Northern Exposure: Canadians tour Canada … cheaply.

by Scott Pommier

As a by-product of the free-market economy that holds our planet in its firm grip, media, information, and products are distributed, sold, and consumed at an unprecedented rate. Skateboard products, along with the associated videos and magazines, hit the shelves at roughly the same time in the rest of the world as they do in sunny California, so it shouldn’t come as any great surprise that there are great skateboarders all over the globe.

The following article chronicles a week in the lives of some of the new faces emerging in the vast land directly north of the U.S.A. This is by no means a comprehensive list of great Canadian skateboarders, but these are some of the faces you’re going to be seeing a lot more of. Because variety is the spice of life, we decided to spice up our lives with a change of scenery¿a quick jaunt from Toronto to Montreal via the nation’s capital, Ottawa. I personally felt that overplanning would compromise the spontaneous nature of the journey, so only the roughest of itineraries was devised, and even that was strayed from greatly. Lesson learned: spontaneity is highly overrated.

Anyway, enough intro, let’s meet our little contingent right now, shall we?

“Junior”Andrew GordonOrangeville, Ontario

Oddly enough, this fourteen year old is probably the most recognizable face on the trip. He looks to be a bit on the frail side, until he steps onto a skateboard. He’s capable of doing just about any trick he chooses¿he just has to scream obscenities and rip some of his hair out first.

“Ass Banga”Ryan SmithKelowna, British Columbia

Are you looking for a good tip on a horse? Well here’s the one to bet on. Hailing from a small town in the interior of British Columbia is a scrawny little fireball who’s about to make himself very well-known indeed. This kid is on a mission.

“Rock Out”Jessie Van RoechoudtKelowna, British Columbia

Jessie is currently living in San Francisco, where she goes to school. One of the more intelligent skateboarders one could ever hope to meet, she has to turn her brain off when she wants to try something that scares her. For some reason the phrase, “The lovely and talented ” is used to introduce nearly every female celebrity; with her optimistic yet pragmatic approach to life and her skateboard abilities, this phrase applies much more aptly to Jessie.

“The Galizza”Gailea MomoluOttawa, Ontario

Gailea has one of the smoothest styles out there. He’s quickly proving himself to be a well-rounded ripper. He’s made some impressive showings at a few big contests, he can get jiggy with the tech stuff, and he’s really starting to step up in the gnar category. Go get ’em, G-Man.

“The Amber Gambler”Alex RothbauerOakville, Ontario

Alex treats yellow traffic lights as if they are indicators that a portal back to his home world located on the other side of the intersection is about to close, stranding him eternally. While the rest of us traded off driving shifts in the Pontiac Grand Prix, Alex was pretty much a one-man show in the Chevy Lumina. He was very patient, all things considered, and in spite of all the driving, he did his fair share of skateboarding. He’s a much better skateboarder than driver.

“Arielino”Ariel StagniMississauga, Ontario

Ariel is studying to be an urban planner. His organizational skills and his cerebral levelheadedness will doubtlessly make him a good one. These same assets also reveal themselves in his approach to skateboarding¿he plans his work, he works his plan. Sadly, Ariel injured his ankle prior to departure and was not able to skate at the level to which he’s become accustomed, but he persevered like a champ.

If you’re wondering what the deal with the journal quotes is, I asked each member of the posse to keep a diary-style travel log. I was going to weave the accounts together like a majestic tapestry, but no one really wrote much, so I pulled a few choice selections and wrote e thing myself. So much for leaning on others to do my job.

The Fool And His Money

“So … What are we really supposed to be saying here? I guess we are to write about skateboarding stuff. I’ll ask Scott later.”¿from Ariel’s journal

7/09 Being that the posse is comprised of some young guns, skateboarding is a common topic of conversation. At some point the last trick of Tony Fergusson’s part in Plan B’s Virtual Reality video becomes an issue of great debate. Ryan is convinced that Tony had ended with a heelflip frontside noseslide. I maintain that the crescendo of his segment was a kickflip frontside noseslide. Andrew and Jessie chose sides, but neither were confident or interested enough to bother placing a wager.

The five-dollar bet came up many times during our lazy rainy day, but since we don’t possess a copy of the video in question, we figure the only way to settle the bet is to go straight to the source. So we dig up Tony Fergusson’s phone number and give him a call. Mr. Fergusson is confused, too, but after sufficient explanation he delivers a verdict. Seemingly insurmountable evidence, but Ryan isn’t satisfied. He insists we find a copy of the video to verify. That evening at the Blue Tile Lounge skatepark, a copy of the above mentioned video is found in their extensive library, and I’m finally vindicated. I guess all the hours I spent in front of my television watching skate vids finally paid off with a pretty sweet five-dollar bill.

