Trading Places

What’s your occupation?
Independent contractor.

OK. Meaning…
Spot locator. Hired gun. Hunter-gatherer.

Some people aren’t familiar with your trade, is all.
My trade is a result of supply and demand.

Well, alright, how long have you been at this?
Full-time, I guess, four years? But really I started about ten years ago.

Explain how you got into this line of work then.
Like the other guys, basically filming. As often as not you’re expected to come with places to go if you get kicked out of the spot you’re at, or you trek out to the boonies and find out the spot’s not skatable for whatever reason, people are there, the cops. You can go someplace nearby, still be productive, wind up getting paid.

But you don’t film nowadays.
I do, a little bit. Here and there. But yeah, I spend more time on the road now. In the field.

Like in your car?
Yeah. For a vehicle you need, number one, gas mileage, and preferably something inconspicuous. It’s a lot of slow creeping around industrial parks, construction sites, all that. I keep maps and a phone with a dead battery and a couple handwritten addresses for when I need to answer questions.

You tote a camera too, and a laptop. There’s a story to explain those?
I’m a film student. Just spaced out and lost. I got a college student ID off a kid a while back, I haven’t had to whip it out yet though.

When did you figure out this could be a full-time job?
First off, I’m glad you call it a job, because it is work, a lot of work sometimes. It clicked for me when I was at the bar one night, showing two pros a photo I’d taken of a really long, mellow hubba ledge. It was in Van Nuys, it’s gone now, it was skated a lot though. These dudes were on the same team actually, board team. Basically they wanted me to take them to the spot the next day, I was down, I’d film or whatever. But then one of the dudes, the younger one as it happens, he went to take a piss and the dude who stayed whipped out $200 and asked if I’d take him and ditch the other guy. I took it, but then felt bad and when I was leaving to pick the older dude up the next day I actually called the other guy just to give him the heads up we were going, but he was still passed out from the night before anyway so it was a wash. Basically the older pro got his trick and sort of said he’d pay up if I clued him in on good spots I found after that, and it was on.

How much does a good spot go for now? Say a 12-stair rail, round.
The market decides.

Come on. Give people an idea.
No way. And give all these young bucks a way to undercut me? Anyway it all fluctuates.

Who’s your main clientele?
Pros. Older pros. The young kids, the ams, they don’t need my services as much, and they don’t got that much money anyway. It’s a whole equation that makes this business, kind of a food chain. At the top of the food chain, say, you got pros who have been in the game for ten or maybe fifteen years, and they have the shoe money, the energy drink, big sponsors, or a TV or contest deal. And a lot of times they’re running companies themselves. Obviously they don’t have the time to go out cruising for spots themselves, but that’s just part of it. About ten years back when “Pretty Sweet” and the Vans vid and Flip’s video came out, there was this generation of pros who, their skills were sort of starting to fade, their names were still big and people still wanted to see them and sponsors had a lot of money behind them… but if you’re going to film a backside smith grind on a bank-to-ledge you can’t do it on one where some random kid got a backside smith grind backside flip out a week before for his internet part. You need fresh spots, you do your more basic tricks on a new spot and people aren’t focused all on what other tricks have been done there. So as a spot it has more value.

And the guys who need those spots the most are the ones that have money to spend.
Right, yeah. For the kids coming up, ripping and trying to make their bones or whatever, it’s kind of beside the point. It almost works the other way for them, like for a long time you’ve seen kids who headed to these name-brand spots like El Toro or Hubba Hideout or Med Choice or Baldy or Rincon. For them it’s like you want to be measured against what’s been done before, to sort of prove yourself.

Can you sell a spot more than once?
You can. Some places, you make the call, it’s open season–for such and such figure I’ll tell you where the spot is. But what you’re getting at, keeping a spot quiet but getting good mileage out of it, that takes more work. And obviously the spot has to be worth it. But there’s ways.

You blindfold people?
Nah. I’ve thought about it. As far as I go, it’s just everybody turns off their phones and I hold on to them, you build in a few detours into your route, but like I said that’s pretty rare instances. If dudes wind up remembering their way to some spot because they’re familiar with the area it’s not likely to stay secret that long anyway, you know?

But you do sell exclusive rights sometimes.
I don’t know how “exclusive” any of these places are, they’re all publicly accessible. Mostly. But if someone’s willing to pay a premium for me to text them GPS coordinates and then erase them from my list, we can talk about it. I’ve done that. There’s no guarantees though. There’s more dudes out there trying to do this nowadays.

Do you do stuff like lock handrails, or sabotage spots to keep them under wraps?
I don’t, but I get why some people do. It’s their livelihood, I guess. It seems a little bit over the top to me. And well-equipped filmers will figure out a way to deal with it anyway.

What do you look for when you’re doing research? In the field?
Just the usual stuff, how long, tall, far, I take photos and video sometimes to give the sense of what a clip or a line would look like, depending what it is. Materials, in case stuff needs to be fixed. Sometimes you go back at night to see what it would look like lit up, or if there’s security around during the day. And if you’re smart you crop out any kind of shit in the background that would tip people off to where it is, so you can shop the photos around. Some people like more gritty looking spots, some people don’t care, so you figure out what this dude or that dude likes and you can cater to that.

How long do you think you’ll do this? Like is this a career to you?
Good question. I don’t know. It’s better than filming, for sure. Money up front and all-cash transactions. I guess it depends what you like, sometimes you feel like a big rig driver, or a courier, long days on the road. You wind up being a behind-the-scenes operator, see some billboard or TV commercial and it’s a trick at a spot that you hooked up. That’s cool the first few times, then it’s mainly the money.

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9 Responses to “Trading Places”

  1. sroljo Says:

    This story isn’t that far fetched. I could see this happening.

  2. m477 Says:
  3. Josh Davis Says:

    this is enthralling. where is this from?

  4. arthellman Says:

    …the not too distant future. Crazy the guy still lugs around a laptop, those things are ancient!

  5. j.pokorny Says:

    totally believable

  6. t.a. Says:

    This reminds of some Real ads awhile back that had a dude camouflaged head-to-toe, takin back spots. It was pretty rad, but they definitely weren’t revealin much.

  7. Anonymous Says:

    That was awesome

  8. mrkepner Says:

    dunno why folks are saying “I could see this happening” and “totally believable.”

    this be real, right?

  9. Skate Nazi Says:

    Incredible.
    This is the raddest thing I’ve read in a while, thanks.

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