We recently caught up with CA Skateparks founder and CEO Joe Ciaglia. Whilst you may not be familiar with Joe himself, there’s a good chance you’ll have seen one of his companies skatepark designs, either in real life, or at Street League and the Vans Park Series. We spoke to Joe about his beginnings in skatepark design, what in his mind makes a good skatepark, design no-gos, whether we’re near over saturation and much more besides.
Interview: Jan Kliewer | Images: CA Skateparks
Taking it from the start, when you picked up your first board where would you go skate? What was the first park you skated and what did your dream spot look like then?
When I first picked up a board there weren’t really any skate parks to go to, I was a much more casual skateboarder so I wasn’t really seeking out parks. My dream spot in those days would have just been nice smooth surfaces, mellow hills, or just good curb cuts and little natural bumps and rollers.
What was the first ever skate obstacle you designed and built?
Well, the first skatepark we designed and built was for the City of Fontana and one of the key features of the park was the bowl we built. At the time cities only allowed for bowls to be four-feet deep, I flew some guys from the city up to Oregon to show them that bowls could and should be deeper and were still safe to skate. Not only did we convince them to allow us to build deeper bowls for that project, but we also integrated a shade structure and landscaping to the skate park, showing that skate parks can be aesthetically pleasing and resources for the entire community. The Fontana Skate Park won the CPRS 2002 Award of Excellence.
“We get to have the best skaters in the world testing the terrain out. This is a great way to push the boundaries and see what works the best.”
How did CA Skateparks happen? What was your mindset and motivation starting out? Has anything changed over the years?
I was designing and building custom residential projects which included hardscape, landscaping and swimming pools. I was drawn to the precision and sculptural forms of skateparks, and the Fontana Skate Park opened the door for CA Landscape and Design to branch off and form CA Skateparks. My mindset has always been precision and attention to detail, the motivation is second nature. I have always had an inherent drive to be the best at whatever I am doing, so that drive and obsession with detail hasn’t changed. But, as a whole, the definition of what a skatepark can be has changed. One thing that I am particularly proud of, that hasn’t changed a lot, is my key personnel. I have several people that have been with me 15-20 years, it’s a family. We all have learned to adapt and grow driven by innovation and quality. We learn something new with each project, and continue to evolve so that we can build on that wisdom and continue to get better at what we do.
You guys are shaping the face of skateboarding with your parks. What’s the hardest part about making a good skate park design?
I would say that the hardest part about making a good skatepark design is striking a balance between common, practical elements that are necessary for progression and unique, different obstacles. A park that is overly concerned with having equal opportunities for frontside and backside for every feature or for every ability level can end up being kind of stale, but a park that has all unique and wild elements and doesn’t consider all ability levels can end up not having as much ‘replay’ value, or can make it hard to progress. We make sure that every park that we do is different from the last one. They each have to have their own identity that is unique to the place where it is built, which can be challenging, but it is also what keeps it interesting.