Run-ups, Run-ins, And We’re Off And Running”My only question is: How the f¿k do you get lost on a freeway?”¿from Ryan’s journal

7/10 Wednesday is not all it could be. Between security-guard hassles, Ariel’s emergency dental surgery, and eighteen meal breaks, not a lot of shredding is going down. Ryan plays around on the City Hall ten-stair rail for a bit, and Ariel breaks out the launch-ramp to fly over a wheelchair, but that’s about it.

Just before rendezvousing with Alex and my brother at my apartment, Jessie, Ariel, Alex, Andrew, and I check out a rail Ariel saw on the way back from his appointment. While I’m setting up flashes and the others are pushing up to the rail, some little thug threatens to “rob” us “for a buck-twenty-five.” That’s all it required to take the zing out of the session, so we pack up and peace out.

We return to my place for the great vehicle-loading session. Alex and my brother Andrew (who came along to share some of the driving and to get away from work) are on time, we are not. Junior is running around doing some last-minute packing while everyone else is starting to heap their junk into either Alex’s Chevy Lumina or the Pontiac Grand Prix rental.

Ariel did not organize the trip, but it is apparent that he is the most organized. He has that paternal packing instinct, so he and Alex manage to fit everything into the cars, most impressive given that everyone overpacked. Ariel even manages to squeeze his Ramptech jump ramp in; we are indeed ready for anything.

We start the five-hour drive a little later than we ought to have, and since I opted to forgo the bother of reserving a hotel, I become increasingly unpopular with each “No Vacancy” sign we pass. Eventually, a Travelodge is spotted, and they do in fact have a few empty rooms. In order to keep our costs low, we decide to mislead the clerk by telling him that there will be two to a room. Thanks to some ninja tactics, we pull it off.

Numerology”Gailea (The Trooper) just landed the back lip. He worked for it.”¿from Ariel’s journal

7/11 What a day, what a day¿I wish it would end already. Note to self: Open a hotel in the Ottawa/Hull region. There are no vacancies to be had, so we sit and laugh. We laugh in sweet delirium.

Due to exhaustion, today’s highlights are presented in point form à la Harper’s Bazaar:

2 bushels of nectarines consumed4-dollar pizza slices58 red lights run10-stair rail found800,000,000 rolls of film3 tricks shot5 dollars paid to Ryan for a nollie noseslide44 meal breaks1 tripod down2 free iced teas76 hotels0 vacancies

One last thing about the hotel situation: Ryan discarded some refuse during one of our many attempts to find room at an inn. We’ve just come across his little bread-crumb trail, so we’ve already been here. Hooray!

Wake Up, It’s A Brand-New Day”I’m not sure if it has anything to with us not finding a hotel and being forced to sleep on the side of the road in the car somewhere in Hull.”¿from Ryan’s journal

7/12 The whole troop is well-rested and in terrific spirits after a rejuvenating sleep in either the Lumina or the Grand Prix. After a grocery-store breakfast at the Provigo, our first order of business is to find a hotel. At 12:30 p.m. we check it. At 4:30 p.m. we get going.

Eventually we make our way downtown for some dusk skating. After shooting some photos across from the National Archives, Ryan and Alex have their boards confiscated for a few minutes. Everyone hacks around on a ledge before some locals suggest we check out McNabb arena for an after-hours session. McNabb is a hockey arena where the city runs a skatepark during the summer months with the help of some sponsors. Alex and Ryan opt to head back to the hotel for some sleep. The balance of us go to McNabb.

McNabb is an amazing indoor park; it’s huge, and the props are solid. It’s definitely the best city-run indoor park I’ve ever come across. It seems a little backward that it’s only open for the summer, though. Take what you can get, I guess.

Junior took it upon himself to entertain the lot of us with long lines including a kickflip backside lipslide on the flatbar. The fellow running the skatepark is a guy I used to skate with seven or eight years ago in my hometown of Sudbury, Ontario. He was kind enough to arrange some complimentary Gatorade for us. Thanks go out to Luke Joupi and the city of Ottawa.

