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Ruthie Prasil

Seattle’s best skate spots for beginners

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Seattle is full of gnarly stuff to skate. Marginal Way, for example, is a collection of the steepest, craziest bowls you can build. But unless your name is Riley Hawk and you’ve grown up with a bowl in your backyard and a board under your feet, you might want to start small.

We’ve previously catalogued some of the best street spots and skateparks in and around the city, but this list is a combination of both, curated with the beginner in mind. All of the spots and parks in this list are places that you can enjoy even if you only know how to ollie, 50-50, boardslide, and/or drop in. And enjoy them you should! If you make it past the tedious, mechanical part of learning to skate—dropping in, doing a rock fakie, popping your first ollie, awkwardly seesawing up into your first noseslide—you’ll have punched your ticket to a lifetime of freedom, fun, and feeling like a complete idiot when you fall in public.

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1. Jefferson Park Skatepark

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(206) 684-4075
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Jefferson Park is hands down the best place in Seattle for people to learn to skate, as much as it pains me to admit it. I’m not a huge fan of the angle iron they used, and I could critique the street course into oblivion, but I can’t deny that it has quarterpipes of every size, ledges going from curb to 14-inch, and an approachable bowl for the future Shaun Whites of the world.

I worked Skate Like a Girl’s queer/trans skate camp there, which featured skaters of all skill levels, and there was truly something for everyone. The kids who’d never stepped on a skateboard before spent their day rolling down the gentle banks, while my campers forced me out of my comfort zone and into the bowl, where they did everything from simple carves to inverts (Louisa, you’re gnarly). On lunch breaks, I skated the mid-sized ledges with guest counselor Lacey Baker, who reminded me why she’s pro as hell by doing the longest, most stylish back smiths I’ve ever seen in person.

Also: The bowl and half of the street course are lit up until 11 p.m.!

2. Dahl Playfield

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7700 25th Ave NE
Seattle, WA 98115
(206) 684-4075
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Dahl is a mostly awkward park, by virtue of being built by New Line Skateparks, but even a stopped clock is right twice a day. There’s weird, overly steep quarterpipe that you need to get speed for so much of the park that could probably use a deck, but they did at least build two really fun curb-height ledges and a passable flat bar. No other park has a low round rail that’s accessible frontside and backside, and the low ledges are perfect for learning your basic grinds, slides, and manual tricks. Dahl is a gentle introduction to all your street basics, even if all of its “advanced” features are poorly designed, borderline-dangerous monstrosities.

3. The Courts

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1600 Nagle Pl
Seattle, WA 98122

Currently the beating heart of Seattle’s skate scene, the Courts are just an empty tennis court on Capitol Hill that skaters get to use when the bike polo folks aren’t having one of their regularly scheduled matches. This means that most obstacles in the Courts are subject to a sort of forced transience, because they have to be portable enough to let the intrepid bike jockeys clear the court on Wednesdays and Thursdays. More simply put: We skate trash.

But skating nothing but flat ground and pallet-height manual pads is actually a pretty decent way to learn to skate, and you’re at least guaranteed grow your circle of skate friends. Occasionally, there’ll be a five-inch tall flat bar there too, which is even better for beginners. The one ledge that you can depend on to be there is the six-foot piece of angle iron bolted to the crusty concrete ledge on the western border of the courts, but I wouldn’t recommend it to my worst enemy. Looked at in the right light, however, it’s a great way to challenge yourself.

4. Judkins Skatepark

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2100 S Judkins St
Seattle, WA 98144
(206) 684-7035
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I say this too often, but I hate Judkins. However, anyone who wants to learn how to skate bowls and do weirdo ramp tricks and flyouts will love Judkins. I can’t even be mad at the ledges, which come in full-size and training-wheel heights, and the park has no-coping quarterpipes of every height. While I think that, given the cost, this park is still a complete boondoggle, I can’t deny that I learned blunt-to-fakies on the four-foot noping quarterpipe, or that I still go once every four months to see if I can complete the fly out from the bowl to the street course. One of the best things about skateboarding, I suppose, is that you never stop learning—and, by the same token, embarrassing yourself in front of little kids who are better than you. At Judkins, you can do both!

