A Southern Portage
Words by Dan Rusin | Photos by Brandon Bowes
With the goal of escaping the harsh Minnesota winter, we embarked on a week-long trip to the south. The car was full of homies (Brandon Bowes, Ben Narloch, Matt Boeltl, and I) and we were hopeful for good weather, good food, and a kickstart to filming for our next video.
When we left on Friday night en route to Indianapolis, which nobody thought had good winter weather. By the time we hit Madison, hope was renewed as there was no snow on the ground. We got in to Indianapolis at 4 in the morning and checked in to our hotel. A few hours later, fueled by blue skies and warm weather, we powered through breakfast and arrived at the main attraction: the canal.
The canal is about a mile long and runs through downtown Indianapolis. Primarily a jogging and dog walking area, the canal walk is littered with spots ranging from ledges, to out rails, to blocks. And as it turns out, like many fountains, the canal itself has to get cleaned periodically. In the case of the Indianapolis canal, this means it gets drained for a few weeks once every ten years or so. The place is full of banks and weird nooks and crannies, all with perfect ground; a skater’s paradise. We had the place to ourselves for hours until we ran into a local crew, and continued to skate without hassle. At some point Ben’s foot started hurting and he powered through it to get a couple more clips, but eventually was unable to even walk.
After popping some Advil we pushed around downtown and linked up with local filmer Aaron Christopher at a sick ledge spot. Aaron plugged us with a couple new spots, and we had fun skating with him and his crew before we had to head out to our next destination.
About an hour outside Indianapolis we had to do some skate tourism and check out the rails in Columbus, Indiana. This spot has been skated by legends such as Eric Koston, Jamie Thomas, and Heath Kirchart. Unfortunately all the rails have kinks at the end and have been knobbed except for one. We broke out the generator and Brandon got a fun boardslide down it. After landing on a couple feebles, he rolled the shit out of his ankle :( . We tore down the lights and pressed on to Nashville.
We woke up to another brisk sunny morning in Nashville. First on the hit list was the famous Legislative Plaza, one of the last remaining (good) plaza spots in the United States. The place is every bit as perfect as you could imagine. We randomly ran into Gabe Kehoe and the St. Losers crew and were promptly kicked out before anyone even threw down their board. The two crew parted ways and linked up again at Cumberland Park, where we had a monster session with some locals. Matt slayed the ledge over grate and we all got to watch a Jake Wooten demo.
We dropped off our sidelined soldiers, Brandon and Ben, at the hotel to rehab in the hot tub so Matt and I could lurk around downtown. We started at Legislative again and go in a solid hour before getting the most casual boot ever. The cop asked if we were leaving then left before we even packed up the camera. We could’ve stayed longer and gotten our clips but decided not to push our luck. We found a couple other cutty spots and called it a night.
The next day we spent most our time at the Battle of Nashville ledge. This place has perfect little wallies and was seemingly built for lines. The ground was deceptively bad, however, and made things tricky. After a couple hours a cop kicked us out and we decided to head out to Chattanooga.
Suddenly we stumbled upon the miraculous brick banks that Josh Wilson skated in the Mother video. We lit it up and got a clip; later we learned it’s usually an instant bust! The next morning we swung by the local shop, Comfort to hang out. We ended up skating around some weekday spots, including a fun town square-style spot down the street from Comfort. We ended our stay in Chattanooga by lighting up a fun rail to manual pad spot and made our way to Birmingham. Side note: almost all car dealerships in the south have flatbars.
We arrived in Birmingham pretty late and went to bed. In the morning we realized pretty quickly that our hotel was just a few pushes away from the “dish spot”. These things are crazy, literally just bowls with no flat bottom, and as far as we could tell it’s not a legitimate skatepark. We went there to warm up before fully waking up and Ben tossed himself into the bottom attempting to roll in.
Faith is such a good shop; great people there! We swung by after the dishes and they shared some spots with us. Faith does it right, and the shop dogs are among the nicest fur balls I’ve met. From Faith we went to the famous “ghetto banks”, a natural quarterpipe and de-facto skatepark. Everyone got clips here and I’m sure we all spilled a bit of blood on the crusty ground. We wrapped up the session at Saw’s BBQ, which we all agreed is easily the best barbeque we’ve ever had. Those garlic-herb fries will take you out, though…
Memphis ended up being a lot rougher than any of us expected. It seemed like every other building was either abandoned, fully dilapidated, or in some other state of disrepair. We warmed up at the Altown DIY spot and some locals gave us tips on where to skate. With rain expected the next day, we had to make the most of our night. We lit up a hubba at an abandoned school and got some tricks, only to find out later it’s located across from one of the most dangerous housing projects in the country. We definitely got lucky there. After stuffing ourselves with Gus’ World Famous Fried Chicken we stopped by the local shop/park/coffee joint. Zac was a gracious host and let us hang out and skate. It would’ve been nice to stay another day in Memphis but the weather wasn’t cooperating as snow and rain were expected. However it was a great way to end the trip.
Thanks: Phil Akins, Andrew Hutchinson, Aaron Christopher, Mitch Johnson, Matt Sharer, Comfort Skateshop, Faith Skate Supply, Fluxus Skateboard Co, and Zac Roberts @ Contact Skate Shop