With its sun-soaked streets and skateable architecture, Los Angeles is one giant playground for street-smart skaters. The city's urban terrain is covered with some of the world's most menacing stairs and tattered asphalt curbs. For the skater, L.A. is Mecca. The city's coveted pavement has been grinded on by skating legends such as the Z-Boys and by future X Game medalists who learned how to kick-flip on the steps at Hollywood High (one of the city's famous skate spots). The movement started with skaters crashing abandoned swimming pools in the 1970s, then quickly transformed in the '80s and '90s as they began scouting spots that turned public property into DIY obstacle courses. Even Tony Hawk's Pro Skater featured hyper-realistic models of L.A.'s skateable streets.
Then there's the final segment from City Stars' classic 2001 Street Cinema skate video, in which legendary street skater Paul "P-Rod" Rodriguez conquered 48 tricks in skate spots across L.A. Street Cinema was filmed when Rodriguez was 16, a year before he turned pro under Girl Skateboards and two years before he appeared as a playable character in Tony Hawk's Underground. P-Rod's now got his own skatepark on Laurel Canyon Boulevard in Pacoima.
Rodriguez's first skate spot was the loading dock of an Albertson's supermarket in Northridge, his hometown, where he mastered the skills that would earn him legend status (including four gold medals at the X Games). At 30, Rodriquez has either conquered or discovered most of L.A.'s gnarliest skating locales.
Following last week's L.A. premiere of the new skating documentary We Are Blood, which features Rodriguez skating spots around the world, we caught up with P-Rod to ask about his favorite hidden edges, smooth rails and stairs around the city (many of them long gone). Here's what the globetrotting skate icon selected as his favorite all-time skate spots in L.A.
West L.A. Courthouse, aka Santa Monica Courthouse
1633 Purdue Ave., Sawtelle
Paul "P-Rod" Rodriguez: "I first starting skating here in the late '90s. It's a legendary spot. It's got great ledges and a manual pad!"
Fact: The West L.A. Courthouse was reopened as a legal skate spot in 2014.
Across the street from campus, West Jefferson Boulevard at Hoover Street
"Skating spots have lifespans; some die younger than others. Some businesses will do whatever it takes to make spots unskateable, and the ones that don't usually have security or police patrolling. This causes skateable spots to become overcrowded — and eventually leads to them, too, becoming unskateable. I started skating the USC ledges around the same time I started discovering all the notorious L.A. spots. When they were still skateable, the ledges here were good. You could always go to the ledges and see some amazing skating going down by some of the greatest skaters around."
Fact: A popular skate spot in the '90s and '00s, the ledges have since lost their concrete toppers, thanks to the city. The ledges surrounding the Staples Center became the new hot spot a few years ago.
Undisclosed location in West L.A.
"I'm not sure if they are still skateable, but it had a great runway and perfect landing spot ... really fun to skate!"
The L.A. Department of Water of Power
111 N. Hope St., Bunker Hill
"I started skating here when I was discovering all the L.A. spots. When it was still skateable, the ledges were made out of this perfect marble or granite, you could slide on them like ice. If you ever had the chance to skate them, you'd be lucky, because security would usually kick you out."
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Fact: A famous "hit or miss" skate spot, L.A. DWP was always tough to skate due to security crackdowns. Sadly, the legendary benches have been gone for years.
Secret location that Rodriguez calls "Green Baseball Diamond"
"This is in the 'hood, but you will skate anywhere if the spot is good enough. Perfect concrete ledges that grind really good and slide really good. I've also never been kicked out!"