Mike Crum and Rob Cahill celebrated New Year’s Day with a "fun-raiser" – good food, live music and kickflips at the new 4DWN community skate park. Both Crum and Cahill are skateboarding industry vets who run the park as a nonprofit space. It’s a free skate park for all of Dallas, something that Crum says the city badly needs.
And while there is already a city-funded park in East Dallas, Crum says it’s not up to par for “real” skaters, as it’s made with plastic ramps whereas other North Texas cities have large, concrete parks. He says this one will fill a void for skaters in the city’s center.
The name 4DWN stands for “four wheels down” which is short for a successful landing after a trick. The park’s purpose is to be a positive space for young skaters to find confidence and a community. It sits on a large plot of land near Fair Park and includes an indoor skateboarding facility, a stage for live music and a giant vertical ramp. Crum says there’s an additional outdoor skating space and even a community garden in the works.
“Our vision for the place is basically a community center, with the heart of it being skateboarding, but we want to cater it to the arts,” Crum says. “We’re really just getting started with the place.”
Cahill says skateboarding is a very open-minded art, and in that spirit he wants 4DWN to be a place where artists of all kinds can connect.
“Skating has always been like that in the sense that you have that freedom, that creative license to live your life however you want to live it — any kind of music, any kind of style, any kind of whatever,” Cahill says. “Skating is all inclusive. It’s been that way long before the world was [politically correct].”
“Skateboarding to me is the most nondiscriminating activity in the world,” Crum adds. “You can be rich, poor, black, white. If you skate, you’re going to connect with a person. That’s the beautiful thing about it.”
Crum, Cahill and their friends spent the last year building the new park from scratch – a completely DIY venture. Now Crum is focused on getting grants to fund operations.
Crum says the inspiration for 4DWN goes back to the early history of Dallas skateboarding. He started skating around 1984, right after the movie Back to the Future came out. The hoverboard in the film inspired him and many of his friends to pick up a board.
But for Crum, it became more than a fad. He got hooked and excelled at skating vert ramps, which is a hard skill to master. At 13, he was sponsored by Zorlac, a Texas-based skate company. By his early 20s, Crum went pro and even traveled to Europe.
Crum recalled the lively competitions and events held by Jeff Phillips, a legendary Dallas vert skater. Phillips’ sponsored success led him to open his own skate park in the city, which attracted up-and-coming skaters like Crum. Sadly, Phillips took his own life on Christmas Day in ’93.
By that point, Crum had moved to Los Angeles and skateboarding entered its first "dark age." For a few years, no one seemed to pay much attention to skating as a sport, much less as an art. But Crum and friends still managed to keep skateboarding alive.
“Literally we were just doing contests in little warehouses and not making money or anything,” Crum says. “When skateboarding dropped out we just got used to this underground deal.”
Then, in '95, the first X-Games competition came along. Crum was one of the first skaters to compete at the games in Newport, Rhode Island. He obtained sponsorships from big shoe company brands like DVS and Hurley. Slowly but surely, skateboarding blew up in the commercial realm.
Eventually, Crum moved back to Dallas in 2008, where he met Cahill, another prominent industry skater. At the time, Cahill was running Guapo, a skateboard brand and distribution company with a skate facility to boot. But the company fell on hard times when the industry faced another decline.
“It was like another downfall of skateboarding," Crum says. "Big brands were doing bad. It was just so hard to sell skateboards at the time."
But that didn’t matter to the two die-hard skaters, who yearned for their own place to skate. They opened a private park in the Cedars neighborhood that would eventually become the first version of 4DWN. At first, it was only for their inner circle of old school Dallas skate vets.
“The thing is, when you have something like that, everyone else who does what you do and has that sort of passion are attracted to it as well,” Cahill says. “So the irony of it all was that we were supposed to be creating space that was just for ‘us,’ but ‘us’ just included everyone.”
They decided to open the park up to the public but quickly realized that many younger skaters couldn’t afford the $5 admission.
“It kind of transformed into us helping the kids, like giving them free boards, because a lot of these skater kids didn’t have money,” Crum says.
In 2015, 4DWN became an official nonprofit organization and at that point, they wanted to expand. They obtained the keys to a new location in December of the same year, built the park with help from volunteers and opened it just last month.
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Now they plan on holding a variety of events with live art, music, fashion and even culinary arts. Among them are A-Skate, a skateboarding benefit for autistic children as well as the Jeff Phillips tribute event in late spring that raises funds for the Suicide and Crisis Center of North Dallas.
For Crum and Cahill, who got the opportunity to catch the industry wave and make money with their art, they see the park as a means to give back, uplift anyone who’s part of their skateboarding family and provide opportunities for generations to come.
“So, skateboarding got big and everyone got their little cut of it even if they didn’t skate. If there’s no money to be made they’re going to exit out of skateboarding right away,” Crum says. “We love skateboarding so much, we know that it’s going to be around forever and we want to show the true form that it is, which is just skating with your friends and having fun.”
4DWN is located at 2633 Ferris St. For more info, visit 4dwn.com.