Nude Bowl, Spring 1990

My first year of college was a pretty good one. As a kid I had gotten to travel a lot, but I had always lived on Long Island. So it was pretty amazing to arrive at Pomona College in Southern California in the Fall of 1989. The entire environment — ecologically and culturally — was different.

I was lucky to find “my people” at Pomona pretty quickly. There were only about 1600 students in total at the college, so I encountered everyone. And back then the punks and the skaters stuck out pretty clearly, so it wasn’t long before I found some co-conspirators. My closest friend became Hassan Abdul-Wahid, a skater and punk from Los Angeles. We were pretty much the only two students who skated seriously that year at Pomona, and I think we were lucky to find each other. Hassan had a friend from high school named Rey Castro who went to Pitzer College (another one of the five Claremont colleges), and he introduced us to Dag Yngvesson, another Pitzer student and a pretty serious skater. Our skate crew was born.

The years 1989-1990 were lean times for skateboarding. The last of the skateparks were going under and skateboarding — well, at least vert — was waning in popularity. We all had the bad luck of arriving in Claremont the Fall after the Upland Pipeline was bulldozed just down the block. Every skate spot was underground or a bust. We skated the Mt. Baldy fullpipe, a variety of school yards, and a weird ditch that used to be a water feature in front of a defunct restaurant.

At some point in the Spring of 1990 we took a trip out to the desert to skate the Nude Bowl. I know that Dag had a friend from home named Corey who was visiting at the time, and I am not sure why Rey didn’t join us, but we headed out east on the 10 Freeway in Hassan’s rickety Volkswagen Squareback:

Dubbed The Coffin, Hassan’s car was a bit of an adventure on paved roads. I really have no idea how The Coffin made it up the rutted dirt roads leading up to the bluff on which the Nude Bowl sat. It’s really hard to convey what a weird, desolate location hosted this rather incredible pool, so here’s a picture that starts to capture the environment:

As the story goes, this pool was the last remaining infrastructure of a once-popular nudist resort. Whatever happened to this resort must have been dramatic, because all that remained were the brick shells of its outer walls… and, of course, this crazy large pool.

Skaters weren’t the only people attracted to the lawless, free, open space around the Nude Bowl. As we skated there the sound of automatic gunfire could be heard just over the hill as gun enthusiasts used a bluff for target practice.

I don’t have a lot of direct memories of this day. I know that I skated quite a bit, which impresses me as I look at these pictures: the scene just looks kind of intimidating and exclusive to me now. I am imagining that while there clearly was a “cool guy” vibe at this pool, there was also the acknowledgement that anyone who managed to find their way to this remote and desolate location was obviously committed enough to skating to deserve some level of respect.

It probably didn’t hurt that Dag was in our crew. Dag was a serious ripper who could hold his own in pretty much any skate session, and he had a self-confidence and composure that augmented my own sense of belonging in these somewhat exclusive, somewhat scary skate situations.

To my memory this is the only trip that we made to the Nude Bowl. It was pretty far away and pretty hard to get to, but it was also pretty amazing to skate, so I don’t fully know what prevented us from returning.

There was something really personally transformative about skating these sorts of spots at this time in my life. The desire to skate terrain that was really hard to access during this era led me to some really sketchy and wild spaces. And there’s something really confidence-inducing about belonging in these spaces. That feeling of being able to handle places that would scare your parents and most of your friends would later give me the confidence to explore the crusty punk spaces that would define the remainder of my youth.

Here’s a complete set of images from this day:

FDR Skatepark, 2012-03

I love skateparks. They are such a triumph, for me as their visitor and for their very existence. And there really isn’t anything more impressive than the do-it-yourself skatepark. You probably have heard of the original, Burnside Skatepark in Portland (Oregon), a skatepark that’s almost as old as my skating career. I have also been to Washington Street Skatepark in San Diego, a pretty impressive beast of DIY evil genius. But to me FDR Skatepark in Philadelphia will always be the DIY skatepark that got me into skating big, messy skater-made parks.

One funny thing about DIY parks is that they are often extremely difficult to skate. This is in part due to the fact that they are put together in a fairly unplanned, hackneyed manner. They also usually feature rather inconsistent concrete, especially when compared to the professionally-built skateparks that are now a common feature of so many towns and cities across the nation. So you kind of need to learn how to skate a park like FDR, and I don’t think that’s a mistake of the builders: part of making a DIY park is that you do so to create a space that’s not going to be overrun by every person who owns some rolling device with two-to-eight wheels attached to the bottom of it. There’s quite obviously a very strong connection between DIY skateparks and DIY punk shows: both require a bit more from those who participate. You need to be ready for a bit of a mess and little bit less safety to enjoy the DIY versions of what can now be enjoyed at manicured concrete parks and in manicured concert halls.

This “selfie” was shot at FDR pretty recently on a trip to Philadelphia visiting my pal Adam Goren. Adam has accompanied me on FDR runs going way back, and with every visit the park has expanded. Do I know how to skate FDR? Not really, and that is why I know well enough to show up relatively early in the morning, the hour for the kooks among us.