15 Years of Potrero Del Sol Skatepark Article

01 SteveCaballero Jul08 Dawes DZ Header 1Chevys, apple pie and Cab on the 4th of July—it doesn’t get much more American than that. One of the best frontside inverts at one of the finest skateparks on the planet. 2008     Photo: Dawes

Potrero Del Sol in SF, AKA La Raza Park, used to be where gangs would jump in prospective members. Back in the ’70s, the site was simply known as “The Lot.” A milk factory once stood on the property, and after its demolition locals from The Mission reached out to the property owner, getting permission to party on the premises and hold lowrider events. Inspired by People’s Park in Berkeley, CA, the community worked towards getting The Lot legitimized as a public park. An amphitheater was built and La Raza Park was born. The lowrider enthusiasts held it down for years, but the city neglected the park’s upkeep and the facilities degraded. The bathrooms were always closed and people started hanging out there drinking all day—then you started seeing a lot more red bandanas. A lot has changed in the past 15 years since the skatepark opened. On July 2nd, 2008, Jake Phelps and then mayor Gavin Newsom cut the ribbon and it’s been on ever since. Potrero is now an accepting space for everyone who wants to come hang. I’ve seen some crazy shit go down there, though. I once saw a guy smoking some angel dust next to the street course. His eyes rolled back in his head, then he pulled down his pants and stood there with his hog out, staring at the park while the locals ignored him and kept skating. You’re not gonna see that in the suburbs.

From Jake and Danger to Raney and Ronnie, the park has played host to some of the rawest to ever ride

02 PotreroConstruction May09 HudsonConstruction of "The Old Man Bowl" as Grindline's Sage Bolyard called it

03 DSC 1583Big fanfare on opening day

JakeAndGavinNewsom Trash Sep08 DZ 1600Overlord Jake Phelps with Gov Gav back when he was the mayor of SF. Opening day 2008

05 BA FRONTSMITH1JPG HudsonBA used to be at the park all the time. It was so sick   Photo: Hudson

Potrero Pullquotes The cast of characters is always varied and entertaining 2000

06 TNT Jan09 Morford DZTNT gets first dibs on the top rope with a backside boneless   Photo: Morford

07 RavenTershy Aug09 Hammeke DZRaven Tershy makes his debut with a dive-bomb Indy at Toad and Salmon's Chili Bowl contest, August 2009     Photo: Hammeke

08 PotreroPanoNew DZ smallHow she looks today

The scene at Potrero today is thriving. Aside from all the graffiti and a few cracks, the park is holding up great. The pool blocks grind as good as ever and the lines are still endless. There are lights on until 8:30 PM and the cast of characters is always varied and entertaining. You might be skating with a high-school principal one minute and a convicted murderer the next—or your favorite pro could show up on a random Tuesday. Some skaters come and go like the seasons, others are there every day. Some latch on to the vibe and get comfy real quick, others take their time getting into the fold. The beauty of the park is that it’s simply always there for you. Wanna have a barbecue on a nice sunny Sunday? Potrero is calling. Can’t think of anyplace to skate? It’s a glorious default. Whittier Skate City only lasted three years. You had to pay to skate and full pads were required. You had to slap copers on your trucks so you wouldn’t damage the coping. At Potrero, you might find two open fires raging simultaneously on the same night. Copers? Hell no. You can have a beer with skating pioneers like Mike Archimedes and Camden Scott—no wristbands or membership cards required. Maybe just bring along an extra twelver for the locals, though. Can’t hurt.

09 NickTyrrell Potrero Shattuck DZNot all Potrero locals are deadbeats and derelicts. Nick Tyrrell was awarded employee of the year at Anchor Steam Brewery. His front rocks aren’t too shabby either

10 Finn PotreroJune2023 Shattuck SmlGrant Taylor + Brent Atchley = Finn Pope, FSA

11 LaraBotto Potrero Shattuck DZLara Botto will tell you that the people at Potrero are some of the nicest you’ll ever meet.You can trust her; she’s a shining star. Frontside feeble

Potrero Pullquotes You Might See Two Open Fires Raging Simultaneously On the same night 2000
12 Wheatberry Potrero Shattuck DZLike Candyman or Beetlejuice, say his name three times and he will show up: Wheatberry, Wheatberry, Wheatberry!

13 AdearAndAlex Shattuck LrgThe bench

14 DSC 1400Always a few friendly faces around

14 Kenyatta 2000Don't get it twisted, Kenyatta's loc'd out, too

15 ArcoAndCamdenScott Potrero Shattuck DZLiving legends—Mike Archimedes and Camden Scott

5 Great Potrero Locals 200016 Peabody Potrero Hudson DZBackside assault on the bank wall    Photo: Hudson

Ryan “Peabody” McWhirter
The Bod doesn’t live in SF anymore but he’ll always be associated with Potrero. He was the first to unlock a lot of tricks at the park and was heavily featured in the early P-Stone videos, which served as the world’s introduction to the spot. Ryan now builds skateparks for Grindline. I think he’s pretty much one of the bosses over there at this point, and it all started with Potrero—meeting the crew when they were building it and letting them know he wanted in. We miss you down here, Bod. Come on back.

