Skate Spot Pod

S1 E2 - Wet Willys / Rooler Gab - Skateboarding Podcast

March 02, 2023 The skateboarding Crucible Season 1 Episode 2
Skate Spot Pod
S1 E2 - Wet Willys / Rooler Gab - Skateboarding Podcast
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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Wet Willy's waterslide located in Fenton MO, opened in the summer of 1978. Built on a 40-foot hill and made entirely out of concrete, it had three winding, twisting 500-foot slides. Abandoned during the late 90's it became adopted by skateboarders.

Wet Willys featured on our YouTube channel

Other videos to check out:
Skating Wet Willys 1
Skating Wet Willys 2
Crazy Hydra Slide

Part 2.

An abandoned skate utopia, located in the south of France, stands the remanence of one of the most unique and bizarre skate spots. Rooler Gab, the only skatepark to have installed a ski lift to transport skaters from top to bottom. The downhill run was 1.2km in length with ten banked turns. Leading down to a 3000 square meter flat space that was once equipped with mini-spines and small tables.

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Hello everybody, and thank you so much for tuning into episode two of Skate Spot Pod. I know there's been a bit of a break between releasing different episodes, but we are back now. We have been a little bit blindsided with some side projects but we have got full dedication to the podcast and we have a lot of great things coming your way.

If you haven't already checked out our YouTube channel, you can do so by visiting the link in the podcast description below. Here we post videos on some of the cool places that we're actually gonna feature in this podcast. We are just running shorter videos at this point in time that give you a little bit of a highlight of these unique skate spots or skate parks throughout the world and most of these we are gonna be elaborating on further in this podcast. So please go. Please check it out and yeah, subscribe and that would be very much appreciated. Today we're gonna feature two skate parks, and we're gonna start with one that was located in the United States. Unfortunately, this skate sport doesn't exist anymore, and that is just such a shame.

So during the late seventies, a chain of water slides called Wet Willlys  was born. These water slides opened up throughout multiple states in the US, yet one was built in Fenton MO. And this water slide was a 500 foot slide that was built entirely out of concrete. It was opened in the late seventies and later, closed in the late nineties.

Now, Wet Willys was a beast. This thing claimed multiple lives during the time it was opened, and within the first week, three people suffered fractured vertebrates. It was said to be so sketchy that kids actually had to put duct tape on the bottom of their feet so they wouldn't get cut up and shredded when they were sliding down the slide. All that was there to support themselves and become the difference between the cement under their butt was a thin rubber mat. When you're looking at pictures of this thing, there is no fucking way in hell that this would be able to be built today and to be honest, it really is quite a shame. I mean, today there is a lot of fun that sucked out of things just because of regulations, liability, all this sort of crap and Wet Willy's really didn't give a fuck about that at all. So this thing was just an amazing structure, and to be honest, it's layout was fantastic for skateboarding. So during the time that Wet Willys was operating, It was fun as hell, but it was also dangerous as hell. 

So you had three of these twisting, winding runs that you could access from the top of the slide. The first was slow, which this is what it means basically, and in slow, in wet, Willie's terms means violent and incredibly fast. Then you had medium, which was out of this world fucking crazy, dangerous and then you had the death slide, which was the fast slide, and there's reports that it was so insane that kids would actually fly off the edges of the slide and over to the embankment below. So you can really imagine the chaos that this place would've caused, but being a young kid and the element of danger surrounded this water slide would've just been remarkable. 

