Dawn oozed on the Glendale freeway. I saw it coming over the buildings that stood gaunt and looming in the cold morning. Arvo Part – Litany – purred softly on the stereo. My mind was a cobweb. Tangled thoughts. Caffeine had not yet marshaled the troops and formulated the battle plan. Mind: “You must check 518 Wilson Street. That was a really good Rossmore kidney. I hope Ripperside Shawn brings the shovel. The last time out, we had a muck pit. Whoa! Jesus… that truck is going fast…” On and on it goes. The committee of twelve in my head yammered on. I made it out to San Bernardino as the morning brought pale light with it. The air was cold. I drove from the north side and began a systematic grid. I thought of the older skateboarders that had started this thing. The Dog Town guys had driven alleys and rode bicycles looking for pools. The San Fernando Valley skaters all searched as well. Badlanders scoured the neighborhoods and San Diego skaters were known to ride in small planes looking for pools. It was a time-honored tradition. Seek first to understand before being understood.
I drove the grid. The neighborhoods opened up possibilities to me. It is a strange thing. When I first really started looking for pools, I had just moved back to California in 1997. We would drive and look for dead lawns, HUD homes, fire damaged properties or homes that were simply for sale or foreclosed upon. It required a pretty massive effort and a block of time. As the economy declined, we saw an increase in the number of abandoned homes and the despair that accompanied it.
With the availability of Google Earth on digital phones, anyone can find pools. I usually know what to look for. There are things that can increase my chance of finding something good. Sometimes the pools are empty on satellite but once I go to the home, I find it filled as a swimmer. If I find a pool on satellite, I will then look at the Birds Eye View and rotate the image all the way around. Sometimes the pool view changes from empty to swimmer. Look at the dates on the bottom of the screen. Sometimes it will read from one year to three years old. It is a good reference. I also switch between Google Earth and BING maps, as they both shoot and upgrade the satellite imagery at different times. It is also a good indicator. If a pool is empty on both systems, in aerial and Birds Eye View, then my chances of it still being so are good. I put it on the list. I usually keep to older neighborhoods from the 1940’s through the 1960’s. I basically keep my attention on larger pools, kidneys, amoebas, capsules and large square pools, preferably with rounded corners. Life is too short to skate a shoebox.
When using satellite imagery, I always look at the ‘footprint’ that the water is leaving. It is the dark spot of water in the deep end. I know this sounds pretty elementary but the more the ‘footprint’ is visible away from the facewall and sidewalls, the more transition the pool will generally have. If you see a ‘footprint’ really close and barely any white plaster visible around it, once at the pool, you’ll find it pretty steep to ride. This is a good barometer to use… but one never really knows. Pools are made for swimming. One wall can be kinked, the deep can be pinched, the shallow non existent or the entire thing can be great but it has become a cancer pit. Sometimes, on satellite, the shape of a pool is really exciting. I envision lines. Once at the pool, it is a vert pit. Super steep and not worth the effort required. It is a real gamble.
In the end, only you can say what you are willing to do. Only you can choose to trespass and do what is required. You are the only one that can make such decisions. I must admit, from my experience, being arrested and thrown in jail for skateboarding pools is a costly and miserable thing. Be careful. Make it worth your time. It is a risky thing and it is not for everyone. You may get lucky. You can knock on doors like I do… Sometimes people not only say “Yes” but they will help you clean it out. Good luck and happy hunting. Skate- Ozzie