17 SeanGutierrez Potrero Shattuck DZFSO on SF's nod to Jersey

Sean Gutierrez
Sean’s been at the park since the day it opened and is still ripping it. He checked off a lot of NBDs, too. Sean’s one of the sharpest, funniest guys I know. His gruff reputation precedes him, but he can be a real sweetheart. If you come at him genuine he’ll be genuine, too. Glad we’ve still got him here to oversee the whole operation.

19 JoseDiegoBanderas Potrero Shattuck DZSteep and slightly crusty nosepick

Jose-Diego Banderas AKA Dia
Dia is a true Mission local, born and raised. Almost perennially unemployed, he’s clocked more hours at the skatepark than anyone else and he’s such a character—possessing a high-pitch nasally voice that he’s not one bit self conscious about. He’s always singing, dancing and acting silly. One of the finest drunk skaters I’ve ever seen, he’ll take runs completely blacked out which just fires him up for a second wind. For Dia, the measure of a life well lived is the amount of time spent with his tribe, and I think that’s kinda sweet.

18 ShayMartinson Potrero Shattuck DZFence-high frontside ollie 

Shay Martinson
A regular-ass dude walked by one day while we were all sitting on the bench. He said to us, “Man, I was here yesterday and there was this guy from Alaska skating. He was making this place look like Disneyland!” That’s Shay. He never stops skating. Shay milks every inch of the park and his enthusiasm is contagious. And despite the look on his face—which is always deadly serious—he’s having a blast every time he steps on his board.

20 MarcusRoss Potrero Shattuck DZBack lip down at the far end bend

Marcus Ross
You’ll know him by his laugh: “Haaaaa-ahhhhhh-ahaaaaaaaa!” There are no breaks, it’s just one long sound. Marcus is a real one straight out of the Alemany projects and he’s put in countless hours at the park. He’s the kind of guy who speaks in soliloquy—it’s like an internal monologue but he’s saying it out loud to no one in particular. Hell, he might even be talking about you while you’re sitting right next to him. Don’t get on Marcus’ bad side—he can hold a grudge. If you see him, fire up some weed and pay your respects to a real ’Frisco cat.

Line Potrero

Check the wreckage from current locs and visiting pros in this raw vid from PDS REPORT

21 ElijahAkerley Potrero Shattuck DZPhelper’s glasses can be found about ten feet behind the spot Elijah is launching from. Fence-grind challenge off the small juker, Stoned Spork is the current ruler of Potrero

22 Maddie SmlMaddie Friesen, frontside axle stall with that confidence you just love

23 Matt FirstPass LrgMatt Mehl, booyeah transfer across the whole bank wall

24 Mussel SmlChris Russell, ollie to fakie with plenty of free fall

Potrero Fun Facts 200025 Potrero JakesGlassesUpClose Shattuck DZ
  • So far, the only kid to start skating at Potrero and go on to become pro is Lil Dre.

  • A pair of Jake Phelps glasses are embedded in the concrete of the park. You can see the outline of the frames in the quarterpipe that lines the perimeter.

  • Danger, Peter Gunn, Sage Bolyard and Albino were all on the build crew.

  • The closest store is two blocks away on 24th street. There used to be a spot right across the street that sold singles of Heineken for a dollar and homemade burritos for five bucks. It was truly a golden age.

  • The Potrero Del Sol community garden right behind the skatepark was once a hippie commune called The Farm. They had punk shows there with notable acts such as The Dead Kennedys, The Mentors and Bad Brains.

  • Either by some bureaucratic miracle or through The Phelper’s sheer force of will, Dreamland designed the park and it was built by Grindline.

  • The only person to do the ‘Nandez gap is Chad Fernandez, whom it is named after. The gap is from the deck of the kicker ramp over the hubba and it’s pretty massive. Chad blasted it in ’08 after the Bust or Bail event at the Bernal Heights 16 stair. Apparently he still had some showmanship juice left in the tank. After landing it, he threw up his hands and stuck out his tongue in a flourish of glory that I’ll never forget.

26 PotreroFunFacts NandezGap Shattuck DZ
27 Raney Smithvert Shatttuck SmlRaney Beres commemorates 15 years with a proper Smithvert at the big anniversary party, July 2nd 2023

28 FrankLien Verts 15Year ShattuckFrank Gahllager is awesome. You say Bust, he says How high? Big lien above the horizon at the 15-year anniversary session

I remember the first time I saw Jake roll into the deep end. He said, “Watch this.” The memory is burned into my brain forever—toe side into the corner. When P-Stone would come to town it was always magic. The park could have been dead for weeks, but he’d get everybody rev’d up. It was beautiful and the money coals were a given. Tricks were definitely gonna go down, as natural as Preston’s hearty chuckle you can hear over the footage. Those times were really special. The contest that Raney won was also great. He pulled out so many rad tricks. Jake was barking in his face as he flew through the air. Raney gave a lot to that session. I remember seeing him throwing up afterwards; he was all in. I truly believe Jake made this place happen for the city. I don’t think it would have turned out the way it did without him. Grindline and Dreamland outdid themselves and the taxpayers really got their money’s worth with this one. It’s easy to take for granted, but Potrero Del Sol is one of the finest public institutions SF has ever had. We’re 15 years in and with any luck it will last another 100. Hope to see you down there.

29 ChrisCope Potrero Shattuck DZChris Cope did this hop-skip invert in the dark because the city shut off the lights as punishment for all the fires, broken glass and Satanic graffiti. The lights have since been reinstated. You can’t extinguish the flames of stoke

30 DSC 7360Familia
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