You don’t really grow out of skateboarding. You grow older but the hypnotic satisfaction of pulling an amazing trick will always lure you in. Just the other day I was skating with an Irish diplomat and a Georgetown law student. It’s not something they wear on their sleeves and tell the world; it’s personal. But not this Saturday. Washington, D.C. has one of the most diverse skateboarders coming from various walks of life. Go Skateboarding Day will engorge the streets with lawyers, bartenders, chefs, teenagers, punk kids, photographers, artists, and so many other walks of life; all on 7 plys of wood rolling on polyurethane. Here are a few bits to get you ready for the day. -Franz Mahr
Start the day at Palace 5 skate shop and battle the hundreds of skaters for all the skate gear that will be thrown out to the 100s of hands reaching for some free product. T-shirts, stickers, random swag, and even a few boards may be flying out towards the masses. Join the 14th street takeover and skate down from the shop to the infamous Pulaski park AKA Freedom Plaza. Be weary of cops and security though. As the natural dark force of the skating world, these guys will become overstimulated with all the skaters around and quickly start grabbing (and I do mean GRABBING) anyone like a claw arcade machine reaching for that shitty little teddy bear. The place to be afterwards would Bridge Spot down in Capitol Hill. Bring beer, specifically Tecate tall boys or Natty Bohs. -Franz Mahr
Maloof Skate Park (East Capitol Street NE)
Maloof sits in Parking Lot 3 at RFK Stadium and is modeled after popular skating areas like Pennsylvania Avenue’s Freedom Plaza and Metro Center’s Golden Rail. It’s open year round from dawn to dusk. -Emily Holland
Shaw Skate Park (11th and Q Streets NW)
Shaw Skate Park was recently renovated in 2011. Which is great, because no one hates upkeep, but hidden just south of Garfield Park is a what we’ll call an illegal graffiti temple. This phantom spot is inaccessible due to legalities unless you’re brave like photographer Johnny Grave (who posted his findings on the BYT site). I can smell the authenticity from here. -Morgan Day
Alexandria Skatepark (3300 Duke Street, Alexandria VA)
Head outside of the city to Alexandria to skate on some ramps – that’s about all this one has to offer. — Emily
But, when you don’t want to have to get on the metro just to ride on your board (or you’re actually using a skateboard as a substitute for a bike, cab, Uber, Lyft, or bus of any sort), you may need to get crafty where you go. Lots of seemingly ideal skating places are patrolled by cops who don’t want you riding around, but there are still places you can skate by the law (see what I did there?). — Emily
Freedom Plaza (1455 Pennsylvania Ave NW)
This has been a skating hot spot since the 80s, but it’s also the number one place to get your board taken by police and/or receiving a fine. Best plan of attack would be to keep an eye out while you’re boarding and be ready to bolt out of there if cops come. Word on the inter webs is that they aren’t too keen to chase after you, but they will snatch your board if you stick around (and you’ll literally have to pay to get it back). — Emily
National Archives (700 Pennsylvania Avenue NW)
Take turns skating a spot: If you do this, be ready for the verbal assault from a seasoned skater. Talking shit flows out of a skaters mouth often better than their tricks. So make sure not to get in anyone’s way.
Cops will not like you: From the dawn of the Bones Brigade team, men in uniform have been out for skateboarders. They protect property and this internationally celebrated day of skateboarding will not change that fact.
Watch out for cars: Even though hundreds of boards will be taking over 14th street, cars are still going to fly past you so make sure you don’t get hit. Street won’t be closed off so take care of each other and also make sure not to run into any pedestrian.
Enjoy the vibes: Games of skate will be played and some even for money (find me, I start games at $20), but this isn’t a competition. Don’t stress if their are kids ripping insane tricks by your side while you are trying to ollie up a the steps. It’s all about having fun so go at your pace and enjoy skating with everyone else that loves skating too.
GET LOW: The higher off the ground you make the skater look, the more dynamic the perspective. This me be achieved better if you have a low hanging camera grip mount. The closer the better so if you have a fish eye, now is the time to use it. Follow the skateboarder by riding next to them and record a really cool sequence. Watch out for boards flying out towards your camera!
Candles or Wax: always necessary for a smooth slide when gunning the streets and definitely will be needed at Pulaski
Beer: Unofficial sponsors include but are not limited to Tecate, Bud Light, Yuengling, and everything else your local corner store sells in tall boys. Can I say that? I just did. You’ll be outdoors so use your own discretion.
Skate Dice: Makes games S.K.A.T.E. a hell of a lot more interesting. Put down a couple dollars and make things really interesting.
