Avoid the Beach: Skate Sydney

Both cosmopolitan and a tourist destination, Sydney is also home to a thriving skate scene

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Words by Jason Crombie | Photos by Andrew Peters

In a lot of ways, Sydney, Australia is the most skate-able and skate-centric city in the world. Sure there’re other amazing places, like New York (too many cracks and bumps), San Francisco (more walking up hills than skating), and Barcelona (they only have Spanish food), but in terms of sheer skate-friendliness and good-times-vibes, Sydney has it locked down.

At last count, there were 667 suburbs of Sydney, and each of those suburbs has a minimum of one skatepark. Some have two, and at least 50 suburbs have three or four. All up that’s about 2000 government sanctioned shred zones, which is completely insane and also a gross over-estimate; but there’s certainly no denying there are a lot of skateparks in Sydney, and for the most part – they are rad.

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Chima Ferguson, switch BS heelflip at Martin Place.

Sydney also boasts an inordinate amount of non-sanctioned spots, including such famed locations as Chifley, Martin Place, Grifter Brewery, and Dog Shit Park – the latter being most popular amongst locals, including professional skater Juan Onekawa. “We’ll go to Dog Shit and stay there all day long,” says Onekawa, his eyes glazing at the thought. “Me and my mates will have a few beers, skate, and we’ll stay there till the sun goes down. That’s a perfect day for me.”

On average there are about 364 perfect days each year in Sydney, and Onekawa puts that statistic down to the unbeatable weather. “You can skate all year round. Even in the middle of winter it’s still pretty perfect for skating.”

By far the most enjoyable place to skate in Sydney is the Central Business District, which is nothing less than 25 square kilometers of smooth-as-silk tile and polished marble. “That’s what Sydney’s good for,” says Josh Pall, another local pro. “There’s pretty much marble everywhere you go; and they’re always renovating the city too, so it just keeps getting better and better.”

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Josh Pall nosepick in front of the Museum of Sydney.

For once, Pall is telling the truth. Sydney is a city in a state of constant structural flux, and while spots get capped just as frequently as they do any other metropolis, nowhere on earth offers such a consistent buffet of new places to skate the way Sydney does. Of course, with so many spots appearing like boils on a fat man’s arse, it’s no surprise that the Sydney skate scene is one of the healthiest in the world, and Sammy Winter – yet another local pro – couldn’t be more stoked about it. “There’s heaps of new kids coming up,” he says, smiling and blowing the foam off a frosty one at The Cricketers Arms Hotel. “Every weekend you see groups of kids from all over – the northern beaches, the western suburbs, the south – and they migrate to the city because that’s where everyone’s skating a bunch. And you can skate from spot to spot and bomb little hills… that’s the best thing about skating in Sydney: it’s easy to get around, it’s convenient.”

Chima Ferguson on life and skateboarding in Sydney, Australia.

While skating in Sydney is so perfect and paradisiacal it’s almost annoying, there is one major drawback: the Pacific Ocean. According to Josh Pall, Sydney’s countless beautiful beaches can seriously hinder your skating. “The beaches are 20 minutes from the city,” he warns, his voice falling to a whisper. “You can get really distracted by them. In summer you’ll have a hot as fuck day, and be like, ‘Okay, I’m going to the beach for a bit,’ but that can ruin your chances of actually getting out and going skating.” This is a very real problem for many Sydney skaters, but there is a solution: never go to the beach. Sammy Winter recommends sleeping in until it’s too late to go to the beach, and then going skating in the afternoon. “The afternoon is the best time for skating. Get a few of the gronks together, get a few cameras, and just go out and try to film some stuff; or even just go into the city and skate around, drink some beers and have a good time. If you can get a clip that’s always a bonus.”

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Sammy Winter, FS blunt at the Museum of Sydney.

With the myriad spots, year-round temperate weather, and the only disadvantage being the siren song of world-class beaches, no wonder many skaters from around the world call Sydney their second home, particularly when their first home is offering less than perfect conditions. “When it’s winter in the northern hemisphere,’ says Winter without acknowledging the irony, “a lot of the teams come here to skate because we’ve got nice weather, and also a lot of people are going to come watch them because it’s always rad to see American pros coming through and doing demos and stuff."

The other main draw for foreigners, and perhaps the most decisive one, is the super-relaxed lifestyle inherent to Sydney. “It’s pretty easy living here,” murmurs Juan Onekawa from his hammock. “There’s always something to do – if you want to do it – or if you just want to chill it’s perfect for that as well.” Josh Pall rouses from his beanbag long enough to agree. “And there’re a lot of good spots… even though we always end up skating the same shit ones… but if you’re motivated there’s plenty of stuff to skate here, and it’s always good vibes.”

Sydney, Australia is the most skate-able and skate-centric city in the world. It never snows, barely rains, the spots are sick and the journey between them is as smooth and fun as the spots themselves. The beaches (that you should avoid) are topless, the generosity bottomless, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a more vibrant and thriving skate scene anywhere on planet earth. Back at the Cricketer’s Arms, Sammy Winters finishes his beer and releases a thunderous and praiseworthy burp before summing it up perfectly: “I feel like we’ve got it covered.”

If you do find yourself in Sydney between now and November 29th, whether you're a skater, photographer, or just have an appreciation for art and creativity, do yourself a favor and stop by the Oakley In Residence: Sydney studio in Surry Hills. More info in the link.

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Ryan Sheckler kickflip at Pyrmont.