Damn Am Down Under – The Search for a Site

Posted on Thursday, February 28, 2008 by Ryan

Words by Ryan Clements
Photos and Captions by Rob Meronek

Leo Romero and the rest of the Emerica team were at the first park we went to. They all destroyed this ledge at full speed
Leo Romero - frontside bluntslide
Jason Rothmeyer and I went on an old guy street mission and found this thing that would have ruled the early 90's and late 80's
That's our new Aussie friend Luke Croker. He rips like the all the rest of everyone we met here
This is the third park we stopped at. Thanks for the tour guide duty, Shane Azar. This is a fakie manual
No one in Australia skates less than 100mph (who knows what that is in kilometers). Shane Azar's got a gap to 50-50 at full speed
The last park we went to had something for every skater. Jason Rothmeyer pulls another one from that one decade for you
Brandon Westgate front feebles in front of a hubba that you need Westgate pop just to get onto
That's Leo Romero nosegrinding all the way from the left side of your screen to the right side
Here's a wide view of the first park we went to. I spy Jerry Hsu, Figgy, Jeff Henderson, and Leo Romero
Is it weird if I'm a grown ass man and still get real intimidated when I meet my favorite pros? That's Jerry Hsu on BSTS
Braydon was getting all motocross on the kook jump. All we need for this is Korn or Linkin Park blasting to complete the picture
Look to your left at the park and you see downtown Melbourne. This is most likely the park we will end up picking to have the Damn Am Down Under in 2009
Brandon Westgate had backside noseblunt slides on the tall ledge
This is the other gap at the Melbourne Museum. Locals were telling me Andrew Reynolds almost frontside flipped from the top block and Cody McEntire almost backside flipped it
As soon as we got to our hotel, which was a four bedroom apartment, we ran into Skatepark of Tampa Party Team member, Braydon Szafranski. That's Shane Azar, our tour guide for the next few days
The local hot spot for a meal was some Greek restaurant down the street. My mouth bouncer that keeps all weird and/or sketchy food from getting anywhere near me approves of this place. Check that signed Bastien deck they have on the wall there
A fine selection of Aussie sauce is available, too. I'm a fan of all of it
Braydon is the newest member of the face tat club
They have bats here that are bigger than Batman. Pretty creepy watching them fly around right outside our balcony
When a restaurant has all pictures on the menu, it's guaranteed to be oriental and sketchy. This is some Thai place Shane brought us to
Now we're at the next park. This used to be Ben Pappas' local vert ramp. RIP Ben
All the parks here have some pretty unique stuff. Here's another part of the second park we went to. They're all free with no pads or waivers
More of the second park. Schaefer is giving it the full assessment
They have a mini-ramp at the second park, too. That's our new friend Jeza with a crail slide
Now we're at our third park for today. This one is super fun with lots of unique stuff. It's a little far out from the city and not really good for a contest, but we had a fun session here
There's something for everyone at this third park. Even a cradle for your dad
That's Jeza with a crazy ollie from the step-up bump into the super steep bank on the right. Everyone we skated with here is so good it's amazing
Shane Azar went up the step up to bsts
Ryan Clements' Boom Boom Tail Block Tour made a stop in Melbourne
Brekkie is how they refer to breakfast. At McDonald's, you can get a brekkie roll with rashers of bacon. I'm for it
The long sidewalk leading up to the third park has random obstacles you can hit on the way
More stuff from the sidewalk at the third park. That's a solid slab of marble and a crazy wedge combo that you can wallie over if you're gnar like that
They got Red Bull in glass bottles here
Now we're at park number four. This one also has some unique stuff combined with a few things that will give you a nice laugh
Yo Tito, here's a fantastic design idea
This thing at park four is looking good. I spy a beamer
Turn this contraption 90 degrees to the left and it might be more fun
Our long skate day is over and it's now time for more meals and sketchy skateboard industry banter
Back in Tampa, The Hub is one block from my place. Here in Melbourne, The Hub is also one block away. I miss my sketchy homeless Hub friends and great bartenders already. Well, not that much
Nightlife has been super mellow here so I've been spending a lot of time with Rothmeyer. He likes the casinos. I came up like this a couple times but gave it all back as usual
After a couple days of skating around Melbourne, we devoted an entire day to a non-skate adventure getting lost around Australia. When we spotted this Koala Bear in a tree off some backwoods road, the brakes were slammed and many tourist photos were snapped. Yeah, that's a Eucalyptus tree this guy is chilling in
Say in your best Elmer Fudd voice: Be vewy quiet. I'm hunting wombat and kangawoo.

We know we're in for some wacky wildlife when we start seeing signs like this on the side of the road
Oh man, the first kangaroo we run into was this poor guy that somehow got his head severed. Damn, that sucks
See how far away the van is on the right? That's how far away I had to run from the road to chase down this crazy creature called and emu. It's sort of like an ostrich and they travel in packs. When I scared this one away, two more came flying out of the woodwork running after their pal
We went way off the beaten path and started going down all these random dirt roads. I believe this is a wallaby. It's like a baby kangaroo. This guy let us get real up close before he darted off
While driving around in the middle of nowhere, we spotted several skate parks along the way. They're like playgrounds here. Why can't the uptight and paranoid US and A get it together like this?
Volcom put us up in a four bedroom apartment style hotel for the week while we did yet another Damn Am Park Scouting Trip. We're out of here now and on the way to Sydney where the Slaughter is going down at the Opera House. Watch for coverage of that coming up soon along with a live webcast of the entire thing
Day 1:
Picking a spot to host an event on the other side of the world is pretty much impossible without actually going there. Every skateboarder knows that pictures just don’t do a spot justice, so we had to check out the possibilities on our own. Kevin Braden at Volcom gave us a little budget to work with and Globe was flying us to Oz for the Slaughter at the Opera anyway, so we decided to go on full-on Melbourne spot-checking mission to find a venue for the Damn Am that is planned for February 2009.

