You don’t always have to plan an extensive, faraway road trip to have a real skate adventure. Here in the Phoenix Metro, I’m finding that I’m surrounded by more skate spots than I could ever shake a damned stick at. Naturally, they fall all over the quality spectrum from the wonderfully epic to the hopelessly lackluster… but for the most part, Phoenix is a concrete oasis with a lifetime (or two) of skate potential. The quantity is definitely there; the amount of fun that is quietly laying in wait out there in the desert is almost beyond imagination.
This spring, I made it my mission to go and check some of those spots out. Below, you’ll find my field reports from the spots that I visited (and skated). Hopefully, they’ll inspire you to go out and do a little exploring of your own. If and when you do, remember to take lots of pictures and send the stories in. We always like to hear the details of recently discovered skate spots here at Everything Skateboarding. Just make sure that they don’t get blown out by publicizing their exact locations too hard; it’s best to leave some things to the imagination, and let skaters pay their dues by doing the requisite networking and research.
Stop Number One
This is a pretty famous spot. Apparently, this ditch was skated a lot back in the ’80s before it was “rendered unskateable” by the local authorities (according to the city news gazette). Now, I’m not too sure about this “renered unskateable” business; generally speaking, rendering a ditch like this unskatable would require a whole lotta jackhammer time and/or creative concrete placement… and even then, your average skater might still find a quick and effective way around the said rendering. I decided that I’d better go check it out for myself, just in case the local media is full of fluff.
Good thing I did, because once I got there, the only thing I found that was “rendering” this ditch “unskateable” was some dirt and pebbles that had collected in the flatbottom of an otherwise perfectly skateable, couple-hundred-yard-long ditch. The cleanup effort could be considerable to make the entire ditch truly skateable, but I was able to clear out a thirty-yard stretch in under twenty minutes or so (with the help of my industrial-sized push broom). So much for mass media credibility! This place is definitely high-visibility to passers by, so it’s best skated at sunrise or sunset, to maintain as low of a profile as possible.
Stop Number Two
This is another fairly famous spot that has had some less-than-welcome coverage in the local news rag. In this case, great efforts have been made to render this spot unskateable- and they’ve almost worked. The deeper side of the big set of banks (to the right) are not currently skateable, nor are the red handrails that have been erected on top of them. However, the smaller set of banks is still skateable, and a skater with enough creativity and skill could probably hop right up onto those bars, and make something happen. It’s interesting to note there that a few cubic feet of concrete and a quick trowel job could, in theory, make these banks totally skateable again, as could a metal cutoff tool to work those handrails back into shape. But with so much concrete fun so close at hand, why would anybody bother…?
Stop Number Three
Here, we have The Wedge, one of the few spots that I’ll publicly name in my article because it’s so well known, as well as being totally accessible, open, and completely bust-free. Another historic skate spot that has been a skateboarding cornerstone since the late 1970’s, The Wedge sits in the shadows of Eldorado Park along a bike path that crosses under McDowell Road. Largely shaded from the scorching summer sun, The Wedge is still as skateable today as it’s ever been; the banks appeal to the old-schoolers while the rock gap (into the bike path) is pretty popular with the street-skating contingent; note the missing rocks at the top of the runway. Just make sure you bring a broom to push away the occasional mud and sludge buildup, and try to avoid losing your board in the water diversion channel at the far end.
Stop Number Four
While I was out on a Bitchin’ Ditch Mission, I thought it might be more than appropriate to stop by at Eldorado Skatepark for a few quick, bust-and-hassle-free carves through the mellow bowl/ditch combo that is the centerpiece of the park. Is it totally legit, as defined by a ditch-deciding purist? Nope, not really. Whatever, man. Sue my fat, happy ass, if it makes you feel better. Is it a fun diversion in the middle of my daily ditch-riding routine? Yes, absolutely.
Stop Number Five
What’s a skate mission if you don’t take a moment to stop in at your local skate shop, pick their brains for a few minutes, and put your paws on some neat new planks? Not much of a mission at all, if you ask me. Today’s paw-plundering included these two classic pigs, the SMA Jay Adams model (finally released as a production model, nearly forty years after the prototype was built), and the massively period-correct (and collectible) Dogtown Jim Muir Triplane model. Go get some, kids, and start livin’ life to the fullest.
