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Sizzlin Photofeature

Skateboarding is Not a Crime

A Spin through the Newest, Biggest Skatepark on the East Coast

Photos by Jefferson Jackson Steele

Sizzlin Summer 2000

Hot Buttons Sizzlin' Summer 2000

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By Joe MacLeod | Posted 5/24/2000

Once reviled and shunned by The Man, the practice and subculture of skateboarding now hides in plain sight, nestled securely in the generous bosom of commerce American-style, as manifested a mere 72 miles south of Charm City in the form of the gargantuan, leviathan, and really fucking big Vans Skatepark. The company behind the behemoth started in 1966 as an upstart sneaker-manufacturing and retail outfit. It eventually found a niche in making shoes for the skateboarding and surfing set, and lodged itself firmly in the brainpans of Our Nation's Youth in 1982, when a young Sean Penn modeled a pair of Vans checkerboard shoes in the cinema classic Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Vans is now owned by an investment-banking firm and is trading on the Nasdaq. So much for subculture.

Now embedded firmly (well, since April anyway) as a fixture in the Baltimore/Washington megatainment suburbalopolis, the myriad ramps, half-pipes, and bowls of the Vans Skatepark make up the largest park for Rollerblading (excuse us, "in-line skating") and skateboarding on the East Coast. Or maybe in the entire U.S. of A. Or quite possibly the whole frickin' world, depending on who you talk to and whether or not they're wearing their helmet properly. The park is indoors, tucked away in the endless vistas of retail that comprise the Potomac Mills Mall continuum in Northern Virginia. Yes, Virginia, the skatepark is inside the mall, and open year-round, so young citizens who would be pursued by law-enforcement officials and/or otherwise be blamed for the destruction of our city's curbs and exterior stair rails and then shunted into the death-spiral of the old-skool skating lifestyle are now free (well, it costs money to skate there, but you know what we mean)--free to fakie and air and ollie and grind and otherwise perfect the erstwhile outlaw skills that may someday propel them to a big juicy endorsement contract with a company like Vans. God bless capitalism. God bless America.

Vans Skatepark is located at 2700 Potomac Mills Circle in Woodbridge, Va., (703) 491-1815. Open daily 10 a.m.-11 p.m. Admission is $7-$9 for members (who pay $50 annual dues), $11-$14 for nonmembers, depending on day and time (higher rates evenings and weekends).

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