by Dan Ketchum
We all know that skate culture and weed culture go together like mac and cheese, and at Tough Mama, we like to consider ourselves curators of vibes (also makers of real good weed products, but you already knew this). And LA goes on forever, which is not great if you’re on the 405 (nothing is great if you’re on the 405), but is great if you need just the right skatepark to fit your style, location, skill level, and overall vibe.
Start with these recs from your favorite local stoners, but don’t be afraid to explore on your own, too – there’s plenty enough LA to go around.
Oh, and while you’re there, keep an eye out for a 6-foot-tall maternal gorilla who may or may not be a little high. You know Tough Mama shreds the pave wave.
Go Old Skool: Venice Beach Skate Park (Venice)
Venice Beach Skate Park didn’t open till 2009, but it already feels like a part of LA’s historical lifeblood – and that’s no coincidence, as the turf surrounding it is famously home to the formative Z-Boys of the West Side. True to that sense of history, the skate park on Venice Beach feels a little old school, in a good way. You’ll find a nostalgic and well-rounded mix of street features, a nice big bowl (sometimes the community pitches in to clean the sand out, which is a nice touch) and a snake run.
The vibes here are colorful, welcoming and eclectic. People-wise, you might run into a Spider-Man or two, musicians and street performers, or a few dudes skating behind sunglasses-wearing pitbulls. It’s not the best place to learn, but it’s a wonderful spot to people-watch or sit back and enjoy others skating, especially since it’s steps away from the surf and sand, not to mention the iconic Venice Boardwalk.
You knew we had to do it, right? Like, we’re the people that make YOLO SHOTZ. We’re gonna pick the place with “stoner” in the name.
But Stoner Skate Plaza – which is actually named for the street that it’s on, not for weed (sorry) – has a lot more going for it. Street skating is the heart of Stoner Plaza, and you’ll feel that in its clean, wide-open and modern design aesthetic, which highlights plentiful curbs, flatrails, handrails, gentle slopes and ledges. It’s all about recreating the kickflips, grinds and manuals of an organic street skating spot in a safe, controlled space (notably one where the cops – probably – won’t give you shit).
And not that it affects the skating too much, but Stoner is also a feel-good story. The $1-million project was born as a result of tons of community organizing from the skate community itself, much of which was centered around driving gang activity out of the former hotspot. The park also preserves city features from local favorite skate spots that are no longer accessible, and every one of those features was earned by advocacy.
If Venice Beach captures the spirit of old-school LA skate culture, El Sereno Skate Park is LA skate culture now. Honestly, it just kind of feels like the best of what LA is today, all rolled up into 12,000 feet of gorgeous, well-maintained skatepark paradise.
Framed by dusty hills, green scrub, and soaring palm trees with its signature yellow highlights giving the whole deal a sun-soaked warmth, the space just screams “sativa.” Street features like steps, mini-ramps, handrails, hubbas, and banks – and plentiful space – welcome the pros who pop up here on the regular and the locals alike. El Sereno is bright, mellow, and just as good for goofing as it is for serious practice.
For the Gnarly: Garvanza Skate Park (Garvanza)
You can tell just by looking at the ever-changing beautiful mess of graffiti covering every inch of its bowl (which single-handedly makes the visit worthwhile for street art fans): Garvanza is a genuine gnarburger of a skatepark. Your second hint should be how deep that bowl is.
Known to attract pros like Nicole Hause and Tristan Rennie, the LA Times says, “gritty Garvanza is one of the few public bowls to offer a true backyard pool-riding vibe.” No shame in sitting poolside if you’re not quite ready to take a dip – this aerial-heavy spot absolutely caters to seasoned skaters and local pros rather than newcomers or early learners. Garvanza is as authentic to LA as a Danger Dog outside of Dodger Stadium.
Learn in Peace: South Pasadena Skate Park (South Pasadena)
On the whole-assed other end of the spectrum, you’ve got the South Pasadena Skate Park. Unlike just about every other park on this list, you won’t be visually struck by the design, architecture, or general vibe here. South Pas is just a fenced-in stretch of flat concrete among the trees of the Arroyo with a good amount of utilitarian ramps, rails, funboxes, and quarterpipes.
What you will find, though – if you can get past the wonky hours – is a relaxed space where no one goes just to be seen. Simply a spot for low-key skating and no fronting, South Pas is ideal for family skating or just getting in a little practice without worrying about the prying eyes, bustle, and pretenses of LA.
For your pre-game, this one’s definitely an indica kind of skatepark – and maybe that’s what a skate park should be.