Trans Am Australia

by Alex Klein

Australia: land of inversed summers, succulent skateparks, glorious beaches, and beautiful women. It is a near perfect country and the ideal place for a skateboard journey. The amateur skateboarders assembled for this trip were an assortment of Americans and Australians. Many had never met before. Several were mentally unstable. More than one had criminal records. And all were committed to living together on the road for the next two weeks. Who was responsible for planning such a sick and twisted social experiment? The morally bankrupt minds at TransWorld SKATEboarding, that’s who.

For the most part, however, things went swimmingly. We laughed, we cried, and we skated. More often than not, the comedy and tragedy were woven together, like the time in Canberra where Alex Olson inadvertently karate kicked Jason Hernandez’s VX-1000 in half. Horrific, yet funny. Or the time the transsexual hooker tried fondling Lewis Marnell’s wienerwurst. Nauseating, yet entertaining.

It was a fascinating trip, complex and rich in emotions. Read on to see exactly what I mean.

Skateboard Inferno

Our journey began in Melbourne, on the heels of the Global Assault skateboard contest. More specifically, our journey began at the Mecure hotel in Melbourne, as this was where everyone from the contest was staying. I’m not sure how many skaters were staying there, but I’d ballpark it at 150, and it showed. The place looked part toga party, part refugee camp. At any given hour of the day you could find around twenty skaters sitting out front, shooting the stool, playing SKATE, smoking cigarettes, drinking beers, eating food, and littering. However, like Dante’s Inferno, things only got more unruly as you began to delve into the interior.

That next metaphorical level of hell was the hotel lobby, which had the appearance of a gypsy encampment without the roving livestock. Bodies were sprawled out on all available furnishings. Half-eaten plates of food were stacked high on all suitable surfaces. Every hand seemed to hold some sort of intoxicating beverage in it. Men strode around bare-chested, and conversation hovered around 120 decibels, akin to a low-flying jet airplane.

The hotel staff seemed slightly alarmed by this convention. Looking to ease their fears, I sat down in the midst of the fray at one point, in an earnest attempt to represent civility. I had nearly succeeded, until I decided to stand up. At that point, my heel hooked the bottom of the coffee table in front of me. My sudden rise caused the table to lift and tilt, sending three plates, five eating utensils, four glasses of ice, and seven beer bottles clattering to the floor. The result was a highly unappetizing mixture of salad, hamburger buns, and broken glass. I slipped out as unobtrusively as possible given the circumstances.

The next level of hotel hell involved the actual rooms of the skaters-an appalling mix of dirty clothes, skateboard product, soiled towels, discarded food wrappers, beer bottles, and illicit paraphernalia. Everyone held it down pretty hard in this category, but it was Dylan and Angel’s room that snaked the cake. Add a guitar and a sprinkling of groupies to the room and it could have belonged to Led Zeppelin, circa 1972. The room was dubbed “The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle,” which captured the vibe perfectly, despite the absence of rock ‘n’ roll-and, to my knowledge, any swindling.

Melbourne

Melbourne was great. The city is incredible, the skateparks are first-rate, the people are friendly, the women are gorgeous, and the weather is pleasant. Dustin Dollin was our amiable tour guide and he brought us to park after park, spot after spot. Nights were spent out on the town, drunk on youth, passion, and whiskey mixed with ginger beer. We had some wild nights in Melbourne, and normally I would tell you all about them, but I can’t remember them.

While the quality of life in Melbourne is probably higher than anywhere else in the rld, I kind of got the feeling that there wasn’t the rich cultural heritage of a place like London or Paris, or even a fairly mundane city like Des Moines or Winnipeg. I had this thought while riding on the free public tram through the center of Melbourne. Over the tram’s loudspeaker, an automated voice was pointing out the various sights in Melbourne. “Now approaching St. Peter’s church, the largest Anglican church in Australia still on its original site!” It seemed like a suspicious amount of qualifiers. The voice continued, “On the right is the Postal Museum. Discover the rich cultural history of Australia through stamps!” Uh, no thanks. I got the feeling that Melbourne probably wouldn’t be the most exciting place to be a tourist, but could very easily be the greatest place in the world to live.

