Derby Park, in Santa Cruz, California is one of the oldest surviving public skateparks in North America. Designed in 1974 by Ken Wormhoudt and completed in in 1976 Derby was controversially rebuilt mid 2012 because city officials felt the “timeworn curves and slopes of Derby had become too dangerous to allow.” But I tell you what, it’s a lot more gnarly and dangerous now – but for the better. Originally when I heard about the “renovations” to be done at the classic concrete snake run, I was 100% against it. I thought, if anything, they should build a new 2010’s version of Derby right next to it, after they took out the volley ball court that I have never seen anyone use in the last 22 years, and then connect the old to the new. Regardless of what I thought, within a week or so of even hearing about it, the park was under construction. Due to so many locals’ love for Derby park, they intervened and didn’t allow the city to just have some city landscape company come in to do the “much needed repairs”. As luck (or should I say “skater passion”) would have it, a bunch of Derby locals, Mike Greenwald, and some guys from Grindline got involved and did an excellent job of “fixing up” Derby. There is now a tight and grindable boomerang / rocket pocket at the end which you can whip around and go back down the snake run. The curb in the “bowl” is steeper and longer and there is a bank to curb and various additions around the sidewalk, pump bumps, added and extended lips….
Words + photos + video: J. Hay
Derby was the first skate park I’ve ever skated. The first time I went there they didn’t even have the concrete sidewalks. In 1996-2000 I had a gate from my house to Derby Park. I have seen so many epic sessions go down over the years, and I also witnessed the dark days of Derby. In the late 90s Derby was often empty. There was finally a new place to skate in Santa Cruz, “The Fun Spot” with a 6 foot halfpipe and some wooden street obstacles, then came Ben Lomond skatepark in the Santa Cruz mountains with the first concrete bowl to skate in Santa Cruz county, the tiny Live Oak park on the East side, and finally the Santa Cruz Skatepark. Before these new spots opened up, Derby was the ONLY place to skate in Santa Cruz except for a couple private ramps (The Cannery, Consolidated, backyard ramps) and the streets. For one of the skateboaring mecca’s over the world, and countless and seemingly pointless city council meetings to get a new skate park, skating in Santa Cruz was rather lack luster – except for Derby – but these were the days when street skating ruled the skate world. You could go to Derby many afternoons and there were only a couple other skaters, for years…. Then somehow, people got bored of the new parks, or wanted to avoid the crowds, and returned to Derby, one of the few public places in Santa Cruz where you can crack a beer and not live in fear, a semi-anarchistic sanctuary in a police state. Sure, the cops show up from time to time, usually when some gangsters show up and cause trouble, or if there’s a big Derby-Que going down, but in general, you can skate in peace. But these days, especially since the renovations, it seems more crowded than ever and you can go there now and there will be from around 5-10 people to up to 100+ during some of the Derby-Ques organized by different skate companies and shops like Skate Works, Bill’s Wheels, Consolidated, Spitfire, Santa Cruz, Bro Prints, Meeksterbrau, etc. But Derby is unlike a lot of skateparks, it seems to get more and more fun the more people who join the session or who are there just to lurk and drink some beers and bbq.
There have also been many Derby skaters who have gone on to skate fame and stardom, or at least local underground anti-heroes. From when I started skating Derby around 1990, I saw so many rippers like Justin & Jason Strubing, Steve Bailey, Jackson Taylor, Alan Peterson, Emmanuel Guzman, Meekster, Steve Yearsley, Ron Whaley, Israel Forbes, Adam Morgan, Tanner Zelinsky, Swilly, Josh Mattson, Mikey Curtis, Casey Helseth, Raven Tershy, and a bunch more guys I will remember later or guys you would never have heard of, but killed it at Derby.
This particular weekend, in September, I was in Santa Cruz for my annual return visit, and naturally I headed to Derby and once I was there I never wanted to leave. There are so many places to skate now, compared to ten years ago, but I didn’t want to go anywhere else, except Derby. It’s kind of like going to Cheers, seeing all your old buddies and having a place to sit down at the bar (or a place to cruise down the snake run) and have a beer, see Norm (or Swilly) and the rest of the dudes – it felt like I had never left – only that everyone keeps getting better, older, more broken, and the next generation is starting to take over, but not yet. The older dudes are still holding it down….
This footage is a combination of a random Friday afternoon session and a Saturday Derby-Que sponsored by OJIII‘s and Lowcard. This is a small fraction of went down in those two days and some of the characters that were lurking out, either on or off their boards. D.A.F. – Derby’s Always Fun –
words/photos/video: J. Hay