The oral history of Hollywood High 16

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There’s the stairs and then there’s Hollywood High 16. In this oral history, legends of the form pay tribute to the iconic Stairway to the Finals – a historical landmark where the development of the sport unfolded.

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Atiba Jefferson, 45, photographer, director, DJ, restaurateur and skateboarder: I think the best thing about Hollywood High is that you can always drive by and see what’s on.

Ryan “Beagle” Ewing, 41, filmmaker and skateboarder: It’s nice that it’s open to the public—anyone can just admire.


Jamie Foy, 26, professional skateboarder, three-time X Games medalist and Thrasher’s Skater of the Year in 2017: It’s that accessible. Obviously, the name of the place is the name of the school. No one is hiding that place. There can be times in skating like, “Oh, I don’t want people to know about this place.” But Hollywood is a big place, and everyone knows where it is. And everyone is welcome to get their piece if they want to.


Dashon Jordan, 25, pro skateboarder sponsored by Nike, Toy Machine and Spitfire: Every time I drive by, I almost want to see it ’cause.

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“It’s one of those places that Los Angeles is a staple of skateboarding,” says pro skater Dashon Jordan.
(Sam Muller / For The Times)

Geoff Rowley, 46, pro skateboarder, Thrasher’s Skater of the Year in 2000: I mean, it’s a farce. It’s right by the side of the road. parallel to the pavement.

Paul Rodriguez, 37, pro skateboarder and actor, eight-time X Games medalist There’s an energy of history that has gone down where these historic moments happen.

he threatens jefferson: This is the Great Western Forum. Or Staples Center, really. It’s Lambeau Field or whatever iconic battleground. It’s too wild that it could exist.

Beagle: This is one of the only places in LA that will never be closed. The handrails are still there, and will never be knobbed as it is basically a tourist attraction.


Zion Wright, 23, pro skateboarder sponsored by Vans, Real Skateboards and Red Bull: It’s the same way people go to Paris and see the Eiffel Tower. If you’re going to California, if you’re going to LA, it’s definitely one of the places you’re trying to see or visit.

(Sam Muller / For The Times)

Patrick Praman, 26, amateur skateboarder, sponsored by New Balance, Real Skateboards and Spitfire: There are 16 more stairs in the world. But it’s just the right rail and 16 stairs.

Arto Saari, 41, pro skateboarder and photographer. Thrasher’s Skater of the Year in 2001: It’s a weird high block of concrete in the center of LA that doesn’t mean much to most people. Most people walk by it. They think nothing of it. It’s just another rung, another rail, whatever. But as far as the skateboarding world goes, Rails is perfect for how big it is. And how ugly it is.

Paul Rodriguez: It is a historical landmark for skateboarding. In some cities there are some buildings that cannot be touched because they are of great importance to that city. And the government avoids changing it. I feel like it’s about the same. It should be a landmark that is secure and that should never be allowed to change.

Eric Ellington, 45, pro skateboarder and owner of Deathwish Skateboards and Human Recreational Services: To me, its architecture is emblematic of what I’ve seen a Los Angeles high school to look like. There is something beautiful in this even without knowing what the history of skateboarding is. You’re just going to have to look at two sets of stairs or sit and look at the mural. It’s like an altar.

Kyle Walker slides down a rail from the top of the stairs.
There are 16 more stairs in the world. But Hollywood High has 16 perfect rails and 16 stairs. Here’s a Kyle Walker tribute.
(Sam Muller / For The Times)

Arto Sarees: In the eyes of a skateboarder, it’s an incredible – incredible – place, and it has a lot of history. While people who don’t skate probably won’t look twice [it] walking by. They are not looking at how smooth the concrete is, how correct the angle of the rail is, and what type of steel it is. Is it skated? Isn’t it? Does it grind well? or will it last?

Dashawan Jordan: I would describe it as 16 stair. This is one of the places that Los Angeles is primed for in skateboarding. You might not even be a skateboarder and you know about Hollywood or know that people have skated there or know – in some way, shape or form – what that place is. That high school has a history – it’s right there, the Mecca of Hollywood. Opportunity just carries so much weight, and it’s been talked about for years. It is definitely a piece of history.

