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Night Crawler 

Wednesday, Nov 1 1995
The Saturday afternoon sky is surprisingly clear as we sit outside on Pier 32, breathing in the greasy fumes of deep-fried food and sugary snacks wafting from the canopies of the nearby San Francisco Fair. Dozens of skate rats kick back beside us, sharing smokes, drinking 40s, and shootin' the shit. Occasionally, a skater leaves his posse to pull a backside-tail slide off a waist-high cement barrier before returning to his friends. A small group of "older" guys (aged 24 to 26) sit perched on their decks, swapping memories of forgotten pipes and long-lost ramps while the 12- to 20-year-olds roll by.

"Is that fuckin' Quiet Riot they're playing?" exclaims an old-timer in reference to the piped-in fair-ride soundtracks. "You'd think they'd update every decade or so."

"Cum on Feel the Noize" fades out, only to be replaced with Journey's "Wheel in the Sky." In utter exasperation, the foursome pick up stakes and leave for the competition site.

Battle on the Bay, the street-style skateboard championship sponsored by Thrasher, Slap, Juxtapoz, Adidas, and Odwalla, among others, is the official kickoff celebration of a planned public skateboard facility in San Francisco. The weekend-long event features over 100 skaters competing in a series of heats on an obstacle course comprised of ramps, fire hydrants, and, oddly enough, office equipment.

"It's a rebellion against the whole nine-to-five thing, dig?" says Brian, a 20-year-old sporting cropped hair, baggy shorts, and a Wicked T-shirt.

Despite the numerous skaters lounging near the entrance out front, the bleachers are filled to capacity and spectators line the fence surrounding the perimeter of the ring. Still, the crowd is mostly unresponsive, people clapping only when their friends are up. "Skate competitions are cool enough, but they don't really give you an idea of what a skater can do," complains 24-year-old Michael, here to hang with his partners from Trust Skate.

MC Greg Carroll from Think Skateboards tries to liven things up with running banter: "Hey, my man, don't sit in front of the banner. People paid money for those. If you could just slide down a little. ... Thanks, bro." Then, "Hey, here comes Duane Peters -- punk-style. He's been skateboarding longer than most of us have been alive."

Peters, clearly a study in old-school skating, is a reminder of how much the sport has changed in the past decade or so. He hits the pavement with a hard, fast recklessness better suited to a Dead Kennedys tune than to the hip hop and reggae preferred by most of his competitors. His bare chest, bad tattoos, and cutoff Ben Davis pants are in stark contrast to the baggy, yet pristine fashion of the younger folk, whose own skating style is a feat of studied nonchalance.

"It's not just a white-punks-on-dope-thing anymore," says Justin, who calls himself a big fan of NOFX and CIV. "There are a lot of African-Americans, Latinos, you name it."

And girls? Unfortunately, no. Despite newfound ethnic diversity, females still seem confined to looking cute and holding their boyfriends' broken decks, a fact made painfully evident when Rick Howard is announced skating for Girl Skateboards.

Ultimately, though, skating is more about having fun than making a statement.

"It's just about being able to go where I want, when I want," says an 18-year-old dread named Kevin. "It's not some subversive act. It's just about hangin.' "

By Silke Tudor

About The Author

Silke Tudor


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