Skatepark Respect is about realizing this is an amazing gift

July 20 2022 - Interview with Skatepark Respect.

Do you know how much a trash truck weighs? Well, it’s almost the equivalent of the trash Skatepark Respect ambassadors and volunteers have removed since this project started.

The numbers talk for themselves: 26637 pounds of trash (12.082 kg) collected, almost 3000 hours of cleaning, 130 ambassadors around the world, 130 skateparks with regular interventions and hundreds of anonymous people who just want to have a better place to skate, or to be. Steve Zanco often reminds us of the broken window theory. When a sign of vandalism is there and you do nothing, other windows will be broken, and it will escalate. The president of this non-profitable organization explains us how he and his ambassadors are reversing the cycle. This is much more than just pure love for skateboarding. This is all about community.

Who are the dirtiest: riders or non-riders?

All the above. Skateparks tend do be a place to hangout and for the most parks the riders do take care of the place, but they are some that don’t.

  • "When skaters really care and step up that’s when real change happens"
  • Steve Zanco (president of Skatepark Respect)
Do the riders have to be the gatekeepers of the skatepark?

Skaters and all the folks who enjoy the park are de real champions. The city hall puts all the money, get things built and often contract cleaning parks out, but the real day-to-day maintenance should be done by the people who enjoy it. When riders realize this is an amazing gift, they treat them like that. When skaters really care and step up that’s when real change happens.

Let’s think of ten random parks. How many are clean in the morning?

Zero (he laughs). The cities take care of the landscaping and other recreational areas… those tend to take priority, not the actual skatepark.

Have you ever caught somebody dirtying/vandalizing a park and what did you do?

It has happened and things can escalate. When it happens we have a conversation with the folks and explain the reasons why it’s important to keep it clean or the reasons to not tag it up. We really explain that these things can be closed, this can be taken away quick. There are times when folks get all grumpy about it, and we try to fight that message. When they realize that their actions are direct reflectors of what happens at the parks and if it stays, they tend to say ‘I’m sorry, my bad’.

Who tends to “trash” most? Younger or older?

It tends to be younger, twelve/thirteen to mid-twenties.

Tell us about a good cleaning operation that you will remember till the end of your days.

There was one in Denver. It snowed until an hour before the event. We were really worried. But we had the support of local groups, city hall, the park rangers and we had over fifty volunteers, plus an extra fifteen from the city hall with blowtorches, shovels... We got rid of well over fifty full bags of trash and we also did some landscaping’s and removed graffiti. It was an all hands and deck operation. The place was spotless and we were able to skate that day. Afterwards our ambassadors became the stewards of that park.

What’s the criteria to become a Skatepark Respect’s ambassador?

There is a bit of a conversation and we ask them questions. We just want them to clean the park. Of course, we can’t control what happens all over the world but finding individuals who want to support the cause is huge. We encourage them to clean up their parks, we don’t ask them to do anything crazy.

Do you have goals regarding ambassadors outside the US?

We started in the USA but when Covid hit we weren’t able to do clean-ups, travel, do a lot of things, so we looked for other opportunities to continue the movement, but without us necessarily being there all the time. There were a lot of amazing people around the world that were reaching out and saying ‘hey, how can we be part of this?’; ‘how can I do this in my area, do you have any tips?’ We were creating these relationships and creating the ambassador program. Our goals for the ambassador program are to encourage them to share their information, their stats: how many pounds of trash did you pick up; how many hours do you spend; do you have a bunch of volunteers? Who did you talk to? Do you have good stories? The park was about to be closed but we fought for that; Our goals are to spread the message and encourage people to do something little like pick up a piece of trash.

If all people were like Japanese, your organization would not be needed, don’t you agree?

I’ve been in Japan a lot and it’s incredible. You don’t see any trash cans and there is no trash. I went on the train there and somebody did a graffiti. At the next stop, with no extra time, a group of folks came on, cleaned it, got rid of the graffiti and the train didn’t miss a beep. It’s their culture of respect. They appreciate what they have. Their culture is unique, they see the things they have as a gift and respect others property. That’s a cool mindset.    

