Return To The Incubator

Touring Western Australia with the subcontinent’s finest.

by Morgan Campbell

Here We Go Again

Over the last five years, I’ve been approached several times to write articles describing the city of Perth, Western Australia to the rest of the skateboarding world. This is my seventh attempt at explaining the nature of my hometown, so it’s going to be hard not to repeat myself. With perfect weather year round, a relatively low cost of living, and plenty of modern architecture to abuse, Perth is a perfect place to grow up on the four-wheeled board, but I only learned to appreciate the unique city when I began consecutive years of travel after finishing my schooling.

The insular nature of the city creates an environment that can be described as incubator-like for talent. People hone their skills until they are ready to pounce on the opportunities that lie outside in the rest of the world. This usually involves flying the coop and heading east or overseas. I know skaters, artists, writers, and DJs who could create waves wherever they chose to go, except they remain as some of the world’s best-kept secrets due to their location back home.

Last year I was offered a job in Sydney that led to my relocation. After only a couple months in my new home on Australia’s East Coast, Skin Phillips approached me with a proposition to organize a tour of the West Coast that would showcase some of Australia’s premier skate talent. This would be a tour that Western Australia had never seen the likes of before. During the last year, concrete sculptor Simon Oxenham built a series of parks in the Southwest that incorporate both transition and street elements. This chain of parks now makes it possible to tour some of the most beautiful parts of Australia whilst sampling concrete delights.

The group of skaters assembled were from two basic teams: Time Skateboards (Andrew Currie, Alain Boglio, Justin Balmain, and Dion Kovac), and Momentum Skate Shop (Brett Margaritis, Kye Stanley, Clinton Walton, Ben Mclachlan, Voodoo, Johnno King, Jarrah Rushton, Graham Withey, and me). Time, Momentum, Globe Shoes, and Kgrindtv took care of the financial side of things by sponsoring the tour. After returning, Skin mentioned he’d like me to write the tour article, so here we go … again.

Perth

The East Coast members of the tour met at Sydney Domestic Airport at dawn on the twentieth of January. It was amusing to see my friends in various states of decay at such an inhumane hour. Some of them had been out on an all night drink-a-thon and were looking far from healthy. I had spent the whole night packing and making mix tapes, and I was feeling pretty sketchy. An anti-airsickness pill later, I felt on top of the world.

We flew into Perth mid morning and headed into the city to pick up our first rental car. During the first day, we visited the airport three times: once on our initial arrival, and twice to pick up Skin. The boys’ late-night beer-swilling antics led to Skin missing his first plane¿classic form, ol’ son.

We spent our first portion of the trip at Grant and Wendy’s (the owners of Momentum) house in complete luxury. We had a mansion, fat stereo system, swimming pool, and pool table at our disposal. The first couple days were completely demo-free, and the pleasures of Cottelsoe Beach were just around the corner, so plenty of time was spent soaking up UV rays, strolling across white sand, swimming in the perfect aqua-blue water, and eating food at a café overlooking it all. Occasionally, we’d hit up some schools for skateboard-related activities.

Sunday, January twenty-third was our first scheduled demo at an electronic music festival called Vibes. Once a year, thousands of Perth-ites pile into the gigantic Belvoir Amphitheater and dance the day away to a smorgasbord of DJs who could melt any music lover’s tastebuds. A small mini ramp was set up at the entrance to the amphitheater, which was sessioned for the duration of the slit day. Some of the boys headed into the city to fulfill their appetite for street terrain, while the rest of us soaked up the beats.

The Track

The next day we headed off on our tour of the Southwest, beginning at the oldest skatepark in the Southern Hemisphere¿the Albany Snake Run. Albany was built in 1976 and is probably one of the scariest things I’ve ever skated. As soon as you drop in, you’re completely at the mercy of the roughest run you’ll ever experience. The highlight of “The Track” (as locals call it) is the wall that consists of a long, mellow transition that whips up into three feet of pure vert. I’ve only seen a few people totally master the vert wall, and they are Chad Bartie, Matt Mumford, Andrew Currie, and Brett Margaritis.

