07 March 2006

Sous Les Paves, La Plage

A trip to Northern California a few weeks ago. Thanks Bob, for driving me to the Ione skatepark.
Photo taken from www.thrashermagazine.com

While the boys were out tucking into good waves up here in Oregon, I had the misfortune to be landlocked for the last four days in the suburban wasteland of Roseville CA. People keep telling me how fortunate I was/am to make Portland my first port of call in this country but I never realized how depressing some parts of this country really are. I felt like an alien down there. No one walks, bikes or skates for transport. Everyone and everywhere looks the same. All your shopping is done in huge chain stores and you get stared at for being a scruffy Euro pikey. One night I just had to tackle it head on. I noticed that these vast wastelands of shopping centers, strip malls, and corporate complexes actually contained some pretty good skateboarding terrain. I hooded up like an urban ninja and hit the streets. It is crazy to think that acres and acres of woodland have become huge parking lots that largely remain unused. They are also patrolled by private security who I had to evade during my midnight attack on the suburban jungle. I have thought this many times over but that night it really struck a chord. Why is it so bad for a skateboarder to use the curbs, rails, planters, stairs in such areas when they are being unused by all the office monkeys and consumer junkies at night? Hundreds of thousands of oak trees must have been cut down to make way for all that asphalt and tarmac, yet when a skateboarder scuffs up the red paint of a curb he/she risks arrest and huge fines. I found an ironic sense of liberation being the only person not in a car shredding through this nightmare terrain. In fact, it felt like a good day of surfing. As if beneath all the uninspired concrete, I was tapping back into the primeval energy that surfing comes from. As they said in France in 1968 “Sous Les Paves, Le plage." Beneath The Paving Stones, The Beach.” That was the battle cry when thousands of students and striking workers battled the police during the '68 Parisian uprisings. They had no weapons to fight the police so they tore up the cobblestone streets to lob at them. Once they tore them up these stones, they discovered underneath was sand, The Beach. The imagery of the beach became a symbol for their liberation and defiance of authority. That is how skateboarding feels sometimes, especially when you are skateboarding in places that are not designated areas for it. As if you are creatively ripping up the urban nightmare to expose what has always lay beneath. It is here that the true connection to skateboarding and surfing can be found. The next day, I caved in and took an hour drive through some beautiful hills up into a small town called Ione. Here I found the bowl pictured above.

The total antithesis of what I had experienced the previous night. While skating that amoeba was skateboarding bliss, it lacked the outlaw sensation of skateboarding through the suburban jungle. And while skateboarding such a bowl might be physically closer to surfing, jamming through the streets taps deeper into the same metaphysical zone as surfing. One day civilization will crumble, and street skaters will aid in its collapse. After, that day we will all be where we all belong, naked on the beach, waiting for waves.