Dave Waite lives and breathes skateboarding. From making everyone that steps foot into 35th Ave feel like family, to having a full skate session everyday; He is the voice of local skateboarding and is standing up against the powers that be to save skate spots. With the Longacres DIY in danger of being torn out we got Dave on the line to hear more about how to help.
Christian Alexander: Hey, what’s up Dave?
Dave Waite: Hey, Christian. Just got done with shipping all our stuff for the morning. How’s everything over there?
Christian: Good. We’ve just been busy, man.
Dave: As always. I picture you guys just being busy every day, all the time, except when you’re playing games of S.K.A.T.E. I guess.
Christian: Right. Well, busy … it’s relative. Just depends on what you’re doing at that time.
Christian: You want to just jump straight into this?
Dave: Yeah, sure. Let’s do it.
Christian: All right, dude. Let’s get things rolling. So let’s just get a quick backstory on who you are, and where you grew up, and where you first found skateboarding.
Dave: Sure. My name’s Dave Waite. I’m from Tacoma, Washington. I’ve lived here my whole life. You know the shop is in Federal Way, but I grew up in Western Washington. Let’s see, so I’ve been skating … I think like 29 years? I found skateboarding in the late 80s … I guess I did have a skateboard, a little banana board, when I was growing up. But I really didn’t find a real skateboard until maybe 1987. So I started probably a little late for my age. Most people are probably starting at like 12 or 13. I think was almost 16, so.
Christian: I feel like back then it was a little bit different, you know? Most kids now are starting at like seven.
Dave: Yeah, even younger, right? So yeah, I started when skateboarding was kind of dead. It was kind of a weird time. Street skating was probably just beginning. There were no ramps in the area, so it just was such a strange time for me really to get into skating. There was nothing current coming out, I don’t think, that was in between the first H Street video, and after like … maybe Public Domain had come out or something, or Animal Chan, I guess, had been out for a little bit.
Christian: When did you start working at 35th Ave? How did that come about?
Dave: So I’ve been working here since the end of 2001. I was a local at the store, just would come by. I had a job where I would drive a truck and be in the area every two weeks. And so every two weeks I would come by and hang out and have lunch with everybody. I worked for this ice cream company and I would bring everybody ice cream bars and when that fell through I would still come hang out the store. And just kinda got lucky and got a job I guess. You just hang out enough, that’s how the shops always been. No real applications or anything, just the right person comes by at the right time I guess.
Christian: That’s funny, that’s exactly how I started working at the DLXSF Shop. I would just hang out with everyone and I worked at a sandwich shop. Everyday the sandwich shop would close around 3, which is right around lunch time when you work at a skate shop, so I would just roll in with sandwiches for everyone and then just lurk, dude.
Dave: You’re like, “Give me stickers. I want some stickers.”
Christian: It wasn’t even like that. I was a full grown adult at that point, you know? Actually, I wouldn’t go that far. I don’t think anyone who’s a full grown adult is a skateboarder, but …
Dave: Yeah, I never had an ulterior motive or anything, you know, everybody was so cool here. And it was like me growing up down south, the shop I went to was not so inviting. And so to come up here and everybody was so cool. So I naturally just wanted to be here and hang out.
Christian: Do you want to give us a quick run down on 35th and what you guys do and how you provide for skateboarding in the area?
Dave: Rundown on 35th. So let’s see this is our 40th year in business. Kyle Finn opened the store when he was a kid out of his garage. And just kept it going, you know? He moved it to a few different locations and it was founded in a time when there were no skate shops. It definitely wasn’t profitable for a little bit. Obviously pre-internet. There was some mail order and stuff like that, but it was kinda more like multi-sport stores. Which is kind of a funny thought, you know? So we carried a lot of different stuff. We carried snowboards and skateboards and stuff. That was in the 80’s, I guess. So the shop’s been around for a long time, still going. We’ve been in this location for what, almost 20 years? Moved around a little bit, and then back here, but the store’s still growing. I think all of us here are pretty like-minded, in the sense that we don’t want the skateboards scene to dissipate if we were to go away. And then there’s also just the mindset of what can we do to keep people skateboarding and having a positive scene that’s connected and growing. It’s not stagnant, you know? It’s not like we’re just here selling a product. We’re connected to everybody. We’ve known all these people for years and years and even some people are bringing their kids in here now. So it’s very much a family. I run the store that way too. From the shop team to friends or whatever, it’s always been a big family and very welcoming. That’s how it should be.
Christian: You definitely feel like that when you go up there and see the way people interact when they’re there, you know?
Dave: Yeah, I suppose you gotta have a sense of humor and be kind of a smart ass in life, but I think we all grew up going to stores that you just did not feel comfortable at. No one said anything to you. You didn’t feel comfortable asking to look at a board or ask for shoes. So it’s like knowing all that, that’s just our goal. It’s like we’re all on the same page, everybody is equal.
