Remembering Oaks pool
Really good backyard pools have always been rare in Florida and the 1970’s Daytona Beach pool known simply as “Oaks” was no exception. It was rough, dirty and seriously kinked, but it was all ours and of course we loved it. Oaks was no joke and at times could be a source of great pain, but more often it was a source of even greater pleasure. Mrs. Oaks lived in a house located right on the Intracoastal Waterway in Daytona Beach, Florida. Local skaters Ben Duffett and Clyde Rodgers first approached her about skating her pool in 1976. Ben’s younger brother had stumbled across it while cutting through her yard one day. He then told Ben and soon after Clyde and him decided to knock on her door and ask if they could skate it. She gave the go ahead to skate and agreed to let them clean it out for her. Additionally, they cleaned up her patio and trimmed a few bushes to further seal the deal. I remember she had a white corvette tucked away in the garage we would all drool over as we walked in to skate. I never knew much more about her other than she was always very cool to us and I always felt like she enjoyed our company. On occasion she was known to walk out the back door and surprise us with M&M cookies. I remember thinking how cool that was. As skaters we were all used to getting kicked out of places and here this lady not only took us in and let us skate her pool but she made us cookies!
I remember going to Oaks for the first time in 1977 at the age of 13. The entrance off of the main road was a narrow crumbling asphalt driveway overgrown with hanging limbs and bushes. Marking the entrance was a flat black mailbox that simply read “Oaks”. The entrance to the backyard was a narrow overgrown path on the north end of the house. Once you rounded the corner into the backyard the atmosphere was cozy and private. The house and patio were on the east side, with trees and shrubs at both ends of the yard and the river to the west. The neighbors were very close but you had the illusion of total privacy. The pool itself was pretty intimidating to say the least. I would describe it as having a skewed guitar shape with stairs in both the shallow end and also the deep end corner which was a little unusual. Originally the transition was basically a wall ride, a 6ft banked bowl with a 3ft vert wall around it. If you didn’t know how to do a wall ride you were out of luck. I remember the jolt was so severe it made a loud thwack when you hit it and it would usually knock your feet out of position. Overall the pool was about 9ft at the deepest point and the shallow end was just a wall with no transition. The tile was turquoise blue and in perfect condition. The coping was weathered, rough and stained black with mildew but had a perfect profile and stuck out just the right amount.
By my first visit, the Daytona locals already had it wired and the one person that stands out most in my mind is Clyde Rogers. Watching him skate Oaks I realized you really had to attack the pool to survive. In this pool there was no half-assing it, it was eat or be eaten. You were either throwing yourself up onto the vert wall at full speed or you were stuck down in the bottom just carving around. That aggressive approach to pool skating has stuck with me since and served me well, so I thank him for that. In the beginning skating Oaks pool was tough. Getting a grind or even hitting tiles was pretty manly and about the most you could hope for. But soon enough all that would change.
After it was approved by Mrs. Oaks, we started to try and smooth out the transition and patch the kink. Bags of concrete were mixed in a wheelbarrow in the bottom of the bowl and was then slapped in place and troweled as smooth as possible. It would probably all chip off, but nobody seemed to care. The urge to have a more skate-able pool had taken over. It would never be perfect but we all knew that smoothing out the transition could really open it up, and it did. This was DIY concrete work at it’s finest and it was 1977. I remember being there helping out watching the older guys mixing the concrete, the anticipation was almost unbearable. At first it was patched in 3 opposing spots so you could work the pool in a triangle. Eventually the transition was filled in almost all of the way around the deep end. Thats when things really got good and it actually felt like a legit pool.
The years to follow are a bit of a blur. So many amazing sessions went down it’s hard to keep track. The level of skating rose quickly in a very short amount of time. It seemed to go from below tile kick turns to blasting air out of the top almost over night. It was a tight knit group and we all had a lot of mutual respect for one another, which by the way is one of the things I love most about being a skateboarder. My last session at Oaks was probably around 1980. I don’t fully understand the reason it ended but eventually it did. The skateparks were all closed and the skate scene in Daytona Beach was dying a slow death. Surfers turned skaters were now reverting back to their first love, the ocean.
Fast forward to the late 1990’s. I was working in Daytona Beach as a graphic artist for a screen printing company. One afternoon I received a call at work from a guy who said he had an old skateboard he wanted to give me. He said it was covered with signatures and mine was one of them. He remembered me from back in the day and had tracked me down. Evidently his brother had retrieved this deck from an estate sale at the Oaks residence after her passing. At that point in the conversation it all came flooding back to me. Someone had donated a blank deck and it was kept in the room out back by the pool. Pretty much everyone who ever skated there had signed it. I was in shock. Not only did this guy have it but he wanted to give it to me for free. He said he felt like it belonged to someone who knew the story and could pass it on. I agreed and was honored and grateful he had thought to call me. The day I went to retrieve the deck from him, I realized his address was just a few blocks from where Mrs. Oaks lived. It’s an area of Daytona I’m rarely in and upon leaving his house I could not resist but seek out the old Oaks residence while I was in the neighborhood.
After a couple slow passes I spotted the driveway and it looked surprisingly the same, minus the black mailbox. Turning into the driveway was like going back in time at first then it quickly became evident that I was pulling into a freshly cleared lot. The house, pool, patio, everything was gone. I parked and got out, I wanted to go stand where the pool used to be. The view of the river was the same and it was very peaceful that day on that empty lot. I noticed that there was no grass growing yet and the dirt looked freshly groomed. I immediately wondered how recently they had demolished the pool. Had it been sitting there waiting for someone to ride it again after all those years? Dragging my feet on the way back to my truck I spotted something in the dirt. I bent down to pick it up and sure enough it was a small piece of blue tile from the pool. That tile is now treasured and kept with the deck that everyone signed.
I carry my memories of Oaks with me everyday, especially when I skate a pool. It’s an inner strength that I’m glad I have to draw from. Looking back, I know that the pool being so bad, is what was so good about it. It had prepared us for anything.
Oaks Pool Locals: Ben Duffett, Clyde Rodgers, Warren “Seadog” Messner, Jeff Croyl, Jay Smith, Mark Lewis, Kelly Lynn, Tim Nolan, Charlie Gonzales, Dave Narducci, Jeanie Narducci, Robert Hougham, John Wade, Bubba-G, David “Turkey” Rodrigue, Tony Warren, Billy Bray, Matt Dresser, Al Davies.
Thank you Robert Hougham for the use of your amazing photos!
Thank you to Kelly Lynn for taking the time to do this Guest Post and sharing this piece of Florida history with all of us. Skate- Ozzie