Lists of legendary backyard bowls are like chronic hippers—every pool-cruster has one. Nostalgia runs deep and opinions differ. But when you boil it down, a handful of all-time pits always rise above the scum line.—Keith Hamm
1. Buena Vista—Watsonville, California
Bill's Wheels shop owner Bill Ackerman and his buddies dug it out in 1976, fearing the Psycho Woodcutter, a squatter who'd run them off with an axe. Unearthed again in '87, Buena hosted summer contests, carloads of San Jose's best, and Andy Roy boosting frontside corner bonelesses to disaster.
STEVE CAB IN BAN THIS:
2. Vagabond—Fresno, California
For years, this kidney was the only reason to stop in Fresno while driving through the fertile San Joaquin Valley. Then a crew of bowl dogs moved there, reaping a bounty of backyard fruit. Fresno went from pit stop to destination, even more so when locals sculpted concrete hits surrounding the pool.
3. Bastrop—Bastrop, Texas
The Camp Swift military base just east of Austin was decommissioned shortly after WWII. Decades later, skaters infiltrated the property's five outsize pools. The Country Club pool, featuring 45-degree walls, "was like skating a huge bank," remembers John Gibson. "And it had this tile lip you could really grind the crap out of." These days, Bastrop's Grinder Ledge keeps the war alive with D.I.Y. concrete additions.
NIKE SB TEAM:
4. Pink Motel—San Fernando, California
She ain't got the sweetest shallow but this pink fish has seen so much action that you can't deny her a place among the hallowed holes. First skated in the late 70s, it reached skate-flick fame in Animal Chin and still hosts blowouts, birthday parties, and numerous photo shoots.
5. Dog Bowl—Santa Monica, California
When a kid with cancer drained the family pool for the Dogtown crew, skateboarding would never be the same. With bust-potential at zero, Jay Adams, Tony Alva, and the rest honed their collective progression—including Alva's invention of the frontside air—in front of cameramen Craig Stecyk and Glen Friedman.
OG DOGTOWN CREW:
6. Band-X—Jacksonville, Florida
When the Christensons drained their roomy oval for maintenance in the early 80s, Kona locals hopped the fence when nobody was home. Drained again in the late 80s, the scene blew up. "My parents were really laid back and didn't care," says Brian Christenson, who marketed a waterproof watchband, Band-X, with a face-wall logo. Eldest son Kevin now holds the keys. "It's in pristine shape with water in it," says Brian. "But there might be a skate reunion someday."
BAND X FOOTAGE IS NEARLY IMPOSSIBLE TO FIND, SO HERE'S SOME CLASSIC NEARBY KONA FOOTAGE INSTEAD:
7. Fruit Bowl—Garden Grove, California
Named after the nearby insane asylum, this pool "had the most influence, by far" on the progression of pool skating, says Lance Mountain. Situated near the round-wall epicenters of Dogtown, the Valley, Down South, and the Badlands, this is where all the badasses got together to put their moves where their mouths were.
NO YOUTUBE LINK, BUT HERE'S A LINK TO FOOTAGE:
8. San Juan—San Juan Capistrano, California
"I sucked the hose to drain it," remembers Dave Duncan, who got tipped off in 1987 about an abandoned mansion. For days, the dropping waterline slowly revealed the wide-open keyhole. Once dry, he says, "it was backyard annihilation," as heads convened to grind the polished pebble coping.
DAVE DUNCAN AT THE SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO POOL, 1988. Photo from galleri.skateboard.dk.
9. C Bowl—Cambridge, Massachusetts
According to Kevin Day, the earliest sessions at this fully operational public swimming pool went down in 1975. Shaped like a giant letter C, the deep end features nine-foot trannies to a kink to three feet of vert. Add cracks, seeps, and an eroding surface, and you've got a pit where the ride is about survival. Status: still going, except between the Fourth of July and Labor Day, when it's full of water. How many spots can you think of that have been skated for 34 years?
SOME YOUNG KIDS GETTING THEIRS:
10. Nude Bowl—Desert Hot Springs, California
In the mid 80s, Jeremiah Risk's parents hinted at a pool where nudists basked poolside in the 70s. It took Risk a week to locate the desert virgin, and he rode it for a year before breaking the silence. Despite biting winds and scorching heat, the scene ruled: dirt-road approach, bathhouse ruins, blazing guns, all-night acid drops, Lucky Lager, and generator-powered mullet metal. Then one fateful night, teenage ragers squared off against monster-truck jocks, some kid got shanked in the heart, and the cops buried the place.
NUDE BOWL RUMORS AND PARTIES:
The Nude Bowl. Photo: Brittain