1979

PIPES AND NEW TERRAIN

WIDE BOARDS AND THE SEARCH FOR LIGHTNESS

Jimi Hocking's Quiver

Throughout 1978 and ’79, board design had continued it’s evolution towards the fuller outline shapes, all eventually being referred to as “pigs”. As board widths approached, and then blew out well past 10 inches, the U.S. Dogtown faction in particular decreed that virtually any amount of extra width would provide an equivalent gain in function. Whilst it was true that the wider, longer wheel base boards added stability for airs, grinds and slides, they also carried a hefty weight penalty. 

Once set up with rails and the various tail pads and slide devices of the day, an 11” wide x 31” long board had become a pretty sluggish tool indeed. 

The Dogtown “Bigfoot” model was the pinnacle of the wide board trend. 

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- being a full 12 incher. This, despite the fact that it tapered heavily in the nose and tail, making it one of the least functional shapes ever (sorry Bret, that deck looks more like a skim board).

To counteract the new shapes’ serious weight gains, U.S. board manufacturers came out with a variety of novel new construction techniques. Kryptonics had two rippers - the “K – beam” – a vertically laminated central ply beam with thinner outer rails, and the Krypto- lite. These boards had a foam filled core with a P-tex deck and bottom skins, and high density Poly Urethane bumper edges. Both would have been a production and economic nightmare to make, but definitely served to keep the Kryptonics brand in the forefront of board design. Sims used the more conventional approach of routing out large areas of the rails, as seen on the classic Brad Bowman and Bert Lamar models. 

As per usual, the situation as it applied to the local scene was a little less dazzling.....only the privileged few rode up to date imported decks, but local “back yarders” had at least mastered ply molding and higher quality finishing. At least until the advent of deeper concaves, riding a locally hand made board didn’t really represent a loss of performance, even if you didn’t get the splashy brands or pro graphics. Alas, with the introduction of complex concaves and kicked noses, the art of shaping your own board was pretty much consigned to history. (I’m in the process of shaping a solid ash/angle cut kick board right now, just to see if my board making skills are still up to the task). 

DOVETON - (VERY) ROUGH DIAMOND

In mid ’79, Doveton in Melbourne’s far South East was chosen as the site for the first of what proved to be numerous huge concrete skate bowls. 

Generally poorly planned, designed with little in the way of informed skater input , and often hopelessly kinked, these parks sprung up across Melbourne’s Eastern suburbs between 1979 and 1981. 

Even when finished, Doveton still looked like the concrete top coat was yet to be laid. 

The surface was as rough as guts... 

....with the added challenge of a “sag kink” to vert throughout the whole shallow half pipe/keyhole bowl design. Despite the huge disappointment at how it turned out, Doveton immediately became the focal point of Melbourne skating, if only because it was our first purpose built park, and just barely rideable. 

The face wall in the bowl was about 10 feet deep , with maybe 2 feet of wobbly vert. By pushing straight down the guts, momentum could just about overcome gravity and the inbuilt “surface drag” to get you to the top. The opening weekend saw just about everyone trying to be first to wheel it. A virtually unknown Nunawading local , Mark Anderson was the first to do it, beating me out by a couple of runs, which I remember pissed me off, no end. 

Soon after Doveton was finished, it was obvious there had to be a competition held there, in order to silence a renewed round of bragging. 

Sponsored by Surf Dive n' Ski, the comp got TV coverage, some of which can be seen in Hardcore’s Tic Tac to Heelflip video. Terry Probin was the clear winner, having mastered the virtually impossible by maintaining a speed line over Doveton’s pizza-textured surface. Another local skater, “Trog” Tregillis came second, and I scraped in third, just ahead of Clinton “Ching” Quan. 

Doveton really was a pain in the arse to ride.

But it certainly managed to pull a crowd, a fact not lost on many other councils who quickly initiated concrete park projects of their own. The thinking seemed to make good sense - skate bowls showed that councils were receptive to the needs of local kids, they were used virtually constantly, required no maintenance and could be built on even the least appealing plots of flood plain. 

Unfortunately, many councils apparently assumed the Doveton bowl was “the” skatepark design, and set about building copies of Doveton’s flawed layout. 

NUNAWADING PIPES - A TIGHT FIT

Unknown Edger - Nunawading Pipes

photo: Andrew Worssam

The only council to buck the trend, was Nunawading, who saved a lot of money by simply cutting a bunch of small diameter pipes into sections and linking them together. The resulting “park” was super tight, with razor sharp edges, but unlike Doveton, at least it didn’t have any kinks. The dimensions were actually inherently unsafe. 

If you bailed, you’d more than likely scone yourself on the opposing wall. 

Huey McCaig did just that at the opening day comp and ended up being dragged off in an ambulance. His epileptic jiggling act aged Bret Connoly by several years, something ol’ Berty could ill afford, even then. 

The hot Nunna locals were Dave Ellerton and Dave McDowell. Dave Ellerton was an agile skater with fast reactions, and being a small guy, he fit the tight tranny’s better than most. Wedge and Johnny’s travel article in Surfing World shows Dave rocking the 3⁄4 pipe, but I don’t think that anyone ever actually pulled that one off. Dave McDowell, on the other hand, could consistently flick frontside ollies from the very top of the 3⁄4 into the half pipe sections, which is kind of amazing when you think that this was in a 9 1⁄2 foot diameter pipe. 

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