Words by: Jesse Gullings
Photos: Cebolla, Alison Gamel and Matt Moose
It had been 20 years since I made the trip, so I was so excited to be invited to the 1st N-MEN trip of 2021. I was giddy with excitement as I rummaged through my stuff to find what was left of my downhill/glory hole set up. What I came up with was a set of 100mm, 89A kryptonic wheels, my old ass 169’s with giant risers, and a board that was a warped from sitting for so long. I had used the board to roll around my outboard motor during my hiatus from the shred stick at one point. The plan was for Rodney Rodrigues and I to go up a day before the session and patch up the pipe, and my girlfriend (and professional photographer) Alison Gamel was going to shoot photos on Saturday. I went into Bills wheels to change out my board and ran into Casey Helseth who asked if he could barge it with us.
The first time I met old Glory was in 1996 when the Fight skateboards team hopped into a VW bus and made the trek over the next six years I probably went 20 or 30 times, and entered and exited every way imaginable. You see, the safe and sane way is to hike the trail from the parking lot, blow up a raft, and safely cross with all your gear. Its safe to say I didn’t really give a fuck in my 20’s so I hiked in, swam in (in the coldest water I have ever been in), and one time I fashioned a ladder using a fire escape ladder I snagged from my parents attic and a bunch of rope. Anyway, as the trips came and went the wheels got bigger and softer.
As Thursday rolled around Ali, Casey, and I packed up the truck with the necessities and hit the road from Santa Cruz to Lake Berryessa. Did I mention the heat wave yet? Hot damn! The high for Thursday was 112, and as we pulled up to scope the trail and water level we were literally baking in the heat. We hiked the trail from the parking lot to where the raft blow up spot is (we didn’t bring one because Rodney was bringing his) and Casey was determined to swim around the corner to feast his eyes on the behemoth that is Glory Hole. Unfortunately for him they were pumping water into Putah creek from the bottom of the dam, and damn that water was freezing! He made it in, but not far. Next was me with the same result, then Ali. After that we headed off to the campsite to get Casey situated before Ali and I went to our hotel.
The next morning I met up with Casey and Rodney with his kids Liam and Ryder in tow and we set out on the adventure that is making it there. Once we and all of our gear was on shore we wasted no time drying puddles, taking a few runs, and patching seams and holes. In all my trips I never had it as good as it was on Saturday. Between the three of us we laid down about 80 lbs of rapid set and master seal 590. That night it was all about relaxing and getting ready. Casey got attacked by ants at 3am in his tent so he was up extra early.
On Saturday we all hit the parking lot around 8:30 am and once again made the trek to the raft area, and made our way across. By the time the NMEN crew started showing up Casey, Rodney and the kids, and I had the pipe dry and Ali was in full swing taking photos. The people just kept showing up! It was such an amazing experience to be able to skate my favorite spot in the whole world with other people who feel the same way. I think on this day over 50 heads showed up to hang out, have fun, and shred.
I would have to say the highlight of the trip for me was listening to Steve Brockway give us his history with old glory. He started skating it in July of 1976, and his first trip was a hike in which is by far the most dangerous way to do it. They had open bearing wheels and were human sling shoting each other to get enough speed to ride the 14.4’ transitions. Word on the street is that Ray Flores and John Malvino where the first ones to ever get in there and ride, and I believe they have the footage to back it up.
Next time I go I will bring the proper gear so I can hit the 10:00, Mark like I did when I was younger and crazier, and if any of you young bucks out there got the courage, there is a ledge waiting for you to jump off into old glory, but bring your balls cuz its fucking huge.
PS: If anybody found the statue of Buddha up there, that was mine. I jumped in and slid the trannies on my ass to feel it out, but never had the courage to do it on my shred stick. – Jesse Gullings