Don Shirley

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January 2014. Sunday morning. It had started drizzling lightly in Brentwood. I sat at the red light on Sunset boulevard and Barrington and pondered my day. I had just left a morning meditation meeting. I felt grateful to be sober and alive. The sky looked like Reynolds Wrap tin foil…  the dull side. Clouds boiled above me. To the east, I could see the sun peering through the clouds. I wanted to go look at a few pools and roll around but skating was certainly now out of the question. I’d go drive the grid regardless. I’ve found that looking for pools in the rain is often a rewarding thing. People and dogs stay indoors and the wind and rain make noise… it is good cover.

I cut a long arc south on the 405 freeway. Traffic was fairly light even though the 405 is generally a snarl and tangle of concrete, metal and pain. By the airport, I turned due east and drove up into the hills. The drizzle had ceased. The LAX flight path is directly overhead and I can see the jets coming down out of the clouds. They rush past…  hurried and metallic. I idly wonder about the passengers on board. Where are they coming from? Do they sit in that window seat pondering their past? Do they see the cars below and wonder about who we are? Questions.

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I drove along the crest of a hill. Post war, mid-century homes backed up against the ridgeline. The homes were large and spacious. Palm trees arched up into the sky. They swayed in the wind. I saw a few pools on satellite. I pulled the truck to the side of the street. It was sleepy. Quiet. Glancing at my phone, I realized that it was only 9:35 am. “Church.” I mumbled. Most people are probably in church or sleeping. I ran an experienced eye over the neighboring houses. When I hunt for pools, I stay frosty. On point. I walked over to the house I wanted to look at. I knew that a kidney pool was behind it. There were the usual indicators. Old newspapers. Trash cans with spiderwebs on them. Dying plants and untrimmed hedges and trees. An air of neglect and disuse. I still had to be careful. I approached the front door and knocked. Nothing. Mail was overflowing the mailbox. Another knock. Silence.

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I was in the backyard in less than thirty seconds. I checked windows as I walked back. Empty rooms greeted my eyes. I watched for signs of dogs and threats. Squatters. Gang graffiti. The pool sat on a raised portion of brick and concrete. It was a third full. Black water. Trash. Dead rats. There was nothing to block the view into the yard and any attempt to drain and skate the pool would probably be halted by the neighbors on three sides. I took a photograph and left. I was back in my truck in less than two minutes. Get the intel and get out. Frosty.

I found a few more. It was much of the same. High end neighborhoods. Quiet. Calm. Idyllic. I knocked and tried to get one going but they politely said that they weren’t interested. I found a huge kidney on satellite at the very end of a cul-de-sac. It looked immense. The satellite showed it to be promising. I knocked on the door. Two huge Mercedes Benz automobiles sat in the driveway. The house was immaculate and the yard well-maintained. No answer. I shrugged. I didn’t bother leaving a note.

Fast forward. June 2016. Christian Cooper had started coming out to occasionally ride a pool or two with us. He got the pool bug again. Christian is an old hand. He has a NorCal pedigree and earned his scabs in the Los Altos and Kitty pools and the Blood Bowl of Nor Cal legend. Christian also knows how I am. Most people should. I make things pretty obvious. I have a really hard time with people that call and want to come out and skate pools but never bring anything to the table. I take people around because I love to ride pools with different people and share the stoke. Reciprocity is the key to every relationship. Give a little to get a little. Christian started finding some things. One day, he sent me three potential pools. I looked at them and chuckled. One was the big kidney in the cul-de-sac that I had visited two years ago. I drove by one day on my way to a job. I left a note. Three weeks later, the homeowner called.

Don Shirley Pool

Don Shirley Pool

She agreed to let me come by and talk. I did. I asked her what she needed done around the property. I looked at the pool. There were some things we could do to help. Yard work, planting, mulching. MRZ, Christian, Rick Stine and I gathered stuff together and made the drive over on the next Sunday. We put in a few hours of work. The pool itself was problematic. The left side wall was pitchy and flat. We could see it. That would probably limit the approach toward the opposite wall and the shallow cup. The shallow end and face wall seemed good. In a few hours we finished our work and took some runs. It was pretty fun.

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Rick Stine

Rick Stine

Me

Me

The next weekend, we took Brad McClain and Lance Mountain by the pool. Brad McClain must’ve studied at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry because he displays some serious magic when he stands on a skateboard. He did things and dropped lines in that pool that clearly defied logic. It was inspiring to witness and I’m happy I was there to see it.

Brad McClain

Brad McClain

Wahlstrom Brothers Burbank

Wahlstrom Brothers Burbank

Lance Mountain

Lance Mountain

Don Shirley Pool

Don Shirley Pool

Brad McClain

Brad McClain

We’ve made friends with the homeowner. When I try to get a permission pool going, I have a rule that I follow. I try and always do what I say I’m going to do. We are going back to do some yard work in the next few weeks. She’s happy with all we’ve done thus far. The pool is fun and challenging and we now have a new permission pool in the rotation. If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you. It is always fun to be able to bring my friends out and ride something new and different. Sharing the love of pool skating and being stoked is what it is all about. It is not about a guy, a magazine, a truck company, a brand, the Hall of Fame, the X Games, sponsorship or the Olympics. Forget this at your own peril. In my opinion, if the fun and love of skateboarding dies… we die with it. Thank you to Christian Cooper for sending me back and for getting the pool going for us. Thank you to Rick Stine, Christian and MRZ for working with me on the property. Thank you to Brad McClain and Lance Mountain for being great examples of humility and talent and thank you to MRZ, William Sharp and Kevin Denning for the images. Skate – Ozzie

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