5. All Together Skatepark

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3500 Stone Way N
Seattle, WA 98103
(206) 632-7090
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If it’s raining, you don’t really have a choice other than ATS. The park’s staff runs a ton of skate camps there, mostly to keep the place financially solvent, but also because it’s a perfect and perfectly reliable place to learn how to skate. Quarterpipes, ledges, manual pads, jump ramps, tiny park rails, slappy curbs, miniramps, spine ramps—you name it they’ve got it. Also, they make an extra effort to provide programming for everyone, not just teenage skate bros. During daytime and afternoons, there are lots of 12-and-under programs, while Monday nights are Ladies’ Night—a special event for women, trans, and non-binary folk to build skills sans distraction—and Sunday nights are Adult Swim, where we geriatric skaters (30-plus) get to embarrass ourselves away from the kids.

For those of us who can’t always make it to ATS by 9 p.m., there’s always the ol’ “training facility,” aka C5. Down below Red Square, the University of Washington’s best skate spot, lurks a massive, multi-level parking garage that’s known collectively as “Fun Curbs.” However, I only refer to it as C5, because that’s the only level truly worth skating. There are fun curbs on C5, of course, but also three massive slabs of insanely smooth flat ground, a decent if difficult low windowsill ledge, and a perfect baby manual pad.

It’s not an ideal spot by any means, but I learned to skate there twice: once as a little skate kid hiding out from the rain, and again as a newly diagnosed diabetic hiding out from other skaters while I rebuilt my skills from zero. Sometimes you’ll find other skaters there with boxes or rails or fun obstacles, but you don’t go there for that. You go for the flatground and the solitude.

7. Longacres DIY

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Longacres Dr SW
Renton, WA 98057

Longacres is something the greater Seattle area has needed for a while: a DIY street spot under a bridge. Why no one has done this before is a mystery to me, but Longacres is kind of a revelation here. While it is very much a scrappy, cobbled-together collection of amateur concrete, it’s got a little bit of everything. There’s a gentle pole jam, a gentle hip, a low flat bar, several low ledges, a smallish quarterpipe, a manual pad, and even a keg wallie that’s pretty forgiving. The locals are a little intense these days, but don’t be intimidated by the prolific vaping and Hurricane guzzling. Longacres is for the people. All of them.

8. Westlake Center

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While there are plenty of parks with low ledges, Westlake is one of the few street spots with an easily accessible low ledge, and perhaps the only spot where a beginner can enjoy the sensual perfection of grinding a slightly worn granite ledge. Westlake is also such a major part of Seattle’s skate history that you will win street cred simply by being there and trying to skate it, even if you can’t land a single trick. Seattle skaters have infinitely more respect for someone trying and failing to land their first 50-50 at Westlake than they do for a kid who can do every trick on the skatepark ledge.

9. Benaroya Hall

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200 University St
Seattle, WA 98101
(206) 215-4800
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The WWII memorial plaza at the bottom of Benaroya Hall, where the University Street bus tunnel lets out, has one of the most perfect low granite ledges in the history of Seattle street skating. It may be second fiddle to Westlake’s perfect low ledge, but it’s a pretty loud fiddle. The ledge is accessible from both sides, and set off from the street, allowing you to put in some training hours with minimal disturbance. Of course, if you go on a weekday at 5 p.m., you might spend 90 percent of your session waiting for commuters entering the tunnel, but there’s enough light that swing-shift skaters can get some any hour. This ledge was capped and unskateable for years, but the fools only used glue. Someone (not me, no comment) may have done their civic duty and knocked those caps right off. Good on them.

10. Museum of History & Industry (MOHAI)

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860 Terry Ave N
Seattle, WA 98109
(206) 324-1126
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Who doesn’t love low banks? If you’re a die hard street skater—admittedly pretty rare amongst people who are beginners in the age of Olympic skateboarding—there aren’t many places left in Seattle to hit a small bank nowadays. Except MOHAI, that is. Next to the southernmost of the two hulking brass bells out front of the museum, there’s a gentle bank that goes from high to low, allowing you to roll in at any height. It’s fun for us more advanced skaters, because you can hop out of it onto the side of the bell, but it’s also a perfect place to just get comfortable riding your board over the edge of something that slopes down, even if it ain’t that steep of a slope.

