As the crow flies, Orcas Island is only 60 kilometres from downtown Vancouver. The horseshoe-shaped land mass is part of Washington’s San Juan Islands, where border disputes between the British and the Americans in the 19th century created a jagged, irregular international boundary. Orcas is actually further north than the Canadian city of Victoria, though the tedious border crossing, the subsequent ferry ride and the idyllic Pacific Northwest wilderness make you feel like you are worlds away from home.
In the village of Eastsound, home to just 3,700 residents and sitting at the isthmus that connects the island’s two arms, you will find the Scott Stamnes Memorial Skatepark. Scott was a legendary Washington skater and snowboarder whose life was tragically cut short by a hit-and-run in Marseille, France during the winter of 2000. The park was built in his memory, funded in large part by private donors including the late ski film pioneer Warren Miller. At the helm of the project was the late Mark “Monk” Hubbard, founder of Grindline Skateparks and proponent of skateboarding’s sacred geometry. You won’t find any of this information at the park, however. Instead, a simple plaque reads “There is no limit to the amount of good a person can do if they don’t care who gets the credit.”
Surrounded by pine forest, winding country roads, grazing deer, and the shimmering waters of Puget Sound, the skatepark is an immaculate, intimidating and inimitable structure. The central bowl features an 11-foot deep end, a massive island with a roll-over bridge, multiple extensions and more hips and corners than you can count. Surrounding this is a looping pump track jam-packed with obstacles ranging from two foot-tall tabletops to oververt corners and doorway channels. And with big, crunchy pool block adorning the lip of the bowl and the outer section fashioned with well-worn coping, you won’t find a piece of metal in the entire park. If you’re coming here to grind, you better mean business.
This unique blend of paradise and punishment is what has attracted a crew of crusty Vancouver and Victoria bowl trolls to the island every May long weekend for the past ten years. The annual pilgrimage sees anywhere between twenty and forty participants on average, with many heads returning year after year – once you exper ience a trip to the island, it is impossible not to return. With a barbecue blazing on deck, the consecutive cracking of cold ones, Slayer blasting on the radio and a deep crew of homies hungry for danger and speed, the sessions can reach truly epic proportions. Just as Monk intended, the skatepark acts as an intergalactic portal, transporting your spirit to an astral plane as you reach new heights of pure, unadulterated stoke.
Once the thirst for aggression has been sated, a scenic drive leads to Moran State Park and a dip in a sparkling tree-lined lake. Originally the estate of a prominent Seattle shipbuilder, much of the park’s infrastructure was built during the 1930s as part of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. Narrow, single-lane bridges, moss-encased roadside barriers and a castle-like stone observation tower are remnants of the make-work program that helped pull America out of the Great Depression. Then it’s on to Obstruction Pass, where a short walk leads to a forested camping area overlooking a wide pebble beach. A mandatory stop is made at Shotgun Point, with Three Inches of Blood’s “Deadly Sinners” the recommended soundtrack to this high-velocity method of beer consumption. Once the sun sets, driftwood is collected and an ocean-side fire is lit to burn deep into the night, with the sheltered waters of East Sound lapping against the shore and reflecting the unpolluted starscape above. On a good day, this all occurs without running into the fun-hating park ranger, whose red-faced, vein-popping diatribes are a buzzkill at best. Paying for a Discover Pass and keeping tents off the beach is a good start to avoiding his wrath.
With the fire blazing and laughter ringing out over the Sound, the revelries stretch on for hours. But more intoxicating than the liquor, more exhilarating than the day’s makes and slams, more breathtaking than the surroundings and more joyous than the company is the fact that tomorrow it gets to all happen again.
For the Washington State ferry schedule to Orcas Island click here.
For camping reservations in Washington State Parks click here.
Photos by Logan Henderson
Text by Stepan Soroka