Pala Grave Robbers


Words & Photos by DAVE SWIFT.

The Grave is often referred to as the final resting place, one in which there is no escape. The remains of a person, place or thing are covered in dirt and most times a marker is left to let others know what or who is buried beneath the earth.

Ace Pelka – Christie Carve, 2017. The North San Diego kids are ripping these days and it’s probable you’ll be seeing more of Ace Pelka in the near future. Weeks prior to getting this shot, Ace had me shoot him doing the same move around the corner of the big bowl at Prince Park. It looked cool, but I knew that it would look way sicker if done in a backyard pool rather than a skatepark and we nailed it on this day. Photo by Dave Swift

In some cases, “the final resting place” is uncovered by those seeking the treasures entombed beneath the surface and oftentimes it’s done without permission under the cover of night—this is considered grave robbing.

Dalton Dern – Channel Kickflip Melon, 2017. In both the 2015 and 2017 Pala revivals, Dalton Dern dropped NBD hammers like it was nobody’s business. His use of the love seat as a channel was surpassed by none and this kickflip melon from deep-to-shallow was as solid as it gets. Photo by Dave Swift

There is a section of houses just off the 76 Highway in North San Diego county that were once the dwellings of dairy workers. Many years ago the dairy closed for good and the houses were left boarded up and abandoned. On two of those properties, empty backyard pools were found in the late 90s or early 2000’s and renegade sessions ensued under the guise of trespassing.

Seth Sanders – Sean Penn foot-to-fist bump, 2017. Visiting from Fresno, California, for a few days, Seth Sanders rolled out to Pala a few times and blasted Sean Penn’s (one-footed body jars) like they were nothing. On this particular evening, I had the idea to shoot one where his foot met the fist of Chris Gregson as he sat poolside drinking a brew. Timing was everything on this one. Photo by Dave Swift

In the beginning, many of those sessions were quickly halted by authorities who were watching over the land and the boot was given. Other times, sessions were allowed to go on late into the night without any hassle whatsoever. That is until things got out of hand and they were shut down for good (the kidney was buried and the square was watched over by heavy-handed security) —or at least that’s what everyone thought.

Tristan Rennie – Shallow End Blunt-To-Fakie, 2017. I really dig the way this kid, Tristan Rennie, skates. He’s got a great bag of tricks and a really smooth/loose style that is easy on the eyes.
We got him out to Pala and he used all the walls like it was his home park. Most of the stuff I’d shot prior to this were deep end or over the channel maneuvers, so getting a great image of Tristan’s ollie blunt in the shallow end was icing on the cake. Photo by Dave Swift

Sometime in or around 2005, the sessions started up again at the infamous kidney and lasted a little more than a year before it was once again filled with dirt. It remained filled for almost ten years until a group of skate archaeologists with shovels in hand un-buried “The Pala Pool” in the fall of 2015.

The pool was heavily skated for a month-and-a-half, but the good times ended when it was filled to the brim once again. Most figured this was the end because the 76 Highway was set to be widened and the row of houses were in the way of progress.

Auby Taylor – Sadplant, 2017. I had just slammed prior to shooting this photo and my lower back was starting to seize up. Auby wanted to do a proper Sadplant where he got proper toe position on his back foot, but it took several tries. The session was heated and I was in pain every time I laid down on the coping to get my angle correct. In the end, we were both happy with this shot and I quickly loaded up my camera gear and sped home for some much needed Jacuzzi time. Photo by Dave Swift

A year-and-a-half later the zone remained untouched and Josh “Peacock” Henderson got the idea that maybe it was time to get a crew together and resurrect the pool once again.

Most thought he was crazy, but he assembled a crew and, for nine straight days, they tirelessly worked to make the pool skateable once again. On the first day of skating, a man on a quad rolled up and talked to the group. He seemed amazed that they actually did all that work by hand and he let them know he wasn’t there to kick them out, but inevitably it would get filled again once the landowners found out what was going on.

Shaun Ross – Channel Frontside Fastplant, 2017. One of Oceanside, California’s, best loved skaters, Shaun Ross, celebrated his new pro status by punishing the Pala Kidney with brute moves like this frontside fastplant over the newly unearthed love seat. Photo by Dave Swift

Six weeks later, the earth moving machines came back and dumped the surrounding dirt back into the kidney. Will this be the last hurrah for this legendary pit? Or will it lay dormant until another group of grave robbers return to find the treasure buried beneath?


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