How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Date: November 21, 2017 Author: Jeff Thorburn Categories: features
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When I first discovered skateboarding as a kid, as much of a thrill as the actual act of skateboarding was, so was the thrill of hunting for videos, magazines, and skateparks. Those aforementioned magazines, specifically Transworld, used to have pages of skatepark listings in the back, with a legend that showed what types of obstacles the park had, whether it was indoor or outdoor, if you had to pay, and so on. Because I’m sure keeping a list like that up to date in those days would have been challenging and low on the priority list, those listings were often inaccurate, and often advertised long-defunct parks. Thankfully, while on summer vacations, my parents were supportive enough to drive me to industrial parks and forgotten tennis courts around the Maritimes and New England in the hopes of finding any of these parks that were still in existence.

While I have a wife and child of my own now, summers remain just about the same. We travel to visit family all over the country, and I try to line up visits to parks or sessions with locals. This summer was no exception, and we started out in Calgary.

With the crew watching up on the auditorium made of stairs, and heavy rain clouds rolling in over downtown Calgary, Tom Nelner catches a Heelflip with a back foot smack that could have been mistaken for a crack of thunder.

Over the last few years, despite rocky times for the oil-and-gas-supported economy, Calgary has experienced a boom in its skatepark sector, with a variety of new parks in every quadrant of the city. But with only one day to skate, I set off for the streets.

Above the Kalamata Grocery, Kevin Lowry makes me a spicy salad that I’m still thinking about a month later. I just never would have made it that way! Salads made by friends are heavily underrated. Afterwards, we roll through the downtown streets, which are eerily quiet on a holiday Monday. Despite the streets figuratively being ours, we pass a lot of time skating various curbs, but still find some other spots and fellow skaters to roll with.

One of the few random people lurking around Calgary on this holiday Monday kept prowling around Kevin Lowry and I while we skated this ledge. The guy eventually yelled from across the street that a Tailslide might work better. He may have been right, but we wanted the Backside Smith Grind instead.

Flying to Fredericton, I cave in and watch an episode of King of the Road on the plane. Let’s be real here, if this was presented by some corporate sponsor and not Thrasher, most of us would agree it’s embarrassing. A skateboard relay race and then drinking your own piss? One episode of that shit was more than enough for me. Maybe this appeals to the aging Jackass fans that catch it on TV. Skaters, though? Come on.

Arriving in Toronto, with an overnight in the airport ahead of me, I head to Tim’s for sustenance. I get a peppermint tea, looking to chill out, but I mistakenly order three donuts instead of Timbits. While that satiated my taste palette, my mind and visual palette still needed cleansing, and I settled in to watch Antihero’s The Body Corporate. Yeah, that’s more like it.

Mark Music appreciates that sonic rest note that accompanies that scooping and floating of a Backside Air.

Shortly after arriving in Fredericton, I pick up my first skate buddy from childhood, and we start the drive towards Halifax, aiming to hit the Dartmouth bowl first. After a meal at the Irving Big Stop in Aulac, we roll into the Dartmouth Commons to the sounds of Iron Maiden blaring, and the sweaty sundown session is on.  

 With the sun setting over Dartmouth and Sabbath pumping through the speaker, Greg Baller ponders the science of kneeslides, the style properties of Flyaways, and the art of laying back a Frontside Grind.

Meanwhile, Lars Ells follows up the silent note with a rhythmic clack, clack, clack, derived from the lapping of a Smith Grind.

Some time in Halifax was intermittently dry, so we got out with Nate Oliver and some boys, but the fog and rain can roll in quickly, so we often did things like visit the waterfront markets, spend time in Halifax’s incredible new library, and of course, take further refuge at Pro Skates, where the coffee flows and the typical skateshop banter never ends.

Nova Scotia’s own Ben Nicoll takes a Switch Crook down into a Halifax hill, away from what looks like the aftermath of an explosion, but it’s just the beginning of redevelopment.

Fast-forward, and I’m now driving down the coast with my wife towards Homegrown Skateboards in Lahave, where we have a lunch at the bakery below it and I sneak in a few laps around the indoor bowl.

I’ve sweet-talked my better half into a drive down to Liverpool to skate a new bowl that everyone has been talking about. It was worth the scenic drive, and I can’t wait to go back. After that, we head towards Prince Edward Island, trying to catch glimpses of the Northumberland Strait over the tall walls of the Confederation Bridge. We go full tourist at Anne of Green Gables, and then I question everything when I check out the skatepark in Summerside and it’s only me and 24 kids on scooters. For real—two-dozen scooters. Turns out, half of them bussed in from Dieppe, but still, what’s going on? Coincidentally, Colin Lambert calls me while I’m at the park, and when I give him the lay of the land, he tells me they were seeing something similar happening in Winnipeg, so Sk8 Skates put on free skate camps over the summer that were a huge success. So there is hope, we just need to give kids access and make it clear that it’s cool to just figure out skating at your own pace.

While tourists and fog fluctuate as usual on the Halifax waterfront, Nate Oliver takes some shine off the buskers by slicing through a Backside Tailslide.

Returning to the mainland, my wife and I stop at yet another Irving Big Stop on our way back to Fredericton. As we sit outside in Salisbury, I stare at the painted curbs in the parking lot and try to describe for her what’s it’s like to wonder, “How will it grind?” every time I see a ledge or curb. Little did I know I’d be skating juicy California red curbs in a week. But I digress.

I don’t normally think I’m old, but returning to Fredericton and stopping at the park I grew up at, watching my cousin—who’s half my age—skate it, along with his equally young friends, actually did make me feel long in the tooth. But really, what’s going to make me feel older: slams and sore muscles the next day after a good session, or not getting out there and having those sessions at all? More than anything else, skating gives me the moments of peace, the moments where I don’t fret about the next five minutes, five days, or five years. So yeah, it looks like summer vacations are still going to include diversions into skate vacations for years to come.

Words and photos by Jeff Thorburn