IN TRIGUED BY M Y son’s new obsession with skateboard- ing, a sport that entails aerial feats over concrete surfaces, I had to investigate to make sure this was omething I could condone. In my mind, the sport belonged to Southern California’s empty pools and
aqueducts and was better suited for super athletes like Tony
Hawk. But as I found out, there is not only a thriving skate
culture here in the Bay Area, but an interesting history, and
more than a few pros who are proud to call the “415” home.
In Mill Valley, my son’s go-to spot is Proof Lab, a bastion
of surf/skate culture a kid like him adores that contains an
indoor arena with an emphasis on safety that a nervous parent like myself loves. There’s also many outdoor parks up and
down Highway 101 and much more to the Marin skateboarding story than I imagined.
Marin County, like many communities all across the country,
has a deep skateboard culture. While the activity started in
Southern California, it also became popular here in Northern
California, where it took on a more urban-street flavor; there
was even a recognizable Bay Area style by the 1980s. From the
old Embarcadero’s unofficial skate park and the influence of
Thrasher magazine, founded in San Francisco in 1981, to the
handrails of Marin high schools, skaters here began doing
what skaters do every where — riding, flipping, grinding and
honing their tricks.
Kevin Campion is one of the earliest impresarios of skate
culture in Marin. He grew up in Terra Linda and founded the
first surf and skate shop in the county in 1984. “I wanted to
open a place where these skater kids, who had nowhere else
to go, could hang,” he says from his current skate project,
A-Town, in Atascadero. His first retail outlet had humble
beginnings, in a studio apartment in Tam Junction, but was
the first of its kind here in the county — a store that carried
the things that like-minded surfers and skaters would want to
buy. Campion combed the old Marin City flea market to find
merchandise, which ranged from surplus German army tank
top shirts to boxes of Michael Jackson sunglasses.
Eventually, the store outgrew the small studio apartment and he opened Marin Surf Sports at the current Proof
Lab location on Shoreline Highway in Tam Junction. By the
early ’90s he had three locations — Mill Valley, San Rafael
and Novato. He also started the Poorboy clothing line and
put together a team of skaters, which included many up-and-coming Marin locals.
Eric Kirkwood was one of those kids. A native of Detroit,
he moved to Marin in 1992 with a group of friends to skate and
never stopped. He currently makes a living teaching skateboarding to a whole new generation of kids. To watch Eric skate
is to watch someone fully in tune with his body. He drops in at
the edge of the indoor half-pipe at Proof Lab, his classroom, and
effortlessly glides up and down the ramp. He then works with
a couple of 8-year-olds and explains how to balance and “keep
strong” — the secret to staying on the board.
Pat Duffy grew up in Corte Madera and is regarded as
one of the most influential skateboarders ever by his peers.
He honed his skills in and around Marin, and his legendary
1992 demo tape for sponsors shows him doing unbelievable
stunts at many (and on many) local landmarks. Duffy not only
changed the way people skate, he changed the way people
thought about what’s possible for the sport and for the human
body in general. He pushed skateboarding to the next level
and was the first to show that skating huge, long handrails
was possible. He was also a founding member of Plan B, the
popular line of clothing and skateboarding equipment.
54 MAY 2014 MARIN
Opener: A skater
catches some big
air at McInnis Skate
Park. This page:
skates the Marin
Completing a trick