The soul of skateboarding remains in California, specifically in its many skate parks and massive terrain parks with undulating concrete hips, bowls, and lips as well as rails, boxes, and pipes. They are where the pros come to try their newest tricks and where future stars learn to ride and to fly. Hundreds of parks, large and small, famous and under the radar, dot the landscape from north to south. But which are the best? We scoured the state to bring you nine that anyone with even a passing interest in skateboarding should hit.
Lake Cunningham Regional Skate Park, San Jose
At 80,000 square feet, this humongous spot on the shores of San Jose’s Lake Cunningham is the largest skate park in California, three to four times bigger than the average park. California Skateparks, one of the best skate-park design firms in the world, dreamed up this masterpiece and included enough amenities and features to please skaters of any skill level. One highlight is the 70-foot-long, 20-foot-wide full pipe, the biggest of its kind in the world. Other features are the world’s largest cradle and tallest vert wall, along with a full-fledged street course and bowls ranging from one foot deep for beginners to 12 feet deep for experts.
Tanzanite Skate Park, Sacramento
Tanzanite might not win any awards for its size at just 16,000 square feet, but the design—by legendary skate-park builder Wally Hollyday—punches well above its weight class in terms of options per foot. Three cool bowls, ranging from a simple beginner dip to a more advanced depression with multiple depths, in-pool transitions, and exciting lips, offer a variety of aerial options. Where Tanzanite really shines, however, is in its street section, which features multiple stair sets, ledges begging to be hit, and rails desperate for grinds. Not a bad little spot at all.
Curt Pernice Skate Park, Ripon
Thrasher magazine called Curt Pernice Skate Park one of the best in California, and they weren’t wrong. The park, in the Central Valley town of Ripon (about 80 miles east of San Francisco), is known for its epic pool, a concrete behemoth that takes up most of the 30,000-square-foot space and can go up against any other in state or beyond. Skaters can take their pick of numerous pyramids, boxes, and rails, along with step-ups and a sweet half pipe. The vibe is chill, as welcoming to beginners and tourists passing through as it is to the hard-core set that frequents the park. The surrounding area is nicely landscaped but treeless, so be sure to apply sunscreen liberally before heading into the concrete jungle.
Skatelab, Simi Valley
A must-visit spot since it opened in the late 1990s, this indoor park was the first to use Finland birch for its ramps, which is now considered the go-to wood. The 20,000-square-foot, two-room space features multiple half and quarter pipes, stair sets, boxes, and gaps. The in-house pro team sponsors up-and-comers like Jackson Stern and Gage Boyle, and you might see famous faces from Tony Hawk to Rodney Mullen show up and ride. When you’re tired of skating or need a break from thrashing, head to the free Skateboard Museum located on the premises. Learn about the history of the sport while checking out memorabilia, including more than 5,000 vintage decks, and the Skateboarding Hall of Fame.
The Cove Skatepark, Santa Monica
When the Z-Boys of Dogtown’s Zephyr skateboarding team popularized the fledging sport in the 1970s, they did it in the Santa Monica sunshine. The Cove Skatepark played an integral role in helping legends like Tony Alva, Jay Adams, and Stacy Peralta take the moves they knew from surfing and apply them to the concrete. The beating heart of skateboarding rests in this park, which got an upgrade in 2005 but retains its old-school feel and vital place in the sport’s history. Today there are four areas where you can skate, including a street course with plenty of smart lines and a big bowl with a six-foot-deep square shallow end, a six-foot-round pocket, a nine-foot-deep oval, and a thirteen-foot clamshell. Go make some new history.