Skateboarding is as iconic as surfing in Southern California. In fact, you can trace its roots all the way back to the 1950s when surfers tried to find a way to “landsurf” while the waves were flat. This gave birth to modern day skateboarding. And the sport just continued to grow and evolve from there with the Golden State, and Los Angeles in particular, at its center.
In 1963, the first Skateboarding Championships were hosted in L.A. These championships distinguished between the “hotdoggers,” who loved to perform tricks, and the “hill riders,” who preferred to ride down hills at high speeds. These two skateboarding distinctions can still be seen today in the popularity of skateparks and the emergence of longboarding, which branched off the hill riders.
In the 70s, Dogtown surfers and legendary skateboarders like Tony Alva and Stacy Peralta — both Z-Boys — brought the sport to the next level with revolutionary new styles and edgy tricks, and were among the first to introduce skating in empty pools. During the late 70s and 80s, skateboarding continued to evolve, and skateboard businesses, like Powell Peralta began.
The partnership between skateboard builder, George Powell, and skateboarder, Stacy Peralta, not only revolutionized the skateboard, but also sponsored a group of riders referred to as the Bones Brigade. This crew was made up of riders like skateboard greats, Tony Hawk and Rodney Mullen, who helped to bring skateboarding into the mainstream throughout the 80s and 90s. In the 90s competitive skating took off with competitions like the X Games.
Throughout all of this, Southern California, and more notably, Los Angeles remained the center stage and had skaters flocking in from around the world to skate at the famous skateparks where the sport began. Los Angeles alone has 21 city skateparks, and out on the streets, it’s quite the norm to see skaters weaving through traffic and around pedestrians.
Here are the top five L.A. skateparks that have amp in their ramp and shouldn't be missed on your next visit — even if you're only there to watch.
1. Venice Beach Skatepark
A quintessential oceanfront skatepark, Venice Beach Skatepark is always packed with skateboarders young and old, rookie and seasoned. While the views outside the park are pretty amazing to behold, the ones you catch in the park will often take your breath away. With a variety of features like concrete stairs, snake runs, and deep pools, this 20,000 square-foot park is just calling out for skateboarders to perform all kinds of tricks. Best people watching place around. If you want to try your hand at skateboarding, just don’t forget your helmet! You’ll find skateboarders like Matt LeMond, Blake Johnson, and Leandre Sanders practicing here. Stop by for a ride so you can watch them live instead of on YouTube.
2. The Cove
At 20,000 square-feet, the Cove is the perfect spot for skateboarders to drop into a deep bowl and reach optimum speeds to grind, flip, slide, shove, and pop up on the lip. Even if you are not a skateboarder, it’s fun to go down and watch. The tricks are quite impressive to bystanders. This Santa Monica skate park boasts not only bowls, but ramps, stairs, and room to move as well, which makes it must-visit destination for any skateboarder in L.A.
Skatelab makes you feel like you just stepped into one of Tony Hawk’s Underground video game series, but it’s actually real life. The park, which opened its doors in 1997, was originally designed by Team Pain and built by local volunteer skaters. It’s now one of the oldest skateparks in the region, and home to the Skateboard Museum, the Skateboard Hall of Fame, and an indoor skatepark with four fun and unique sections for skateboarders to explore. Get inspired to hit the park by perusing the museum's 5,000 vintage skateboards and learning about the sport's legends. Located in Simi Valley, the park offers day passes for $17 and annual passes for $49. All safety gear is available for rent.
4. Culver City Skatepark
Culver City Skatepark is slightly smaller than the other skateparks, ranging from 10-15,000 square feet, but boasts one of the best skatepark pools in Los Angeles. It's clover-shaped pool has two six-foot pockets that make tricks here challenging and fun. The park also has a semi-half pipe, and a variety of obstacles—rails, stairs, and ledges—along their street courses. The park is usually open until sunset and has staff members on duty. Helmets and pads are required within the park.
5. Belvedere Skatepark
At first glance, this skatepark may not seem as impressive as the iconic parks of Venice Beach or Santa Monica. But this East L.A. community skatepark has some tricks up its sleeve. Upon skating it, skateboarders realize the joys of wide wall rides and playing on the ample street course sections. If you are looking to improve your transition game, this is the spot. It’s a fun concrete jungle and one of the best skateparks in East L.A.
Originally written for Discover Los Angeles.