One Man’s Plan to Restore Balance to the Universe Through Skateparks
As the owner of one of the largest skatepark construction companies in the world, Mark “Monk” Hubbard says skateparks are “a tool to the universe to even out the positive and negative energies that rule the galaxies.”
On a classically damp Seattle day near the turn of the last decade, skateboard legend Mark "Monk" Hubbard stood in galoshes and raingear at the center of a skatepark he had nearly finished building. But Hubbard, the owner of Grindline, one of the world's foremost skatepark design and construction companies, wasn't pouring concrete or readying a finishing trowel. Instead, he was accompanied by a man who held a homemade contraption of tubes, light bulbs, and copper. They waited for the device to make some sort of movement—a twist or a beep—signaling that it had detected the spiritual and universal energies of the park.
As hoped, the homemade device moved. A lot, Hubbard says, and the significance of these movements were not lost on the man—Hubbard can't quite recall his name—holding the device.
"He was just tripping," Hubbard said. "He kept saying, 'This is heavy stuff.'"
The pair spent the day plotting the park's "ley lines," alleged energy alignments between significant places in a given area. Anecdotally at least, ley lines served as prehistoric paths between two locations, whether leading to water or connecting two important ceremonial buildings for a tribe. The lines still exist today, Hubbard says, and resonate with powerful energy—the kind of energy the man whose name he can't remember found that day at the park.
"He was the guy who could maybe see things that nobody else could see," Hubbard said.
For those who know him only by reputation, the image of Hubbard, now 45, walking through an unfinished skatepark helping plot spiritual energy lines could be tough to conjure. Hubbard has a well-earned reputation as hardcore and can come off as an intimidating dude.
In the early 90s, Hubbard was one of the first to put shovels in the ground at the notorious Burnside Skatepark in Portland. He has run from the FBI on freight trains. He once put his vehicle, a camper truck he calls the Cauldron, on cruise control while walking to the rear for a beer. For years, his company motto at Grindline, which has built hundreds of parks around the world, was "Let's run this company into the ground." Now it's "Building parks and burning bridges." Not exactly daisies and lollipops.
That's why it's such a surprise when Hubbard delves into his theories on the naturally occurring number sequences, the Mayan calendar, feminine and masculine energy, and how skateparks are his way of bringing peace to an unbalanced universe. Even he recognizes his ideas seem to contrast with his skate-hard, fuck-it persona.
"I'm super heavy with my theories," Hubbard said, sipping a Budweiser from a deck chair outside his Seattle home. "I'm not afraid to express them or tell them to people. But sometimes it catches them, you know."
Hubbard hardly ever seems reluctant to talk about nearly anything: about how ski movie pioneer Warren Miller sought him out to build the Scott Stames Memorial Skatepark on Orcas Island, Washington, because Miller wanted the "guy who lived and worked from his truck." Or about Grindline the Band—started in Hubbard's workshop with a drum machine and cut-rate voice recorder—and their upcoming album produced by Jack Endino, of Nirvana renown. His stories, like the parks he builds, twist and turn quickly.
But that's not the case with his theories. When discussing his theories on skateboarding and its galactic importance, he pauses often, taking time to look over his yard or pick up a blade of grass. He chooses his words carefully."I see skateparks as a tool to the universe, to even out the positive and negative energies that rule the galaxies."
One of Hubbard's grandest ideas—or hopes, as he sometimes calls them—is that everything in the universe possesses either masculine or feminine energy. Items or molecules with masculine energy feature characteristics—action, strength, movement—often associated with Type-A men, he says. Items or molecules with feminine energy are associated with tranquility, calm, stillness, unity, and patience. For Hubbard, neither energy is good or bad, though bad things happen when there's a disproportionate amount of one energy over the other.
Right now, he says, there's way too much male energy in society. Take architecture.
"That's why there's all these fucking obelisks and domes and phallic symbols everywhere," Hubbard said, citing the Washington Monument as an example. "It's the male energy that's ruling the planet. It's messing everything up because it's unbalanced."
Building skateparks, Hubbard argues, is a way to help restore equilibrium to the universe. He favors deep, rounded skate bowls that flow with feminine energy, the necessary corrective. "A bowl is like a hole," he said, "a sacrament to the mother."
Hubbard has always felt the presence of energy, and calls himself a deeply spiritual person. At age 40, when he broke his ankle on a skate trip to Israel, he began to investigate spirituality more deeply. While laid up, he read books on the Fibonacci sequence, a series of numbers often represented in nature, such as the scaling on a pinecone or a pineapple or the ancestry of a family of honeybees. He also read up on ley lines. Pioneered in the 1920s by author and archaeologist Alfred Watkins, the concept of ley lines gained pop-cultural traction in the late 1970s with the New Age movement. Their importance (or existence) varies greatly depending on who you talk to, but some contend the lines possess an almost mystic energy.
