Adelaide, Sydney, Canberra, Central Coast and Newcastle: Going on a skate trip through Australia does mean amazing skate parks, vast lands, lovely people and especially far distances. Hugh “Disco” Rowland’s journey took him 4000 kilometers in four weeks. Here is his travel log, but be careful: High risk of wanderlust after reading.
I fly out of Adelaide bound for Perth on a Friday morning. As we descend into the terrestrial richness of the West I am reminded of Australia’s breathtaking landscapes. Even more so as I exit the airport terminal. My breath taken by the roasting dry heat of 38 degree Celsius air temperature.
Thankfully soon I’m in the air-con comfort of Lucky Skates shop in Inglewood, laughing and chatting with the owners Minnie and PT about times gone by. We share gifts and again I’m on the road, this time heading for the cool relief of a sea breeze and a seaside restaurant. Now some hundreds of kilometres away from where I landed at lunch time.
Distance will be a common experience during my holiday. As I leave suburbs and street signs for paddocks and parking bays, my next residence is a rest stop on a road.
200 kilometres south of Perth I’m in Wirdandi Boodja country of Boyanup. Ashley Chitty of CIBSWWA is hosting Boyanup Bowl Bash IV. A guerrilla style meet-up of bands and skaters converging on the local park. I’m greeted instantly with handshakes and hello.
A band is arranging a corner of concrete overlooking a bowl, all under cover of an iron roof. Rain drops sprinkle softly around us, it settles the dust but never the energetic mood. The day rolls on, skaters trick their lines through the bowl. All the while bands thrash out a soundtrack to the day. The vibrancy is infectious. The skaters react to the tempo of the music, the musicians respond inspired by the energy of the skaters, and so it rock and rolls until all are tired and sore and Bowl Bashed out!
The personalities and faces of the day begin loitering in the carpark. Handshakes are now hugs and we share farewells as the evening closes in on us. I’m now riding shotgun as I share another two hours drive North, returning to the city of Perth.
The car drive is a mini party. Snacking on the last of the days picnic basket supplies, enough to ward off a hunger as the exhaustion of the day sets in. The length of the drive still not enough to share the stories of the day and the gossip of the skate scene, or each other’s taste in music.
After long straights of galloping highway, the car begins to zig-zag through side streets and sniffs out a familiar driveway. Finally, I’m arrived on the door step of a suburban beach house. Disco leaves his skates at the door and enters as Uncle Hugh. The skills and stories of the day are foreign in this house. Instead, I’m left to babysit the nephews, who school me in computer games and generational lingo. Apparently, I just got ‘roasted’, which was a completely different thing when I was younger!
A looming journey into Australian backroads
I’m only another night in Western Australia before I fly back to Adelaide. A stopover in my home, left vacuumed and fragranced seems more like a Hotel visit. Without too much rush, the car is packed. A looming journey into the Australian back roads demands attention to supplies. A sleeping bag, water and food supplies for casual stops along the road. It can be a long way between towns and every necessity should be packed before I leave. Insect repellent. Don’t forget the toothbrush.
I visit my Mum. We talk over a map of Australia and the familiar roads not just between places but also the expected faces. The distance doesn’t seem so daunting with the hope of meeting a friend at the other end.
By the time I leave Adelaide to begin my summer tour of the East Coast of Australia it is early evening. Next stop Sydney, 1266 km.
In Sydney my first location must be Bondi Bowl
I’m entering a twilight hour as the sun sets in my rear-view mirror and my headlights begin to capture the white line and the cats eyes of my horizon. I’m relaxed in to my driver’s seat but alert to any unfamiliar movement, cautious that the eyes of the road don’t begin to hop across it or that my adventure may come to a screeching halt.
I’m travelling in the dead of night. I haven’t seen another vehicle for hours. The night is dark but clear sky and warm air is alive with flying insects. After driving for six hours, I have indeed made it half way to Sydney. Any further and I would certainly run out of fuel in the middle of nowhere. I stop by a fuel station to sleep to sunrise.
My journey continues the next day, a little slower as I take in more tourist sights and rest stops along the road. I’m arrived in Sydney by sundown. Just another vehicle in peak hour traffic. The evening is cool and I find a comfortable bed to rest.
It is Sydney and my first location must be Bondi Bowl. Early morning dew is still to evaporate from the concrete, but the day already feels hot under a humid cloud. After a morning skate, a swim is welcome and refreshing in the Bondi surf. Next stop, Five Dock skate park.
The day is warming up, by mid-day the temperature is above 30 degrees C. I meet only a few local roller skaters and we befriend a skate boarder. The bowls have leaf litter and small puddles. We work as a team to clean up before resting in the shade to hydrate and gear up. Between four of us, we build up a stoke and investigate the shapes of the park, each finding an ideal line. The heat of the day builds and we finally call it off in search of a cold beer.
We do find a small brewery, The Grifter Brewing Co. and sample flavoured beer with names like, Serpent’s kiss, Pink Galah and Acid Drop. Refreshed we look toward the next skate park. Unfortunately, as we crest a hill, a looming storm cloud spells doom for our afternoon plans. By the time we arrive at the park, it’s saturated. We’ve even had to drive undercover to avoid hail damage to the car.
