I moved here in September of 2001, and one month later, I started surfing. Holy Crap - it's the coolest thing I've ever done in my life - no shit. It made me realize why I loved skating Woolco so much - it's such a similar sensation. Carving up and down a face, moving forward and generating speed, ready to deal with any random obstacle that popped up or trick I wanted to pull out. Skating and surfing, in my opinion, are very akin to playing improvisational music in this fashion. You have to clear your mind and just ride the rhythm. When I am street skating or making the best of closed out shore break, it's completely Zen. My mind HAS to be right there, in the moment, generating micro-movements that shift my weight one way or the other - up the face of a wave or grinding on that little broken ridge of concrete at Woolco. That zone you enter - that's my therapy and that's my freedom.
About a month ago, I was fortunate enough to watch "Dogtown and the Z-Boys" at the Paloma theater in Encinitas. I left the movie just choked up with inspiration. It was beautiful. Also, it was so nice to see an accurate rendition of the amazing subculture that my friends and I emulated and fought for in the static, conservative regions of the SouthEast. Since I've moved to SoCal, and especially after this movie, I feel like I've tapped into where I'd left off when I quit skating at 18. I quit skating for several reasons…..The main one, at the time, was that I didn't like the "rich kids" that had the ramps and acted like rich kids - Who was I kidding??? I was a sniveling little teen with well-off parents like the rest of them! I actually disliked the competition between friends. It was irritating to see formerly nice kids with new egos because they could boost an 8 foot air. It seemed like the fun had left and now, it was about who was a "sponsored guy". I missed the days of making a launch ramp out of particle wood and 5 gallon paint buckets in the parking lot of Little Caesars. I missed bringing a broom to the ditch to sweep it out for skating. I missed people not being so cool that they couldn't act stupid. It seemed like something was missing. Basically, I'd abandoned it for beer and girls(still 2 of my favorite things after all these years!).
Z-Boys hit me hard though.
Since I'd moved here, and up to viewing Z-Boys, I was slowly realizing that I was in an area that fed and fostered the skate culture's original movement. It was still alive as I'd known it. I'd go to O-Side pier and see guys my age, driving around and listening to the Circle Jerks in their cars covered in Santa Cruz and Independent stickers. Dudes skating the skate parks with Old School decks pulling boneless's and noseplants! Surfers with black flag tattoos. Good stuff. I knew I was home. This all had quasi-inspired me to get back into skating, but when I saw Z-Boys and watched those kids scooping water out of pools to skate them, it drove me crazy. I wanted to grab my wife and scream "THAT WAS US!! ME, ROOSEVELT, KEEFE!! US!!!!" My friend Keefe and I would wake up sometimes at 5 am in the Summers and just drive around looking for banks to hit, hills to fly down, walls to ride - anything we could find. We'd find a ditch, clean it up, skate it, go back home in the middle of the day to eat and avoid the sun, then go back out at 6 to skate Woolco or Lily Flagg until late. Those days are permanent in my head. I still remember the concrete/dirt smell of Woolco and all the traffic overhead with the occasional redneck screaming "Fucking Skater Pussy!" Good times.
Shortly after I saw Z-Boys, Wighat emailed me the URL for www.skatealabama.com. What was happening!??! I'm not one to buy into signs, but this was getting eerie. I promptly pulled out all my skate pics, scanned them and sent them to Wig. It made me wonder where all those guys went? Lon Cogley? Keefe Shanholtzer? Buck Beasley? Where are you guys? If you read this: Hi! What's up?! The last straw in fates' pressure to get me to skate dropped last night. Tara and I bought new beachcruiser bikes and took a ride along this paved trail that travels along an old dry riverbed. Within a few minutes, I noticed a looooong drainage ditch about the size and specs of the small side of Woolco. Further along, this ditch has all these crazy concrete access ramps dropping into it and walls that lead up to shiny steel rails that are within perfect ollie height, and lead right back into the ditch. I am salivating and scheming at this point. My wife is telling me that I will have to get a helmet and pads as I am rambling on about the potentials I see. Then, as we get about another mile down the trail, I see this new section of the ditch. 15 feet high on one side, 10 feet high on the other, rounded transition sections between wall and flat. The best part comes as I look over the edge and I see that the straight section leads into two smooth curved sections like a waterslide. I couldn't stop staring at it. It was gorgeous. I made Tara watch my stuff as I hiked down into it for assessement. It needs to be cleaned, but it's a beast! I made my mind up there. I need a board. Anyone got a Schmitt Stix Jeff Grosso circa 1986 that they want to sell? I bet I could find a Vato Rat! Anyhow, by August, I will be in that ditch, carving it's walls and learning it's subtleties on those days when the ocean isn't in the mood.
I can't wait.
I just had a conversation with a friend of mine in NY. He and another friend are coming to stay with me here and surf before they take off for their Freshman year at the U of Hawaii this Fall(little bastards). I said "Bring your board, I found an awesome ditch to skate!" His response was "Ditch?? Oh, like a big drain." Ha! I said "No, you'll just have to see it….it's like surfing."