Birling the Skatepark Effect
Wesley Lee, Drop down to 50-50. Cayer By Adam Wawrzynczak There was once a time when skateparks acted primarily as warm-up spots....
Words and photos by James Morley
Over the past few years, the amount of time I have had available for shooting skateboarding has steadily declined, falling victim to full-time work and responsibilities that were totally new to me after moving out of my parents’ house and closer to Toronto’s downtown core. Going into 2018, I really wanted to change that and make a point of shooting photos and filming as often as possible once the weather warmed up. The relentless Toronto winter ended up sticking around a lot longer than expected, and, once spring rolled around, I was driving out to Winnipeg with a car full of my girlfriend’s belongings to help her relocate for the summer months—she got a job working with a legal clinic through the summer, and we were going to travel back and forth to visit each other throughout that period of time. Having grown to become good friends with a bunch of guys in Winnipeg over the course of a number of trips, I went out skating with my friends a lot while I was in town for that first week. When I flew back to Toronto at the end of the move, I was sad to leave, but also inspired to keep pushing myself to continue going out shooting more and more often, whether I was busy with work or not.
Maybe it was Murphy’s Law, but the second I got back to the Toronto, it seemed like my schedule filled up with various tasks, both skate-related and not. I was a bit discouraged at first, and I thought it was going to be too difficult to follow through with my wishes to be out skating at all. As the summer progressed, I found a bit of balance between skating and my other responsibilities, and I ended up being out more than I thought I would when it was all said and done. Aside from sessions in Toronto, however, I would always look forward to my next chance to visit the ‘Peg, where I would spend my time hanging out, filming, and shooting photos with my friends and visiting my girlfriend when she was off work. I probably spent a total of one month in Winnipeg between May and September, and these intermittent visits all contributed to the best, most fun and productive summer I’ve had in years. Any time things were getting too busy or stressful at home, I would fly out and for a good dose of Peg city, and it always delivered positive vibes and a fresh perspective on skating in Toronto, too. Here are a bunch of my favourite photos from my time spent in both cities over the course of a summer that I surely won’t forget.
The police station across the street from the spot didn’t stop Cain Lambert from powering through the rumble strips on the double set and ollieing this flat gap at the Millenium Library. “On-Site Shredding” indeed.
Colin Lambert texted me to meet up and shoot this Caveman Nosegrind on the day that I helped Manuela move into her Winnipeg apartment. Heading over to the spot immediately following a hefty haul at Ikea, Colin rolled away without scraping his face on the uncomfortably close brick wall.
Josh Thorvaldson came to visit Toronto for a couple of weeks, and we stopped to look at this spot while we were out one evening. Seeing that it had recently been renovated and the cement bank had been replaced by grass, I was surprised when Josh still wanted to skate it the next day. He did this 50-50 across and down the rail twice during that session—once for a photo, and once for footage. He’s just got it like that.
Keiran Zimmerman wanted to check out this gem of a spot on the outskirts of the city and managed to walk away with a Heelflip. As awkward as it may have been to navigate between those two poles, they really sealed the deal in making this one of my favourite photos of the summer.
While this spot may be enticing to skaters, it also lies in the middle of an area frequented by sex workers. One particular worker told us all about how she used to have life-sized Star Wars figurines while Josh was trying to pull this Frontside Wallride off the wall. I’m not really sure how that came up through skateboarding, but I’ll take it.
Keiran saw a clip of someone wallriding a graffiti-covered cube van while I was in Winnipeg, and mentioned that he’d like to find one to skate. I saw these trucks one night when I was leaving the airport, and we went out to skate them the following afternoon while I took a break from packing boxes. I actually didn’t even realize the trucks were shiny and blue until we saw them during the day. Between that and the fact that they were parked right against the loading dock, things really came together for this one.
I’ve always wanted to shoot a photo of someone skating this double set in downtown Toronto, and, coincidentally, Lee Yankou was aiming to end a multi-year battle with this Nollie Heelflip to help finish his part in the Blue Tile Lounge video. One Ollie and a handful of attempts later, and both of our goals had been accomplished.