A Note On Personalities, In Alphabetical Order

After a week, we left Melbourne and made the drive to Canberra, the political capital of Australia. The drive was meant to take six hours, but wound up taking many more due to a tire blowout. After two nights in an odd, 70s-era hotel, we were off again, this time to Sydney.

Riding in the van was a good way to get to know my fellow travelers. Here’s a brief rundown on everyone: Alex Olson’s mood fluctuated like a tidal system. One minute he would be jocular and animated, the next minute he would disappear under the blanket of his Fourstar hoody for hours on end. I think he was playing PSP under that hoody, but I can’t be sure. Every so often a juice bottle full of urine would emerge from Olson’s veiled habitation, but other than that, interaction with the outside world was nil. Yet while his interactions did fluctuate, Olson’s talent on a skateboard was a consistently impressive thing to behold.

Angel Ramirez seemed like he was having fun wherever he went. Though he’s slight in stature, his skateboard talents are undeniably huge. Angel was also an undercover party animal, and at one point I walked into his room to discover him drinking two beers at once.

Brian Brown had a New York charm that captured the hearts, minds, and souls of ladies wherever he went. Brown is the thinking man’s skateboarder, always hunting for a trick or a line that hasn’t previously been conceived of.

Chima Ferguson possessed a friendly, easygoing spirit coupled with a finely tuned sense of humor. Chima’s skateboarding style is similarly effortless, and the ease with which he landed his tricks was mind-boggling. Chima is also the master of the flyout.

Dylan Rieder tore apart streets and transition alike with a smooth, powerful style. Off the board, Dylan was quiet but fun to hang out with. I think he was keeping it mellow after a Vans trip he went on, where he threw a toilet out the window of his fourteen-story hotel room that wound up maiming a flock of sheep-or something like that.

Jake Duncombe was always making me laugh. He possessed a great deal of confidence and maturity for a youth of only seventeen. I like Jake.

Lewis Marnell is part Swedish, part Australian. Lewis had a loose style on the board coupled with an impressive bag of tricks that left all of us scratching our heads as to why he doesn’t have a board sponsor (ed. note: Lewis just got on almost). Lewis lived his life off the board with a great deal of awareness. His healthy eating habits and abstention from alcohol were like a beacon of light to the rest of us, what with our ruinous dietary traditions.

Shane Cross had a permanent smile on his face and the best nollie out of anybody in Australia. Shane has all these funny stories about everything from poisonous spiders to the time he stayed out all night partying in the sketchiest corners of Sydney. Everybody on the trip loved Shane. He also had the best hair.

Silas Baxter-Neal seemed to get a trick, or several, at every spot we went to. I don’t think Silas ever met a spot he didn’t like, and seeing him attack such varied terrain was pretty inspiring. Silas was also one of the more pensive members of the trip, content to sit back with a bottle of wine and a book while the others raged on into the dying of the night.

A Note On Bondi, And A Subtle Attempt At Humor

We pulled into Sydney just in time for an evening session at the Bondi skatepark. Bondi Beach is a world-famous beach and party destination for the youth of Australia and beyond. Dozens of tanned beauties filtered past us as we pulled up, heading home after a long day at the beach. Quite a few hot girls walked by, too.

Hookers, Drugs, And Violence

A hotel mix-up meant that instead of staying in the rather tame Darlinghurst district, we would be staying in King’s Cross-the famed red-light district of Sydney. Our hotel was in the heart of darkness, a block overrun with strip clubs, prostitutes, and drugs, making life there very depressing or very convenient, depending on how you view things. Our rooms were quite nice-despite that a guy appeared to have OD’d on the sidewalk out front as we were checking in-and over the next week, as I grew to recognize the toothless hookers and bug-eyed junkies, the place even began to feel like home.

I think everyone on the tour could probably tell you about a wacky night they had in King’s Cross. Mine involved being accosted by what were either two shemales or the two ugliest females in the southern hemisphere. After that, I went out for the evening, winding up at the sports bar in the hotel lobby at 6:00 a.m., where I watched a soccer game with a bunch of violent drunks. One was a Maori in tight white jeans, who, at the top of his lungs, kept entreating his fellow patrons to hail Satan. After he got chucked out, this Korean backpacker got tossed out for being in a similarly inebriated state. However, rather than obey the sizeable bouncers (as I would have done), the kid ran around the bouncers and delivered a flying kick to the plate-glass window at the front of the bar. Unfortunately, the window didn’t break and the Korean guy merely got choked out and subsequently arrested for his efforts.

