Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles 40 miles east of Los Angeles, in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains, is a pipe. Its job is to funnel water from this dam into this channel, which borders Los Angeles County. This pipe might look like any other scattered across the West, but in the world of skateboarding, it's a mecca. One time my dad drove my friend and I there, but we didn't really know where we were going. And we finally came to a spot that looked like it was probably connected to Mount Baldy, and we were told that we had to leave. If you don't know, that's Tony Hawk, one of the greatest skaters of all time. This year he finally made it to the Baldy Pipe. It's a mission. You gotta hike around. You've got to try to dodge anyone you see, that might try to kick you out, because there's plenty of patrols there. And then there's this legendary gap that sort of rite of passage. You have to jump over it if you're going to be a true Baldy participant. I jumped the gap for the record. The Baldy Pipe is one of hundreds, if not thousands of legendary skate spots around the world that are hidden in plain sight. This is the story of how places like this, became this. It's America's newest sport, and it's called skateboarding. In 1965, skateboarding was a full blown fad. The fad raced from west coast to east, and soon there was skateboarding in Central Park. The first big wave of skateboarding is as a surf related activity, in California, but also in Florida, also in Australia. There's a great similarity between the sport of skateboarding and sport of surfing. And it's basically people pretending they're on an ocean wave. Iain Borden is an architectural historian, and author of this incredible deep dive into skateboarding history. The big milestone is probably the introduction of polyurethane wheels to skateboarding in the early 1970s. In the 1960s, skateboard wheels were typically made from metal or clay, which limited the breadth of maneuvers skateboarders could do. The grip provided by polyurethane wheels revitalized the sport and opened it up to more adventurous terrain. By the mid 1970s, skateboarders were constantly on the lookout for bigger wave-like structures. And empty pools, drainage ditches, and gigantic pipes quickly became skateboarding's most coveted spots. The moment you find bits of architecture that look a bit like an ocean wave, the architecture changes, that bit of asphalt is no longer a bit of asphalt, And skaters start to do things that you couldn't do on a surfboard. They do no-handed airs, they do invert airs, they do rock 'n' rolls. So there's a cultural shift there as well. Los Angeles skaters found a small reservoir in the Hollywood Hills they called the Viper Bowl. And Wallows, a ditch that cut through a neighborhood on the Island of O'ahu in Hawaii. It was pretty notorious because a lot of the 70s skaters rode it when they went to Hawaii. Or, Hawaiian skaters were riding it. And, it's this drainage ditch that just keeps going down different shelves. There's no drainage ditch really like that. Paved school yards situated in the Los Angeles hillsides became a proving ground for young skaters too. The banks at Kenter Canyon Elementary, right here, were frequented by skaters since the 1960s, and by the 1970s, it was one of the most widely seen backdrops for skate photographs and videos. One of the things the skaters found is that in various places, particularly out in the Arizona desert, they'd find these great big full pipes. Most of these pipes were from the Central Arizona Project, a massive water management initiative that began construction in 1973. For skateboarders, it was paradise. And then there was the Baldy Pipe, which skaters first discovered in 1969. Images of skaters riding its 15-foot cavernous walls turned this pipe into a skateboarding landmark. It wasn't just photos, the Baldy pipe was also featured in skate films, which were rising in popularity. Just to get there you have to cross a 20 foot deep pit on an old log. So video becomes very important in this. It's how something exists in history as told in video. Around 1976 investors saw a huge opportunity to build parks that mimicked the ever growing list of sought after skate spots, and started building them around California, the country, and the world. This may seem an odd place to be, the middle of an empty swimming pool, but this isn't just your ordinary everyday swimming pool. This is the infamous Dog Bowl, a skateboarder's paradise located in Marina Del Rey, California. Skatopia, one of the most popular parks in California, is big business. There were full pipes, and pools, and winding concrete slalom courses that mimicked drainage ditches. But it wasn't perfect. Soon after these huge skateparks were built, the insurance needed to run them skyrocketed. And then skateboarding crashes. After skatepark numbers dwindled, skateboarders were back to