Ten years ago a skate ramp showed up one day in a foggy part of Half Moon Bay across the street from a popular surf spot. No city officials or local citizens objected to it so it stayed there, becoming a local landmark and destination. Recently, Caltrans notified the town that they were planning on tearing down the ramp since it had been built on their land. Skaters and non skaters rallied to save it and came out in such force to town meetings that the Community Services Board voted unanimously to allocate 10,000 dollars to rebuild the ramp on preserved public space 50 feet over in the public parking lot. The ramp was saved forever!
I recently decided it’s time to conquer my fear of ramp skating and attempt to skate the mini ramp out in Half Moon Bay. Ramps are scary. You have to drop in and everything happens so fast. The other side comes up in a half second and you have to not panic and do a maneuver on the wall only to be faced with the exact same wall on the other side over and over again. When I first started skating it, I could only go for about 20 minutes before I’d lose my focus as my brain and body would become overloaded with adrenaline.
Over the week of Fourth of July I decided to really dig in with the ramp and befriend it, get over my terror and maybe learn a thing or two. For a week I would skate the foggy old ramp every single day no matter how tired or scared I was. I put the word out about my plan and got a couple of people to attempt the Ramp Challenge with me. I got two takers, Mac and Andrew. At the last minute Chris became a 2 day participant before he left to go on vacation.
We meet on Friday morning at the ramp and it’s wet. We spend a half hour drying off the water the fog left behind with towels and a broom, then climb up on the platform and start skating. Chris is an old school, very skilled and smooth ramp skater. Mac is experienced but out of practice and trying to get his old tricks back. Andrew and I are both street skaters terrified of the ramp but we’re both interested in learning how to skate it.
I realize after about a half hour on the ramp, with my slow motion old person drop in, super sketchy rock fakies and horrible kick turns, that I will have to reduce my expectations of learning three or four tricks over a week’s time. My new goal is just not to be terrified and gain a general comfort level and a safe level of competence, that’s it.
We skate for about an hour when one of the biggest red tail hawks I’ve ever seen lands in the field next to us to hunt gophers. He flies away with nothing. Surf camp kids start to arrive in the parking lot. We keep skating the ramp by ourselves and have fun for two hours and then call it a day.
I point out the BBQ place across the street and tell everyone about the brisket burger they have with caramelized onions, crispy brisket on top of a hamburger patty smothered in melted American cheese. We are all starving but the place isn’t open yet.
Andrew takes a pass for the day so it’s just Mac, Chris, me and a Blue Heron in the field nearby hunting gophers. We stop to watch him grab one in his long beak and shake it to death while a crow stands nearby waiting for leftovers.
The parking lot is teeming with surf camp kids again but we have the ramp to ourselves. Chris is shredding the ramp so smooth and Mac and I are just trying to learn something from his abilities through osmosis. My drop in is getting better and my general comfort level is improving.
Suddenly, a little Toyota truck careens into the gravel parking lot and slides to a stop right in front of the ramp, leaving the dust to settle behind it. A kid jumps out, grabs his board and hops onto the ramp. He checks to see if anyone is going and proceeds to give us a show of excellent and thrilling skateboarding that is so good you can’t even aspire to it. Everyone takes turns skating with him for a couple minutes then he jumps off, hops into his truck and drives off to work.
“He needed his high before work.” Says Mac. “Gotta start the day with PMA…positive mental attitude!”
Mac and I meet at the ramp around 8:30 and both of us are stiff and tired. Chris has left for vacation and Andrew doesn’t arrive, I can’t remember why.
“How many days have we been doing this?” he asks. “Like 5?”
“It’s only been two days.” I answer.
The ramp is soaking wet so we spend a half hour drying it as the surf schools kids arrive all around us. We get on with the skating. We are slow to warm up but then end up having fun and leave happy.
I walk the dogs for a while, waiting for the BBQ place to open but by the time I get there the line is down the block. Sigh. No Brisket burger today and they won’t be open again until Thursday.
