One day each year, the city of San Pedro closes down Gaffey Street to cars and gives it to skaters so they can bomb down the hills (relatively) safely. It began in 2012 after downhill skating became illegal in Los Angeles. At the same time, a guerrilla skate park under the Harbor Freeway was legitimized by the city.
At Badfish Skate Shop, across the street from Peck Skate Park (est. 2014), a group of teenage boys agree that what sets San Pedro’s skate scene apart is “better style” and the city’s “self-made” skate park, Channel Street.
“If you can skate Channel Street, you can pretty much skate anything,” says local pro Ronnie Sandoval, who rides for Krooked and Lakai. Sandoval, 19, was brought up on Channel Street’s tight, challenging ramps, having only been born a few years before the park was created in 2002 by a group of well-meaning outlaws.
The San Pedro Skate Association built the park of their own accord, says member Robbie O’Connell.
“If you’re open-minded, it looks amazing. If you’re somebody who’s used to a lot of flat-bottom, you might wanna pass. It’s awesome, it’s got everything that you want: It’s got steep transition, mellow transition, rollers, it’s got a spine.”
O’Connell’s longtime friend Todd Congelliere (ex-Liberty Skateboards pro) admits, “Truthfully, when they started getting really into it and bringing the rebar and cement trucks and s--- like that, I was just shaking my head going, ‘How are you gonna get away with this?’ and they not only got away with it, they got help from the city and everything.”
In 2012, the park was officially sanctioned and the San Pedro Shred: Festival of Skate was launched, both amid the tragic deaths of two boys, 14 and 15, who died skating in San Pedro. Councilman Joe Buscaino, who represents the 15th District of Los Angeles County, says “in response to that, we felt the need to create an event to allow skaters from all parts of this county, to give them access to a street, shut it down, like we do at the Long Beach Grand Prix. Give them free and safe access to skateboard as long as they want.”
Congelliere is skeptical of the efficacy of the Shred in curbing downhill “bombing,” especially since Channel Street Skate Park has been closed since 2015 for freeway repairs (the 110 stands directly overhead).
“Their whole deal was, this is a safe place to do it, but they’re not gonna shut down the street every day of the year, and people wanna do that every day of the year,” he says.
The Port of Los Angeles controls the land Channel Street Skate Park sits on and won’t reopen it until new handrails are installed that meet inspection standards. Liability insurance also needs to be purchased (price to be determined by the Port). Rubble from the freeway construction still lies in one of the park’s bowls, which skaters enter at their own risk.
The San Pedro Shred: Festival of Skate takes place Sunday, June 5 on Gaffey Street in San Pedro. Rider registration begins at 9:30 a.m. More info on the event's website.