“Do You Have Reservations, Sir?””Yeah, But We’ll Stay Here Anyway.””The road was unrelenting. I was unable to sleep, and gangsta rap was being played.”¿from Andrew’s journal

7/13 Our first real mission. We’re heading for a rail we scoped on our extended hotel search two nights ago. We determined that a 9:00 a.m. stealth mission is in order. Twenty-stair rails are pretty harsh morning spots. The rail looks even harsher by morning light, and neither Ariel nor Ryan are feeling up to the task while they still have sleep in their eyes. It’s decided that an early morning regime will be imposed in order to become acclimatized.

Back to the market for some yuppie breakfast food, we then return to McNabb Arena for more park skating and Gatorade. Ariel wants to try taking some pictures of me skating, so I let him use my camera. It’s hard to skate knowing that if I kick my board away, I’ll hit my fisheye.

Everyone’s had enough of the park, so we gather the posse for a couple quick downtown photo missions. Here we encounter two of the most reasonable security guards I’ve ever met. They each turn a blind eye until we get the job done.

We are all pretty tired, but Junior is cold-zonked. Alex has given him some cold-and-flu remedy for his sore throat, but neglected to inform him that the pills promoted drowsiness. It’s all he can do to keep from passing out. Fortunately, we’re able to keep him clear of operating any heavy machinery. A little food, and we’re off to Montreal in the French-speaking province of Quebec. Oh yeah, and we’ve got a hotel reservation, too. Joy.

After we arrive, another food mission is required. Alex and Gailea opt for La Belle Province, a Quebec institution that serves cheap hot-dogs (as opposed to expensive, designer hot-dogs, I guess) and poutine¿a French delicacy (Fries covered with gravy and cheese curds). Ariel, Jessie, Ryan, my brother, and I head downtown to find a Chinese place that Ryan has been to. It turns out to be relatively easy to find, but it was rather difficult to find our hotel afterward. Eid to Ryan for a nollie noseslide44 meal breaks1 tripod down2 free iced teas76 hotels0 vacancies

One last thing about the hotel situation: Ryan discarded some refuse during one of our many attempts to find room at an inn. We’ve just come across his little bread-crumb trail, so we’ve already been here. Hooray!

Wake Up, It’s A Brand-New Day”I’m not sure if it has anything to with us not finding a hotel and being forced to sleep on the side of the road in the car somewhere in Hull.”¿from Ryan’s journal

7/12 The whole troop is well-rested and in terrific spirits after a rejuvenating sleep in either the Lumina or the Grand Prix. After a grocery-store breakfast at the Provigo, our first order of business is to find a hotel. At 12:30 p.m. we check it. At 4:30 p.m. we get going.

Eventually we make our way downtown for some dusk skating. After shooting some photos across from the National Archives, Ryan and Alex have their boards confiscated for a few minutes. Everyone hacks around on a ledge before some locals suggest we check out McNabb arena for an after-hours session. McNabb is a hockey arena where the city runs a skatepark during the summer months with the help of some sponsors. Alex and Ryan opt to head back to the hotel for some sleep. The balance of us go to McNabb.

McNabb is an amazing indoor park; it’s huge, and the props are solid. It’s definitely the best city-run indoor park I’ve ever come across. It seems a little backward that it’s only open for the summer, though. Take what you can get, I guess.

Junior took it upon himself to entertain the lot of us with long lines including a kickflip backside lipslide on the flatbar. The fellow running the skatepark is a guy I used to skate with seven or eight years ago in my hometown of Sudbury, Ontario. He was kind enough to arrange some complimentary Gatorade for us. Thanks go out to Luke Joupi and the city of Ottawa.

“Do You Have Reservations, Sir?””Yeah, But We’ll Stay Here Anyway.””The road was unrelenting. I was unable to sleep, and gangsta rap was being played.”¿from Andrew’s journal

7/13 Our first real mission. We’re heading for a rail we scoped on our extended hotel search two nights ago. We determined that a 9:00 a.m. stealth mission is in order. Twenty-stair rails are pretty harsh morning spots. The rail looks even harsher by morning light, and neither Ariel nor Ryan are feeling up to the task while they still have sleep in their eyes. It’s decided that an early morning regime will be imposed in order to become acclimatized.

Back to the market for some yuppie breakfast food, we then return to McNabb Arena for more park skating and Gatorade. Ariel wants to try taking some pictures of me skating, so I let him use my camera. It’s hard to skate knowing that if I kick my board away, I’ll hit my fisheye.

Everyone’s had enough of the park, so we gather the posse for a couple quick downtown photo missions. Here we encounter two of the most reasonable security guards I’ve ever met. They each turn a blind eye until we get the job done.

