What a memory scan, going through all of the pictures. I will start to scan and post my skate history. No more pipe pictures, sorry to say/ I already checked DesertPipes and it is looking good. As far as the guard out at the Beeline Pipes, I think I do remember skating when a guard showed up and told us to stop and got bummed out when I went a few more kick turns. I really don’t remember any really bad times or hassles. One memory is about me the old guard dude that drove the Ford pickup with the paint wore from the bed sides from his two black labs– anyways he shows up to kick us out at the Beelines and one of his dogs is all bandaged up. Had To ask! What happened–? He says that he forgot the dog was tied to his bumper and drove about 2 miles!! Ouch for the dog! Dog was road rash all over, but no broken bones. That dude was pretty cool and even helped pull Rick Millers truck out of the nasty deep pipe machine dust pit at Hassayampa. Take Care
I finally rented the “Dogs of Lord Town” movie. It inspired me to Google the web a bit, and what did I find…DesertPipes.com. Good stuff. Thanks for putting this site together. Talk about a way-back machine.
It feels like two lifetimes ago since the desert pipe days. The memories run deep. Boy, we sure logged a few miles on our cars not to mention tens of thousands of kick-turns on our legs in those pipes, pools, and other surfaces.
On your site, you ask for stories. I understand that few will truly appreciate the following stories and/or ramblings. I suspect they will however conger up memories to anyone involved in the vertical skating and that lifestyle back in the 70’s & 80’s.
Cracks in the pipes
The desert pipes were each about 25 feet long, assembled to make an underground pipeline. Where the pipes met, there was anywhere from a 0” to 2” gap at the seams. Hitting a pebble on your clay wheel Black Knight on the sidewalk was nothing compared to hitting a pipe crack at full speed. We quickly figured out that it was best to hit them at an angle or while turning on the wall. I remember in my early “barefoot” days bailing from a high front side turn. While running down the wall, I slammed my heel on a crack. I got a 2” blister and had to quit for the day. The cracks caused more full speed body slams than I can remember, especially for the out-of-towners. I got my first concussion when my back wheels locked up in a crack on the wall; again while doing a front side.
I forget who came up with it but I recall the best way to bail was to slide down the wall on your rear. Running down the wall was definitely more dignified, but it was very hard on the knees. It would also ruin your day when you body slammed because of a minor trip-up. All you had to do is twist your body around like a cat in the air to get your back to the wall. Hands out, butt down, feet down was the best way to slide down those monstrous vertical walls. I went through many pairs of shorts.
The machines they used to move the pipes were incredibly large. I have a picture of one on my wall at work (10_centennial79). They had a very innovative wheel assembly that allowed them to drive up, then in, then through the pipe. The machine would then expand in the middle, gently picking up the pipe. They traveled around 2 miles per hour. The axle of the wheels was about 2 feet higher than my VW bug.
Lost Board in Pleasant Pipeline
I remember the day you mention when the CA crew “lost” a board in the Pleasant Pipeline. I strongly suspect the lost board was a lie to get us off our boards so they could get in more runs. I remember a guy trying to sell us a prototype “Pool Tool” deck. Back then the hottest desk going was tapered solid wood with a wedge tail. This thing was cool. Custom lightweight plywood. Who would have thought?
Oh, the injuries. There were the two I previously mentioned. I had two others to speak of. Towards the end of my skating career (somewhere around 1982) we were skating Dead Cat pool. I was in college at the time and had not ridden for months. I was doing a “sess-slide” (frontside turn by sliding the back wheels instead of pivoting on them) on the main face of the bowl. I fell face first from 10 feet onto my hands and chin. I blacked out for a minute and bleed all over the place. Ping had to drive us and my bug to a near by 7-11 to get me cleaned up. I’ll never forget the look on the clerks face when I came in with a completely blood soaked t-shirt held to my chin. I spent a few minutes in the back bathroom then off to ER. Thanks for the ride Steve. I can’t remember how many times I tripped up on the wall body slamming on my hips. I’m sure glad I started wearing hip pads early.