11. Schmitz Hall

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1400 NE Campus Pkwy
Seattle, WA 98105
(206) 543-2100
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This is my personal favorite spot to dork around at. When I was growing up, Red Square was a big bust, so we spent a lot of time fleeing from the cops and ending up at the Schmitz Hall, which is connected to the University of Washington’s main campus by a foot bridge. The Schmitz building is girded by perfect low benches, although none of them are currently waxed. My friends and I had the western side decently slick for a while, but the university installed skatestoppers, and it’s not quite worthwhile enough of a spot to knock them off.

However, there’s a low bank between the building’s brick outer walkway and the concrete sidewalk that serves as a surprisingly versatile obstacle. Besides the joy of a low bank—learning to roll in, doing your first kickflip fakie, et cetera—you can come from the street and do manual tricks on the low curb to roll in on the bank, which is a very forgiving way to learn such delicate feats of balance. If you’re in college and, say, looking to define yourself via skateboarding, the Schmitz building can help you learn a few moves to impress whatever gender(s) you’re into. And perhaps even your fellow skaters, if you stick with it.

12. Mercer Island Skatepark

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7706 SE 34th St
Mercer Island, WA 98040

Scott Yamamura is a legend of Seattle street skateboarding, and so of course the first park he designed is a legendary place to learn how to street skate. Tasked with upgrading the existing and very outdated Mercer Island skatepark—just a bank, a pyramid, a low manual pad, and a tall ledge on a small square footing—he kind of nailed it. He extended the park’s footprint south, adding a blissfully low replica picnic table down a bank, a perfect Pier 7 manual pad, a very mellow hubba ledge off a curb, and a pretty alright flat ledge. It’s not the best park in history, but it’s proof that you can do a lot with a little. You won’t find any mega-loops, but if you want to learn to ollie a tiny stair set, noseslide down a sloping ledge, or manual off a drop, you’re stoked. Honorable mention: the region’s best curved ledge at a skatepark.

13. Shoreline Skatepark

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901-999 NE 155th St
Shoreline, WA 98155

Shoreline is another of Scott Yamamura’s near perfect skatepark designs. He is truly the god of ledges and, in the case of Shoreline, hips. While Shoreline features the most perfect skatepark ledge in the history of skatepark ledges, as well as a picnic table with picture-perfect training-height ledges, it’s also got the absolute best, gentlest pyramid ever poured and a low, square park rail to die for. Beyond that, there’s a whole upper section with various ledges that shoot you into a gentle bank, as well as a perfect “big three” block, if carcass hucking is on your skate syllabus.

14. Bainbridge Bowl

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7666 High School Rd NE
Bainbridge Island, WA 98110

Grinding pool coping usually means you’re getting, like, totally vertical bro. Bainbridge’s sole skatepark, at the island’s idyllic Strawberry Hill Park, has plenty of steep, gnarly sections, but it’s also the only place in the greater Seattle area where you can scrape some pool coping without having to ride up a steep ramp to do it. The small section of the park is a mere two feet or so, and sports pool coping the whole way ‘round. At Bainbridge, you too can be a Z-Boy! If you want to live the full Thrasher Magazine, “Jake Phelps is drunk and waving a hot dog around again” dream, there are also plenty of cast-iron BBQs in the park for your grilling and chilling pleasure.

15. Big Picture School

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14844 SE 22nd St
Bellevue, WA 98007
(425) 456-7800
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Slappys are finished having a comeback, and are now just back. If you can’t roll aggressively at a curb and force your trucks up onto it without jumping, who even are you in 2018? While I highly encourage anyone interested in skateboarding to learn to ollie and experience the pure, simple magic of a 50-50 on a decently tall ledge, I cannot deny that slappys are fun as heckin’ hell. I can scrape one pathetically short frontside slappy every three months or so, but if you’re looking to put the time in to learn frontside, backside, and all the crazy blunt/crook/hurricane variations, the Bellevue Big Picture School is a great spot to do it. It’s the favorite slappy spot of Dave Waite, the undisputed God of Slappys, after all. While this simple maneuver might look like the easy way out (or up?), it occupies a special place in skateboarding for a reason. Nothing feels quite like a good curb crawl.

