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Church of 8 Wheels’ Skate Week Rolls Into San Francisco

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David G. Miles Jr. at the Church of 8 Wheels in San Francisco on Sept. 20, 2022. Miles has been championing San Francisco skate culture for 45 years, and is ushering in a new festival called Skate Week.  (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

To be in the presence of David G. Miles Jr., San Francisco’s “Godfather of Skate,” is to be in the presence of pure, undiluted joy. It’s infectious, too — as any of his many fans, friends and “apostles” will attest.

For 45 years, Miles has been tirelessly advocating for roller skaters, rallying for public space and creating roller rinks in unconventional locations. He also offers impromptu lessons, pep talks and general good cheer as he supports and inspires a multigenerational, multidimensional constellation of enthusiasts. Up next, July 16-21, Miles is throwing a brand-new, hopefully annual, citywide festival he’s calling Skate Week San Francisco.

“Why not? San Francisco needs a party everyday,” Miles quips.

A roller skater smiles, skating in fur leg warmers and a top hat.
David G. Miles Jr. skates back to his DJ booth at the Church of 8 Wheels in San Francisco on Sept. 20, 2022. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

Miles’ own love affair with skating began one Sunday in 1979, when he first encountered roller skaters in Golden Gate Park. It’s hard to imagine now, but at the time, roller skating was viewed as a public nuisance, and efforts were made to disallow it altogether.

In response, the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department recruited Miles and friends to lead a volunteer Skate Patrol of safety ambassadors. They were so effective that skaters were not only allowed to stay in the park, but in 1984 the paved area at 6th and Fulton Streets officially became the Skatin’ Place. To honor this history, the Skate Week logo features a Skate Patrol member in their signature red jacket, with the Golden Gate Bridge behind him.

Roller skaters practice in the paved area of a tree-lined park.
The Skatin’ Place in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. (Courtesy of David Miles Jr. )

About that bridge. In addition to holding Skate Week events at the Skatin’ Place and at Miles’ popular nighttime roller disco, the Church of 8 Wheels, the main attraction will be a giant pop-up roller rink at Crissy Field, with a view of San Francisco’s most iconic landmark.


“You can’t get better,” Miles enthuses. “That’s like an exclamation point. San Francisco right here!”

Like many of Miles’ projects, it all started with a long-shot idea. While MCing an event for the Katherine Delmar Burke School at Crissy Field, he noticed the historic Presidio Trust buildings lining the road, some empty, others home to a trampoline park and a rock climbing gym. That’s where he encountered Building 937 — an old seaplane hangar built in 1921. With 17,000 square feet of usable floor space.

Skaters get warmed up at the beginning of a skate session at the Church of 8 Wheels in San Francisco on Sept. 20, 2022. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

Among Miles’ many talents is the ability to convince people that what their empty space really needs is a roller skating rink. And he’d already worked closely with Jean Fraser, the current CEO of the Presidio Trust, on an initiative to close John F. Kennedy Drive to cars on Saturdays back in 2007. So he pitched the idea, figuring the worst that could happen was that the Trust would say no. Instead, Miles says, “They were very enthusiastic about it.”

With the Golden Gate Bridge on view outside the venue doors, Miles and crew have been designing the interior of their pop-up “Church” with equally Instagram-worthy decor: floor-to-ceiling curtains in red and white, club lighting and custom stained glass representing the “12 saints of funk and disco.” Like every good impresario, Miles knew that it wouldn’t do to just build it and hope people come. With his week-long event, he’s getting the word out about all kinds of roller skating opportunities in the City.

In addition to the pop-up Presidio space with five nights of themed events (including the grand opening Red & White Roller Ball on Tuesday, July 16), Church of 8 Wheels on Fillmore Street will be operating as normal. On July 19, a 12-mile edition of the long-running Friday Night Skate will roll from the Ferry Building to the Palace of Fine Arts and back. At Golden Gate Park’s Skatin’ Place, a special talent showcase will take place in the afternoon on Sunday, July 21 and include some special guests. (Mayor London Breed is reportedly attending.)

It will be a full-circle moment for Miles, as the Skatin’ Place represents one of his first political wins. He’s been so prolific since, it’s impossible to quantify all of his skate-related successes, which include two decades of running Black Rock Roller Disco at Burning Man, whose portable design paved the way for the UMOJA Roller Skating Rink in Oakland. Miles has hosted long-distance “rolls” all the way to Los Angeles, and has brought his inimitable party to big name festivals such as Coachella and Electric Daisy Carnival.

Carla Dometrius is a Skatin’ Place regular. (Courtesy of Linda Lovestoskate)

The community that has coalesced around him over the years is as devoted to skating as a lifestyle as Miles is himself. One of his “apostles” is Carla Dometrius, an English teacher who discovered the Skatin’ Place while on vacation in San Francisco. “I decided immediately that I needed to move to SF, get some roller skates and join the fun,” she says. “So that’s what I did!”

Skate instructor Lester Farias Jr. and his son, Lester Farias III-Lovrin, practice at the Skatin’ Place. (Lester Farias Jr. )

Fellow aficionado and Skate Week instructor Lester Farias Jr. can relate. “What keeps me coming back is the environment there,” he says. “It is a vibe like no other.”

And for Miles, what matters above all is that those good vibes continue to roll for generations to come. “People are gonna be skating like when they were teenagers and young adults, and now they all got kids and they’ll be able to bring their kids,” he says. “And now with those little kids that’s coming out, they’ll be able to continue that to tell their kids [about] when they went skating.”


Skate Week gets underway in San Francisco July 16-21. Event lineup and details here.

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