Find out how local women are shredding fears through skateboarding
Update April 2021: The next Shred Your Fears class is scheduled for Sunday, May 23, 11 am – 1 pm. Register online here.
Tucked away just steps from the busway in Swissvale, Switch and Signal Skatepark has become a welcoming haven for skateboarding. From skateboarding pros to novices, the park welcomes all walks of life to jump on a board and get rolling.
From Bowling Alley to Skate Bowl
“This has been in the works for a long time,” explains Switch and Signal’s owner Kerry Weber as he looks out over the expansive indoor skatepark. The Washington County native always had dreams of opening a skatepark or shop, but the location had to meet some of his strict parameters.
“It’s important that kids nearby can walk there, get there on their own,” explains Weber. Whereas most indoor skateparks are in hard to access industrial areas where visitors need a car (or a parent to drive them) Swissvale’s neighborhood is walkable, with access to public transit, and a mix-income community that could benefit from community social space. “It’s not another bar, everyone can spend time together here.”
When the bowling alley previously occupying the space closed in 2017, Weber got to work transforming the space from alley to skatepark. The skatepark opened in February 2018, and visitors with a keen eye will see the elements recycled from the alley, including the coffee bar crafted from alley wood, and bumpers and gutters serving as wall decoration. Ramps were built from old 2x4s in the bowling alley, and some graffiti from the boys resetting the pins at the end of the alley is still on display.
Weber’s intentionality and commitment to sustainability is seen in small touches across the park including tiling around made from recycled board decks and the snack bar serving vegan sweets and snacks.
Skating Switch and Signal
The build of the park pays homage to iconic skate spots in Pittsburgh and across the country. An omnistone bank in the corner is reminiscent of a spot Weber used to skate under 229 in the Northside, and the peach ledge in the middle of the park mimics a ledge downtown on the Mellon Building on Grant Street.
Skaters can bring their own boards and equipment, but the $12 entry includes a skateboard rental–giving visitors a chance to try out different types of boards and builds before settling on one.
Anyone Can Learn to Skate at Switch and Signal
When it comes to learning to skateboard, “it’s not about age, it’s about the desire to do it,” says Weber. “The best skateboarders are the ones who enjoy it so much that they can’t quit.” The fear of making a mistake or hurting yourself can be a huge barrier for most beginners, but Switch and Signal wants to break that down for visitors. As part of its mission, the park has a wide swath of educational programming and special sessions so all guests feel welcome to ride.
We're excited to announce our Adult foundations skate class! Perfect for folks who've always wanted to skate but don't…
The first Monday of the month is the Adult Beginner Sessions, where newcomers can learn to get more comfortable on skateboards. Visitors can rent all the equipment they need to get started, and there’s always an experienced skateboarder on hand to offer assistance if needed. It also gives newcomers a chance to build community, explains Weber, “it’s often easier to come back when you know someone there.”
12 and Under Skate Sessions take place every Wednesday evening and Saturday morning. This is when skateboarding becomes a family affair, Weber encourages parents sticking around to “grab a helmet, board, and a waiver and go out with your kid.”
From 5 p.m.-9 p.m. the second Sunday of each month is the Womxn & Grrrl Session, where women, trans and non-binary folks welcome and encouraged to attend. In a male-dominated sport, “We’re trying to lift up those who don’t traditionally fit the skater mold,” says Weber. “Every type of skater should feel good in this space.” The final Sunday of the month from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. welcomes beginner and pro skaters 30 and over.
Switch and Signal also offers half and full-day camps for ages 5-13 on most days of, half days, and early dismissals for Pittsburgh Public and Woodland Hills School Districts. When the winter arrives, they’ll keep an eye on two-hour delay and snow day cancellations, opening the park up early as a place for kids to spend the day.
Shred Your Fears
After watching her kids at the skatepark, Maya learned to skateboard and has been organizing other workshops to get women, women, womxn, femme, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming people to try skateboarding. Events for 2020 have been on hold due to COVID-19. Follow Shred Your Fears on Facebook and Instagram @shredyourfears for updates.
Both asking for support and accepting help are so humbling —but needed to succeed. Who’s got your wrists if you need a hand?
Know Before You Go: Switch & Signal Skatepark
Switch & Signal Skatepark
7518 Dickson St., Pittsburgh, PA 15218
Hours may change, check Switch and Signal’s Facebook page for updates.
- Monday 12 PM – 9 PM
- Tuesday Closed except for lessons and classes
- Wednesday 4 PM – 9 PM
- Thu & Fri 12 PM – 11 PM
- Saturday 9 AM – 11 PM
- Sunday 9 AM – 9 PM