Skaters from all over come to Barrio Logan to battle for tricks
By Brent E. Beltrán
Everyday from my apartment in Barrio Logan I can hear the clack clacking of skateboards slamming on concrete. It’s a cacophony of sound that blends in with the ubiquitous noise of industry and barrio life.
Some community members may not appreciate seeing skaters riding and doing tricks with what seems like reckless abandon amongst the murals of Chicano Park. I’m not one of them.
To me, Chicano Park is a space for all. Be it the homeless that need a place to kick it during the day, children that enjoy using the playground facilities, families on a weekend picnic, activists pushing for social justice and skaters doing rail slides on massive planters that surround the San Diego-Coronado Bay Bridge pillars across from Northgate Market.
The section of Chicano Park that is bound by National Ave., Dewey St., Newton Ave. and the Estrella del Mercado apartment complex has been turned into a de facto skate park with youths (and some not too youthful folks) from all over San Diego coming to test their skills in a “street” setting.
Wanting to get an idea of who some of these youths might be and where they come from I, along with my two-year-old son, decided to go check them out this past Saturday. There were more than a half dozen teenagers of various ethnicities having the time of their lives.
At first we kind of kept our distance. Watching them attempt to do tricks over and over again. Some hitting them, some not. Not landing a particular trick didn’t discourage them from continuing because they kept after it. And when they did land a trick that they had been battling for you could see the joy in their faces.
As my boy Dino and I watched I whipped out my iPhone and started taking pictures. The clack clack clack of wooden boards on concrete was joined by the rapid fire, fake shutter sounds of my iPhone as I took dozens of pics.
I got bolder and moved next to where the action was, my boy by my side watching in awe. Some of the skaters were attempting tricks by a pillar that was painted by muralist Mario Torero with student help. In a bit of skater ingenuity someone at some point poured and molded a little bit of concrete on two sides to turn the planter that surrounds the pillar into a ramp of sorts.
Getting even more bold, I decided to ask one of the kids if I can interview him about why they are there. I let them know who I was and that I write about Barrio Logan and that I’m interested in writing about them. Some others came over and we had a nice chat.
Turns out these fourteen and fifteen year olds (Savion Chisholm, Brandon Raygoza, Donnie Watson, Brandon Brown, Clarence Surel and David Leoncine) were from Chula Vista and about every two weeks they get together, jump aboard the trolley and go skate in various parts of San Diego. Making sure to hit up Chicano Park.
They all go to Otay Ranch High and everyday skate to and from school. After school whatever they see turns into a skate spot for an hour or two.
I asked them, why do you skate at Chicano Park? They responded together by saying, “There are not many good spots down in Chula Vista. We like to go downtown and find spots. [Chicano Park] is one of the smoothest and best spots that we know of. This spot is legendary. A lot of professional skateboarders come here.”
These youths like it all. They don’t have a favorite. Whether it’s street (typical outdoor areas like curbs, benches, stairs, rails, or planters wrapped around a bridge pillar) or vert (such as ramps and empty swimming pools). It doesn’t matter to them. They just want to skate because it is their favorite thing to do.
I asked a few what their favorite tricks are. Brandon Raygoza said his favorite was the Inward Heel. Savion said the Five Oh Slide Spin Out. Donnie likes doing rails. And Brandon Brown’s is the Beninhana Late Shove.
I also asked, who’s the best skateboarder? Consensus among them was that Donnie is the best at street and Brandon Brown is the best among them at vert.
To these youths skateboarding isn’t just a sport. It’s a lifestyle. They live and breathe skateboarding and the adrenaline rush it brings them. They also suffer the consequences of the lifestyle. Brandon Raygoza showed me some scars on his leg and said he cracked his skull open one time. Donnie showed me a gnarled finger that he broke while doing a trick.
Regardless of the dangers these guys all want to eventually go pro. If they keep skating every day then there’s no reason these young Chula Vistans can’t realize their dream.
Since they are all from Chula Vista I asked them how they found out that Chicano Park was a great spot to skate. Brandon Raygoza said he “heard of the spot in a skate video that featured pro-skater and fellow Chula Vistan Tommy Sandoval,” skating in the park. They decided to Google Chicano Park about a year ago and they’ve been coming consistently ever since then.
I come from a generation that was the originators of modern skateboarding. Most of my generation’s skaters are in their forties, fifties and some even in their sixties! With the exception of a handful of people skating back then was a hobby for mostly disenfranchised white youth. It’s much different today as youth from all ethnicities and cultural backgrounds like to ride and participate in the lifestyle.
These multi-ethnic youths from Chula Vista are no different. The color of their skin has no significance when it comes to skating. There’s no judgement when it comes to your background. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you come from or how much money you got. The only thing you are judged on is your skill. And that is all that matters to them.
One of the last things I asked them was what do you want to say about skating?
“Have fun. Never give up. Sometimes you have to battle for a trick but keep pushing. One of the best feelings is when you are battling for a trick for two hours and you finally land it.”
And that can be said for many things in life. Keep battling. Keep trying. Through effort and hard work you will land it.