Skateboarders Find New Homes ... Foreclosed

June 5, 2009 12:43:07 AM PDT
Bad times in the housing market have created good times for some of the Central Valley's most interesting athletes. The center of the world for this extreme sport is in the Central Valley.Pool skaters have found their kicks in Fresno for at least 15 years, starting with the old pool at the Vagabond hotel.

"The Vagabond was such a famous pool that we made a lot of friends out there and it's just word of mouth," said pool skater Josh Peacock.

But when the city let a developer cover the Vagabond pool, the skateboarders didn't let the city dictate where they'd go next. They found new homes as others around them lost theirs.

Their new destinations are the backyards of foreclosed homes, where the pools have been abandoned. Sometimes they get permission to use the pools, sometimes they trespass, but they say by taking over an abandoned pool, they're always doing a service for the neighbors.

One of the worst things about the abandoned pools in Fresno is the water that gets filled with mosquito larvae. Those mosquitoes will grow up. They can spread the West Nile virus. But what these skateboarders do is pump the water out of the pool, get the mosquitoes out, and make the pool safe. And then they skate while succeeding at something the city is struggling to do -- attract skaters from all over the world.

Fresno's parks department has built dozens of skate parks. But these skateboarders say one pool is all is takes, because skate parks don't have the same appeal.

All the transitions are the same," said Peacock. "None of the walls change. Pools are never the same. Every single wall of the pool is different because it wasn't made for skateboarding."

They've also caught the attention of a Hollywood filmmaker. Steve Payne is trying to tell the story of the economic bust through the lens of the pool skating boom. And maybe show people a side of Fresno they didn't expect.

"I don't think it's going to make Fresno any cooler than it is," he said. "I think it's just, people, maybe they'll stop talking trash about Fresno."

Payne's movie -- titled simply "Fresno" -- is set to debut at the Tower Theater on July 13.

To view a trailer, check out his website at www.fresnothemovie.com

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