No Worries Mate
Randoms in an opposite world.
Words and photography by Scott Pommier

Everything I knew about Australia prior to my trip I had learned from one of two sources. The first was my sixth-grade geography class, which was taught in French by a teacher who punctuated every thought with a small affected cough. The second, more recent-and as it would turn out-more reliable source was the Australian episode of The Simpsons. The sum total of the information was this: Australia is both a country and a continent; Australia’s population is concentrated on the coastline as the interior, or “outback,” is a dry and forbidding land with relatively few human inhabitants; that and “disparaging the boot is a bootable offense.”

Not surprisingly, though, my lack-luster public school education-despite the best efforts of my obsessive-compulsive, bilingual, geography teacher-had left me ill-prepared to deal with the emersion into a foreign culture (albeit an English speaking one, which happened to use more or less the same currency) and television hadn’t helped one iota.

So there I stood, in a state of moderate shock not knowing quite what to do, but also pretty sure that in the end things would work themselves out.

My situation was this: no one had been waiting to pick me up at the airport. Someone was supposed to have picked me up, but they hadn’t shown. Fortunately, I’d chosen a rather popular time to fly from LAX to Melbourne International Airport-there were skateboarders everywhere. All sorts of familiar faces were buzzing about renting cars, exchanging currency, and being picked up by the people who were supposed to pick them up.

I waited for a while, but when the number of familiar faces started to diminish I knew I should latch on to someone. Or perhaps run the risk of having the vague sense that things would work out for themselves evaporate.

I hitched myself to the Osiris flotilla via Pierre-Luc. To their credit, the group was most cordial and even bought me a few meals (thanks, Pat). After checking into the hotel, Frank Hirata, T-bone, and I cruised around the downtown streets. We eventually meandered to the city park where the humidity coupled with jet lag sabotaged what would’ve ordinarily been a peachy session at a fantastic public park.

En route back to the hotel we stopped into a hip-hop shop so that Pat Simpson, a.k.a. DJ Peril, could examine the local vinyl selections. A boney Caucasian fellow behind the counter introduced himself as DJ Peril. There was a strange chill as two parallel realities crossed paths. I began to recall a particularly miserable night a few years back.

My good friend Adam Brodie and I were walking home from Aaron (whom we call Graaron, although we know not why) Schole’s house. It was dark-which is so often the case at night-rainy, and cold. The walk was seemingly taking forever and the game of freestyling lyrics to the tune of the Gilligan’s Island theme music

had lost all appeal. Adam began to muse that we were warm, dry, energetic, and of good spirits in “Opposite World.” This concept became the fodder for much pondering during the walk. By the end,

we’d started to map out the lay of the land for this wacky place. In “Opposite World,” we theorized: dogs took people for walks, but fire

hydrants peed on the dogs.

In Australia water swirls down drains counterclockwise; January is a summer month; the fourteenth is the fifteenth; the left side of the street is the right side of the street; but when you make a right turn you start from the left side; Vegemite is delicious; “He’s

bullshit,” is a perfectly pleasant thing to say; “Piece of piss,” makes total sense; and “Sweet as … ” is a complete thought. And while planes weren’t flying around inside of people, the similarities to “Opposite World” were eerily numerous.

But I digress.

As the second day began to drato a close, there was still no sign of the fellow who was supposed to have picked me up, one Eric Mercier. Eric’s flight was scheduled to arrive a few hours before mine. He had called me up a few weeks prior to ask if I could come

along and shoot some photos with a group of Canadians who were traveling to Melbourne for the contest. It was clear from the outset that this was not going to be one of those plush, shoe-company tours with a team manager and a corporate platinum card. Nevertheless, I was still expecting a little more in the way of

structure. Eric had told me that the group would consist of Paul Machnau, Pierre-Luc Gagnon, Alex Gavin, Dan Pageau, possibly Mark Appleyard, and a guest appearance from Rick McCrank. Apparently the distributors who handle Premium Wood were going to take us around in a van with a tour guide.

“Well, fantastic,” I thought. All I have to do is find my way to Melbourne and the rest will more or less be taken care of. As it turned out, Eric took a few extra days to make it to Australia thanks to some difficult customs personnel. The rest of the crew had either decided not to come or had been absorbed by their teams. This left me with nowhere in particular to go and no one in particular with whom to go there. I was starting to doubt whether I’d have an article to submit alongside my expense report.

