'Skate the Lake' event brings skateboarders together in Duluth

A free skateboarding cruise was held on the Lakewalk in Duluth to celebrate alternative transportation and International Go Skateboarding Day.

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Jayva Jordan participates in the 6th annual “Skate the Lake” cruise along the Lakewalk Sunday afternoon on International Go Skateboarding Day. More than The event was organized by The Back Alley and Damage Boardshop. (Tyler Schank /

Skaters of all ages and abilities gathered at the stage in Duluth's Leif Erickson Park to enjoy the temperate weather and cruise as a large group on the Lakewalk toward Canal Park on Sunday. Normally the skateboarding event, "Skate the Lake," is held in May as part a month of alternative transportation events for Bus Bike Walk month. But the COVID-19 pandemic prompted the organizers to postpone all the events until later in the year.

"Now that things have loosened up a little bit, we wanted to do something to get people together and outdoors," said Skate the Lake co-organizer and Damage Board Shop owner Ben Olson. "So we thought we might as well combine it with International Go Skateboarding Day and bring some people together while still being smart and socially distancing."

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Skaters hang out near the Minnesota Slip Bridge after participating in the sixth annual “Skate the Lake” on Sunday. (Tyler Schank /

Olson reached out to fellow Skate the Lake organizer and The Back Alley owner Jerome Fischer and the two threw the event together in a little over a week. Fischer said he was happy to see the event continue for the sixth year, even if it was a little later in the year.


"The concept and the reasoning behind everything is still the same. It's all about getting people outside, being healthy and trying out an alternative form of transportation," Fischer said.

The event has taken many different routes throughout the years. Some years it ends at a local restaurant or bar where there's a live band waiting to provide music. One year, Fischer recalled, the cruise ended at Bent Paddle Brewing Co.'s annual "Festiversary" celebration. The route that year started at 21st Avenue East and ended at 18th Avenue West.

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Jerome Fischer and Casey Pflipsen laugh as they participate in the sixth annual “Skate the Lake” cruise along the Lakewalk on Sunday. (Tyler Schank /

This year's route was shorter than usual, starting at Leif Erickson Park and ending at the William A Irvin near the Minnesota Slip pedestrian bridge plaza. Olson said they kept the route shorter because the cruise was also scheduled on Father's Day, "and we didn't want to keep people all day."

For father and son Clinton and Iden Aker, the event was the perfect way to celebrate together. Clinton spent many years boarding in his youth, but only returned to the activity within the past two years. Iden only started longboarding three days before the event.

"It's something better to do than just video games, right?" Clinton said. "And it's as close as I can get to snowboarding in the summer."


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People skate down Harbor Drive on Sunday finishing the sixth annual “Skate the Lake” on International Go Skateboarding Day. (Tyler Schank /

Duluthian Felicia Lynn said she'd only recently started skateboarding as well.

"I bought my first proper skateboard last month. Never too late to learn a new skill," she said. "I'd given it up for a long time but picked it back up with quarantine."

She was glad to attend the skate event as it was a chance to "get to know the community."

"It's an individual sport of outsiders, so to see us all getting together is kind of rad," Lynn said.

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Skaters cruise the Lakewalk near Leif Erikson Park during the sixth annual “Skate the Lake” on Sunday afternoon. (Tyler Schank /

Returning skateboarder Otto Winings, 16, was excited to introduce his younger sister Gracie Winings, 11, to the event.


"I came last year and it was super cool to be in a big pack, going to the same place," Otto said. "The energy is really great."

Approximately 70 skateboarders gathered around the park before leaving en masse on the Lakewalk around 3:15 p.m. with more skaters joining as the group moved along.

Teri Cadeau is a general assignment and neighborhood reporter for the Duluth News Tribune. Originally from the Iron Range, Cadeau has worked for several community newspapers in the Duluth area for eight years including: The Duluth Budgeteer News, Western Weekly, Weekly Observer, Lake County News-Chronicle and occasionally, the Cloquet Pine Journal. When not working, she's an avid reader and crafter.
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