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Aaron Guliker, a resident of Chilliwack, regularly commutes to Vancouver to skateboard at Leeside skatepark.

Skateboarders say Vancouver is a skate tourism destination

The growth and longevity of skate culture attracts tourists to explore an alternate kind of Vancouver heritage.

By Tudor Molea , in City , on December 18, 2019


Vancouver has always been a global attraction for skateboard tourists.

Now with skateboarding set to make its debut appearance in the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics, the city’s liberal and accepting attitude is uniquely positioned to capitalize on a rise in skate tourism and engagement, say local advocates.

“It is good for skateboarding, it is just going to make it grow and going to make more people get into it,” said Syd Clark, owner of MENU Skate Shop in Gastown. “Maybe now that it is in the Olympicswe will get a lot more kids skating that would have never been allowed to touch a skateboard before.”

Home to some of Canada’s oldest skateparks and skate shops, Vancouver’s skate scene originated in the 1970s and rose to prominence in the 1990s with the debut of the Slam City Jam, the longest-running skateboard event in North America. All of this has fueled the acceptability and prevalence of street skating in the city attracting both locals and outsiders.

Toronto-based skateboarder Dawson McLachlan has made the voyage to skateboard in Vancouver several times, most recently at the beginning of this year.

“There are a lot of pros that live there and famous spots,” he said, listing skateboard destinations like the bowl at Hastings skatepark, which was built in 2001 and has hosted the Vans Park Series, and the DIY Leeside Skatepark, located near the south-east corner of the PNE.

“[Leeside] alone is a tourist attraction,” McLachlan said.

Hastings Skatepark, one of the city’s most iconic skate tourism attractions.

One of Vancouver’s most passionate skateboarders, Michael Gordon, has been heavily involved in promoting the acceptability of skateboarding in the city and encourages people to be creative in using urban spaces for recreation, specifically how skateboarders use Vancouver’s streets as a playground.

“There’s an open-mindedness about skateboarding,” Gordon said.

And the city has a large collection of skateable locations centred around tourist sites, he said.

“[There’s] Terry Fox plaza, which is wonderful right at the foot of Robson, and the Vancouver Art Gallery, because it’s really important in the downtown.”

Gordon sees the presence of skateboarding in these open public downtown spaces as an attraction to visitors.

“You see part of what makes Vancouver tick.”

Michael Gordon, Vancouver heritage commissioner and former downtown senior planner, talks skateboarding in Vancouver at his home in Kitsilano.

Gordon praised the high number of skate facilities available and the renowned skate plaza that provides a space for people to not just skate but to hang out and socialize. 

“Among folks between 10 and 35, they would see skateboarding as part of Vancouver’s identity,” Gordon said. 

Clark also emphasized that Vancouver is a renowned destination for professional skateboarders which further promotes the city’s skate culture and presence. 

“A lot of iconic video parts have been filmed [here and] a lot of skateboarders have come out of Vancouver. If you are trying to skate year-round or do something, have a skateboard career of some sort, you are going to end up here.”

In addition to a climate that’s mild by Canadian standards and the large number of skateparks, there is a liberal attitude from both authorities and the general public that has created a skate-friendly environment.

In April 2003, Vancouver city council passed a motion that city bylaws be amended to permit the use of skateboards and in-line skates on city streets. The bylaw also eliminated police authority to seize and detain skateboards, which was previously possible if skaters were caught trespassing.

Sean “teen” Laidlaw, from MENU Skate Shop, said, “Vancouver is always going to be a draw because of the rich history we have here, there is an endless amount of parks now too, and you can skate year round.”