Pro skater Garrett Hill plots his ultimate West Coast skateboarding road tripPump, hill bomb, and chill your way through these 9 super shreddable skate spots
By Garrett Hill
Orcas Island, Washington
Meet the author
Born in Santa Monica, California, Garrett Hill is a 15-year professional skateboarder. He acquired professional status at age 15 and has been sponsored by some of the most elite and sought after companies in the action sports industry. Garrett has been touring the world and performing in front of large crowds since he was 13. Garrett currently resides in Los Angeles, California and is a dedicated co-founder and content creator of smartphone accessory brand Hotshot Handle.
This article is part of our Up For It series,
where experts in their field curate their ultimate road trips.
Stop 1: The ditches of Arizona
The water of this desert oasis, which can sometimes reach temperatures of up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit, has long since dried up. Empty pools and reservoirs left by the evaporation process make for a skateboarder’s playground. Mark my words: You will never find a better ditch to skate than in Arizona.
Towering over 40 feet tall, these empty reservoirs can span for miles, allowing you to pump your way through one of the fastest, most scenic rides of your life. Almost every U.S. tour that I’ve been on had a stop in Arizona for this reason alone. It’s hot as hell, but—good lord—these spots are worth the sunburn.
Whether you’re getting a session in at The Wedge Skatepark in Scottsdale, hitting the new street course at the indoor KTR facility in Chandler, or setting up a new complete at Cowtown Skate Shop in Phoenix, you’re in for a hot, fast, wild ride anyplace in Arizona.
The Rock-a-Hoola sign that greeted visitors into the park, April 2011. | Photo: Dzealand /wikimedia
Stop 2: Rock-A-Hoola waterpark, California
Spot hunting is an essential part of skateboarding. Finding a good, skateable spot with loose directions is one of the most rewarding things ever. It kind of makes you feel like a bounty hunter in some ways, without the weird mullet and ‘90s sunglasses.
Located off the 15 freeway, deep in the Mojave Desert, is this gold mine of a skate spot. The Rock-A-Hoola Waterpark was created as a private resort in the 1950s. After an unfortunate employee injury, the park went out of business—but left all the waterslides.
Over the last 70 years, Rock-A-Hoola has become one of the most exciting, unique, and photogenic skate spots in the western hemisphere. Bombing down a water park slide on a skateboard for the first time was, I discovered, a whole new kind of fun. Though, I must warn you, this spot is located in a town with a population of fewer than 3,000 people. So, beware of sketchy, desert zombies that squat at this long forgotten amusement park.
Garrett Hill skating in downtown Los Angeles, California. | Photo: Garrett Hill
Stop 3: Downtown Los Angeles, California
Run, skate, chill. Run, skate, chill. This motto is a summary of street skateboarding in DTLA at its finest. The spots here are unlike any others in the world. Marble ledges that grind without wax, street bumps that launch you 10 feet into the air, amazing gaps, and hill bombs for days are a few of downtown’s treasures.
That said, you’re lucky to get 10 minutes at a spot before a well-to-do security guard looking to prove his merit comes running over to chase you out. Welcome to Los Angeles, where the origins of surf style evolved into street style.
Instead of swerving through pedestrians at the beach, you’re now dodging taxis, big rigs, businessmen in nice suits, security guards, cop cars, and sketchy-looking rickshaws in the Chinatown District. This is where the first handrails were ever attempted by Natas Kappas and Mark Gonzales. There is so much skate culture and history here.
Here, you’ll get lost among the skyscrapers that reflect and amplify the amazing sounds of your skateboard, as you fly through them in a blur of speed and smiles.
Garrett Hill skating in Venice Beach, California. | Photo: Garrett Hill
Stop 4: Venice Beach, California
If skateboarding had a heart, it would be located in the streets of Venice Beach. Welcome to the birthplace of skateboarding.
Anyone looking to take an epic skateboarding trip must skate Venice, pushing down the boardwalk, passing street vendors, swerving in and out of tourists and street performers. Take a cruise through the fast turns of the snake-run at the legendary Venice Beach skatepark. Here, on any given day, you will find hundreds of spectators, waiting to cheer for a solid line or amazing slam.
Stay inspired for the road trip ahead by knowing that the place where you just enjoyed a slice of pizza and a beer was the very same spot that the Z Boys of Dogtown created the style and foundation of skateboarding.
