Skateboarders meet at Oakland park for “queer skate day”

A skateboarder cruising up one of the ramps at Bella Vista Playground.

Arlie Sarnicola, Staff Photographer

OAKLAND, Calif. — A local group based out of the Bay Area is trying to make the skate community a safer, more welcome place for budding new LGBTQIA+ skateboarders.
Unity Skateboarding was started in 2017 by friends Gabriel Ramirez and Jeffrey Cheung. Although they started in the Bay Area, there are now “queer skate days” in other states as well, including Pennsylvania and New York.
Cheung and Ramirez advertised their events with simple posters including a location and a time scribbled on them in sharpie. Whoever showed up could hang out, make some friends, and learn the ropes if they were brand-new.
Since then, Unity has grown in popularity, drawing more skateboarders of all ages, backgrounds, and skill levels. Adidas even partnered with them to produce a Unity Skateboarding apparel line in 2020.
Their most recent skate day was held at Bella Vista Park in Oakland on July 17.
The meetup attracted a decent crowd, with around 60 skaters in attendance, of all skill levels. The more confident skaters shredded the rails, ramps, and half-pipes, while smaller groups of newcomers practiced on the periphery of the park.
Everywhere, skaters who needed guidance were met with help, as those with more experience recognized their reluctance and approached them, offering tips on how to find their balance or learn a trick.
The poster for the July 17 event (featuring an illustration by Jeffrey Cheung, whose art can be found on Unity skate decks and the groups’ website), advertised “all levels welcome,” and it was apparent that they meant it. Old and young skaters alike mixed and supported one another all throughout the park.
The welcoming environment could be traced back to Unity’s manifesto, which states on their website: “Unity Skateboarding is here to represent and support queer skaters. You are not alone!”
Towards the end of the session, a raffle was drawn in which several lucky skaters won decks and skate shoes. The group regularly gives away skate gear, prioritizing queer people of color first and foremost.
The group typically hosts skate days monthly, and information on location, date, and time can be found on their Instagram @unityskateboarding.