1. Jefferson Park Skatepark

Seattle, WA 98108

Jefferson Park is hands down the best place in Seattle for people to learn to skate, as much as it pains me to admit it. I’m not a huge fan of the angle iron they used, and I could critique the street course into oblivion, but I can’t deny that it has quarterpipes of every size, ledges going from curb to 14-inch, and an approachable bowl for the future Shaun Whites of the world.

I worked Skate Like a Girl’s queer/trans skate camp there, which featured skaters of all skill levels, and there was truly something for everyone. The kids who’d never stepped on a skateboard before spent their day rolling down the gentle banks, while my campers forced me out of my comfort zone and into the bowl, where they did everything from simple carves to inverts (Louisa, you’re gnarly). On lunch breaks, I skated the mid-sized ledges with guest counselor Lacey Baker, who reminded me why she’s pro as hell by doing the longest, most stylish back smiths I’ve ever seen in person.

Also: The bowl and half of the street course are lit up until 11 p.m.!

2. Dahl Playfield

7700 25th Ave NE, Seattle, WA 98115

Dahl is a mostly awkward park, by virtue of being built by New Line Skateparks, but even a stopped clock is right twice a day. There’s weird, overly steep quarterpipe that you need to get speed for so much of the park that could probably use a deck, but they did at least build two really fun curb-height ledges and a passable flat bar. No other park has a low round rail that’s accessible frontside and backside, and the low ledges are perfect for learning your basic grinds, slides, and manual tricks. Dahl is a gentle introduction to all your street basics, even if all of its “advanced” features are poorly designed, borderline-dangerous monstrosities.

7700 25th Ave NE
Seattle, WA 98115

3. The Courts

1600 Nagle Pl, Seattle, WA 98122

Currently the beating heart of Seattle’s skate scene, the Courts are just an empty tennis court on Capitol Hill that skaters get to use when the bike polo folks aren’t having one of their regularly scheduled matches. This means that most obstacles in the Courts are subject to a sort of forced transience, because they have to be portable enough to let the intrepid bike jockeys clear the court on Wednesdays and Thursdays. More simply put: We skate trash.

But skating nothing but flat ground and pallet-height manual pads is actually a pretty decent way to learn to skate, and you’re at least guaranteed grow your circle of skate friends. Occasionally, there’ll be a five-inch tall flat bar there too, which is even better for beginners. The one ledge that you can depend on to be there is the six-foot piece of angle iron bolted to the crusty concrete ledge on the western border of the courts, but I wouldn’t recommend it to my worst enemy. Looked at in the right light, however, it’s a great way to challenge yourself.

1600 Nagle Pl
Seattle, WA 98122

4. Judkins Skatepark

2100 S Judkins St, Seattle, WA 98144

I say this too often, but I hate Judkins. However, anyone who wants to learn how to skate bowls and do weirdo ramp tricks and flyouts will love Judkins. I can’t even be mad at the ledges, which come in full-size and training-wheel heights, and the park has no-coping quarterpipes of every height. While I think that, given the cost, this park is still a complete boondoggle, I can’t deny that I learned blunt-to-fakies on the four-foot noping quarterpipe, or that I still go once every four months to see if I can complete the fly out from the bowl to the street course. One of the best things about skateboarding, I suppose, is that you never stop learning—and, by the same token, embarrassing yourself in front of little kids who are better than you. At Judkins, you can do both!

2100 S Judkins St
Seattle, WA 98144

5. All Together Skatepark

3500 Stone Way N, Seattle, WA 98103

If it’s raining, you don’t really have a choice other than ATS. The park’s staff runs a ton of skate camps there, mostly to keep the place financially solvent, but also because it’s a perfect and perfectly reliable place to learn how to skate. Quarterpipes, ledges, manual pads, jump ramps, tiny park rails, slappy curbs, miniramps, spine ramps—you name it they’ve got it. Also, they make an extra effort to provide programming for everyone, not just teenage skate bros. During daytime and afternoons, there are lots of 12-and-under programs, while Monday nights are Ladies’ Night—a special event for women, trans, and non-binary folk to build skills sans distraction—and Sunday nights are Adult Swim, where we geriatric skaters (30-plus) get to embarrass ourselves away from the kids.

