Our luck with a dormant and warm winter has come to an abrupt end as February turns to March, the late season storms finally began dumping their pristine powder on the Salt Lake Valley and our surrounding mountains, causing snowsport enthusiasts to rejoice and rush for the resorts. We exhausted our efforts shoveling spots and searching for covered possibilities until one bright soul among us suggested a trip west to California, where a 70-degree sun shines its warming rays on endless spots at hand. After scrambling to get work covered and funds together, four of us made it happen with short notice, each hoping to come back to snow-laden Utah with a few clips to cap off the filming for our parts in Natural Cause Productions’ next full length, Probable Cause.
We headed out early from Salt Lake Thursday morning, leaving behind frigid temps and impending snowstorms. We were eager to reach Long Beach in time to check into our hotel and catch a session at a nearby spot or park. Twelve hours later, we found ourselves scavenging at a random grocery store in Long Beach, hoping to find groceries that would sustain us for the next three days. I opted for a bundle of freakishly small bananas, PB&J makings, a can or two of chili, and a pack of GreatValue chocolate chip cookies. That, right there, would end up being my 5-star breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the next few days.
After checking into our hotel and eating some delicious spaghetti D.J. volunteered to chef for us, we headed to the nearby Gumbiner Skate Park, a tiny park inserted randomly on a city block with a perfect flatbar and ledges. A session under the lights ensued with some locals as we thoroughly enjoyed the warm ocean humidity.
We went back to our room and crashed early after a sweaty session at the Gumbiner Park, stoked to open our eyes the next day in a brand new city.
We had our eye on spots we hoped to skate as we rolled through downtown Long Beach the night before, so we got up early and headed into the heart of the city, optimistic about our chances of skating something sick.
In the process of this frantic spot search, something traumatic happened.
We were stationary on a city corner as thick traffic rushed through the busy intersection before us, with crowded city and court buildings looming all around. Riley and I had an ongoing game of SKATE that was unfinished, so we decided to resume it on the wide sidewalk while the others decided what spot they wanted to skate. Riley slipped out on his turn, shooting his board into a cop car parked in front of the courthouse-looking building. Thinking this was pretty funny, I try my kickflip and also slip out as my board shoots into heavy traffic, and time seems to shift into slow-mo as I watch my board narrowly, but thankfully, miss the first two vehicles bound to snap it in half.
Seemingly, out of nowhere, a speeding bullet bike materializes and horrifically mashes my deadly skateboard, the rider almost falling to the ground in the middle of the intersection at high speed. Miraculously he rode it out, pulling over some 100 yards down the street to turn around and give me what was likely a death-stare through his dark tinted visor. An erratic and angry female driver made a point to stop in the middle of the road after this scene unfolded to remind me of my negligence, but I was too busy trying to tell the stuntman bicyclist down the street how sorry I was for being an idiot. A lawyer-lady rushed out of the building as this chaotic scene unfolded, and thought one of us had gotten hit by a car. After explaining what happened, she said that we should probably just leave; I was already skating the opposite direction down the sidewalk, anyway, so I figured that was good advice. I was shook for the rest of the day!
Afterwards, we rolled around the city and mostly got kicked out of perfect skate spots. That was to be expected on a Friday at noon, but we had to try anyway. We made a quick pit stop at the Long Beach airport to pick up Luigi, who had overcome a bout of nausea and decided to come and join us at the last minute.
After short deliberation, we found ourselves headed to Griffith Park outside of LA, a huge nature park that we got lost in more than once as we drove around the massive park for a good while in search of the secluded spot, even passing a lone Wile E. Coyote who seemed to smirk at us as we passed him. Two park rangers kicked us out the first spot we happened to find in the park, referring us to “the better spot” up the way where we wouldn’t be messed with. We thanked them for their guidance and proceeded towards the right zone, where we were stoked to have an uninterrupted session as the Cali sun set over the hill and shot golden rays through the many trees in the park. Soon, I began my onslaught of breaking boards and not landing tricks, first taking mine out, and then one of Luigi’s. Bigspin boardslides plus a skinny bank-to-ledge will normally equal a broken board, and that’s exactly what happened. I was content to sit in the soft grass afterwards, and watch my friends make fools of themselves as dusk set in, eventually grabbing D.J.’s cruiser and bombing the long and narrow banked drainage ditch that makes the spot so fun.
