Skateboarding by Alex T.
Skateboarding has deep roots in Toronto. For decades, young people with hip caps have been hitting the streets with their decks and have helped to create one amazingly unique aspect of urban culture. As some of the skateboarding pioneers become middle-aged and raise a new generation of skaters, skateboarding seems to continue to earn more and more credit, and many areas and stores dedicated to the sport are turning into actual institutions with the capacity to bind the community together. Check out some of the best skateparks around the city and the major specialized stores for skaters. Why not get inspired to take your old deck out from the closet and rush to the streets of Toronto?
Best Skateparks in and around Toronto
1. Dunbat (AKA Poyner Park)
Dunbat is constructed every year by a couple of volunteers and Rob Poyner. Surrounded by the lovely Scadding Park, the name Dunbat is derived from Dundas and Bathurst, since it’s located on that corner. The park is available for free and everyone is welcome to practice here.
Address: 707 Dundas Street West
East York Skatepark is a successful community project that has served the East York skateboarding community ever since its completion in 2007. The park resembles a street area bordering on a plaza with a tight five-to-six-foot figure-8 bowl. The street area includes a Pier 7 manny pad, Commerce Court-style multiple 3-sets, several larger sets, various rails and ledges, different sized hubbas, a long banked ledge (“The Wave”), and two granite caped ledges: one down the double set and one over a grass gap. The park became a true community landmark, and local skateboarders organize various events and activities aimed at making the park even better. These include annual spring cleanup weekends, mural painting workshops, and building new concrete wallrides or a polejam.
The EY park also offers many exciting programs to increase the number of young skateboarders. Kids from five to twelve years of age are welcome to register for lessons intended for various levels of skateboarding skills. In a fun way, participants learn about skateboarding styles, equipment maintenance, and terminology or skateboarding etiquette in a healthy environment supervised by experienced instructors. Kids can also apply for a weekly summer camp based in East York Skatepark and EY Skate Loft in case of bad weather conditions. Kids will also visit other parks to explore what Toronto has to offer. The price of the program is $200.
Address: 888 Cosburn Avenue
3. Ellesmere Park
Ellesmere Skatepark is located (surprise, surprise!) in Ellesmere Park. Always full of life, this nice little skatepark set in the calm surroundings of the neighbourhood can be found just around the bend in the park on the north side of Canadian Road. The park offers a great mix of transition and street obstacles that include a small bowl area connected with a vert wall, 1 6 set and 1 3 setwirth rail, two mini quarter pipes, ledges, many hips, and three different air sections. No bmx bikers are allowed in so that the safety of the skateboarders is ensured.
The Rail Skatepark is the largest indoor skate facility in the area, boasting more than 7,500 square feet. It was carefully designed by Gord Hardie of BTLv (Blue Tile Lounge). Skateboarding pros often say that the Rail is exactly what a true skatepark should look like: heaps of various obstacles smartly spaced out to allow smooth lines full of tricks. For wintertime, when skating outside on the snowy streets doesn’t seem too convenient, make sure to pop in and enjoy the night. On Tuesdays, girls skate for free as part of the policy trying to introduce more girls into this traditionally male-dominated sport.
Both group and private skateboarding lessons are available at the site. Just like other proper skateboarding temples in the city, the Rail organizes a summer camp for kids aged seven to fourteen. Besides learning how to control their boards, kids will get in touch with film making, photography, and many other fun activities that will keep them busy during the summer. The always friendly staff makes sure to keep parents included and informed about the progress of their kids to avoid any anxieties about little skateboarders’ health.
Address: 75 Carl Hall Road, Unit 11
5. Eighth Street Skate Park
The Eight Street Skatepark covers around 930 square metres and draws from the idea of an organic form that weaves naturally through the existing site. Minimal pushing is needed here, as the park features curve around the site, creating lines that flow naturally. Skaters can enjoy a variety of bowl, transition, and street elements plus skateable art all around the park, and the designers didn’t forget about the spectators either, as the seating areas are located in a safe but conveniently close distance from the action. Thoughtful design and ambient location (the west side of the park has been planted by lush vegetation to form a buffer from the buzz of the street) ensures that skaters of all styles and preferences are satisfied here.