We are all pretty tired, but Junior is cold-zonked. Alex has given him some cold-and-flu remedy for his sore throat, but neglected to inform him that the pills promoted drowsiness. It’s all he can do to keep from passing out. Fortunately, we’re able to keep him clear of operating any heavy machinery. A little food, and we’re off to Montreal in the French-speaking province of Quebec. Oh yeah, and we’ve got a hotel reservation, too. Joy.

After we arrive, another food mission is required. Alex and Gailea opt for La Belle Province, a Quebec institution that serves cheap hot-dogs (as opposed to expensive, designer hot-dogs, I guess) and poutine¿a French delicacy (Fries covered with gravy and cheese curds). Ariel, Jessie, Ryan, my brother, and I head downtown to find a Chinese place that Ryan has been to. It turns out to be relatively easy to find, but it was rather difficult to find our hotel afterward. Eventually, we trip across the old Econolodge and fall fast asleep.

Hurling Dinner Rolls At The Establishment”I was just thinking, Scott, if we can get Grind King mentioned in this article, I get 150 dollars just like that.”¿from Ariel’s journal

7/14 The first order of the day is the mandatory stop at the Big O. The Big O was the home of the 1976 Summer Olympics, and the athletes’ entrance to the track is a skateable structure. Locals peeled the rubber off this concrete halfpipe years ago, and it’s been skated ever since. The sun is fierce, and no one has much energy, but we get in a quick session on the fast transitions before peacing-out to Peace Park.

Peace Park is one of the main gathering places for skateboarders in Montreal. It’s also one of the main hangouts for prostitutes, vagrants, drug dealers, and other undesirables. Of course, the skateboarders endure the brunt of the hassles from the cops. Alex, Ariel, and I wander around the neighborhood looking for some more photogenic terrain, while everyone else plays on the marble ledges. After some dowering-rod-style navigation, we find the spot we’d set out to find. It’s part of Montreal’s McGill University and is heavily guarded, but Alex doesn’t waste time, and we get the sequence before security gives us the boot.

We meet back at Peace to join up with local photographer and friend Dan Mathieu, as well as some others so we can follow them to a rail. Ariel decides to go the wrong way on a one-way street, even though we have to pass by a police cruiser to do it. He insists against our advice, that he can “play stupid.” Well stupid he plays, and a ticket is his reward.

The rail session proves to be relatively unfruitful, so food becomes the goal. We go to a trendy little noodle place, and after ordering, but before eating, I ask about the ingredients in the pasta. The chef tells me that there are eggs in the pasta. Being that I’m vegan, I don’t eat eggs. I pay for my meal, but I hurl a roll into the street.

After everyone has eaten, I seek out another restaurant and this time I’m presented with a cheese-covered dish. After I complain, another meal is prepared for me. By now I’m so hungry I’m tempted to gnaw my own leg off, but my leg is chock full of animal ingredients. The chef assures me that the replacement meal is 100-percent free of animal ingredients, but during the course of the meal I begin to have my doubts. An hour later I begin vomiting. Is the upset stomach dairy-induced or psychosomatic? I’ll never know. Either way, I feel much better after purging. Perhaps I’ll make it a lifestyle.

My brother, Jessie, Gailea, and Alex head out for a night session, while the others return to the hotel. A little exploring around the McGill campus yields some decent terrain. Then it’s off to bed.

Oh, You Can’t Get There From Here”After that we opted for a more linear approach to route planning.”¿from Scott’s journal

7/15 This is our last day in Montreal¿time to settle some claims, wreck some spots, and then break out. Instead, the day is filled with frustration¿a lot of one-way streets and a little rain. After we check out of the hotel, we drive to the lab to pick up the photos I’d dropped off the night before. From there we split into two groups. Alex, Gailea, and Ryan go to the Premium Wood (a skateboard company that sponsors Alex and myself) factory to pick up a package Ryan had Powell send there. The rest us have the much simpler task of finding more film.

After some of the longest detours ever experienced, we finally make it to the meeting spot just in time for rain. Food it is. We wait for it to dry up, and then we head downtown and back to the McGill campus so everyone can check out the terrain we found. Then we eat seventeen more times and hit the road for one last day in Ottawa.

