Running on empty team Volcom.
JUST BEFORE LEAVING FOR THIS TRIP a friend gave me a book on CD; Stephen Hawking's The Theory of Everything. The book summarizes much of Hawking's life-long work in the field of theoretical physics, and chronicles the various models for the universe from that advanced by the ancient Greeks right on through to modern conceptions. But the most interesting bit to me was the author's explanation of the Second Law of Thermal Dynamics, which I'm sure must have been taught to me in some high school science course but failed to impress me at the time. The Second Law of Thermal Dynamics dictates that a given situation will always tend toward entropy. Hawking further elaborates that even when you attempt to organize, say, the information in a computer, even the act or organization increases the total entropy in the universe, since this will invariably involve heat as a by-product and the heat will cause molecules to bump into each other at an increased rate.
In other words, scientific proof of Murphy's Law. Hawking goes on to explain in considerable depth that this is so because the universe is expanding. Feel free to use this as a catch-all explanation. For example, if you borrow your friend's Tupac CD and accidentally scratch it, you might well say, "Sorry friend, the universe is expanding; these things are bound to happen."
There were any number of examples of quantum expansion on our trip, but somehow knowing that we were all just a small part of the great cosmic ballet made it a bit more palatable. Well, in hindsight anyways.
Tempting as it may be, I will refrain from getting into a long list of "We would have won King of the Road if only ..." But Volcom's manager, Remy Stratton, urged me to mention that we were given a late start. This was accidental of course; some mix up with an earlier draft of the itinerary being e-mailed to Volcom. Volcom joined the race at the last minute so the miscommunication was understandable--still, we probably would have won if we'd been given the right itinerary.
THE FORD ECONOLINER is sort of the unofficial skate-tourmobile. It's pretty much a given that if the crew is larger than five dudes, you'll be in one of those huge white vans. Volcom's Remy Stratton is a lot of things, but "slave to convention" is not one of them. We rolled in a massive RV of the type seen in About Schmidt starting Jack Nicholson. The RV was certainly more spacious than a van and probably saved us from having car legs alter long drives, but RVs do have a few drawbacks, reliability not being the least of them. We broke down on the drive between Denver and Albuquerque. We had to rent two mini-vans, unpack the RV, pack the vans, drive to Albuquerque and then repack a replacement RV that lasted the remainder of the trip. This was a time-consuming burden, but probably still preferable to trying to sleep sitting up on a van bench. Not to mention the refrigerated snacks we had access to. Huge grocery shopping trips where we were more or less flee to fill the shopping cart with whatever our little hearts desired were among the highlights of the journey. Dried fruit snacks! Perrier! Dehydrated miso soup! Thanks Remy, thanks Volcom.
Remy and I picked up the RV in New Jersey and drove it up to Boston with filmer Trevor Prescott. We picked up the team and got sorted out at the hotel. The KOTR objectives were held in secrecy until the beginning of the contest, but it was recommended to Remy that it would be best if he selected a "well rounded crew" from his roster. Volcom has an impressive talent pool to say the least, and the guys we picked up were as capable a contingent as you could hope for. Underrated technician Javier Sarmiento, vert and pool powerhouse Rune Glifberg, speedy ATV Dennis Busenitz, handrail heavy-hitter Caswell Berry, and Dustin Dollin, the board-flipping lush from Down Under. I suspect that Caswell will not appreciate his little description. Forgive me Caz, but I kinda liked the alliteration. Caswell made it known that he does not enjoy that side of skating. "I only skate rails because I have to," he said. He used to like skating rails, but now it's just expected of him so he does it. He proved the extent of his versatility a number of times--in the pools, in the parks, on the ledges; he can do it all, and I suspect he ended up being the leading points earner on our trip even with very little handrail contact.
Dustin served a sort of double duty He was charged with the task of assembling all of the footage into a video, to be presented at the end of the trip. Dustin set up an editing bay in the breakfast nook. Dusty was amazingly diligent about his editing duties and spent tireless hours logging footage, a thankless and grueling task. He did not suffer in silence, mind you. He complained all the while that the footage was horrible, which it was. "It's lookin' shockin', by the way." He'd tell Trevor and whoever else was interested.
