Maybe the industry needed a new trend to market to the kiddies, or maybe that Z-Boys movie made skaters want to get back to their roots. Whatever the case, it’s undeniable that pool skating is the hottest ticket in town. Every mag is doing the token pool cover, whereas a year ago, pools got about as much coverage as Tom Penny. Skateparks are making sure a bowl is included in the design, preferably concrete with pool coping and tiles. Shops are stocking the shelves with wider boards and trucks, bigger wheels, and the softgoods that go along with the lifestyle. Even Jamie Thomas, a quintessential street skater, has his most recent Circa ad frontside rocking 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 in pool-skating circles. Senior Editor Davoud Kermaninejad was a perfect–and thankfully accessible–authority on the appeal of pool skating, but even he had difficulty putting it into words. “It’s one of those things that you have to do, and then you’ll get it,” he says. “It looks a lot easier than it is.”
The formidable challenges of backyard pools– tight transitions and rough, overhanging coping are what create rewarding 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 to clean it out, but that’s part of the satisfaction. You might find a peanut, a capsule, a kidney, a square, a roman; it might have a loveseat, a deathbox, a ladder, or stairs.
Then there’s the danger element. Aside from smacking your head on solid concrete, you have to think about the police, irate homeowners, vigilante neighbors, and hefty fines. For pool skaters, the risks equal the thrills. “Many people will never actually get to skate a real backyard pool,” Kermaninejad explains, “and will live their lives thinking the pool at the Vans park they skated counts as a real pool, which it most certainly does not.”
Speaking of the Vans parks, they’ve managed to include concrete pools with real coping since they began opening their parks in 1998, years ahead of the current trend. “Skaters told us they wanted them, and we thought they would be popular with those coming out to skate,” says Vans’ Chris Overholser. “It’s hard to find a good pool to skate, especially a cement pool with real coping.”
So it boils down to each individual–put in the recon work and reap the benefits of a pad-free private session, or pad up, shell out a few bucks, and skate a smooth pool with no fear of trespassing tickets. You decide.
Shops around the country have noticed the increased interest in pool skating in all facets of their sales. San Diego’s Pacific Drive skate shop reported the typical pool setup was a Black Label or 151 deck–8.25 or 8.5 inches wide–60 mm Spitfires and Independent 146s. Cal’s Pharmacy in Portland similarly cited steeper concaved Black Label and Anti-Hero decks, 57 or 58 mm Spitfires, and Indy 146s as the axe of choice. Seven Ply in Westerly, Rhode Island, although not a pool-skating hotbed, reported a lot of Black Label sales as well.
Pacific Drive Manager Bill Thompson has also noticed more pool skating in the videos: “The guys who normally skate vert, now they’ll put ’em in a pool, too.” Rune Glifberg’s part in Flip’s Sorry comes to mind, and Matt at Seven Ply commented that Tony Trujillo’s part in In Bloom has gotten a lot of younger kids stoked on pools. Will Tony Hawk be next?
In regard to softgoods, mesh hats specifically have been hot around the country. “Look at how every skate company makes them (mesh hats) now because of pool dudes,” says Thompson. At Pacific Drive, it’s difficult to quantify the impact of sales due to actual pool-skating customers since skate fashion is all the rage, but Thompson puts it into perspective: “Pool skaters tend to be older guys who definitely don’t have Mom’s and Dad’s money likke the little kids, but they’re more down to buy stuff ’cause they really love it.” Much like the hip-hop phase of the mid 90s and the punk phase that’s currently hot, the shops realize the mainstream pool phenomenon is just running its course. “This stuff will sell until it goes back to something else–hip-hop or punk,” Thompson comments 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 a hold of in the world. They’re not itching for coverage, they just want to skate the damn pools. Concussion’s videographer Dave Amell even relayed a story of how John Lucero called him desperate for some Wade Speyer footage he might have because it’s so rare. Luckily, Al Partanen was tracked down to shed some light on the subject: “Most of the guys who skate pools have nine-to-five jobs and do it after work or make missions with their crews on the weekends.” True enough, considering Speyer’s day job as a truck driver.
Maybe it’s the fact that great pools are sometimes only skateable for one day and there’s no time to wait for a filmer or photographer. Or maybe it’s because video and photos will never be able to translate how impossible a Neil Heddings air or Tony Trujillo layback really is in an empty swimming pool. Regardless, pool skating will go on after the industry no longer deems it en vogue, and the true pool skaters will probably never know it happened.