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When you think of owners of skateboard companies, a few names probably come to mind. Jamie Thomas, a legendary skateboarder, operates Black Box Distribution. Rob Dyrdek, also a legendary skateboarder and entrepreneur, recently acquired Alien Workshop. Jeffray Reyes, a 20-year-old community college student from El Salvador, is the owner and president of Shifty Skateboards. One of these is not like the others.

Most people can struggle to juggle school and a job. Jeffray does both while also running his own company. Operating out of Fairfax,Virginia, Shifty is off to a rousing success.  

 “We got the first shipment in, and I think within a week every board was gone,” said Jeffray, the corners of his mouth slowly giving way to a subtle grin. “It’s been great man. Everybody has been really supportive.”

The tight knit community in the Fairfax scene has been instrumental in Shifty’s success, though having guys like Jack Mayfield riding for the team and dropping tre-bombs doesn’t hurt either. The skatepark at Van Dyck Park feels more like a family reunion than a group a friends, and it’s rare for the locals to see an unfamiliar face.

No word yet on whether or not a video is in the works, but with their team filling out with the likes of local rippers Jack Mayfield, Eddie Henrich and Douglas Flores, and summer right around the corner, you’d have to expect some footage from them soon. Show your support for Shifty at http://www.facebook.com/ShiftySkateboarding.

Not every town has a skate park. Some may have parks in neighboring cities, but how can you expect kids to get there? This was the case in Norfolk, Virginia, which until recently had no sanctioned space in the city for skateboarding.

Skaters are more than happy to roam the streets, street skating is and always will be a huge facet of skateboarding, but when conflicts begin to rise with authorities, in this case the Norfolk Police Department, something has to be done.

Today Norfolk boasts one of the larger skateparks in the area, but it was not always so. Before Northside Skate Plaza’s completion in the fall of 2010, skateboarders were not welcome anywhere in the city.

Anywhere, that is, save for Maury High School. Founded in 2007 by students looking for a place to skate after school that wouldn’t land them a ticket for “felonious skateboarding,” Maury Skate Club has for five years offered a skaters a safe place to hang out and skate without harassment.

“Couldn’t ask for a better place to chill,” said Connor Robinson, a senior at Maury headed off to the University of Virginia in the fall. “Just coming out here, skating with friends, enjoying our freedom. It’s nice.”

Every skater participating in the club’s sessions is a skater not getting ticketed or arrested for skating downtown. Parents of skaters can rest easy with the added comfort of knowing their child isn’t crawling through some back alley in a bad neighborhood trying to find a new spot. Best of all, skaters in a large school have a chance to foster friendships and to form a bonded community, where one might otherwise not exist. If the scene in your town is stale, or there’s nowhere to skate, this is an option you should seriously consider.  

Skateboarders have never traditionally been the role-model members of society. They are loud, dirty, scraggly-looking vandals who trespass and destroy both public and private property. At least, some would say so.

True enough, hard urethane rolling across concrete and metal grinding on various surfaces aren’t exactly whisper quiet. The tell-tale sound of the wheels hitting cracks in the sidewalk is so well-recognized that Lupe Fiasco used the sound in a song. Some skaters may look a little haggard, but for every dirty ditch kid with a mop top, there exists another wearing khakis and a button down. Yes, some ledges may get chunked up, and a few rails may lose a coat of paint, but sometimes that’s the price that must be paid to realize the potential of an otherwise stale architectural space.

Some skateboarders, through their actions, are helping to quickly dispel the image of the skateboarder as a menace to society. Ben Ashworth is one such individual.

“What we’ve done is engaged the community,” said Ashworth. “In doing so, we’ve created a functional space that exists a self-realizing product of the community itself.”

Currently working as the sculpture studio manager at GeorgeMasonUniversity, Ben spends his free time working to develop Bridge Spot, an I-295 underpass in D.C. that Ben and his crew are transforming into a staple of community life. Ben’s work part is a part of his 5x5 Project, which you can read more about at http://workingmancollective.blogspot.com/. Click the photo above for a quick interview with Ben!

It’s generally agreed upon that the Dogtown surfers, now affectionately known as the Z-Boys, were responsible for sparking a revolution in skateboarding and setting the foundation for what it would become today. Originally, skateboards were thought of as a toy, like a yo-yo or a Frisbee. Skateboarding competitions featured riders performing strict routines of what were widely recognized as acceptable maneuvers.

The Z-boys, a group of surfers from the surf ghettos in southern Santa Monica, changed everything when they took their surf style and applied it to skateboarding. They began skating in the streets, breaking into backyard pools to skate, and helped skateboarders recognize the limitless potential in public spaces.

One of those now legendary forefathers featuring the likes of Tony Alva, Stacy Peralta and Jay Adams is actually no father at all, but rather a mother. The Zephyr team actually had a single female rider, a girl named Peggy Oki.

