Pool Skating

Maybe the industry needed a new trend to market to thekiddies, or maybe that Z-Boys movie made skaters want to get backto their roots. Whatever the case, it’s undeniable that pool skating isthe hottest ticket in town. Every mag is doing the token pool cover,whereas a year ago, pools got about as much coverage as TomPenny. Skateparks are making sure a bowl is included in the design,preferably concrete with pool coping and tiles. Shops are stockingthe shelves with wider boards and trucks, bigger wheels, and thesoftgoods that go along with the lifestyle. Even Jamie Thomas, aquintessential street skater, has his most recent Circa ad frontsiderocking a loveseat. Is it just a trend, or is there more to it?

NorCal mag Concussion has always focused on pools, ditches,and gnarly tranny in general, and is standard browsing material inpool-skating circles. Senior Editor Davoud Kermaninejad was aperfect–and thankfully accessible–authority on the appeal of poolskating, but even he had difficulty putting it into words. “It’s one ofthose things that you have to do, and then you’ll get it,” he says. “Itlooks a lot easier than it is.”

The formidable challenges of backyard pools– tighttransitions and rough, overhanging coping are what createrewarding sessions. Factor in the truth that no two pools are alike,and you’ve got an endless search mission. It may take half the day toclean it out, but that’s part of the satisfaction. You might find apeanut, a capsule, a kidney, a square, a roman; it might have aloveseat, a deathbox, a ladder, or stairs.

Then there’s the danger element. Aside from smacking yourhead on solid concrete, you have to think about the police, iratehomeowners, vigilante neighbors, and hefty fines. For pool skaters,the risks equal the thrills. “Many people will never actually get toskate a real backyard pool,” Kermaninejad explains, “and will livetheir lives thinking the pool at the Vans park they skated counts as areal pool, which it most certainly does not.”

Speaking of the Vans parks, they’ve managed to includeconcrete pools with real coping since they began opening theirparks in 1998, years ahead of the current trend. “Skaters told usthey wanted them, and we thought they would be popular with thosecoming out to skate,” says Vans’ Chris Overholser. “It’s hard to finda good pool to skate, especially a cement pool with real coping.”

So it boils down to each individual–put in the recon workand reap the benefits of a pad-free private session, or pad up, shellout a few bucks, and skate a smooth pool with no fear of trespassingtickets. You decide.

Shops around the country have noticed the increasedinterest in pool skating in all facets of their sales. San Diego’s PacificDrive skate shop reported the typical pool setup was a Black Labelor 151 deck–8.25 or 8.5 inches wide–60 mm Spitfires andIndependent 146s. Cal’s Pharmacy in Portland similarly cited steeperconcaved Black Label and Anti-Hero decks, 57 or 58 mm Spitfires,and Indy 146s as the axe of choice. Seven Ply in Westerly, RhodeIsland, although not a pool-skating hotbed, reported a lot of BlackLabel sales as well.

Pacific Drive Manager Bill Thompson has also noticed morepool skating in the videos: “The guys who normally skate vert, nowthey’ll put ’em in a pool, too.” Rune Glifberg’s part in Flip’s Sorrycomes to mind, and Matt at Seven Ply commented that TonyTrujillo’s part in In Bloom has gotten a lot of younger kids stoked onpools. Will Tony Hawk be next?

In regard to softgoods, mesh hats specifically have been hotaround the country. “Look at how every skate company makes them (mesh hats) now because of pool dudes,” says Thompson. At PacificDrive, it’s difficult to quantify the impact of sales due to actualpool-skating customers since skate fashion is all the rage, butThompson puts it into perspective: “Pool skaters tend to be olderguys who definitely don’t have Mom’s and Dad’s money like thelittle kids, but they’re more down to buy stuff ’cause they really loveit.” Much like the hip-hop phase of the mid 90s and the punk phasethat’s currently hot, the shops realize the mainstream poolphenomenon is just running its course. “This stuff will sell until itgoes back to something else–hip-hop or punk,” Thompsoncomments nonchalantly. “Until pool skating isn’t ‘cool’ anymore.”

What do the true pool skaters have to say about this? Well,aside from Osama Bin Laden, these are the toughest guys to get ahold of in the world. They’re not itching for coverage, they just wantto skate the damn pools. Concussion’s videographer Dave Amelleven relayed a story of how John Lucero called him desperate forsome Wade Speyer footage he might have because it’s so rare.Luckily, Al Partanen was tracked down to shed some light on thesubject: “Most of the guys who skate pools have nine-to-five jobsand do it after work or make missions with their crews on theweekends.” True enough, considering Speyer’s day job as a truckdriver.

Maybe it’s the fact that great pools are sometimes onlyskateable for one day and there’s no time to wait for a filmer orphotographer. Or maybe it’s because video and photos will never beable to translate how impossible a Neil Heddings air or Tony Trujillolayback really is in an empty swimming pool. Regardless, poolskating will go on after the industry no longer deems it en vogue,and the true pool skaters will probably never know it happened.