Outdoors: Getting On Board

No longer just for teens, adults (even older ones) are finding their grind lines at local skateparks

Category: Articles

 

Patrick Pitcher dips down and then rides the rim at Lower Woodland Park’s new skatepark, turning left and criss-crossing the bowl once again before flipping his board end-first back into his waiting hands for a finish smooth as butter. Waiting patiently for his next turn, he cheers and jeers a buddy who is still working up to such fancy moves. Pitcher, a high-end painting contractor with a wife and kids who lives in a meticulously restored Ravenna Craftsman, is not your stereotypical “skate rat.” Still chasing the thrills of grinding in and out of the skatepark’s deep “pool” at the ripe old age of 45—he was a competitive cyclist in a former life—Pitcher gets most of his kicks these days from skateboarding. 

Once the exclusive domain of rebellious tweeners and teens, skateboarding has aged into the mainstream in recent years. Pitcher is one of dozens of 40-something Seattleites who skateboard regularly at Lower Woodland for exercise and fun. In mid-2007 he got sucked into the sport again (some three decades after he first fell in love with it) when a neighbor—also in his mid-40s—asked if he wanted to tag along on a jaunt to the skate bowl at Ballard Commons Park (the city’s first public skatepark, opened in 2005). He was immediately hooked, and a few hundred dollars later had his own board and “full metal jacket” of protective gear (knee, elbow, wrist and hip pads, not to mention a helmet) to show for it.

And when the Lower Woodland Skate-park opened in 2008—more than triple the size of its Ballard counterpart and closer to home—Pitcher never looked back. The 17,000-square-foot facility just south of Green Lake features two different bowls as well as street-skating facilities to keep skateboarders coming back for more. “The actual concrete pour there is so refined,” Pitcher says. “It shoots you into the right places and is a lot of fun.”

With skateboarding fast becoming one of the most popular sports in the region—one survey found some 30,000 devotees in the Seattle metro area alone—the city has vowed to develop more public skateboarding facilities. The newest isunder construction at Wedgwood’s Dahl Playfield, while another, at West Seattle’s Delridge Park, is in the planning phase. And the city has $1.5 million earmarked to develop four additional smaller “skatespots”—at Jefferson Park in Beacon Hill, Judkins Park in the Central District, Myrtle Edwards Park on the Seattle waterfront and Roxhill Park in West Seattle—over the next six years.

On his part, Pitcher is just thankful the pads have gotten so good, as his middle-aged body isn’t quite as resilient as it used to be. “Recovery takes longer—and it’s more painful—than I ever remember.” But like any zealot, none of that stops him from getting out there and mixing it up. The bruises fade, but the thrill remains.

“The other big challenge, of course, is time,” says Pitcher, whose children are ages 6 and 9. For now, he is holding out hope that his kids will one day soon fall in love with the sport. “Someone will have to take them to the skatepark, right?”

Taking It Inside
If skateboarding in the rain isn’t your idea of a good time, head over to Fremont’s Inner Space Skatepark (3506 Stone Way N, 206.634.9090). Bay Area transplant Mike Martinez, looking to keep his skateboarding habit alive despite the cold and wet winter weather, opened the facility in 2003. Besides some 7,000 square feet of skateable surfaces, Inner Space also sells (and rents) skateboards and accessories and offers weekly skate camps with experienced instructors.