Skaters snake as a group down the Saanich Skatewave on a summer evening circa 1981. Saanich and Victoria skaters developed their skills at the Skatewave and went on to win trophies in the mainland during the first generation of competitive skateboarding in B.C. (Graham Peat Photos/Calstreets.com)

In 1976, competitive skateboarding took off in B.C.

‘California had excess skateboards and they dumped them here, in Canada’

Part three of ‘Buried parks and broken bones,’ series about early skateboarding in Victoria and Vancouver

It was the summer of 1981 when Vancouver’s Graham Peat traveled with friends to Saanich with his skateboard, his camera and a pocket full of film.

Peat runs the Longboarder Labs store in Vancouver. Peat loved skating but is the first to admit he didn’t have the genetics to take it to the next level.

An unidentified skater pulls a hand plant on the Saanich Skatewave on a summer evening circa 1981. Behind is the intersection of Cedar Hill Road and Finlayson/North Dairy. Saanich and Victoria skaters developed their skills at the Skatewave and went on to win trophies in the mainland during the first generation of competitive skateboarding in B.C. (Graham Peat Photos/Calstreets.com)

“So I started taking pictures. You’re either in the skateboard competition, taking pictures or you organize it,” Peat said.

PART 2: Broken bones and buried parks: stories of skateboarding’s beginning in Victoria and Vancouver

PART 1: At Christmas 1978, parents lined up to buy skateboards at the Saanich Skatewave

Peat took hundreds of photos including the trip to the Saanich Skatewave, which his business partner Rick Tetz has digitalized. The Skatewave was free that summer, a business venture that went sideways and a park that Saanich left open to all.

By that time, Peat had already assisted Monty Little with his Western Canadian skateboard contests. Capital and opportunistic thinking by Little put him at the forefront of B.C.’s 1976 skateboard explosion.

Little was an absolute godfather for the sport, laying the foundation for the competitive circuit when skateboarding spiked in 1976.

There had been skateboards around since the 1960s, but everything changed around 1975 when the craze took up in California.

“What happened was skateboarding blew up in California and in 1975, and by 1976 they had excess skateboards which were shipped up here,” Little recalled. “By that time they had better wheels and trucks in California, and they had sold all these first-generation boards to Canadian stores.”

The new style of boards were broader and more stable, allowing users to ‘carve’ downhill, go aerial in swimming pools and half pipes, and be aggressive with ‘flatland,’ freestyle tricks.

“Skateboarding went crazy, but no one here had learned to skate,” Little recalled. “There were accidents.”

Knowing Little could skateboard, the North Shore YMCA approached him and contracted him to run skateboard safety demos starting in 1975. He held the same clinics at the Vancouver and Victoria YCMAs and had instructed 2,000 kids by the end of the summer.

That’s when Little took it to the next level and held a contest in Stanley Park. It was the weekend of Sept. 11 and 12, 1976.

Bud Watt, who went to Oak Bay High, was part of the first generation of Victoria skaters. Watt ferried over and won some trophies at that competition. Later, Watt and Victoria teammates Craig Hall and Brad Carr were all on a skateboard team, competing at their home half pipe, the Saanich Skatewave, and traveling regularly to the Lower Mainland and Washington State.

Meanwhile, history changed at that Sept. 11, 1976 competition. CTV’s W5 television crew was there covering the new fad of “skateboarding.” The show aired the next week and the appetite was strong.

Later that week Little was working at his job on Grouse Mountain.

“I used to work the night shift. I worked on four hours sleep. I remember my boss called me back to work after that shift,” Little said. “Let’s just say, I was quickly leaving with two weeks severance. On my way out I saw the mountain manager and we talked about building a skate park near Grouse Mountain. He cut me a cheque for $500.”

READ ALSO: Westshore skatepark coalition faces uphill battle as costs jump $166,000

When he got home, his wife said, ‘“Why are you back already?’” Little recalled. “I said to her, ‘I have good news. I don’t work at Grouse anymore. And I have great news. We’re going to California and Grouse is paying for it.”

Little traveled to California to see the skateboard contests and popular swimming pools that were a key trend of the sport’s rising popularity.

“When I got back I visited Grouse Mountain and there were offers from six businesses to take run contests,” said Little, who still runs an annual World Freestyle Round-Up in Cloverdale.