On the bright side, our local host has an invite to a private indoor mini ramp. Seemingly only around the corner we enter a typical warehouse basement with all the usual evidence of bohemia. Party props, spare bikes and random tools are scattered about the room. In the corner, a colourful and inviting ramp adorned with couches and chairs. Our afternoon is revived as we each discover our flavour within the confined space. Sydney only offers more rain into the night, we spend the evening with pizza and a pool hall.
The weather is typical of the Australian summer now. Hot in the day with little relief overnight.
I’ve headed South to find myself in Canberra, ACT. It is now Christmas Eve and I take time to visit relatives and friends for another few days. The weather is typical of the Australian summer now. Hot in the day with little relief overnight.
The coming skate park adventures are being planned for early mornings and early evening to escape the heat. Canberra offers a number of broad skate parks that include large ramps (Tuggeranong) or big bowls (Belconnen) surrounded by plaza. A variety of interaction that is appropriate to all levels of skating. Consequently we often have 6 up to 12 people arrive to skate. I really enjoy myself here, and without any hurry to leave I spend a whole week skating daily.
I’m being followed! Or at least, via social media people know I’m around.
With a pleasant invite too good to refuse, I’m now on the road heading North. First via Sydney again. Not to skate but to visit a man who knows roller skating, and particularly wheels.
Scott Corey produces wheels of his own caliber and for wholesale supporting other Australian brands. I need some help to reshape some flat spots, to get a little more life from the wheels I have. And why not stay for lunch and a chat. I’m eagerly interested in roller skates and their technology.
Soothing coastal climate
After that I head for Bato Yard Skate Park, The Blood Bowl. Just in today I travel 600 kilometers, arriving on sunset to the bowl. There is a huge crowd of people from all ages and disciplines. Skate, scoot, BMX. The bowl is dominated by a local crew of veteran skateboarders and their protégé. I watch but leave to find a campsite before dark.
I find a park in the thick of trees. The insects here are bigger and louder than anywhere so far. I relax to the sunset over the ocean, my inner thoughts simply deafened by the chirping chorus around me. Regardless, I’m exhausted and asleep quickly.
In the morning I’m woken by a scuffle around my vehicle. A local ground hen of some sort has its territory amongst the terrain. It seems determined to eke out some scrap or crumb of my human invasion. I begin the day with Yoga on the beach and a swim. After a week of an inland hot spell, the coastal climate is very soothing. By the time I meet the locals at skate park at 9am, I’m well caffeinated and it seems half a day is already passed. It’s a really productive session. After I take my time to read and discover the lines of the bowl, I’m established with a favorite line and pushing it higher. Similarly, my buddy Dan lifts his game too and we’re bouncing ideas off each other and building the stoke.
The following day we meet again and are joined by more skaters from nearby towns. The crew I skate with today are in their 30s and 40’s. I am impressed with the prowess everyone has on their skates. We’re even visited by a senior citizen who happens to be speed skating in the nearby gym hall.
Three more days have passed and I am now on the road for three weeks, today is New Year’s Eve. I spend the night on a front porch, again in deep discussion for roller skating as lightning performs our sky show for the night. Happy New Year 2019.
The mecca of the tour is approaching: The Gold Bowl, Newcastle. On New Year’s Day we are greeted with clear blue sky. It was a late night and we are only rushed enough to skate before the heat arrives. After so many of the previous hours being dedicated to talking about skating, we are simply determined to realize our expectations again. The Gold Bowl empty! Our mecca, all to ourselves. This is a glorious day and we skate for hours.
One day is not enough. We return again for a second day. Friends from our past days at Bato Yard join us again. Today we all feel the effect of long days and nights of partying. I’m fortunate to have come this far without injury but take a heavy fall that knocks the wind out of me.
My own endeavor to travel
It’s time to start heading home. My visitation is not done yet. I am returning on the road I’ve travelled. Now to take time to visit Roller Derby Heaven skate shop. Again, this is a premium detour specifically to inspect and gather new skate gear. I’m soon on the road again now to meet Slam, only just returned from an overseas skate adventure herself. Here we find a day of surfing, but also uncover a backyard mini ramp! I’m still exhausted and suffering a cold, but I watch and encourage (eventually choreograph) a skate maneuver.
I’m certainly not selling myself as a coach. My aim this tour is my own endeavor to travel. To meet and skate with the locals of the areas, in their own back yards. I am certainly rewarded with this.
I miss home. I’m close to four weeks away. Now I really want to return like a tornado, click my heels and wake up at my own bed.
The drive home takes me another two days. I rest often and lack stamina for the long drive. The time is kind however, as I reflect on the characters of the tour. I’m still bursting with skate enthusiasm and dream only that I can eventually rest my weary body.
That I will find peace, as the stimulation dissolves into my memory. Memories to return as snippets in the future. Colorful glimpses of reality in my conscious peripheral, in my mind’s eye, like…dripping rainbows.
Words by Hugh “Disco” Rowland
Photos: Hugh Rowland, Cameron Lindroth, Steven Craddock