Vibe Ride is the weekly L.A. skate party you can’t miss

It’s a Tuesday night in mid-May, and dozens of people are rolling into a parking lot just south of the Santa Monica Pier. Most are on skateboards of all shapes and sizes. A few are on roller skates, scooters and bicycles. One dude rides in on a mountain bike armed with a toy gun that blows bubbles, enveloping the woman on skates he’s pulling behind him with a rope.

It feels like a party is about to start. The sun is still high in the sky and the breeze blows off the ocean. Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know” is bumping from a knee-high amp as women, men and nonbinary folks congregate and coast on the pavement on their wheels of choice. Most are 20-somethings and 30-somethings.

A few minutes before 7 p.m., a lean 29-year-old with shoulder-length dirty blond hair, a backward turquoise ball cap and a pink tie-dye shirt, cuts the music and speaks into a microphone.

Brandon DesJarlais makes his way down the grassy hill during a meetup with Vibe Ride LA at Ocean View Park.

“Who’s living their best life? That’s what we’re here to do,” Brandon DesJarlais says to the crowd of 50 who are here for Vibe Ride, an event he created to skate, dance and connect with other people. Tonight they’ll travel together for about 1.7 miles to the Venice Skate Park, stopping along the way for bursts of revelry before turning around and heading back as the sun dips below the Pacific.

DesJarlais is a pro longboarder who created a nonprofit called Beyond the Board in 2021 to empower people and build community through skateboarding. His desire to share the joy of the sport tracks with the greater longboarding community’s reputation for being relaxed and inclusive — in part because the longboard’s shape makes learning the sport easier and less-trick-based.

“Longboarding is everything that’s not traditional street skating or vert skating,” said Don Tashman, the founder of L.A.-based longboard manufacturer Loaded Boards. “It’s inclusive. It’s diverse. It doesn’t have a defined clothing or culture or music. It is a catch-all … it’s a tool to spread stoke.”

Shontel Anestasia holds onto her skateboard.

Shontel Anestasia holds onto her skateboard.

Kayla Drake stands in a circle for a meet and greet while wearing her roller skates.

Kayla Drake stands in a circle for a meet and greet while wearing her roller skates.

Tonight DesJarlais acts as the DJ, emcee and Pied Piper of the event. He goes over the night’s itinerary before suggesting that the crowd form small groups for an icebreaker. All the while he stands in front of his pastel-painted bus, named the Shred Sled, which is reminiscent of the vehicle that Ken Kesey’s followers, known as the Merry Pranksters, used to travel the U.S. in the 1960s. (He’s even lived in the vehicle, both to save money and while completing three Beyond the Board national tours where he visited more than 25 states and hosted 250 events.)

After introductions, he passes the microphone to one of his co-organizers, Daniel Chiu. The health coach and event producer offers a short, guided meditation with just a smidge of woo and a few deep breaths before the group heads south.

Finally, DesJarlais leads the group to the bike path along the sand, with the amp resting on the front of his board, pumping out tunes like War’s “Low Rider,” Peaches & Herb’s “Shake Your Groove Thing” and Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger.”

As they cruise along, the group spreads out. Most are on longboards. There are plenty of people who are new to skateboarding tonight, some of whom ride longboards provided by one of Beyond the Board’s sponsors, Landyachtz. Vibe Ride is a no-one-left-behind event with a sweep trailing the flock to ensure no one gets disconnected.

Kayla Drake rides her rollerskates with the group.
Skateboards are lined up along a "Beyond the Board" bus.
A group of mostly skateboarders ride along the boardwalk.

Kayla Drake rides her rollerskates with the group. Skateboards are lined up along a “Beyond the Board” bus. A group of mostly skateboarders ride along the boardwalk.

Many Vibe Riders simply head from point A to point B. Others make soulful turns, or “carves,” that recall an expert surfer riding a wave. A few groove up and down their boards as they roll, otherwise known as “dancing” (a popular style of longboarding).

The vibe tonight is especially social. Skaters chat as they glide. At one point, the group stops for a “hill bomb” — racing from the top of a small grass hill to the bottom. At the next, in front of the Adda and Paul Safran Senior Housing in Venice, the dance party kicks into overdrive. The Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back” blares from the amp, as a woman on the building’s third floor appears in a window to see what the commotion is about. Observing the party, she smiles and waves with both hands.

Even as the group embraces a carefree playfulness, DesJarlais is sure to lead by example. When he passes by a five-piece jazz band playing on the bike path, he cuts the music so as not to interrupt them. Participants look out for one another, calling out upcoming bicycles and sandy sections. When a Vibe Rider spots dog poop on the path, they fade back and block it, ensuring participants won’t ride over it.

The idea for the Vibe Ride came about during the early stages of the pandemic, when DesJarlais and Chiu met while skateboarding in Santa Monica. At this moment of intense isolation, the two came up with a shared goal: “To get people outdoors to connect with other people,” said Chiu.

The first official Vibe Ride was in January 2022. Only about 10 people showed up. But as the group connected with other skate-centric communities, including the inline and roller skate group the Skate Hunnies, its size and network began to grow.

In addition to the weekly Tuesday rides, the group also gathers for one-offs. DesJarlais estimates they’ve hosted more than 200 events. His dedication stretches beyond organizing and attending the rides. He’s even “flowed,” or given, folks longboards — on the condition that they ride them regularly.

One of those recipients is Vu Le, whom DesJarlais met 2 ½ years ago.

“The vibe is whatever you want it to be,” says Le, as his knee-length, burgundy silk robe flows behind him like a cape while skating down the bike path.

Josefina Chebaia first attended the Vibe Ride in April after a friend introduced her to the event. The Argentina-born artist was just learning to skateboard and loved how supportive the group was.

“There’s so much joy, so much happiness and so much healing,” she said. “Everyone feels that sense of belonging.”

Two people laying on their longboards in the light of a streetlamp.

After a 3.4-mile group ride along the boardwalk, a group of folks with Vibe Ride LA meet back up at Lot 4 South to close out the night.

At the end of the ride, some people head home while others head toward the post-ride taco truck meetup. Chiu hangs back with his 7-month-old Husky, Serene, who trotted alongside him during the ride..

“If you want to find an open, welcoming community to skate with or learn to skate with and to do it by the beach, this is the place,” he says, before he and Serene drift off into the distance.

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