Unbenownst to the general populace, the skatepark is becoming a unifying staple within the metropolitan (and suburban) cultural camouflage of this country. The arrival of Control Skateboarding, 2134 NW Miami Ct., in downtown Miami, signals a significant spark in this city’s youth and art culture. In a city that often appears creatively segregated, especially to out-of-state students, between South Beach, the Design District, UM’s campus, and the off-putting vibe of downtown, a spacious meeting ground for skaters – people who tend to have one arm in the sugar jar of fashion, music and innovation – is bound to birth connectivity and progress.
The major player behind Control’s transformation from a Floridian pipe dream to an actual destination is owner/founder Matt Cantor, a 25-year old skater native to Richmond Heights, Miami. Cantor can pinpoint his introduction to skating with understandable precisio to the age of 8, while he was staying with relatives in Virginia over spring break. Dipping into cheesy home videoesque reminicing, Cantor remembers the day he mysteriously found a skateboard behind his aunt’s La-Z-Boy chair.
“Before then I’d heard about skateboards, and liked the idea of them, but that day it was like, “This is a real skateboard!” says Cantor.
He returned to Miami and by the age of 9 he was visiting Stone Edge Skateboard Park (now closed) in South Daytona, Florida with a small group of friends. He was enthralled by the notion that people had designed the park solely for skating, so every ramp and gap had been blueprinted for the best session possible. Older park regulars like Brewce Martin, who went on to found the infamous “woodland Waco compound,” Skatetopia, in Rutland, Ohio, skated with such speed and guts that Cantor was left stricken in awe. He would remember the positive impressions that skaters like Martin left on him when he opened up Control in July.
Before this happened, however, skating would take over Cantor’s life with equal quickness.
“I’d just go to highschool to exist, and then when it got out, it was really time to start my day,” he says.
By 19, he had dropped out of FIU and moved to California, where the skate scene was booming like an army base, in hopes of fulfilling his love by residing in its place of birth.
“I somehow conviced my parents to take a hiatus from school, go out west, establish residency and go to school,” he says. “I didn’t touch school though. I knew that if I went out to Cali to skate, I had to be about it, because skating is as common as tennis out there. Now it’s even crazier, the kids out there are just thirsty, they’re beserk.”
He gained experience and connections by working at 510 Skateboarding, a shop in Berkeley, California that is known throughout the skating community for a tight knit relationship with its clientele. After five years on the West Coast, including stints in Sacramento and Portland, that garnered him sponsors including Satori wheels and DVS, Cantor heard the call of Miami via friends constantly bamming up his cell phone to inform him about the city’s bubbling scene.
In 6 months, he was back popping tricks at his favorite spots in downtown Miami, going up north for the legendary Tampa Am contest/bash, and moving closer to his goal of founding a substantial skate park in his native city. He was glad to be back.
“This is a newer city, so you can be the first guy to land that trick at a spot that’s never been seen. The other best thing about Miami is that everyone who skates here is just dirty. No one’s rolling up to a spot looking like an extra from a P.Diddy video or a Sid Vicious impersonator. There’s no marketable image, it’s just raw,” he says.
When he broke his hand during a session, location scouting for the park became top priority. In one of the many details that Cantor sights as pure luck, his real estate broker, Martin Pinillia, turned out to be an avid skater. Together, they drove around day after day looking for a spot. After months of “groping around in the dark,” in which one deal for a location fell through and chipped their hopes, they fell upon a vacant warehouse downtown that was as a printing press in the 1930s. It was room enough for a 7,000 square foot park and a 2,000 square foot skate shop. It was perfect.
Cantor dressed up in business attire and went to the bank for a loan. Even with good credit, he was denied several times. His parents, who had always been supportive of his skating, agreed to pick up part of the bill, and with the help of numerous friends, including Jason Ranft, who built the ramps, Control Skateboarding was born.
“I really believe that there’s some creative force that’s pushing all of us. I believe that people have their paths, and I also know how lucky I’ve been to have people like my family and friends to help me with the park.”
On weekends Control is filled with skaters of all ages perfecting their art from 11 a.m. until midnight, as they zoom by brightly colored murals of animated characters painted by local artists Dustin Orlando, Francesco LoCastro and Lebo, while Ghostface Killa and LeTigre blasts from the speakers.
Contests are held on average about twice a month, where winners get loaded down in free goods and $200 for best trick. The inhouse shop carries fall lines from labels like Elwood, Aesthetics, Zoo York, and absolutely zero Nike. Charitable events are planned in upcoming months with benefits going to RAIN (Rape, Incest and Neglect) and Adopt a Teacher, and a filming for a video, entitled Odeon, is underway.
“There’s talk of the X-games coming to Miami, but the second we’re out in the real world skating those business people show no love. It’s all about the money baby, it’s not helping out with nathan. I’d burn my park down before I let it turn into some bullshit corporate spot.”
Cantor, who actually lives inside the park with his girlfriend in an upstairs loft, is open to planning future events with local musicians and artists. He can be reached at 305-576-9012. Look for upcoming shindigs in the Life & Art calendar, and help us put Miami on the map for progressive culture.
Hunter Stephenson can reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.