It’s a long, long way from Tampa, Florida to Melbourne, Australia. After literally 30 hours of travel time (Tampa to Cincinnati to LA to Auckland, New Zealand to Melbourne) we finally landed down under at 9:30am Monday morning. We’re 16 hours ahead of Tampa time…meaning that we left Tampa on Saturday afternoon and got here nearly two days later. Crazy! But our bags didn’t quite make it. There’s nothing like taking a shower and putting clothes back on that you’ve already worn for two days!

Our tour guide and ripping Australian skateboarder Shane Azar was waiting at the terminal for us and had everything planned out. He got us to the hotel and we grabbed some food. Ironically, nearly the entire Emerica team was staying at the same hotel, on a filming mission for their newest flick. So after we ran into those dudes at the local restaurant, they were also at our first skate park stop, Riverside Skate Park, also knows as the City Park because it’s in the middle of the city.

We were all tired, jet-lagged, and Brian and I were wearing our non-skate shoes, but we had plenty of support. Leo, Braydon, Westgate, Spanky, Hsu, and Figgy were showing us how it’s done. You have to see Leo skate a ledge in person to truly appreciate the speed and amount of tricks he has on lock at mach-five.

It felt like the longest day of all time for us, so we went back to the hotel to chill. Shane took us to some local Chinese food in downtown, which is a pretty happening scene and will make a great spot for a couple of parties to accompany the Damn Am. Rothmeyer and Rob went to the Casino while the rest of us hit the sack.

Day 2:
The weather was perfect and it was time for a full-on skate mission for hours on end. Shane hooked up a deal at PSC Skate Shop for some socks and a few t-shirts for the crew, we had a crappy breakfast, and hit the first park.

Spot 1: Riverside Skate Park – this is the same park that we skated the day prior, but we were meeting Aussie rippers Luke and Jeza to join us for the day. About the time we got warmed up, it was time to head out, but this looks like it’s going to be the park that we use for Damn Am next year. It’s got potential, but needs a very slight face-lift. It’s close to the tram line and the party zone, so the nightlife has potential, too. Now the work begins on making it happen…

Spot 2: Prahran Skate Park – we drove about 20 minutes out of downtown and visited this little park with a metal mini-ramp, a huge vert ramp, and an interesting street course. It was no park that was fit for a contest, but it would be a killer park to have down the street from your house. I particularly like the little cement quarter-pipe. Shane, Luke, and Jeza proceeded to destroy the little rail.

Spot 3: Knox Skate Park – this place was way out of the city, but was by far the most fun and most diverse park we skated. Once again, it’s not set up for a contest, but they had a big bowl with clam shell, proper manny pads, and great quarter-pipes and ledges everywhere

Spot 4: President Skate Park – Knox was on one side of the city and this spot was on the clear opposite. The design was interesting, but it resembled more architectural art than a skate park. It had a few good elements, but the place straight-up didn’t flow at all. It had varied surfaces, with marble banks, metal quarter-pipes, a legit Jersey-barrier, and the three-quarter-pipe had some weird expanded-metal surface. Very cool looking, but not so practical.

By the way, in case you might have forgotten, we were still wearing the same clothes. It was getting late and Shane needed to get to the airport, so we made a pit stop to see if our bags had made it to Oz. It was like Christmas morning for Rob, Brian, and I when we saw our bags! Clean clothes! Dinner was great, I was beat, but once again, Rob and Rothmeyer hit the Casino.

Day 3:
If I felt like a little kid at the end of Day 2, then I felt like a full-on adult on Day 3. Shane was gone, so that left the driving and navigating up to us. I chose to take the wheel and Rothmeyer handled the navigation. This would normally not be that big of a deal, but keep in mind that they drive on the opposite side of the road in Oz, along with the driver’s side of the car being on the other side, too. Add in everything being in kilometers and things get a bit confusing.

We wanted to see some real Australian Outback wilderness, so Rothmeyer routed us a trip to a place called Wilson’s Promontory. After nearly three hours on some winding, two-lane roads, we made it to our destination. Wilson’s “Prom,” as the locals call it, is a huge national park. We saw some of the most amazing wildlife, did some hiking, and climbed on rocks next to the ocean. What an amazing day! The highlight for me was getting about 20 feet from a wild kangaroo! Rob got even closer and you could tell that dude got pissed, so we backed off and left him alone.

The drive back was long and we were worn out. It was everything I could do to stay awake during dinner. I would like to dedicate Day 3 to Jason Rothmeyer because without him I doubt that this amazing mission would have happened. Can you believe that Rob and Rothmeyer hit the Casino again?

Day 4:
We woke up to rain and cloudy skies. It was chill time, but chill time for us means catching up with your emails and writing this story. Not a bad ending to a few action-packed days. We’re off to the airport this afternoon for an hour-long flight up to Sydney, which is the location of the Slaughter.

Thanks to Shane and Luke and Jeza for taking their time to show us around. I love this place. 99% of the people are totally cool. The weather here is like Southern California. It’s never really too hot, but it gets a bit cold at night sometimes. One thing…beer is really expensive and the Australian dollar is equal to the U.S. dollar. We actually spent $45 on a case of beer! See you next year, Melbourne…

Ryan

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