After our demo at The Track, we returned to our motel to clean up before heading into town for a feed. Late that night, a session went down at The Shed, where locals had assembled ramps in an abandoned warehouse. Some serious partying went down, while a few of the tour members and locals explored the variety of lines the setup had to offer. The vibe in Albany was nothing but positive¿everyone’s hospitality made us feel at home.

Before leaving Albany the next morning, we paid a brief visit to Frenchman’s Bay¿a section of coastline that has to been seen to be believed. Rugged cliffs drop straight into the cold Antarctic Ocean, and a natural-rock bridge is precariously suspended between two sections of cliff face. I held my breath as all the East Coasters explored the edges of the rocks. In this area, freak waves are a common thing, and I was half-expecting someone to get pitched into the crushing surf.

Guess The Pro

About midday we left for Margaret River, home to some of the biggest waves in the world. On the way, we sampled the transitioned delights of the freshly finished Nannup Skatepark, where Andrew, Brett, and Dion flew about like the little munchkins they are. During the drive between Albany and Margaret River, a game of Guess The Pro Skater went down between the two carloads of tour members. Only one clue could be given in the form of a pro’s initials, and the opposing car-load would be left guessing until the next road stop. By the end of the day, names such as Todd Prince, Joe Lopes, and Bob Schmeltzer had been resurrected from the skateboarding hall of fame.

We arrived nearly an hour late for our demo in Margaret River, but the people at Surfscene were very forgiving. The park consists of a street course linked to a tight, wide mini ramp. Everyone skated really well, but the crowd was numb in response to our acrobatics. It is hard to keep up momentum during a demo when every stunt goes down with barely any reaction from the onlookers. Like a live musical performance, a skate demo is a collaboration between the performers and the crowd.

We finished up the demo with the usual product-induced frenzy, and left for our bed and breakfast in the rain forest. That night we smuggled an extra five people into the place we were staying and played table tennis into the wee hours of the morning. We even encountered a small bat in the game room that flew about whenever we turned off the light, and it hung there and stared at us whenever we turned the light back on.

Excuse Me, Fellas

Our Southwest tour was over as quickly as it started, and we spent the next few days street skating in Perth and doing demos in the metropolitan area. We had demos at outdoor parks in Rockingham and Mandurah, and an indoor extravaganza at God Park drew the biggest crowd of any demo on the tour. One day we pretty much ruined the paint jobs on both vans while food-fighting in transit. Bananas, eggs, and cakes were all part of the edible arsenal. We exited one demo Mad Max style, with Chipper spinning the wheels while trying to get away from the oncoming volley of eggs.

During a nighttime skate mission, we had an encounter with two refreshingly decent cops. Justin was warming up with boardslides down this one rail in the business district of West Perth. It was a little past midnight when the officers approached us. They were all, “Excuse me, fellas, but what is it that you’re doing, exactly?”

I replied, “Well, this guy is going down this rail on his skateboard, and Skin is shooting his photo for an American magazine.”

To which the cops answered back, “We’ve been given a complaint from a local resident, but we’re willing to give you fifteen minutes. We’ll come back, and even if you aren’t finished, you’ll have to move on.” They returned fifteen minutes later, right on time to see Justin roll away from a perfectly executed K-grind down the rail. Sometimes, as rare as it is, policemen can give you a pleasant surprise.

Before heading north we had to return one of the hired Tarago vans. Just as Al and Grant were about to leave the hire joint, one of the employees inquired, “There seems to be a lot of flour and egg baked onto the exterior of the van. Do you have any idea what that might be from?” Before turning toward the exit, Grant replied, “Yeah, we passed through a giant bug storm.”

