SLIDESHOW: Grindline Skateparks is dedicated to a timeless dream
Flying through the air with only cement below you is a surprisingly attractive dream for millions of people who skateboard and a West Seattle company is responsible for making many of those dreams, their own included, come true in what is today an incredibly popular sport and a $5 billion dollar industry.
One of Grindline's designers Jimmy Jehgers explained the meaning behind the name of the company. "In skating, there is a term known as a “line,” which is a chosen path of tricks a particular skater performs back to back in sequence. For example, if a skater hits a few impressive tricks back to back, one might say “ nice line.” The term “grind” refers to a skater grinding his or her “trucks” (metal part of skateboard) on a surface while riding in motion. Many people assume this is where the name Grindline originates. It’s actually not. To Hubbard (President and CEO), Grindline means “Riding on the Edge (Grinding),” a representation of actually living one’s life on the edge."
The process of building a park begins with a site assessment followed by a computer aided design often by lead designer Micah Shapiro at their headquarters near West Marginal Way. The company moved there from their original site near Pigeon Point about 6 years ago.
Led by Mark Hubbard the process moves to digging out and shaping the raw site. "The first thing pretty much is to put in the drainage," he said.
Then the crew builds a wooden form with steel rebar, creating the basic shapes.
A specially blended concrete called "Shotcrete" that can hold a shape is brought in and applied through a pressurized nozzle, filling in the basic form.
The crew refines the raw application, shaving it, patching it and smoothing it in a series of steps until it has an extremely smooth surface. Smooth enough Hubbard joked, "to rub your face on."
Every member of the crew is also a skateboarder, some of them with a lot of experience and it's never far from their mind. It's clearly an obsession.
Grindline has built skateparks all over the United States and in fact all around the world including Edina Minnesota, Herzliya, Israel, Okinawa, Copenhagen, Denmark and are planning the biggest one in the world for Spring Park Texas and in the process have won numerous awards and accolades for their work. But the site at Delridge is "one of my favorites because it's right by my house. When you can work it around trees like this one, it's beautiful. What I love about this is the street is right there and people drive by and their honking and waving."
Matt Fluegge, Chief Operations Officer for Grindline said one of the most challenging parks they've built was on the roof of the kitchen services building for the Key Arena in the summer of 2009. "We had to build everything out of styrofoam instead of using dirt fill, because weight was issue so built the entire park out of styrofoam and had to put a thin layer of shotcrete over the top."
Hubbard began by building plywood ramps and was one of those responsible for building the first unauthorized skating bowl under the Schmitz Park Bridge in 1990. He started skateboarding when he was five years old in 1975. "When I was six I had like three boards" he said.
"The first ramp I ever built was in 1984 on 38th and Charlestown in my driveway. It was an eight foot quarter pipe. But then I built ramps all over the city even up in Everett.
Hubbard talked about the nature of the industry. "It's not even little anymore. It's huge. It grows, it's bigger. We know people from all over the world that build skateparks, skate skateparks. You know, It's skateparks!"
For Hubbard and his 35 person company and many others it's a fascination that began when they were very young and it means doing what they love.
"In Israel, "Hubbard said, "you see them at the skatepark and they are like, 'You build skateparks?' and like yeah, 'I want to do that. My whole life I've been wanting to build. I built a boat when I was small.' (…) Most people that are into building skateparks it's like a dream that they've had since they built their first ramp now they see the parks all over. It's fun. (…) It's like playing in the dirt," he said laughing.
The Delridge Skatepark is due to be complete in August with a ribbon cutting ceremony to be scheduled for the opening.