Portland is a hell of a place. Or some would call it “heaven.” As staff writer and skater, I’ve been making recent trips there, but it’s been a destination since before I was alive. The year 1990 supposedly marks the beginning of the Burnside DIY, but it was even before that when Portland, OR started to attract skaters.
A sort of polar opposite of Los Angeles, climate-wise, Portland offers an entirely different type of skateboarding hub to the global family. While Southern California never sees much rain and serves as what’s commonly considered the street skating capital of the world. The Northwest US receives lots of precipitation and contains some of the most fun concrete skateparks in the world. And the biggest concentration of them… It’s a less obvious mainstay of the worldwide skate scene that has made and maintained its niche in skateboarding and in many people’s minds.
The landscape there is lush, green, and glorious. The people are mellow. The skaters are serious, dedicated, and talented. It’s a great place to be a skater. If you can deal with the wetness and/or skating Burnside. And speaking of Burnside… The crustiest grail you’ll ever find is nestled neatly between a semi-empty truck lot and a brand-new building, right under the infamous Burnside Bridge. From the back wall of the park, you can get a clear view down the north side of the bridge to the incredibly tacky and beautiful “Portland, Oregon!!” sign.
You’ll see things at Burnside you’ll only see at homeless communes. And you’ll see things at Burnside that you’ll only see at the X Games. It depends on the day, but sometimes you’ll see all of it at once. Just turn your head. That place under the bridge is one of the most unique, even amongst its peers. FDR in Philly gets grimy, and the beer flows strong. But it still doesn’t have the same intimacy of Burnside. Washington Street in San Diego is intimidating, and the yells of stoke are long, but they’ll never deal with weather like the locals of Burnside. Every other skatepark might have a safe place for you to put down your cell phone, and a grill to lay your tongs, but it just never will be Burnside.
Don’t misconstrue what I’m saying here: Portland isn’t only special because of Burnside. That’s like saying New York City is special solely because of Staten Island (no offense SI homies!). But it is (as a skateboarder) one place that completely encapsulates the raw attitude and a unique experience that reflects the unique and raw experience of Portland, OR. As an outdoors enthusiast, musician, artist, softball leaguer, or a number of other things, Portland is just as rad.
But don’t let the word spread too far… The rent is TOO damn high.