I DON'T KNOW if I'm developing a reputation as being an especially difficult photographer to deal with. Burnett told me I come back from nearly every trip with a different video dude horror story. That's not true. Admittedly, I've used these articles of mine to stick it to a few video dudes who I didn't get along with. This is probably a bit unfair; penning the article is sort of a built-in last word. Let me state for the record that I don't have anything against my deathlens-wielding colleagues. There are filmers that I get along quite well with, on a professional and even personal level I may not understand their fascination with Nike Dunk colorways, and it may irk me when they occasionally sing the 411 theme song after firming a spectacular trick, but we're there to do a very similar job and a lot of these guys are kind, patient, intelligent people.
Trevor drove me crazy.
I told him early on--and in fact, it was spelled out quite explicitly in KOTR instruction book--that the video guy was to be responsible for filming documentary-style footage of all the various goings on. At first it began with gentle suggestions, perhaps a cupped hand held up to my right eye (the international sign for "hey, film this") so as not to draw everyone's attention to the fact that Trevor was blowing it. It quickly deteriorated into Dustin yelling at him "Trevah, fuckin' film!" It got to the point where he couldn't do anything right. Only Caswell and Javier rose above the henpecking. Trevor's only means of coping was to try and give me the gears. I woke up to "You just missed Remy's ho-ho" delivered with as much smugness as he could muster. Remy had done a ho-ho in front of the Married With Children fountain in Chicago to satisfy one of the city challenges. I was asleep in the back of the RV because I had driven through most of the night and was absolutely exhausted. Getting grief from the guy who was missing tricks left, right, and center was almost too much to take. I bit my tongue. "Just wreck him in the article, Scott," I told myself.
Two nights later I sat in a small bar close to the hotel with Remy. Dennis, and Dustin, where we conspired to trade Trevor in for another filmer. San Jose's own "Creepy Kyle." We even went as far as calling Phelps to see if this would be a violation of KOTR regulations, and making inquiries into plane tickets. The switch was to be made in Denver, but at the last minute Remy reneged. Whether it was fiduciary concerns or perhaps guilt over having already once jilted Trevor off the Volcom team I'll never know; but after Trevor drove the RV until it ran out of gas three hours outside of Denver, it was obvious that we ought to have followed through with the plot.
SID AND FRED
THE WHIRLWIND NATURE OF THE TOUR didn't allow for very thorough investigation of the cites, which was unfortunate. Boston obviously had a wealth of spots and some very accommodating hosts in the form of the Coliseum guys. It would have been fun to stay longer and skate some more, but just fulfilling the city challenges took most of the time we had scheduled. After hunting down Panama Dan we had to head off to Rhode Island to meet up with local legend Sid "The Package" Abruzzi. A small punk rock concert was staged in The Package's basement--well technically I think it's really The Package's mom's basement, which I should mention is decorated with a dazzling array of skateboards from the days of yore. If you were to sell off the contents on that one online auction site, the proceeds would likely be enough money to buy a house, Incidentally, The Package refers to himself in the third person as "The Package."
After the show Dustin, Trevor and I went to Fred Smith III's tattoo parlor so that he could give Dustin some Thrasher ink. We were the only ones allowed to go since Fred didn't want his shop to be crowded with semi-drunk lurkers. For those of you who were not heavily involved in skateboarding or possibly not yet born in the mid '80s, Fred Smith III was an East Coast pro and member of the iconic Alva Posse. Famous for his aggressive riding style, blond mop of dreads mad boisterous attitude, Fred Smith III was a member of "The Loud Ones." Now a father and owner of a successful tattoo parlor he is still a much-cherished legend in Rhode Island. The fawning before him bordered on idol worship. Dustin was told many times that he had "no idea" about the greatness of the man who was working on him. Dustin, by this point very drunk (among other things) replied that he didn't care, and that if Fred Smith hadn't been around to innovate, someone else would've done it in his place.
