Photos by Dougal Gorman
The devastating Australian bushfires have made it hard to ignore how real and serious climate change is… unless your name is Scott Morrison.
But this article isn’t about that crumb of a man. It is, however, about the incredible resilience of Australians and the amazing people who are helping in the recovery process. Off the back of winning Skater of the Year, Milton Martinez and his hand-picked team of homies have been tearing apart Sydney for the ‘SOTY Up in Smoookes’ tour. For many of them, it’s their first trip back to Australia since the passing of the one and only, Jake Phelps. With that in mind, I can imagine the hell these guys have been raising in the name of Phelper.
Thanks to Thrasher, NHS Skateboarding and Volcom, the tour headed south to the regional town of Ulladulla. As a result of the fires, the tourism hotspot of Ulladulla has been something of a ghost town this summer. In hopes of drawing in some much-needed tourism, a demo was held at the famous Ulladulla Skatepark. With a line-up of skaters that included Milton, Grant Taylor, Louie Lopez, and Justin Figueroa to name a few, it was an unmissable event, and all for a great cause.
On Tuesday morning, I loaded up my 2001 Corolla Conquest (aka ‘The Red Rocket’) and hit the road. Lately, I’ve been into collecting CD’s to play in my car. My trip down south consisted of Wu-Tang, Rage Against The Machine, Elvis Presley, and Britney Spears Greatest Hits—an absurd variety that reveals nothing about my musical taste.
It’s one thing to see the bushfires covered on social media and TV, but to actually drive through the blackened land is a whole other experience, both breathtaking and heartbreaking. The photos throughout this article don’t do the devastation of the fires much justice, and I felt photos of lost homes were best left untaken. The images you see were shot between the Shoalhaven towns of Nowra and Ulladulla.
After an eye-opening drive, I soon arrived in the beachside town of Ulladulla. This area of Australia is a serious gem, and one I’d never seen until now. My plan for the night was to post up at Holiday Haven campgrounds. I’ll be the first to admit I fucking suck at pitching a tent, but this time was a personal best of 30 rage-filled minutes. After the tent ordeal, a much-needed swim was had before skating down the road to the demo. And when I say ‘down the road’ I really mean ‘up the road’ as it was all uphill… No one likes skating uphill.
Arriving at the park, it was heartwarming to see the incredible turn out from the Ulladulla community. With all walks of life attending, it was clear just how much this demo meant to the community at such a tough time. Despite the drizzling rain, the famous Ulladulla vert wall and surrounding tranny were no match for the Thrasher crew—Milton, Provost, Bobby Long, Jack O’Grady, Tom Remillard, and Omar Hassan in particular.
Injured on the day were Kevin Baekkel, Grant Taylor and Louie Lopez, who you’d find throwing back Coronas and signing posters for kids all afternoon. Understandably, most of the crew were wrecked and slowly dropped off, but not the legendary Omar Hassan. At age 46, Omar battled with the gnarliest heelflip indy grab on the vert wall all afternoon. At least 15 attempts later he finally stuck one, but slid out. The crowd and Shane Azar (the MC for the afternoon) went wild, however, what came next was horrible. Omar had fractured his fibular.
After what felt like forever, the ambos arrived and Omar was soon sucking on the magical green whistle. While being stretchered towards the ambulance, Omar got on the microphone and managed to give a shout out to Thrasher, Volcom and the town of Ulladulla like a true fucking legend. The crowd went insane. Despite ending on Omar’s injury and further rain, the town of Ulladulla were beside themselves they even got to meet the Thrasher guys. ‘You’ve made a small town happy,’ said one of the locals to Shane.
After the demo, I hitched a ride with some of the local crew to the carpark behind the Marlin Hotel, the pub in which we would later meet the Thrasher lads for copious amounts of beer. In the meantime, I met more local legends and skated their DIY quarterpipe made from 19 bags of concrete and a single bed frame for coping. Regardless of the rain, we skated it for hours until it began crumbling beneath us (a sign it was now time for the pub).
As I ordered my food, I took some time to speak to the lady behind the till. While placing an order for the best chicken burger I’ve eaten in my life, she told me their business had struggled a lot through the summer of bushfires. I don’t know how to put the words of the locals into an article like this, but it was heartbreaking to hear the stories shared in the pub that night. Everyone had one goal that night, and that was to put some serious money through the tills. And boy, did we ever. Everyone ate and drank until the hotel closed and/or was cut off. I soon found out Shane and the Volcom team had booked three separate motels in Ulladulla just to spread money throughout the town.
As much as I would have liked battle the rain in my K-Mart tent, I took Shane’s offer up to crash at one of their motels. Wednesday morning, everyone woke up feeling and looking like dog shit. But that generally means you’ve had a ripper night beforehand. After a quick coffee and breakie burger, I skated back (this time thankfully downhill) to my untouched campsite to pack up the tent I so passionately pitched, and never slept in. A huge thank you to Thrasher and Volcom for putting this event on. But most importantly, to the town of Ulladulla and the local homies I met on my trip.