U-M grad releases book on history of Ann Arbor skating scene

A recent University of Michigan graduate has released a new book, titled "Skating Tree Town," that celebrates the history and culture of skateboarding in Ann Arbor.

Valerie Le, an art major, decided to create the book for her senior studio project after rediscovering her childhood interest in skateboarding during the COVID-19 pandemic. Le says she's been "interested in skate culture from a young age," when she got her first skateboard at age 8 from Toys R Us. But she says she didn't "really start skating" until last summer.

"[With] quarantine happening, I was like, 'Okay, I think I want to actually put some time and effort into learning how to skate and actually do some tricks,'" she says.

Le's renewed interest in skateboarding led her to learn more about Ann Arbor’s skateboarding history, and to make it the focus of her senior studio project. Le researched "Skating Tree Town" by interviewing local skaters she knew, as well as those who reached out to her when she posted about the project on social media. She had the opportunity to talk to notable local skaters including Dug Song and Trevor Staples, who helped start the Ann Arbor Skatepark initiative. Le also researched by looking through old newspapers and Googling information on local skate shops.

100% of the book’s proceeds will be donated to All Girls Skate, an Ann Arbor program that helps young girls learn how to skateboard with experienced older instructors. 

"I knew I wanted to have some kind of community and social impact with my project, and I thought that this would be the most direct way to do so," Le says. 

Le says All Girls Skate helps eliminate some of the "intimidation" girls might otherwise feel at a skate park.

"Especially as a beginner, I definitely feel that [intimidation] even though I’m older," she says. "But I think this is a really positive environment for young girls to learn how to skateboard."

Le hopes her project will help people recognize Ann Arbor's "vibrant skateboarding culture and history."

"Obviously I’m kind of a newcomer to skate culture, but I didn’t realize how diverse and old it was, since skateboarding really started around the '60s and '70s," she says. "Ann Arbor has always been a part of that. I hope people just appreciate skateboarding as an activity and an art form."

"Skating Tree Town" can be found on Le’s website or at local stores Olympia, Vault of Midnight, and Book Bound

Maria Patton is a lifelong Ypsilanti resident. She is currently a student at the University of Michigan, working towards a bachelor’s degree in communications and media. You can find more of her work in The Michigan Daily, where she is a columnist for the Michigan in Color section. She can be reached at pattonma@umich.edu.

Photo courtesy of Valerie Le.
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