- Part one of ‘Buried parks and broken bones,’ a series about early skateboarding in Victoria and Vancouver
Forty-one years ago Tim Galavan sold so many skateboards and memberships to the Saanich Skatewave skatepark it’s a wonder the Saanich skate park didn’t work out.
Parents were buying them as Christmas gifts. Galavan remembers they were lined up out the door of the Skatewave store, a modular building that Galavan and his partner Bill Leininger leased.
“At Christmas we did well, a lot of kids had the skateboard and gear on their Christmas list,” recalls Galavan, now a retired City of Victoria employee. “We did well then, moms and dads came in.”
Forgotten now, the Skatewave was a way of life for the first generation of California style skateboarders in Victoria. Skaters from Washington State and the Lower Mainland would ferry over to visit and test it out.
It was built on a piece of land next to the Cedar Hill Recreation Centre and accessible from Finlayson Street (which was only connected to North Dairy Road around the same time).
Today, it is still there, a pile of concrete rubble and twisted rebar that was smashed up and buried under 20 feet of dirt.
The story of the Saanich Skatewave is one of broken dreams and broken bones.
From his parents’ house across the street on Finlayson, Craig Hall would skate most of the way to Mount Douglas secondary where he kept his board in his locker. After school and on weekends, he was at the Skatewave until finally, someone hurt themselves and Saanich closed it around 1982 or 1983 for safety and legal concerns. Hall, his friends and his mom stood before Saanich council in an attempt to save the skatepark.
But it wasn’t meant to be. Saanich paid someone with an excavator to jackhammer the concrete bowl. It took them weeks, Hall remembers. It was filled in and turned it into the surplus gravel parking lot that it is now.
“I used to watch him do it when I got home from school,” Hall recalls.
The Saanich Skatewave first came to light when Galavan, then 21 years old, approached Saanich council in a three-piece suit he bought for the occasion on a business loan. Galavan and friend Leininger had tried skateboarding in 1976. Galavan, a Nanaimo kid, had just started a business diploma at Malaspina College when he first tried skateboarding. At that point skateboarding as a fad wasn’t new, but it was experiencing a growth as new styles of skateboards permitted better balance and control.
“Originally, we were going to do it in Nanaimo,” recalled Galavan, who lives in Cowichan Valley. “We then realized Victoria would have more opportunity. We got more and more excited and made the decision to leave school. In our last semester, we moved to Victoria. We were ‘lock, stock and barrel’ working on site locations, financing, plans, and we connected with architects in California who’d built [skate parks].”
By the age of 23 Galavan and Leininger had worked out everything they needed to do. They leased a prefabricated office that was delivered. They had the Saanich Skatewave name and logo trademarked, using the image of local skater Brad “B-Rad” Carr as the frame for the cartoon skater in the logo.
Hall and Carr were among the city’s elite skaters and were both recruited into doing rebar to help expedite the Skatewave’s construction.
“We were there from the start, laying rebar,” Carr recalls. “We were the first to skate it too.”
By 1980 Galavan bowed out and left it to Leininger, who gave it one last full season of effort.
When the membership model failed, and few skaters were paying to be there, Leininger tried unsuccessfully to sell it.
“The plan was to build a bubble, just like the tennis bubble,” Galavan said. “But that never happened.”
The rain was always a problem. Summers there were busy, but few would pay to come back for the dry days of fall and winter.
Following its closure, however, Saanich just left it open to the public. That was fine with Carr and Hall, who kept on skating. It was the summer of 1980 and it was a wild one, with free access to anyone wanting to skate or BMX in the Skatewave.
- With thanks to Craig Hall, Brad Carr, Steven Sandve, Budd Watt, and Tim Galavan. If you have more stories to share about the Skatewave, contact firstname.lastname@example.org