There are many different ways to immerse yourself in the cosmos of a foreign city. Getting some umbrella-holding tourist guide who maneuvers you from one attraction to the next would be one of them. Unfortunately, you will probably miss the real life of the city by doing so. You could also just step out of your hotel room into the streets and wander around aimlessly, letting yourself be carried away as far as your feet will take you. Certainly a thrilling way of discovery, but maybe not the most effective when you’re supposed to gather everything you need for a full issue in two weeks time. We decided to just follow our friends around and let them show us their hometown – in the end, that’s probably always the best decision when you want to get to know a place and its history, no matter whether it’s San Francisco or Brunsbüttel.
For me, it all began when I traveled to the Vladimir Film Festival in Pula, Croatia, last fall. Sometime after my arrival, I was standing in the lounge of a cinema, looking at a photo exhibition by Nich Kunz. I knew his name, but had never met him in person. The exhibition showed his journey that started in San Francisco and ended in Croatia. Nich devoted one photo to every place he passed on his way. I asked him if I could take a portrait of him and we started talking. He told me that he planned the trip because he needed to get his head straight. And since I wasn’t having the best time of my life at that time either, I decided to go on a trip myself on the flight back home. A couple of months later, I had fought my way through the winter in Berlin, visited Trier and Regensburg, went to Costa Rica and Mexico, and was now sitting in Zeitgeist, a bar in San Francisco. Nich was sitting in front of me again and we drank beer and were enjoying life to the fullest after skating downtown all day long.
And just as organically as the trip itself came about, we gathered a crew that we spent the days with pretty quickly. Friedjof Feye was in it as a photographer early on. He already knew SF and was down to spend some time outside of Hannover. He also had made friends during his previous visit, which is why Harrison Hafner and Alex O’Donahoe, who live with three other roommates in a house with a view of the Pacific Ocean, were kind enough to host Friedjof and me. When we got out of the cab we took from the airport, Harry greeted us with a fresh can of beer. The sun was going down while we were chilling on the rooftop of their house.
Harry and AO knew Nich and they are all friends with Bonesaw and the Snack crew, which is why they were with us as well. Maxi Schaible, on the other hand, joined us because he’s an experienced traveler, a funny and congenial fellow, and because we wanted to have someone coming with us who actually skates while Friedjof is taking photos and I’m doing interviews. Maxi crashed at Nich’s and we found out through him that Erik Müller was also in the Bay Area at the moment, who then also joined us with a filmer. Sure, you can plan things, but sometimes it’s better to just let them develop naturally.
They way into the city usually led us up a hill from the top of which we took a bus. It was somewhat a challenge to climb up that steep concrete path in the early morning. Sometimes we wanted to crawl up there on all fours. We couldn’t believe it when AO told us that that’s the hill Dennis Busenitz bombs at the end of his Roll Forever part without powerslides as if it was the easiest thing in the world. We watched the part on a smartphone while staring at the hill. Our brains were overwhelmed by bringing video and reality together. Rolling down there for five meters can already bring you up to top speed and Busenitz goes right into the madness after ollieing two gaps beforehand. Apparently, they are used to stuff like that in San Francisco.
While I have left half of my sole on the shallowest hills, the well-trained SF skater guns every crossroad within a heartbeat. Drivers are fairly thoughtful here. However, the city dwellers aren’t always as patient with their rolling cohabitants. Many homeowners try to make popular spots, which happen to be in their driveways, unskatable with masterful ingenuity. Others were right at their doorstep to bust us the second they heard a wheel hitting the ground. One guy was going as far as sitting on the ledge and spitting on skaters. Not much left of love, peace, and happiness in the old hippie’s heart. Even Haight-Ashbury, the epicenter of the hippie movement, the beatniks, the summer of love, seems like a Disneyfied version of that time nowadays, mostly suitable to sell flower-power memorabilia and pothead kitsch. And besides, a lot has changed.
San Francisco got expensive. The tech boom expanding from the nearby Silicon Valley pushed rent and costs for living to absurd realms. Affording to live in San Francisco as a skater is quite the challenge. Before you know it, you got yourself a bowl of rice and vegetables for 17 bucks at Whole Foods. However, there are many who can spare the necessary change to live here. The residential districts with their picturesque Victorian house facades and properties worth a couple millions look like they are printed out of a travel guide. But there’s another side to it. Before letting the day end at Zeitgeist, we walked through a neighborhood at dawn. The street was full of bums and junkies, who were stumbling around like zombies. We kept on bumping into people who were running around screaming wildly, shooting up, or looking at us so spaced out that they likely have no idea what’s going on around them anymore. Two naked bike riders silently protesting against Donald Trump at Pier 7 almost seemed delightfully normal.
There are two sides to everything and nothing is as easy to skate in reality as it looks in a video. That’s something Maxi had to realize as well since it took him a while to get used to the spots. But as an experienced traveler, he’s used to adapting to new conditions and didn’t give up. After the first three days, in which not much really seemed to work out, we discovered this bank to rail spot on a parking lot. It seemed perfect on first sight, but then the rail went lose and hit the ground with a big bang on every try. We were pondering for a while and tried everything to make it stay up till we finally stabilized it. Sure enough, the parking lot was closed immediately and we were asked to leave the property. Bummed out, Maxi was sitting in front of the fence, but couldn’t keep his eyes off the spot. So he and Friedjof climbed back over and Maxi picked up the fight again, which he won after a bit of cursing. And just like that, the spell was broken.
Maxi Schaible – 50-50
But his happiest moment was when we went to visit the DLX headquarters. On arrival, Jake Phelps jokingly advised us not to steal anything, because it’s just not worth it, although there’s much of what you’d want to get your hands on: piles of drawings by the Gonz, original drafts of iconic board graphics, classic decks, Anithero eagle mosaics – a true paradise for skate nerds. We took a look inside the truck manufacturing and walked through the warehouse, which made Maxi feel like it’s Christmas already. He also made himself a present every day with some burritos (sometimes even twice). Karl Watson introduced us to the best one of this Bay Area delicacy in town when he invited us to Papalote in 24th Street, just to get some travel tips in here as well. But before we digress and start to change to petty TripAdvisor counseling, we would very much like to thank everyone who supported us in making this issue, everyone who was involved inspirational and creatively, who harbored us, who drove us around the city or invited us to dinner, who devoted their time to us and showed us spots and thereby helped to make this issue into what it became. It was all family business.