Written by Eric Thompson
Photographs by Brad Oz
In an era where social media is the most common place for rollerbladers to interact with one another, the Northwest Shred Tour is a fresh breath of life into the Pacific Northwest scene. Preston Villanueva is a master of ceremonies in the truest sense. His ability to assemble an event packed with details so seemingly effortlessly is one which I admire and appreciate. If you’ve never made it out to Shred Tour, I urge you to experience the majestic views, phenomenal skateparks, and a weekend getaway into the Pacific Northwest’s rollerblading Utopia.
Usually Shred tour is an epic 5 day weekend which begins before and goes beyond Memorial Day weekend. It’s a time of year that a massive group rollerbladers can all get together and spend more time together than just a quick session at the skatepark or scraping for local spots. It allows for skaters to share skateparks, blade tips, beers, campsites, laughs and good times that never fail to be an adventure. People come and go if they can’t join for the whole five days, so there is always fresh energy from new homies joining the tour.
Friends trickle into the skatepark including skaters from Oregon, Colorado, California, and of course Washington. The skatepark is wavy and chill and so are the vibes. Usually everyone rolls a few joints here and there and people catch up with one another. Then after joints and skating everyone gets pretty hungry and the crew departs and makes their runs to the grocery store for supplies and then straight to the campsite.
Everyone loads their camp supplies, food, and warm clothing for the night into wheelbarrows provided by the campsite. The trail is a short half mile walk through the woods and over a bridge with a stunning view of the river below. Since we are all getting a little older and wiser — the first night ended up being pretty chill this year. The next morning everyone woke up early and Josh Acosta led the group in morning yoga stretches.
The second night Michael Braud joined the campsite. Once the Tequila came out, things got a little more wild. The next morning Gumby said he probably wouldn’t skate because his shoulder was injured from a gnarly fall just a few days before. Teague Knapton threw a huge 360 out of the skatepark to start the session off with a banger. Gumby strapped up and laced a huge backside on a sketchy concrete wall with 4 feet of vert with 450 out to drop that had everyone hyped.
We all woke up in our tents and hammocks to rain. It seemed like the day was going to be a wash, there was a quick bowl sesh that people made the best of, but the forecast showed rain at every other spot for the rest of the day. Worried that no more skating would go down that afternoon someone frantically rerouted the whole crew to a small DIY spot under the bridge.
Seattle had become totally rained out and somehow we had all pulled up to a dry oasis, it was almost magical. The session at the DIY ended up showing everyone the true nature of Shred Tour, that against all obstacles, a huge group of friends can just get together and shred.
On the third night we weren’t even sure where we would end up camping, partly due to weather, but once again Preston had a friend of a friend who was a ski instructor living just outside Mount Rainier National Park who was willing to let us all camp in his backyard. The level of human kindness I have experienced on Shred Tour has been so inspiring. A roaring white water river flowed between the mountains and the neighborhood we camped in had a beautiful trail going through the woods to the water’s edge. It all looked like something out of a dream.
Camping and waking up to your firewood being wet makes it tough to cook a warm breakfast. Fortunately the local pub opened up early to serve coffee, breakfast, and beer. The pack of rollerbladers made its way to the Vashon Island Ferry. Thirty or so car loads of skaters drove onto the ferry amongst a few local people.
Vashon Island a Seattle gem — it features an indoor skatepark, a deep outdoor pool to skate, with dirt bike jumps and a disc golf course. It’s like a level on a video game. Every time we camp there a cop comes to lock the skatepark up at night and every year they wanna kick us out. Luckily every time someone talks them into letting us crash for the night so we set up camp by the woods, just outside the indoor skatepark.
The crew woke up to a dream come true. Waking up at a skatepark. Some early risers shred, while others stretch, and the rest make their way to the last skatepark on Shred Tour. All the rollerbladers that made it to the last day were definitely satisfied with a grand finale at Port Orchard skatepark.
As the shredding winds down, bladers start to say their goodbyes and make their departures. The Northwest Shred Tour lives well beyond just one week of cement skatepark shredding. Many of us connect and become friends for life. Shred Tour is so much bigger than just a once a year event. For many of us, Northwest Shred Tour lives in our hearts and minds as we daydream about our next opportunity to experience rollerblading paradise.