Skateboarders soar, wipeouts galore in Tacoma on Saturday

Dozens of people thrashed and burned Saturday during the third-annual Go Skateboarding Day in Tollefson Plaza.

The skaters caught air off of ramps, slid down rails and sometimes bailed off of their boards throughout the late morning and afternoon. Some had fresh road rash or bandaged injuries.

Skaters worldwide also celebrated the holiday, which began in 2003.

Many skaters said they felt like outcasts when they were younger, but when they were atop a skateboard, they felt free and accepted.

“You could have a bad day, you could have a good day — any kind of day. Skating takes your mind off of it,” said Zach Dean, 23, of Tacoma. “This is my way of life.”

Event organizer Ben Warner, 30, said eventually he wants to see the event in the Tacoma Dome. He’s been skating for half of his life and said he enjoys mentoring younger skaters through his nonprofit organization Alchemy Indoor.

“You don’t have to have someone else to have fun with skateboarding,” said Warner, who completed a master’s thesis from UW Tacoma about skateboarding (technically entitled “Conflict between dominant cultures and subcultures”).

The Tacoma City Council voted to decriminalize skateboarding in downtown Tacoma three summers ago.

Promptly thereafter — and every summer since — Warner and others have hosted Go Skateboarding Day in Tollefson Plaza on Pacific Avenue.

Warner said skateboarders will try and fail 100 times before they learn a trick. Go Skateboard Day allowed more experienced skaters to teach those interested in taking up the sport. He said being a mentor to others instills a sense of responsibility and community in the skateboarding community.

Skaters and their fans noshed on pizza and drank coffee between runs.

Saturday was a beautiful sunny day. Mount Rainier loomed above the Tacoma Art Museum. Just across the street, in Tollefson Plaza, a temporary graffiti wall was erected where sections of bold color took shape throughout the day.

Gian Lawrence of Tacoma, now 24, said he started skating at 12 years old. He said Go Skateboarding Day is important because it welcomes everyone.

But he said one element of skateboarding culture is still not welcome in Tacoma — graffiti.

“It’s very looked down upon,” Lawrence said. “Having a graffiti wall is a great way to display the art.”

The city’s last known sanctioned spot for graffiti closed in November 2013. The former Graffiti Garage on lower Broadway had been a Sunday gathering spot. Now there’s nowhere for graffiti artists to paint legally.

“Tacoma is an art town,” he said.

Zach Snellenberger, 21, just moved to Tacoma. He watched from the sidelines on crutches, nursing an ankle he sprained Friday while skating.

“It’s sick,” he said of the event. “Everyone killed it. There was a lot of good riding.”