By Erin Valois
The artificial light from the parking garage spills into the concrete basin. Two skateboarders sit side by side on the opposite ledge after their session. One lights a cigarette and they both stare into darkness at the edges of the park, listening to the sounds of downtown. They look at each other and nod, acknowledging a silent satisfaction with the past half hour’s tricks and falls. One throws his cigarette into the middle of the cement circle and the embers swirl with the dust. They leave as they arrived, on their skateboards.
Meet Lake Devo’s alter ego: the Pond.
At Lake Devo, there is no skating in the spring and summer but at the Pond, these are the only times for skating. It has waxed ledges for riding, a selection of obstacles and a smooth surface.
The bottom of the Pond tells a story; the etchings on the cement are like soapstone carvings, caused by years of grinding and slams.
But the Pond is slowly losing its prestigious reputation. Murky brown puddles surround the far edges of the basin and election flyers, tree leaves and Tim Hortons cups float on the surface like dead fish.
“The drainage is pretty bad when all the leaves are there — it’s impossible to skate,” Andrew Norton says. “When the Pond is dry, every skater will come.”
Norton is an editor for SBC Skateboard Magazine. The Ryerson student is taking a year off from the photography program to shoot for the magazine and is an expert on the Toronto skateboarding scene. He has had the benefit of both skating and shooting at the Pond, wet or dry.
Besides problems of cleanliness, the Pond also faces decreasing popularity. The park was extremely popular with skaters a couple of years ago, but the noisy construction of Toronto Life Square, drainage issues and better available skate parks has sent them elsewhere.
The problem was compounded when Devo was closed for more than a year and a half while Heaslip House was under construction, barring skaters from the Pond.
Harry Gils is a freelance photographer and former editor of SBC. When he first shot at the Pond, it was for an issue that showcased different hot spots in Toronto. This was also the last time Gils shot at the Pond, since different areas are now more popular.
“Before, there was nowhere else to go,” he says.
In the Pond’s heyday, anxious skaters waited every spring for their valued sanctuary to be drained and open for business.
“It’s a big open area. You can stay all day, set up obstacles and skate the ledges,” Gils says. “The ledges are low and this makes it a good place to learn tricks.”
One of the Pond’s lasting attractions is that it is a place where skaters can go without the fear of being kicked off of the premises.
“At other places, you have 15 minutes at the most before security comes and you are kicked out,” Norton says. “When I was growing up, I would go and I could skate for the entire day. At Ryerson, the security guards just watch you.”
It is still a place to meet with friends and spend the day learning new tricks and making videos, especially since there is no rush to leave.
“It’s a place to meet, chill and skate,” Norton says. “I remember there used to be a webcam on the Ryerson website that had a view of the Pond. You could check the status of the Pond and see if other people were skating. It’s just really cool.”