Skateboarding was a large part of teen culture when I was growing up in Houston during the 1980s. The city was understandably famous for having some of the best street skating in the country, with all of its concrete, huge parking lots, and other infrastructure that could be repurposed into a skate-able environment by young people with the guts to risk life and limb jumping curbs and flying off of makeshift ramps.
There was a well established link between skate culture and punk rock, and that was my main attraction to skating. It was exciting and fun, but I was never going to be good at it myself. Three decades later I still own a couple of boards, but I'd probably bust my aging ass if I tried anything any more ambitious than a lazy straight line ride down the block. Despite that knowledge of my limitations, I still like to walk into a skate shop occasionally. A good independent store puts me in touch with my youth, and it also confirms that skating and skate culture has rolled along fine, probably more popular now than it ever was.
You can buy just about anything on the Internet these days, and the are also big chain stores that sell skate gear, but we're fortunate in Houston to have quite a few independent shops run by folks with a passion for skating and the local skate culture. To me, it's far cooler to walk into a brick and mortar store and spend some money locally than it is to buy something, sight unseen, from a giant internet company. Besides being better for the local economy, it puts the consumer in direct contact with people who share their interests, and who can steer them in the right direction and answer questions face to face.
Surfhouse lies on the edge of the Oak Forest area, just outside the 610 Loop, and is Houston's oldest skate and surf shop, having been open since 1967. The inside looks like a jumble of old and new, with modern gear sitting next to posters dating back four decades when the shop was relatively new. I bought a locally manufactured board at Surfhouse about 15 years ago, and they have always been friendly and helpful. There is an obvious excitement about skating and surfing permeating the walls of this store, and it's well worth taking a trip.
Carve is located in a small strip center in the heart of the Heights, and its size is deceptive from the outside. What looks like a small shop, turns out to be a much larger place once you journey inside. Owner Scotty Sheridan opened the Houston location in 2008 because he noticed there was no place in town to buy longboarding equipment, a passion of his. Carve also offers skaters a pretty cool and unique service - they will put an image of your choice onto a board. So if you ever wanted a skateboard with your uncle Jack's face plastered across it, they can hook you up. Not interested in selling clothes or other peripheral junk, Carve focuses on an enormous selection of boards and gear. It's a skate shop run by skaters for skaters, and the shared energy is electric.
3. Reserve Supply Company - 2205 Washington Avenue This place bills itself as a men's clothing store, and it is, but Reserve is centered around skateboarding, vintage motorcycles, and bicycling, and it's a a pretty cool combo. When I visited, there was a cool early '70s Triumph motorcycle in one corner of the shop, skate decks, and vintage style modern motorcycle helmets. It's definitely worth a stop while checking out the local skate scene.
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Kingpinz has a lot going for it, including their own brand of skate decks, and boasts the largest selection of skateboards in Houston. They're also Texas' only snowboard specialty store, a major plus for those individuals that actually get to see snow very often. Kingpinz is one of the cooler skateboarding retailers in Houston, and can accommodate the needs of skaters of any style and skill level. The store is well known for offering quality gear and great advice, and has a loyal local customer base.
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Southside has three locations - a skatepark and two retail shops, one in Sugar Land (located at 1930 Hwy 6 Ste. A 77478), and another in the Woodlands (at 19073 Interstate 45 77385). Both of those can set up any skater with gear and clothing for their ride, before they head down to the affiliated skatepark on Iowa street to put it all to use.
These are but some of the shops local to Houston and the surrounding area that cater to the large and growing population of skaters hitting the city's streets, parking garages, and other great skating environments, searching for a physical form of kinetic artistry. Where some people might look at Houston's ample concrete infrastructure and be critical that the space isn't used differently, avid skateboarders have long known that our town offers them something special. The local independent skate shops are a huge part of what continues to inspire a strong skate culture here, and they deserve the support of those who choose to make Houston's sidewalks and streets their own blank canvas for self expression.