Wood grinding on metal, a lone skateboarder shot along a narrow metal pipe at the far edge of Hillyard Skate Park, balancing his board precariously, nothing but a bucket hat and his long, floppy hair to protect his head.
Suddenly, his balance was gone and he was flying – somehow staying on his feet as he hit the cement.
Alden Barron, 16, who has skated the bowls and ledges of the Hillyard park for years, said he didn’t know much about the man behind two of the Spokane area’s more popular skate parks, but loves his work.
“They put a lot of thought into it,” Barron said.
Skateboarding pioneer and park designer Roger Mark “Monk” Hubbard died June 8 in his West Seattle home. A legend in the skate community, Hubbard built and skated more than 400 parks around the world, with 30 of those in Washington alone. Two are here in the Spokane area – the Hillyard park, and the YMCA skate park in the Spokane Valley.
A King County Medical Examiner’s Office representative said Hubbard’s cause of death is pending. After an outpouring of condolences from fans and friends on social media, his family and company, Grindline Skatepark Design and Construction, asked dedicated skaters to share their memories and go to their local parks in his honor Friday.
Hubbard’s friends and family told the Seattle Times that his work was unparalleled, laying the foundations for skate park designs. After launching Grindline in 1992, Hubbard helped design hundreds of skate parks.
The company developed a reputation for innovation and creativity, in no small part based on its own familiarity of the sport – like Hubbard, most of the senior leadership are themselves avid skaters. Before designing professionally, in the 1980s Hubbard and his friends built about 100 DIY ramps and half pipes, according to a Seattle Times story.
Pistole Boardshop owner and Friends of Spokane Skateparks vice president Josh Yandell said the Spokane-area skate parks were designed in a way that showcased Hubbard’s passion for skateboarding.
“He’s a badass,” Yandell said. “To have that vision and then to do it, he was fearless.”
Though they never met, Yandell sees Hubbard as the original creator of the modern skate park. He said Hubbard’s style, which the company describes as “organic flow,” has influenced the way all modern parks are built.
Jordan Graham, a member of Yandell’s skateboarding team and a Pistole employee, said Hubbard’s reputation in the skating community went far beyond his designs; he was also known for helping others.
“He’s one of the better dudes in skateboarding,” Graham said. “He’s a very generous and a well-respected family man. That’s definitely rare.”
While teens vaulted over the ramps in Hillyard Skate Park behind him, Curtis Carruthers, 40, of Spokane, who said he worked as a builder under Grindline in the earlier days of the company, draped Grindline T-shirts over the chain link fence in honor of Hubbard. He said he and his brother, who also works in skate park design, grew up skating in Spokane when the sport was banned.
Though Carruthers isn’t a strong skateboarder himself, he said Hubbard’s other qualities, his generosity and the community he built, inspire him.
“I saw what he did for other people and the impressions he made,” Carruthers said. “It lives with me and it always will.”
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