Peter Lundstrom’s guide to becoming a street rail gentleman/maestro.
Stealth missions in the middle of the night with only 10 percent or less of the ground covered in snow. Tow-ins by car in a city that hasn’t had real snow in decades. Are we doing this only because we want to pursue the skateboarding lifestyle, but can’t get up on a rail on a skateboard to save our lives? Is this really snowboarding?
Some might say not. These are usually people privileged with living in a place that has proper snow and proper mountains. But for kids with no money, no car, and no local snowpark, city rails might just be their only resort. And there is nothing wrong with that. This is definitely snowboarding. And it ain’t no fairytale either. Street rails are a constant battle against time, landlords, police and other Rent-A-Cops, as well as all nature’s elements. To try and help you avoid these sometimes painful experiences, we’ll give you some pointers on the three most important things to think about: attitude, tools and tricks of the trade. We’ll start off with the most important thing followed by tips of a descending importance for everything to run as smooth as possible.
Clean it up
When you are done for the day, don’t just leave everything in a state. Your Mom doesn’t work here, so clean up the mess. You or maybe someone else might want to come back, perhaps not to that rail in particular, but to the area. Chances are that if you left all the snow in the landing and the kicker, there might be some upset people around the second time you go there. This tip brings us nicely over to the second most important thing…
Ahh, here we go again. A massive generalisation, although a recent and what I believe a rather accurate observation. All you amateur videotographers, stop carrying around your video camera like a woman’s handbag and go home and get that shovel. If you or anyone involved in the shoot shows up without a shovel once more, I’ll bury you alive, then dig you up when you’ve died, clone you, and then kill all of your work-shy clones. (1)
Some people will never understand. They don’t care that this might actually be your job. No matter how much you beg and argue, they will never want to understand, because honestly, sliding down a handrail doesn’t make a lot of sense for anybody but us. With numerous confrontations with everybody from the police, Johnny Do-rights and rabid dogs to the horror of all snowboarders, old people (the bastards), we have developed a few cunning tactics of how to deal with these naysayers.
The Silent Treatment
First established by mean girlfriends back in the 60s, the silent treatment is a very good way to rid the property owners. When the landlord starts cussing at you, just shrug your shoulders and act stupid like you just got off the yellow bus. Wait them out. Don’t talk to them. Avoid eye contact at all cost. Let them offend you as long as they like, because you can wait, and hopefully, they can’t. When they start grabbing you by the lapels and shaking you, threatening to call the coppers, you might want to pack up.
Reason with them. Haggle. Lie. Deceive. Dupe. Con. Misinform. Make them understand that you will be doing this no matter what, maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but in the near future. So it might as well be today, and then it’s over and done with. Be nice but resolute.
Although very similar to the Politician, the Liar comes prepared. Find out the surname of the landlord of the area. Any complaints from the residents, just claim that ‘Mr Everett gave us permission’. Maybe even have a phoney written permission at hand. To evolve this character, perhaps dress in a suit to emphasize your authority. Or like a cop or a construction worker. You’ll go to hell for it, but golden rails with marble ledges only comes along once in a lifetime.
This is the last resort. Just go haywire. Use all of the aforementioned tactics. Throw a temper tantrum. Call your mom and start to cry. Lay down in the middle of the stairs and pretend you have Tourette’s syndrome. Offer them 50 Euros to go away. If they accept the offer, call them hypocritical bastards and tell ’em to sod off. If this doesn’t do it, try the silent treatment once more, and then leave.
All this could of course be avoided if you would actually ask and get permission. But then again, who can be arsed?
Saves you time, hassle and pain. All constructions are good, except, naturally, the bad ones. Make it as portable as possible as well as lightweight. Might cost you a few pennies, but definitely worth the cost, time and effort. (2)
We shouldn’t even promote this, because compared to a proper drop-in ramp, pallets are a major hassle, and most of the time, don’t generate enough speed. And speed is your friend. Four pallets is usually the minimum for a functioning drop-in ramp. (3)
This is a rather pricy, although very useful, piece of equipment for running your halogen lamps, grinder etc. It can also be rented for a reasonable amount. If you reckon you need one more than 20 times in a year, you might as well cough up the loot for one of your own, and then earn cash from it, renting it out to other poor souls. (4)
There is actually no good reason for not buying one of these. They are nowadays dead cheap, and there are some that you don’t need a generator to run. The range of areas in which this one will come in handy is limitless. (5)
A poor man’s grinder, although very good for stealth missions. Other tools that should be in the bag include hammer (nails sticking out), knife (for when your p-tex gets some serious damage) and a screwdriver for your bindings. (6)
Same thing as with the grinder, these are so cheap it’s ridiculous. A must for the videotographers, and any location that isn’t lit properly. 500-Watt lamps generate a lot of heat, so they are also pretty good to keep your hands warm with. (4)
Get the ones with a winder, otherwise you’ll have a spider’s web of black cable on your hands. And maybe think about getting cable that isn’t black, since they usually get forgotten in the dark. Another important tip is to wind the whole thing out, even if you only need a few metres, because we know from science class that cable put around a cone creates an electro-magnet when electricity is put through it. This will eventually heat up the cable so much that the rubber around it will melt and you’ll have to buy a new one.
Whilst shooting a rail in the centre of a larger Swedish city, a man and his dog walk past. The visual impact of one lipslide and patches of snow threw the dog in to a severe mental shock. It had to be taken to the vet and given sedatives for its trauma. Its owner came back to the rail and threatened to send the coppers. True story. To avoid freaky scenarios such as this, we recommend getting a few orange cones to alert passers-by that something out of the ordinary is going on. You don’t want to run into people, and people don’t want to get run over.
Rope always comes in handy. For tow-ins, tying back bushes, hanging the videotographer who forgot to bring his shovel etc. There is no end to the possibilities. (1)
Ice hockey rink
You might think picking up snow at the local ice-hockey rink to ride rails during the autumn is ‘milking it’, but take a look at the recent news on global warming, and you’ll realise that this might become the sad future of snowboarding.
Cheap to rent for a few hours. Make sure you have a good insurance for when you load the trailer too heavy and the tyres explode.
As long as you feel comfortable wearing it, protection, especially back protection and impact shorts, are God-sends. Better safe than sorry.
Make sure no-one is watching. (5)
For the kicker to hold up, as well as yourself. For really bad conditions, bring salt. If you are still having problem with the speed, you should remember to bring wax. (7)
Cup of cha
If you bring a cup of lala or some hot chocolate to the session to treat your buddies with, everybody there will love you. Order in some catering and you will be remembered as a God.
First established in the 70s by gay people and rappers, colour co-ordinated outfits are now making a huge comeback in snowboarding. While working locally, you have a great opportunity to set the tone of colours of your ghetto apparel by the spot you’ll be sessioning. But please, bear in mind that it’s a thin line between being all colour co-ordinated and fabulous, and looking like a clown.
Step on the side
Now this might seem trivial, but it will save you a lot of hassle. When digging the kicker, always leave a foot of leeway on the side so people can still use the stairs. And always help the oldies.
Older people do not have a problem with screaming at the youngsters, we know that. But recent sessions have established that you won’t get the same degree of confrontation when someone from the older generation is helping out. Ask your dad to tag along or another authoritative person. Take it one step further and do like Rob Dyrdek in the DC movie: hire your own security guard.
So that’s it. Or actually, it’s not. There are yet more cunning tactics, marvellous inventions and ingenious tricks to apply to street rails and urban/suburban jibbing. But we can’t hold your hand through all of it, so stop reading, grab your shovel, and go riding. Later.