Stop Number Six
Shaded skate spots are a luxury here in Phoenix, so when I come across one I tend to put it on my must-return list. I came across this one while out on one of our CitySkate longboard cruises, and made a mental note to go back and check it out with something that’s a bit more bank-friendly than a 44-inch drop-through. You’ve probably seen quite a few double-kinked handrails in your lifetime, but how many of you kiddies have seen a double-kinked embankment? My guess is, probably not too many. Here’s the dirty little secret: if I can haul my fat ass up this thing to skate it, then so can you.
Stop Number Seven
Again, we have here another historic skate spot that’s probably gotten a little too much press in the local media, and got skate-stopped pretty determinedly somewhere along the line. Not only are there prominent signs pleading for users to stay on the walkway (and stay the hell off the banks), there are also 1/4″ thick steel strips riveted into the concrete to emphasize the point.
However: no amount of skate-stopping will ever completely deter a determined skater. Turns out, I’m not alone: when I arrived to check the place out, I was pleasantly surprised to find that a few of the stop-strips have been removed, making sections of this spot skateable once again. The speedy downhill run-in and the ample shade are total bonuses, of course. The mellowly transitioned banks ended up being a ton of fun, in spite of official efforts to render them otherwise.
Stop Number Eight
The city authorites tried to “skate stop” these sprawling banks right from the outset by utilizing exposed aggregate in the construction process. “Exposed aggregate” is what results when you hose the top layer of smooth cement off of the curing concrete, leaving the coarse rock exposed. In theory, this would be far too rough for your average skateboard wheel to roll across… but not if you’re smartly armed and ready for battle with the decidedly un-average footprint of my monster super-stompers (which happen to be 65mm, 78a Abec 11 No Skools). Suddenly, the whole world becomes instantly skateable- including these fast, fun, mellow banks.
Stop Number Nine
While I had my jolly green Abec 11 super-stompers set up on my trusty Santa Cruz Bevel, I thought I’d take a moment to go eye these massive-sized, exposed-aggregate flood-control embankments. Again, these would be totally un-skateable under most “normal circumstances”… but as we learned at the last spot, my Abec 11 No Skool jellyrolls aren’t exactly “normal wheels”, which makes everything instantly enjoyable. Rolling my big ‘ol butt into these mammoth banks was pure fun and a real hoot that also scored pretty high on the adrenaline meter.
Stop Number Ten (Under The Bridge)
The Spot Hookup really came through on this one. Again, we have a skate spot under an overpass that provides all-day shade in the scorching summer heat of central Arizona. But this time, the banks are big, smooth, fast, and long with forever lines; the only limiting factor here is how long your thighs and calves will last. The only other thing you’ve gotta do here is watch your head when you get to the top, just to make sure that you don’t bean your brain bucket on the bridge. There’s ample (and free) parking nearby; the walkway is rarely used; it’s completely hidden from passersby; and you barely have to sweep it because it’s so clean and dry. By any measure, this is the pretty much the perfect skate spot.
Stop Number Ten (Beside The Bridge)
There’s also another (smaller) ditch section perched a little higher up on the knoll, right beside the bridge; with a thorough sweeping and de-lousing, this could be a fun little diversion when the weather turns a bit more comfortably cool in the fall and winter.
Stops Number Eleven, Twelve, Thirteen, and Fourteen
The next series of spots are from a ten-mile long ditch complex that was recently poured as part of an ambitious highway expansion project. Given it’s length, it would make sense that there might well be multiple access points along the way. Thankfully, some of those were far enough in the boonies that the bust factor was tolerably low, and allowed more than enough time for the required sweepin’ and cleanin’.
What I wasn’t expecting was the variety of terrain that I’d encounter at the various ingress points. This ditch contains some sections that are big, fast, and steep, with very little flatbottom, while other sections were much smaller and mellower with heaps of flat bottom. All of them were connected to each other by strangely-engineered drop offs, spillways, and culverts. This really isn’t “a ditch”, per se. This is much more like several entirely unrelated ditches that all happen to be strung together from end to end.
Stop Number Fifteen
This one took a little bit of creativity to skate. The hardest part was gaining access; after all, you cannot skate what you cannot get to. Once inside, however, the next immediate challenge was dealing with that coarsely brushed finish. Once again, this is probably an attempt at “skate-proofing” these giant-sized ditches… and once again, my Abec 11 Jellyrolls made the misguided and ill-intentioned effort at skate-proofing a moot point. I can roll over anything and everything, and thus, I shall roll over anything and everything.
That’s my new mantra, and dammit, I’m stickin’ to it.