With the inclusion of Skateboarding in the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, it is an exciting time for the skateboarding industry.
In this edition of BNQT Inside Access, Tyler Tate of T Squared Action Sports sits down with California Skateparks Founder and CEO Joe Ciaglia. Ciaglia has brought his combined expertise as a renowned landscape designer and deep roots in skateboarding for nearly two decades, earning the trust of the top skateboarders in the world including Tony Hawk, Rob Dyrdek, Ryan Sheckler, Shaun White and more. To the mainstream, he is best known for the Guinness World Record for the World’s Largest Skateboard and as “Joe C” on MTV’s Rob Dyrdek’s Fantasy Factory.
Tyler: Joe when you look at where skateboarding has been in the past and what the future holds, especially with the number of events that continue to be added to the competition lineup and now including the Olympics, where do you think skateboarding can go and how does it remain consistent?
Joe: I am a firm believer in the Olympics. Some people in skateboarding are mixed, feelings wise, on the idea of skateboarding being a “sport” because within the industry it’s just viewed as skateboarding, nothing more and nothing less.
For me, I think that a lot of the professional athletes who are skateboarders have become great role models for young kids and skateboarding has allowed parents to see that guys who skate are great guys and that skateboarding is not a bad thing. That over time it has shed it old stereotype. Due to the exposure of skateboarding, it has allowed for the comfort level of parents to see that there is a lot of potential to be had in the sport beyond just the active health aspects of skating.
Tyler: You have been in the industry for over two decades and you are one of the designers for the skate parks using more of a landscape style design. How did you get to where you are at in your career and how has your career helped to shape the skateboarding industry?
Joe: The first park I built was here in California and it was very generic. Nothing was built higher than 4 feet. My goal always has been to design a park that comes from the design of a skateboarder first and not an architecture first design.
I also had a landscape background so at the same time I thought the parks should include what you find in the streets of your own neighborhood. It allows for people to see that skate parks can be a natural addition to the everyday environment found within the community.
Before 2008 most of the competitions were showcased on a lot of wood courses. I thought that these professionals should have the opportunity to ride on what they are used in their community and on the street and that is concrete, so we started to add that into all of the designs to create the best skate experience that’s also world class and esthetically pleasing to the eye. By creating this look for a skate park it has triggered cities to begin adding these natural looking playgrounds to their cities.
Tyler: There are different companies that build skate parks all around the world. What makes California Skateparks so different?
Joe: What makes me different from others is that when we first begin the process of building a park in a community, we go to the community first to ask and listen to what they want. We want to make sure we build what works for them. We are not building skate parks for us; we are building it for them in their community.
The other thing that has helped us a lot is our experience in building and designing professional event courses. So when a community wants to host one of these events, they reach out to California Skateparks to do the design because of our experience and our close relationship with the professional riders. We work deeply with the pros in what we can create for them to create a challenging course but a course that allows them to be at their best.
But lastly, as we do this, we also want to design the course that can be used for big time competitions, but to leave a legacy within the community that the riders can grow into and use for years to come.
Tyler: Skateboarding at its core is simple, four wheels, one board. But over the years the science of the board and the science of the designs around the parks have changed. Explain this evolution in both.
Joe: There is a small margin for error within skateboarding as the sport has evolved. For us, if we don’t provide a quality surface to ride on in our designs then it just doesn’t work. So where we focus on is the design allowing for great riding lines and creating flow within the course.
With skateboarding you want good spacing allowing for all types of tricks, you don’t want things to steep or to mellow either. Now obviously there is a huge variety in the style of skateboarder that is out there so we try to create a course that gives every type of rider options and opportunities to grow and excel.
Consider the designs for the mega ramp, that small margin of error I have already referenced becomes even smaller and we have to focus on the science of engineering and listen to the riders to make sure that the ramps we design are not only safe, but can actually be ridden. We work closely with the guys that have developed the sport like Danny Way and Bob Burnquist.
I think we are doing a great job with this because if you look around at the quality of skateboarding now, kids are better than ever and getting really good at a younger age.
Tyler: This year, California Skateparks is involved in a lot of competitions around the globe. Where can people come out and see your designs?
Joe: We started the year with the Vans Park Series Pro Tour at the Australian Open of Surfing, and we are thrilled to team up with so many elite action sports companies as their course designer and builder, including Vans, IMG, ESPN, Dew Tour, Street League Skateboarding, the US Open of Surfing and more so come out to any one of these events and you can see first hand the quality of course we put together and see the best riders in the world compete.
What is most exciting is the see the expansion of new markets that we get to build in around the globe including stops in Germany and even the new X Games stop in Minneapolis, We get to share our love for skating with all types of communities and that is why we continue to do what we do. To see the expressions of the kids and to see the appreciation of the community is a great thing to be a part of.