Little struck a deal to host competitions in about 40 of the 86 Super Valu parking lots in B.C., Alberta and the Yukon at the time. He was president of the Canadian Pro Am Skateboard Association and held contests all the way to Winnipeg and also at the CNE in Toronto.

“When we got to Whitehorse, they had literally shut the city down for us,” Little recalls.

Despite Little’s efforts and the fact that Victoria skaters Bud Watt, Brad Carr, Craig Hall and Steve Sandve (and more) kept skateboarding, the sport itself was upended in popularity by 1981. Some say it was displaced by the BMX craze.

Whatever the reason, it led to the burial of Esquimalt, Saanich and West Vancouver skate parks, the latter being the first in Canada.

But, as things go, the sport rebounded. In 1985, the Expo 86 organizers asked Little to arrange a demo.

“I had already learned, demos don’t work. I told them, we need a contest,” Little said.

It wasn’t extravagant prize money for the skaters but Expo 86 ponied up enough to for Little to contract a half-pipe as part of the Transworld Skateboarding Championships.

“The RCMP musical ride was on a break and the plaza area was free for about a week,” Little recalled. “It sat 2,000 people.”

Skaters from across Western Canada and U.S.A. showed up to see future-legends Rodney Mullen and Tony Hawk compete.

It was captured in the partially-fictionalized 1986 documentary Radical Moves.

To this day Little runs the World Round-Up freestyle competition but at Expo 86 he organized all disciplines of competition. Star skateboarder Rodney Mullen actually came second in the 360 contest to a Canadian but came first in the freestyle skating for $750 and $1,000 respectively. Tony Hawk won the halfpipe contest for $1,000. Christian Hosoi was second ($750), Steve Cabellero third ($500), Mike McGill fourth and Lance Mountain fifth.

All this happened within four years of Saanich, Esquimalt and West Vancouver burying three of the province’s, and Canada’s, first skateparks.

Some say it was the insurance, others say it was the BMX craze interrupting skateboarding. Regardless, the first wave of parks disappeared.

Despite one valiant attempt by archaeologist Bob Muckle, artist Bruce Emmett and Little, the West Vancouver school district refused to consider the idea of uncovering the skate bowl and snake runs underground by the Inglewood Learning Centre.

“I stood in front of the school district, I showed them the concept for a monument that this is Canada’s first skate park,” Little said. “If you buried Canada’s first hockey rink, or baseball stadium, there’d at least be some sort of plaque.”

reporter@oakbaynews.com

– Thank you to Graham Peat, Monty Little, Brad Carr, Craig Hall, Bud Watt, Steven Sandve, Kevin Harris and Bruce Emmett for sharing their stories.

Anyone with stories and memories they’d like to share about B.C.’s earliest skateboarding history, buried parks and more, can email travispaterson@gmail.com.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Hydro pole fire closes portion of Metchosin Road in Colwood

Motorists are advised to avoid the area of Metchosin Road near Royal Bay

Saanich roads doused in more than 300 tonnes of salt during snowstorm

Crews cleared roads around the clock during the mid-January storm

Esquimalt arsonist sentenced to two years in jail, thanks police, defence lawyer and taxpayers

Wei Li was convicted of intentionally lighting his rental property on fire in October 2017

‘We thought it was an earthquake,’ homeowners okay after tree falls

Mature tree falls on roof of Victoria Avenue house

VIDEO: The Victoria byelection leads a selection of today’s news stories

A selection of Greater Victoria top stories for Jan. 17

Theft victim confronts suspects with baseball bat on Vancouver Island

RCMP in Nanaimo seek to identify of two people alleged to have used a stolen credit card

Closed mills, housing surge support a positive forecast for lumber industries

B.C. lumber producers have closed mills accounting for 18% of province’s capacity, RBC report says

Kelowna’s ‘Baby Mary’ finds biological parents after more than 30 years

Geneologist and DNA test helped her connect with her biological parents

SOOKE HISTORY: Remembering Salvatore (Sam) Pasta

Salvatore (Sam) Pasta lived life to the fullest

Clerk bruised, traumatized after armed robbery at Nanaimo liquor store

Few details on male suspect in Wednesday incident, says Nanaimo RCMP

One last blast of winter tonight for parts of the Island before temperatures on the rise

A snowfall warning is in effect Friday including east Vancouver Island.

POLL: Has the recent snow had an impact on your daily life?

Old Man Winter had Greater Victoria in his icy grip this week.… Continue reading

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Jan. 14

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Most Read