Skateboarders Surf Cement Waves at Verdugo Park

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Jonathan Williams

WHEELS UP: John Stevenson, 53, swings over the lip of a pool at the Verdugo Skate Park. Stevenson tests his skills at the park Wednesdays and Thursdays.

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Lucas Yepez, Staff Writer
April 3, 2014
Filed under Features, Top Stories

It’s a typical day at Verdugo Park. A man exercises while walking his dog, friends are socializing and adults smile while watching their children have fun at the skatepark, but not all adults are there just to watch.

While it may be tough for some to ride a skateboard at all, let alone doing so in their 50s, that’s not the case with John Stevenson.

“It’s fun to skate as both a kid and adult,” Stevenson said while going through his stretching routine. “It’s something to do when getting together with buddies or at a barbecue.”

Stevenson, 53, who started skateboarding in 1966 at the age of 6, said that it was never scary for him.

“When you’re young — you’re fearless. You don’t have boundaries. I jammed my heel at 6, but then I immediately got back on my skateboard,” he said.

According to Stevenson, It is harder to skate when you’re older because you get more cautious. Working people who skateboard can’t afford injuries when they have a family to take care.

Street skating became the new sensation in the mid-’80s when skateparks went away due to those insurance problems. Stevenson said a lot of professionals stopped skateboarding at that time and he took a hiatus as well.

He picked it up again 12 years ago during the resurgence of skateparks when the state decided people could skate at their own risk. He credits the “Dogtown” documentary film for bringing skateboarding back to the parks.

“Dogtown” revived the spirit of skateboarding — pushing guys from the 70s to take up skateboarding again,” Stevenson said.

Verdugo Park is known as one of the top 10 parks in California. It was also one of the earliest parks to open during the resurgence 10 years ago.

Stevenson, a local resident, has skated all over Southern California in ditches, schoolyards and skate parks.

His board has a definitive nose — round with a tail, and has hard wheels, which are fast, smooth and according to boarders, just right for the park. Soft wheels, on the other hand, are for street skating and tricks. Skaters who like to “cruise” usually use softer wheels.

Stevenson paid around $125 for the board and parts. He said that smaller boards are meant for tricks and street skating, while his is meant for park and pool skating, or on vertical terrain.

“For $100 you can get a good board with parts,” Stevenson said.

Other skaters, like Thalente Biyela, 20, don’t have to pay a penny to get a good board. Biyela is sponsored by skateboard companies like LRG Clothing, Element, and Spitfire Wheels that provided him with his skateboard for his prowess in the sport.

Biyela has performed tricks such as “Coping Grinds” and “Smith Grinds,” in which the skater slides on the hangers of the trucks or decks of the skateboard. Only part of the board can actually touch the surface. Stress on the ankles, knees and back has limited what tricks he does now.

Stevenson said he has not had any major injuries, although he has twisted his ankle a number of times, suffered from sore knees, and has had a “hipper” injury. This is where one falls on their side, resulting in hip pain or a fracture. He currently does not attempt “high risk” maneuvers.

On the other end of the spectrum, 10-year-old skater Adrian Trigano II has broken an arm and his lower back in the three to four years he’s been skating. Biyela, who taught Trigano how to ride a skateboard, claims he hasn’t had any serious injuries. Trigano and Biyela come to Verdugo Park twice a week.

“Verdugo’s better overall than the other parks I’ve been to,”said Trigano.

There are different pools and bowls at the park for skaters to choose from: Clover bowl, Snake run, Kidney pool, and Street Plaza with rails and ledges.

“The most challenging is the Kidney pool since the transitions are quicker and tighter,” Stevenson said.

A transition is the round part of the wall that skaters move through first as they ride through the pool. This would mean that one would move faster in the Kidney pool, making it more challenging.

The Verdugo Skate Park will celebrate its 10th anniversary on April 12 from 11 a.m. until 8 p.m. with an event featuring live music, food and drinks, contests and giveaways.

The organizers of the event encourage skate boarders of all ages to participate.

The skate park is open 4 to 10 p.m. on weekdays and from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekends. For information call (818) 548-2786.

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