For as long as there has been “street skating” there have been people in San Diego pointing cameras at the tricks and spots of the “619” — and for this reason SD has the dubious reputation of being the most over-exposed city in blading. Ironic that a transplant from Michigan put together the resourcefulness and the perseverance to uncover a full section’s worth of spots that if not outright unbladed… well, they may as well be. In this city (and any, really), these spots might as well be unicorns. They shouldn’t exist. But they do, and we experienced each of them as Chris Couture saw his vision through to completion. So without further adieu we present The Ditch Project. Welcome to 2016.
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Chris, let’s talk about where the idea to make a section only skating San Diego’s ditches came from. What can you tell us?
First of all, thank you for being a part of this project, I truly appreciate it.
Mainly, I don’t think I’ve ever seen an entire blading section of only ditches. I’ve seen plenty of sections with ditch clips, but rarely do you see a section with more than a few. After becoming obsessed with finding more ditches, I realized that I had a list that was more than adequate to do a full section, and we didn’t even hit all of them due to the changing seasons. Basically, I just wanted to do something different…
How much experience did you have skating ditches, before this project that is?
Very little, which I think fueled my obsession. I bladed a ditch in Vegas for a comp once, and of course the over-exposed Home Ave. ditch here in SD a bunch, but growing up in the Midwest the only ditches I knew were grass, dirt and mud.
What about the idea of these spots spoke to you?
During my research I started coming across so many ditches, and most weren’t even possible to skate, but they are all amazing in their own way. The amount of time it took to build all of these, and the sheer size and unique qualities that they encompass blew my mind. Then you add in all the amazing graffiti, and DIY spots people have added to them, and it is really amazing. And there’s so many.
When did you first become aware that there were so many spots like this in SD, and that hardly (if any!) bladers had ever hit them before? How is that even possible?
It all started when I got bored with going to the Home Ave. ditch, so I started thinking, as amazing a spot as that it is, this can’t be the only one. So I did a couple Google searches, super vague, like “San Diego Ditches” and then all these amazing spots started popping up with skateboarders hitting ‘em. I started asking around, sending people texts with photos being like, “Yo where is this?!” My buddy and fellow puller, Hayden Ball, assured me that at least a few I showed him were here, but most people said they were all in LA. My homie Logan gave me the idea to start searching through local boarders IGs to dig deeper, by reading comments, etc.
As far as nobody blading them before, I think the perspective that everything in SD has been “Seen and done before” became everyones mindset, when in reality that is way off. San Diego’s spots are world class, there is a reason why so many pro boarders and board companies reside here.
How long did it take to track these places down and get a spot list put together? Care to explain the intricacies of that process with the readers?
I would say in total it took about three months of research, and we filmed for about a month, six sessions, two of which were short due to sunlight.
The first step is to do some basic Google searches as I mentioned earlier, hopefully see something dope. Find out who the local rippers are in boarding or biking, then creep their IGs or a local zine, which also a perfect resource of spots. After you have some prospects, start digging in the comments. Look for reposts, and original posts — more posts means more comments to fish through. Then if that doesn’t work, look for tell tale landmarks in the background like business names, addresses, geography, etc. If none of that has worked yet, get on Google Earth and start digging, searching. I spent many sleepless nights glued to my phone for this project and it works. You can get super detailed shots, where even graffiti is visible. Your last resort is to hit the person you are IG creeping up — you will be surprised who might hit you back. I even had a local pro down to trade spots, which was an awesome resource.
Which took more time, finding the spots or getting the tricks when we went back to film?
Haha low blow. For sure finding the spots took longer. Some took weeks.
You drive a scooter and some of these places are kinda far-flung from your hood. What did you learn about our city while researching locations for the project?
I love this city, it’s amazing. Some of these trips took a while and I would pack a little power snack in case I found what I was looking for so I would still be able to blade. Five hour solo searching sessions get tiring. I definitely got a much better understanding of the city, and all of the different neighborhoods. It really made me appreciate where I live even more. This is heaven.
Not long ago you linked me to a local news story about how the city is gonna spend millions cleaning out miles and miles of overgrown water control ditches. What does that mean to you?
During the research for this project I encountered well over 20 ditches, but less then half were skate able, and not due to design, but due to maintenance and upkeep of their purpose. So it’s exciting to think how many more ditches will be improved due to this plan. More to blade, and more fun for me.
Hardest part of putting this project together?
Dealing with insomnia due to the obsession of the research, which was a new one for me. Luckily I stayed healthy other than the normal bumps, scrapes and bruises, so that was tight.
How does it feel to see your vision come together like this?
I couldn’t be happier. It was an amazing experience, a lot of fun, and I’m really happy with how it came out. I didn’t want to do just another street section, and I think I accomplished that to the fullest of my ability and that makes me happy, and proud. On to the next one…
What role do projects like this and personal goals we each set that put this into motion play in keeping a “veteran” blader like yourself motivated and ready to strap up?
I think progression of one’s life is important, and not dwelling on society’s definition of success, through money, material possessions, etc. However, how this comes to fruition into your life is up to you, but I think balance is important. Your dreams never die, so you should never stop living them. I’ve always heard, “When are you gonna stop?” The answer is I can’t. I think it goes back to my worldview, from a kid who rejected team sports, I find no interest in them. So to me blading was never associated with a sport I was participating in, this was my life, my every thought, and the way I chose to express myself. This to me is a craft, with no expiration date in my development of it. It might look different another 20+ years in, but my desire to develop it will still be there regardless if I’m the next Slomo or if it’s only stalling on a curb in front of my house while my wife and future children laugh at me.
What’s next for Chris Couture?
My next obsession is finding all the best DIY spots in the city for a project, and going to Hawaii for my honeymoon in a few months so that’s dope too. Basically just living and loving life.
Any Shout Outs or Thanks?
Thanks to you most of all for documenting this and believing in me and the vision. Thanks to my beautiful and supportive wife for always being there for me and inspiring me. Thanks to my parents for supporting my blade addiction in my childhood and now. And thanks to Geoff, Matt and Razors for keeping fresh boots under my feet. You guys are the best.
Photos by Sean Macgowan
Title Effects by NorkaFilms