WORDS: STUART GOMEZ
One of the greatest pleasures in life is getting your hands dirty. Physical labor—the most elemental way of getting shit done—is immensely satisfying. When it comes to skateboarding, whether it’s a partially drained bowl or a soon-to-be-Bondoed crack, the sesh is so much sweeter when you have to work for it.
The Levi’s Skateboarding team knows all about the mechanical joys and healing properties of getting down to the nitty gritty. The venerable denim brand has been planning DIY builds since 2012, dedicating resources and elbow grease to underserved communities all over the world. The list of locations and scenes that have been impacted by the Levi’s DIY program is especially impressive considering that this is a relatively new initiative, and a novel one at that: each team rider pitches in, building or rebuilding spots and parks—from Bolivia to New Zealand—shoulder to shoulder with the locals in each scene. Then, after wiping the sweat from their brows, they enjoy the fruits of their labor.
Al Partanen has been working with Levi’s on these DIY builds since the beginning, lending his expertise and helping to cultivate the team (which includes Josh Matthews, Pat Moran, Joey Pepper, and Marius Syvanen). Partanen’s criteria for choosing team prospects is simple: “The Levi’s vibe is guys who are down to work, who are into the whole vibe, and are down to contribute to the culture.” (For the selection of Joey Pepper, Partanen says, “He’s a legend, and he’s not afraid to work.”)
That’s not to say that these trips are all work and no play. The most recent build in Mexico is an example of the balance that Partanen and Levi’s strive for, equal parts concrete mixing and celebration (Partanen says, “The builds are always a celebration!”). They broke ground at the newest park, cutting the ribbon with the city’s mayor, at Sonora’s Puerto Peñasco in March. They found the time to also build several new DIY obstacles at the existing park and also hit the streets, encountering a lot of rad spots with the local skaters.
Levi’s is following up the success of the Puerto Peñasco project with two proposed projects in the United States (previous U.S. builds include Oakland, California, and the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota), Detroit, Michigan, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin—the city responsible for Partanen. Future Levi’s builds will include locations that are near and dear to the riders’ hearts, tying into their individual hometowns and telling their personal stories while also giving back to their communities.
In a way, it doesn’t even matter where the Levi’s team decides to cure their ‘crete. They could whip out their trowels anywhere and it would still be benefiting skateboarding on the whole. Partanen’s philosophy on these geographically-diverse builds, no matter the size, puts it in the perspective of someone who appreciates the work and reward that goes into a life skating.
“I love skateboarding,” Partanen says. “Skateboarding’s given me this wonderful life and I love being able to contribute to the culture that’s given me this life.”
Job well done.
The video features JOSH MATTHEWS, DAN PLUNKETT, MARIUS SYVANEN, AL PARTANEN, PAT MORAN, JOEY PEPPER, and CRISTIAN RAMSBURGH.
Check out Levi's Youtube channel for an alternate edit by Jason Hernandez, focusing more on the locals and what these build projects mean to the communities they effect.