square one. In the eighties, it's mainly much more of a fewer number of die hard skaters. They continued to discover more and more empty pools, like this one in the middle of the California desert. That used to be an old nudist camp, and that was the pool that they had. And somehow, whenever the nudist camp went bust, I don't know how else to say it. the pool was skateable and some people found it. It was discovered around 1982, and was rightly dubbed the Nude Bowl. In the Arizona Desert another incredible location was added to the list: The Love Bowl. It was actually two giant white backdrops from an abandoned TV studio. But skateboarders also did something else. People started to build their own ramps. They started to build ramps with walls that emulated pools, but with flat sections. And that became the half pipe. 1987's The Search for Animal Chin is a skate film that illustrates the natural progression from ditches and pools to half-pipes. In the opening scene the skateboarders take on Wallows, that Hawaii drainage ditch. Yes, that's a young Tony Hawk. And on one of the very last scenes, I hung up going down one of the shelves, and basically sprawled onto the flat and got chewed up on my elbow, and I got a staph infection. So the rest of my Hawaiian vacation was spent in a hotel on antibiotics. Later on in the film they end up at a motel pool in Southern California. Uh do you have a pool? Yeah, we have a pool, but you know it hasn't been filled in two years. Do you mind if we check it out? But, in the final scene, they discover this ridiculously large wooden half pipe in the middle of nowhere. It was especially made for the film, But a replica today exists today at a skate facility north of LA. Wheels of Fire is another skate film from the late 80s, and it featured both the Nude Bowl and the Love Bowl, but the most lasting scenes of this video were of Natas Kaupas, a pioneer of street skating, transforming his neighborhood into a skatepark. All of the footage of Natas in that video was groundbreaking. People thought, wow, you can skate curbs like that? You can skate benches, you can skate fire hydrants, like the whole world is skate park now. So suddenly you didn't need to be in California or in the Arizona desert or in, you know, or in Florida anymore. You could be anywhere. Which brings us to this fire hydrant in Venice, CA. In 1989, Natas Kaupas did a 720 degree spin on it. It's just a perfect scenario, too, because there's a pole next to it, so he kind of can push off and start himself spinning. And also brace himself as he comes off. Doesn't make it any easier. The move became so iconic the trick is now called the Natas Spin. If you look at skateboard magazine covers from the 60s through the 90s one thing will quickly become clear - Skateboarding's biggest spots went from pools and pipes, to street spots. Namely giant stair sets and ledges. And there's one plaza that was the center of it all: The Embarcadero in San Francisco. It was a famous skate spot because of all the surroundings. There were all these ledges and different features that you could skate around. And that was the hub of skating in San Francisco. And there was one specific spot that became notorious because another pioneering street skater, Mark Gonzales, ollied it. It's no longer there, but here it is captured in a Thrasher Magazine feature called Spot Check. The gap itself was something that you wouldn't have seen necessarily as a challenge. I think a lot of people that came there never even realized the potential until Gonz got there and jumped it. This footage shows just how big the gap was and the only way to cross was gaining a massive amount of speed, launching into the air, and somehow keeping the skateboard right under your feet. Rightfully, the spot was dubbed the Gonz Gap, and quickly became a hub for serious skaters. It's both a place and a moment and a skater. It's when Gonz did that particular move. Yeah, you don't mess around with the Gonz Gap. If there's one thing that hasn't changed in the 60 years of skateboarding, it's that school campuses often have the best skate spots. In Video Days, 1991's milestone skate film directed by a young Spike Jonze, Mark Gonzales grinds a bench at Kenter Canyon Elementary And in another scene, ollies a short but incredibly deep set of four ledges at Wallenberg high school in San Francisco. Over the years, skaters have proved their worth by landing more and more complicated tricks at Wallenberg. Another famous school spot is Hollywood High 16 stair, which is the most geotagged location on campus. And then there's El Toro, a 20-stair set that has tormented skaters since Transworld Skateboarding published this image of Heath Kirchart board-sliding the center rail. The rail no longer exists, but that hasn't stopped anyone from hurling themselves down the empty stairs. But, perhaps the most iconic location is one that's no longer there: The Carlsbad Gap.