Larchmont-area skateboarders seek a place of their own

| June 3, 2020 | 0 Comments

SKATEBOARDER carries a portable ramp as he passes Larchmont’s Bank of America.

Skateboarding and Southern California go together like peanut butter and jelly. Or sunsets and the ocean. Or surfers and waves. So it’s only fitting that we should see skateboarders zipping up and down the streets of our SoCal neighborhoods on a daily basis. While many observers see skateboarding as harmless, youthful fun, others have been bothered by the feeling of a “takeover” by groups of youths hanging out in the Larchmont area, specifically the empty parking lots up and down the boulevard.


Over the past year, there has been a lot of back-and-forth on the Nextdoor app — between those who support the skateboarders and those who are fed up. The arguments became very personal at one point, pitting neighbor against neighbor.

“In a weird way,” says Larchmont area homeowner Clare Cohen, “it fractured the neighborhood.”

Even though most kids try to follow the rules, there are always a few who don’t.

“I have two minds about this,” says Cohen thoughtfully. “I skateboarded; my brother skateboarded; it’s part of Southern California culture. It’s great that it keeps kids off of electronic devices; they get to be outside; it’s cool … but the problems in Larchmont arose when some groups of older skaters started ‘vibing’ people when they walked by, and those skaters were cursing and not really caring what people were hearing. It went from the innocence of jumping cracks to something that made people uncomfortable.”

Love of skateboarding

Many young people growing up in the Larchmont community skate on a daily basis and love everything about it: the exercise, the freedom to roam and explore, the friendships, and the love of the community it fosters.

“Skateboarding has connected me with so many other people,” says Meyer, a 13-year-old local.

His friend Jack, who has lived in the Larchmont area his entire life, agrees.

“Skateboarding around Larchmont is fun because everyone’s around, it’s safe, and you get to hang out with your friends. We go together and buy candy and ice cream… it’s comfortable because we know everyone.”

Jack also appreciates the skill and hard work that goes into the sport.

“I really like the creativity of skateboarding and setting goals for myself. There may be a certain trick that I’m working on, and I’ll do it over and over and over until I get it right.”

USC study

This attitude falls right in line with a recent groundbreaking study by USC’s Pullias Center for Higher Education, funded by a grant from the Tony Hawk Foundation, a study that focuses on skateboarding culture.

In the report, found at, USC research associate professor and lead investigator Zoe Corwin, a Windsor Square resident, reveals the study’s purpose: “Skateboarders are prone to being labeled by society as rebels, social deviants, or rule-breakers. Stereotyping masks an array of valuable skills obtained through skateboarding. The study aims to redefine what it means to be a skateboarder and highlight connections among skateboarding, education and career.”

The study included a national survey of over 5000 skateboarders and interviews with over 120 skaters and community stakeholders.

Corwin was deeply surprised with the results of the research.

“What we learned from skateboarding youth was profound,” she reveals in the report’s final analysis. “Study data illustrate how skateboarding bolsters mental health and facilitates community. Skaters of color explained feeling safer and more supported in the skate community. Skaters clearly articulated skills they learned through skating, such as persistence (skaters will practice a trick hundreds of times until they land it), problem solving, [and] intergenerational and cross-cultural communication.”

Beginning in the 1940s

Skateboarding popped onto the SoCal scene as early as the late 1940s. When waves were scarce, surfers in California and Hawaii looked for alternative forms of entertainment. They tore apart wooden boxes, attached metal roller skates, and took off down the pavement, “surfing the sidewalk.”

Skateboarding in the 1970s blossomed even more with the advent of the polyurethane wheel, which made skating on paved surfaces smoother and more controlled. Skateboarders took full advantage of this new wheel and started skating in empty swimming pools and reservoirs in and around San Diego and Los Angeles. Skateboarding competitions soon became all the rage, the most notable group of competitors being a local skate team from Santa Monica, the Zephyr team, famously known as the “Z-Boys.”

KYD KALIN and Jackson and Hudson Little take a break from skating at Lake Street Skate Park.

Sidewalk alternatives

So, yes, skateboarding is baked into our culture. As the streets and sidewalks around Larchmont Village have become more crowded, though, some locals are trying to come up with ideas for the business and skateboarding communities to live together in peace.

One of those people is Jim Kalin, a Larchmont-area resident and father of 11-year-old skateboarder, Kyd Kalin. Jim conceived the idea to create a small-group summer skate camp, called Tour de Skate, where he will shuttle campers around Los Angeles for five days, Monday – Friday, to visit the best skate parks and skateboard shops around Los Angeles.

“In this whole new COVID-19 era, people are thinking outside the box about summer options,” says Kalin. “Parents need things for their kids to do this summer, and they probably won’t be sending their kids to camps with 200 people, or to packed sports gymnasiums, so this is a small-group alternative.”

Kalin grew up in Ohio, the son of an Ohio State University wrestler. Eighteen years later, Jim was doing the same thing.

“That was my skateboarding,” he laughs.

Kalin has taught physical education and coached local sports teams including soccer, St. Brendan’s Basketball (SBBA), kids’ wrestling programs and Wilshire Warriors baseball.

He also is part-owner of Power House Bar on Highland Ave. in Hollywood, and he helped open a bar on Melrose called “The Darkroom,” a former camera shop turned gastropub.

Kalin accompanies his son around town to watch him skate, and he’s grown to love the skateboard culture.

“The skateboarders are so generous and very supportive of each other,” says Kalin. “It was a complete surprise to me how wonderful this culture is; they are so dedicated and considerate… I love going to the skate parks, meeting people and getting to know them, visiting their shops and talking to the pros.”

Build one here?

Both Kalin and Cohen wish that there were a public skate park closer to the Larchmont area so skateboarders would have a dedicated place to practice their skills.

“There’s been a complete failure of imagination on how to use our public spaces,” says Cohen. “We have places around town that just sit dormant and could get so much use if we figured out how to multipurpose them.”

Skateboarders Jack and Meyer agree.

“I would definitely use a skate park,” says Jack excitedly. “Skating on the street is fun, but if there was a place with rails and ramps, it would definitely be more fun.”

“One hundred percent!” enthuses Meyer. “I would absolutely use a skate park. If there was something like Stoner Skate Plaza or El Sereno Skate Park nearby, I would go there all the time.”

Cohen has high hopes that a solution will be found.

“I would love for there to be a way to find harmony and let the skaters have fun and be social,” she says, “but at the same time be mindful that we’re in a neighborhood. In any negotiation, people need to give a little on each side.”

For more information about Tour de Skate summer skateboarding camp, go to

Tags: ,

Category: Entertainment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *