In the November 1977 issue of Skateboard World magazine, there was an article on the Buddha Pool. It captured my imagination. The story related how several skateboarders found and skated this perfect off-set keyhole pool while the owners were away. It seems that the house was being worked on and the pool was empty. There was very little information other than this. The pool received its name due to the fact that there was a white Buddha statue perched on the wooden diving board, overlooking the pool. The bowl was amazing with huge transitions, perfect coping, a love seat in the mid wall and clamshell side ladder stairs which would serve as an obstacle to go over. I’m unsure why, but the Buddha Pool stayed with me for all these years. I would dream of it… When I was skating in Pennsylvania as a teenager, I would look at the article on the Buddha Pool and go out and ride my plywood ramp. I would pretend that I was doing one-wheelers with Kent Senatore and tail-taps beside Jerry Valdez. Imagination. It was all I had.
Once I moved to California, I asked around about the Buddha Pool. It had been thirty years. Memories fade. Pools become mixed up in people’s minds. “Oh… I don’t know. I think it was in Studio City.” “That was deep in the Valley bro…” “Hollywood Hills. No doubt about it.” These were some of the responses… others just shrugged. The Buddha took on mythical proportions. The Dog Bowl, Fish Bowl and Gonzales Pool were found and skated again over the ensuing years. The Buddha Pool remained lost in the dim gulfs of time. It was considered a perfect pool by those that rode it. Where? Didn’t anyone remember? When William Sharp and I began writing his book together, I saw images of the Buddha Pool in the archive and it quickly put me back on the hunt. I now had access to the very guys that skated it. Over a few weeks, I spoke with them. Heavy OG Los Angeles pool riders weighed in on things. We went over Google maps and slowly but surely, we found two distinct neighborhoods that might be the resting place of the famed Buddha Pool. One June morning, Lance Mountain and I drove the Los Angeles hillsides together. He and I shared the same passion. We wanted to find the Buddha Pool. Neither of us harbored any illusions about being able to skate it. The neighborhoods that we were searching on this day were million dollar properties. These folks don’t let their pools sit empty… money is never an issue. We drove into the dirty sunlight. After several hours of fruitless searching and growing weary of our disappointment, we stopped at the bottom of a hillside street. A long paved driveway meandered off to our right. Red Bougainvillea spilled over the fences. It was quiet. Lance looked over at me. “Well? You want to walk up and check? There are three or four houses up there I think…” I peered out of the windshield and noticed the Hollywood sign on a hillside nearby. I thought of the Skateboard World magazine article. Ghosts from the past whispered to me.
“Yeah… Let’s drive up and act like we are turning around.” I looked at my phone. The satellite view showed a square pool closest to us, two empty yards and at the very top of the street, a pool I couldn’t quite see. Its shape was obscured by trees and stuff. Lance eased the truck up the street. Once at the top, I saw water and a pool through a slat in the fence. He stopped. I quickly got out and walked over. Stepping up on a small boulder, I looked over and there it was. The Buddha Pool. I hurriedly raised my camera and put it over the edge of the fence. Click. Done. We were soon driving away. Ecstatic. Laughing. Seeing it full of water, noting the beautiful condition of the home and the expensive automobile parked outside, I knew that our chance of ever draining and skating it were nil. I put it away in my mind. Fast forward about eighteen months. I was in Hollywood and it was early Sunday morning. I was sitting at a red light and I realized that the Buddha Pool was very close to were I was. I drove by for a quick peek. I walked up and quietly peered over the fence. I almost passed out in shock. Empty. The Buddha Pool sat bone dry… Disbelief. I phoned Lance. I didn’t know what to do… The pool is situated in the front yard. In order to get to the front door, one has to walk around the pool. I turned my camera on, took a deep breath and walked to the front door.
I took two photographs and then knocked. No answer. I decided to leave a nice note on the car and see what happened. A few days later, the phone rang. It was the daughter of the homeowner. “Yes. I remember when skaters rode the pool. I was about eight or ten years old. My uncle would chase them out.” I laughed. She was telling me exactly what had happened in the Skateboard World magazine article… except, she lived at the house back then. It was surreal. I told her about the book and the William Sharp photographs. I explained that I’d like to show them to her and possibly talk about doing a small photograph session with some of the guys that originally skated it. A full circle sort of tale. She told me to stop by and I ultimately did. The daughter explained that the pool had been refurbished in about 1979 and that is why the tiles are no longer blue. They were replaced. She took me inside and explained that the living room of the house had started to slide down the hill around 1976. This is why the pool and house sat empty back in the 1970’s when the skaters rode it. She pointed out the front window. A living room fireplace sat outside the glass. “They basically tore down the three walls of the living room and glassed in what was once the dining room. We lost the fireplace I guess…” I laughed. Hearing the history of the home was pretty amazing. The Buddha statue was long gone. I had heard that it was stolen back in the mid 1970’s and ended its life in a garden over near Echo Park. The weather had eventually dissolved it and it sat an unrecognizable terra cotta blob surrounded by ferns.
We went back outside and sat by the pool. We looked at old photographs of Jerry Valdez and Kent Senatore riding the Buddha pool in 1977. I looked around me as I sat beside the empty pool. I compared the palm trees and plant life in the images to those surrounding the pool. Even the flower planters were still sitting in the same places beside the pool. It was strange for me… The daughter was amazed at the photographs as well. I asked her if she thought we might be able to ride it. The answer was an emphatic “No.” She told me that the pool had been full since the refurbishment of 1979 until the week before I happened to stop by and find it drained. “Cracks had developed and the pool was leaking. We had to have it drained. It was emptied only a few days before I received your note.” I just happened to go by and look at it only a few days after it was emptied for the first time in thirty years! Even though we couldn’t ride it, I still felt the skate Gods shining down on me…
Even if I was unable to take Bill Sharp, Kent Senatore, Jerry Valdez, TA and Lance to the Buddha Pool for a last full circle session, at least I stood in it. At least I learned its full story. Perhaps things aren’t meant to be sessioned again. I’d like to tell you that we ripped it. I’d like to show you current photographs of Kent doing one-wheelers, Jerry tail-tapping and the others doing insane things… but I can’t. It wasn’t destined to be. The pool is repaired, filled and now provides refreshing relief from the summer heat. I did go back to the end, where it all began and strangely, it was enough. Thank you to Big Al, Bruce, Lance and the homeowner’s daughter and son for everything. Thank you to William Sharp for providing the previously unpublished Stan Sharp photographs. Skate and know where you come from… and now you do. Believe. – Ozzie