I've heard modern primitives (you know the type: stretched ear lobes, extensive tribal tattoos, pierced private parts) complain that there are no real rites of passages in our culture. No ceremony to mark the beginning of manhood, no trials to test our courage or resolve. Perhaps the modern skateboard video part is a worthy substitute for what is such a key element in the Aboriginal populations in the world. All the ingredients are there: pain, torment, adjudication--hell, even scars. Still, there are those for whom this just isn't enough.
I'm not sure if this was a regular occurrence at Fred's Tattoo parlor, but at some point during the evening someone (and I'm pretty sure it was Freddy Jr) removed a baby alligator from its Plexiglas box and offered to sick it on the arm of anyone in search of a rite of passage or a cool scar story. Dustin was the first to sign on--a little warm up for the tattoo that Fred Smith III gave him. But Rune and some others came in later, along with Chris Trembley (whom they had convinced to carve the word "fuck" into his arm), and there was soon a line up for Gator bites. Some drunken prick tried to get the gator to bite me but I would have none of it. And being stone sober, I was far more agile than he. Afterwards I asked Fred Smith III what he would do with the creature once it grew to unmanageable size. He answered without a pause, in a "What, are you stupid?" tone. "We'll eat it."
As the night progressed, everyone got drunker (among other things) but also started to spread out. Some at a bar, some at the tattoo shop, some in the RV by Sid's. I think Remy was just at some guy's house. After Dustin woke up (he'd fallen asleep mid-tattoo) and the tattoo was done, we got a ride back to the RV. Then we solicited the help of a local Volcom rep to help us track everyone down. Remy wanted to stay in RI to skate some ramp the next day, Dennis was out cold, Javier was chilling, Trevor was burnt out from being told to film all the time, I was frustrated because I'd just spent four hours in a tattoo parlor which brought back bitter memories of my Dickensian factory job: cutting the hubs off hypodermic needles so that they could be used for piercing at Way Cool Tattoos in Toronto.
I grabbed a video camera to capture some of the gritty realism of the situation. Dustin convinced Remy that the only option was to press on, and so we set out for Ohio at two or three in the morning. Trevor took the first shift.
A LUNCHTIME STOP turns into a heated manual session when Dennis skips a meal in favor of landing his first switch heel to fakie many. The rest of us join in and soon it's on. Everyone manages to clock some points--Dennis had to do his trick twice since Trevor managed to miss it, and one of my tricks was lost to the ages since Trevor chose to mark the previous trick with his hand during my attempt.
The next city on our agenda was Cincinnati, but Remy couldn't pass up the opportunity to make a detour to Skatopia. No one objected. We arrived late evening. As we were pulling up the long driveway we were subjected to an ambush. We knew that Skatopia was an especially lawless place, but Molotov Cocktails were beyond all expectations. We quickly hypothesized that it must be the work of another KOTR team ... it must be Deluxe! I was expecting to be pelted with fireworks and possibly some small stones when I got out of the van, but none were forthcoming. It wasn't Mic-E and gang at all. Our attackers were members of the seemingly friendly nation of eS. They had been given the task of "blowing something up," so they happened to have arms at the very moment we arrived. They were also supposed to spend the night at Skatopia, as it turns out it was a mandatory stop for them. Koston was in complete shock that we had opted to visit of our own volition. Remy and Rune shredded around with McCrank for a bit before we found a hotel.
We returned the next day. A few runs on the rough vert ramp yield the conclusion that this is not a good candidate for high airs. We shoot some photos and bone out; time's a wastin'.
We met up with local photographer Fat Nick at an indoor park and he guided us around town after a vert ramp and mini-ramp jam. We made the decision that Chicago probably had better terrain than Cincinnati, so if we were going to get some much-needed hot street action in we were going to have to leave Cincinnati that night. With all the city challenges that was hard to do, but Nick was a champion and kept us on track. We visited the banks where the boneless was invented by GSD, then Bubba Hideout, Cincinnati's version of San Francisco's most famous angled ledge. Unfortunately Bubba had suffered a similar fate to its namesake, but a little MacGyver ingenuity solved the problem. We were to find Gary Collins, but he had just left for Santa Cruz a day previous. All we had left to do was build a board out of improvised materials. We pulled out of town at a responsible two or three in the morning. Windy City, here we come.