3500 Stone Way N
Seattle, WA 98103

6. C5

Seattle, WA 98105

For those of us who can’t always make it to ATS by 9 p.m., there’s always the ol’ “training facility,” aka C5. Down below Red Square, the University of Washington’s best skate spot, lurks a massive, multi-level parking garage that’s known collectively as “Fun Curbs.” However, I only refer to it as C5, because that’s the only level truly worth skating. There are fun curbs on C5, of course, but also three massive slabs of insanely smooth flat ground, a decent if difficult low windowsill ledge, and a perfect baby manual pad.

It’s not an ideal spot by any means, but I learned to skate there twice: once as a little skate kid hiding out from the rain, and again as a newly diagnosed diabetic hiding out from other skaters while I rebuilt my skills from zero. Sometimes you’ll find other skaters there with boxes or rails or fun obstacles, but you don’t go there for that. You go for the flatground and the solitude.

7. Longacres DIY

Longacres Dr SW, Renton, WA 98057

Longacres is something the greater Seattle area has needed for a while: a DIY street spot under a bridge. Why no one has done this before is a mystery to me, but Longacres is kind of a revelation here. While it is very much a scrappy, cobbled-together collection of amateur concrete, it’s got a little bit of everything. There’s a gentle pole jam, a gentle hip, a low flat bar, several low ledges, a smallish quarterpipe, a manual pad, and even a keg wallie that’s pretty forgiving. The locals are a little intense these days, but don’t be intimidated by the prolific vaping and Hurricane guzzling. Longacres is for the people. All of them.

Longacres Dr SW
Renton, WA 98057

8. Westlake Center

Seattle, WA 98101

While there are plenty of parks with low ledges, Westlake is one of the few street spots with an easily accessible low ledge, and perhaps the only spot where a beginner can enjoy the sensual perfection of grinding a slightly worn granite ledge. Westlake is also such a major part of Seattle’s skate history that you will win street cred simply by being there and trying to skate it, even if you can’t land a single trick. Seattle skaters have infinitely more respect for someone trying and failing to land their first 50-50 at Westlake than they do for a kid who can do every trick on the skatepark ledge.

9. Benaroya Hall

200 University St, Seattle, WA 98101

The WWII memorial plaza at the bottom of Benaroya Hall, where the University Street bus tunnel lets out, has one of the most perfect low granite ledges in the history of Seattle street skating. It may be second fiddle to Westlake’s perfect low ledge, but it’s a pretty loud fiddle. The ledge is accessible from both sides, and set off from the street, allowing you to put in some training hours with minimal disturbance. Of course, if you go on a weekday at 5 p.m., you might spend 90 percent of your session waiting for commuters entering the tunnel, but there’s enough light that swing-shift skaters can get some any hour. This ledge was capped and unskateable for years, but the fools only used glue. Someone (not me, no comment) may have done their civic duty and knocked those caps right off. Good on them.

200 University St
Seattle, WA 98101

10. Museum of History & Industry (MOHAI)

860 Terry Ave N, Seattle, WA 98109

Who doesn’t love low banks? If you’re a die hard street skater—admittedly pretty rare amongst people who are beginners in the age of Olympic skateboarding—there aren’t many places left in Seattle to hit a small bank nowadays. Except MOHAI, that is. Next to the southernmost of the two hulking brass bells out front of the museum, there’s a gentle bank that goes from high to low, allowing you to roll in at any height. It’s fun for us more advanced skaters, because you can hop out of it onto the side of the bell, but it’s also a perfect place to just get comfortable riding your board over the edge of something that slopes down, even if it ain’t that steep of a slope.

860 Terry Ave N
Seattle, WA 98109

11. Schmitz Hall

1400 NE Campus Pkwy, Seattle, WA 98105

This is my personal favorite spot to dork around at. When I was growing up, Red Square was a big bust, so we spent a lot of time fleeing from the cops and ending up at the Schmitz Hall, which is connected to the University of Washington’s main campus by a foot bridge. The Schmitz building is girded by perfect low benches, although none of them are currently waxed. My friends and I had the western side decently slick for a while, but the university installed skatestoppers, and it’s not quite worthwhile enough of a spot to knock them off.

