By Matt Coker
By R. Scott Moxley
By Charles Lam
By Nick Schou
By Gustavo Arellano
By Gustavo Arellano
By Steve Lowery
By R. Scott Moxley
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Every empty pool that gets skated is christened at some point—for its shape, or a unique, external characteristic, or both. A good example is the Bart clover, pictured on www.poolrider.com: a small residential pool in the shape of a cloverleaf—with graffiti of Bart Simpson added in the deep end. The Nude Bowl was at an abandoned nudist resort in the hills above Desert Hot Springs.
"I believe I heard of it when I lived in Texas," says Reul, who moved out here after high school and first skated the Nude Bowl in 1986 as part of a skate crew featured in the BBC video Life'saBeach."That was my first experience of it . . . it was such a good pool, it was really in good shape—really good, really wide-open, good transitions, good coping. But the best thing was the location, just because it's up on top of this hill away from everything and you have to kind of four-wheel drive to get up there, so the best thing was the location and then the freedom that goes along with being able to skate as much as you want whenever you want and just having a view of the city right below you and knowing that nobody's going to hassle you.
"It was such an adventure to get there . . . we'd all meet up at about midnight and we'd skate till morning . . . and it would get really hot at about nine o'clock in the morning, so you'd just leave then and pretty much just not sleep. It's a lot of car crashes, leaving there."
A mild kidney with smooth, graceful transition curves between bottom and wall, the Nude Bowl is something builders have tried to duplicate at skate parks in Palm Springs and in Oregon, but somehow they can't. Their muse has gone underground. After numerous parties gone out of bounds—late-night standoffs at gunpoint between skaters and wannabe Gs who'd driven up from Desert Hot Springs; confrontations with desert rats packing heat in their tents—a man ran amuck during a rave at the Nude and stabbed several people, and the city had it filled in. Reul, who'd celebrated previous birthdays by painting and skating it, determined to dig out the Nude in April 2000, and he got extreme sports haberdasher Bluetorch to finance and film the exhumation.
"We went and rented a backhoe, and it was actually really easy. You just go and you put down the credit card and you have the backhoe delivered. They dropped it at the end of the road—my boy already knew how to drive it—so they basically handed the backhoe over to us," Reul says. "He drove it—[skater] Bean—he drove it up the hill and once it got to the really rutty four-wheel-drive area, he drove it up backwards using the scoop to help, kind of pushing himself up, kind of scorpioning. And it was just like, 'Wow, we're doing this.' "
The dig took Reul, Bean and four others 28 hours—and that was just to get the dirt out. For running the backhoe, they let Bean have the first ride, over a huge American flag someone had spray-painted in the deep end. After that they still had to replace all the coping, which they did as Bluetorch cameras immortalized the event: dropping in before it was even dry, their boards binding in wet paint and dumping them. After they left, off-duty police officers came back and shot up the pool with machine guns again. Later, they were prosecuted for this and other offenses. And the city filled in the Nude once again, more or less permanently. It's still up there, Reul says wistfully, but the land is fenced off: sold to a developer, waiting to become back yards and swimming pools with water.
"I think how much I'd like to buy that one home that has the Nude Bowl in its living room, and dig it up," Reul says.
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Tonight, we're doing the next best thing—repairing a pool Reul says is of Nude Bowl caliber, and reportedly still extant. "This pool, I feel like it's one of the last of a generation," Reul says. "The Nude Bowl is gone, and this is almost like the Nude Bowl's brother, or mother. It's one of the few pools that is still left from that time."
As he did with Bluetorch and the Nude Bowl, Reul found someone who would pay him to patch, paint and skate this distant relative: the actor Stephen Baldwin, who four years ago found God; then slightly later, extreme sports.
During the past decade, extreme sports has become an increasingly popular way for Christian ministries to fill shrinking congregations by reaching—and converting—the kids. Earlier this year, TheNewYorkTimesestimated there are roughly 300 skateboard outreach ministries nationwide, and more than 30 skateboard teams that skate and preach. A skateboarder as a kid, Baldwin quickly realized the power of a nontraditional pulpit, and today he runs Livin' It (the apostrophe makes it street), an extreme sports division of the Oregon-based Christian ministry Luis Palau Evangelistic Association, whose leader was recently ranked the eighth most influential Christian in America by TheChurchReport,a business news magazine for Christian leaders. Baldwin hosts an eponymous extreme sports demo tour, featuring stars who have let the Lord into their lives. And he's currently producing a sequel to Livin'It,a 40-minute inspirational DVD he made two years ago, which featured extreme sports champs riding pools, ramps and streets—and discussing their belief in God. Due this fall, it will feature Reul, Christian Hosoi, Jay "Alabamy" Haizlip and others.
Baldwin admits he sometimes wonders if the Lord created the skateboard specifically as a tool to bring His message to disaffected youth: "If [skateboarders] can be used as an instrument to start changing the way kids think about God and the Bible, then we have to do this," he says. Some of his own flock question using skateboarders as a conduit for the Lord's message, wondering if promoting guys who drink and barge—trespass to find and skate pools—is what the Lord really wants. Pro skater Lynn Cooper, an Anaheim native who now lives in Colorado and is involved in the sequel, Livin'ItL.A.,says skaters like Reul "don't need to do that. I don't approve of that at all. If skating wants to continue to grow to be a positive influence on people's lives, that's not going to help."
As you might expect, Baldwin sees it differently. "Jesus," he says, "was an outlaw. I embrace whatever God's doing, and it sure seems to me that this wouldn't be happening unless it were God's will." He and Reul are an interesting fit; unlike Baldwin, Reul is tightlipped about his beliefs. But perhaps his value to Baldwin is his skill on a skateboard—not his spirituality, or what he believes in his heart. Baldwin says as much when we talk, at a house in Huntington where he hangs out with Hosoi, Haizlip and former Korn guitarist Brian "Head" Welch, with whom he recently formed Livin' It Records.
"Just like the surfer thing, to catch a perfect wave, so must Dave Reul try to find the perfect pool," Baldwin says, adjusting a Panama hat. Which is ironic, because skaters—eternal optimists—always think the next pool will be the perfect pool.