RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – An upcoming documentary titled “Goodbye to Richmond” looks to give viewers a chance to see the local skating scene like never before.
The film is part of the “Hello From” series by Red Bull Skateboarding, taking viewers into the heart of local skating communities around the world. Previously featured stages include Johannesburg, London and Philadelphia.
The film’s director, Jonathan Mehring, is an acclaimed film director as well as a Richmond local and VCU alumnus. In 2021, Mehring released a short document called “Walls can’t keep us from flying” about two young Palestinians skateboarding and growing up under occupation in the West Bank.
“Goodbye From Richmond” premiered with a sold-out performance at the Theater at Grace Street on Tuesday, April 4, but will be available to everyone on Monday, April 10, via Red Bull TV and Red’s website.
Travis Pulley — who was previously involved in the documentary — says he’s been skating in Richmond since 1984. Although the landscape has changed, with old spots disappearing and new ones emerging, Pulley says the scene is more alive than ever.
“There used to be no orchard left here,” Pulleius recalled. “Skateboarding in the streets.”
Over the past few years, the local squat scene has exploded with interest from a new generation. Pulley says the city should embrace it because of the attention it has brought in through tourism and local businesses.
“Skating is social,” says Pulle. “We don’t have a lot of social spaces anymore.”
Mehring said he had been in conversation with Red Bull for years about making a documentary in Richmond. He said he has a strong relationship with the data company going back to around 2004 when he first started paying them for free.
“I felt like I was a good person to do.” [the film] because not only did I have a history here, but I had also been going for 20 years,” Mehring said of the film. “So I was also just discovering the city. I had stuff to learn, but I also knew a lot of information.”
Mehring said his favorite skate spot is the “River Bowl,” a small DIY shallow concrete pond built in the space between the train tracks and the James River.
“Who is crazy about that idea?” Mehring joked.
In the documentary, Tyler Brady says he got the idea to build a bowl when he found a concrete slab on top of a pipe at the river bank. One of his friends got up and carried bags of concrete all the way to the parking lot from the far side. In Mehring’s documentary, at least one skater can be seen losing his board over the embankment and causing it to fall into the river below.
“It just goes to show, these people are freaking dedicated,” Mehring said. “He’s awesome. I love him.”
What sets Richmond’s scene apart from others, according to Mehring, is the rugged terrain and difficult infrastructure.
“They’ll have nothing, you know, no matter how bad it is, the more I like it,” says Pulley on the board. “Give us some trash and we’ll squat.”
Residents say these poor skating conditions are also what’s fueling Richmond’s unique focus on DIY skateparks like Texas Beach — which started as a concrete project with a few boxes and wedges.
“It’s been done, like six iterations since then,” says Chris Burke in the documentary. “I will destroy the last, the city has gone before, and it is committed to us to let what we want and build.”
Other skate spots included in the documentary are: Trust Filters, White Walls, TF, Midlo Pit, Lost Crater, 28 Street Skate Park, Bike Lot and South Skate Park.
“The roads in Richmond are spots, like, really grim,” local skater Jonquil Moore says in the documentary. The sentiment echoes through nearly all of the interviews.
It also documents local businesses such as the nearly-20-year-old Venue Skate Shop owned and operated by Maury Blankinship in Carytown.
“I’ve noticed a change in the scene over the last few years,” said Payton Saltz. “With the amount of girls that are out there. There’s definitely more than there used to be.”
This seems to agree with all letters; The future looks bright for Richmond skating.
“The little kids are super into it,” said local skating icon, Gilbert Crockett. “I feel like skating is in good hands here.”