How much trash have you removed and with how many ambassadors?

We have 130 ambassadors and we have removed 26637 pounds of trash (12.082 kg), almost 3000 hours of cleaning and 130 skateparks. It’s growing all the time. We’re shipping out kits constantly to our ambassadors with trash pickers, trash bags, scrapers and gloves, we have also a how to clean a skatepark guide. 


How do you recommend city halls to keep skateparks clean?

City Halls really ask these questions. The primary answer is to partner up with the community. If that means we have ambassadors, great! If not, really have a presence there. Show the skaters that the city cares. The locals must have the same conversations and say ‘hey, this is an amazing gift, if you show that you care the city’s going to partner with you and you get more obstacles, constant maintenance, improvements, upgrades and making an easy and symbiotic relationship. Working with the locals is where the real value comes from.’

Do you go to schools to talk about your project?

We do. We have a few educational programs that we currently have running. With after school programs we educate kids how to keep things clean and give basic skate education as well: taking care of your board, how to take care of this place. It's about respect as a whole, respecting your things and others. We are working with the concrete industry too, to increase the awareness of the concrete trade.

What do you do when you go to a skatepark and find a broken ledge or a ramp that needs to be fixed? Do you fix it yourself?

That depends of the support of the city. I try to reach them saying ‘this needs to be fixed, can we help anyway?’ We recently had one that 75 volunteers repaired every crack in the concrete. We had tons of epoxy, we went there with tubes, scrapers, we had all this high school kids helping, it was really good. But it’s all about working with the city because you can’t do it on your own. Sending a text message or a picture to someone, create collaborators.

Give us a word to describe a dirty skatepark.

‘Sad’. Because it’s so easy to clean these things. It just takes a little effort.

This is also a way to fight several negative stereotypes regarding skateboarding…

The stereotype is still there, but it’s better now. The Olympics are helping, Tony Hawk and the Skatepark Project have been a huge advocate for that too, but it still exists. Some folks in the city and in the community still think skateboarders are just doing drugs all the time, tag things up and want to wreck things… But it’s not like that…

Being a better person, perseverance, mental toughness, all these things are skateboarding. It’s an accepting community, it doesn’t matter who you are, your believes, religion, just let’s skate. Those things are changing in people’s minds, but it still exists in the older crowds that are not exposed to skateboarding. We try to show the positive side of it, we’re here to help de community.


