By Dylan Christopher
I can still remember reading an article from Skateboarder Mag long ago. They outlined 10 things that a skateboarder needs to do before they die, kinda like a checklist. Among the obvious…grind a handrail, drop in on vert, bomb a hill and film a video part. But the one that stuck out to me, possibly because it was the only one that I had never done was, “go on a skateboard tour.” Sure, my homies and I would hop in the car every so often and drive from our home in the Bay Area down to LA, never change our clothes and skateboard nonstop for a weekend, but this never resembled a real “tour” like the ones that the pros went on. So when the opportunity arose a few years back for me to be a part of Elemental Awareness’ annual Reservation Tour, my inner grom leaped with excitement over finally completing my checklist.
The Reservation Tour is designed to give back to the Native Communities across the US whose skateboard scene, like many things on the Rez, is under-represented. Element’s charitable program, “Changing lives through skateboarding,” donated over 100 pairs of shoes, 50 decks, and tons of gear for us to give away and properly stoke out kids (whose boards were more thrashed than your current setup) on the Flathead, Navajo, and Apache reservations. We scheduled four events over a span of two weeks, which meant that we had more than enough time to do what we do best: skate and explore the natural wonders our country has to offer. In the end we made our way through California, Oregon, Washington, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, New Mexico, Arizona, and Colorado; skated over a dozen skateparks, all over the streets, while camping out on countless floors, backyards, basements, and national parks.
Van life sets in very quickly on a tour like this. Almost as soon as you hop in, the van becomes your home. Your seat is your room and the homie sitting next to you is your roommate. We became so accustomed to riding in the van daily for hours on end to the point where the question “Wait, what state are we in?” seemed totally normal and acceptable. The amount of ground we covered would not have been possible in our allotted time had we pulled over for everyone’s unsynchronized urination schedules (the quantity of big boy sodas consumed in the back were no help) and thus “Jug Life,” as we called it, was born. It started out as someone gingerly calling out “Hey man you still got that gallon jug? I got to go!” and everyone would laugh in a “are you serious” kind of way. But once the long hours of the endless highways really took their toll just about everyone became a jug lifer. Andy Dicker filled an empty Pringles container to the brim only to realize that holding the can of Pringles full of urine was just as hard, if not harder than waiting until we stopped to piss. Jug life was only a small part of van life, but nevertheless important.
A huge part of skateboarding is simply an adventure with your homies, from the curb out front to the set of stairs down the street and across the globe, skateboarding takes us a little farther every day. The reservation is a place like no other. You’re likely to encounter a pack of wild dogs or a bucktooth kid who rips named “Bandicoot.” Time has little meaning and almost anything goes. You will also some of the most hospitable, humble people I have ever met. I know that Elemental Awareness will always take pride in returning to the reservations bearing the gift of skateboarding. I am no longer a grom, but am still obsessed with skateboarding and would never do anything to change that.
For more information on Elemental Awareness visit elementalawareness.org