Atlanta is no stranger to skateboarding. The individualistic spirit tied with the sport’s do-it-yourself attitude is a match made in heaven for the thriving, pulsing city. The skaters of Atlanta developed scenes winding in and out through the 1980s and 90s, always adapting to the times of skateboarding with a unique approach.
The city has bred characters such as Thomas Taylor, influential skateboarder, owner and operator of Stratosphere skate shop. The shop still operates in Little Five Points where Taylor can be found most days. His son, Grant Taylor is a professional skateboarder, and his unique style and unparalleled versatility have kept Atlanta on the map as one of the most lively skate scenes in the nation.
Some skateboarders in Atlanta skate on ramps in skateparks at Old Fourth Ward, Decatur Park or Mckoy Park (also located in Decatur) and some choose to skate in the streets.
Street skating is the rawest and most expressive form of skateboarding. Trick selection and timing, as well as how well tricks are done, are testaments to your skill as a skateboarder. In Jenkem, a popular magazine made by skaters for skaters, a comparison is made between good writing style and good skating style; “It’s the style; the combination of movements and dress and the feeling that we are seeing the real skater, simply by watching him move, that makes the ollie important. Good style in writing has the same effect. Many of us reach a point where the execution of the thing trumps the thing itself.” It is not about how hard a trick is, it’s about how you do the trick and that’s a code that a lot of Atlanta skateboarders swear by on their search for structures to skate on through the city.
The problem here is the same as it is in every city – what skaters want to skate is not always legal. Finding a skate spot where there is a low chance of being kicked out is ideal, but does not occur very often. The reasons as to why skateboarders are kicked out of these spots are pretty obvious; it’s illegal for them to be there. New buildings are immediately scratched by skaters’ boards, and “No Skateboarding” signs put up due to the City of Atlanta Code of Ordinance Sections 110-59 are ignored. Years of life are taken away from buildings because some kids want to put a video on YouTube shot with their mom’s old film camera.
Guards VS. Skaters
That’s where the guards come in. Skateboarders and security guards have a love-hate relationship. Sometimes, the guards are the enemy, (see, Mike V vs. Security Guards or Big Black—the DC Video on YouTube), but other times, there are instances where guards are out of their authoritative element, not taking the job too seriously—maybe even showing a bit of interest in what the skaters see in a piece of marble that they take their lunch break on.
MARTA security guards fill an interesting void and bring a variety of characters because they are not cops exactly and they are also not exactly mall security guards. More often than not, unfortunately, MARTA guards come to the scene, ready to give a disheartening frown and scurry the skaters away. Some skaters stay away, some come back 20 minutes later with the coast now clear, eager to get their tricks in. Some skaters opt to leave peacefully, but they almost always come back.
“I believe this kind of ‘defiance,’ skaters returning back to the spots they skate, stems from the fact that it is hard to make skaters ‘not’ do something. I believe this is due to the instance that almost all factors are against you when skating, which makes you adaptable to doing things ‘the hard way,’ even in things outside of skating,” Noah Chee-How, a skateboarder and Georgia State student, said.
The slim chance that a spot is skateable for even an hour is enough for skaters to keep going there.
Spots to check out
Atlanta is filled with many perfect marble lunch stoops, but security varies from site to site. One spot, in particular, the AT&T Midtown Center building, formerly the Bellsouth Building, is frequented by skaters and has been featured in many videos. Its most recent appearance was in Widdip Skateboarding’s Isla Voyeur. The building features a couple of stair sets and some marble ledges and walls that have caught the eyes of skaters worldwide.
Chee-How frequently skates the AT&T Building. He first saw the building and its obstacles featured in old skate videos more than 10 years ago. Chee-How frequents Bellsouth because it is so apt for street skating.
“They have pretty much every base covered in terms of skate spots: ledges, handrail, wallrides, flat gaps, it seems as if the spot itself was made for street skaters,” Chee-How said.
One spot where security has not given up on is the Peachtree Street MARTA Station. The other side of the escalator hosts a ledge that skaters have taken a liking to over the years. The ledge is easy to grind and gets higher as you go down, making challenging yourself easy. Right between Georgia State campus and the busy Peachtree Street restaurants and stores, there is a fair amount of traffic, and since it’s a MARTA Station, it has Marta security.
There are some spots where the chance of getting kicked out hits close to zero. Black Blocks, at the intersection of Piedmont Avenue and Baker Street, is a legendary spot. Skaters in Atlanta and across the world have come to warm up or just to skate. Last September, Black Blocks was fenced up and ready to be renovated, rendering it unable to skate. That was until Georgia State alumni Andrew Murrell’s efforts to contact his local government and initiate crowdfunding. The renovations were eventually negotiated with the Atlanta Downtown board and it remained free to skate after they were done with construction—keeping its history as a safe space for Atlanta skaters.
Black Blocks and the AT&T Building have proved to have one thing in common. Skaters are going to skate them no matter what.
“Regardless of the security, I do find myself returning there and skating,” Chee-How said of AT&T. “It seems illogical—from the standpoint of someone who does not skate—to continue to go there after being asked to leave countless of times, but the truth is there are hardly any repercussions to be taken seriously from skating there.”
Regardless of the impending challenge of a security guard running after them, Atlanta skateboarders have a passion for getting stuff done at any costs. Because of this attitude, Atlanta continues to have a thriving skate scene with multiple styles represented.
Skate videos featuring Atlanta hot spots
Krooked’s “Krooked Kronicles”
Threads – “Threads”
Nike SB – “Debacle”
Widdip – “Isla Voyeur”
Alien Workshop – “Mindfield” (Grant Taylor’s part specifically)
Adio – “One Step Beyond” (Ed Selego)
Locate the Skate
corner of Baker Street and Piedmont Avenue. If you don’t see the checkered floor then you’re not in the right place
675 W Peachtree St NW
Atlanta, GA 30308
Peachtree Marta Ledge
downtown on Peachtree Street next to Quiznos
Fourth Ward Skatepark
830 Willoughby Way NE, Atlanta, GA 30312