoze them all into the ground and then told us to hit the streets. Not sure of your age but you are a new age malcontent with too many resources at your disposal and the only thing you can figure out is how unfair it is. Quit skateboarding and just be a proletariat pseudo punk like your cry suggests.
If you want to see a well designed skatepark - look at the one in Port Orchard ! The opponents of this park just had fits over the planning - this park is one of the few wonders of design & 'enjoyability' in this town ! Seattle hasn't a clue - period ! Very popular facility !! Get on the ferry and come over and take a look, you so-called planners !
Should have converted Westlake to a skatepark instead of a children's playground. The skaters all congregate there already anyway.
seattle needs dry spots to skate

look at what nike just did at the west la courthouse in reference to westlake

scott shin seems like a piece of shit for going up the chain to get thoughts from marshall on toby

talk to the kid himself and you'll be pleasantly surprised

what worked for you 10 years ago wont today holmes but i'm sure you've got good insight to some pitfalls of bureaucracy and urban planning

but maybe your computer freelancing engineer ass likes to get bent like that
Flat ledges exist at Beacon Hill, Greenlake, SeaTac, SeaSkate, Shoreline, Maple Leaf, Delridge, Roxbury, and Burien parks, as well as at the skate dots on 89th and Fremont and on that hill in Magnolia. That's just off the top of my head. Want more stuff? Do what skateboarders have been doing since the beginning and build something you whining little brat, get some wood, some recycled plastic, angle iron, whatever and build something. Or get some fucking cinderblocks, concrete, and angle iron and make it permanent somewhere. Or go to a city council meeting and propose ideas for new parks. Or do anything besides whine about how the 17 skateparks that have been built in the last 8 years aren't perfect. You're an embarassment son.
Jefferson Park has an assortment of low, flat, ledges. So does Dahl. So does Woodland Park. So does Judkins. And Delridge. And Northgate. Even SeaSk8, though perhaps they are not to your liking. And yep, I'm an old cranky skater, started in '83 or '84, and I have seen this city and this region transform into an amazing treasure trove of parks of all styles and sizes. Whoops, just realized that I'm regurgitating what 37 said. Ha! Oh well, it's true. I'll give you a cinderblock! I have some extras! Sheesh, kids these days.

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