City Streets on a Dime by Sophie Addison and Orla Doolin.
It had always been a dream for Orla and I to ride street together, but we had always been in different places at different times. Now, with endless, sideways rain in late-season Whistler soaking us to our knickers every day, we decided it was time to take a vacation from our vacation.
We wanted to head North of Whistler to 100 Mile House or Prince George but with hardly any snow on the West Coast, the chance of hitting street on our side of the country was pretty slim. Most crews were heading East, to the likes of Boston and Montreal, but we decided to head into Quebec City. With no money in the bank and credit cards screaming, the prices of flights weren’t looking too appealing, but it was a once-in-a-lifetime trip, so we sucked it up and booked it anyway.
It didn’t take long for us to get a few more girls on board – Maria Thompson from Denmark was to fly over with us and we were to meet two local Quebecois, Joanie Robichaud and Marjorie Coutier, who knew the area well.
Adding to our group of five, we also had Maria’s five month old baby, Tao. Yes you read that right; a baby on a street trip. It was as coco loco as its sounds.
We didn’t have a filmer or a photographer in our crew, so Orla packed the camera she had saved up to buy… and the manual telling her how to work it. As usual, I managed to over pack for what was only a twelve day trip, but luckily Air Canada didn’t weigh our bags and we were off. Quebec is known for its heavy snowfall and sub zero temperatures (-40°C isn’t uncommon), which we quickly realised on arrival – some spots we wanted to hit were frozen solid.
On the first day, after purchasing shovels and other essentials from Walmart, we started to scope for spots and it soon became clear that indeed some of the locations were going to be unhittable. The Red Ledge, a 25+ stairset bordered by two concrete down ledges with savage kinks on the end, was almost invisible under solid snowdrifts and sheet ice. It was a bit too ambitious for the first street spot of the season anyway, so it was more of a tourist stop.Continuing with the search, we drove around, going to places that Joanie had written down in her spot bible. A lot of the best rails with natural speed drop ins were at schools or churches and here we were; slowly cruising past them in an old Soccer Mom’s car, looking shifty as hell with shovels in the back and balaclavas on. The locals didn’t bat an eyelid and seemed used to snowboarders hanging about in stairwells and on street corners.
Most spots we rocked up to were already built or had the remnants of drop ins and kickers of previous crews and the odd snapped snowboard here and there. This made things a bit easier – our time was limited, so spending days digging out rails and stairs wouldn’t have been ideal. With the plan for the whole week we got our heads down as the real “work” started the next day.
The 6am wake up call, from baby Tao needing fed, came right on cue. Pulling back the curtains, we were surprised to see that it had snowed and not just a sprinkling – about two feet was on the balcony where Orla and I had sat the previous morning having breakfast. Throwing layers of clothes on, we headed out into the cold and to the first spot.
Like kids at Christmas we couldn’t contain our excitement and within the first few hours we all had managed to bag a couple of shots and everyone was super hyped, but the struggle of not having a filmer or photographer soon became apparent. With the temperature in the minuses, battling to stay warm whilst filming, then picking up your board and getting back into a session was hard. Then came the endless nights of trawling through footage just to maybe get a couple of five second clips from that day in order to have the memory cards clear for the next day. On top of this Orla and I were trying to work on our non-existent photography skills, googling what shutter speed and ISO meant. We were determined to make it work, though, so if you’re reading this, it probably means our hard work paid off.
The days went well. We all managed to stack some footy on each feature we hit. Of course what would a street trip be without a few injuries and unfortunately I took the hit. Somehow I managed to catch a heeledge on a back boardslide and flling down a drop, I tore a muscle in lower right back. But stocking up on Codeine and Cocodomal, I was adamant that it wouldn’t be the end of my trip.
It didn’t help that the next spot on the list was a famous wall ride at the castle in Old Quebec City. To drop in you stood on top of a cannon then rode off the battlements down a jaggy brick wall. The Headstones, an all-male crew local to Quebec City, rocked up mid session and joined us. There was such a good vibe. Tourists were taking their own snaps and cheering and applauding when someone got the trick. Everyone was so hyped. Unfortunately, because it was a historical artifact we were riding, a member of the public made a complaint to the police, so we were asked to move on. The police were pretty chilled about us riding the rest of the time, watching us hit handrails and hanging about chatting. They seemed to enjoy it too.
Nearing the end of the trip, tempers began to fray. But after spending two days building a drop in, lugging snow around in wheelie bins, the day we were suppose to hit the spot was not the time to throw your toys out the pram. Thankfully Orla and I always had each other’s backs, neither of us would have made it through such a rollercoaster of a trip without each other. After much deliberation, the only way we were going to get the most out of this trip was if we got our own set of wheels and went it alone.
But then everything seemed to be against us. We’d lost half the crew to mood swings and then the weather wasn’t on our side. Trying to keep the cameras dry in heavy snow was a problem as the lenses were constantly steaming up. Even the sun seemed to be having a laugh. Having no flashes for the cameras meant we had to get all our shots in daylight and darkness was always creeping up on us.We were throwing ourselves through gazebos, down ledges and off castle walls and sometimes all for nothing. Orla ended up on a suspension bridge filming me in 60km winds then when it was my turn I actually had to Google ‘the first stages of frostbite’ as my feet were that painful. Alas, we did what ever it took; bulk-buying Starbursts and beers to get us through the days.
We found ourselves crying and laughing at the same time and it was then we realised that we were doing this all for the love of it. We had taken the chance and made it happen.
With no clue, no budget and only our credit cards to lean on, finally we had gotten to ride the street rails we’d dreamed of.