The theory of ley lines spoke to Hubbard when he discovered that Seattle's Green Lake Park fell on one of the supposed passageways. Green Lake is where he learned to ride his bike, and where his father gave him his first skateboard. While some might see that as coincidence, Hubbard says that such an important place in his life falling on the line was too meaningful to ignore.
In 2012, about the same time he was reading about ley lines and investigating other energy phenomena, Grindline secured the contract to build the South Park Skatepark. There, Hubbard saw an opportunity to directly incorporate the positive energies of the universe into one of his parks. He and his crews built the side walls to five feet—five being an important number in the "sacred geometry" of the Fibonacci sequence. They used compasses to align the four entrances into the park exactly north, south, east, and west. He embedded a representation of the Mayan calendar in the center of the park because he believes 2012 marked a titanic energy shift. And as the park neared completion, Hubbard brought in the man with his alleged ley line plotter. One of his favorite memories from that day, Hubbard says, is when the man told him to watch for a sunbreak in the rain. Sure enough, the sun poked through the clouds and shined down on the park as the two began plotting.
"It was weird," Hubbard said.
He admits the experience with the ley line plotter wasn't for everyone.
"He was a weirdo," Hubbard said. "Jenny was a little freaked out by him when I brought him over to the house."
Jenny is Hubbard's wife, and she responds with a smile. That wasn't the first weird guy her husband brought to their house, she says, and he won't be the last.
And although Hubbard describes the plotter as a weirdo, he says the man was anything but crazy; he was another person who felt strong energy in the feminine bowl of South Park. Hubbard asks, Who is anyone to judge what's crazy?
"War, suppression, destroying colonies of people, that's crazy," Hubbard said. "Different is definitely not crazy. Different is more sane than the same."
Not all of Grindline's designs have the significant spiritual markers of South Park. With hundreds of parks completed, about eight currently in construction, plus 54 employees to manage, Hubbard is often too busy to plot ley lines or build doors at the cardinal points. But Jimmy Jeghers, a landscape architect and graphic designer at Grindline since 2008, says Hubbard will sometimes push him to make changes to plans for better energy alignment. For instance, if a park is 140 feet long, Hubbard will tell him to stretch the design to 144 feet, which is the twelfth Fibonacci sequence number and considered by some the most important.
"He'll say, 'That's the magic number,'" Jeghers said. "He'll tell me the energy in the park will be much better if we go with that."
Hubbard constantly draws and sketches, Jeghers says, and believes certain geometric figures can tap into the divine. Jeghers also hinted that Hubbard might hesitate to speak openly around people he doesn't know well or doesn't trust, and perhaps held back on some of his really "far-out" theories when speaking with VICE Sports. Those close to him, Jeghers says, recognize how much he truly believes what he postulates.
Even when Jeghers can't stretch a park's length or make the numbers come out as hoped, Hubbard says that in every park he constructs he'll take some time for spiritual endeavors. He blesses the water molecules before they're mixed with cement. Before finishing the park, he sprinkles the blessed water over his work—all in an effort to harmonize the energies and speak to the dirt and rocks around him.
People have been in tune with the earth and the earth in tune with people for millennia, he says. Only in recent centuries, since rubber tires and rubber shoes became commonplace, have people forgot to communicate with the earth on a daily basis. Remembering that the earth, moon, sun, and every molecule has a conscience and trying to foster a positive relationship with those elements, Hubbard says, is his priority.
"The earth notices," he said. "I'm constantly trying to communicate with the earth. Ask it, is it all good, is it OK? I'm trying to help."
He hopes the universe sees his work with skateparks and his attempts to connect and balance energies as a positive contribution to earth. Because skateboarders, Hubbard says, are innately more in tune with earth and its energy than many. To pop a kickflip, carve a wall, or blast a backside air requires working within space and time. Ultimately, he sees this interworking as bridging the gap between the universe and people. It's part of why Hubbard feels he's on earth; it's his way of doing good. From his efforts, he hopes that the universe, other galaxies, earth, gravity, and molecules of air and space will all benefit. So, too, will communities, parents, teens, and even five-year-old kids riding skateboards for the first time.
"Skateparks are an asset to the community," he says. "Where kids can go and families can go and watch people roll around on the earth. It's always been a spiritual thing."