How We Roll
Take an awesome ride with the innovators, shapers and supporters who help carve our local skateboard culture.
Photos by Jeff Berting
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Palos Verdes is missing something.
The four seaside cities on “The Hill” (Palos Verdes Estates, Rancho Palos Verdes, Rolling Hills and Rolling Hills Estates) seemingly have it all: lavish golf courses with ocean views aplenty, tennis courts, soccer fields, hiking trails and arenas for every breed of equine imaginable.
But there’s one thing The Hill doesn’t have: a public skate park. And any self-respecting South Bay skate rat will tell you the Peninsula needs one.
“There’s just nowhere to skate,” says Hudson Ritchie, a team rider for Maki Longboards. The 14-year-old skater and surfer is spot-on. Skating on sidewalks and streets in some parts of Palos Verdes is illegal and can carry a stiff fine of $90. Other areas only allow skaters on streets, where they have to compete with traffic.
So what does a skater to do if he wants to shred some concrete banks and launch a few heelflips in a hassle-free skate park? “You go all the way to Hermosa,” confesses Hudson.
That’s where Ellen November comes in.
Her grown children didn’t skate much when they were younger—and she’s quick to admit that she’s not much of a skater herself, but the founder of the nonprofit organization Skatepark PV is passionate about bringing a safe skating environment to the Peninsula.
“I’d see these kids finding creative, out-of-the-way places to skateboard,” says Ellen. While going about her daily routine, she’d often see neighborhood teens skateboarding in public areas, only to be promptly chased away by private security or police. “So it occurred to me: Why don’t we have a skate park?”
Ellen estimates that there are several thousand skateboarders on the Peninsula without a legitimate place to safely skate. She set out to remedy that and build a proper park.
To help do this, she enlisted the aid of a number of local skate shops, skateboard companies and pro skaters, including Kenny Anderson, who skates for Chocolate Skateboards. Kenny will oversee the design process of the proposed 10,000-square-foot skate park, which he notes will be constructed to be as green and environmentally friendly as possible.
“It’s the right thing to do,” says Ellen, “These kids shouldn’t be marginalized.” Ellen and her supporters hope to start building in Ernie Howlett Park in the city of Rolling Hills Estates, but for now, they’re concentrating on funding. And the greater South Bay skating community—a vibrant scene that’s been alive and ripping since the late ‘50s—is working hard on that front.
Kimberly Robinson and Randy Kowata of Vanguard Surf & Skate in Torrance have always wanted their shop to be one with a lot of soul—that particular kind of local sanctuary where skaters and surfers of all ages can seek refuge and talk about the latest tricks, videos and contests without repudiation. Once Kim heard about Skatepark PV, she knew Vanguard had to be a part of this youth-centered, community project.
“It’s about giving back,” shares Kim about their funding efforts. They’ve hosted a number of themed skate events at their shop (which is one of the few in the area to boast a half-pipe) in order to assist Skatepark PV. In July, they hosted a Midsummer’s Day Skate Jam that featured Dogtown skater Jay Adams signing autographs and drew more than 300 people. A portion of the shop’s sales during the event were donated to the park.
“When I learned about Skatepark PV and I got to know Ellen, I felt like she had really great intentions of doing something fantastic for the community and the kids,” says Kim. “I just really wanted to support that.”
Vanguard isn’t the only one that’s lending a hand. Other businesses, including skate companies like Girl Skateboard Co. and Globe, are also providing support in the form of publicity and skating gear.
Like Ellen, both Kim and Randy concur that PV skaters need a place to skate safely—where they won’t be labeled as potential juvenile delinquents. “They’re just normal kids with great attitudes,” says Randy.
But skateboarders weren’t always looked upon so favorably.