Visit Skatepark Respect

By Manu Silva

Interview with Txus Domínguez, CEO of Zutskateparks

August 10, 2022 Zut. It's the Basque word for ‘vertical’, which can be used for almost all kind of stuff that's vertical. Even that too, explains Txus Domínguez with a naughty smile. CEO of Zutskateparks, a Spanish builder, who started his journey with La Kantera and since then has been involved in the construction of more than 100 skateparks all over the place. If we want to guess how skateparks will look like in the future, this is one of the guys with a crystal ball. His prediction? A mix of styles at the same spot. "I like skateparks where everything flows. A good chaos." ZUTSkateparks You have been involved in the construction of more than 100 skateparks in many countries. Did it all start with La Kantera? It all started when I was a kid and started making wooden ramps. We did that because of our natural restlessness. Then came La Kantera and before I knew it a thousand copies were made of it and I told myself: ‘I have to do more’. The La Kantera bowl was my first project of this magnitude and I never stopped since. Do you keep finding mistakes made when building skateparks? It’s a shitty thing. Designing skateparks is quite cool, but working with some city halls can be crazy. For many of them it’s just about politics. They don’t care if it has real quality or not. Sometimes the most important thing is to make it just to show off. Yes, they are some who think logically, but most of them think differently. How is that? It happened with me. I was asked by an architect to design a skatepark in Madrid. He was handling all the talks with the City Hall, but because he didn’t know nothing about skateboarding, he told me a public tender would be held, respecting the criteria. A bigger company came, presented a smaller price, and won the project. Two months of hard work went to the gutter. So, is it hard to compete with the majors? The thing is many of those majors are general constructors, they are not specialized in skateparks. Yes, they are very good companies, but I’m talking about those who reduce the price sometimes to half of it, killing the market. And why do they offer so little to build it? Because the workers are poorly paid, they do not have the necessary skills and the result mostly turns out to be a disaster. That is when they come to me, to try to solve the problem. Doing that, will increase the final cost and it will end up being much more than before others tried to reduce the price to "win" the project.  How do you think skateparks will look like in the next 15/20 years, considering how the skate scene has evolved since the 80’s? I hope skateboarding continues to evolve in the next years. We saw what happened in the last 40 years with the appearance of half pipes, bowls; simple circuits that became more complex. Now we see a mix between street and flow. I think it works fine at the Olympics. This could evolve to something… I don’t know if it could be a blend of big and small, a mix between bowls and street… you name it. Are you working on a new skatepark concept? I’m putting pure skate aside and working with surf and skate parks. They are organic shapes with "dunes". It’s not just for surfers, people who think that are wrong. They are transitions from where they can jump, there is a street line too where they can ride and do some flips… I have made that in Galicia. You have dunes where you can do some snaps, it’s easier, it’s like doing a coping with no grinds. You can do grabs and whatsoever. It’s a place where surfers can do aerials, grabs, where you can do fast street, mixing all these lines and styles. I made one of these in France, an indoor park where the under-20 surf national team works. I’m now building one in Galicia, with miniramps that turns into mini dunes at the rear, where the corners are curved. Everything flows. Everything mixed… I don’t like "linear" skateboarding. The street section at the Olympics looks nice, but it looks better to me if a rider gets out his board, flows around and doesn't stop. It’s like in the old days when we had total freedom on the streets, when everything was improvised, a good and nice chaos. So, more transition and less street… Surf/skate parks are growing everywhere, but I can’t say if this will be the future. Let’s see. There’s a park in Stockholm I would like to visit, it’s like a dish, they mix many concepts. From the first draw to choosing materials: what is the ideal skatepark for you? Well, I have to say there was only one time when I had total freedom for that: when I built the bowl at La Kantera. I drew it without showing it to anyone. That was the one I like the most. Since then, there’s always some things people ask to do differently, and I have to respect that. That’s why I sometimes joke: give me the Arrigunaga bowl and downhills and I’m happy with that (he laughs). Could a good skatepark be considered a piece of art? Of course, because you must be an artist to design that, it takes a lot of creativity to do it. They are like concrete sculptures. But you can mix materials, too, like a plastic artist. I make artistic details at some parks: a dragon’s head, a whale’s tale, etc. Like an extra? Yes. If a city hall keeps his word and, in the meantime, they don’t change the project I reward them by doing this art details. It’s a way of saying thank you. What people don’t understand is that drawing a skatepark takes a lot of time and many city halls ask projects for "the next" week, as if this was possible! Visit ZUTskateparks Find out more about La Kantera

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Rote Flora DIY skatepark - An illegal DIY park in the middle of Hamburg 

