Cars passing above create white noise as skateboarders shred on an unusually sunny day in Eugene’s Whiteaker neighborhood. Tucked under the 105 Interstate, the Washington Jefferson skatepark is the largest of its kind in the nation for skateboarders, BMXers and scooter riders to come together. It is not a shock that the park is filled with people spending their Sundays on the concrete. Among these skaters are Aidan and Ari, two boys still in the prime years of their childhood, and their older peers, Sam and Elias, who seem to serve as role models. WJ, as the locals call it, is proof that the relationship skateboarders have not only with each other but with their personal styles creates a dynamic lifestyle and an even more dynamic community.
Ari and Aidan (13 and 11)
Aidan and Ari are some of the youngest kids at the park but skate with the same finesse as their older peers and even surpass some of them. Not only are they both talented skaters, but despite being born in the new millennium, they have a ‘90s slacker look to them, which was what drew me to talk to ask them about their style.
What’s it like being the youngest people here?
Aidan: Well, it’s not really weird. Not to me, at least.
Ari: Everybody here is a family, but this park can be scary sometimes. Some guy got stabbed here the other day, and it was really bad. I wasn’t here, but that’s what I heard on the news.
Do your parents every worry about you skateboarding?
Aidan: My parents don’t worry about me because they got me a phone, so if I get hurt, I can contact them right away.
Ari: My mom kind of worries because I don’t ever wear a helmet. She doesn’t really worry about the fact that I’m down here, though, because she knows I have a lot of people that have my back if I ever get into trouble.
What is the average skater uniform?
Ari: A lot people wear hats, but you’ve gotta get fat jeans, like big, old, baggy pants. I have a pair of 30×30 jeans, but I’m really a size 14. Also, a nice shirt is good. We don’t really care too much about matching here. We just care if it looks cool. I take an hour before school to get ready because I wanna look good.
Aidan: Like he said, baggy pants. I wear a size 10, and these are 14s. Style, to me, is important. It takes me a while to figure out what I want to wear in the morning. Once I pick my shoes, shirt and pants and have everything on, I go outside as soon as I can.
Ari: But it doesn’t matter what it looks like because you can wear anything and be the best skateboarder ever as long as you’re comfortable in it. You can skate in anything you want. It doesn’t really matter too much. It’s the skateboarding that matters.
Do you think there’s a relationship between skateboarders and their styles?
Aidan: Oh yeah. Some people will be like, “oh that guy’s not trendy,” but he’ll be super nice. People here don’t really care. We’re all homies.
For how long do you think you’ll be skateboarding?
Aidan: I’ll be skateboarding until I die.
Ari: I’m going to be skateboarding until my legs fall off.
Sam and Elias (18 and 16)
Sam and Elias are textbook examples of the modern skateboarding scene. Both clad in beanies, wide-legged pants and worn-in shirts, the boys perfectly encapsulate not only what it means to be a skateboarder in 2017, but how to have style while doing it.
What’s the overall skateboarding scene in Eugene like?
Elias: There are a lot of drama queens, but other than that, everyone’s pretty chill with one another.
Sam: It’s getting a lot better actually. There used to not be many people who skated, and I think this park kind of got more people to come out.
What do you mean by drama queens?
Elias: There’s just a lot of drama that can go on between different skaters over stupid stuff. Smack talk. That sort of thing. It’s weird but definitely dying down.
What are your thoughts on non-skaters wearing brands like Thrasher?
Sam: It’s pretty messed up. Don’t wear Thrasher unless you can stick a skateboard up your butt.
Why do you skateboard? What do you get out of it?
Sam: Well, it’s fun, and I do it every day. I don’t know what I would be doing if I didn’t skate.
Elias: Yeah, I mean it’s just something that we do. Simple as that. Learning new tricks is like a high almost. It just feels so good in your body. Rolling away from tricks, working on your style and cleaning up your technique are just great feelings. Skateboarding kind of is an art in and of itself. It’s not really a sport. It’s more about style and technique.
What does style mean to you?
Elias: Well I mean style is pretty much everything. Especially in this day and age you can do some crazy stuff like waving your arms around your head and looking like an idiot, or you could just do basic stuff but do it really well. At the end of the day, the person who is a better skater will go farther.
Where’s your favorite place to skate in Eugene?
Sam: Probably WJ (Washington Jefferson Plaza) or the streets.
Words and Photos by Brooke Harman, @brooke_harman