"After last year's Giant Detour, there was no way the Caliber team was going to miss the return of the Giant's Head Freeride. We packed the Sunset Slider's bus full of our riders and headed north...
How many of you can remember standing in front of class, under the mandate to recount your summer vacation to classmates? If may have been 20 years ago; it may have been last week. We put the question to Michael Brooke, recently, and here's his essay...
In truth, I don’t really get a vacation…when I am not working on the magazine, I'm thinking about the next issue, or worrying about how to put out (or start!) the next fire. However, this summer, I decided that I was going to take my middle son Jonathan (who is 10) on a skate vacation out West. Our plan was to visit the Rockies and to skate! To say the trip was epic is an understatement. It’s a good thing my 5 year old can’t read, because he’d be even more jealous after reading this!
There are two reasons why I'm writing this. One is to share with you the Western Canada skate stoke that is bubbling all around Alberta and British Columbia. The other reason for this article is to incite those of you with children to start thinking about planning skate trips with your offspring. The trip was both a terrific bonding experience and a heck of a lot of fun.
Our plane took off from Toronto and it was a direct flight to Calgary. Pretty simple, really. Just remember however, if you are traveling with kids and you are not with your spouse, YOU MUST have a letter from a lawyer indicating that you have your wife or husband’s permission. Failure to get this can lead to you not flying. [We think this only applies if you're shifty lookin' --'Fish] We landed with no problems and whipped over to the baggage claim. Man, it would have been great if we didn’t have to check luggage! But, until someone invents a folding skateboard, it’s big hockey bags for us. Hockey bags work well…not only can you fit fairly large skateboards, they also hold safety gear quite nicely. The only problem is that they get pretty heavy. While my 10 year old is strong, he ain’t THAT strong. Pack light, if you can!
We hit the car rental. I wouldn’t normally mention this except to say, CHECK THE FRICKIN INTERNET! The deals are crazy out there. We saved $800 just by booking via a UK website. $800 is no joke – it pays to shop around.
Finally, we got out of the carpark and were our way to the first stop: the house of Blair Watson, aka Slob–Air, from the Skull & Bones website. Slob lives in Calgary and the first thing we did was to get our butts to the Millenium skate park. For those of you unfamiliar with this park, let me just say it is massive: 60,000 square feet. It cost over 2 million dollars to build. Both my son and I had been dreaming about this park for a number of years. To be brutally honest, the park was a bit of a disappointment. Sure, the full pipe is truly incredible and the snake runs are fun, but the park feels disjointed. The cement is crumbling in some areas. In this case, more doesn’t equate to better…it just equates to more. This is not to say we didn’t have a blast at the park. We did! But our overall impression was that less would have been more. Blair got out the cones and a slalom session broke out, which was also a lot of fun.
A decision was made to head west to Cochrane and the new skatepark, there. Our journey took us past the site of the 1988 Winter Olympics. Blair told us that a downhill racing contest was planned there for September. [It became the Paskapoo DH Rodeo. --'Fish] The hill looks massive and steep! Besides this new skate park, Cochrane is also famous for its ice-cream (this is cow country, after all). Forty-five minutes later, we pull up to the park and it’s crowded, but there are smiles all around. This is one sweet looking park! The bowl area is getting a good work out from all generations of skaters. In the street area, it’s pure chaos, but I managed to find an area to skate.
Finally, the rain comes and it’s back to Calgary and some grub. Sadly, plans to meet at a bar/restaurant go askew (yes, for all it’s wild-west personality, Calgary is VERY strict when it comes to folks who aren’t old enough to drink.) In fact, if you are traveling with children, this can pose problems, so be aware. We moved to Plan B – which was a Mexican restaurant. I do want to mention one guy that we didn’t get an opportunity to meet – John Bergner of Godspeed Longboards. John is making some excellent decks and is a really cool guy. Unfortunately, due to the fact that he didn’t get the message that we moved to the Mexican restaurant, we didn’t get to meet.
Blair had invited a group of folks from Edmonton who joined us for both the skate sessions and dinner. It was great to hear about the skate scene in Alberta. The economy is booming in the province and no doubt more skateparks will be built…that is if they can find the manpower! Workers are so scarce in Fort McMurray that McDonalds pays something like $15 per hour!
The next day it was onto Banff. For those of you who don’t know, Banff is one of the crown jewels in the Canadian Rockies. It also has a pretty killer skatepark. As you can imagine, we stopped there first, before heading into town. Banff is overflowing with tourists, so the best bet is to head for the hills. Actually, make that the mountains.
Before we did this, we stopped by Rude Boys, a local skate shop that has been there for eons. It’s a great shop stocked with all kinds of goodies. However, the mountains were calling and it was time for a three-hour trek up one of Banff’s magnificent mountains. Definitely this was a highlight of the trip.
We stopped for some late lunch and almost got drenched by a massive rainstorm. Then, it was back on to the highway and time to get to Golden, British Columbia. The drive into the town of Golden is a white-knuckle affair. In fact, it is the most dangerous place to drive in all of Canada! They are trying to fix the problem and have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in bridges and widening the road. It was a relief getting off the "highway of death" and touching down in the city of Golden.