Fast forward to1999. I’m 39 years old, with a good job, a wife & two kids. I haven’t skated in years. I’m no longer the skinny 120 pound long haired kid I was. My center of gravity has definitely changed. And then they go and build a skate park in my town (Albany Oregon). I went out and bought a nice board and a full set of pads. I showed up on opening day. It felt great. It took no time to get into to the groove. I was definitely the oldest guy there, and was rippin’ up the place. There were a number of flat-landers and rail grinder kids there. But I was showing them what those vertical surfaces were designed for. I skated about 3 hours and only had a couple of minor spills. The next day I took off work a few hours early. It was all coming back to me. After a few hours on the second day, I was doing grinders in the pool and pulling tail taps off the coping. The next logical step…aerials. Back in the day I could pull off a backside aerial (not that high mind you, maybe 6” to a foot out). I went up, grabbed the board, then bailed. Just like 20 years ago, the muscle memory was there. It was a picture perfect sliding bail. Then for another. This time, when I bailed, I hit the coping, rolled my ankle, then slide down the wall. But something was drastically wrong. My leg had folded under my backside and my foot continued to roll. I had snapped both knucklebones of my ankle and the small leg bone at my foot. Not a great birthday present for my wife. $16,000 of insurance, 2 days in the hospital, lots of pins, screws, & bailing wire, and 6 weeks in a cast later, I was (almost) as good as new. I haven’t been vertical since. And then there were the others…
I remember watching a guy try a drop-in off the 3 foot extension of the pool at High Roller skate park. He waited forever to go. By the time he went, an audience of around 100 kids and parents surrounding the pool & fence. I was sitting at the mouth of the pool for the best view. Boy did I get it. He dropped straight down around 15 feet. He broke his fall with his hands and knees, but came running out with an extremely broken forearm. It was like he had an additional elbow about 6 inches from his wrist.
I also remember a particularly spectacular spill that Steve Shelton took. At High Roller skatepark, the 18’ pipe transitioned to an 16’ half pipe with about 6 feet of pure vertical. One day Steve was skying it out inches from the top. Something went wrong and he dropped all the way down from the top, landing in the bottom in a full body slam. It wasn’t pretty.
There were the countless body slams that took place in the pipes. The typical remedy was a cool drink and a 1 hour break. It’s amazing that we can even walk today. Can you relate?
In the downhill part of the Pleasant pipeline, we used to do something called a catamaran. Two guys sit sideways on their boards, facing each other, holding each others feet. With a strong push from a friend, we would make one turn at around 7:30, then crank a very hairy turn somewhere around 9:00 (vertical). The downhill of the pipeline gave us tons of speed by the time we got to the second turn. We would take turns for who was “on top” for that last very exciting turn. Steve P. and I did this a lot! The main problem was there was no clean way to bail. So stupid but oh so fun.
By definition, the Arizona desert pipes were located, well, in the Arizona desert. We had numerous run-ins with rattle snakes. When possible, we would walk around them and leave them alone. On a few occasions we would stone them. Many times we would camp overnight at the pipes. I remember one time we were setting up camp down in a pipeline trench. I set my food and drink down against the rock wall. This action startled the rattler that was nestled up in the rocks. We all knew that he had to go. We proceeded to stone that snake as well as all of the glass bottles in the bag. I was bummed out. We then cut the head off the snake. If you have never done this before, it can be very entertaining. The head will continue to try to bite for about 30 minutes, even without a body. You have to bury the head! Also the body can move for hours after the head is cut off. I was walking past the camp fire a few hours later, pretty close to the body and the rattle started to make that infamous sound. I must have jumped 5 feet! I remember we skated that night ‘til we could barely walk. There is nothing like skating a desert pipe to the light of a campfire.
