On KING OF THE ROAD three teams of pro-skaters embark on a dog-eat-dog road trip endurance-contest that's all about grit and glory and going beyond the rules. Season 2 continues on VICELAND, SKY Channel 13 on Saturday, July 15 at 8:55 PM.
Any street skater who's visited Wellington will know and love Treetops. A handful of ledges on a crusty carpark on a hill above Newtown has evolved into a super-smooth, ever-changing DIY spot that is regulated and cared for by a dedicated bunch of locals with the renegade skate spirit.
VICE spoke to one of Treetops' instigators, Tom Culy, who's also been a driving force in the evolution of the spot.
VICE: When did Treetops first become a skate spot?
Tom Culy: It must've been eight or ten years ago. A friend of mine, Sam Palmer, brought this skateable roof structure thing up there; it was like a mini roof and you could ride over it. That was there for ages, then someone set fire to it and it burnt down. Then we got these granite blocks, I think one of them is still there but it's all chipped now. We made one bench, just me and a few friends. It started from pretty much nothing.
Was it a carpark at the time?
They sometimes used it as a spillover carpark from when they have events at the sports ground down below. They use it as a basketball area; people used to go up there and drink, then we started putting up a few bits and pieces and it grew from there.
The spot obviously evolved with guys like yourself bringing and building stuff, but the big change has been the upgrade from the original rough surface to the current super-smooth one. How did that happen?
It was me, Connor Hill (who works for Manual Magazine) and Sam Palmer. The three of us talked about it for quite a while, then we started a crowdfunding fight. It was for about $12,000 to fundraise in three months. We got a quote from this guy Garth who offered to come down from Tauranga and do the grinding for a great discount.
Did you make that amount quite easily?
It took a little while. We got a couple of sponsors on board that put in a couple of thousand dollars each, but we did a whole lot of things like t-shirts and postcards that people would get if they donated. There were a lot of small donations, because a lot of skaters don't have that much cash.
It's impressive you guys went from talking about it to actually making it happen. Were you surprised it came together in the end?
We just had the idea to do it, so we had to follow through with it. We got quite a few people behind it. There's a little plaque up there, and the major contributors got their name on there.
Is the council on board as well?
Well, we had a meeting with them to see if we could get some money for it or some help, but they were like, 'nah'. They said if we did it properly they were happy, so they wanted it all taped off when work was getting done, and they wanted all the rubbish removed. So they weren't really on board, but they gave us a consent letter that said it was okay.
So basically they just looked the other way.
They were like, "If you guys do all the work and can make it happen, we'll allow it to happen."
I guess it's not that surprising. You never really know what's going to be there, which is kind of cool compared to a normal skatepark.
It's a bit rogue, eh.
There are often people sleeping up there.
Yeah, and drinking.
But everyone seems to respect the spot, and if they don't, someone will step up and tell them.
I haven't been skating there that much this year. I think it needs a bit of a clear-out of some of the old stuff, maybe a tidy up. Quite a few of the things are falling apart, especially because it's winter. Things get soggy.
I often wondered about concrete obstacles. Is that the next stage for Treetops?
Well, that's the thing. The council is fine with it as long as everything is temporary and you can move it off on a truck. And it's quite cool how it's not like a real skatepark and you can just shift things around. It's not like a standard skatepark design, which they often screw up.
It's like a blank canvas.
Yeah, and you always catch up with people up there as well.