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Skatin’ in San Diego

Turning your passion into a career

Have you ever worked on a project that kinda tells your life story? That’s what I felt when we finished the Encinitas Skatepark in Southern California. How? Let me explain a little about being a young skater-turned-pro skater who then became a designer … all in my hometown.

Growing Up San Diego
Growing up in San Diego I was exposed to a lot of things that you only see in Southern California’s beach culture-driven scene. After playing traditional team sports when I was younger, I discovered skateboarding with the help of my best friend who was deep into the surf and skate culture. I soon realized skating was a unique outlet for creativity and individual expression … something that I had never experienced before. For me, pushing the limits of physics and defying gravity became a way of life.

Skating also kept us safe. We were so focused on pushing each other to learn new things on the neighborhood’s street terrain that we didn’t have time to discover drugs the way some kids unfortunately did. With the exception of a few trespassing tickets issued for skating in prohibited areas, we remained unscathed, healthy, and driven. Before I knew it, my passion for riding a skateboard became a 12-year professional career.

Weighing the Pros
Traveling the world as a professional athlete was a great opportunity to skate and try the new street spots and skate parks that were popping up throughout Asia and Europe. We were able to experience different architecture and old world materials like brick banks, granite ledges, marble ledges, and wide-open, inviting urban plazas that featured integrated spaces. In San Diego, we had no skate parks and I built my career largely skating street spots illegally and getting chased away by the police. Considering the large local skate scene that grew in San Diego, it was very frustrating we had no natural street terrain to legally ride with all the trick elements for jumping and grinding. There was a void to be filled for the sport here, and that never left my mind.

         Related Item: Our Action Sports Group

Bringing, Building a Lifetime Back Home
After transitioning years later from being an expert on the board to an expert skatepark designer, I got the chance to design my childhood dream for San Diego. Ideally, we wanted a new space in Encinitas (a smaller town in greater San Diego) that featured all of our favorite skate spots over the years into one skatepark. We wanted a place so authentic that you felt like you’re not in a skate park, but a public plaza that we experienced overseas. It’s the type of place where your friends want to hang out all day and enjoy the environment in and outside of the traditional skate areas. You’re not going to get in trouble for skating “outside designated areas” because the whole plaza is for skating.

When we began community design workshops to gather input from the local skaters, it was clear they wanted the same thing. Using feedback and experience, the finished product included a classic clover-shaped amoeba bowl. By having the opportunity to ride different kinds of terrain like an urban plaza and a backyard style pool in the same facility, it allows a skateboarder to grow and be adaptive to different riding styles. We also celebrated the look and feel of Encinitas by using colors you see in downtown and near the artsy beach areas. The geometry of the paving patterns were more artistic, like the sun burst design at the northeast entry to mirror local designs. The local skaters also wanted the skate park to look unique, edgy, and unpredictable with elevation changes and features jutting up into the air like the big six foot tall red hipped bank (you can see me do a trick here on the video included here).

With the collaborative efforts of our entire design team helmed by Mike McIntyre, we were able to create something that really harnessed the feel of Encinitas.

Nothing measures success of a skatepark more than seeing it well used and enjoyed by the community. In the case of Encinitas, the results are in … the plaza is packed everyday. Interested? Take a look at the video we created to help tell the story.

A long-time fixture in the professional skateboarding world, Kanten Russell is a lead designer for Stantec’s Action Sports Group.

Long-time professional skateboarder Kanten Russell takes you through the features of San Diego’s Encinitas Community Plaza and Skate Park

Transcript of the video follows
skip transcript
<p>We’re here at the wheel friendly Encinitas skate plaza. This is 12 years in the making. The original concept for this plaza you’re seeing here is that the skatepark was really only about 13,000sf and the rest is just a plaza you can legally skateboard in. the skateboarding community really wanted to embrace that concept as well because no one has really done an actual skate plaza in San Diego. With this one you had ADA accessibility, it’s all inclusive, it’s barrier free, no fencing, really authentic, really urban with all the materials, the colours, everything looks like it should be here, is integrated into the rest of the park. And really the whole idea was to take all of some of the favorite spots that we’ve had growing up skateboarding in the streets of san diego and put it into a plaza that people can come to, hang out at all day, and not really worry about being in a quote unquote skate park.</p> <p>Super stoked the place has finally opened. Kanten was nice enough to let us have a little bit of input on some of the obstacles. Our childhood skatepark, Webb Park, got torn down and he was cool enough to add a couple little things that resemble Webb, so.. . and all in all the park’s amazing.</p> <p>Gotta say this is one of the best parks I’ve ever seen. Proper street plaza.</p> <p>The place is super fun, super smooth, ya man, get you some.</p> <p>I’ve grown up in San Diego and skated here for over 25 years and we’ve never had really high caliber parks until recently, and Kanten’s a huge reason we have those, and it’s a big gift to the San Diego skate community, big gift to every skater that lives here, and also who travels here. I’m looking forward to having my son come to some sessions, and now he’ll have a world class place to skate and enjoy when he grows up.</p>

Nothing measures success of a skatepark more than seeing it well used and enjoyed by the community.

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