On any given day, skateboarders can be seen riding to and fro around Thousand Oaks. The city has a vibrant skate culture, and perhaps to the surprise of many, the sport helps teach independence and good personal habits — in addition to being a lot of fun.
Californians of a certain age may remember skateboarding emerging as a hobby in the 1950s, then exploding in popularity in the 1970s. It caught on quickly with the classic California crowd — beach-lovers and surfers all eager to cruise the streets and sidewalks when they weren’t riding ocean waves. As riders experimented with techniques, competitions sprung up and tricks were invented, including 360 flips, hardflips, kickflips and heelflips. Over the decades, skate culture began to strongly influence the fashion world and popular culture, and in 2024 it will be part of the Paris 2024 Olympics, marking its ascent from a mere neighborhood activity. Skateboarding, a sport for young and old, is now getting the respect it deserves.
While most people don’t associate skateboarding with the development of good character, like any activity requiring dexterity and technique, skateboarding hones the mind and the body to greater levels of control and discipline. One of the most unexpected aspects of skateboarding is the self-confidence it builds. A skater will try a trick again and again — and again. It can take hours to get it right. The goals are clear, and reaching them requires pure self-motivation, a can-do attitude and self-confidence. The skater sets the tone and sees how the difference between their best day and their worst comes from what they put into it.
Skating can even lead to a career. Some take it to the next level by getting sponsored by companies which produce skateboard wheels, boards, grip tape, trucks, clothing, hats and shoes. Skaters film themselves doing their best tricks and send videos to these companies. Skate companies generally have amateur and professional teams. When a skater hits the professional level, then they can potentially make a living at it. Even amateur skaters can receive much-needed products which help sustain them in the sport since they go through boards and shoes so quickly.
Skating is also great for mental health. During the COVID-19 response, two amazing skate parks continued to provide refuge for many kids in the Conejo Valley: Borchard Skate Park and Westlake Skate Park. Many people who had not skated before found themselves with an appetite for fresh air, exercise and a way to blow off steam — or get away from computer screens and Zoom meetings. Since skating is a solo activity, it was easy to show up with a board or scooter, ride along, feel the wind and enjoy the outdoors.
Borchard Skate Park made its debut in Newbury Park in 2002. Having a skate park right next to Newbury Park High School opened up the opportunity for kids to explore the park’s ledges, flat banks and grind rails, all designed for doing tricks. Scooter riders and BMX bikers love the park’s terrain as well. This park is slated for renovation, which is still in the planning process.
Westlake Skate Park was added to the Conejo Valley repertoire of skate parks in 2015 as part of Westlake Village Community Park. A much-needed addition for skateboarders who live on the south end of town, this skate park has brightened the days of many dedicated skaters. In fact, some are circulating a petition to add lights to the park for night skating.
Some kids skate to the parks, and others get rides to them, but many older kids have discovered the bus system in Thousand Oaks. According to www.toaks.org, all fares and bus passes are currently free. This is a gift to young skaters. As they navigate online learning and varied school hours, they can now plan how to get to the skate parks independently.
Skate culture offers invigorating activity in the open air, with opportunities for friendships, mastering complicated tricks, the development of self-confidence and independence, the enjoyment of exercise and even the possibility of making some money. Go skate!
Visit Westlake Skate Park at 31107 Thousand Oaks Blvd., Thousand Oaks, CA and Borchard Skate Park at 190 N. Reino Rd., Thousand Oaks, CA.
Alejandro – hardflipLeonardo
Guy Azulay – frontside kickflip