Peggy recently made a trip out to George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, and I had a chance to hear about what she’s been up to all these years. After a brief introduction by the Office of Diversity Programs and Services, who hosted the event, we were treated to a viewing of the documentary “Dogtown and the Z-Boys,” which Peggy features in.

After the documentary, Peggy stood up behind the podium and spoke about Dogtown, her life, her art, and her current environmentalist work, which is focused around protecting dolphins and whales. When she had finished speaking, we were lead with Peggy to a gallery on campus where her work was on display.

"We only have one Earth, you know?" said Peggy. "It’s sad to see some of the ways we treat our beautiful home, which we share with such amazing creatures." 

Her work and devotion to her cause are both very impressive, and she is one of the most incredible and inspirational people I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet. From her skating and surfing, both of which she still does, to her Captain Planet-esque resolve, Peggy is awesome personified.  

Park Review: Veterans Memorial Park, Woodbridge

I took a trip out to this park with some friends a few weeks ago for a Saturday morning session. Anything happening before noon on a weekend is not something I’m usually up for. That is, until one of my friends piped in with the magic words: 

"Dude, get off your lazy ass," he said. "It has a pool."

I was sold.

Artisan Skateparks just finished up this project out in Woodbridge, Virginia, just over an hour south of D.C. Be warned; the park is under the jurisdiction of a somewhat overzealous ranger, who drives by from time to time and kicks out everyone without a helmet, so it would behoove you to bring one along if you can. No other pads required, but unless you’re one of the gnarly 40-plus year old gentlemen who were doing man-plants in the deep of the bowl that morning, you probably won’t need them, because Artisan built this park to ride smooth as silk.

The park is essentially laid out so that the street section opens up into a bowled in tranny section. The street obstacles are laid out in a pretty compact format, but there’s a suprising amount of variety. Rails, hubbas, stairs, and banks lead into a bowled in area with multiple pockets, hips, a pool wall, and a few other pretty fun sections. Separate from this area on slab raised about 2 feet above the rest of the park is the pièce de résistance, the bowl.

A beautiful left-handed kidney, this is one of the smoothest and fastest bowls I’ve ridden. Granted, I skate a lot of gritty spots, but this bowl is just fantastic. If you’ve never skated a bowl before, this one may not be for you, because it ain’t the kiddie pool. It’s deep, it’s steep, and if you aren’t careful you will slam. If you can appreciate it for what it is, and you know how to handle steep tranny, then you’ll love this thing. The tile is immaculate, the coping is smooth and loud and beer flows freely from a fountain nearby. That last bit may have been fictitious but you get the idea.   

A pre-existing relic from the long since worn out half-pipe craze, the only part of the park that Artisan is not responsible for is a frightening, rusty, sketchy, and rather steep halfpipe. 

"That thing is pretty jacked up," said Douglas Flores, a Fairfax local. "I heard it was out here but now that I see it…no thanks."

Douglas’ comments are understandable. I must confess I shared his sentiments. Why skate that ancient behemoth when there’s a beautiful brand new concrete park a few feet away?

All in all, Veterans is a really fun little park, with a great bowl to boot. A must-stop if you’re in the area, and definitely worth the trip if you still have a ways to drive. Check out more park information at http://www.pwcparks.org/RecreationGolf/VeteransPark/SkatePark/tabid/111/Default.aspx.

The Commonwealth of Skateboarding

I’ve always been very interested in the growth and development of local skate scenes. Taking a look back to the Zephyr skateboarders in the 70s coming out of the region of the surf ghettos of in southern Santa Monica, affectionately known as Dogtown, we see a single scene that completely revolutionized how skateboarding was defined. Fast forward to today, add in modern mass communications systems, and you can find a way to view nearly every skate scene, not only in the United States, in the world.

Different environments invoke different responses from the minds of the skateboarders inhabiting them. As a result, one can observe different styles of skateboarding evolving on regional levels.

Every scene, every crew, every city, every atmosphere varies slightly in some way from the others. Take a trek to the Brooklyn Banks inNew York City, and you’ll find a hot bed of urban talent, producing extremely creative, flexible, street savvy skateboarders. Make your way out to thePacific Northwest, however, and you’ll find giant, sprawling, mouth-watering skateparks with huge transitions, and you’ll see kids coming out of that area who are absolutely ripping tranny. Then of course there’s the whole East versus West coast debate, though we all know that while West may be best, the East is the beast. The sidewalks out here are a bit rougher anyway.

I was surprised to learn that while in most cases I could find blogs or websites like SevenFiveSeven devoted to covering local skate scenes, searching for a site devoted entirely to covering skateboarding within the Commonwealth of Virginia proved fruitless. With that in mind, I began to formulate a plan. This blog is an attempt to cover, to the best of my limited abilities, the skateboarding that goes down in all corners of the Commonwealth. 

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