Christian: I feel like you skate more than a lot of the people I know that live in much nicer climates. Correct me, I might be wrong here, but you went an entire year trying to get a full blown skate session in everyday, right? Before opening the store, you would go get an actual session in, not just like a couple flip tricks.
Dave: Yeah, I definitely try to skate everyday if my body is capable. I think I was 41 that year? I literally skated every day. I skated, not just stepped on my board and just shove it, you know? I have multiple covered options at my disposal so I would just be like, “No, I’m going to skate every day.” And so I kind of just kept it going. So that’s still my goal. I probably skate five or six days a week still. I’m 43. I don’t know what else to do, it’s all I want to do. Like that’s always been the goal, I just want to skate. I’m not like trying to compete. I’m not showing off. I just want my friends to skate and people that I miss skating with… you know, I’m inspired by other people and then someone tells me that I’ve inspired them to skate. And it’s like, well, it’s kinda my job, so I have to do it. I have to get out there and make it happen.
Christian: So the last time Nate and I were in Seattle, it was raining and you suggested we go to the Longacres DIY because it would be dry. Is that like your go-to rainy day spot out there?
Dave: It can be for sure. It gets kinda crazy, you know, because it’s one of the only options. I mean, there are other covered Seattle spots, but they’re not as easy to get to as Longacres is. And Long Acres is 100% built and funded by the South End community. So those guys, they really just give everything to that spot, as far as their money, their time. So when you go there, I would say it’s more street also, which sounds really lame I guess, because it’s just skateboarding. But you know, it’s not all the way boxed in like some DIY’s get where you’re dealing with eight to ten foot walls. I mean, that’s rad. I wish I could rip that stuff, but it’s not for me. I prefer to kind of dink around on stuff so to me Longacres is a really good option cause it’s just pretty eclectic. So yeah, I tend to go there a couple days a week.
Christian: When did people start building there?
Dave: It’s been a little over a year, so it’s come quite a long ways and I think it’s like 13 months. So, yeah, they went gung ho. The new hip they just built, it looks like it’s a skate park hip. It’s built so well.
Christian: One thing that really stood out at that spot was how clean it was. There were trash cans and everything was tidy and there were lots of rule signs. It seems like everyone has a lot of respect for that spot.
Dave: Well yeah, I think we all talked about it too. Because when you go to a lot of DIY spots. It’s like…
Christian: Like a little free-for-all sometimes.
Dave: Yeah, like the location too. If you’re in the middle of nowhere, it’s like no one cares about this you know? But that spot is a pretty well traveled road and so if you’ve got big tags or people just dumping stuff there; it’s an eyesore so it’s automatically instantly gonna get torn down. But I think that the people that are all involved, there is a large amount of respect for that spot because to those kids that’s all they have. For an area that receives rain four or five months a year they may only skate there for two or three months. Those guys have been a great inspiration to those kids, in the sense of setting a good example, like, “No. You don’t do that here. Don’t cause trouble. Don’t make a mess. We work hard, this is our spot, treat it with respect.” You go to a lot of skate parks and there’s a lot of kids that can’t be bothered to pick up their own trash. And when you go there, I’ve watched kids on trash patrol. You know, a fourteen year old kid that probably can’t even make his own lunch, but he’s out picking up trash and sweeping and trying to help keep the place clean. So it’s still that way right now. It’s very … yeah, it’s a good thing.
Christian: So that spot, is it semi-legal or just straight-up renegade DIY?
Dave: Well, it is renegade. You know they started small. They built a jersey barrier, a quarter pipe on the outside. And then they just kind of built one thing, just a little bump. And then the city started to notice and then they were like, “It’s fine by us. It’s not bothering anybody.” And then they just kept going and kinda went all in. I don’t know if that’s good or bad, but maybe they went a little too much. And then the Department of Transportation took notice.
Christian: And they own the land, right?
Dave: Yeah,It was the transient kinda gathering spot. There were people parking their RVs down there and then they put up all those jersey barriers and it kind of alleviated the problem. But they’re still down there. So the Department of Transportation, I don’t know if they even view us any differently than they would someone lurking down there. Hopefully they can see the positive energy it brings to that dead space.
Christian: I know you guys are using your Build Project bucket to get donations. And when I was at the shop some dude bought a sheet of grip for five dollars but donated ten dollars. It seems like everyone is just super down to just donate and keep it going.
