The Calgary Association of Skateboarding Enthusiasts (C.A.S.E.) has once again partnered with the City of Calgary (Recreation) to celebrate Go Skateboarding Day on Sunday, June 21st from 1pm-4pm at Shaw Millennium Park.
Go Skateboarding Day is an internationally recognized day to celebrate skateboarding. Beginning in 2004, the informal holiday promotes skateboarding through free events in hundreds of cities on that day. June 21st has been recognized by US Congress as Go Skateboarding Day.
C.A.S.E. has been celebrating Go Skateboarding Day in Calgary for the past six years. This will be the first event held at Millennium Park since repairs were made earlier in the year. Competitions, games, and giveaways are planned for the day. The free celebration is open to all ages of skateboarders and spectators. C.A.S.E. encourages families to attend.
Sponsors include skateboard retail stores The Source Skateboard and Snowboards, Youth Brigade, West 49, Mission Snow & Skate, and Royal Boardshop. Vans, DC, Peeler Boards, and Artschool Skateboards will also be on hand with prizes.
From 1986 to 1988, our backyard was the home to the largest outdoor skateboard ramp in Western Canada. In truth, it may have been the biggest in all of Canada, or even North America or, hell, the world. But we couldn’t really be sure about that and, being Canadians, we all decided to err on the side of understatement.
Its masterminds were Scotty Jensen, Jason Briscoe and Mark Quan. Briscoe and Quan were high school friends of Steph’s who had been out to our place and rightly suspected that its geography would be perfect for hiding what they were planning. We barely knew Scotty at the time (and he disappeared to Huntington Beach soon after), but his wide, innocent smile and good Alberta manners were perfect for convincing the unconvinced that whatever these kids might be up to, it couldn’t be that bad.
We were pretty sure that our parents wouldn’t know what a “ramp” was, so our one shot at getting them to say yes was keeping them ignorant. We expertly dodged all relevant questions by repeating the same mantra, don’t worry Mom, you won’t see it, you won’t hear it, you won’t even know it’s there! Somehow, after consulting with our step-dad (an orthopedic surgeon who would one day have to personally repair Erika’s Collis fracture after she broke her wrist on one of the City of Calgary portable ramps), our mom came back with a tentative okay, provided we adhered to the usual farm rules: no bottles (broken ones cut the horses’ hooves), no cigarettes on the grass (fire hazard), and watch the noise (don’t want the neighbors complaining). The guys had gotten the green light.
We knew not to ask where the wood came from, and soon lost count of how many random sweaty skateboarders tied their shirts around their waists, popped the tops off cans of Pil, and hammered nails. Steph, at 16, was already too cool to express any outward interest in the project, but Erika, who was 12 at the time, lived by the sound of those hammers and saws (power saws, hooked up to a generator – this sh*t was legit!). She ran through the gully in her rolled Levi’s and Vans, hoping to offer to fetch pop and (sometimes) sneak beers from the downstairs fridge or, on a really good day, get invited on a McDonald’s run.
You could tell from the wood plank skeleton that this thing was going to be big, but it fit the scale of the scenery, flanked by the Rockies on one side and the Calgary skyline on the other. It wasn’t until the final sheets of smooth masonite were hammered into place that you realized just how effing massive it was. 30 feet long, 11 feet tall, with a foot and a half of vert. Although there was a perfectly constructed channel, those who chose not to use it were faced with an instant rite of passage. Every time someone let their board go, pushed down and dropped in, all hearts stopped for just a second.
Cars would pull up and out would spill Jim Thorburn, Bryan Alberstat (Erika’s future brother-in-law!), Stevie Friedlander, Paul Sheppard, Lindsay Rogers and Barry Hiebert – the best vert skaters in the city who effortlessly transcended above the coping and crafted their own unique style of pulling air. Other times, parents would drive out and drop off the younger generation like they were going to Karate Kid II at Market Mall. However they got there, gathering around the fire in the garbage barrel beside the ramp meant being part of a movement at its inception point, when skateboarding truly was a crime and wearing baggy jeans meant risking getting your ass kicked by a redneck.
It came to be known as The Bearspaw Ramp. It was a gathering spot, a point of cultural reference. Friendships were forged, couples formed. It was a part of our epic backyard bonfire parties that closed down city clubs and turned our fields into parking lots.
We never thought to document the ramp until fears of lawsuits and complaints from neighbors spelled its doom. On the day it was to be torn down, Erika head up with her Kodak Disc Camera (!) to snap some shots for the first – and last – time.
Please use this opportunity to share your own photos or other ephemera, write about a memory, and get back in touch with your Calgary roots.