The Del Mar Skate Ranch
August 1978-July 1987
Words: Dave Swift
Let’s start this little historical piece out by letting you know that the Del Mar Skate Ranch was not the best built skatepark of it’s era. Got it? As a matter of fact it wasn’t even close. But what it lacked quality of terrain it made up for in atmosphere. From the get go DMSR had a reputation as one of those parks you just wanted to hang out at because of the weather and it’s proximity to the beach’remember that back in 1978 surfing and skating went hand in hand. The park was designed by IPS (Inouye’s Pool Service) staffers Tom Inouye, Chris Strople and Curtis Hesselgrave but the actual construction was farmed out to the lowest bidding contracter. And obviously IPS didn’t get to do much critiqueing while the park was being constructed (at least with modern parks they are generally designed and made by skateboarders; a good lesson learned from our storied past) because although it was very rideable and looked sweet in photos; most of the bowls (runs) were pretty horrible. From the get go the two most functional areas were the reservoir (banked area in the front of the park) and the infamous Keyhole. The two other decent bowls were the Kydney (a replica of North County’s legendary Kona Bowl) and the long rounded lip halfpipe.
The skatepark boom was nearing it’s end at the time of Del Mar’s construction in the spring of 1978 (I think it was the last skatepark to open in the greater San Diego area during the first skatepark boom of the mid to late seventies) and by the time of the park’s second birthday in 1980 the only other skatepark open in the county was Oasis. That’s right Spring Valley (Skateboard Heaven), Carlsbad, Vista (Surf De Earth), Escondido (Whirlin’ Wheels), La Mesa, and El Cajon had closed their doors for good thus creating a SD rivalry between the North Coastal skaters (Brad Bowman, Owen Nieder, David Eckles, Sonny Miller, Aaron Astorga, Gator Rogowski, Kyle Jenson) and the Down Southers (Billy Ruff, Pineapple Saladino, Dennis Martinez, Gino Tocci, John Tuisl, Stelmasky Bros, Dave Andrecht, Layne Oaks, Tony Hawk, Chris Black and Ken Park) This was a rivalry that quickly ended in late 1980 when Oasis closed it’s doors for good and Ruff, Andrecht, the Stelmasky’s and Pineapple transplanted their skating north to the Skate Ranch. The others it seems just flat out quit skating for the next twenty or so years.
By the time 1981 rolled around only a handful of parks remained in the whole of California where just two years prior their was upwords of 100. And those still open in 1981 were all in Southern California (San Diego and LA County)’Marina Del Rey, Whittier (Skate City), Paramount, Lakewood, Anaheim (Big O), Pomona (Pamona Pipe and Pool), Colton (Skate Ranch) and Upland (Pipeline Skatepark). By year’s end only Whittier (closed in January 1982), Del Mar and Pipeline were left as open and rideable skateboard parks. The skateboarding industry had hit rock bottom at this point and even the few open parks remained so because it was more costly to close and doze them than to keep them open.
From 1982-1987 Del Mar and The Pipeline were the focal point of California skateboarding and became the destination’s of choice for hardcore skateboarders around the globe. On any given day you could meet skateboarders from places like; Florida, New Jersey, Massachussetts, France, Spain, Amsterdam, Australia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Canada, New York, West Virginia, Texas, Arizona, Great Brittain, Germany, Ohio, Tennessee just to name a few. Skaters would get one way tickets to San Diego and literally find themselves living at the park for several months (the High Ball courts were the hotel’s of choice). As a local during this period you’d always have someone new to skate with and learn about the skateboard culture outside California.
By the time skateboarding’s popularity began to blossom in the mid-to-late 80s The Del Mar Skate Ranch began having some serious issues from it’s insurers. Around 1983 they were dropped by their original coverage and if it weren’t for the time and energy that Park Manager Chip Morton took to find a new insuror, the park would have surely closed it’s doors for good in 1983’Thanks Chip! The insuror that saved the day was none other than The Boy Scouts Of America but at the end of each and every policy the park staying open was always in jeopardy.
From 1985 until closing it’s doors for good in July of 1987 the park did what looked like from an outsider a pretty darn good business. On the weekends the place was jammed with shredders from all over SD and beyond. When the hammer fell in July of ’87 it wasn’t insurance that closed the Del Mar Skate Ranch, it was the property’s owner (who’d just sold some of the land to a hotel developer) who decided that the type of clientele the park and neighboring trailer park did not fit in with the future plans. So without much notice the gate to the concrete was locked (pro shop, arcade and mini golf remained open) and skating became of a thing of the past. Less than a month later the bulldozer’s came and reduced our second home to a pile of rubble and dirt.
RIP DMSR August 1978-July 1987.
1978-1980 The Pioneers
Tom Inouye, Chris Strople, Brad Bowman, Ed Economy, Sonny Miller, Bill Billing, Owen Nieder, David Eckles, Aaron Astorga, Steve Sherman, Kyle Jenson, Leigh Parkin
1981-1984 The Most Hardcore
Tod Swank, Dave Swift, Owen Nieder, Dave Duncan, Mark Gator Rogowski, Tony Magnusson, Ken Park, Billy Ruff, Adrian Demain, Gary Hahn, Gary Sherril, Grant Brittain, Chris Black, Tony Hawk, Reese Simpson, Steve Steadham, Dave Bedore, Graeme Stanners, Pete Finlan, Marc Hostetter, Leigh Parkin, Josh Nelson
1984-1987 The Last Great Ones
Dave Swift, Tod Swank, Owen Nieder, Dave Duncan, Mark Gator Rogowski, Tony Magnusson, Ken Park, Adrian Demain, Chris Black, Tony Hawk, Gary Hahn, Reese Simpson, Steve Steadham, Billy Ruff, Graeme Stanners, Bruno Herzog, Jordan Richter, Peter Hewitt, The Weez, Cory Federman, Paul Votava, Steve Claar, Jason Jessee, Russel (?), Lori Rigsby, Mark Waters, The Scientist, Bobby and Chris Latko, Mark ‘Cheese’ Hamilton, Danny Way, Marc Hostetter, Jason Parks, Josh Nelson
Out Of Towners That Were Considered Locals 1981-1987:
Lester Kasai, Neil Blender, Mike Smith, Christian Hosoi, Ray Underhill, Sinisa Egelja, Bill Danforth, Chris May, Terrence Yoshizawa, Pinky (Greg Ducolon), Mike McGill, Dan Sturt, Marty Jimenez, GSD
Famous Lurkers 1980-1987
Ian Deacon, Don Brown, Bryan Ridgeway, Dave Mock, Chris Stagg, HITH (Hole In The Head), Bob Scot, Tim Noel, Doug Heflen, Garth, Katie, Michelle Park, Jamie Prescott