Sawdust, Skateboards and Passion: A Sloan Palder Story


Pictures by James Bonnell

James Bonnell , staff writer

 To visit Sloan Palder, your best chance is to catch him in or around some form of skatepark. 

It’s been this way his whole life and luckily, for the sake of this article, his current location in relation to skateboarding happened to be in West Philadelphia. 

This particular location can be found just around the corner from the Philadelphia Zoo on North 40th Street.  

Driving in, you’re faced with the traditional image of the fringe locations that border most sections of Philadelphia. It’s congestion, traffic, and construction. 

While not particularly nerve racking or stressful, these environments can pull someone away from the reality of why they’re there. 

Walking up to the door though, this is actually quite reassuring. It’s reassuring to see that Sloan is heavily involved with something he loves, and that it doesn’t matter where 

A man in a tattered, bright yellow sweatshirt opens the door and invites me in.  

“Damn man, how many decades has it been?”, Sloan asks. 

Truth is it’s only been one, but still a considerable amount of time has passed since we’ve been in the same room. 

Inside the small entrance you are immediately met with what looks like a renovation. To the left is a small hallway that leads to a collection of skatepark ramps. 

It turns out this location is known as Skate the Foundry and it’s for children of all ages to come take lessons from skateboard instructors in a safe environment.  

It also turns out that Sloan from a decade ago and his business had a pretty big hand in getting the Foundry off the ground. 

Sloan and his business partner, Jesse Clayton, are co-owners of the skatepark building company known as 5th Pocket Skateparks. Jesse started the company over 10 years ago. After a brief pause in the company’s history, Jesse revamped the idea and brought Sloan in. The two have been building parks together since 2017.  

For the last two weeks, Sloan and Jesse have been hard at work inside the Foundry. They are recreating a feature known and loved by skateboarders in the Philadelphia area for almost a decade. This particular build is a nod to a location that spent considerable time in North Philadelphia before having to be removed due to financial issues, a bit of vandalism, and a lot of skateboarding.   

Inside the build site, Sloan is wearing a worn out 5th Pocket Skateparks hoodie with the hood up. His hands are dirty and callused and he is drinking a tall can of Pabst Blue Ribbon. 

In between sips from the can and answering questions, Sloan finds time to add nails and cut wood. His ability to divide his attention is something that must come from experience. 

Even though he has found work in construction outside of skateparks, he doesn’t find the same satisfaction there. 

Say you renovate kitchens or something. You can be passionate about your work, but you can’t get to that level of passion we have for this. Because, not for nothing, but I’ll never use your kitchen,” he expressed. 

Throughout our conversation, it started to become clear that what was being done at 5th Pocket Skateparks is a bit more than just construction.  

As the conversation moves forward, Sloan tells of parks that have been broken down, refitted, and repurposed. One build in particular was commissioned by Vans (the shoe company) for a three-day skateboarding celebration in Philadelphia. 

After the three days were over, the agreement with the city required the park be taken down. 

“We got hearts. We’re not just going to put it in the trash you know?” 

So instead of tearing the build down, 5th Pocket used its connections to haul many of the parks features to the Roebling Wire Works building in New Jersey where they are used on a daily basis. 

To Sloan and his business, these parks are a representation of community. And community is what allows skateboarding to reach as far as it does. 

This admiration for connectedness has allowed 5th Pocket to create a number of accessible parks for communities all over the world. 

On one site in Pokhara, Nepal, Sloan recounts, “…waking up to seeing Mount Everest every morning.” 

As amazing as waking up to Everest must be, he found the positivity of the local people almost equally as important to note.  

“I mean those people don’t have much. They hardly have anything, but everyone was always smiling,” he mentions.  

It’s tough to say if this particular build is entirely responsible for Sloan’s appreciation for the communities he’s helped create. Perhaps the time he’s spent on various Native American reservations throughout the country may have something to do with it as well. 

His dog’s name is Rez, short for reservation, and he was given to him while actually living on a reservation. 

Towards the end of the interview, he mentions working for a nonprofit called Wonders Around the World that is also working to provide accessibility to skateboarding all over the globe. Over the last few years WAW has built parks in Tanzania, Bangledesh, and Jamaica. 

In September of this year Sloan and members of his construction outfit will hopefully start work on the first ever Wonders Around the World project in the United States, in New Mexico. This project has been pushed back more than once because of the pandemic, but the expression on his face while explaining the plans wouldn’t tell you that. 

Even in the face of not being able to get started and potentially not having a solid start date, just the prospect of helping create something new for skateboarding, is enough to make Sloan smile. 

Skateboarding has always been an outlet for individuality, expression, and passion. Sloan Palder understands how important these concepts are and hopefully his work around the world can inspire future generations to seek happiness where happiness found him.