We did our final demo in Geraldton¿a fishing town four hours north of Perth. The demo setup looked like something out of The Chocolate Tour, with minimal ramps laid out on some seriously sketchy ground. Although it was almost impossible for any of us to skate up to our full potential on the provided setup, everyone tried their hardest, and the kids seemed pretty stoked. That night, local surf-shop owner Ken treated us to some true Geraldton hospitality with a party back at his house. The demos were over, and everyone seemed quite relieved.

The final day saw the Time boys catching a ferry to Rottnest¿a small island off the coast¿to spend a day getting frizzled by the Australian sun. I spent the day catching up with friends around the city. Unlike pros elsewhere, Australian pros get paid very little (if anything), and I was very impressed by how hard everyone skated at every stop on the tour. Our tour was an example of true skaters getting inspired solely by the chance to travel to new terrain. Respect to the Time and Momentum teams for being really easygoing and fun to work with.

If anyone’s interested in viewing footage from the tour, check the Kgrind Web site (www.kgrindtv.com) or Tempo¿the newest video from Time Skateboards. Thanks to Grant and Wendy at Momentum, Skin, Off the World Sounds, Albany Surf Shop, Margaret River Surfscene, Slave Surf, Reaper Board Company, Surf Mania, and God Park for making it all possible. Also thanks to Woody, Roc Riley, Emma, and the rest of the staff at the Fuel bar in Northbridge for making us all feel at home during our nights out. Anyone who has the urge to check out Western Australia, drop by¿any stranger is guaranteed to feel welcomed.

as warming up with boardslides down this one rail in the business district of West Perth. It was a little past midnight when the officers approached us. They were all, “Excuse me, fellas, but what is it that you’re doing, exactly?”

I replied, “Well, this guy is going down this rail on his skateboard, and Skin is shooting his photo for an American magazine.”

To which the cops answered back, “We’ve been given a complaint from a local resident, but we’re willing to give you fifteen minutes. We’ll come back, and even if you aren’t finished, you’ll have to move on.” They returned fifteen minutes later, right on time to see Justin roll away from a perfectly executed K-grind down the rail. Sometimes, as rare as it is, policemen can give you a pleasant surprise.

Before heading north we had to return one of the hired Tarago vans. Just as Al and Grant were about to leave the hire joint, one of the employees inquired, “There seems to be a lot of flour and egg baked onto the exterior of the van. Do you have any idea what that might be from?” Before turning toward the exit, Grant replied, “Yeah, we passed through a giant bug storm.”

We did our final demo in Geraldton¿a fishing town four hours north of Perth. The demo setup looked like something out of The Chocolate Tour, with minimal ramps laid out on some seriously sketchy ground. Although it was almost impossible for any of us to skate up to our full potential on the provided setup, everyone tried their hardest, and the kids seemed pretty stoked. That night, local surf-shop owner Ken treated us to some true Geraldton hospitality with a party back at his house. The demos were over, and everyone seemed quite relieved.

The final day saw the Time boys catching a ferry to Rottnest¿a small island off the coast¿to spend a day getting frizzled by the Australian sun. I spent the day catching up with friends around the city. Unlike pros elsewhere, Australian pros get paid very little (if anything), and I was very impressed by how hard everyone skated at every stop on the tour. Our tour was an example of true skaters getting inspired solely by the chance to travel to new terrain. Respect to the Time and Momentum teams for being really easygoing and fun to work with.

If anyone’s interested in viewing footage from the tour, check the Kgrind Web site (www.kgrindtv.com) or Tempo¿the newest video from Time Skateboards. Thanks to Grant and Wendy at Momentum, Skin, Off the World Sounds, Albany Surf Shop, Margaret River Surfscene, Slave Surf, Reaper Board Company, Surf Mania, and God Park for making it all possible. Also thanks to Woody, Roc Riley, Emma, and the rest of the staff at the Fuel bar in Northbridge for making us all feel at home during our nights out. Anyone who has the urge to check out Western Australia, drop by¿any stranger is guaranteed to feel welcomed.