Teen Rediscovers San Francisco’s Enduring Skate Spot: EMB
This piece was written and produced by Nate Dolan, a student at El Cerrito High School, for KQEDâs Youth Takeover Week.
Iâve been skateboarding since elementary school. One of the biggest things Iâve missed during the pandemic has been going to one of my favorite skate spots, the EMB at Justin Herman plaza in San Francisco.
Nate Dolan, a student and skateboarder at El Cerrito High School. (Courtesy of subject.)
Last year, I took my recorder out to capture the sounds of the Embarcadero skaters. Itâs been pretty quiet over there recently, but with the state opening back up, the skateboarding community is bringing it back to life.
In 1972, Justin Herman Plaza was built by Don Carter at the East end of the Embarcadero center in San Francisco. This plaza contains the Vaillancourt Fountain, an ice skating rink in the winter months, and a nice open space for nearby workers to congregate while on breaks. A visitor I spoke with at Justin Herman Plaza said, âYou get to be in the middle of the action downtown.â
But Justin Herman plaza is also home to San Francisco’s most famous skate spot. âEMB,â as skaters call it, is full of ledges, stair sets, and gaps. The spot first gained popularity in the early nineties, and as skateboarding began to grow, people from all over the world came to the Embarcadero to show off their skills.
According to another skater visiting the EMB, âItâs a legendary spot to come and skate.”
Nate performs a “manual” on his skateboard. (Courtesy of Nate Dolan)
Through the nineties, EMB remained popular, and new spots in the plaza were discovered. Mark Gonzales, a famous pro skater, created âThe Gonz Gapâ there.
The objective of this trick was to go from the top of one particular wall, ollie off and over a ten-foot gap, and land. There was also the âHubba Hideout,â a set of six stairs with ledges on either side.
These spots were so legendary in the skate world, that they even appeared in Thrasherâs 1999 video game “Skate and Destroy.”
Though the skate scene at the plaza has changed since the nineties, you can still find skaters of all ages skating the plaza. Another EMB skater said, âI think itâs just as popular today as it ever has been.â
The famous Embarcadero skate spot is a huge part of skateboarding culture, but for skaters, itâs just one part of San Francisco’s massive skate scene.
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