The trucks stop here

Skatestoppers derail boarders in public places, earning the devices—and their inventor—a heavy reputation

Photo By Andrew Boost

On a hot late-spring evening, Cassidy North surveyed Humboldt Neighborhood Park near downtown Chico. The 23-year-old spied ramps and steel-rimmed concrete corners where riders “grind” their skateboards’ truck axles. He then descended onto the smooth concrete course, gaining momentum as he flew past the obstacles before him.

A skateboarder for 12 years, North said he’s tired of hearing that street skating is a hindrance to property owners and the authorities who protect property.

Now he’s finding small L-shaped brackets called Skatestoppers bolted onto park benches and sunk into concrete around the downtown area he loves to skate. Skatestoppers are designed to disrupt travel of a skateboard as its trucks grind across concrete, and North has seen enough of them.

“It kinda bums me out, I guess,” he said. “They’re Skatestopping everything like it’s illegal to skate everywhere.”

Skatestoppers are becoming a common feature with urban sprawl, mainly because they are a cheap alternative for those wanting to protect property from skateboard damage. As far as skateboarders are concerned, though, Skatestoppers reinforce an ongoing theme: If you skate, you’re not welcome here.

“They did give us this skate park; we worked for years to get it,” North said. “It sucks that we’re not accepted in the community.”

THE FATE OF THE SKATE<br>Rob Marsden (left), manager of Chico Bike and Board skate team, has come to accept Skatestoppers as the norm.

Photo By Andrew Boost

For the past year and a half, the city of Chico has worked closely with Chris Loarie, the San Diego-area inventor of the Skatestopper. The impediment discourages skaters from grinding the tantalizing curves, corners and abutments downtown. Since going into business almost a decade ago, Loarie has become known as the enemy to many skateboarders.

The idea for Skatestoppers came to Loarie after talking to his brother, a police officer in Southern California, who spent a lot of time chasing trespassing skateboarders. Loarie tried to solve his brother’s problem altogether by creating a simple nylon prototype that eventually evolved into the Skatestopper.

“If you have skaters in your town, you’ll see our product,” Loarie said.

The business has made Loarie a target in some skateboarding circles, however. Simply Googling his name reveals several Web sites and online petitions dedicated to ostracizing the man and his company.

Loarie said he has received death threats and a group of skateboarders once started a fight with him while he was displaying products at a trade show. The scene was clandestinely taped and mysteriously appeared on the Internet, to much fanfare.

“It’s almost like a gang mentality,” he said. “There’s no way you can reason with someone of that mind-set.”

Although he has become a target, Loarie has no intention of stopping now. He estimates about 50,000 Skatestoppers were sold last year, bringing his sales to 750,000 total since he started the company in 1998. He’s extended the line to include Skatestoppers that are more visually appealing than the L-shaped brackets. Prices range from $9.50 to $11 apiece for the typical L-shaped version, up to $40 for customized pieces.

POISON OAK<br>Skatestoppers range from the smaller L-shaped brackets to the more stylish oak-leaf model. They’ve popped up all over downtown, including on the public art benches and $1,000-worth in the City Plaza.

Photo By Andrew Boost

About two dozen designer deterrents—bronze, shaped as oak leaves— have been installed in City Plaza’s problem areas, with another 24 to come by the end of June.

Chico’s City Plaza was designed to be aesthetically pleasing, multifunctional and, yes, skateboard resistant. But skaters have become wily in finding ways around the architectural roadblocks recently, city General Services Director Dennis Beardsley said.

Abutments outlining park boundaries are showing marks of “sliding,” a trick performed by scuffing a skateboard’s belly across the convex concrete surface. The rider achieves motion without wheels, fusing paint or decal pigment from board to concrete in the process.

“If it can’t be solved through design,” Beardsley said, “then Skatestoppers are certainly an option to surveillance or having somebody on site.”

His concern isn’t just property damage, but also skaters who lose control of their boards performing their tricks. One worry is the stage. Its low profile makes it an appealing surface for skateboarders to “ollie,” or hop onto. Passersby who are unaware of the errant projectiles can be in harm’s way.

“It’s not that we don’t like skateboarding, it’s just there are appropriate locations for it,” Beardsley said. “It’s just like any other recreational activity. You don’t play golf in a city park, and there’s a reason for that.”

The “appropriate location” Beardsley referred to is Humboldt Neighborhood Park, located on Humboldt Avenue. Its 10,000 feet of concrete ramps, rail-slides and swimming pool-like slopes cost the city $350,000. The park wasn’t an easy sell, though.

Photo By Andrew Boost

Rob Marsden, manager of the Chico Bike and Board skate team, and a group of skateboarders stood before city councilmembers each month for almost a year before anyone took them seriously. It took almost two years after gaining approval for the park to be completed, in July 1999.

Before the park, there was a constant battle between skaters and police. Marsden, who’s been skating for 17 years, remembers being forced by officers to walk with his skateboard in hand until he reached outside the downtown area limits, where he finally could get back on.

“They used to crack down,” he said. “They were making us really annoyed by it.”

Marsden first noticed Skatestoppers about five years ago while skating around Chico State and has since seen the little deterrents make their way downtown.

But Skatestoppers don’t seem to bother Marsden nowadays. The silent statement they make is one he has been familiar with throughout his years as a skateboarder.

“More than just the actual damage, I think the people trip out on it visually,” Marsden said. “I can see where some of the people are coming from. Some places you don’t need to be grinding.”

Other skaters in Chico agree with him—at least to a point.

North, who says he’s a skateboarder first and an artist second, gave slight approval, explaining that he shies away from the art benches downtown. To him, those areas are sacred.

“I can definitely respect those being Skatestopped,” he said. “Because those are beautiful works of art.”