1976

THE BANK SCENE

EQUIPMENT EVOLVES

The trickle of early Skateboarder mags coming in from the U.S. kept a tiny pocket of skaters enthused enough to maintain the hunt for previously unexplored local terrain. We desperately wanted to learn some of the stuff we were seeing in the magazine, but the apparent lack of suitable concrete definitely slowed the pace of development through the mid to late 70’s.

 

Skate equipment, however, had begun evolving rapidly, with the first application of more sophisticated urethane technology, and the gradual widening of trucks and decks.

 

Road Rider wheels (An offshoot brand from Santa Cruz skateboards, ancestors of today’s Indy truck company) and Tracker trucks were amongst the most popular equipment, but the rapidly growing U.S. surf/skate mail order system meant that virtually anything was available to those willing to wait 6-8 weeks for their precious goods to arrive. At the then current rate of skate gear development, 8 weeks was probably enough to make your “just arrived” set up obsolete already. Kids that had the good fortune to have a father who travelled for business were often the guys with the most up to date, highest performance skate equipment.

MELBOURNE BANK RIDING POCKETS

By late 1976, Hang Ten (a surf apparel brand from the craze era) was organising a monthly skate event at Doncaster Shopping Town on the last Sunday of each month. (Nope, Sunday trading didn’t exist then!) The events included timed head to head and Giant slalom, straight downhill (we even saw some primitive speed cars!) and freestyle.

 

Some of the top competitors included Paul Fletcher (inventor of the Gnombe stand – a Lotus position handstand), Ash Ragg, Derek Stewart and Bret Connoly in freestyle, and Rob Baddeley and Peter Colivas in slalom. Wedge always seemed to win freestyle, except when his wheels fell off (this actually happened during one of his more frustrating routines) Bank riding was quickly gaining momentum, and eventually, impromptu ramp sessions were added, after angled plywood ramps were jammed against the sweeping pillars at the front of the shopping centre’s entrance. At one of the final Doncaster comps, Springvale local Derek Stewart was doing 6 foot high frontsides from these makeshift ramps up onto the curved roof supports.

 

The focus of the day’s competition swapped from the scheduled events to the all – in ramp jam, and it was immediately obvious that regimented “trainer style” competition was a thing of the past, and underground bank riding would soon be driving skating’s future.

 

As the competition scene vanished, a new style of skating was emerging, modelling itself after the best U.S. bank and vert riders, and spurred on by the C.R. Stecyk’s Dogtown articles in Skateboarder Mag. The 

Although WE had never actually done any of this stuff, it was an urban kid - outlaw image that, as a group, we all aspired to.

Skateboarder Magazine's Dogtown articles had a surreal feel, drawing images of mythic, underground punkers who jumped fences and broke into houses to skate unsuspecting Mr Joe Middleclass’s empty pool.

At places like Dunny Rooves, Fish Pond and Bloodbath, entirely separate pockets of local Melbourne talent were growing, with intense rivalries which would simmer for 10 years to come.

 

From the Waverley area, Wedge, Glen Gustke , myself and a small band of die hards began localising the Dunny Rooves in Burwood, at much the same time as Noble Park’s Radlanders were working the varied lines at Bloodbath , and Fletcher/Ash and co. were getting stuck into the Mentone and Tullamarine drain systems.

 

Most of these places were rough, with abrupt bank transitions and potentially wheel grabbing gaps. Despite their shortcomings, these early Melbourne bank spots were to be the breeding grounds for the

best skaters of the post – craze era.

 

EASTERN SUBURBAN SPOTS

One of the best bank set ups was the Taxi Bowl in inner city Carlton. This three-sided bank was situated behind a Yellow Cabs Taxi service depot, and had a small tin shed in it’s centre. You could pump it’s relatively steep walls and work it back and forth, although the lip met up to a chain link fence, ruling out any type of lip move. Since it was sort of a “no man’s land” devoid of locals, it was rare to see anyone else skate there except for the guys you’d turned up with.

 

Dunny Rooves was a bank spot with a difference – it’s two opposing 30 degree concrete banks were set on top of a public toilet block, 5 metres off the ground. To grind it required slashing out over the 20cm flat section on the top of each bank, and this certainly made for some nerve wracking lip moves and carve action.

 

Quite a few unwary motorists with the misfortune to seek a shady park next to the toilet block had their car rooves re-modelled by a flying board. 

And a few locals followed their boards over the edge too. Tony Mead made the swan dive several times, and collected some broken bones in the process.

 

Andrew Tennant and Chris Hatten were masters of the micro edge running carve, a feat which I’m sure few would attempt today. As with most heavily localised spots, intimate familiarity and local knowledge tends to breed a disregard for the dangers involved.

 

Other popular early bank spots were the “sewerage settling ponds” located in Waverley, Wantirna and Scoresby. Waverley had the biggest ones, an enormous pair of smooth, banked bowls with flat bottom. (To my mum’s line of thinking, a pattern was emerging here - everywhere I skated was a toilet, a drain or, worse still, a sewerage farm! You couldn’t really blame her for taking a dim view of my emerging interest in skating).

 

I’m still not sure exactly what function these things performed, but despite the name, they were not full of shit. There always seemed to be one empty, whilst the other was full of algae covered murky water. The walls were only about 25 degrees, but they had tall banks with tons of flat, perfect for fast speed carves, big layed out berts and slides. Since they weren’t very accessible, they never were particularly well known, but to Waverley locals, they were at least a fun alternative to the Dunny Rooves.

 

Peter Rowe - Laverton Ditch

WHEN FACTIONS MEET

One weekend, Wedge, myself and a small ‘scout party” decided to go and take a look at Bloodbath, and met up with a large crew of Noble Park’s finest – including Lee “Dog” Fueler, Simon and Dean Reynolds, Derek Stuart and a micro sized John McGrath. John was so much better than his contemporaries (us included) it wasn’t funny. Somehow, him being a pint sized, weedy little kid meant he could be written off, but I think everyone was painfully aware that John was going to be a major ripper down the track.

 

Noble Park and Springvale were criss-crossed with drainage channels, and the wider, dry, open sections (like Bloodbath and the oddly named “Thongdang” ) were ridden constantly by the local Radland crew.

 

Like Bath, the Mentone and Tullamarine drains featured the same harsh trannies, water traps and various other obstacles.

The Natural Design boys from Rosanna (Ash, Fletcher, Wooly, Goodman and Fidess, etc) were busy laying down flowing bank lines at Mentone, such as berts, lip slides, wheelers and tail taps. This group had met and competed under the banner of Natural Design Surf Shop in Ivanhoe, one of the very few retail outlets that continued importing up to date U.S. skate gear after the craze died out.

 

A little-known bank spot of the time was Lexton Road in Box Hill. This was a long, steep, 50 degree bank with slight tranny, running the length of the concrete driveway of a small industrial workshop. The layout made it suitable only for a “surf line” – ie: kick turn, bottom turn , kick turn and so on. The 3 1⁄2 foot high bank met up with a brick wall, and there were persistent rumours of guys “getting bricks” and making it, but I think this was crap. Not that it stopped anyone from trying. I fell foul of the flaking concrete edge where the bank met the vert and got catapulted way out onto the flat. I think it was this event that led to me being known for a short while as “the human stallblock”.

 

Lexton Rd was one of the few really rideable early bank spots, and was a great training ground for the Rosanna guys and the few others that knew of it.

 

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