Remy Stratton contacted me a year or so ago and asked me to help him find some pools for the Volcom film that they were currently producing. I ride with Arto Saari - one of their primary photographers - and had ridden with virtually everyone on the Volcom roster at one point or another. They’d be in town and would ultimately end up in some pit I had recently found and drained. After all, its what I do. I talked with Remy awhile and we agreed on what would work for everyone involved.
Having access to clothing, boards, wheels, shoes and cash can help open doors that may previously stay closed to me. I try hard to figure out what a homeowner needs on my initial recon and approach. Gather intel. If there are toys in the yard, you can automatically play the kid angle. Most kids love skateboards… especially free skateboards. Same thing applies to the cars on the approach. Stickers on windows? Stickers on cars can tell you a good bit about who may answer the door. Is there a child seat? Toys? Then scan the yard. Beer bottles? Broken fence? Paint peeling? Is there yard work in need of attention? Meticulous yards and well-maintained homes are usually going to be a hard sell. These people pride themselves on their property and most people think that skateboards will somehow ruin the pool. You can gather a ton of information on a drive by. But, you only get one chance at the front door approach.
I approach alone or with only one person. I prefer alone. It is less threatening to the homeowner and if anything tragically does go sideways (drug house, etc), I am confident that I can handle myself, but if I have to defend a friend as well, people can be hurt. Look clean and appropriate. Smile. Have a good line of banter ready. I knock on the front door and immediately step down the stairs again behind me. It affords me the opportunity to keep my eyes open for threats and watch the windows. It also gives the homeowner a psychological space… They are looking down at me. They hold the power. I keep my hands open and in sight. I smile. I tell them my name and ask if they know anything about skateboarding. In this day and age, virtually everyone has heard of Tony Hawk or Tony Alva. You can tell the homeowner that pools are where modern skateboarding came from. These two skateboarding superstars evolved from the backyard swimming pools found all over. The vert ramps that are seen on television during the X Games somewhat have their origin in the simulation of pool walls… Have a good skate photograph pulled up and ready on your phone. Preferably of yourself. Show them what we do. It helps them understand and is a testament to your ability.
Make sure that you say that you saw their pool on satellite, even if you spotted it in another way. Some people are still computer naive and will think you were already in their yard somehow. Tell them at the start… “I saw you have an empty pool on satellite.” Remove suspicion. Alleviate fear. Always. I’ve used these principle approaches and they usually work. Sometimes they don’t. As I have said before, “It is a numbers game.” I run about ten percent. This means that you have to do a whole bunch of work… I spotted the Box of Rocks about a month into our search for Volcom. I approached the home. Gated off. No buzzer. No access to knock. It is this way at times. I left a note. Carefully worded.
Me, Grant Taylor and CJ Collins
I received a phone call from the homeowner and we agreed on a time to meet up. On satellite, the transitions and shape seemed incredible. There was something bothering me. It seemed as though there was either bad plaster, graffiti or something wrong with the pool. It didn’t have the typical look that a pool does on satellite. I needed to get into the yard. I went over and spoke with the owner. He let me see the pool and it was as I thought. Graffiti was on the pool but the surface was fantastic. The problem was the lip of the pool. It was completely covered in rocks and to make things worse, there was a slate top lip cemented over the rocks. The entire top of the pool was practically useless. The owner and I agreed on a deal and I informed Remy. He looked at the photographs and thought we should try it out. Lance Mountain, Arto Saari, CJ Collins and Grant Taylor met up and rode it one cold December afternoon.
We all tried to use the pool as best we could. It was amazing and amazingly frustrating. The transitions and shape were such that you could generate a good deal of speed, but because the rocks stuck out everywhere in a jagged way, you’d hit your wheels carving through the shallow end and get crushed. Without coping and the dangerous nature of the top, we were limited in what we could really do. Lance and I talked at length. We had an idea. We spoke with the homeowner. He rubbed his chin with his fingers and thought…
Box Of Rocks Part II will be coming soon. Thank you to Arto Saari for the images. Thank you to MRZ for the image of Lance Mountain. Thank you to Lance Mountain for the help and thank you to Remy Stratton and Volcom for the opportunity. Skate - Ozzie