Skatelab History Museum. | Photo: Skatelab/Facebook
Stop 5: Skatelab Skateboard History Museum, California
Thirty minutes north of Downtown Los Angeles, nestled in the hills of the Aliso Canyon Mountains, is the small town of Simi Valley. Here, you’ll find Skatelab, a pivotal indoor skatepark that’s had its finger on the pulse of skateboarding for decades. It also just so happens to be the place where I had almost all my birthday parties when I was a kid, as well as where I competed in my very first skateboard competitions.
The guys who started this park have such a love and appreciation for skateboarding history preservation that it’s easy for you to get inspired before your session even starts. From the moment you walk in, you’ll spy over 5,000 vintage skateboards hanging above your head, as well as skateboarding memorabilia. Open seven days a week, and free to the public since 1997, the museum receives more than 50,000 visitors each year. Skateboard history lives on at Skatelab and the legends live on in the Skateboarding Hall of Fame.
Waterfall on sand beach in Big Sur, California. | Photo: F. Spaich/Shutterstock
Stop 6: Cliff jumping in Big Sur, California
OK, this isn’t a skate spot. But you’ll thank me for visiting it on your way up the coast.
Growing up in the San Fernando Valley, I never really got to experience nature all that much. I spent the majority of my youth in schoolyards, indoor skateparks, and weaving in and out of traffic downtown. It wasn’t until I started touring that I realized how fun camping and cliff jumping was. No joke, every single trip we went on that took us up the northern coast, we made it mandatory to stop at the infamous cliff jumps and water holes in Big Sur.
What better way to let out some pent up energy from the long drive than by sprinting out of the van directly in a terrifyingly fun, 40-foot cliff jump with your best buds? I’m not sure if it was the booze that gave us false confidence, but I swear we were attempting some Olympic-level dives and flips that we had straight-up no business attempting. Want your post to hit the popular page on Instagram? Run and jump off the cliff then throw your board under your feet for the most epic picture—guaranteed to get you at least 250 likes.
Lombard street in San Francisco, California. | Photo: Mikhail Kolesnikov/Shutterstock
Stop 7: Hill Bombs in San Francisco, California
Do yourself a favor right now and Google “Crazy San Francisco hill bombs” for some of the most intense skateboarding you’ve ever seen. Welcome to the fastest and steepest hills in the world, where even skating to the store and back will make you consider getting better health insurance.
The skate spots in San Francisco are some of the most scenic you’ll ever find. With expansive views of a progressive, upbeat, and distinctively designed city, any footage you get here will be plenty brag-worthy. Try your luck at Lombard Street, the most crooked street in the world. Or swing by one of the most iconic skate spots ever, Pier 7, where some of skateboarding’s legends progressed and laid the groundwork for technical skateboarding. San Francisco is home to the infamous Thrasher Magazine, as well as gritty streets, fun skateparks, and great food. Truly, San Fran (as no locals call it) is a must-stop for any epic skateboarding trip up the west coast.
Stop 8: Burnside Skatepark in Portland, Oregon
Portland, Oregon is home to some of the most rugged and unique skate parks and spots in the world. Tough, weathered landscape can make mincemeat out of unqualified skaters. It also has the potential to make legends.
Tough, weathered landscape can make mincemeat out of unqualified skaters. It also has the potential to make legends.
Burnside Skatepark is located under the east end of the Burnside Bridge. In true renegade fashion, the park was originally built by the local skateboard community without permits or permission from the city. Eventually, after relentless effort, the park was awarded the title of public skatepark.
You might recognize this park from the multiple appearances it made in the “Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater” video games. I wouldn’t recommend showing up in a fanny pack and tourist cargo shorts, as the locals, who consider Burnside as sacred ground, will absolutely take offense (when in Rome, don’t dress like a kook).
Orcas Island Skatepark at Buck Park Panoramic View. | Photo: Cascade Creatives/Shutterstock
Stop 9: Orcas Island Skatepark, Washington
Ferry, paddle, or swim your way to this island paradise. Perfectly designed and silky smooth, this concrete bowl, officially known as Scott Stamnes Memorial Skatepark, is everything a skateboard park should be. Built in 2002 by the collective genius of Seattle’s Grindline Skateparks, this is the region’s ultimate destination park.
In 2008, we were on a tour that had a stop at this park. In true Pacific Northwest fashion, it was pouring rain when we arrived. The hundreds of kids that showed up to watch our demo didn’t seem to care about the weather. So, we decided to put on the scariest, slipperiest, most terrifyingly reckless skate demo of our careers.
Remember to pack your swim trunks, as you might get dunked in the deep end.
Header image: Garrett Hill skating the ditches of Arizona. | Photo: Garrett Hill
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