A wall of shiny, new skateboard decks sits behind the cash register at Skateworks Los Altos. One deck has “Blood Wizard” emblazoned in gothic font across a royal blue background. Packaged Spitfire wheels and Independent skateboard trucks are displayed beneath the glass checkout counter. On the other side of the store hangs a wide Skateworks poster above a four-foot-tall skate ramp — a currently empty gathering spot of both new and seasoned skaters.
When summer of 1988 came to an end, Jason Strubing visited a local skate shop in Santa Cruz with his mother and brother to go back-to-school shopping, despite the store’s reputation for being rude and intimidating. After a negative interaction with one of the workers there, Mrs. Strubing demanded her sons put back all the items and declared that they would never return to the shop again.
When Bill Strubing, Jason’s father, found out about his family’s negative experience at the shop, he decided to start his own local shop with a more welcoming feeling. In September of 1988, Skateworks opened as a family business in Downtown Boulder Creek.
“The foundation of our business is ‘leave your attitude at the door,’” Jason said. “We want to be a welcoming place, we all share the love of skateboarding.”
After being a salesman at a western wear clothing store, Bill had no trouble in starting the shop. During the shop’s inception, Strubing and his crew began sponsoring local skaters like Matt Contreras and now-pro skaters Israel Forbes and Ron Whaley.
Lately, Skateworks has been representing more local femme skaters, bringing attention to an underrepresented part of the skate community. Sponsored skater Sophia Murphy started working at the Santa Cruz location right before the pandemic started, and is thankful to the shop for spotlighting her skills.
After growing close with the Strubings, Bill trusted Murphy to manage the Santa Cruz location, the company’s social media, and recruitments for latest sponsorship recipients.
“I was making the team list of people I added and [Bill] was like ‘Why didn’t you put yourself on there?’ And I was like ‘Oh, well, I didn’t know I was part of the team,’” Murphy said. “He was like, ‘Well obviously you’re already on the team, I thought this was an unspoken rule.”
While the shops in Redwood City and Boulder Creek eventually had to close, there are two locations remaining — one in Los Altos and one in Santa Cruz, close to Mike Fox skate park.
Sebastian Sanchez, an employee at the Los Altos location, used to come to Skateworks to skate the ramp until,one day, he jokingly asked to work at the shop. To Sanchez’s surprise, Jason and Bill needed more employees at the 32-year-old shop and offered him a position. Sanchez spoke on the many different opportunities presented to him while working there.
“You get more involved with the skating community. […] You get to meet pro skaters and you meet people from shoe companies and sales reps and all that stuff,” Sanchez said. “You realize how small skateboarding is and how connected it is.”
Before the pandemic, Skateworks held private skate lessons at their Los Altos location. Beginners could borrow boards and helmets, and get comfortable on the ramp or in some outdoor spots. Today, Skateworks has new guidelines for COVID-19 safety precautions, with private lessons held in an outdoor parking lot and only available for one or two skaters from the same household. Skaters are instructed to bring their own masks and gear, including pads, helmets, and skateboards.
Most skaters who come to learn are between seven and 11 years old. However, all ages are welcome to take lessons.
“The shop itself is hands-down my favorite shop. And not just because I work here, but because it just has always had a more welcoming environment. […] Skate shops can be so intimidating,” Murphy said. “It’s just never like that here because Bill has intentionally made it not that way.”
If you’re interested in learning how to skateboard or improve your skills, fill out this form for a lesson request.