However, there’s a low bank between the building’s brick outer walkway and the concrete sidewalk that serves as a surprisingly versatile obstacle. Besides the joy of a low bank—learning to roll in, doing your first kickflip fakie, et cetera—you can come from the street and do manual tricks on the low curb to roll in on the bank, which is a very forgiving way to learn such delicate feats of balance. If you’re in college and, say, looking to define yourself via skateboarding, the Schmitz building can help you learn a few moves to impress whatever gender(s) you’re into. And perhaps even your fellow skaters, if you stick with it.

1400 NE Campus Pkwy
Seattle, WA 98105

12. Mercer Island Skatepark

7706 SE 34th St, Mercer Island, WA 98040

Scott Yamamura is a legend of Seattle street skateboarding, and so of course the first park he designed is a legendary place to learn how to street skate. Tasked with upgrading the existing and very outdated Mercer Island skatepark—just a bank, a pyramid, a low manual pad, and a tall ledge on a small square footing—he kind of nailed it. He extended the park’s footprint south, adding a blissfully low replica picnic table down a bank, a perfect Pier 7 manual pad, a very mellow hubba ledge off a curb, and a pretty alright flat ledge. It’s not the best park in history, but it’s proof that you can do a lot with a little. You won’t find any mega-loops, but if you want to learn to ollie a tiny stair set, noseslide down a sloping ledge, or manual off a drop, you’re stoked. Honorable mention: the region’s best curved ledge at a skatepark.

7706 SE 34th St
Mercer Island, WA 98040

13. Shoreline Skatepark

901-999 NE 155th St, Shoreline, WA 98155

Shoreline is another of Scott Yamamura’s near perfect skatepark designs. He is truly the god of ledges and, in the case of Shoreline, hips. While Shoreline features the most perfect skatepark ledge in the history of skatepark ledges, as well as a picnic table with picture-perfect training-height ledges, it’s also got the absolute best, gentlest pyramid ever poured and a low, square park rail to die for. Beyond that, there’s a whole upper section with various ledges that shoot you into a gentle bank, as well as a perfect “big three” block, if carcass hucking is on your skate syllabus.

901-999 NE 155th St
Shoreline, WA 98155

14. Bainbridge Bowl

7666 High School Rd NE, Bainbridge Island, WA 98110

Grinding pool coping usually means you’re getting, like, totally vertical bro. Bainbridge’s sole skatepark, at the island’s idyllic Strawberry Hill Park, has plenty of steep, gnarly sections, but it’s also the only place in the greater Seattle area where you can scrape some pool coping without having to ride up a steep ramp to do it. The small section of the park is a mere two feet or so, and sports pool coping the whole way ‘round. At Bainbridge, you too can be a Z-Boy! If you want to live the full Thrasher Magazine, “Jake Phelps is drunk and waving a hot dog around again” dream, there are also plenty of cast-iron BBQs in the park for your grilling and chilling pleasure.

7666 High School Rd NE
Bainbridge Island, WA 98110

15. Big Picture School

14844 SE 22nd St, Bellevue, WA 98007

Slappys are finished having a comeback, and are now just back. If you can’t roll aggressively at a curb and force your trucks up onto it without jumping, who even are you in 2018? While I highly encourage anyone interested in skateboarding to learn to ollie and experience the pure, simple magic of a 50-50 on a decently tall ledge, I cannot deny that slappys are fun as heckin’ hell. I can scrape one pathetically short frontside slappy every three months or so, but if you’re looking to put the time in to learn frontside, backside, and all the crazy blunt/crook/hurricane variations, the Bellevue Big Picture School is a great spot to do it. It’s the favorite slappy spot of Dave Waite, the undisputed God of Slappys, after all. While this simple maneuver might look like the easy way out (or up?), it occupies a special place in skateboarding for a reason. Nothing feels quite like a good curb crawl.

14844 SE 22nd St
Bellevue, WA 98007