13 Planks Over The Starboard Bow

Sometimes the world of skating gets a little too serious, but how do you escape it? Take a mini ramp, a tugboat, a few drinks, and some seaworthy skaters, set sail, and see what happens. After the World Cup contest in Australia, it was time to let off some steam on the scenic waters of Sydney Harbor. It sounds like a recipe for disaster …

When the session started, the seas were choppy and the barge swayed from side to side. It was skateboarding with an added challenge in equilibrium. A few guys went green around the gills and had to get off, but most sailors showed no signs of serious nausea. Within ten minutes, three boards were fish food, despite two fully clothed plunges in to save them. A small rope on the edge acted as the only catching device, and it became obvious that at some point most boards were going to get wet sooner or later.

These days everyone is a photographer. With the Opera House and Harbor Bridge providing such a picturesque backdrop, there were as many cameras as skateboards topside. When the party boat returned carrying members of the Associated Press and news for a half-hour shooting bonanza (above), cameras outnumbered skateboards two to one.Johnny Layton performed well for the media circus and even got a few nice lien melons in the next day’s papers. But after several boards had gone in on accident, Johnny braved the shark-infested waters and blasted a frontside overboard on purpose (Sequence left).

After an hour or two of swirling around in the high seas, the call was made to head for a more sheltered cove of the harbor. When the barge tacked into the wind, all but one salty skater abandoned ship to the comfort of the party boat. As the barge chugged through the chop and the Spirit of Tasmania passed under the bridge, Omar Hassan cracked a lofty backside air off the moving extension.

Later in the day, the wind dropped and the waters became still, but many of the skaters were getting wobbly due to their high spirits. The barge weighed anchor in a wealthy area of the harbor and caught the attention of some curious yachtsmen and even a public passenger ferry, which pulled up right next to the ramp so the hundred-plus people on board could take a closer look. Only one board was saved throughout the whole day (above), and it was ferried by hand all the way back to the party boat. When all was told, the count was thirteen boards sunk to the bottom, never to be seen again. If any keen scuba divers are searching Sydney Harbor, they may find the boards of Ethan Fowler, Omar Hassan, Dustin Dollin, Mark Appleyard, and a few other pros who lost brand-new setups to the dark blue depths. Local Sydney skater Blair Heath reels in a backside disaster against the skyline of the downtown metropolis. On the far left of the frame are the modern Centrepoint Tower and a warship of the Australian Navy. On the right is Fort Denison (formerly Pinchgut Island). Over 200 years ago, the worst convict offenders were sent there, and in the 1840s it was converted to a fort to defend against possible attacks from Russia, France, and even America-now it has a restaurant and a museum.

As the sun drooped down over a lazy Sydney afternoon, Mark Appleyard stalled one last pivot to fakie. On the borrowed boards of friends and team managers, Mark managed to put at least five skates in the water, but he backflipped off the boat, fell in a few times, and generally took to the barge like a well-weathered land pirate. His final cry of the day floated off on the wind: “Land ho!”