July 28 2022. An illegal DIY park in the middle of Hamburg they just can't get rid of, with a weird mix of skaters, squatters, dealers, drug addicts and tourists taking photos. The Rote Flora theater was constructed in 1835 and was shuttered down after World War II. After the war it turned into a cinema and later on a store. In the late 1980s, locals heard about plans to make the theater into a venue for performances of 'The Phantom of the Opera'. Afraid, this would change the area and attract tourists, locals proposed to turn it into a community Centre instead, but this alternative was completely ignored by the city. When in 1988 the rear end of the building was demolished and it didn't take long before sabotage attacks started occurring on the construction site. After a while the city had no other choice then giving the community a temporary lease to use the building. When the lease expired in November 1989, the occupiers stayed and Rote Flora was squatted. The squatters said the building was a "free space for realizing an autonomous life". In 2001 the collective said "We are the 'UFO in the neighborhood'. The black hole in public space. The city won't get rid of us because we are a part of what life is."  Regarding the new owner, the collective said "we neither asked Kretschmer to buy Flora, nor are we in the slightest interested in his opinions about the political ideologies and the work of the Rote Flora." Kretschmer had signed with the city a contract that expired in 2011 and that's when a resistance campaign called "Flora remains incompatible" against possible eviction started. Things have remained pretty much the same until 2014, when a change in plans for the site was announced that would ensure the building would not be demolished and could remain a cultural centre (wikipedia). Over the years, Rote Flora has also become a destination for alternative tourism and a popular skate spot. Bang in the middle of the centre of Hamburg, behind the theater you will find the Rote Flora bowl. This DIY project was started by several skaters back in 2005, when they built a miniramp in the backyard of the occupied theater. In between 2005 and 2007 the local founders got professional help by Matt of Minus ramps and they started to built the first part of the bowl. The guys just kept on building and years of extensions later the Flora bowl is known worldwide as one of the oldest and most central DIY skateparks in Germany.  What makes this illegal spot really unique is it's location. There's not many spots in the world like this. During the Thrasher Skate Rock Tour Jake Phelps and other American rippers fell in love with the spot cause they were not used to a DIY skatepark that is that close to the center and built illegally.  Photos Courtesy of Pascal Lieleg aka Bowlsh!t    Visit Rote Flora Skatepark Official Bowlshit Flora Skatepark DIY Documentary

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The sanctuary of La Kantera,  Spain's most iconic skatepark

25 July 2022. Interview with Txus Domínguez, the spiritual father of La Kantera skatepark, Spain's most iconic skatepark, aka Algorta skatepark. The eighties, a one-of-a-kind decade. An era of creativity in music, movies and art performance. A decade stuck between the old and the new global world, when waves crossed the Atlantic Ocean rapidly, bringing along new ideas and tendencies. That happened with skateboarding too, when the incredibly young Txus Domínguez and his Getxo Boys brought the Californian sun to the Basque Country in Spain and build La Kantera, currently one of the oldest and most renown skateparks in Europe. Txus Domínguez guides you into a journey to the past and tells us why this place is so special, so mystique and so iconic. La Kantera. First things first: what does it mean? In Spanish we say ‘cantera’ for two things: a training ground for kids to learn a special sport or (and this is the case) a kind of quarry. This was a place packed with stones, that is why we called it La Kantera. La Kantera was built in 1987. You were still so young but had an extraordinarily strong role in this process. I’m from Getxo, a place in the Basque Country with a huge surf tradition. In the 60’s a company called Sancheski showed up and built the first skateboard. Initially they build skis, but after being in the US, they brought "skateboards" into Spain. I received my first Sancheski when I was six years old. This was a toy at the first stage, but in just a couple of years skateboarding had turned more serious. Surfers started building ramps. Madrid built its very first skatepark and quickly we started to put pressure on the City Hall. Was it hard? Not really, because there were many surfers in the region, some of them worked in the City Hall. We went to schools to collect signatures. We got more than three thousand signatures. In the meantime we started to build ramps everywhere, that was when my brother and I met the architect who still works with me and helps to build skateparks. He’s six years older than me, he was sixteen when we first had meetings with the City Hall. Do you still remember how much the first park cost? Around twenty-five million pesetas (former Spanish currency), which is now something like 150.000 euros. Architects who had designed the plans made it too vertical, fortunately we saw that in time and changed the plans. We started these discussions in 1984 and three years later La Kantera was inaugurated. Did you find resistance during those three years? No, we had good vibes since the beginning and after La Kantera was built I promoted some events and the City Hall helped, like the Arrigunana Downhill race, the famous Bajada Arrigunaga. That was held in the 90’s. Police helped by closing the streets and we also received some money to organize things. What makes La Kantera so special?      A mix of several things. For one we have a strong culture of surf and many hills in the area. Skating with speed is something natural for us here in Getxo. That’s the type of skate we mostly did here in La Kantera, a very surfer kind of style. The place is special too. It's located on the beach side with the ruins of an old military fort. All this has given a big charisma to the place. It was the cradle of big skaters, too. Yes! If there was a national competition in Spain, let’s say with 40 riders, 25 of them were from La Kantera. Many great skaters were born here: Alain Goikoetxea, Alfonso Elvira, Javier Mendizibal, Alfonso Lute Fernandez, Ivan Fano, Jon Txufo… It turned into the Santiago de Compostela for pilgrims of skateboarding… Before we knew it people from abroad started to come. Big names in skateboarding flipped out when they discovered our park. This looks like California, the Americans used to say.  How has La Kantera evolved since 1987? Was your bowl, built years later, decisive to boost it?  After La Kantera was built, some fifty copies were made in the Basque Country, but all worse than the original. There was a time that La Kantera died out a bit, because people got bored, they wanted new things. Around that time, I went to California with some friends. I wanted to skate in pools, that was my dream. I stayed there for three months. When I came back the City Hall proposed to enlarge the park. I drew a bowl from scratch, and it was built in the year of 2000. It’s a famous bowl… Yeah, it’s not a perfect bowl. It has a different transition, it’s not like the actual bowls, where everything is more perfect. At the begging people said it was crazy. I built it when street skating was the "thing", and vert was almost dead. People were riding with 30 mm wheels, and we were riding with 60 mm wheels. I was doing ollies, but not flips or gabs. Fortunately, guys from Consolidated like Peter Hewitt and Steve Bailey came to La Kantera and fell in love with the bowl. That's when we were put on the world map and people from all over the globe started to come. La Kantera skyrocketed. Big names started appearing at our bowl like, Christian Hosoi, Steve Caballero, Gordon Smith, Steve Clark, Nicky Guerrero, Florian Bohm, Steve Olson… Not to forget all the famous street skaters as well. The ‘fiestas’ that you organize, they are famous too. What drives you do to that?     Just to have a good time with the community and meet new people. It all started when I did the Arrigunaga Downhill. First it was illegal, then we wad agreements with the City Hall, and it became legal. It was just speed, fun and beers. At a new years’ eve, we had over 5000 people watching it. But there was a time when a kid almost died and the city said ‘the party is over’. I also organized some parties at La Kantera during all these years, the famous ‘pool parties’. The flames and the skull you see in photos, that’s me who drew it. But because of my work (I make skateparks) I currently just organize one party, I call it ‘killer fifty-fifties’. Theoretically it’s only for over fifty-year guys, but anyone can participate, really. It’s an old school event, with almost no sponsors, no security bays, it’s pure fun, simple chaos. It’s a way to go back to the origins.        Visit La Kantera skatepark Visit ZUT Skateparks