There was a somewhat rambunctious vibe for the duration of our trip. If there was something to be broken, it got broken, something to be thrown, it got tossed. Frothing at the kisser, O’Meally even chopped down a tree with a skate tool in Canberra. Other exciting incidents involved throwing a giant hook-shaped blade at my skateboard, rolling a six-foot-tall tire down a quarter-mile embankment, and playing “throw the rock at the bottle” wherever we went. Always one to outdo the rest, Dylan kept with the theme of “the breaking game” and broke the hell out of his arm. He went up for a feeble grind on a burly bump to bar and wound up snapping his wrist in two. It was painful to witness. Dylan handled it like a champ, however, and spent the next two days in the hospital before flying home early.

Boyz II Men (Not A Delivery Service To Michael Jackson)

As the trip wound down, I observed the troops with pride. All had completed the sojourn admirably, and while it hadn’t been easy, all survived the trip, limbs intact (except for Dylan, of course). Australia has a notoriously rugged climate. Nearly every animal is deadly. The landscape is parched and unbearable. The toothless hookers are aggressive. Still, despite the struggles these young men faced, they all endured, emerging from the trip as stronger men.

Gentlemen, I salute you. You may be amateurs on paper, but in my heart, you’re all professionals.

Dylan Rieder

What was the first thought that went through your mind when you slammed?

“Why did I leave the beach?”

Did you know your wrist was broken immediately?

Yeah, it was tweaked and swollen, definitely didn’t feel right. Even when I was falling through the air I knew something was wrong. Right when I landed, I looked down and there it was.

How long did you have to wait around the hospital?

Too long, man. I was in the hospital for a day and a half, waiting of the more pensive members of the trip, content to sit back with a bottle of wine and a book while the others raged on into the dying of the night.

A Note On Bondi, And A Subtle Attempt At Humor

We pulled into Sydney just in time for an evening session at the Bondi skatepark. Bondi Beach is a world-famous beach and party destination for the youth of Australia and beyond. Dozens of tanned beauties filtered past us as we pulled up, heading home after a long day at the beach. Quite a few hot girls walked by, too.

Hookers, Drugs, And Violence

A hotel mix-up meant that instead of staying in the rather tame Darlinghurst district, we would be staying in King’s Cross-the famed red-light district of Sydney. Our hotel was in the heart of darkness, a block overrun with strip clubs, prostitutes, and drugs, making life there very depressing or very convenient, depending on how you view things. Our rooms were quite nice-despite that a guy appeared to have OD’d on the sidewalk out front as we were checking in-and over the next week, as I grew to recognize the toothless hookers and bug-eyed junkies, the place even began to feel like home.

I think everyone on the tour could probably tell you about a wacky night they had in King’s Cross. Mine involved being accosted by what were either two shemales or the two ugliest females in the southern hemisphere. After that, I went out for the evening, winding up at the sports bar in the hotel lobby at 6:00 a.m., where I watched a soccer game with a bunch of violent drunks. One was a Maori in tight white jeans, who, at the top of his lungs, kept entreating his fellow patrons to hail Satan. After he got chucked out, this Korean backpacker got tossed out for being in a similarly inebriated state. However, rather than obey the sizeable bouncers (as I would have done), the kid ran around the bouncers and delivered a flying kick to the plate-glass window at the front of the bar. Unfortunately, the window didn’t break and the Korean guy merely got choked out and subsequently arrested for his efforts.

There was a somewhat rambunctious vibe for the duration of our trip. If there was something to be broken, it got broken, something to be thrown, it got tossed. Frothing at the kisser, O’Meally even chopped down a tree with a skate tool in Canberra. Other exciting incidents involved throwing a giant hook-shaped blade at my skateboard, rolling a six-foot-tall tire down a quarter-mile embankment, and playing “throw the rock at the bottle” wherever we went. Always one to outdo the rest, Dylan kept with the theme of “the breaking game” and broke the hell out of his arm. He went up for a feeble grind on a burly bump to bar and wound up snapping his wrist in two. It was painful to witness. Dylan handled it like a champ, however, and spent the next two days in the hospital before flying home early.