We woke up early the next morning to raindrops on the windows, and a gloom of gray over the city, with on and off rain in the forecast throughout the day. Dismayed, but still determined, we quickly ate our continental breakfast and headed out into the gray, optimistic about our chances of finding something dry to skate as the rain began to cease. We found a school that was rumored to have perfect ledges and benches, so we scaled the schoolyard fence well before noon and found the buttery benches, getting a good hour or so of skating until the misty rain returned its relentless drizzle that would dampen the rest of our day.
With no knowledge of covered street spots, we reluctantly went and sessioned the Vans Indoor Park, which happened to have an all-girls bowl competition going at the same time. They were ripping! The park was packed and sweaty, so we went to a nearby bowling alley and embarrassed ourselves there since it was still raining heavily. Sunshine was on our minds as we went to sleep that night, hoping for a Sunday filled with clear skies.
The next morning, the nine o’clock sun found us tossing skates over a schoolyard fence, the ground just beginning to dry after constant raining throughout the night and early morning. We mashed to the center of the school to find a perfect 3 block and handrail. It rested in the shade of a taller building and the ground still hadn’t dried, so I continued a solo exploration of the campus and found a wall to crawl on while the dawgs searched for anything that would help to dry up the buttery spot.
Luigi blasted this 360 flip before the spot had fully dried, so I forced him to bless us once more with his photogenic flick and he handled it with style that is all his own.
Luigi Arellano hangs in space above a properly hucked 360 flip. Photo by Natural Cause Productions
This little rail next to the 3 block was fun, but a little too quick and steep for my liking. That didn’t stop Riley and Jake from throwing down on it before I had even gotten a warm-up boardslide on it though. “Quick and steep” must be music to Riley’s ears, because he banged this FS Smith grind first try along with a barrage of tricks to follow. Next spot!
They say patience is a virtue; Riley shucked that advice and banged this first try FS Smith as the spot began to dry. Photo by Natural Cause Productions.
After a run-in with a displeased church woman protecting her sacred grounds, we pulled up to another school and got some lines on more perfect butter benches that are so foreign to us Utah skaters. Ledge lines are not my favorite, and once I finally landed my line I lounged on the steps of this random elementary school while drinking an IPA, watching Jake and Riley try their lines. Luigi convinced me to play stall-SKATE on the bottom step, so we preoccupied ourselves with this until everyone was satisfied at the spot.
Even in high school I struggled to get to class by 9:30, but not this day. Wall bash in the open schoolyard under the clock. Photo by Natural Cause Productions.
With light fading we headed back to our hotel, opting to relax by the river right next to it. We quickly decided, however, that one final exploration through downtown LBC was in order. We crossed the bridge that went over the river, then bombed down the other side into the city while testing our manuals on the rough asphalt, feeling the hollow ground beneath the bridge under our wheels. We rolled up to the most perfect curved marble ledge that I’ve ever laid my eyes upon; it would’ve been a no-go during the day, and I could’ve skated it for hours. The pace of the night-mash didn’t call for this though, and the dawgs were pushing full speed down the street onto the next spot long before I would’ve liked to.
The city is a blast to push through at night, lit up with numerous lights and tons of little spots. We skated through the surprisingly empty streets for a long while, eventually finding a Denny’s to eat at. On our way back from the city Luigi and I raced back down the other side of the bridge into the parking lot of our motel. He might’ve beaten me, had I not stuck my arm out and blocked him from passing me as a speed wobble threatened to pitch me.
Sitting in a cubicle at work, far away from the LBC, I realize now that that last night skating through the city embodies everything I love about skateboarding and traveling: a constant sense of adventure and uncertainty that is heightened by the hype of your homies. Pushing through late night city streets, with only the constant roar of urethane on asphalt interrupting the the “yips!” and “yeeeewwwwwss!”, the only thing that matters is the sense of accomplishment after embarking into a new city, conquering spots, and getting clips.
Our brief hiatus in the sunshine state was a memorable one. Of course, there will always be missed tricks to go back for and spots that weren’t skated… but the main point behind it all is to get out and skate with your crew, create memories that will last, and maybe land some shit along the way. And if you don’t, that’s okay; all the more reason to go back with your friends, and do it all over again!