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The New Mafra skatepark in Portugal is almost ready

July 24 2022. FRESH Wasteland concrete in Mafra, Portugal. We reached out to João Sales of Wasteland Skateparks to find out more.  Introduce us to the park - tell us its name, where it is, what kind of park will it be (more street-oriented, just a bowl, a plaza...), its approximate dimensions, if it's already open to the public, that sort of stuff. The initial idea was to build a bowl in the Parque Desportivo Municipal de Mafra sports complex. The project was handed out to a random architect, but the measurements were all wrong and the plan was a bit of a mess. That's when we were contacted to do a budget for the project. We told the city hall that we know the local skater community well. Building a huge bowl in that area would be a mistake, because we have build a flow bowl nearby in Venda do Pinheiro. The boys in the area need some street obstacles there too. So, later the contractor asked us to build a different thing. We made a lot of different proposals and the city hall kept on shrinking the area, until they accepted the final project. There is still no date for the official opening, but it's going to be soon, somewhere in August! The concrete is ready, but the park around it still needs it final touches. So hold your horses for a couple more days. Is there any feature that you're particularly happy with, that came out really nice or is really fun to skate? We kind of feel sorry about the space and feel frustrated because all the decisions made did not evolve the skater community in the Mafra area. Anyway, we were able to turn a small park into a fun little set of good quality concrete.  Any dream trick or link you'd like to see go down in any of the park's features or areas? We hope to see happy faces at the park. Hopefully the park will provide an area were local kids can progress. That would be a "dream trick" for us. Visit Mafra Skatepark Visit Wasteland Skateparks

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