A Picture is Worth a 1000 Words
It all started with a photo back in the days. A vintage pilgrimage of monolithic proportions for sure. The photo credit said "Thatcher" but, when asked about the photo he didn't remember. The photo reeked of '70s-ness all the way down to rector skate shorts, early norcon pads ,two tone Vans, long tube socks, short shorts,V ans ankle guards, full Protecs, long hair and a raft & rope.

70s Pipe ActionThe 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.

Mission: Possible
The image was sent to me. I sat in bewiderment for weeks. Who were the mystery skaters? What was the year was it built (it looked smooth as shit)? Where did you need rope and a rubber raft? Was there water to cross? There were a million questions to be asked and answered. Where the hell was this thing?

The editor called and asked if I could help find it and I said "yes" on one condition. The condition was that if I do find it, he buys me a ticket to to the place in question. He unexpectedly he told me "o.k." and gave me the green light to set it all up-Sherpa style.
We will go when you say when", replied the editor. The super-tube in the picture became the legend of the lost pipe.

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 action.

Looking through all the mags took months. Pictures of people and places of yester-year brought back old memories and curiousity of places I've never been. Poweredge had a pic of Tom Putnam in some holy abyss deep in Massachusetts. Wild World had a pictorial done by Mike Williams on some desert pipes in southern Arizona which suggested big pipes but not the one we were looking for. Brian Brannon was in a rubber boat in a underground conduit during the construction of the CAP back in Thrasher way back so he got a call and e-mail.

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, it Is
Then out of the blue I got a phone call from Newtron. "Yeah, I took some pics at a place near the middle of Texas and it was big. Huge as a Brahma bull" he said. "Yep. We crossed by boat over a little river so to speak." He drawled into my answering machine. Finally, he gave me a new number and Wilkes' telephone number.

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."

The Wait
A little bit turned into 4 months. I did hook up with Newton who sent me a pic from the inside looking out. But was it the same place? We couldn't tell.

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.

Data Collection
I started to mess with Tejas by searching on Google with topics as Texas skaters, Texas pipes, Texas skateshops, Texas tea ,Texas lakes , Texas this and Texas that just to see what popped up. One day all kinds of weirdness appeared on my computer screen. I found one interesting thing called "Texas Pool Sharks" which had a messge board which enabled skaters to share info, links, spots, and such. I watched it deligently for months. I screened e-mails looking for hints and hidden prospects. People wrote many things from ditches, pools, and pipes. There looked to be a couple of main players so I e-mailed a couple of them who seemed to be worthy.

What We Do is Secret
It was through this message board that I met Carter Dennis along with Ronnie Ripper, Eggvert, and Craig Johnson. Secretly, I asked Carter to keep it hush-hush and go scope it. We traded e-mails back and for for months, canceling dates and weekends attempting to find the right time. It took another 4-5 months for him to get out there in no-mans land of waste and barren landscape in the middle of Texas.

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:

We found the pipe within five minutes of gettin to the lake. Its right off loop when you get to -- You follow that and it turns into a gravel road which runs along the dam. You can see the over flow pipe sticking up in the air when your drivin up to it. The best thing about this pipe is that it in the middle of nowhere. The closest thing to the pipe is a maintenance building. To get into the pipe you need to lower your equipment down with a rope we measured it to be about 40ft. You definitely need a raft. At the end of the fence line there is a gate, it does not have a lock on it. Just open it up and walk down the rocks to the water and put your raft in.

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
about 40-50ft. I definitely think it would be easier to boat in. We had an inflatable canoe, w/ a little pump. We took trips paddling back and forth. Nothing to it. Like i said the gate doesnt have a lock. You walk in the gate, down the rocks, inflate your raft and go to work. There is a couple no tresspassing signs but they looked so old you could probably tear them off the fence. The pipe is huge 28ft etc. I can see why this pipe went dorment for so long. I guess people got busted skatin the pipe back in the day, someone had installed rebar into the transitions to keep the skaters out. It must have been years ago because the rebar basically crumbled in my hands when I pulled it up. It does cause a problem because it leaves 2 inch stubbs sticking out of the concrete that held the rebar in. They are about every 4ft. Also the pipe is very dusty. We had one broom, you need about 4 or 5. Inside the pipe you have about 80ft of riding room then the pipe shoots downward, here its all wet. We swept as much dust as we could and skated. Gnarly considering the stubbs sticking up. Kinda makes it fun. We got about 9:00. We skated a sixteen ft wide area because the rest of the pipe is dusty and a little wet. The sickest thing is the Hobie stickers about 11:00. Gnarly. The bottom line is this pipe needs a few good hours of work. Brooms, a hacksaw to cut the stubbs or cordless sawzall, hammer, crowbar, something to dry the puddles. Some of the rebar I couldnt pull up. I threw all the rebar I pulled out in the lake, so authorities wouldnt get wise if they looked down there. To tell you truth I bet its been long forgotten by any authorities in the area that the pipe use to be skated. We just parked our car on the gravel road in the middle of the day, nobody's out there. The pipe would be a killer session all cleaned out. There is a new concrete park less than an hour away in Abeline. We had a good weekend. Let me know if you have any questions.
Take care,

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.

Operation Angie
So the perfect weekend scenario came up and the plan was a go. The code word... Operation Angie.

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.