I decided I should probably start imposing on some different familiar faces, so I took a cab ride over to the Marriott where Jessie Van “Rockout” was staying. Jessie said I was welcome to stay in her room, but I got the feeling that her roommates were less than

excited by the idea.

For the next week or so, I crashed on the floor in Bill Weiss and Paul Machnau’s room. Any semblance of being on tour had long since vanished. I was just freeloading around and the World Industries cruise ship seemed to have ample room for a stowaway. Not that I was very inconspicuous. Just ask World’s staff photographer Dave Malenfant. Dave was traveling with the team shooting photos of all the riders, and I was barging trying to salvage something for an article. I went along to shoot some photos with

Paul. Thankfully, Dave was pretty understanding, even if he didn’t know why the hell I was always around.

I didn’t manage to get a hold of Eric or the phantom distributor until the contest got underway. Of course for the duration of the contest, Eric was busy skating. This left me free to live it up with Weiss and the boys for a few entertaining days where I was the lone sober observer. I followed along as Bill and the World team manager partied their way through Melbourne. Australians couldn’t get enough of the Weiss man. Tales of his naked 540 spread like wildfire, and his reputation began to precede him. More than one call to “Vote Weiss for mayor!” was voiced.

After the smoke settled on the course, my crew began to

emerge. It wasn’t quite the star-studded lineup Eric had pitched, but they were willing to hit the streets and get the job done. The group consisted of Dan Pageau, Josh Evin, Alex Gavin, Eric Mercier, and

special guest Dayne Brummet. Dayne is from Chicago, so the theme of Canadians in Australia was pretty much out the window. I made an executive decision that the need for good skateboard photos outweighed any concerns of having a cohesive theme.

We had only a few short days to complete the task at

hand. So we wasted no time. We piled into a rusty green Chevy Valiant-that Josh Evin had rented from a buddy-circa early 70s, and cruised the streets looking for spots. No guide, no van, no distributors, no filmer, no worries. We found a few neat things and

a few standard-issue Melbourne spots. The established spots made it abundantly clear what a champion Dustin Dollin is. We opted to skip the gold train-station rail alltogether out of respect for the one-man show he put on in Sight Unseen.

Josh only skated with us for a couple of days. He and his girlfriend were traveling around to see a bit more of the country. When he left, I was forced to rent a car. I was most reluctant to try my hand at driving switch because I have problems driving regular. I managed pretty well, all things considered. I drove the wrong way on a major downtown street only once!

For a herd of dark horses, the guys came through with some real gems. There was also a refreshing lack of ego clashes, lollygagging, and drunken misadventure. Shooting with them was a treat. I didn’t even have to worry about planning my angles around a deathlens. This trip was strictly a homey-cam affair. The guys were happy just to take turns filming each other with Pageau’s camera, which came complete with a clip-on fisheye. Maybe that’s precisely what makes this talented group dark horses.

Time flew, which is always the case when you’re having fun. Leaving Melbourne was tough. It really is a fantastically beautiful place. It would’ve been easy to skip my flight and just loaf around for a few extra months. In retrospect, I don’t really know what kept me from doing just that. Perhaps I could get a job teaching geography to Australian sixth graders. We could do a unit on North America. That’d be the best job ever in “Opposite World.”

Josh only skated with us for a couple of days. He and his girlfriend were traveling around to see a bit more of the country. When he left, I was forced to rent a car. I was most reluctant to try my hand at driving switch because I have problems driving regular. I managed pretty well, all things considered. I drove the wrong way on a major downtown street only once!

For a herd of dark horses, the guys came through with some real gems. There was also a refreshing lack of ego clashes, lollygagging, and drunken misadventure. Shooting with them was a treat. I didn’t even have to worry about planning my angles around a deathlens. This trip was strictly a homey-cam affair. The guys were happy just to take turns filming each other with Pageau’s camera, which came complete with a clip-on fisheye. Maybe that’s precisely what makes this talented group dark horses.

Time flew, which is always the case when you’re having fun. Leaving Melbourne was tough. It really is a fantastically beautiful place. It would’ve been easy to skip my flight and just loaf around for a few extra months. In retrospect, I don’t really know what kept me from doing just that. Perhaps I could get a job teaching geography to Australian sixth graders. We could do a unit on North America. That’d be the best job ever in “Opposite World.”