Features 15.8: Santa Cruz Summer Tour

By I.J. Valenzuela

Midsummer always has a way of bringing out the worst in people. Traffic, crowded beaches, and too much cellular radiation combine with soaring temperatures to create an angry human stew. So it was, in the midst of this summer heat, that I met Santa Cruz Team Manager Holly Anderson at teamrider Curtis Woodman’s house in Citrus Heights, California for a team trip up the West Coast.

Holly is either brave or really stupid-but she was the one putting the trip together, so I figured she knew what she was doing. Her plan was to commandeer a van loaded to the roof with promotional product and ten snowboarders and skateboarders from all over the globe to hit several skateparks on the way up to Ken Achenbach’s Camp Of Champions in Whistler. We would get our shred on in Canada for a few days, then turn around and head to Mt. Hood for more of the same activity.

If you’re ever driving North on I-5 through Oregon, remember Ashland, Talent, Medford, Newberg, Donald, and Portland. These towns all have sick skate facilities that are free-although payment in blood is readily accepted. We managed to skate a bunch of parks and still arrive in time to pick up our comrades in travel, Gian Simmen and Dani Costandache, at the Vancouver airport.

After another trip to the airport and one to the hospital to treat Curtis Woodman’s cantaloupe-sized swellbow, our little van of joy was ready to head to the Camp Of Champions. The group arrived in Whistler during the still of the night, waking the next morning to a lobby full of stoked campers. Ken Ach and his long-lost twin J.P. Martin have done a stellar job of creating an environment in which the young shredder can flourish. It’s only a hearty breakfast, three chair lifts, and a short bus ride ’til the glacier is underfoot.

Due to the meager winter suffered by the whole West Coast, the glacier was thin. Unfortunately, you need snow to build big jumps and pipes, but the Camp Of Champs countered this by providing a whole slew of rails. Although perfectly shaped, the pipe was mighty short-like a mini pipe, optimum for those under five feet tall.

Gian, Dani, and Pete Shiera wanted to look for something a bit bigger to ride, and the public pipe was just that: ten feet deep with absolutely no vert. This worried both Gian and Dani, but Pete’s from Buffalo, New York and said it beat the hell out of anything he was used to. Gian searched for a sweet spot, going his normal twelve feet out but nearly casing the deck on reentry. “That thing scares the poop out of me,” he informed us.

Dani was apprehensive and stuck to his mellow guns, but Pete was not holding back. Determined to not let some “Gold Medal wearing Euro go higher than ‘Buffalo’ Pete,” he did one air easily twelve or thirteen feet high that really stoked the skiers out. I think that cursed Pete, though, because his next air was as big, but he managed to deck pretty hard and shoot immediately to the flatbottom, wounding him for the rest of our stay in Whistler.

Curtis and his swollen elbow were eager to slide some rails. After inspecting the rail graveyard, we found one that he thought was perfect-an eleven-foot-tall kinked rainbow. It took only three hours to get it in the snow and ready to ride. Surprisingly, we found very few takers for the kinky rainbow. Along with Curtis, Dennis Bannock and Lexi Waite were the brave ones. This thing handed out a mean beating to Lexi, but not before she was able to slide it completely. Dennis and Curtis were getting it dialed and came up with serious style points.

The setting for The Camp Of Champs is refined-even distinguished. Everything is built in, even the skatepark, which has been there for at least a decade. But reports from Mt. Hoodlum were favorable, and we decided it was time to go. We loaded up the van for what would hopefully be an easy border crossing. Twenty-four hours later, the posse arrived in Government Camp on the last of sixteen straight sunny days. SSome places, no matter how much alteration, can never change. Despite the insane skate facility High Cascade has centered in the town and the buckets of money poured into the local coffers, the place is forever unchanging.

Nighttime is when the true character of Govie reveals itself. We visited the Rossignol house just in time for the Firewalking Olympics-a new event requiring little athletic ability. This was occurring simultaneously with the usual antics at the Ratskeller pub, involving some sort of battle between the rookie crew of Steve Duke, Scotty Wittlake, and the veteran band of Jimmy Halopoff, Nathan Yant, and Ian Ruhter.

The next day the weather was bad-lucky for us, High Cascade and Windell’s Camps are super dialed to deal with those dreaded down days. There’re vert ramps, mini-ramp configurations, wooden bowls, BMX tracks, trampolines, street courses, horseshoes, basketball, fishing, and of course, PlayStation. A trip up to the top of the mountain was eventually required to check things out. The Palmer Snowfield had been reduced to pathetic snow strips. With all the great minds behind the various camps, there was still plenty of fun to be had-but if you can’t see your feet in front of your face, fun gets put on hold.

The sound of rain on the pavement really sucks when all you want to do is ride. No matter how frustrated the group might’ve been swimming around in the glacier soup or burning time in Govie, at least we weren’t stuck in the sweat lodge of one of America’s cities. A visit to Hood or Whistler is a must for anyone who is suffering from the wrath of midsummer heat.