An Environment For All


AJ Waters shows off some skills.

Marisol Trujillo, Reporter

AJ Waters a transgender skateboarder, has always wanted to create a safe place for anyone of any sexuality, gender identity, race, and more. He achieved this dream in 2019 by opening Stronger Skatepark. AJ has been skateboarding for over 20 years and found it hard to find a place to skate where they felt comfortable. Until in 2012 when he moved to Portland, he found a skating community called Skate Like a Girl. In turn, found the most diverse than they’ve ever seen in a skating community. So he knew that in creating a skatepark for everyone, he had to make time for people who are often left out. 

What’s different about Stronger Skatepark is that it’s an indoor skatepark which is often rare in the Northwest. They are also open to anyone of any skill level and have special sessions on Thursday nights. These different special sessions include spaces for only women and trans folks, anyone who identifies as LGBTQ+, beginners, and more. These sessions are on different Thursdays, so please see their website for more information. A safe space like this is immensely important, especially for youth. Respect is a huge priority here. That includes using everyone’s correct name and pronouns. Bullying or bigotry is not tolerated here. According to their database, they have over 600 people ages 14-18 come to the park. AJ says, “Places like this where queer youth can fully express themselves are too rare. And for queer folks to know that they have people in their lives that fully respect their identity, make them both physically and mentally healthier”. 

Stronger Skatepark is more focused on building a community rather than making the best skaters. Kids need to realize that exploring yourself is okay, and it’s important to have a safe place to do so. AJ says “When I created this space for other people, I didn’t realize I was also creating the space for me to explore and accept my own queerness.”