WE LOST RUNE FOR A FEW DAYS since it was his little girl's birthday, but Chicago was primarily a street destination. We had great weather; it was barely even windy, and great spots. I don't know how we managed to pass up on all the exceptionally low fire hydrants, but we did. "Of all the words to pass through the lips of mice and man, the saddest by far are, it might have been." Too true. Still we did meet up with another Alva alumnus, Jesse Neuhaus.
Chicago and Denver are really far apart and we did not have much time in which to span the distance. "Spanning time, we're spanning time." Once again I drove through the wee hours of the morning. I passed the keys off to Trevor at a gas station after having filled the RV. I awoke a few hours later because we pulled off the road abruptly. Everyone asks what's happening; "I think we're out of gas," Trevor offers.
We waited by the side of the road until someone could deliver gas to us. It was a long time in coming and it felt longer still since we were so close Denver; especially after I'd forgone normal sleeping hours in order to get us where we were.
We arrived at last, but things are a bit hazy for me though on this bit. I don't remember what order in which the following things happened: We picked up our much-anticipated mystery guest, one Simple As Death! We visited the Boulder 'S' rail and tipped our collective hat to Uriel Lubke. We skated the Boulder park where I made the acquaintanceship of a comely young lass who'd recently moved to the area to attend college. We went to the Red Planet (Denver skatepark) where we skated and mingled around with our fellow competitors. The reason I don't know the order that those things happened in is because I've waited a really long time to write this article; also, my laptop was destroyed during the course of the competition. T have a few pet theories, but nothing that would hold up in court.
AT THE PARK, Phelps greeted me with a friendly punch in the sternum. I sat down and photo-nerded out with the other photographers. Dustin skated over and told me that he'd just shot something of Remy because I wasn't around. I suppose I should have been following him around or something.
Caswell managed to take care of one of the infamous makeout challenges. Caz eagerly frenched a lady five years his senior; we'd been eager to document one of those ever since Burnett had called to brag that Diego had just made out with a 40-year-old.
Everyone met for a get-together BBQ ramp jam, which was dominated by some locals in Flyway helmets, an Australian with a mustache, and a funny-hat wearing TNT. I wandered around aimlessly, engaging in brief pointless conversations with relative strangers. I brought my gear but Burnett seemed to be working the decks expertly--I'm never one for having a lot of cooks in the kitchen, so I didn't bother shooting anything. Remy blasted an absolutely monstrous front-side air that spanned a number of sheets. He was upset that I missed it. Sorry Remy. I was too busy drinking three quarters of a Keystone Light. Man, am I starting to sound like Patrick O'Dell or what?
After the party, three of the four teams converged on a nearby set of stairs. We arrived first, followed by Tumyeto and finally eS. We were just getting set up when Burnett and his boys poured out of a van. It was a zoo in no time. There was some blonde gift who'd had fro" too much to drink and was wrestling around with an equally trashed Adrian Mallory. Mike left me to shoot both squads; I would have just as happily passed and let him run the whole shooting match, but I sensed that this would disappoint Remy so I did my best. My Polaroid back-jammed, I had trouble with some of the rolls of films, my flashes kept getting hit by stray boards, there was whooping and festive exuberance that I was just in no mood for; the whole thing was very zoo-like. I guess I'm just easily rattled.
Dustin stayed and heckled the eS riders for a bit. "Why d'you land everyfing free times?" he screeched at Paul Rodriguez, who was going through his paces. But it was Alexis Sablone he focused on; he said no one else gave her torture, or "Torcha!" as he said it. As if to even up the poor girl's lifetime torture quotient all in one shot, he yelled out "The bitch got flick!" At the top of his lungs. Repeatedly Alexis for her part handled it very well--she paid Spawn no attention and just rolled her eyes.