Boyz II Men (Not A Delivery Service To Michael Jackson)

As the trip wound down, I observed the troops with pride. All had completed the sojourn admirably, and while it hadn’t been easy, all survived the trip, limbs intact (except for Dylan, of course). Australia has a notoriously rugged climate. Nearly every animal is deadly. The landscape is parched and unbearable. The toothless hookers are aggressive. Still, despite the struggles these young men faced, they all endured, emerging from the trip as stronger men.

Gentlemen, I salute you. You may be amateurs on paper, but in my heart, you’re all professionals.

Dylan Rieder

What was the first thought that went through your mind when you slammed?

“Why did I leave the beach?”

Did you know your wrist was broken immediately?

Yeah, it was tweaked and swollen, definitely didn’t feel right. Even when I was falling through the air I knew something was wrong. Right when I landed, I looked down and there it was.

How long did you have to wait around the hospital?

Too long, man. I was in the hospital for a day and a half, waiting for my cast. It sucked, but they got me all jacked up on morphine, so that was a plus. But it sucked, waiting that long with my arm elevated, waiting for the doctor. That was a downer. But it was all good afterward-you have to deal with it. I’m not complaining.

Did they end up operating on you?

Yeah. They put me out the second night. They were going to put pins in, but I guess they ended up not, because it wasn’t as bad as they thought.

Wasn’t there a paranoid schizophrenic in the bed next to you?

Yeah, some psychopathic guy who thought everyone was after him. I think he committed a crime before he came in, and they were waiting for him to throw up. I think he took all these pills. The dude was freaking out. It was kind of crazy. I was afraid he was going to pop through the sheet that separated me from him and he was going to strangle me. It was sketchy.

What are your thoughts on the Australian health care system?

It’s dope. You don’t have to have health care if you’re a resident, but it’s slow as shit. I don’t know if it was the hospital or what, but they only had one doctor who could help me, and he was busy saving some dude’s life. But everybody was super cool.

Did you fly home directly after that?

Yeah, I was kind of over driving to the Gold Coast, where everybody was going to be having a good time in the water, surfing and sh-t, and then me just jerking off on the beach. I was off it. I guess it worked out good, because it rained the entire time they were up there.

How was the flight home?

Eh. I just took my pill and passed out.

Lewis Marnell

Are you the only human in Australia with gold fronts?

Nah, my buddy Luke has some as well. He came to visit me in New York, and as soon as he came I took him to get some as well.

Do you get a lot of questions and stares?

Yeah, all the time. People look at your mouth and go, “Whoa! What happened to you?” You tell some crazy story like, “Oh yeah, I got in a car crash and I knocked all my teeth out…”

What is it that you like about Melbourne?

It’s just so laid back and chill. I’ve got all my friends here.

Is there a rivalry between Melbourne and Sydney?

No, I don’t think so. I’ve heard there’s a little bit of a rivalry there, but nothing that I’m mixed up in.

You had headphones on a lot during the trip. What kind of music do you like to listen to?

It’s going to have to be reggae. Mostly reggae, Curtis Mayfield, Gil Scott-Heron, funk.

Do you make music too?

Yeah, I try to. I’ve been busting out some moves on the GarageBand on my computer. I’ve got some beats going, and I’ve just worked out how you can record your voice, so now I’m on a whole new level.

What does America have that Australia doesn’t have?

Well, America has a lot more gnarly security and cops and laws. The difference between Australia and America in the skating scene is that in Australia, you can skate around wherever you want without getting a trespassing ticket or something like that. And you don’t have to drive around to get to spots in Australia. Every time I’ve been to California, it takes an hour to get to a spot, then you get kicked out, then another hour to get to the next spot.

Do you think you’ll stay in Australia for a while or will you move to the States?

Whatever happens. I’m trying to chill in Australia and do everything here, but you always end up in the States (laughs).

Chima Ferguson

What is a seppo?

I don’t know. I’ve never used the word, but it’s what Australians call Americans or something.

Is it a bad word?

Nah, nah, it just means “American person” or whatever.

Where does it come from?

I think it has to do with American people using septic tanks. They don’t really use them out here in Australia. I don’t know. No one’s ever told me the meaning.

What kind of stereotypes do Australians have about Americans?

(That they’re) kind of loud, outrageous people.

That’s what we