Skate Ranch

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Chapter 13


     There's got to be some love stories in this somewhere, and I watched a sweet one begin to unfold there in front of the Horton Building. Jeannie had been working in production, I think. She was one of the two girls who worked at Powell who could actually skate. She popped in to use the sink and mirror in our restroom. She was all excited. She was going on a lunch date with Chris Iverson. He came walking down the sidewalk on Gutierrez St. and she skipped out to join him. I never saw either of them with anybody else after that.

     Somewhere about this time we took a trip to Vancouver to complete our West Coast exploration of the Powell-Peralta empire. At first, I think, it was JW, Chris Iverson, George Totten, and myself. We landed in Seattle and took a rental car across the border. Somewhere along the way, Jeff Pixley and Jeannie joined up with us..

     The Vancouver skateboard scene was an eye-opener. In Canada, when a skater got seriously injured, he went to the doctor; in California, he got a doctor, a lawyer and an insurance company. With universal health care, injuries are just taken care of without activating a chain of for-profit middlemen. Seeing the North Vancouver Snake Bowl was like looking into the future, down to the specifics of the signage. It was a very well designed concrete snake run in a public park that slalomed down a gentle slope ending in a bowl. Like Derby Park in Santa Cruz, this is a model for outdoor municipal skateparks. Minimal maintenance, free admittance, skate-at-your-own-risk unsupervised concrete terrain dedicated to skating is the perfect recreational, economic and legal choice. After the initial expenditure for construction, it costs nearly nothing. Just like a basketball court, a soccer field, a horseshoe pit or any number of recreational activities, you can't charge money for its use. By the time skateboarding became a mainstream sport in California, it was only natural that public parks would accommodate skaters in exactly this way.

     The Canadians were way ahead in another respect. There were three outdoor public skate parks around the city but they were useless in the frequent rain, and the occasional snow and ice. To provide northern skaters with a place to go in any weather, Kevin Harris had built two indoor "Skate Ranches." Kevin was a freestyle pro for Powell, part of the Bones Brigade. He had been touring with the team the early part of my ‘'88 Summer Tour. In each location, he had filled the room with whatever collection of halfpipes large and small he could squeeze into the space. The larger of the two was the forerunner of what we would end up building at PCHQ. It had a series of progressively taller halfpipes butted right against each other with a common flatbottom, all the way up to full vertical, so that all skill levels could find something they could skate and choices to challenge their limits.

     It's hard for a skatepark to pay for itself, but he was making it work somehow with adjoining skate shops and cafes. He had a photo ID and membership system for his regulars, and a rate structure for all comers, which was copied for SkateZone.

     Chris Iverson and Jeannie, Totten, Pixley, JW and I at that time comprised an all-Powell entourage and we got the royal treatment at the skateparks backstage after hours, before hours, anytime.

     Displayed on the walls were photographs of the Skate Ranch framing during construction. I love that look of a skeletal skatepark, right before it gets the skin on it. I can see the work of the carpenters' hands. I was beginning to feel the joy of our upcoming build out of the SkateZone, the pleasure of filling an entire room with skate ramp skeletons, committing the space to a zone for fun.

     We got the complete picture of how a world could be with skateboard parks. Just the issue of perceived liability was keeping a lid on all the possibilities in California. It would take some legal workarounds for the SkateZone to exist.

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