Los Angeles is known for being an entertainment capital, and it’s still the skateboarding capital of the world. Photographer Van Styles grew up in the San Fernando Valley area of LA, and has been living and skating in LA just about his entire life. Oh, and he also helped bring along a little guy known as Paul Rodriguez.
“LA is a cultured city that’s spaced out. What most people consider LA is a vastly larger area than most cities I’ve been to, like New York or Chicago. That’s why you need a car to get around. I say cultured because there’s a good mix—a melting pot of people who all come here to do their thing. The reason it’s fun almost goes without saying, because there’s so much to do. On a good day, you can go skating, surfing and snowboarding in the same day.”
“Anyone that comes to LA from the Midwest or East Coast always says the weather is amazing. It’s like that 24/7, year-round. We get some rain here and there but the weather is definitely something that is an advantage over most other cities. If you’re by Venice or the coast it’s going to be a bit more crisp. A cold winter day would be in the mid 50s and at night it may drop to the 40s. For the most part, LA people think a cold day is 65 degrees. If you live in the Valley, it’s usually ten to fifteen degrees warmer in the summer. If you live in the valley and it’s 85 in LA you’re going to be experiencing temperatures near 100. It’s dry, desert heat, not humid heat, so it’s a little more bearable.”
“LA definitely has amazing women. You get a lot of people who come out here to get involved in acting, modeling, as well as careers in music. Also, LA has some pretty amazing colleges like USC and UCLA, so you get all different types of girls migrating to LA for those reasons or just to come out for fun—which I’m not complaining about because it gives us plenty of pretty things to look at while we’re driving around or skating around doing our thing. When it comes to personality every woman you meet out here is different but a lot of them have agendas on their mind, succeeding in their field, especially in the realm of music, acting or modeling. A lot of girls are on top of their game to get to where they want to be.”
“As an LA-bred skateboarder, I’d say I have two favorites. Growing up I was a fan of Guy Mariano, who is from Burbank. I’m still a fan of his today. Everyone knows what he’s done and what he can do and what he’s going to do. My second favorite LA skater is someone I know. I was older and he was a younger dude also from the Valley, so I got to see him come up. That guy is Paul Rodriguez. I used to skate with Nigel Alexander and Primitive Skate Shop owner Andy Netkin. Nigel took Paul under his wing so we would skate with him and it was amazing to see how quickly he was progressing. With him it wasn’t about trying to be the best, Paul genuinely had fun skating. He was a young kid who loved it to death, like we all did and it’s rad to see him keep evolving and keep growing. He’s beyond skateboarding now, he’s an athlete and the face of that next generation that’s taking what it means to be a pro to another level.”
“Growing up in the Valley in junior high and in high school, skateboarding wasn’t that popular in the early 90s, but it was evident that it was out here. Being involved in skateboarding in the early and mid 90s and seeing the Los Feliz hip in every video and Lockwood School blowing up was cool. You’d see the West LA Courthouse in every video along with the Santa Monica beach curbs and the Venice graffiti pit. These are classic spots which were pretty much in mine and my friends’ backyards. We could drive 20 minutes and be at these spots and see pros doing their thing, filming lines. It’s kind of embedded in your head that LA is one of the places to be at if you’re into skating. There are so many different spots. Now there are skate plazas popping up everywhere. Los Angeles is kind of holding its position with the skateboarding industry, whether it’s on the business side or the creative side.”
Downtown Skate Spots
“The Library. If you’re someone into gaps and drops this is the spot for you. It’s always been a great testing ground.
The Courthouse. It’s across from the Walt Disney Concert Hall and it’s one of the best places to go to. It’s a meet-up spot everyone goes to before they start to skate around.
The Car Wash Bank. Years ago when it was first kind of popping up it was a great steep bank to roll up on and do some tricks. When transition started getting more acceptance kids started waxing up the outside where you could go up into a tailslide or 5-0 grind and revert back in. Even if you can’t skate that spot is fun to hit because it’s sort of like you’re surfing because it takes up the whole sidewalk. The car wash bank is a place you can have fun at.
Staples Center Ledges. These are rad because nearby are good benches that are waxed and they grind and slide good. Usually you don’t get kicked out or messed with over there. Across from that are the ledges with the grass gap which kind of switches it up and makes it a little different. The good thing about that area is that there is so much open space to skate flatground.”
“Stoner Plaza in West LA. This is one of the most well built and versatile plazas because it has stairs, Hubbas, rails and all different types of ledges and manual pads. They have everything. Plus they even have the hip quarterpipes for anyone who’s into tranny.
P-Rod Street Plaza in Pacoima. Personally this is my favorite one because it has the essentials and it’s also a little bit downhill so you can start on one side, and get a good run going and it’s all downhill, which is fun.
Lincoln Heights Skatepark. This is in the heart of LA and it has a snake run that goes down and euro gap which are both pretty fun. It was also built by Paul Rodriguez with help from Nike SB.”
“It almost feels like everybody is somebody out here, which is an idea I got from Murs’ song about LA. A lot of people will say that when they go out to restaurants, clubs or to a gathering they meet someone and a lot of people want to present themselves as maybe being bigger than they are. I guess it’s part of the hustle, so you’ll meet people involved in the entertainment side, one way or another. Whether they’re grips or assistants or producers or camera operators, I think a lot of people who work in the entertainment industry take pride in that. LA is so known as being the place to be for that type of stuff.”
“Nightlife can be fun in LA. Even though we can have a good time, we do slack when compared to Las Vegas, New York and Miami because they have bars and clubs that stay open until 4 am—so you have a lot of after-hours options. In LA everything shuts down at 2 am. Because of that you can have a nice nightlife and not overdo yourself because you’re kind of forced to go home. The nightlife is great though, because there’s a lot to do. Myself I prefer to be at the mellow spots. I like Lexington Social Club and Mercy in Hollywood. Also there’s Drais at the W Hotel in Hollywood.”
“For beaches, you can go to Santa Monica or Venice. But those who are pure beachgoers would prefer the Malibu area because it’s a nicer type of beach. Redondo Beach and Hermosa Beach are great options, too. What it comes down to is, yes, there are beaches in LA but they are not our biggest plus. If you were to go to Hawaii or Miami, you would see much nicer beaches. I never got into surfing but in most people’s minds surfing and LA go hand-in-hand.”
“There’s a lot of Laker pride, but in LA the teams get huge support whether the team is doing well or not. There are people who are diehard Dodger fans and even though they haven’t been to the World Series since 1988, they’re still true blue fans. The same goes with the Lakers who were once dominant for years and are now kind of going into a slump. The Clippers have been gaining a lot of momentum with what they’ve been doing. The LA Kings recently won the Stanley Cup, too, so LA has great sports teams.”
“LA being so spread out you need a car to get around. A car is essential. Anyone who’s visited or lives here will tell you the same, but you have to be prepared for traffic. LA is a city where just about everyone drives. Whether it’s the morning commute or the ride home you’re going to see a lot of people on the road and you have to factor that in to the time it takes to get where you’re going. It’s real.”