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Worm is the first and only interactive, slow motion video platform. Built on a community of action sports athletes, events and filmers around the world.
Photos by Anthony Acosta
Photo captions and story by Ted Newsome
A shopping mall just might be my least favorite place in the universe. Everything feels phony and contrived; a hundred stores crammed together so you can conveniently spend your hard-earned money in every direction. Temporary goods on display; today's fashion and fads that will inevitably wind up in the landfill. Well, that may sound like gloom and doom, but there's a mall in Hawthorne, California that I actually quite enjoy. There is nothing for sale. There are no mannequins wearing flashy clothes, no zombies pin-balling in this matrix. When it opened in 1977, this 50-million dollar mega complex had 134 stores, but today it has none. 19 years of dust cover the floors, everything thing of value has been removed. It's gutted … abandoned … and rad!
Mike Manzoori gave me a bell and said he had a project he needed help with. An app called Worm wanted to do a skate piece in LA with Nyjah and Leticia and they needed help making it happen. Moments later I was on the phone with this cat Will Stroud in North Carolina. He makes BMX videos with Manzoori and these Worm guys tapped him to produce the shoot. Manzoori, Jason Hernandez and Will were set to shoot the piece so they just needed me to help come up with ideas and scout locations. Normally people call me to shoot, but this crew was too good to pass up and I wanted to be involved on any level. Count me in. One of the possible locations was this abandoned mall in Hawthorne. I never heard of it, but it sounded amazing so I did some investigating (googling) and found myself standing outside the mall the next morning. A man named Tawa let me in and I stumbled around inside this mall for a few hours looking for things to skate. It was dark and dirty in there, broken glass everywhere, shafts of sun the only source of light. Most of the mall was decimated, but here were a few zones that were open and bright and actually kind of clean. I shot some photos and went home and drew on top of them. “Hmmm, I could put a rail from here to there … and a wedge ramp here could be fun." It was a dreamy job and I emailed away the sketches.
My doodles actually got approved so I called Brent Kronmueller to come in and make them real. Brent was driving thru LA on the way home from a build so the stars aligned and Brent and his friend took some measurements. I was on the phone with Nyjah and Leticia talking about rail heights and a few pipe dreams I had in the mall. The biggest stunt I imagined started with Nyjah saying, "That's not going to happen" and after a little modification and discussion turned into "I think I could do a flip trick into that." I was psyched, Brent was giddy, and we went our separate ways to prepare for game day.
Two days before the great mall session was going to happen I got a call that Nyjah was hurt. Crikey, my dream job was up in smoke. Rich from Iconic in London, the agency handling the job, was on the phone asking for names and numbers. Jason Hernandez was throwing out names, Will and Manzoori were talking to people, it was the 11th hour and we were throwing hail Mary's. When the smoke settled we still had Leticia and we added Ryan Decenzo and Zion Wright. Damn, that was good mix. I called one of my favorite photographers, Anthony Acosta in to document the radness. Game on.
We had eight hours to make it happen. We loaded in a truck full of lighting, Brent and his crew built and installed at break-neck speeds. Bob Carr pumped in some smoke with this crazy blower looking contraption designed to dust crops or something. The smoke made the shafts of light coming from the sky lights look amazing and the giant lights we lugged in were pointed here and there to make the magic happen. Three great skaters, three talented cinematographers, and one creative photographer moved from spot to spot skating the props I dreamed up. I ran around keeping everyone stocked with fresh batteries and media and shot some photos too. It was a rad day and some rad skating went down.
The big escalator bomb was FAST and sketchy. A piece on the bottom was replaced on the morning of our shoot. Funny because it was repaired for a different shoot the next day that was rumored to be a perfume commercial featuring Leticia. Small world. Someone recently had the cover of a zine bombing the escalator ramp but who knew what happened when he got to the bottom. Zion and Decenzo bombed it with speed and it was DAMN sketchy. They both had squirrelly moments and did some hooting and hollering in relief when they didn't die.
The skylights faded fast and soon all we had left were the lights we brought in. The big stunt dream was the only obstacle left. The second story of the mall was open; all the safety railings removed for scrap metal. When you walked on the second level there was this giganticnt hole 20-feet down that felt like you could easily fall into. There was a zig-zag staircase that I had Brent build into a big wedge landing ramp. It was pretty intense but it looked doable. I swept a path in the thick dust and John Povah helped me tape a sign over a big crack. Decenzo sized up the gap and swept some of the run up as well. Leticia was sitting down because she had knee surgery scheduled in a few days. Zion was nowhere to be seen. I asked Decenzo if Zion was going to skate it and he said, "Yeah, but he doesn't want to look at it very much until it's go time. He doesn't want to psyche himself out." Decenzo was different, he wanted to get acquainted.
The clock was ticking and Decenzo ollied the gap. The entire crew let out a big sigh of relief as Decenzo bombed the big wedge. Success. Zion ollied it too and soon they were doing it back to back with ease. Zion took it to the next level and started rolling up backwards. That was scary to watch. Zion rolling up backwards to a 20-foot drop had everyone on the edge of their seats. A few feel-out attempts and Zion put down a mammoth half-Cab. He did it a few more times to perfect it and man, oh man, was it pretty.
Decenzo started talking about a kickflip and the mall got quiet. We were going into overtime so the heat was on. Decenzo tossed a kickflip and almost caught it. It was right there, ripe for the taking, but anything could happen. Decenzo ran back up the stairs and went for it. He came running out what used to be a Macy's department store, threw down his board and pushed toward the gap. He popped the kickflip higher than I've ever ollied off a jump ramp and caught it perfectly, floating way above the concrete floor that used to be covered with those zombie consumers. He stuck the landing and zipped down the wedge with a big smile on his face. Everyone in the mall shared that smile and we had the icing on our cake.
As skaters we always look at places through a different lens. “It would be rad to skate this" we think to ourselves as we meander through the mall. We actually got permission to skate inside this mall; it may have been years after it closed down, and it cost us a pretty penny, but it's something this skater will never forget.