At Paul Revere one August afternoon Chuck Askerneese, 15, and Clyde Grimes, 16, having been kicked off Big Blackie by the school's custodian, retreated to a slope between a classroom and a covered lunch area. Askerneese uses a $40 Bahne. Grimes made his own wooden board and tries to imitate, on hard ground, the surfing style of his idol, Larry Bertelmann of Hawaii, whom he has seen only in movies.
The hill they rode drops once, then levels and drops again. It is 15 feet high and 50 feet wide, with a tree growing out of its exact blacktopped center. Askerneese and Grimes swooped and crisscrossed the little hill, creeping forward and back like cats on their 27-inch boards. They rose and squatted and rose again with all the grace of good surfers. They practiced 180-degree turns, and 360s and 720s, cutbacks and snapbacks, sliders and back-and-forths until the custodian caught up with them again.
At the Funnel on a hot Saturday morning, Terry Craigmiles, nine, stood at the top of the hill watching Frank Hester, 13, sweep across the rough concrete walls that line the roadbed, making it look easy. Terry had arrived minutes earlier, had taken his first shot at the Funnel and lost. Both his forearms were scraped and bleeding.
The Funnel is dangerous, but probably less so than the streets around it. At the Funnel one risks falling. On the streets one risks a fall, a car and a cop. Some people in the business fear skateboards will be legislated out of existence as more and more streets and playgrounds are declared off limits. Others fear that low-quality equipment being sold in increasing volume to discount stores is going to nullify the advances in technology that have been made by the small manufacturers selling through surf and sporting-goods shops. And everybody fears the repetition of the Crash of 1966.
Everybody, that is, except the kids. Phil Johns still gets up at 10 at home in Harbor City and catches the bus to the end of the line at the Redondo Beach pier, just as he has every day since school let out in June. All day long, until it is time to catch the 6:30 bus back home, he does, for the enlightenment of the tourists and his peers, the things that he does best—nose wheelies, tail wheelies, sliding 360s, coffins, back-and-forths. His pants hang low on his thin hips and his skin is evenly brown except for the raw pink of his chronically peeling nose and the scabs on his splayed, dirty feet.
One of these days a tourist is going to get in his way, or a car is going to back into his path, or he will develop a case of "the high-speed wobs" coming down the Torrance Boulevard hill, but for now it feels good to be good, and consequences are for the contemplative.