In the ‘70s and ‘80s San Diego was home to a few of the world’s greatest skate parks: Oasis Skatepark (located under the interchange between interstates 805 and 8), Del Mar (by the racetrack) and the original Carlsbad Skatepark (off Palomar Airport Road).
The world’s first skate park, the Carlsbad Skatepark, opened on March 3, 1976. The World Skateboard Championships were held there April 10, 1977. It operated until 1979, when it was buried intact beneath a layer of dirt for more than two decades, before being destroyed in 2005 to make room for an industrial complex. Nothing has been built on the site yet.
These parks not only jump-started the careers of some of the most influential skateboarders in history - Tony Hawk, Christian Hosoi, Danny Way, Alphonzo Rawls and countless others - they also birthed the modern skateboard industry. Brands such as Transworld, DC, Toy Machine, Zero and dozens of others have called San Diego home because of its rich skateboard community.
Then came some rough times during the ‘90s. Recession and an increase in the cost of insurance closed many skate parks until the last free public park (Missile Park in Kearny Mesa) closed down in 1996. That left the pay-parks of the YMCA in Encinitas and Mission Valley as the only options for skateboarders in San Diego County.
San Diego also is home to the Washington Street Skatepark, a spot originally built illegally by local skateboarders. It was almost torn down in 1999, but the small group received media coverage, organized a nonprofit and later went to the San Diego City Council and received its blessing to continue. The park is now 16 years old, self-funded and it is considered one of America’s finest skate parks.
In 2000, the first new park in San Diego in decades - Robb Field - was built at the same time that a renegade group was building an illegal park under the Highway 101 overpass at Washington Street. From that time until now, San Diego County has undergone a skate park boom and there are now dozens of free city parks scattered throughout the county.
The rich history of skate parks, both in San Diego and beyond, is something that local legend Hawk hopes to keep alive and growing. Hawk started the THF (The Tony Hawk Foundation), with the goal of helping communities open skateboard parks and makes grants available to groups nationwide. As of 2015, The THF has awarded a total of more than $5 million to 900 community skateboard park projects.