So it's quite interesting when you actually start doing a bit of research on this place and looking at some of the newspaper articles that were published about Wet Willys and the first real thing that's evident is just the amount of danger and the amount of sketchiness that was surrounded with this place. They have some quotes from the general public during the first week that it opened and these quotes are just like something out of a horror film. So what was really consistent is the fact that the splash pool at the bottom was really, really narrow and there's a couple of photos as well that you'll see of the splash pool on the video, on our YouTube channel, but it's so narrow and it's not deep whatsoever. If you are coming down off that 500 foot slide, you are gonna hit the stairs that exit this splash pool pretty much every time you're coming down it's just nuts. So that was one consistent thing that people thought was very dangerous . The next was the amount of speed that was generated from the slide and one guy that's actually interviewed says that the amount of distance that's left between the patron in front to the patron behind is really, really narrow. So you get to the bottom of the splash pool and it's just carnage like people are flying everywhere. There's older people that are landing on top of young kids and basically drowning them in the shallows of these pools. It's just so scary. So it's I mean, terrible, but also really funny to read some of these quotes because some people continue to visit the place and then other people who had young children that were going there got so damn scared because some of the, you know, near misses that happened. People just piling on top of each other as they're coming into this splash pool is just, it's crazy. There are also rumours that people died on the slide. Now I can't track down whether or not this was the actual Wet Willys in Fenton, Missouri, or this was some of the other ones. There was one in Austin, Texas and there was another one in Springfield in Missouri, I believe as. well. Rumour has it that people did die on this thing and that was one of the main reasons why they shut. It still did survive over two decades, so it was still operating in the late nineties and yeah, it's just full on. To be honest, I can't find any footage of actually Wet Willy's back in its glory but there's a similar video taken of a slide that was reasonably similar. Definitely not the same type of height and speed, but this concrete thing is nuts. People just slide everywhere. There's feet kicking other people in the head. There's no barrier over the sides, and people are just kind of like flopping around and landing in dirt and rocks and all this sort of stuff.  So I'll actually put that in description below as well. So yeah, just, just a mental place. 

The comes the late nineties and basically this place shuts, and then it cottons on that. This massive 500 foot water slide is vacant and naturally you're gonna get curiosity from skaters. So skaters started to come to the place. There was also a lot of roller blades and BMX that took over this.  now there is still very limited amount of video of people skating Wet Willys. There is a few roller bladers. There's also a few older films of some skaters. But you kind of get the picture of just this sheer length speed and also just the height of this thing. I think just for cruising and carving down it and generating speed, I think it would've just been so, so fun to skate. So skaters were there for around over 10 years. Some people that I've spoken to said that it was a bit of a bust spot at times because the police would come there knowing that kids were up there drinking and try and chase them off the water slide in the vacant area, all that sort of thing. But it would've been amazing just to at least have one run from top to bottom and hopefully come out without like a broken leg or breaking a neck or something like that. So then we get to around 2000 and the slide gets destroyed. So what was interesting when we started posting some videos about Wet Willys,  is that a lot of people didn't even know that it existed. So some people have lived right next door to this place for such a long time and had no idea that it was operating or it was even a skate spot. So that was kind of cool. We kind of gave a little bit more new life to the place. There's a lot of blogs and all sorts of images from people who are into abandoned stuff and all those sorts of things, so we managed to pull some content off those sites. But at the end of the day, really awesome spot. It got demolished and the big hill that Wet Willy's was located on, it still stands there today. So you'll also see that it's a big vacant plot, and we managed to go back to the historical shots on Google Earth and get some of the aerial photos of Wet Willy's around 2008 before it was destroyed.So Wet Willy's in Fenton, Missouri is definitely amazing and worthy of featuring on the Skate Spot Pod.

Skate spot number two. So we get on a plane and we fly from Fenton, Missouri all the way over to the south of France now the South of France,  you think good food, you think wine, all those sorts of things, and wine is something that will come into the equation when we talk about this next skate spot because it was built by Gabriel Leuret and Gabriel Leuret was a retired French wine maker who had an idea to create a downhill skate run that wrapped around a mountain that was 1.5 kilometres in length. And to top that off, Gabriel installed a ski lift to transport skateboarders from the bottom to the top that says it. All right. This is just so quirky and so fucking bizarre it's worthy of the attention of Skate Spot Pod. Now we came across this place actually by just doing some random Googling. There was a article that was run about this place and the headline stated Abandoned Skate Utopia. And the big picture that's at the start of this article is at the top of the run and there's this big cracked dilapidated bank that's just kind of sitting on this mountain slide. So that is what grabbed our attention from day one. This skate spot is called Rooler Gab. Now, Rooler Gab was opened in the September of 1992, and as I previously mentioned, Gabriel, he was a retired winemaker and he had this idea when he was on holiday with his wife skiing in the French Alps, he could create a skateboard run for kids that ran down a mountainside and was accessible with a ski lift. So you can imagine he's up on the slopes and he's tearing down, you know, he's probably got his glass of red in his hand. Whatever he is doing, he's thinking, wow, skateboarding's popular. How cool would it be to be able to do this? What I'm doing now, skiing? But on cement, he goes away and I mean, kudos to him. Like he follows through with this idea. He has no idea about skateboarding and he actually achieves it. So it takes four years for him to create this park. And when you're thinking four years, it's quite a long time when you see how involved the build was in this park.

