Seattle skateboard park keeps classic skater edge… but with a little structure

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SEATTLE -- Fremont's All Together Skatepark is like any other.

Boards hitting the cement, shredders in the halfpipe and... organized team stretching?

Monday nights, the Parkrats Junior Varsity skate team warms up before their weekly 2-hour skate session. Kids ages 4-15 are coached by four instructors. They stretch, practice tricks and set goals for the day.

Not used to the idea of skateboard coaches, goal setting and a junior varsity skateboard squad in a classically nonconformist activity?

That's because the idea is new.

Marshall Reid: From the streets the park

In the past 20 years, skateboarding has grown from a counter-culture niche to the mainstream. Video games, big-brand investment and starting in 2020, an official Olympic sport.

Marshall "Stack" Reid has been there for the change, on the board for more than 30 years. Reid is a Seattle skateboard figurehead, and has worked in shops, started companies and helped set up numerous contests.

"I grew up skateboarding in Seattle since about '85," Reid said. "Back then it was pretty rare to see a young person skating or to not get in trouble for skating."

In recent years, Reid grew frustrated when all the indoor parks in the city kept closing due to money issues. The burgeoning youth market and the rain should be enough to keep them open, he thought.

But he also wondered if parents of young kids were hesitant to drop their kids off at the park for hours.

"Parent's definitely used to be scared of skateboarding and wanted their kids to participate in traditional sports," Reid said.

Five years ago, Reid pitched ski and snowboard store evo the idea of an indoor skateboard park. But instead of depending around teens looking to get their tricks, this one would be different. A little more structure, a little more supervision.

Stuff that makes the parents comfortable.

All Together Skatepark was born.

A place to learn...

At All Together, there are coaches, private lessons, junior varsity and varsity teams. There's the "Skate Like a Girl" program, summer camps and more.

All centered on inclusivity and encouragement.

From Seattle's All Together Skatepark.

"When I was a kid to be on a skateboard team you had to be the best in your area," Reid said. "Now I decided if you want to be on a skateboard team, you can be on a skateboard team."

It took Reid a bit to get the structure of classes and camps down. He studied some methods not traditionally seen in skateboarding.

"Honestly I went down to the soccer fields and paid attention to what was going on," Reid said. "I went down to little-kicker soccer and I was like OK, we can do that just like that, only we can do it with skateboarding."

Parents and kids seem to love the programs. Kids of all school levels zoom around the park, getting advice from different coaches on tricks like fakie shuv-its and rock-and-rolls.

Emma Borden, 10, plays soccer, basketball, softball and skis. But she says skateboarding gives her skills to focus and self-reliance she hasn't necessarily found in traditional team sports.

"I get really nervous before a lot of stuff," Borden said. "I get nervous before I ski. But I don't get nervous before I skateboard."

Emma's dad Chad Borden said when Emma asked her out of the blue for a skateboard, he was surprised. He took her to evo, and they ended up downstairs at All Together Skatepark.

Emma has taken to it like no other sport.

"Kids their age it's hard to get them locked in and practicing anything," Emma's dad said. "She'll practice the same trick over and over for months. She loves seeing the big girls do it."

...while keeping with the culture

Tony Croghan owns 35th North in Seattle. He's skateboarded for close to 30 years, and owned one of Seattle's oldest skateboard shops - 35th North - for 18.  The number of kids coming into the activity in the past 20 years has astounded Croghan.

"I think now there's got to be a lot more kids in skateboarding than the year 2000," Croghan said. "It seems less kids play football and more kids ride skateboards. The message to young kids is it's an option."

Croghan thinks Reid's skateboard park and lessons are an amazing way to get kids into an activity once seen as outside the fray. Whether it's learning on their own or learning with an experienced coach, it gets kids interested, Croghan said.

Tony helping a customer at 35th North Skate Shop.

With the Olympics coming, Croghan understands some concern that more mainstream attention could further impact skating's core. Not the sport, but the culture that surrounds it.

"Skateboarding is two things now," Croghan said. "It's the sport and the activity. And the other side is the culture. The art, the music, everything that goes with it."

It's up to people with a history, like Reid, to help teach the new generations.

"It's up to us to help usher in skateboarding as a sport."

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