Skateboarding has an inert ability to bring people together and every so often it draws together just the right individuals, in just the right location to produce a scene that fosters innovation and pushes whats possible for our community. Having all of these proper elements fall into place is an incredibly rare occurrence that creates a progressive environment in which artists are able to feed off of one another’s creative forces to test the limits of what has been done on top of a skateboard. Though it may be short, our history as skateboarders boasts a few key such groups that have expanded the world of skateboarding to include new pursuits into the Shred Realm. In the more recent history one such group has begun a struggle to remain an active writer of history rather than just a blurb in skating’s every growing history. This group is the Santa Gnarbara Crew, who is fighting for their right to continue riding the pristine mountain roads located in their home of Santa Barbara, California. Their protest was so unique in nature that it attracted the attention of a local resident, Paul Mathieu, a film Director/Producer who thought this situation deserved some investigating. The result is one of the few full length downhill skateboarding documentaries in existence, which highlights the groups fight to continue practicing their art despite the legal repercussions associated. Wheelbase News had the chance to chat with Paul about his latest film, Wheels Over Paradise, which covers the Santa Gnarbara Crew from its inception to their near dismantlement as they fight new legal road blocks.
The County of Santa Barbara is the epitome of the “California Dream” offering residents and visitors alike access to world class coastlines as well as an expansive mountainous interior. It is within these areas of higher elevation that live roads almost seemingly created for mobbing a skateboard down. These roads are no new temptation exclusive to todays skaters, but have already hosted the likes of Cliff Coleman and Stacy Peralta who documented this region in videos such as Future Primitive in the mid 1980’s. The modern day resurgence of skateboarders lurking these mountain lanes can be greatly attributed to a crew of locals who all are heavily featured in this film. While not a skater him self, Paul took a sincere interest in the skating being done by these world class athletes which allowed him to witness the growth of this movement firsthand. Archive footie provided by Louis Pillioni helps demonstrate the evolution of this group of “longboarders” into a legitimate force of change within skateboarding as a whole.
As this group of revolutionaries continued to search and explore new areas of their backyard in search of more epic asphalt barrels, they slowly but surely began to pop up on more and more radar screens. This publicity resulted in new chargers to join their ranks, but also resulted in the negative attention of concerned local citizens who drove/lived on the roads the homies were mobbing. Paul recalled hearing of more and more run ins with local and county law enforcement who was known to only patrol such remote areas when directed to by a call from dispatch. Initially it was understood by both the law enforcement and by the skaters that if their paths crossed it was time for the skaters to peaceably move on and rarely resulted in any issuing of tickets or citations. This unspoken dynamic began to shift however as the number of riders on the roads increased subsequently resulting in more concerned local calls to law enforcement agencies. With both the number of skaters increasing and the ever increasing pressure of local citizens to address these rogue riders, County Jurisdiction decided last summer that the only equilibrium would be to enact a strict ban of skateboarding down many mountain roads located within county limits.
With this ban comes the central message Paul wishes to convey by making this film: to accurately and unbiasedly depict the struggle in Santa Barbara centered around a brotherhood and sisterhood of skateboarders looking to continue their way of life amongst heavy persecution. Paul included the viewpoint of both local law officers as well as locals within the community to deliver a balanced account of all the events transpiring in SB recently. Wheels Over Paradise sheds some light on various unsung hero’s from our ranks who have opened up many doors for the downhill community. All of this is depicted through phenomenal film work by highly acclaimed skate filmer and SB local Tom Flinchbaugh. Attempts to work toward a sustainable future for these skaters are also addressed, such as the sanctioning of the previously out-law Santa Gnarbara Race. Examples like this are also featured in the film, offering not just the negatives of this legal battle but also how it has begun to even further bring this tight knit community of shralpers together.
Wheels Over Paradise is now avaliable to own and certainly is worth adding to any skate video collection. This film documents an era in skatings history that has forever impacted how many of us choose to express our inner visions and introduces us to some of the people behind the downhill revolution. If you are interested in snagging a copy for you self, check out either iTunes, Amazon, or Vimeo as well as most other platforms like Xbox, Playstation, etc. to get your digital download of the story.A huge thank you goes out to Paul Mathieu for taking the time to chat with Wheelbase News and give us the inside scoop on some very special events within skateboarding.