When we started bringing music with us, we used to skate to 70’s rock & roll; Zeppelin, Foghat, Nazareth, Nugent, Rush, and others. Somewhere down the road, punk music started showing up at the sessions. That was about the time I started to get more serious about college and quit skating.
Dead Cat Pool (DC)
Oh, man. What can you say about that large, private party place that we had for YEARS! If a neighborhood spot shut down, we could always count on DC. We skated it before it was ever tagged. Taking breaks inside the burned down house; the lines, the snake sessions, the people, the police, the neighbors, oh the times we had. For the first few years, we had the run of the place. I think there were no more than 20 skaters that knew about the place in all of Phoenix. Towards the end, you could be in the shallows with up to 15 people, all vying for a run. You had to be pretty aggressive (or patient). This was the only time I personally saw girl groupies at a pool. I remember doing looooooong front side grinds on the face of DC. It was a great pool to skate but my fondest memories of the place were of the lifestyle we had spending endless weekends and school nights in that hot dry backyard.
Steve & John…Remember this?
In the summer of ’80 the Pings and I set out for a 10 day trip to California.
Picture this. Three guys, 18, 17, and 16 years old. 3 sets of gear, 3 sets of “luggage”, and lots of other supplies packed into a 1968 VW bug. We started off with an embarrassing 2 hour delay at Safeway, where we had a little run in with store security. This limited our session at the freeway pipes. Not only did they bring the canal underground at the rivers & washes, they also did it when it had to cross the I-10 freeway. We had about 3 hours of light. This was one of the best pipe sessions of my life! Steve had lots of color film, and we traded off skating and shooting. The imagery was awesome. The very best skating picture I have of myself was taken by Steve that day (19_centennial79). I have this picture on my wall at work to this day. I think (??) that was the day I took the picture of Steve & John sitting on the pipe (03_centennial79).
That poor VW bug had a hard time going through the windy pass just East of Palm Springs. With it floored it could only go about 45 MPH. We were pretty loaded down with supplies plus the headwinds are incredible going through there.
Somewhere in the middle of nowhere CA the brakes on the bug started seizing up. We stumbled across a VW dealership and they took us to the cleaner. It took 3 hours and $150 to “fix” the car. The problem showed up again about 60 miles down the road. Thanks to the small shop that actually fixed the problem (at quitting time for free!).
That night was very eventful. While looking for a place to camp, we went blindly driving across a field and ran into an irrigation ditch. We had to ask the property owner to help pull us out. He did and graciously sent us on our way. That could have ended up a lot worst. We decided to just pull off to the side of a small road and camp for the night. It was so cold. A car came by and told us to put out the campfire we had started. We did not know about the California wild fire problem and ignored the suggestion. About 10 minutes later a fire truck came and made us put it out. I don’t remember where we actually slept that night, but I’m pretty sure it was not comfortable or warm.
I think our first skate park inside CA was Pomona Pipe & Pool. Nice place. Surprise, surprise, we spent the majority of our time in the large pipe. I remember doing front side power slides past vertical. There was something about that surface that made my wheels screech really loud. I also could do a mean tail tap that I would ride halfway down the wall. Between these two moves, Johns very high, very long sess-slides, and Steve’s spinning slide move, a lot of foreign noises were coming from the pipe that morning.
In LA, we spent a number of days with a good friend of mine from Tehran American School, Chris Stevens. (My junior year in high school I lived in Tehran Iran, but that is quite another very long story). Chris showed us many parks on LA’s West side. It was great to combine these two aspects of my life in one trip.
Somewhere along the way we went to a park that wanted my driver’s license as collateral for payment. I think they were charging somewhere around $2.00 per hour. In the initial transaction they forgot to take my license. We were very tight on money because of the brake situation and we were only going to skate for 2 hours. When we went up to pay, the clerk could not find my license. I didn’t realize I had it. So, we continued to skate for free until they could find it. After about four more hours of free skating, mixed in with numerous off site breaks, we left. I found my license in my wallet later that night.
