The best thing about this particular skate trip was that we had a bunch of dudes come together from different areas, states, sponsors and age brackets. From a 17-year-old to a coupla blokes in their early 30s, our crew spanned multiple eras of skateboarding and was keen to enjoy the shenanigans that ensue when three car-loads of skaters set off in convoy for greener pastures.
The trip was organised and funded by Nige Cameron’s company, Totem Skateboarding. It’s a skate event company, running demos, comps, skate-coaching and all sorts of skate related community stuff. But a couple times a year, when the feet get itchy and the bellies start to grumble, there’s a need to just go on a good old fashioned skate trip. This trip was one of those – just a chance to get the VX out, head to some regional towns, skate some spots and stack up some photos and footage. On the road were Nige and his bro Dave Cameron, Nixen Osborne, Levi Jarvis, Chris Vaughan, Riwaz Kazi, Aidan Ouma, Ryder Lawson, Nik Stipanovic, Cameron Markin (who shot the B+W photos you see here), Nat Kassel and me.
Our rendezvous point to begin the trip was Glenbrook Skatepark in the Blue Mountains. Everyone was fresh legged and psyched to see each other, which made for probably the most heated session of the whole trip. Thirteen years prior, Nige had shot a photo with Dave Chami for Slam Skateboarding Magazine doing a nollie over the channel. Keen to get it again and get the boys jacked up, a great battle ensued. Nige spent over an hour throwing his carcass into the ground but got there in the end. He kind of cooked himself for the rest of the roady and my photo turned out shit compared to Dave’s, who shot it on medium format all those years ago, nonetheless, a great start to the trip.
After bailing from the designated skatey facility we went up the mountains to see what we could sow. The spots we stumbled upon were rough as guts, then the rain set in to stay, but no one really cared because we were all just enjoying hanging out. We skated a car park underneath a shopping mall for a while, then decided go to the Airbnb to piss up for Nige and Dave’s shared day of birth.
On day two, I woke up next to the fake fireplace on the wooden floor feeling as dry as a dead dingo’s donga in the desert. It was probably a combination of being close to the synthetic flame and copious beers. After some B and E rolls and coffees, we started the day with a sesh at Katoomba Skatepark.
To no one’s surprise, Chris Vaughan (aka Diesel) was the first soldier down. Let me take this opportunity to give you a little back story on Vaughan Diesel’s lead up to this trip: Just six weeks prior he sustained a fractured pelvis in two places and compressed his lower spine also with a hairline fracture. This was the result of a brutal slam after trying to 50-50 a huge double-kinked rail at Hyde Park in Sydney. Literally being wheelchair bound three weeks before the trip, we were baffled when he said he was keen to skate. And we weren’t surprised when this Hall-of-Meat-lord took a gnarly head knock almost off the bat. This time it was a mere gash to the head, requiring a few stitches but Chris being himself, wanted to get his trick before going to hospital. Nige dressed the wound with a bandage around his head and then Chris proceeded to land his trick. Then it was straight to hospital to get stitched up. Nat Kassel did the good bloke honours of driving him and waiting in the emergency room while the rest of the crew started inspecting what the streets of Katoomba had to offer. Nat later told me that Chris spent the whole time in the emergency room talking about spots to skate and tricks he wanted to do as soon as he got out of there.
Meanwhile, the rest of us cruised around Katoomba like your typical stoned touros in the Blue Mountains, skating the few spots we found. This was much more laid back than your regular skate trip. We finished the day with a park sesh at Lawson and a BBQ with some cockatoos. All in all, it was an ideal day with the fellas. This was the point when half the crew had to split back to Sydney for other obligations and the rest of us voyaged deep west. About six hours actually, to Nige and Dave’s hometown of Leeton, to host a skatepark opening the next morning and tap into some uncharted small country towns on our wooden toy expedition.
With lots to do and not much time to do it, the lack of sleep was real as we opened up Narrandera Skatepark, which Totem Skateboarding had also helped to design. It was super fun and we got to stoke out the local groms and community, converting as many rural scoot lords onto the board as we could. We felt good about the morning’s efforts and decided to check out some local nature spots before heading back to the Camerons’ childhood home for a family lunch and to try skate this crazy U-pipe contraption in their backyard. Before getting into a food coma, Nixen Osborne tamed a handful of tricks on the prick of a thing. No photo or video could justify how hard this thing is to skate, the kid is nuts.
It was at this point that we had to part ways with Nige, who decided to spend some wholesome family time with the folks and his daughter rather than haul his broken body around the countryside. We had to make it to Tumut, in the Snowy Mountains, for some skate workshops and a comp the next morning but had time for a stop in Wagga Wagga. Just our luck and it started raining as soon as we got to Wagga, we stopped to look at a spot one of the boys had recalled, a road barrier into a bank that drops off into a tight tunnel. If it wasn’t gnarly enough in the dry, Levi Jarvis decided he’d try to hippie jump the thing in the rain. Every attempt was so fucking scary to watch and after nearly getting a roll away, he copped a heavy slam, sliding into the muck at the bottom. That was enough of that. There was no end in sight to the dismal weather so we headed for our accom at the base of the Snowy Mountains.
The next day, before hosting a couple of Totem events, we went to check out some gold mine ruins near where the great Murray River begins, before it cuts west across Australia’s inland plains, snaking the border of Victoria and NSW. At around 2500 kilometres, it’s the longest river in Australia and as it drains off of the Australian Alps with water, it’s fuckin’ cold. Rather than have a swim we just hiked around tripping on the infrastructure and shot some boy-band-esque photos.
In town, I was captivated by a crazy mural on the side of a shop that represented an indigenous man’s head as one of the mountains on the river with an expression of agony. There was a white men digging into his earth and taking the gold. There must be some heavy history in that area, though most of these stories are relatively untold and unknown. But a strong population of the original Australians still live in the area. After some fun and successful skate workshops with the youth of the area, we went on the voyage for spots again. We bailed to a neighbouring town where we heard there were a few rails. This was the last spot we were able to hit before the drive back to Sydney. Nixen tamed the 50-50 to deck check (pictured below) and we were left with this classic quote from old mate groundskeeper at the school who would have been in his fifties: “Ya can’t just come into schools and use the railings and stuff for skateboards, ya just can’t do it. You might be able to do that where you live, and where might that be? The city I’d say? But out here in the country, we haven’t got much.”
Don’t get me wrong, the old fella seemed like legend, but it’s funny to hear the different judgements that people make about you as skateboarders, especially considering that Totem has done so much work to promote skateboarding among youth in regional areas. We like to think of Totem as the Johnny Appleseed of Australian skateboarding, trying to keep kids on skateboards.
But I also feel like the old fella is right in a way – a skateboard seems like a dumb wooden toy – but at the same time, it’s a way for us to use the urban environments we’ve inherited creatively. Now that skateboarding is in the Olympics and becoming part of our cultural and ‘sporting’ landscapes, it will be interesting to see just what the older generation think of skateboarding in a few years time.