Written by Kane Horespool
Photos Kane Horsepool and Ryan Grant
“It’s about the journey not the destination”.
That’s usually some shit your dad would say on a family holiday while you’re driving through the god damn wheat belt. It's always about the destination otherwise you would never leave. But sometimes the journey is bloody interesting too. And there is nothing like a good search and destroy mission to make the journey interesting.
Its amazing how far skateboarders will go just to find something new to roll on. We travel the globe looking for new obstacles to ride our wooden toys on. But there is probably one obstacle alone that has sent skateboarders venturing further into the unknown to find than any other obstacle. And that my friend is the fucking full pipe. Sure, we scour schoolyards for rails, back alleys for cutty kickers and even privileged neighbourhoods for the perfect hill bomb. Nevertheless, the search for the mystical full pipe has turned skateboarders into tin soldiers in a reconnaissance division. Dodging cctv, evading security, cutting locks, hoping barb wire, barging rivers and burning bridges.
And for what? Realistically, what is the fascination with a full pipe? They are hard to ride, trick choices are limited and by design there is certainly always water, sludge, grit and grim to contend with. Why do we pursue it so boldly? Does it descend back to those primitive days of our evolution from surfing? Some primeval desire ingrained in us to seek out dark round caverns? Like vertical has never been enough. Or is it just perpetual persistent progression to always take it further?
Searching out the cylinders isn’t for everyone. Street cutty manual guy isn’t trudging through the woods to carve his way to ten o’clock. Only a proportion of skaters are seeking out the infinite pipe. And of those only a small percentage are going to give it a full-blown tear.
I awoke one gorgeous Sunday with a sneaky smile on my face knowing that we were about to embark on a sacred full pipe mission with three skateboarders definitely qualified to give it a full-blown tear. Helensburgh’s Rob Belter, Lennon Strachan and young gun Kieran Woolley. Of course, we needed a captain at the helm, my partner in wasting time Ryan Grant was there to rally the troops and co-ordinate the mission.
With that our crew assembled on a quite street in a leafy suburb. The kind of suspicion wracked suburban sprawl where even the arrival of the mailman leads to eyes peering through the blinds. Inevitably our rag tag squad was causing a stir when we stepped out of our little convoy. Tongues were defiantly wagging when the peeping eyes got a glimpse of the arsenal we were assembling from car boots. Boards, brooms, shovels and a bag of kitty litter. Surely our departure would have created more confusion than our arrival as we started walking into the hills with our tools and boards. Possibly they thought we were heading out to some hallowed ground to perform a myriad of satanic rituals.
In this kind of situation its hard to subtly commit the act of trespassing. The only thing you can do is just walk with confidence, laugh and talk, act like what your doing is an everyday occurrence. The last thig you want to do is be looking over your shoulder like a first-year uni student delving into ‘experimentation’ on their first ever drug deal.
Once we were out of the judging gaze of the white oligarchs, we were straight into thick beautifully Eucalypt forest. Following thin trails that were definitely not well trodden. The path we followed was no more than a wallaby track winding through spinifex grass and groves of young cabbage palms. There is something bountifully odd about carrying a skateboard through the Australian bush. Its like sitting on a Kayak in the desert. It's poetically pointless. Our tramping ended at an unnatural opening, a corridor of steel, rocks, poles and wires. This part of our journey involved following the train tracks.
Whilst it was easy going walking on solid even ground this leg of our journey was not without its risks. Surrounding us was an ample amount of signs and structures informing us that our presence was not permitted. Eventually we became naively comfortable in our transit surroundings and our guard was dropped. Then we all heard it at once, a collective raising of heads, ears turned to the possible direction like a mob of kangaroos on high alert. There was no mistaking the high pitching ting bouncing along, gaining in intensity and volume as the seconds ticked on. Any dip shit who has spent their youth playing on the train lines has the sound burnt into their subconscious. The sound of the approaching train had us all bolting for the cover of a large stock pile of blue metal. Bodies sliding, diving, tripping and rolling behind the mountain of rubble just before the passenger train rounded the bend. All the train driver would have witnessed was a cloud of dust disappearing into the undergrowth. Sure, getting caught on the train lines isn’t a hangable offence but it would have spelled the end our adventure.
Once the train disappeared and the dust truly settled, we continued on. Finally leaving the tracks we now had to navigate our way down a steep unstable slope. In any other situation heading down this hill of construction fill and invasive pasture grass would have been a synch. But alas skate shoes are not designed for this type of wear. Add onto that arms loaded with brooms and boards we were slipping all over the slope. When you have your arms full and you lose your balance in these situations there is nothing you can do but take the fall to your arse and try slide it out. I like to think of it as controlled falling. After we finally climbed, fell, slid and tumbled to the base of the hill we found ourselves on the banks of an unloved, overgrown stream. Low and behold there it stood, through the foliage we spied the perfectly unnatural cavern hidden amongst livistonias and lantana.
Rob had been here before, we credited him with its discovery, he had bestowed it with a name. Like many a white fella before us, who ever finds it names it regardless of the obvious facts that others had been here before. ‘The Gecko Pipe’ was its new name, after the resident reptilians who call the tunnel home. Immediately after the naming ceremony we got to work cleaning this conveyor of water of the layer of grit and slime that lay in the depths of its belly.
At the time of our journey the region was in the grips of a damning drought. Devastating for the nation, broken farmers, stagnate rivers clogged with up turned fish, scenes ripped from the pages of a King James Bible. Yet it is these turbulent times that can smile upon skateboarders. Droughts in California during the 70’s drained pools giving rise to skateboarding as we now know it. These recent droughts dried out our drains, ditches and storm water pipes making spots like these accessible and shred able. The gods of skaten turning others demise to our paradise.
So, cleaning the tube was made easier from the current climatic conditions. Loitering pools of water were swept out, the trickle of water was damned with mud and sand. Towels and kitty litter were then thrown down to absorb the last morsels of moisture. Finally, it was time to ride. The last resistant patches of damp were burnt off with the heat of rolling urethane.
Like surfers in the line-up on a never-ending set, we took our turns and worked our way down the walls. Watching these three guys work the pipe in their own unique styles was a thing of wonder, pointless to try and describe as no words would surmount. The grace and fluidity in a tight structure with no flat bottom was something I will never understand.
Sure, tricks went down. Lennon carved ever higher in the pipe working his way up past Kieran’s bed time. Rob’s effortless lines were cut short by a blow to the knee and Kieran couldn’t be contained in the tube taking it out into the mud. Pointless it would be to deliver a blow by blow reconstruction as it could never do it justice. Sessions like these are hard to capture with a lens let alone a pen.
Like all good things the session came to an end. We left the spot better than we found it. We took only muddy shoes, stacked memory cards and a gutful of stoke. The high of a session like that carried us easily back along our path of obstacles, back to ‘civilisation’.
Would the destination have been as epic a memory without the journey? Who fucking knows? Did the journey get in the way of the destination? Fuck no. And it never will.
Continue to search on the perpetual journey regardless of the destination.