Friday, 18 March 2011

Four Wheels In The Ditch

I generally like my work, but there are occasions when spending 37.5 hours a week with TV news can feel like drowning in a dark pond of depressing world affairs into which political animals dump septic bullshit. You try to get out, but a heavy foot holds your head under. Above you, a water-skiing squirrel disturbs the surface, but it is soon obscured by the murk of natural and man-made disasters, ignorance, poverty, and low-minded celebrities, pundits and sportspeople. Gah. This is why it's nice to get away, and where better to spend a weekend than Canberra, AKA Canberrrad, "home of the Australian Story."

Last weekend I went there to visit friends and attend a party. On Saturday, in an alternative universe, the optimal party-version of myself danced the funky charleston as a whooping crowd looked on, and then they all laughed at my stories. In this universe I was not so crass as to pull focus from the lovely people who were celebrating their imminent marriage.

I partied (left)

On previous visits to Canberra I had noticed some drainage ditches that looked very skateable, so on Sunday morning skipped breakfast at Tilly's (and an actual sighting of Peter Garrett devouring nourishment), borrowed Tobi's bike, strapped my board to my bag, and set out in search of the Spence Drains.

I followed a bike path beside a ditch in which a dispiriting trickle of water flowed.  I hoped the Spence ditch would be dry. Canberra is crosshatched by bike paths, and it's refreshing to ride on these after Sydney streets, but there's a feeling of desolation to the place. It's so empty and open, and the landscape is so managed. 

Further on, I found a wider section of drain with sketchy skater-built additions to existing structures . I stopped to skate, but the small stream in the ditch and some broken glass made a run-up difficult. I had no water and the heat was becoming a problem, so I didn't stay long.

sketchy concrete transition
storm drains at Lawson

I pushed on to Spence, making a lengthy diversion to the kind of liquor store normally seen through police cordon tape after an armed robbery, where I bought and consumed nature's finest Pepsi Cola before continuing through the midday heat haze. By the time I arrived at the drains I had rode about 16 kilometers. It was around 35 celsius. There was no shade. The ditch was dry, but the main skating area was covered by a layer of dirt that rendered the benches, quarterpipes and (amazing-looking) hip unskateable.

Spence quarterpipe, hip and dirt
Spence ditch, quarterpipe and dirt

 I'd never skated a drainage ditch before, but had wanted to ever since I saw the Wallows section from Animal Chin. I had visions of long fast downhill runs of multiple tricks and carving, with the possible accompaniment of a funky bongo jam. But the gradient at Spence is minimal, its surface too rough, and my wheels too small and hard to sustain speed. It had also become scorching and was without shade, and I barely had energy to hoist a boneless, which is the least this place deserved. I shot some video before I left, and I can't wait to come back with some bigger wheels and more energy:


  1. Digging the post and choice of music for ya clip! Bookmarked!!!

  2. One man's quest to find the ultimate skate adventure in the wilds of Australia.....

  3. why do i get the uncomfortable sense that this vid is shot pov-style by smack addicts lying paralysed around a drainage ditch?

  4. I tried meth-heads but they were too shaky and kept running away with the camera.