There are obviously more serious things going on with Boston right now, but here is a quick lighthearted distraction from that whole situation. This past August, these two guys skated from Boston to New York City — twenty-five miles at a time on hard wheels — stopping in New England towns that your average skateboarder would only know from exit signs on I-95. The short video of their journey, “Backstreet Atlas,” premieres at the Jane Hotel (113 Jane Street) at 8 P.M. on April 18 (tomorrow.)
How did this idea come about?
A: It was initially a joke. We talked about skating from Boston to New York without ever having the intention of doing it for a long time. We were having a conversation about skating distances and one day Zach was like, “I’m gonna skate back home from Boston” one day. It wasn’t an epiphany or anything, the joke just became more of a good idea. We entertained it for so long, that we just decided to go for it.
Z: We first planned to do it two years ago. First it was supposed to be in the fall, then spring, then Adam hurt his knee, so it kept getting pushed back.
What was the process of getting it from being a joke to an actual trip?
A: First, we thought we were gonna wing it and just skate, but the more we thought about it, it made sense for us to plan to hit up cool stuff along the way. We weren’t gonna make a movie. Then figured if we were gonna do it, it’d potentially be worth sharing. We planned on shooting whatever interesting things we see along the way, but nothing specific. We did want to go to all the skate shops though.
Was the route strung together entirely based on shops then?
A: We did plan around the beach, because it was still a vacation. We knew we wanted to go to Providence because we know people there. It ended up being an awesome place, I really don’t know why more skaters don’t go there. People will go between Boston and New York all the time, but Providence is closer and has better spots, I think.
Z: Providence has both the Boston-type marble spots and the crappy New England chunky ground wallride spots. But we did skip a few good New England skate cities.
A: As far as shops, in Boston we hit up Orchard and Boulevard. Boulevard closed down a month after we were there. Then we hit up Civil in East Greenwich, Enclave in New Haven, which was run by a dude who owned a mountain sports store across the street. And then Day One in Fairfield, Rampage in Bridgeport, and 2nd Nature once we reached New York.
Spots seemed like a secondary concern for you guys in the sense that neither of you were trying to film a video part or anything on the trip. Aside from Providence, what were some of the standouts strictly spot-wise?
A: Bridgeport and Plainville. We found a spot in Plainville that was already waxed, so clearly people skated there. It was fun because it was like a small, self-proclaimed hick town and we got to skate it after a nice breakfast. There were also some good spots on the way from Providence to the shore. It was like an industrial outskirt area. We couldn’t skate them because it was early.
Z: We’d see spots that we couldn’t skate because we were tired or we knew that if we skated them, we’d be too tired to skate the distance for the rest of the day.
Did you ever wish you took three weeks to do it instead of two?
Z: Yeah. We could’ve stayed in places longer. I had to get back to work, which made us keep on track more. We didn’t stay in New London and I wanted to check it out.
Do any of the towns up there, outside of the cities, have a vibrant skate scene?
A: Nothing that was ascertainable from a few hours. It was either the cities between Boston and New York that you know have skaters, or really suburban towns. We’d only spend time in those towns longer if we needed to eat.
Z: That one shop Civil was in East Greenwich, and that’s kinda bumblefuck territory. I assume there’s a scene there because of the shop though.
A: Since we’ve been there, they opened a shop in Providence, which is the only shop there since Donny Barley’s shop closed. They have to sell longboards, snowboards and everything though.
When you watch what you guys put together, there’s this sense that Connecticut is this sort of “forgotten” state in the interviews with regular people. Did you get that from the skaters? Was anyone like “Why are you on a skate trip in Connecticut?”
A: They weren’t weirded out that we were in Connecticut, but some of the people were kinda salty. Not necessarily the skaters, though. It felt like the people were in competition because New York is so close to Connecticut. Some people understand why it’d get overshadowed. Like our homie Bobby at Day One skateshop in Bridgeport said they go to New York to skate all the time, but his friend was more psyched on the local spots there because nobody skates them.
Was there a Connecticut pride thing going on up there?