It’s the day before Fourth of July. Andrew, Mac and I arrive at the ramp around 8:30, a little before the surf school kids. The ramp is dry! We are all starting to hit our stride. My drop in is getting better. I’m not crouching over anymore. I’m genuinely proud of my rock fakie progress and my terror has been replaced with trepidatious enjoyment. We skate for a couple hours in the sun until the ramp gets too full of great skaters that I’m too intimidated to skate anymore.
The next day is Fourth of July. Andrew will be in Santa Cruz and so Mac and I plan to meet early, around 7:30, to avoid weird holiday traffic.
Fourth of July. It’s foggy and cold but the roads are totally empty. I stop at my shop in Pacifica to grab my blue tooth speaker shaped like a French bull dog wearing sunglasses so we could have some tunes while we skate. Don’t know why we didn’t do this earlier, skating gets much funner once 80’s ska is playing. I start working on my front side early grab airs because for some reason I find them fun and not scary at all. We end early and leave the parking lot to the surf school kids.
Andrew is back and his wife and daughter join us at the ramp. Surf school kids arrive a little later. Suddenly a little Toyota Tacoma zooms into the parking lot and skids to a stop. The kid is back to get his PMA for the day before work. This time no one tries to skate. We want him to have the ramp all to himself before he has to go work whatever sucky job 19 year olds are working these days. He takes his first amazing run with us hyping him up the whole way. He stops to take a breath and wait for one of us to take a turn but we refuse.
“It’s all yours dude!”
He shrugs but is happy about it and he totally kills it with beautiful airs, complex grinds and a bunch of things that I can’t even name. He sits on the high part of the ramp, catching his breath. A second later he’s gone with plenty of endorphins to get through his shitty work day.
We skate for about an hour and then head over to the Pacifica skate park to have a mental break from the ramp. I made a strawberry rhubarb pie for the 4th so before we part ways I hand the guys a couple Tupperware containers with whipped cream topped pie slices inside.
I’m mentally and physically very tired but I did it! I got over my fears and skated the ramp consistently for a whole week! I feel like I really laid down a good foundation for future ramp skating and I had fun doing it.
I run late and get to the ramp after Mac and Andrew. Andrew brought us amazing and chewy chocolate chip cookies made with almond flour that his wife Olga made. They were so good and we still talk about them a week later.
Everything is quiet post holiday. There are no surf school kids. The ramp is dewy and every time we dry it with towels, fog blows back over and starts saturating it. We stand around chatting till the sun beats through the fog layer just enough to keep the ramp dry to skate on for a while.
We are all tired so we only skate on principle. We said we’d skate 7 days so we’re gonna skate no matter how half heartedly! After a little while Andrew decides to leave and we make a plan to skate the ramp on Monday. Mac and I keep skating for a few more minutes.
“I think I’m mentally and physically tired. I think I’m done.” I say. Mac nods, “Ya, me too. Throw away trick!!!!” He says and drops into the ramp, pumps up the other side and does a big frontside 5-0 grind balancing on his back trucks. I watch him grind by, doing the same throw-away-just- for- fun- trick I’d watched him do 50 times this week. He doesn’t make the trick and aborts the grind and steps off his board, into the ramp. His ankle makes a cracking noise, he yelps, slides down the ramp and sits up, gripping his ankle.
“Oh my god, fuck, this cannot be happening.” I think.
He looks up at me, gripping his ankle. “Call an ambulance.”
“Oh my god Mac, maybe it’s a sprain?” I say as I look down at the foot he is holding and realize the front of his ankle is folded up and bulging out of his hightop.
I call 911. They come immediately because the firehouse is on the same block as the ramp. The paramedics give Mac an IV of pain killers, stabilize his foot and roll him into the ambulance. I’m very grateful that the surf school isn’t there so there aren’t 50 little kids in wetsuits gathered around staring at Mac during one of his worst life moments.
I meet him at the hospital. Mac’s tibia and fibula are broken in half and his ankle is dislocated. He goes into surgery a few hours later and I go back to the ramp to pick up his car. It’s quiet in the parking lot and the fog is rolling in. It feels lonely and surreal being there.
I’m starving so I stop at the BBQ place and order the brisket burger that I’ve been dreaming about all week. I shovel it down my throat but don’t taste a thing.