Unexpected Homeowner Returns
In the movie “Lords of Dog Town” there was a scene where a home owner returned home, to find his back yard full of kids. I experienced one of these. Little Larry drained a pool in our neighborhood. He thought that the owner was gone for the summer. Word got out quickly and within a few weeks, it seemed like dozens of kids were skating there. One day, with about 20 people in and around the pool, the home owner came out screaming and yelling. I never got out of a pool and over a fence faster in my life. I don’t know how, but everyone got away. It was almost comical the way we scattered. I laughed so hard at that scene in the movie. It really brought back memories.
There were many, many other stories from this stage in my life, many of which are now a blur: Back-washing pools, Bon fires in the desert, tubing down the Salt River, attempting to play guitar, concerts, almost drowning at the “box” at the Flumes (a small canal in the desert near the Pleasant Pipes); the camping, the parties, the gold mines in Cave Creek, the road trips. As I mentioned earlier, it was a lifestyle. I would not be the person I am today if it were not for the true friends and radical experiences I had back then.
I’d love to correspond with anyone who knew me back then, or anyone who has questions about the Arizona Desert Pipes.
Love the site! I spend too much time looking at all the dead cat photos. I can name the unidentified Litchfield local.
I have a cool story about the Hassayampa pipes. My brother and I grew up in the White Tanks area 6 miles west of Litchfield Park. We skated the Lake Pleasant pipes. Well one day my brother David was standing on the drive way of my parents house. He can see the scar of the canal and pipes of the CAP along the desert. He was telling me the pipes follow that scar and it goes behind the White Mountains. So he gets the neighbor to ride him and his board on his Honda 75cc dirt bike. They ride out through the desert crossing the hassayampa, they say and find the pipes not only that pros are riding and get off on riding the motorcycle around while David rides the pipes. So they come home and are telling us the story and we don’t believe them. They say “we got proof” the bike gas tank is covered up with stickers we have never seen before. The next day we went and had a great session, I have some killer B+W photos too.
So, it is just another typical day in West Phoenix or as the locals
call it Westside. My best friend and I had an apartment at 46th ave and Glendale and it was a place where you could just hangout or meet up to go skate. We were just 2 teenaged betty’s looking for fun with no particular place to be.
One morning the Crazy 8 skate team shows up at our place for a typical drive to downtown to skate parking garages (you know downhill through the spiral). Probably around 1986 or ’87 my memory is a little hazed by the extracurricular goings on. Anyway we have our usual breakfast of otter
pops and cheap beer. We light one up and pile 7 people along with boards into Jonathan’s blue VW bug. (3 in the front and 4 in the back) I am surprised we even got down the road! So, once downtown we go and hit the Bank One building and then the guys want to go to the pipe which was restricted and you had to park away from it and walk a couple of blocks so if you got caught you could run and be free. A little nervous about crossing a fence line that reads do not enter, private property I proceed onward through the fence and down a dirt hill to a big cement opening. It was large and I am thinking wow this is amazing! There were stickers on the walls going up in height showing how high someone rode their board. There were a couple on top and a lot along the walls and around the curve of the top. The typical girl groupie thing to do was keep guard for security and watch the skaters and their boards as when you ride pipes boards go flying. I got the biggest shark bite ever on my thigh that day I thought I wouldn’t be able to walk out of there. The knot and bruise lasted for weeks but it was worth it because the excitement and thrill left amazing memories of moments in time and friends. I grew up on the Westside but back then there were only so many skaters so most everyone knew each other or hungout at the same parties whether you lived west, north or east! Just a few names to highlight who left me with great memories: Shane D., Jr., Frank A., Richard R., Jason B., Jonathan H., Lanny, Michele (Honeybee), Mo, Sweetpea, Chippy, and many others! Thanks for the site and memories!! ~Southern Belle~