A: We saw a lot of “I Love CT” stickers. One dude was wearing a “Whitehead Flew First” shirt, because apparently he flew before the Wright brothers in Bridgeport. You only rock that shirt if you rep Connecticut hard. We met a dude who was really hyped on the Jamaican scene in Bridgeport. He was talking about “after hours” and “after after hours.” There were a lot of people we interviewed who would reference how Bridgeport used to be this nice, working capital city and it isn’t anymore. A lot of people were bummed what happened to it.
Z: We bumped into this dude Frank who was a retired fire fighter in Hammonasset Beach State Park and his whole family was nuts. There was like a racist grandma there who was like, “I wish they’d give them all guns and let them kill each other.”
Damn, what’d they think about you?
Z: I don’t know. We accidentally camped on their campsite and they got home and saw that we lit their fire, so we had to try and be nice. We ended up being a novelty to them.
Did you get any crazy reactions?
A: Some people were bugged out a little, but most of them were just like “What?” Some people were more impressed with it than I was, but sort of for the wrong reason.
What’s the right reason?
A: I like the idea of seeing all the stuff in the northeast that I think I know. This sort of trip proves to yourself that you don’t know much about where you’re from. The right reason to be psyched would be like, “Oh, it’s cool you get to see all these small places.” They thought of it as a physical feat, which it never was supposed to be for us.
Z: Yeah, I was smoking and crushing beers during the trip.
There are so many places between Boston and New York that you would never make a destination, so taking it at the pace of a skateboard gives you a chance to get more of a feel for all of them.
A: A lot of the places were worthwhile destinations, both from a skateboard and cultural standpoint. They’re worth maybe going to instead of Boston or the other big skate northeast cities.
Did you train at all before the trip?
Z: I just took the train less in the time leading up to it. I’d skate to work in SoHo from 147th a few days a week.
What were the highlights?
A: The night we camped on Block Island was sick. It’s a way to have a cheap, killer vacation. It’s something I’d do again with friends. You’re not supposed to camp on the beach, but there are places you can find away from the main beaches. We met a lot of cool people. You’re not expecting to hang out with a random family three generations deep on the beach and have fun drinking and sharing stories with them.
Z: Providence was sick. We met a lot of good people there. I had a lot of fun in Milford, which I didn’t expect. It has a good wallie off a bump. We chilled with a nineteen-time ex-felon who was on parole after stabbing a C.O. His name was Larry and we met him staying at La Quinta in New Haven.
A: We chilled with him and a fat, toothless Vietnam vet who said he played ball for the Pirates. We didn’t film them because they were super casual.
To be honest, I didn’t expect the trip to be as easy and fast as it was.
You didn’t have any moments when you were over it?
A: We weren’t stepping too far out of our comfort zone. If we needed to get out of there, I could call somebody and they’ll be there to pick us up in two hours.
Z: I was surprised how little we got messed with by the cops.
A: Most people didn’t understand what we were doing, they thought we were on a skate tour driving from place to place.
Z: They’d just tell us to get on the sidewalk.
What was the process of getting thirty hours of footage down to twenty-two minutes?
A: We watched it all a bunch of times. We organized it chronologically, and then by themes in the footage, like skate clips, eating, drinking, anything.
Z: Shots of feet, high fives…
A: We saw patterns in the footage and then cut scenes of places we wanted to show. We got that down to an hour-and-a-half cut. There were a lot of incarnations of it before it got down to its current form.
Does anything stand out looking back at the trip?
A: It was just something we did. It wasn’t a big deal. I enjoyed doing something different with two weeks of my summer. I’d love to do something similar again.
You going to skate to D.C. next?
Z: Skating to D.C. would be gnarly.
A: New England towns are pretty forgiving.
Maryland is all suburbs though.
A: You could probably do the route through the bay. Baltimore has spots too. I’d love to do something in the same spirit of this. Just getting involved with skaters in local areas helping pour cement for spots or parks.
Z: Yeah, just pick some random dust bowl town where people don’t really skate and build a bunch of stuff. Kind of like skateboarding taking a town over.
The twenty-two minute “Backstreet Atlas” video premieres at 8 P.M. on April 18 at the Jane Hotel. 113 Jane Street. Check out the teaser here.