WORDS & PHOTOS Jake Grove
Racing at Barrett Junction is a game of strategy & nerves—a struggle to make it down the hill without slamming while still maintaining the fastest line possible. It’s super sketchy and the riders who maneuver between, around, and over the road’s wrinkles, cracks, chinks, and pitted face are the one’s that make it down unbroken and in the front of the pack.
Until this year’s event I had never had the chance to make it out to this legendary hill—a weathered road deep in the desolate chaparral, southeast of San Diego—a place where tumbleweeds tumble freely, border patrol vehicles are ever-present, and packs of motorcycles dominate the twisty-turny asphalt.
With some last minute planning, this year I ended up driving down to the event with my buddy Don two Sunday’s ago to finally see the place for myself. Off we went in a minivan packed full of all sorts of photo gear. As we drove along old Highway 94, we spoke of our shooting methods for the day as the surrounding environment zipped by in the windows and changed from billboards and clusters of buildings to rocky hillsides of aris undulations—from the looks of it, we were approaching legendary Barrett Junction.
As Don’s van continued its roll across the highway, away from the Pacific Ocean, I began to see that the crumbling mountains I had seen in the distance earlier were now standing over us on all sides. As we slowed to turn off the highway I heard the loud ringing of gunshots and glanced off the side of the road, where I spied a group of men huddled around a table of shotguns and targets.As I looked back toward the windshield again I saw that we were approaching the top of a weathered road that I soon learned was the race hill. We slowly began making our way down to the starting line.
As the day progressed, skating commenced, and I found some quality perches from which to click my shutter while I witnessed rider after rider washing out into the dirt and hillsides bordering the road. I also watched numerous riders get bucked from their boards thanks to the many potholes in the worn-out and sunburnt asphalt. The subsequent slams and crashes were intense with dust and debris flying all over the place. Ouch! Many riders pushed themselves to the limit in order to maintain speed but few were able to keep the perfect lines necessary to keep out in front of the pack. Race heats soon started and began to narrow down the list of the day’s competitive skaters. By the time the final heat approached the starting-line the only riders left were Scott Lembach, Tim Del, Joe Gutkowski, and Dmitri Menas . . .
DH Skateboard Podium:
1st. Tim Del
2nd. Scott Lembach
3rd. Joe Gutkowski
4th. Dmitri Menas
The final heat made its way down the hill, and although I saw Scott Lembach out in front and Tim Del trailing behind the pack near the top of the hill, Tim somehow managed to pull in front of the other three riders before the finish line, and he ultimltely took the win. This year’s organizer and local DH ripper, Lonnie Leonelli, set up a podium and gave the top riders their awards and all that—the day drew to a close. Another successful Barrett Junction! I’m grateful for the opportunity to share these film and digital images that I collected while at the event with all of you Wheelbasers out there. Congrats to all the riders who participated.