Snow Business

Find ways to escape the cold brutal winter.

Story and photos by Richard Hart

I used to hate the winter. I grew up in England, and when the days started getting shorter, the weather shittier, the temperature lower, I could sense winter stretching before me like some dark, foreboding, impenetrable … er, thing. Of course, I’d still make the effort to skate, but it was more effort—driving three hours to the only undercover skatepark on the weekends, or just meeting up with my friends after school when the ground was dry and trying to skate with five layers of clothing on. Kickflips are a lot harder when you can barely waddle, and falling on the icy ground always made my hands sting. I remember that sensation distinctly. So, perhaps to relive those questionable days, or perhaps just to torture myself, I decided to pay a visit to the East Coast in the midst of its brutal winter and try to do kickflips in five layers.

I always said that the only other U.S. city I could live in—besides SF—would be New York, but the weather makes it virtually uninhabitable. Spring and autumn are nice, but how on Earth do people make it through the summers and winters and still look so hip?

The night I arrived, the temperature was equal to the lowest ever recorded in NYC. This was quite a shock after getting on the plane in California. I began to wonder if I’d made a horrible mistake. It was so cold I could barely breathe. But I consoled myself on two counts. Firstly, I could finally see my favorite band play—Mission Of Burma—and secondly, the trip was a good excuse to avoid the ASR trade show in San Diego, the kind of function where I don’t really have to go, but I feel like I should go. But hey, this “Snow Business” article isn’t going to shoot itself, ya know!

The skaters I encountered had things far better organized than I did. Back in my English winters of discontent I’d spend an hour dabbing a curb with newspaper while trying to stop my scarf from falling off. They, however, are finding abandoned warehouses and dragging in 50 sheets of plywood to sculpt.

A note on a couple of the spots depicted. The Tylenol bowl in Brooklyn is amazing. Solid, huge, and fully decked in pool coping so it makes the proper grinding noise—you can feel like Salba, but without the leopard-skin Rectors or the sunglasses. Well, I guess you can sound like Salba, anyway. If you grunt a bit. Thirty people have keys and these are the rent-payers. However, this place isn’t cheap to run, so if you get a chance to go, hit up the donation box. And don’t tag, or you’ll get bitchslapped. Tylenol funded the bowl and is hopefully funding the street course/mini ramp in the adjoining warehouse. Good lads. What they really need are some damn heaters. I have never shot a photo with so much woolen flair on before.

Another invite-only spot is the Alien TF in Philly. Kerry Getz did the hard work in finding this one. And it’s heated! It is, however, in the ghetto. I wondered why, when all the bling cars are parked outside (Kerry’s Porsche, Kalis’ BMW, et cetera)—no one messes with them. The neighborhood works in their favor in that respect, apparently, because everyone assumes they’re big-time drug dealers to own those cars. Must be a shock when some scrawny kids come out clutching skateboards. There’re only meant to be a couple of key-holders for the TF, but counterfeit keys are definitely circulating in Philadelphia. When we arrived we found a couple of surprised-looking kids there. But it was, as they say, all good. We’re all skaters, brah.

After a midnight mission to the Eastern Exposure subway with Ricky Oyola, it was back to New York. Outside a Coach Whips show in Williamsburg, my cover was finally blown. Some lurker with mad eyes slid up to me and whispered, “I know who you are. I know you’re the leader. The computer told me everything. You have to come with me!” He was verry insistent, but what I really had to do was get back to SF and take off my thermal long johns. Man, it was freezing out there. The snow was pretty, though.