My first skate-related encounter with the streets of New York City took place a little over two years ago, in mid-October of 2011. The MuirSkate crew and I ventured out here to take part in the unofficially annual “skateboard pride parade”. It was late-morning and just as soon as we touched down at JFK we were sprinting toward 116th & Broadway. We arrived at the crack of noon only to find the pack already in motion toward the lower end of Manhattan. Unfamiliar with our surroundings and somewhat delirious from a sleepless flight, we had no choice but to #YOLO it and make the long and moderately-treacherous journey downtown. If there’s a “best” way to be introduced to the variety of surfaces on New York City streets, this is either precisely that or far from it.
Much like the personalities of New York City’s several million residents, the surfaces of the streets run the gamut of possibilities and they’re all thrown in to the mix without much (or any) space in between. On the Upperer West Side, a rough and weathered cobblestone street—a street with the rating of “0” on The Binary Scale of Skatability—connects directly to the appropriately-paved surface of “DarkTower”—a solid “1” and, not surprisingly, a popular destination for many slopeboarders. Though the 1’s and 0’s of Skatability for any surface will vary between individuals, this type of textural juxtaposition reminds us to take the time to appreciate a true “1”. Steve Kong is a regular around these parts (read: a young OG) and appreciates this surface quite well.
Steve Kong; Front Nose, Backlit.
This city has seen a lot of action over its few hundred years in existence. Taxis, buses, horse-drawn buggies, and over-stuffed delivery trucks all contribute to the unique patina of the surfaces. Their stories are told on the surface in the form of complicated textures: pot holes, weird wave-like formations and mysterious liquids of unknown origins. At times, the stories told on the streets prove to be too much to handle for those of us on small-wheeled rollyboards, but—praise be to the NYC Parks Dept. and the like—we’re able to take our activities elsewhere. Ed Nieves frequents the Chelsea Piers Park to make use of its skate-centric surface.
If you should be oh-so-bold and choose to ride “all terrain” wheels, the texture of any given surface becomes less relevant. (Less-than-ideal surfaces are no match for your only-marginally-harder-than-a-bouncy-ball 70mm “filmer” wheels!) The timbre and “entertainment value” of said surfaces can now be taken in to greater consideration. Fortunately, the cultural climate in the City keeps us on our toes and offers visual stimulation in all directions, the most relevant of which being the downward one. Nick “Coolhands” Collins has watched the surface of the Williamsburg Bridge change over the years as the artists-in-residence exchange shifts.
Variety keeps life spicy and skateboarding fun. The ability to choose a surface to match the type of skateboarding you’re in to serves as yet another reason that you should go skateboarding in New York City. If you’re planning on rolling through town, holla at me via the Wheelbase Facebook page, my Tumblr or via the email function on my staff page and we may just be able to get a shredsesh going. Keep on surfin’, Ace!