First, let's talk about the weather. Right now in NYC, 6 days after the day I'm about to write about, it's 12 degrees Fahrenheit (-11 degrees Celsius). This jolt of cold has helped remind me of the relatively bitter cold we encountered in Venice. On average, the highs never went much above the freezing point and some nights dipped into the teens. The college student apartment we were crashing in for our stay in Venice was certainly not designed for this kind of weather. We would say jokingly that we were "camping in Venice" as I wore every layer of clothing I had packed and just alternate the order each day.
Wednesday morning, rising early with enthusiasm from the previous day's successful skate mission, I boiled water for tea and munched some granola and yogurt while loading up the laptop to watch a skate video for inspiration. I found the one I was shown parts of the day before at Green Records and Boards. Their skateboard brand, Murder Skateboarding had produced a full length video call Generation Waste and it was available to watch online. I was really impressed by the quality of the filming, editing and caliber of tricks these guys were pulling. Each skater had their own unique style and the locations was a nice mix of their local spots and various European and some California footage from some of their travels.
Pulling back the drapes, I peered out the window and saw the subdued blue-gray light of a cloud filtered dawn begin to reveal the shapes of Calle Regina below. T-shirt, flannel, sweater, hoodie and windbreaker, I was ready to go; off in search of the steep red banks I had heard about. The pin was dropped on my Google map bound for San Basilio ferry terminal as the closest landmark. With the same hurried pace of the early morning commuters I passed by on my walk through the San Croce district, about 20 minutes and 25 turns later I had found my way pretty easily to the Ferry Terminal. Only problem at this point was the spot was nowhere to be seen. Walked north to a parking lot, turned and walked south to the main entrance to the terminal, to the edge of the waterfront, then decided to head back to the north through the parking lot and followed a narrow road until I arrived at what looked like some kind of security checkpoint. I hadn't come this far to give up so I just continued through with that kind of brisk pace one would use when walking through a familiar place, to avoid any suspicion. At least my skateboard was strapped to my backpack because my heart rate started increasing as I noticed lots of video cameras and signage on the campus of official looking buildings with the words Guardia Costiera.
Continuing to psych myself out, just as I was about to abandon the quest I saw what looked like the other skate attraction I knew was near the one I was seeking. A little street gap and some waxed granite blocks were on the other side of the Coast Guard's parking lot. All at once, a wave of relief came over me realizing the seriousness of my situation was all in my head. I scoped out this spot, but wasn't really in the mood for what it had to offer. I did happen to notice a few Green Records and Boards stickers on one of the waxed blocks so I slapped up a SKATEYOGI sticker next to them as a kind of asynchronous high five for the next skaters that would come through. Recalling that the steep red banks had seemed to be at a railroad, I pulled out my phone and located a series of tracks just a little way down the road.
For the second time in two days I got that deja vu feeling of seeing a skate spot for the first time after previously seeing it in a video. How can this be described? Certainly you've been to a place you've seen before in a photograph before. But something about watching another skateboarder skate a space puts it in such deeper context and scale, you can almost feel it, but not quite.
The spot is some kind of run down rail yard lot, with a few small dilapidated sheds covered in spray paint looking more like teenage vandalism than artistic aspiration. There's 4 steep red banks at the end of the tracks with pretty smooth ground running up to them, however the placement of the sheds and some overflow parking make only one or two of them properly skateable. I opt for the lesser skated of the two accessible banks since it had some metal supports that I could that attach my phone to with a rubber band on a vertical bar at a nice fisheye angle.
I do the warm-up stretches I always start SKATEYOGI classes with. The flow done so many times before, it acts like a vinyasa and brings me into a space of preparation. Quick spot maintenance to kick away the broken glass and debris at the bottom of the transition and then I'm running up and down the bank to get a sense of its scale and to get more warmed up. At this point it's about 8 in the morning and I'm considering the occupants of the apartment building nearby. I don't want to wear out my welcome once I start skating with the urethane wheels smashing against the brick wall so after a few quick rides up the wall I go straight to popping a nollie backside and after a few tries I make the trick. After a few more attempts I'm happy with the pop and the height up the wall. Halfway through this process I made sure the phone is still recording and all was well, but for some reason when I went to take the phone down afterwards, the battery is completely dead. It immediately occurs to me that I had used Google maps to find my way out there and I would have to find my way home on memory.
I backtrack to the ferry terminal, skating some of the roadway until I get to the pedestrian zone. The first ten or so turns down the walkways, next to the canals, and small footbridges goes well but then the surroundings start to look a little unfamiliar. Luckily, after a little while I start seeing signs leading towards Rialto Bridge, from which I knew if I could find the apartment from. Due to the detour the return trip is a hurried 40 minute walk but I'm still pretty stoked I was able to navigate through Venice without any kind of map. Y is preparing breakfast and the little one is still sleeping when I return so my plan to get the skating in before our day of family time worked out well.
After my phone had charged a bit, I review the video. Angle looks nice, decent exposure given the cloud cover and the first few warm-ups are promising. Then the video is cut short! Before any of the nollie backsides! I'm so bummed at this point. Not that I've ever really been into "getting footage" but I'm finally starting to appreciate this joy of capturing a moment of skateboarding. The combination of spot selection, composition of the image and trick, freezing an instant in time that can never be repeated. Feeling pretty upset about this but Y reminds me that we have another day in Venice and that I could always go back and try again. This cheers me up. Plus, since this was December 31st there was something nice about the prospect of an early morning sesh the next day to start off the new year!
As Seen On:
140 Empire Blvd
Brooklyn NY 11225
(between Franklin and Bedford Aves)
Parking lot in front
Subway: B/Q/S Prospect Park
Bus Stops: B16, B41, B43, B44-SBS, B48, B49