History of Back to the Banks
As skateboarders we have a different perspective of the landscape set before us. To the average person, a marble bench is a mere place to sit, but for us, it’s paradise. Such is the story of the Brooklyn Banks. To the everyday citizens and city planners, the brick banks under the Manhattan side of the Brooklyn Bridge were little more than a nuisance. A haven for vagrancy, vandalism and maybe a good place to house the city’s Jersey barriers, but that was all. They had no concept of how many out-of-towners had pushed through Brooklyn just to roll down those slippery, red bricks, no idea how many videos had been filmed at that locale, so naturally designed for skateboarding. No understanding how what the banks meant to so many New York skateboarders who grew up learning how to get the right amount of speed to be able to hit every inch of the banks with the right amount of force. With no idea of the Banks’ significance and with that area becoming more of a “problem,” the Banks almost went extinct. It took one of New York skateboarding’s own to show the public that what they viewed as a problem was actually a prize.
Steve Rodriguez, like many skateboarders from New York, grew up skating at the Brooklyn Banks. He knew it for what it was, an accidental success for skateboarding. It’s a spot people know by name, somewhere you can meet or end up and there are countless ways to skate the banks. It’s almost as if it was designed for skateboarding. Almost. But it wasn’t and with the less than favorable opinion of skateboarding mixing with public planning in the works, this happy accident could have been demolished for more acceptable activities. Like tetherball. Luckily, Rodriguez stepped in and worked with city officials and the local skateboarders to throw an event to prove to everyone that the banks needed to stay.
Over a thousand gathered to watch and participate in what became known as the first Back to the Banks contest, which set the precedent for every Banks contest that followed. There were no bleachers, no timed runs, no list of competitors or pauses for commercial breaks. It was just a man with a bullhorn, five grand in prize money, and a hoard of hungry skateboarders ready to shred.
That first contest showed everyone that demolishing the banks would be a great disservice to the skate community. Rodriguez proved to outsiders what he and everyone who had ever rolled down the banks already knew and secured the spot for generations of skaters to come. Each year, Rodriguez throws the contest to raise funds for new obstacles at the banks, to secure it as a skate spot and to celebrate by bringing everyone Back to the Banks.
BANKS PRESS COVERAGE