Dave: That’s been the part that I think has blown me away the most. You know, this area in general is not that well off. It’s moderate. For a lot of these kids they’re like, “This is my money for a skateboard. I don’t even have anything else.” But they’re so quick to put any change they have in there. And they’re excited to give to it, you know? Does that exist anywhere else? Do you think there’s a kid that’s excited to give money to, I don’t know, his Little League? Or so they can play soccer? Or whatever their hobby is. I don’t think that exists anywhere else. I think it’s pretty rare that you have this kind of collective and no matter where your background is you’re accepted, and everybody wants to contribute equally, whether it be financially, or with donating their time and energy at the spot for a build or to help maintain it.And it’s corny, you know in skateboarding, like the DIY-y posts gets kinda abused. But really around here we’re fortunate to have skate parks, but there’s nothing covered. So when something like that pops up and you see … I see kids that are dealing with substance abuse issues. And here you have this spot where everybody is collectively, you know … No one’s hanging out doing drugs or breaking stuff, you know? Everybody is like, “I’m here to skateboard,” and everybody’s positively pushing each other. There’s cheering. Everybody skates trying to work within a group, you don’t see that that often. But it feels good when I go there and I’m so proud of my scene.
Christian: So, besides 35th Ave, a lot of the other shops, like Black Market, 35th North, are also pretty involved getting that stuff built. And it’s pretty cool to see it, everyone comes together. Do you feel like that’s always been the case in the Northwest, specifically Seattle? Or is it something thats just happening at the one spot?
Dave: I would say that we all, like if someone’s doing something, collectively we all know each other. All the shop owners, employees. So, if someone’s doing something, I think we’re all in. We’re all like this is going to contribute to helping skateboarding grow. It’s helping the scene grow and evolve, and I don’t necessarily want to say bringing awareness to it, because the people that want to know about it will find out about it. But, I think we’re all just kind of like, if something positive is happening we wanna do it, let’s just do it. Let’s make it. What do we have to do? Who’s gonna camp out there and help things stay organized? Who’s gonna organize raising funds? You know, all that type of stuff. There’s more than enough hands always. Everybody’s so willing to pitch in. I think we’re all just kind of connected as a scene, for sure.
Christian: There’s a petition going around right now to save Longacres. Can you expand on what the situation is right now? And what’s happening?
Dave: Well, so as of, what was that, two weeks ago? The Department of Transportation was down here and talked to a couple of people that were there. And they are not pleased with the developments and kind of gave them the run down. That if something doesn’t change, you know, that they had to stop building, and that they were gonna tear it out. And so one of the main people involved, he got ahold of the Department of Transportation and they’re basically saying that you have to get a permit from the city of Renton to continue with it. So we’re just trying to show the city there are people that care about what’s happening down there and that it’s a positive thing for the community and that we just want it to keep going. You know? That we would like to do it through the correct avenues so we can keep it going; have a dry place to skate. So yeah, we’re just trying to get as many signatures as we can to show them we’re serious.
Christian: So what can skateboarders not necessarily from the area do to help the cause of Longacres?
Dave: Man. I mean, I guess sign the petition. That would be great. I mean obviously we would love all the support to be more local so that we’re seeing the people locally get behind it for sure. You know? But globally, or nationally, I mean take two seconds to sign the petition and help show them that spaces like that need to be in our communities. That it’s impressive that people came together without any, you know, no one’s being compensated. It’s all, we’re donating all the funds and the workman crews to be able to make it happen and to maintain it daily.
Christian: What’s next for Longacres? Are you guys going to keep building? Or holding off until a more certain future?
Dave: Yeah, we’re holding off. There’s a meeting next week that we’re gonna try and plead our case to the city. So we’re holding off for right now. We’re just trying to keep the space organized and clean, so if they go down there they can see that it’s well cared for and that we’re not trying to make an eyesore. We’re trying to make something that is a positive addition to the community. So we’re just kinda waiting to see what happens.
Christian: Right on. I wanted to save this question for last, because it’s pretty important. But what’s the best record gift you’ve ever gotten?
Dave: The best what? Oh, like, highest donation?
Christian: No, no, no. What’s the best gift of a vinyl record you’ve ever gotten?
Dave: Jim Thiebaud, he’s really the best human I’ve ever met in my life.
Christian: He wrote that one down right here.
Dave: Yeah, you caught me off guard, you know like, when we were at 35th North he went over to this record store next door. Just, you know, because we were all sitting around talking about …
Christian: Isn’t it called Zion Records, or something?
Dave: Yeah, which is funny because it used to be strictly only reggae music and then, now it’s just kinda all punk rock and everything… Seattle is kind of whatever in some ways, but it’s definitely still this little pocket. It’s just like SF where you know things are being kind of run out, but you still have a lot of cool little stores and stuff like that, that are kind of keeping the essence of it around in some way.
Christian: So cool. Sick, Dave. Well, fuck man, thanks for jumping on the phone to do this.
Christian: Hopefully it’ll help, you know?
Dave: Yeah man, I hope I don’t sound like an idiot.
Christian: I know, I was just thinking the same thing about myself.
To support the Longacres DIY please take a minute to sign the petition.
Interview and photography by Christian Alexander.