By Claudie Benjamin

Nothing quite like the thrill of building up speed, flipping high in the air and then landing balanced surely on your skateboard as you skate on. 

Christopher Vidal, a long-time skateboarder and more recent skateboard entrepreneur said, recently, “I was born and raised in Brooklyn. I started skateboarding in 1986 basically on Church Avenue and Ocean Parkway. We didn’t have parks to skate in. We had Brooklyn Banks Skate Park, but other than that it was just steps, ledges, driveway humps, and whatever we deemed a new skate spot.” 

Vidal, who is now 50, never stopped skateboarding. Professionally, he followed his passion for involvement in large community-based art projects, most are linked in some way to street art and graffiti that evolved from the streets rubbing shoulders with skateboarding as its popularity grew in the US and across the globe since the 1970s. These included art installations in the Bronx and in other parts of the city. And, while his personal pursuits centered on photography, he bought and sold art online as well. 

Then, within the last ten years, the domestic aspects of his life took on huge and happy importance. He got together with Melody, a woman who is clearly the love of his life. “She is my rock” he said. Today their twins, a boy and a girl, are seven years old. His partner works in cosmetology. They live more or less around the corner from the shop Upper West Skates (UWS) that is located at 2768 Broadway.

Vidal said he spent his first six years of fatherhood as a house husband along with continuing his online art sales. By this time the skate park in Riverside Park was being revamped. Originally called Riverside Skatepark, it was later renamed for Andy Kessler, the famous NYC skateboarding pioneer, skate park activist and designer, the outdoor facility is notable as the first full-sized public skate park in Manhattan. It was originally lobbied for and designed by Kessler constructed the facility along with 20 Harlem teens who completed a workshop conducted by the Alternatives to Violence Project, and then spent five weeks working on the project. 

Vidal has a longtime affection for the park facility. “I skated there the first day (in 1996) when the original facility opened. “However,” he said, “having a neighborhood skate park without a local skate shop leaves an important part missing for local kids.” How to fix that? “I wanted to create the best shop ever where kids can hang out.”

Well, what happened is that Vidal won $37,000 as a Lotto prize. He also sold part of his art collection adding $20,000 to the total allowing him to open UWS, his small shop with a great vibe. The vividly colorful, artfully designed skateboards are understandably irresistible for many skateboarders. provides guidance on differences in skateboards and what to look for when considering options. “A skateboard consists of several parts, including the deck, trucks, wheels, bearings, and grip tape. We will discuss each of these parts and how they affect your skateboarding experience.” 

How long the boards last depends on how rigorously they are used and what tricks they are used to perform. “They can snap at any point,” said Vidal. Some skaters keep a board as long as three months, others need a new board every few weeks.” 

Not only are skateboards currently made with sophisticated materials but the tricks to watch for or to achieve through training are awesomely demanding and thrilling to see and watch. The 900 is a 2½-revolution (900 degrees) aerial spin performed on a skateboard ramp. While airborne, the skateboarder makes two-and-a-half full rotations about their longitudinal axis, thereby facing down when coming down. It is considered one of skate boarding’s most technically demanding tricks.

In addition to a wide variety of skateboarding brands, from major to more local startups, Upper West Skates also sells sneakers and other skateboarding essentials. Fully supportive of the need to ensure skateboarding safety, they also sell helmets in support of NYS Department Law that requires all children under the age of 14 to wear approved helmets when bicycling, in-line skating, skateboarding, or scooter riding. Parents failing to comply risk facing a $50 fine if their child is riding without a helmet.

Vidal is hoping that the most important footwear brands will take an interest in partnering with his business allowing him to offer the community unique and performance skate shoes – something that would be a huge boost to his skate shop and support continued vitality of a sport enjoyed by community participants. 

All in all, Vidal wants everyone to come to Upper West Skates and feel the welcoming environment in a place where everyone knows each other’s names. Although he’s proud of having some rare and exclusive items for sale, UWS stands firmly behind any skateboard sold at this all-inclusive shop where Vidal said, “anyone and everyone can come and just be themselves and know they are part of something really special.”

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