WE ARRIVED LATE IN ALBUQUERQUE. All we accomplished the first night was finding a hotel, which was good enough for us. The next day we went to a skateshop so we could find some locs to show us around; I think there might have been a rep in the mix somewhere too. Albuquerque has some of the best ditches around and a number of excellent backyard pools, which was fortunate because the back of the KOTR book was looking pretty sparse. We went to a ditch just down the street from the shop. It was great; SAD surprised a few with big arching frontside wallride grinds, Dennis was putting some gnat lines together, Remy was doing hohos and what we thought to be Russian Bonelesses but turned out to be pointless, literally. The shop dude called an over-30 lady-friend of his to makeout with our designated hitter "Summertime Caz." Once again, the kiss was quite convincing--afterwards the lady looked like she was keen for some more kissing, but alas it was not to be. Summer lovin' had me a blast. During a mandatory catamaran race down a ditch I managed to grind the tips of a couple of my fingers clean off, which put me in a decidedly foul mood for the rest of the day. Is there any way of ending a catamaran other than a big slam? If there is I've never seen it. Trevor fell ass over teakettle trying to follow Dennis, dropping his recently purchased VX2000 for the third time on the trip, this time actually disabling it. He was pissed. He borrowed a Volcom camera for the remainder.
We went to an amazing backyard pool at dusk only to be severely rained out. Ordinarily this would be game over, but the shop dudes had a buddy with an indoor pool. Not bad. Rune and Remy tried to check off some of the leftovers and take advantage of the good fortune of having a covered permission pool. We hit a school with a few rails to try and tick off a few moves, but the skies started to open up. Caz skated the rail in the rain for a bit and then we took off.
At this point I think everyone was starting to really look forward to getting back home, or maybe that was just me.
WE MADE A STOP SOUTH OF SF AT A POOL we'd heard about; there was still a lingering backside air or something. Someone called the cops, so we left. When we finally got to the city the team had pretty much lost all their drive. Caswell pounded out some moves on the ever-popular formerly red wooden rail out of shear obligation, but other than that everyone was pretty defeated. A bunch of guys lived in the city and so we were quickly spread out. I heard Javier went out to get a few more tricks down at the pier but forgot the list and so left out a few easy (for him) manual moves. And we never did get a proper hydrant session together. All this stuff kills you when you see how close the final tally came. Man, we would have won if only ...
TEAM VOLCOM BOSTON CHALLENGES
* Find and skate with Panama Dan
* Session the Hospital Banks
* Have a beer and talk about the '70s with Sid "the Package" Abruzzi (he's in nearby Rhode Island)
TEAM VOLCOM CINCINNATI CHALLENGES
* Skate the DO Banks, birthplace of the Boneless One
* Session Bubba Hideout
* Skate with Gary Collins
* Woodstock Challenge: Build and skate a wacky board made out of something not meant to be ridden
TEAM VOLCOM CHICAGO CHALLENGES
* Eat a sub with Jesse Neuhaus
* Kickflip the subway gap
* Do a ho-ho at the fountain in the opening of Married With Children
TEAM VOLCOM DENVER CHALLENGES
* Pick up Mystery Guest
* Find the S-Rail
* Do a 5-0 bowl-to-bowl at the Boulder Park in the spine bow!
* Rohan Challenge (see who can do the best trick blindfolded)
* Be at the Downtown Skatepark by 5:00pm on August 25th with your Mystery Guest
TEAM VOLCOM ALBUQUERQUE CHALLENGES
* Catamaran race at the Indian School Ditch--losers may not wear shirts the rest of the day until 12am
* Front flip into a body of water that's not a pool
* Everyone (including media and management) must perform a benihana
RELATED ARTICLE: Trevor strikes back!
GREAT SCOTT, so you hate all filmers? Then explain why you wanted me to firm you skate all the time. I thought you were the photographer, but you seem to think you're the star of the video Come on, man--so I missed Dennis do one trick, but he made it better the second time anyway. Have you ever even thought about filming a line of that guy? He goes 90 miles an hour. I filmed like 30 tapes in two weeks. You were so occupied with skating all the spots that you missed hella shit going down. I'm not one to talk too much shit, so I'll end it at that. Come on now, at least I don't have to use a tape measure to calculate my focus. Peace--Trevor Prescott