It Takes a Village to Carve, Thrash and Slam

Sidewalk surfers might nominate skateboarding as America’s favorite pastime, but while nearly every town has its ball field, free public skateparks are few and far between. Los Angeles, the birthplace of skateboarding, has scant few at present--but that state of affairs is going to change if champion boarder, video game impresario, endorsement star and skateboarding ambassador Tony Hawk has a say in the matter.

Hawk, who more or less grew up at the now-extinct Oasis skate parks in San Diego and Del Mar, can testify to the character-forming influence of curved concrete. Since mid-2001, Hawk has been helping skaters across the country get their own fully legit public skate parks built through the private nonprofit Tony Hawk Foundation. “Our focus is to help finance and promote construction of high-quality public skate parks in low-income areas,” says Tony’s older brother Steve, who runs the foundation on a salary donated by Tony.

The foundation doled out about $450,000 last year to public nonprofit groups. “The parks that catch our interest the most are the ones where there has clearly been a lot of community support,” says Steve, former editor of Surfer magazine and former executive editor of Skateboarder magazine. “One of the parks we did, kids were going door to door selling flower bulbs. It irks me that skaters have to do that when basketball players and baseball players and soccer players don’t.”

With the cost of a park averaging about $200,000, the foundation’s strategy is to furnish seed money through one $25,000 grant and a cluster of grants for lesser amounts each quarter. In 2001, it gave money to more than 150 groups in almost every state. Applications are available at; the site also offers advice on the best way to get a public park built.

Oddly, the foundation has received relatively few applications from Southern California--and has helped with only three projects here, in Needles, South Gate and San Diego--but Hawk remains undaunted. “Any town that puts up a skatepark, I haven’t heard of one shutting down because no one is using it,” he says. “City officials are astonished at how popular they are.”

Southern California, what are you waiting for?