To The Hills: A Totem Skateboarding Trip

Words and photos by Wade McLaughlin, film by George Kousoulis

From a 17-year-old to a couple of blokes in their early 30’s, our crew came together from different states, sponsors and age brackets, with one common goal: to enjoy the shenanigans that unfold when three car-loads of skaters set off in convoy for greener pastures.

When the feet start to get itchy, you know it’s time to hit the road for a good ol’ fashioned skate trip. This one was organised and funded by Nige Cameron and his company Totem Skateboarding—a skate co. that runs demos, comps, skate-coaching and community-based events. Jumping on board with Nige was Dave Cameron, Nixen Osborne, Levi Jarvis, Chris Vaughan, Riwaz Kazi, Aidan Ouma, Ryder Lawson, Nik Stipanovic, George Kousoulis, Cameron Markin, Nat Kassel and myself.

After a heated session at our rendezvous point, we headed west from Sydney to the Blue Mountains. The spots we stumbled on were pretty shit and the rain looked like it had set in for the day, but no one really cared, thanks to the good company.

On day two, after copious amounts of beers the night before and having to find a hangover cure in the form of bacon and egg rolls and coffee, we were back on and headed for the local designated skateboard facility to watch these in-form athletes punch durries and heckle each other into doing tricks.

To no one’s surprise, Chris Vaughan (aka Diesel) was the first soldier down. Just six weeks prior, he copped a fractured pelvis in two places and compressed his lower spine with added hairline fracture—the result of a brutal slam after trying to grind a huge double-kinked rail in Sydney. Being wheelchair bound three weeks before the trip, we were trippin’ when he said he was keen to skate… and weren’t surprised when he was the first one to go down. This time it was a mere gash to the head requiring a few stitches, but Chris being Chris, he wanted to get his trick before going to hospital.

Nige dressed the wound and Chris proceeded to land that shit. (He’d go on to spend the majority of the time in emergency talking about spots to skate and tricks he wanted to try as soon as he was free.)

Meanwhile, the rest of us cruised around Katoomba like your typical tourists, skating the spots we found. After a park sesh and a BBQ with some cockatoos, half the crew headed back to Sydney while the rest of us voyaged further, six hours west to Nige and Dave’s hometown of Leeton.

The lack of sleep was real the following morning, as we hosted the opening of a local skatepark: Narrandera Skatepark. We stoked out the local groms and community, converting as many rural scoot lords as we could in the process. After the morning’s efforts, we checked out some local nature spots before heading back to the Camerons’ childhood home for a family lunch and to try to skate this crazy U-pipe contraption in their backyard. Before getting into a food coma, Nixen Osborne tamed a handful of tricks on the prick of a thing. No photo or video could justify how hard this thing is to skate; the kid is nuts. With no end in sight to the dismal weather, we got on the road again, bound for the base of the Snowy Mountains.

The next day, before hosting a couple of Totem events, we went to check out some gold mine ruins near where the mighty Murray River begins, before it cuts west across Australia’s inland plains, snaking the border of Victoria and NSW. At around 2500 kilometres, it’s the longest river in Australia and it’s fuckin’ cold. Rather than swim, we hiked around tripping on the old infrastructure, coming across murals that told stories of the indigenous people’s pain at the white man’s intrusion on their local land.

After some fun and successful skate workshops with the local groms, the remainder of the trip was spent driving between these small country towns to see what we could skate. One local groundskeeper wasn’t too impressed with us skateboarding in his grounds and told us so—a friendly reminder of how society usually judges skaters. It’s funny, especially given that Totem has done so much for young kids, promoting mental and physical health for youth in regional areas. But, with films like Mid90s and skateboarding becoming an official Olympic sport, it’s looking like it will start to become a part of the larger cultural and ‘sporting’ landscapes, so who knows what the older generation is going to say about it in a few years time?

See more from Totem Skateboarding on Instagram @totemskateboarding

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