1977

POOLS!

FISHPOND - THE TRAINING GROUND

In early 1977, the Eltham Fish Pond was to be the rallying point where all these disparate Melbourne factions met up and finally sessioned together for the first time.

 

In early 1977, the Eltham Fish Pond was to be the rallying point where all these disparate Melbourne factions met up and finally sessioned together for the first time.

Built in the 1950’s at a hat manufacturer’s for a “beautiful factory” competition, the Fish pond was just that – a 3 1⁄2 foot deep, sculpted fishpond with numerous tight bowls of varying steepness with a square “coping” cap around it’s entire perimeter. Muzza’s wall, The Jungle Bowl and the U Bowl were the most challenging spots for throwing wheelers, grinds and unsuccessfully attempting the first rudimentary airs. Top riders at the Pond were Wedge (of course) Glen Gustke, Ash Ragg , Fletcher, the late Terry Probin, Stumpy the barefoot surf slasher, Baddeley – who could carve the Pond’s every contour, Ching and John McGrath, who despite his young age, was already blazing. Pond was the scene for many crazy massed speed runs through the tight bowls, mowing down the younger groms who happened to stray into the line of the older riders

Early sessions were focused on surf-carving the place at speed, whilst hitting every wall in the place. Soon though, the idea of getting wheelers and grinds took over, even though hitting the abrupt vertical cap section was enough to throw you off by itself. Regardless, the technique was soon mastered, and became commonplace.

One memorable session saw John McGrath doing free fall backside airs off a picnic table which was wedged up against Muzza’s, the steepest rideable wall.

John’s small size fit the low banks well, whilst us bigger guys always looked a little out of scale there.

Although the train ride could take almost 2 hours from a starting point in Glen Waverley or Springvale, the Pond was ridden rain, hail or shine for a year or two before any better, purpose built terrain was discovered. 

DOLPHIN POOL - GNARLY VERT ARENA

After the Fishpond’s every curve had been thoroughly explored, the rumour of a potentially skateable pool in Canterbury set the small local skate scene abuzz. Until we got there. The Dolphin Pool was 8 1⁄2 feet deep, with a fairly hefty over–vert scoop out of the face wall, a 2 inch thick glass window which interrupted the natural foot line, but worst of all, only had about 18 inches (500mm) of transition - maybe 2 feet in one tight corner.

 

Despite the obvious shortcomings, (this was certainly no skate park) it was after all, a pool, and finally a chance to try to skate some terrain similar to what we’d been seeing in the U.S. mags. The Dolphin Pool was found by Simon Cortlang, a local Mont Albert skater who took note when the Dolphin Pool Center closed it’s doors to business in mid ’77. Our first session at Dolphin was interrupted by a visit from the local constabulary, which soon found us all pressed up against the shallow end wall, trying to disappear, even though the cops had obviously seen us on an earlier drive-by. We emerged, somewhat sheepishly, and the cops asked Wedge to “show them his style”. After giving us a bit of a tongue lashing, they told us to piss off, but I think they knew as well as we did , that we’d be straight back inside ten minutes.

The run into the face wall at Dolphin Pool was brutal. 

Trying to convert speed across the flat into thrust up the wall was tough, to say the least. Even if you maintained your speed through the carve, it was entirely possible to snap your board on the drop. Regardless of the obvious pitfalls of the Dolphin Pool, like any skate spot, enough determined effort will always result in a rideable line being found.

Glen Gustke was the first to carve “over the dots” – stain marks left by the ladder attachments, and above the concave over vert section. Although this was only about 5 feet up, it should be remembered that this was the first vert riding to take place (to my knowledge) anywhere in Australia.

In time, Andrew Tennant, Tony Mead (frontside, for god’s sake), John McGrath and Wedge would all lay down some high lines, Wedge even managing a couple of kick turns across the bowl. A couple of guys actually clipped the tiles fleetingly, but by this time, several new (and far easier to ride) locations had been discovered.

 

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