Bobby Worrest is one of the best skateboarders from DC. Check him out ripping through his hometown:
Palace 5ive (2220 14th Street NW)
Department of Skate (519 H Street NW)
Alpine Ski and Skate Shop (21999 Shaw Road, Sterling VA)
East Coast Board Shop (10358 Lee Highway, Fairfax VA)
Pitcrew (207 N. Market Street, Frederick MD)
Roll Skate Shop (16650 Georgia Avenue, Olney MD)
“Police Truck” Dead Kennedys
“Jerry Was a Race Car Driver” Primus
If that’s not enough, here’s a 184-song Spotify playlist from Franz:
Longboards are, in many ways, exactly what they sound like. They’re longer, wider decks than traditional skateboards, and are generally designed for speed and maneuverability as opposed to fliptricks.
I started longboarding during those dark times when I was still unable to drive in suburbia, and continued to for recreation even after getting my license. Knowing that I’d rely primarily on public transportation once moving to DC, I was convinced my board would stay in Pennsylvania. In a moment of sentiment (or perhaps latent foresight) I decided to pack it at the last second, and I’m so glad I did.
At American University, our nearest Metro stop (Tenleytown) is roughly a mile away. There is an AU shuttle that loops between the Metro and campus, but the system is hardly perfect; there are only so many shuttles, and the route to Tenleytown is riddled with red lights. I quickly learned that missing a shuttle means waiting 15 minutes or more for the next one – approximately the time it takes to just walk to Tenleytown. The need became apparent for a quicker, on-demand way to get myself to the Metro station. See where I’m going with this?
It didn’t take long to figure out that my longboard provided the perfect alternative to the sluggish and often unpredictable shuttle service. When using my board I actually found myself beating the shuttles to the station, unless they caught every green light along the way (which we all know never happens in DC). Longboarding quickly became an incredibly useful alternative to the bus, and one of my favorite ways to get around DC.
At this point, you’re probably wondering why I don’t just use a bike to get around. The easy answer is that, well, I don’t have a bike. They’re hard to store indoors, prone to theft when stored outdoors, cost money, and I’m in college. You do the math. Sure, Capital Bikeshare addresses some of those issues, but my demand for intermittent transportation isn’t routine enough to justify the membership costs. By contrast, my longboard is there when I need it, stores easily when I don’t, and only cost me about $160. And since commuter setups are virtually maintenance free, I rarely, if ever need to take the time to tune it up.
Admittedly, I wouldn’t use my board to get everywhere. Some areas of DC are just too hilly to efficiently use a longboard as alternative transportation, but they’re perfect for the inconvenient gaps in Metro coverage. Walks to Adams Morgan (from Woodley Park station) or Georgetown (from Foggy Bottom station) are reduced from 15-minute hikes to 5-minute cruises via longboard.
It’s as environmentally friendly as biking, and infinitely more pragmatic when also using public transportation. Portability is key when trying to board a crowded bus or metro car, and keeping your ride in hand virtually eliminates the concern of theft. Most stores don’t mind you carrying it around with you, and the ones that do will usually let you stash it behind the register (many restaurants will ask that you do the same). I’ve always been polite, and I’ve never run into any trouble.
Longboards, if a case is to be made, offer flexibility where biking may not. While longboarding does preclude you from uphill commutes, it provides an excellent bridge between the gaps in DC public transportation. And, on a subjective note, it’s fun. Carving through Rock Creek Park or cruising over the Duke Ellington Bridge (en route to Adams Morgan from Woodley Park) is immensely satisfying. The feeling of connection to your surroundings is unparalleled, and something I maintain everyone should experience at least once in their lives.
It’s good for the environment, it’s good for your calf muscles, and it’s good for your soul. That last part is pretty subjective, actually, but a good long cruise has always done wonders for me when stressed. If you’ve never stepped foot on a skateboard in your life, rest assured; new riders usually find longboards much more forgiving than traditional setups. If you used to skate, but haven’t done so in years, consider this a chance to get a board back under your feet and still get from point A to point B. Two birds with one stone, as it were. Check out some friendly advice on getting around via longboard below, and see for yourself why four wheels are better than two (or one, depending where you left your bike last night). Skate safe, skate smart, and go longboard.
Skateboarding is cool. Skaters are cool. Not wearing a helmet is not cool. So don’t be a loser and wear a helmet. These five helmets will guarantee your coolness and your safety. -Sarah Guan
Remember when EVERYONE had a pair of Etnies and the world was just filled with people who may or may not have actually owned a skateboard, but dressed like skateboarders (or how they thought skateboarders dressed)? Well, unfortunately, Etnies don’t rule the streets (or school hallways) anymore, and now there are lots of brands and LOTS of shitty, ugly skate shoes. Please don’t wear these. -Emily Holland