Geoff Rowley: The first time I saw Hollywood High was on the cover of Slap magazine. It was Pat Duffy doing a nosegrind 180 down the rail that looked like it was so steep you shouldn’t be doing that trick down. This was in the early 90s. [Duffy appeared on the cover of the February 1993 issue of Slap.] And I moved to America in ’94. When I started skating all kinds of rails and big gaps and ports, I was looking for all kinds of terrain to destroy and chase. I remember that picture of Pat and going, “Why have I never seen that place again? Why haven’t I seen that place anywhere? Like, it looks like it’s in California. where is?”

Atiba Jefferson: You think about that Duffy cover – I mean, I was in high school. it was one of the things that became [something] whole night. like, wait is that place? That place, at least for me, was like this overnight success of the standard of big skateboarding, whether it was through stairs or through railings.

Photo of Atiba Jefferson on the iconic 16-staircase at Hollywood High.
“I think the best thing about Hollywood High is that you can always drive by and see what’s going on,” says Atiba Jefferson.
(Sam Muller / For The Times)

Jamie Thomas, 48, pro skateboarder, owner of Zero Skateboards and X Games gold medalist: I remembered seeing the photo. And I was like, “How is that possible? How can you fake 180 nosegrinds?” He definitely had an amazing ability – he was a pioneer of modern rail skating. He had an amazing attitude to be able to try things that weren’t possible before.

Geoff Rowley: It’s Pat Duffy’s fault that everyone skates at Hollywood High. Because he was the first to step on it.

undercover: saw it first when jamie thomas backed[side] lips[slide] Hollywood High at 16. I think that was 1999. At that point, Back Lip was like, “Wow, what else can you do on that rail? Like banging the back lip?”

Mike “The Lizard King” Plumb, 39, professional skateboarder: I was just like, “Holy s—! This dude is next level!

Paul Rodriguez: I remember we were all just freaking out about it. And I didn’t know where he was. I was 14 when that video came out. You know, I have a very bad sense of direction. i had no idea [place] It was called Hollywood. One day, I forget who I was with, I don’t know whether I was with my mother or my friends. whatever. We are driving the bus. And we drove by Hollywood High. I’m watching it: “Oh my god. That’s Jamie Thomas [spot], Oh dear me. it’s right here. I can’t believe it’s here. Awesome!” And that. It was my first feeling, “Oh, s—! That’s the place. Correct?”

Jamie Thomas: Someone once asked me: “What’s the best experience you’ve ever had while riding a skateboard?” And I’m like, I’ve done some moves in my life where I felt like they came from heaven. [Where] I was trying this and then all of a sudden I was drifting away. That euphoric feeling of getting away with a trick that you don’t even know how it happened. Otherwise too, This It was one of those moves.

Eric Ellington: funny story – gym [Greco] And I was in that session. Jamie went there to lipslide 16. He tried for about an hour, while me and Jim were sitting there saying, “Okay, you ready to move on to the next one?” And then [we] Kenny Rogers went across the street to the Roosters. It was across the street from the mail drive-in. Way before all the development and stuff. We ate a whole plate of food, sat there, looking at it and trying it. Jamie tried it for maybe 2 1/2 hours. It got to the point where it was just getting murky. You can see in the footage that it is getting dark. We went back there, and we spent another half hour, 45 minutes. so that was one of the most intense things i’ve seen [the spot],

Jamie Thomas: I just had the vision to do it. I’m like, “I’m going to do this until I do it, or until I seriously die. I’m going to do it no matter what. I’ve never really been on such a big rail.” also didn’t lip too much. And I just got into sliding rhythm, but never put it down. It started getting dark. I couldn’t even see the rails anymore. The L.A. smog was so bad the ground was kind of black. went. And I had a runway where I’d been trying for an hour or two. And I just followed the path. I could see when the stairs came up and I just bounced off, guessing where the rails But I’ve done so many things that I was like, “I’m not going to stop. I’m not going to stop until I make it or until I do the clip.”

I was trying it again and again and again and again. And I knew it was dark enough that I had to try a few more. And then I put it down and I was walking away. And I didn’t even know I was going off until I hit that little metal triangle thing the gate rode on. I jumped on it. And then I woke up and was like, “Holy cow. I’m riding This is the best thing ever. I fought for this trick. And I…


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