There’s No Place Like It”Maybe I’ve just heard the words “bling bling” and “steez” too many times.”¿from Jessie’s journal

7/16 Once again we rise early to examine the twenty-stair beast, but the feeling is again unanimous that this foe is best left for anothher day. So we return to the black rail for a couple of quick tricks, then to the sports arena, where Junior tortures himself at the top of a fifteen-stair rail. Finally, it’s decided that falafels are a safer bet. And with that we head home, bodies and friendships still intact, journals relatively empty, and stomachs full.

tually, we trip across the old Econolodge and fall fast asleep.

Hurling Dinner Rolls At The Establishment”I was just thinking, Scott, if we can get Grind King mentioned in this article, I get 150 dollars just like that.”¿from Ariel’s journal

7/14 The first order of the day is the mandatory stop at the Big O. The Big O was the home of the 1976 Summer Olympics, and the athletes’ entrance to the track is a skateable structure. Locals peeled the rubber off this concrete halfpipe years ago, and it’s been skated ever since. The sun is fierce, and no one has much energy, but we get in a quick session on the fast transitions before peacing-out to Peace Park.

Peace Park is one of the main gathering places for skateboarders in Montreal. It’s also one of the main hangouts for prostitutes, vagrants, drug dealers, and other undesirables. Of course, the skateboarders endure the brunt of the hassles from the cops. Alex, Ariel, and I wander around the neighborhood looking for some more photogenic terrain, while everyone else plays on the marble ledges. After some dowering-rod-style navigation, we find the spot we’d set out to find. It’s part of Montreal’s McGill University and is heavily guarded, but Alex doesn’t waste time, and we get the sequence before security gives us the boot.

We meet back at Peace to join up with local photographer and friend Dan Mathieu, as well as some others so we can follow them to a rail. Ariel decides to go the wrong way on a one-way street, even though we have to pass by a police cruiser to do it. He insists against our advice, that he can “play stupid.” Well stupid he plays, and a ticket is his reward.

The rail session proves to be relatively unfruitful, so food becomes the goal. We go to a trendy little noodle place, and after ordering, but before eating, I ask about the ingredients in the pasta. The chef tells me that there are eggs in the pasta. Being that I’m vegan, I don’t eat eggs. I pay for my meal, but I hurl a roll into the street.

After everyone has eaten, I seek out another restaurant and this time I’m presented with a cheese-covered dish. After I complain, another meal is prepared for me. By now I’m so hungry I’m tempted to gnaw my own leg off, but my leg is chock full of animal ingredients. The chef assures me that the replacement meal is 100-percent free of animal ingredients, but during the course of the meal I begin to have my doubts. An hour later I begin vomiting. Is the upset stomach dairy-induced or psychosomatic? I’ll never know. Either way, I feel much better after purging. Perhaps I’ll make it a lifestyle.

My brother, Jessie, Gailea, and Alex head out for a night session, while the others return to the hotel. A little exploring around the McGill campus yields some decent terrain. Then it’s off to bed.

Oh, You Can’t Get There From Here”After that we opted for a more linear approach to route planning.”¿from Scott’s journal

7/15 This is our last day in Montreal¿time to settle some claims, wreck some spots, and then break out. Instead, the day is filled with frustration¿a lot of one-way streets and a little rain. After we check out of the hotel, we drive to the lab to pick up the photos I’d dropped off the night before. From there we split into two groups. Alex, Gailea, and Ryan go to the Premium Wood (a skateboard company that sponsors Alex and myself) factory to pick up a package Ryan had Powell send there. The rest us have the much simpler task of finding more film.

After some of the longest detours ever experienced, we finally make it to the meeting spot just in time for rain. Food it is. We wait for it to dry up, and then we head downtown and back to the McGill campus so everyone can check out the terrain we found. Then we eat seventeen more times and hit the road for one last day in Ottawa.

There’s No Place Like It”Maybe I’ve just heard the words “bling bling” and “steez” too many times.”¿from Jessie’s journal

7/16 Once again we rise early to examine the twenty-stair beast, but the feeling is again unanimous that this foe is best left for another day. So we return to the black rail for a couple of quick tricks, then to the sports arena, where Junior tortures himself at the top of a fifteen-stair rail. Finally, it’s decided that falafels are a safer bet. And with that we head home, bodies and friendships still intact, journals relatively empty, and stomachs full.

again we rise early to examine the twenty-stair beast, but the feeling is again unanimous that this foe is best left for another day. So we return to the black rail for a couple of quick tricks, then to the sports arena, where Junior tortures himself at the top of a fifteen-stair rail. Finally, it’s decided that falafels are a safer bet. And with that we head home, bodies and friendships still intact, journals relatively empty, and stomachs full.