Golden is home to some of the best white water rafting (which we did do) but it is also the home of Slow Motion Longboards. Slow Motion is run by Sharma Yawrenko and her artwork was profiled in the September issue of CW. We met up with her friends and went skating. Sharma was a gracious host and even let me check my damn email (200+ messages!)
We got up to Kicking Horse, the local ski mountain. Man, this place is huge…and steep. If you snowboard or ski, it’s definitely worth checking out. Since we were there in the summer, it was time to rent mountain bikes. My son was fearless. Kicking Horse is not easy and he managed to blast through the trails without freaking too much!
After Golden, it was on to Kamloops. I chose to hang out in Kamloops to break the journey into manageable pieces. Sure, we could have pulled a 9 hour drive, but with kids, it’s a different experience. We checked out the Kamploops park, which is pretty damn good and headed into downtown (which, truthfully, isn’t so hot).
I should mention that the drive from Calgary to Vancouver (which was our final destination) covers some of the most insanely gorgeous scenery you will ever encounter. Photos and words cannot describe just how incredible the mountains are. I kept asking myself why I don’t relocate the magazine.
Ok, now that we’ve covered that, it’s time to discuss Vancouver. There is no doubt in my mind that Vancouver is one of the coolest places on the planet. This was my 8th or 9th time visiting the city and it’s always fun. The only problem with Vancouver is that it rains…a lot! Thankfully, we avoided a lot of rain during our 5 day stay. We arrived late Sunday and hit my friend Johnny’s house. He resides in both Kitsalano AND overseas. He makes skateboards - hey, it’s a living.
Johnny lives in an area called Kitsalano. It has about 1,000 vegetarian restaurants. It’s hippy dippy, trendy and very expensive. It is also the home of PD’s Hot shop (aka Skull Skates HQ). To the North of Vancouver, you’ll find the home of Landyatchz. Mike and Tom are doing some pretty incredible things in the world of skateboarding and we were able to check out their factory. My son was blown away.
Vancouver is also the home of Bricin Lyons, one of the main reasons that the downhill scene has exploded in British Columbia. While I didn’t see Bricin this trip, I did catch him in August when he hit Toronto during his cross-country push for the cure.
Our trip out west was built around one KEY event – the Seawall Cruise. As you can see in the photo, 200+ skaters showed up to ride. It was just a great feeling knowing you were part of a movement. Check coastlongboarding.com for the next event and try to make it out to the Seawall Cruise next summer.
Vancouver is known as a skater’s paradise and the skateparks do not disappoint. Hastings has a terrific bowl and quite a large amount of terrain, but we had other parks to hit. Outside of Vancouver lies the community of Burnaby, home of the Bonsar skatepark. This is one park you should definitely not miss! The park features a very cool full pipe and a simply awesome snake run. Across from the park lies a great little skateshop called PUSH. They have a ton of old school decks and longboards and are super friendly. been around for a few years and the 13’ foot bowl proved to be a challenge for Jonathan, but one that he had no problem surmounting. He dropped in and was begging me to stay.
A decision was made to head up to Whistler. We loaded up the truck with mountain bikes and began the journey. The road up passes ferry docks and a simply awesome skatepark. I can’t remember the name of the damn skatepark --all I will say is that it was a freakin’ blast. Perhaps it’s a good thing I don’t remember the name, it will mean less crowds! About half an hour from Whistler lies the town of Squamish. We stopped to look at this enormous rock that people seem to love to climb. And they call skaters crazy. Squamish has a brand new skatepark. Sadly, it was not finished when we visited, but have heard great things.
Whistler is a hot spot…no matter what month you visit. Unfortunately, when we arrived, it was also rainy. This put a huge damper on things. We arrived at the infamous Whistler skatepark (home of a monster snake run) only to feel the first few droplets. It was a huge miscarriage of weather. We jumped onto the bikes and pretended to have fun in the rain. Not fun. An executive decision was made and we headed back to Vancouver.
I had an opportunity to take Jonathan to visit Ultimate Skateboard Distributors. Ultimate is owned by Kevin Harris, a former pro with Powell Peralta. Over the years, I’ve gotten to know Kevin pretty well (he graciously financed the Warren Bolster book). Ultimate carries a ton of product and my son and I were like two kids in a candy store at the warehouse. We also trekked over to see the folks at Wick Winder Distribution. Not only do they carry some old school brands, but they are also carrying Arbor Longboards. Very cool.
As my friend John says “the best things in British Columbia are free.” Thankfully, we only got rooked at one tourist trap in Vancouver. Of course one person’s “meaningful experience” is another’s tourist trap. My apologies if those of you have visited the Capilano Suspension bridge and felt it was worth it. We spent $30 and I am still scratching my head as to why.
Our last remaining 24 hours or so were spent with Kevin Harris and his family. Kevin’s wife, Audrey has horses in her stable. Jonathan hopped up on one and seemed to be into it. Kevin has built a huge slab of concrete in the back of his property and we skated a little bit with his son. The following morning we were up early to catch the plane. The trip was over two months ago and we still talk about it.