Picture is Worth a 1000 Words
The pipe was gigantic. Huge like the great pyramid at Giza. The skaters backs were turned away from the camera so the identities of the guys were unknown. The magazine staff was stunned at the fact that every other photo in the magazine vaults were accounted for by record file number and the memory of numerous staff members, but this was a mystery, long forgotten by time, distance, and space.
Well, it took three long years to actually find the photographer.
It was a long process of elimination. We tracked down
every old skateboard photographer who ever lived. I
scanned all the old mags I had searching for clues but
none were found. I thumbed through Skateboard World,
Wild World of Skateboarding, Skateboarder Magazine,
older B&W Thrasher mags from the early years of
the 80's, PowerEdge (they didn't last long), and movies
from that time period of the late 70's like Skateboard
Fever and Skateboard Madness. I contacted people
like James Cassimus, Warren Bolster, Glen Friedman,
Ted Terrebone, one of the Sharp brothers, Craig Fineman,
Mike Williams with no luck. I talked to the players
over the years who skated the finest man-made cylinders
like Rick Blackhart, Stacy Peralta, Kevin "the
Worm "Anderson, Rod Saunders, Dave Hackett, Alva,
and other lesser known accomplishes who rode the greatest
stuff made to skate in. I called and yapped at all of
the 80's phototakers like Kevin Thatcher, Rich Rose,
Don Hoffman, Keith Stevenson, Richard Noll, and others
who have been forgotten by everyone else. Complete detective
At the same time I scoured the internet following any lead that I came up with. Weeks and months went by to no avail of finding the lost pipe. It just sat there waiting.
Thrasher had photos from Jeff Newton who lived in the town that killed the president. My mind wondered why everything in Tejas was the biggest. Think of the other places out there. I then called all the Texans and asked about a lost spot so secret, that only few knew of it's origin. Johnstone told me he, Phillips, Wilkes, and a couple of others rode some gigantor back in the days before Zorlac but did not know where, what, or when. I tried to contact Wilkes but he was lost. Then I tried Newton who gave me his business card at the last Warp nitemare I did with a telephone number and a cell phone number. I tried to reach him for weeks by leaving messages on his answering service. No luck.
If it Sounds to Good to be True,
I called Dan Wilkes (who I found out after talking to him via-e-mail that he makes a regular pilgrimage to you know where every year). He also said that he rode a bigger one in 1983 and had pictures of the place. Could it be true? These guys had been to the lost pipe! Dan told me "give me a little bit and I will send you the prints of the pics."
Kelly Bellmar and I would tape the pictures to the wall and stare and compare them trying to convince each other into believing this was the same place. Then Wilkes got me more pics from the time they went but since it was wet, they could'nt skate. The proof was there. It was one and the same. The lost pipe was confirmed to be true but where was it? Nobody seemed to remember exactly (it had been 20 years). I had some clues so I began digging deeper into the recesses of computer speak and access to government web sites which have seemed to vanish after 9-11. No more free information for prying public eyes. I did get some pertinent information. The lost pipe was built in 1968 and impounded with water in 1969 at a cost of $9,315,000 dollars of tax payer money. It was an dam designed by Freesse, Nichols, and Endress. It is 21,500 feet long at a maximum height of 140 feet with a top width of 21 feet. It was made for the Colorado River Municipal Water District and sported a droplet into a whooping 28 foot concrete conduit. The question now was how to confirm it's authenticity and whereabouts.
What We Do is Secret
Meanwhile, I got e-mails like this from Carter:
... is the town next to lake. We came down from hwy -- on -- then took -- and that leads you right into --. Once in town you take loop 229 and that takes you to the lake. The town is about five minutes from the pipe. When you get out to the lake you see the sign I sent you. Take a left going to Wildcat Creek and you can see the fence for the pipe. Its not hard to find we found it in five minutes. No problems with anybody. Its the middle of nowhere. Its the part of Texas where people drive only trucks. The gate to get down to the water doesnt even have a lock on it. I saw a turtle the size of a manhole cover. Let me know if you need anymore help.
Then came the confirmation along with pics, stats, way to get in, where to park, etc. There was a maintenance shack 1/2 mile away. Sunday seemed like the day to go and he and 3 friends pulled it right before 9-11.
I received weekly e-mails concerning the place like the following:
I quickly and excitedly sent all the info, pics, blah blah blah to the editor back at Thrasher. It was found. The mystery over. The lost pipe was now ours. We just had to wait for the right pipe window. It had to be near the spring early in the season before they got suspicious. It was just a matter of time before the CRMWD got hip .
Carter followed by writing:
We lowered our equipment down by a rope, and then boated in. The wall is big
The last one said this:
You may want to hide your car. We left ours on the side of the road and I dont think anyone drove by the whole time we were there. There is a motel in you can stay at called the Mountain Lodge or something. You can also stay at the Royal Inn in 50mins from the pipe, it has an empty skateable pool, and the skatepark bowls have some good lines.
Jake, Luke, and Dr. Rick Blackhart were to fly from the city and meet Kelly Bellmar, myself, and Peter Hewitt in Dallas. Kelly and I took off from Ontario but only after changing planes due to some computer failure and sat on the tarmac in the waiting position for over an hour. This made us late for our connecting flight from the city that killed a president. Right after we got in the air a lil' old lady about the age of 80 started moaning and passed out in the seat in front of me. You could see her eyes fluttering like a stroke or seizure. Right away the kindly stewardesses brought her some Oxygen and she "came-to" a little. They asked over the intercom for any doctors on board and as they helped her out of her seat on the long trek up to the first class section. She then passed out and fell back into the stewardesses arms (who saved her from bashing her poor little old grandma head on the floor of the plane).
