I wrote a feature about Chicago's place in skateboarding. It was borne out of years of watching smaller cities do their mightiest to be noticed by the wider world for their modest contributions to skateboarding while the big metropolis on Lake Michigan never gave a shit -- at least that was my read on the skaters from there I met who called and still call Chicago home.
Why isn't Chicago a bigger deal in skateboarding? I'm still working towards an answer -- I doubt it remains that way, though, as hinted at in the story. Even though the piece ballooned far past my initial word-count estimates (thanks Lucas!) there were still some details from interviews that just never quite fit. Everyone I spoke to for the story was really generous with their time. That meant I heard at least two fathers fathering their kids and that Chaz Ortiz put up with the craziness of my crying then-3-month-old daughter while we talked. Here are some quotes that didn't make the cut:
Ruta reiterating the weather situation: “There’s been times when certain things have blown up, but I think for the most part it doesn’t have a crazy scene like LA or New York for the main reason because of the weather. Everybody knows the shit gets rough.”
On why the Grant Park plaza is whatever: “Now, there’s kids popping up and they’re on the radar. My whole thing, I think, which is the whole problem with skateboarding period, right now, is the skatepark kids … you know? In my opinion, looking at the talent out there, I’ll go to that plaza, the new plaza they built down here, it’s like a breeding ground for those kids and that’s all they’ll do. That’s all they’ll skate. I’m downtown -- been skating downtown for 20-something years and I just don’t see those kids down there.”
On indoor skateparks in the suburbs and why they only help so much: “There’s been stuff in the suburbs, but you know kids got no cars, we luckily knew a dude here and there who had cars. You have to travel an hour and a half just to go skate.”
Beachy on an idea that was very hard to articulate for others: "Chicago exists on its own because Chicago doesn't really care too much because Chicago is a self-sustained entity. It's the same with neighborhood culture here, music, it's a totally contained ecosystem."
On certain spot issues in Chi: "We've got the fourth-largest public school system in the country and like four ledges total between all of them. It defies logic, man. You cruise around town and stare at what you swear is a spot, then get closer and realize it's maybe a good place to wait for someone, but otherwise there is no activity to be performed there. It really is uncanny, it keeps happening, it's a city haunted by disappointing spots."
Kalis on the stigma attached to blowing up the spot: “When skate teams would show up out at the skateparks -- Rotation Station or whatever -- I remember it being kind of frowned upon on inviting those teams downtown to skate.”
On one memorable time downtown that would have been 800 words if fully hashed out: “All the skaters scattered across the city and I remember going across the river and we were on the lower level of a bridge and we were walking right past a cop … and over his radio, you hear the people saying ‘Calling all cars, motherfuckers, we’re looking for skateboarders! Grab any of them!'”
On the Grant plaza: “I hear people all the time, who are not from Chicago, and they’re just like, ‘Man, I can’t deal with the hassle.’ And with the skatepark, most kids think it’s 100 percent legit to film in skateparks, so why would they even bother [to skate downtown]?”
On the Uprise heads how have been downtown for the past 20 years: “If you go down and spend a night with Loof Life, it’s just one of the greatest feelings a street skater could ever have. Just being in the city and pushing around and bouncing from spot, to spot, to spot, with a great group of dudes. It’s literally awesome.”
Ortiz on having space to move in Chicago: “There’s so much of the city -- I mean, it’s been skated, don’t get me wrong -- but there’s a lot of room out here to do shit compared to like, New York, or Cali, you know what I mean?”
On his canine companions: “I’ve got two dogs, those are my fuckin’ kids.”
On the Grant plaza's effect on downtown: “There’s a lot of skaters in the city, especially now with the plaza and shit. Because kids come out just to skate that and then they’ll cruise around the city. You see skaters now more than probably ever.”
On maybe why more dudes don't come up out of Chicago: “I just feel like it’s really easy to get caught up in the city, in Chicago, especially when you’re like 21, there’s a lot of bars around … like every other fucking corner there’s a bar. I see a lot of fools falling off, you know what I mean?”
On the city's attitude: “People will be fucking dicks out here. Kid from Cali came to the park the other day -- he thought he was a cool kid -- everyone was like, ‘You’re fucking wack, nobody cares that you’re from like, Huntington Beach. You’re in fucking Chicago!'”
On all of the good stuff, and the fact it might actually really be the weather: “That’s why I can’t leave -- but it’s cold as fuck.”