Invasion of the Sk8terbois

My lil’ island is about to have its population doubled this weekend, and the newcomers are going to halve our average age and double our clothing-per-capita yardage. They’re skaters.

First of all, you can't even see the rocky coastline from the skatepark...well, maybe the guy doing the 360 can. (courtesy

First of all, you can’t even see the rocky coastline from the skatepark…well, maybe the guy doing the 360 can. (courtesy

More specifically, they are professional skateboarders and BMXers, and an estimated 2,000 of their fans, coming tomorrow to “The Retreat at Lopez Island.” You know what? I’ll let the Skatelite Retreat website tell you:

More than 15 of the world’s top skate and BMX athletes will escape the mainland on August 17 and converge on Lopez Island in Washington State’s San Juan Islands to relax after the X Games, session on their own terms and hang with the locals. It’s called The Retreat presented by Skatelite®, the world’s premier manufacturer of skate ramp surface materials made in good ol’ Tacoma, USA. The Retreat is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to skate, ride and party with the best when they’re off the clock in one of North America’s most spectacular and relaxed landscapes.

As a former English teacher, I can’t help zeroing in on some of those verbs: “converge on?” “Hang with?” “Party?”

Ummm…has anyone told these folks that Lopez has only one restaurant & bar that’s open till midnight? Or that most of us consider a good, brisk walk with our dog to be a full day’s excitement?

Sorry, sorry, sorry. I should have started with the good news. That is the fact that the owner of Skatelite and Richlite, a wonderful man from my wonderful former town of Tacoma (no, I am NOT being ironic, thank you very much, I LOVE Tacoma), is donating an entire, brand-new skate park to Lopez Island. He’s been coming here every summer since he was a child, and he wanted to give something to our community. Skateparks are what he does, so skateparks are what he gives. It will be wonderful for Lopez kids to have something to do here during their free time other than marvel at the scenery. (Did I say wonderful enough?)

I love philanthropy. I thank our donor. His heart is in the right place.

But, speaking as one of the “locals” with whom the skaters and their entourages are coming to “hang with,” I’m a little nervous.

That top area, above the building? That's where the park's going. (courtesy

That top area, above the building? That’s where the park’s going. (courtesy


Here’s the pitch, again from the Skatelite Retreat website, about the tent city they’re setting up for all the skateboard fans:

Nothing beats camping in the San Juan Islands unless you’re camping at Camp Skatelite. We have reserved a 10 acre field of dreams for tent campers to create their own festive environment beyond the confines of The Retreat activities. Make a reservation. Bring all of your gear and get ready to party or sleep soundly in your own corner of the makeshift campsite. Bring your own food, beverages and entertainment for the off hours. Groceries are available on the island if you don’t want to pack it all in. Enjoy the luxuries of port-a-potties, water, and some food options on site coordinated by Skatelite. And don’t be surprised if one of your favorite pros shows up to hang out.

Interestingly, Camp Skatelite’s “field of dreams” surrounds the 100 year-old farmhouse where Lopez’s small community of Quakers meets every Sunday morning for an hour of silence. I’ll be curious to see what kind of music might be competing with our silence this weekend, or if the skater-fans’ “off-hours entertainment” has ’em still snoozing at 10 a.m.

I’m not a skater-hater. I have respect for any athlete, and I’m a pretty rabid sports fan myself, so I get that too. I just have my fingers crossed that this mainland, teen-marketing-driven approach doesn’t spill over in any damaging way. If we all lose a little sleep due to music this weekend, we’ll live. If the local restaurants, including my bakery, end up losing money because the skater-fans all bring their own food–oh well.

But if I see someone BMXing out on the rocks where endangered orchids grow, look out. Someone’s getting a good talking to.

I’ll get back to y’all on how this all works out. But meanwhile, any predictions? Should I just lighten up? Will a splendid time be had by all? After this weekend, do you think I might be struck with the desire to learn to skateboard?

4 thoughts on “Invasion of the Sk8terbois

    • Yep, I’ve learned what people mean when they call somebody “insular.” It’s hard not to get that way. I really do love visitors, so I’ll just try & think of this event as 2,000+ of ’em.

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