Although the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau may not know it, Miami is a Mecca of sorts for skateboarders. Each year aficionados from around the world arrive to catch subtropical air and ride the rails and smooth concrete around Biscayne Bay, according to native son and professional skate rat Matt Cantor.
"The city has a lot of waking up to do," attests Cantor, a company-sponsored 25-year-old skateboarder and owner of Control Skateboarding Park. "Miami is always in the skateboard mags. There are no street spots like in Miami." He should know. He's the guy skating legends go to when they come to town, often staying at his parents' home in Pinecrest.
Despite Miami's growing popularity, Cantor and legions of lanky, wild-haired youths are entrenched in what they call "concrete warfare" against Miami cops, minimum-wage "assholes in golf carts" with badges, and belligerent skate punks who cause trouble.
Among the surviving hot spots Cantor is reluctant to reveal (where you're likely to skate in peace) are the rooftops of the Miami Marine Stadium and the Bayfront Park Auditorium. There are more, but skateboarders want to keep the locations "in the family."
The city's most hallowed spot, Temple Beth David on Coral Way -- the subject of numerous skateboarding videos and magazine shoots -- is no longer cool since it became well known. Now security guards there patrol aggressively. Also famous was the pavilion at the First Union Center downtown, before metal knobs were installed on the pristine handrails to drive the skaters away.
To ease the friction, Cantor unveiled Control Skateboarding Park -- 6500 square feet of concrete, halfpipes, rails, and ramps -- this summer in the surging warehouse district just north of Overtown. There, skaters can do their thing without getting hassled by cops or security. Cantor regularly hosts special events such as the Miami premieres of promotional videos, demonstrations by top-ranked skaters, and skateboarding contests. Soon, he says, the park will feature regular concerts by local punk bands and hip-hop artists.
The indoor skate zone is part of the scruffy neighborhood that is emerging as an eclectic spot for art galleries and thrift shops. Police officers even stop by occasionally to hang out and say hello, leaving the young Cantor befuddled. "It's a little strange kicking it with cops," Cantor admits. "When they were chasing me just two days ago."