The captain came on the line and said "We will make an emergency landing in Phoenix since we are very close." We were late now but could we get mad at a little old lady. Of course not. They took her away in an ambulance standing by and we refueled right there on the spot during the professional procedure and backed out within a 1/2 an hour and were back on track for Dallas. We were now two hours late. I celled Luke and told him the deal.
When we landed I immediately saw Phelper lounging in the bar. We said our hellos and went to baggage claim for our backpacks filled with pipe essentials. We shook hands with Pedro Hewitt, Luke, and Blackhart - my cohort from the very first time we came to Site "One" back in 1978. We meet Carter Dennis (our Texas connection) along with Ed McDuffy (who drove 9 hours from San Antonio to meet us here). They say Texans are hellbent. They are.
We drove south to the Abiliene skatepark 4 and 1/2 hours away. The park was alright with some hips, spine bowl combo twists and turns complete with street course for the kiddie-o's. It was kinda lumpy but fun until Jake again got crushed by a fellow skater cuz' both of them did not look up at all. Crash and burn.
We found a cave to crash in and struck out to dine with
Pedro and Bellmar at the Olive Garden while the rest
of the crew kicked. When we got back to the hotel Carter
informed us that Rhett Clark had showed up with some
essential vitamins and that he had overheard some kids
at the park had gotten busted at the pipe we wanted
to skate tommorrow. We watched television for a spell
then we crashed.
I took the turn-off and saw the maintenence shack and noticed a house located right next to it with 3 parked cars out front. We drove past the house and turned right onto the gravel road which cut across the dam. You could see the concrete monolith of the spillway structure. We all got out and prepped our gear and attempted to blow up the raft that Luke bought. But the blower-up device machine which plugged into the car lighter did not respond kindly at all. Meanwhile, Bellmar and Luke roped the neccessary stuff to the bottom of the pipe floor 50 ft. below and over the top of the chainlink fence. I was getting paranoid at being in the open for so long with the raft not getting any air at all. I punk- rocked it to find a gas station while the crew waited an additional 40 minutes which put us near 8:30 a.m. One or two trucks passed us looking at us but not waving (you know how callous Texans can be when they don't recognize us snowboarders with beanies all the way out here). Rhett and I went to four different gas stations with no air at all until we found a Texaco with an older man wearing a cowboy hat smoking a cigar waiting behind the counter. He stared at us. I asked him if he had any compressed air to blow stuff up like a rubber raft. We wanted to go fishing I told him. We tried to use a valve stem to blow the raft up but that was not working to well when the old guy handed me another nozzle that would work. So it took some time to fill all the air portals to our 6 man raft. We did it! We saved the day! Little did we know, our mission was about to be terminated.
Jake took the 1st ride while we shot photos for posterity. I stretched again then busted forty more push-ups as Kelly and Petie took some turns. It was like Berryesa in the same way as you had to get to half way point by 3 walls or you were done. The pipe had rebar nubs to keep skaters out from back in the day and big holes here and there from removing the rebar. The pipe had a funnel effect to it. At the mouth it was 28 ft.tall but as it went back into the chasm of death, it funneled down correspondingly to 26 ft down to 24 ft and so on until it reached the 22 foot mark. Stagnant water was present throughout the rest of the pipe. From the low lying water level this place was in the 10th year of a drought. The scumline indicated that the water at one point was way higher by some 20 ft. We were lucky to be here and relishing every moment. The flatwall was so gnar that we couldn't really get to it but Jake did get a flatwall wall ride after a couple of attempts of legs giving out to such extreme transitions coming back in. Thank God Blackhart caught him and help broke his fall. He still got worked but pulled it. A highlight of the day for sure.
Next the boys took a stroll in the boat down the line all the way to the end of the waterline in the pipe. They disappeared into the darkness of echoes and batcaves. We wished the pipe was smoother cuz' you could tell that is was killer at one time by looking at the roof (think of Baldy pipe but twice as big and rough). At 11:00 a.m. we thought about leaving. So far so good.
We decided to give it another hour. The skating continued
as everyone took more runs and we all grew extremely
tired from using every muscle to pump so hard.
Y'all in Big Trouble
The water guy told us they needed to make an example of somebody and we were that group. He said "people have been coming over here for the last 2 months every weekend and my boss told me to call the sheriff next time it happens." "Nuthin' personal guys" he replied in a long Texas drawl. Little did they know that they had busted the worlds top pipe riders. It was the biggest skateboard bust in the history of skating. This was the story that legends and lore are made of. Skateboarding for the 21st century.
Facing the Firing Squad
We were busted big time in the middle of Texas with some
hickified sheriff billy bob explaining to us the finer
points of the laws in Tejas. Now we have to transport
you guys to the county jail then do your paperwork then
take you to the judge in Bultre then off to San Angelo
40 minutes away to fingerprint and take your mugshots.
After that, then if you post bond you're allowed to
go back where you came from. So can you imagine that?
No... Not That Tom
We got a cave at 12:30 a.m. Sunday morning and went to sleep immediately after taking showers knowing to solve this problem we had to be at the airport at 5:30 a.m. to fly standbye after I lied to them about getting in a car crash and being stranded on the cold, desolate, hella-windy night Texas highway on the way down from the Panhandle. So sympathy points worked on the ticket person so K.B., Peter "Angie " Hewitt, and myself got on a plane back home to Cali the greatest state in the nation. Rock on.