Address: corner of Eighth and Birmingham Street
6. The Hoof-Vanderhoof Skatepark
SBC Skateboard Magazine called the Hoof-Vanderhoof park “Toronto’s best tranny.” The praise seemed to be flowing in from all sites as skaters discovered this huge bowl that was opened in 2004. The park features include a bowl with pool coping and a 16 foot over vert capsule as well as a small street area with an assortment of ledges and stairs. Skaters especially appreciate the top-notch concrete shaping and smooth finishing, as the designers of the park used the opportunity to consult local skaters about the fine-tune of the design details throughout construction. The community formed around the skatepark seems to attract all kinds of skaters, young and old, professionals and beginners, that flock in to enjoy the welcoming atmosphere of the site.
Address: Laird Drive and Vanderhood Avenue
7. Cummer Skate Park
Open to the public from dusk ’til dawn, the Cummer Skate Park is among the best skateboarding spots in Ontario yet it’s free of charge. The park features a combination of ramps for all levels of skateboarding skills, a six-foot bowl, a series of various boxes, slopes, and grind rails. Constructed in 2001, the concrete in the park is still relatively new, and no cracks or inconsistencies are visible since maintenance is on a very high level. Skateboarders of all ages come to practice and it’s not unusual to see a five-year-old and his forty-year-old dad on the deck next to him. While all of this looks like Cummer Skate Park is a skateboarding heaven, there’s one negative. The park is so popular that it easily gets overcrowded, especially on sunny weekend afternoons, so it’s recommended to come during the weekdays if possible.
Address: 6000 Leslie Skatepark
Best Skateboard Stores
With roots tracking back to one of the most progressive (now defunct) indoor skateparks in Canada, Common Ground, and a respectable team of skateboarders linked to the store, Cardinal Skate Shop has been a hit store ever since its opening in 2010. Everyone who walks into the store recognizes immediately that it literally belongs to the skaters. Cardinal Skate’s loyal clientele of riders keeps coming back and helps to create the spirit of the spot. Besides skateboards, Cardinal Skate Co. is one of only a handful of Roller Derby Stores in Canada and the only one in the GTA.
Address: 940 Bloor St West
For more than 20 years, So Hip It Hurts has been around to supply the skateboarding community with the best equipment. Over time, the store has become a legend as a pioneer and main trend-setter of the Toronto scene. (Their slogan says it all: “We don’t jump on the bandwagon, we f***in’ drive it.”) Located downtown, the friendly staff and large selection of gear stocked with lots of hard-to-find brands supplemented by top-class customer service seems to make everyone come back again and again.
Address: 323 Queen Street West
Hogtown Extreme Sports
Hogtown Extreme Sports is probably the oldest store specialized on skateboarding in Toronto and definitely one of the most respectable ones. Since 1984, Hogtown has supported the local skateboarding community. As some put it, if you can’t find what you want anywhere else in Toronto, you ultimately head over to Hogtown. The only possible drawback is that sometimes associated with this store is the fact that the attitude of the staff and the overall “oh so cool” atmosphere of the store tends to be a little off-putting.
Address: 401 King Street West
Blue Tile Lounge is certainly one of the best spots to shop for skateboards, as they offer a large variety of high-quality boards with a great selection of different designs. Experienced staff members clearly know the trade they’re in very well and willingly assist and answer questions. Blue Tile is also known for having one of the best skate teams within their community, including big names of the Canadian scene like Corey Sheppard and Morgan Smith.
Address: 396 College Street
Open seven days a week, Hammer Skateboard is the place for all levels of skateboarders. This tiny shop established in 2004 is packed with decks, shoes, hats, and stickers and everyone is welcome to come and pick her favourite pieces of equipment. Hammer staff is committed to helping and advising all types of skateboard lovers at any experience level. It’s the true antithesis of a huge and impersonal mall store.
Address: 2225 Queen Street East
Sanction could be described as a friendly franchise. Not too big or sterile like some other chain stores, Sanction remains an independent shop that looks clean, well organized, and welcoming for whole families. Some of the major skate brands can be found here, including DC, Element, Lakai, and Independent, so that everybody has something to choose from. Furthermore, if customers get bored with the wheels, Sanction has an amazing offer of snowboards for wintertime adventures.
Address: 2978 Dundas Street West