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Bird’s eye view of just a fraction of Skatelab’s sprawling complex| Courtesy of Stephen A. Cooper
Bird’s eye view of just a fraction of Skatelab’s sprawling complex| Courtesy of Stephen A. Cooper

Skatelab: Serving Up Skateboarding History And Fun In California

Picture of Stephen Cooper
Updated: 21 September 2016
In sleepy, suburban, Simi Valley, California, there’s a dusty, behemoth-sized, industrial-looking building, whose only adornment is a small sign over its entrance that announces to visitors – almost exclusively skateboarders, skateboarding aficionados, and their families – that they are about to enter ‘Skatelab.’ Given its low-profile locale (about 35 minutes from downtown Los Angeles) and underwhelming façade, first-time patrons of Skatelab – home of the Skateboarding Hall of Fame, a skateboard museum, and one of the first indoor skateboarding parks in the United States – might initially be disappointed. That changes the moment they cross Skatelab’s threshold into the ‘Tunnel of Love.’ 

Skatelab's "Tunnel of Love" |Courtesy of Courtesy of Stephen A. Cooper

Skatelab’s ‘Tunnel of Love’ | Courtesy of Stephen A. Cooper

Skatelab’s front hallway, the ‘Tunnel of Love,’ is wallpapered with a dizzying array of skateboards of all sizes, colors, and construction. It’s a mind-boggling collage, and an indicator that Skatelab is a place that takes skateboarding (its history, and its free-wheeling, free-spirited athleticism) seriously, but always with an emphasis on having fun.

As detailed by roadtrippers.com, Skatelab ‘has a collection of over 5,000 vintage skateboards,’ as well as a warehouse worth of skateboarding, scooter, and old bicycle memorabilia, artistically displayed in the small but well-conceived museum on Skatelab’s second floor. Exhibits and skateboarding art are also displayed throughout Skatelab’s store (replete with reasonably priced skate gear), and in its overly crammed office area.

‘I’m always getting new stuff,’ said Skatelab co-owner Todd Huber in a recent interview with The Culture Trip. Indeed, the genesis for Skatelab grew out of Huber’s desire to preserve and display the massive collection of historic skateboarding memorabilia he’d amassed from all over the United States since he was teenager. Teaming up with co-owner Scott Radinsky, a renowned professional baseball pitcher with whom Huber skateboarded with in high school, the pair opened Skatelab to house the museum, and eventually the Hall of Fame, christened in 2009.

Legendary skateboarder and Hall of Fame inductee Tony Hawk's old skateboard and a rare second-place trophy Hawk donated to Skatelab | Courtesy of Stephen A. Cooper

Legendary skateboarder and Hall of Fame inductee Tony Hawk’s old skateboard and a rare second-place trophy Hawk donated to Skatelab | Courtesy of Stephen A. Cooper

Huber explained that he and Radinsky also wanted to create a space ‘where people can come and skate and do whatever they want, and they’re not gonna get yelled at.’ Skateboarders, who these days include everyone from young children to middle-aged professionals looking to stay fit (and young), are often unfairly stigmatized. Despite the fact that skateboarding has been credited with everything from strengthening diplomatic and cultural relations between Cuba and the United States to empowering young women in Afghanistan, Huber observed that skateboarders are perennially portrayed as troublemakers and perpetual slackers. Constantly, skateboarders are being yelled at, ‘You can’t skate here, you can’t skate there’; Huber affirms, “No one gets yelled at at Skatelab. You just come and have fun,’ adding, ‘We remember kids’ names here, and we’re always genuine. You can’t B.S. a kid.’

Skatelab co-owner Todd Huber | Courtesy of Stephen A. Cooper

Skatelab co-owner Todd Huber | Courtesy of Stephen A. Cooper

With this governing philosophy plainly subscribed to by Skatelab’s gregarious and extremely professional staff, it’s no wonder Skatelab has achieved such impressive longevity despite the cyclical nature of the skateboarding business. Opening the skatepark up to scooters has also been a boon, according to Huber: ‘We used to turn the kids who came on scooters away, but we don’t anymore. And now, on any given day, you’ll see just as many kids with scooters as you will skateboards.’

Being close to the bright lights of Los Angeles but remaining unassuming, and somewhat undercover for those who don’t know about its existence, Skatelab’s profile has benefitted immensely from its celebrity patronage: professional soccer player David Beckham, pop singer Britney Spears, Kiss rocker Gene Simmons, folk-singer John Fogerty, O.J. Simpson prosecutor-turned-author Marcia Clark, and actor/rapper Will Smith, are just some of the celebrities known to drop by Skatelab with their kids. Huber noted that the only adhesive sticker on the back of (one of) Beckham’s all-black Cadillac Escalades reads simply: Skatelab. Moreover, Huber observed that ‘business goes through the roof’ whenever mega-star Justin Bieber comes by – often uploading snippets of his skate sessions to Instagram.

As LA Weekly eloquently described: ‘Skateboarding was invented under our Western blue skies; with the notoriety of Venice’s Dogtown skating crew, its history as a sport was pretty much solidified here. We’re also privileged to have [Skatelab,] the first and biggest skateboard museum in the world.’

Open seven days a week, it’s always best to check Skatelab’s website for the precise times of its multiple daily three-hour skating blocks, and also to find out about its many events, promotions, classes, and other special happenings taking place throughout the course of the year. Three-hour skate sessions cost $10, and all-day passes are $17. Three-hour group lessons of all skill levels can be purchased for $30 an hour, and one-on-one instruction can also be arranged. Visitors can bring their own scooters, skateboards, helmets, and safety pads, or these can all be individually rented from Skatelab for additional reasonable rates.

4226 Valley Fair Street, Simi Valley, CA, USA, +1 805 578 0040