Operation "Raft"
Phase One started at dawn with the wind howling again and maybe just slightly warmer than the day before. Like 30 degrees this time. We ate a small continental breakfast then split for the pipe (we were losing our cover of darkness since we were like 45 minutes away). We got close and you could see the massive intake-tower towering above the hills, brush, and vistas surrounding the area.

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.

We arrived back at the site with the rubber boat tied down with bungee cord in the back of the pick-up Rhett drove and took the raft over the rocks down a hillside to the water with the help of the guys. Jake, Luke, and Kelly crossed the water first looking out for huge snapping turtles rumored to be near. Turtle carcasses were everywhere. There were abandoned shells dried out and rotting (providing food for all the lil' critters who lived in the lost pipes' habitat). Pedro and I crossed second. Then, the three Texans who accompanied us. Coming around the huge concrete walls was breathtaking as the pipe appeared just like the photo I received 3 years before. Insane terrain. We were hooting and hollering inside our heads and could not believe the stature of the place. It was gigantor! Monsterous! Big and hella rough with a sandy like stucco bottom from too much water coming through at high velocities. The lost pipe was found and we were here.

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.

High Noon
I was scared shitless because the pipe was so big you'd feel lost and dizzy within 8 walls. I did not have the speed. None of us had the speed to thrust frontside except Pedro. It was so big and rough to pump that Petie's smaller stature made it possible for him to attain heights never thought possible (less wind drag and the evil pump from hell). He was doing frontside thrusters so huge that is was ludicrous. I have only seen two people ride pipes over 28 ft.tall and acheive this pump from hell - Hewitt and Royce Nelson. Hat's off to Hewitt (he killed it and everyone that day). Petie is the true gnar champion.

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.

At noon we got the raft ready to go and Luke, Jake, and Blackhart went out first. Soon as they rounded the corner near the rocks I heard a car door shut and instantly thought "we are over."

Y'all in Big Trouble
When Jake got to the top he yelled what I thought was C-O-P-S! Great! Just yesterday somebody had told Carter that people got busted the very day before. The raft came back and me. Peter and Ed took to the water hoping not to fall in and get bitten by a snapping turtle. We walked up the incline and saw 2 trucks which had a CRMWD sticker sheriff insignia on one and a on the other. The hick sheriff was so friggin Texas with a down vest over his sheriff shirt and of course the dreaded Texas cowboy hat complete with cowboy boots. He stood leaning against his truck with his arms crossed as we came up . "Can't ya'll read the sign?" he asked. It says," Restricted area - keep out". "Are ya'll dumb?" he asked.

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
So we sat there playing the waiting game with Jake asking and trying to talk our way out of this mess. We just sat there dumbfounded. We would miss our connecting flights back to Dallas and really did not fully realize the music we were about to face. The sheriff said "you're all under arrest for Criminal Tresspassing." "How many of there are you"? he asked. Just then Carter, Ed, Kelly, and Rhett came out from the rocks carrying the boat seemingly defeated. Kelly had the look of a downtrodden wino on Skid Row who just lost his bottle.

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?
12 hours of staring at the wall, widdling your thumbs, thinking how stupid you've been, looking at each others faces, having to piss real bad and holding it for two hours, sitting/laying on a cold floor, answering their questions, filling out paperwork, learning each others middle names, hoping for no warrants, getting sore from sitting, looking at billy bob hoss deputy 6' 11" 350 lb. Adam, thinking of them scuba diving. Yeah, sure you would have let the water out on us and killed us knowing the guy who busted us was the dam watcher/caretaker knowing the only thing that tipped him off was the fucking black rope hanging down from the fence, smelling farts, listening to them talk about us, seeing at least a case of beer on the floor behind sheriff Macmillians' desk. Damn I'm getting hungry. Can we go to the bathroom please? Man, what is the wife is gonna say since I am the only married one wondering how we are gonna get out of this. I was thinking why I didn't run like I always do. I was thinking about how much this is gonna cost me to get out of jail. Since we were busted I asked the water dude what tipped him off? He said "I drove right past you guys and saw your vehicles and wondered where you were but on the way back to my house i saw a black rope then I knews you's was down there,"he said.

No... Not That Tom Green
We attempted to get out at noon and got busted at 12:15p.m. We then went to the first jail around two-ish. We stood in front of a judge from three-ish to 5 p.m. We then got transported in a ten passenger van to Tom Green county Jail facility at dark and stayed there until almost to 8 p.m. We got bonded thanks to Kelly and High Speed Productions. We drove to "Buster" our bondsmans' office while his son drove Luke and Carter back to their vehicles forty minutes back in Coke county at the local sheriff stations HQ. Then we had to drive 111 miles to Midland/Odessa airport and pray that we could get home on Monday instead of Tuesday because the reservation lady at American Airlines told me that it would cost $995.00 one way to the city who killed a president to change my ticket to get back to Ontario which routed through Miami and put me home at Ontario at 12:55 a.m. in the morning. Bitchen. At least we did get out of jail for only $1,000 dollars a piece (as half of a $2,000 dollar bond) except two of the Texans. Poor Ed and Rhett.

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.


Related Articles
Badlands History
The Hunter
The Biggest Skate Bust Ever «
Pools and Pipes
My Favorite Skaters
My Skate Want List
Skateparks: Then and Now
Pool Riding 101
Baldy Pipe 360° Loop