So his first step was to find a mountaintop that he could install the ski lift on and would be the centrepiece for the skatepark. So after he finds the mountain or hill or whatever you want to, he then buys a new ski lift and installs that. One thing that I'm unsure about though is whether or not the actual road was there on the hill or whether or not he actually had to create the winding road all the way up from bottom to top. So that's a little bit unclear, and to be honest, that could have taken some time. So understandable that it took four years for him to build this. But if he didn't, then I don't really know what was going on. Because as you're coming down from top to bottom, there was 10 banked turns. Now these banked turns wouldn't take that long to build, but definitely the road would have from top to bottom. So that's kind of understandable. So as you're tearing down this hill, you're kind of carving the banks, you are doing all these sorts of things and you get to this 300 square meter flat piece of space.  Looks like a car park, to be honest and what was, there was obviously a lot of open space but there was also some half pipes. There was some spines, there was some like tabletops, all these sorts of things that kids could kind of practice their, you know, street skating manoeuvres on. There's also a really interesting video that shows the skate run at Rooler Gab, and that is in the podcast description below. and it's a interview with Gabriel and a news team, and he's sitting in the studio and I can't really understand what they're saying because, it's obviously all in French, but then there is some clips of, it looks like some promotional material that he created, and it's pretty crazy. You've got like the ski lift going up and down. You've got skateboarders riding it, you've got roller blades riding it, you've got Guys in, like Billy Carts that are going down. Uh, it's just, yeah, a mismatch of things. So really, really funny. Uh, really interesting, but also really, really cool. Now, the spot, as I mentioned, was opened in September of 1992, but unfortunately it closed at the end of summer in 1993. And this is not of a huge surprise. Street skating was very popular in the early nineties. Skateboarding was still not what it is today in the early nineties, so there was still that skateboarding recession that hit during the early eighties and carried through towards the nineties. And poor Gabriel, he just couldn't generate a profit for what he had created.

So there was a little bit of success from Rooler Gab, and this did follow the months after it opened. A couple of skateboarding magazines, wrote some articles about it, and it was put on the spot list for 1993 from the magazine, B-Side in France, so that's pretty cool. It's a good achievement for Gabriel. There was also some US pro skaters at the time who came to visit. They were the likes of actually Kareem Campbell and Chris Pastras. Definitely, two highly valued skateboarders from the nineties. Were there. Can't track down any documentation of the two skating it, but the rumour has it that they were there and let's just say that they were. 

Now, if we start moving on to more modern times, the park is actually still there. So it's very overgrown, the banks are cracked, all those sorts of things. But the downhill runs still does exist. There are some videos out there from the last decade that actually show people going to down and skating it. So if you do live on the south of France and you've never heard of Rooler Gab, definitely go and check it. If you live in France or in Europe and yeah, you are in that neck of the woods, then definitely go and check this place out. I think a lot of people really don't know it's there and it is still skateable. It's rough, it's really broken up, but you know, just put some big soft wheels on the thing and tear around and get stuck into it.

But the last thing I wanna mention about Rooler Gab is that I think it was quite ahead of its time to be. Even though it didn't cater for the technique and the likes of skateboarding in the nineties right now, it's something that people would probably think is pretty cool. So you've got the development of obviously longboarding and downhill skateboarding, all those sorts of things. But you've also got the emergence of surfskating as well and as a surf skate spot, this place is fantastic. To be able to carve, to turn the banks back in the day would've been amazing to be able to practice snaps and 360 s and different things like that. So I think Gabriel, if you are still alive and you're also listening to this, I think that you were onto something buddy and hopefully after it gets a little bit more exposure, people actually go there and start reliving the dream of Rooler Gab. 

Okay, so they were our two featured skate parks for episode two. We got Wet Willys in Fenton, Missouri, and you have Rooler Gab located in the south of France. I really hope that you enjoyed these skate spots and you actually learnt something and you can go off and do your own research on these places. And if you live in the vicinity of either, then definitely go and take a look. In Wet Willy's case unfortunately you won't see a waterslide, but you'll see the hill that it was built on. So that's also something to do. 

All righty, everybody. So as you mentioned, the episodes are gonna be a little bit shorter from here on in. I think 20, 25 minutes is a great amount of time to feature a couple of skate sports per podcast. We're gonna be dropping a podcast more frequently now, and we're actually gonna follow up on that. So I know we mentioned that in the first podcast that we would be posting frequently and we had a couple of months off, but now it's 100% dedication to this podcast.

Please also go and check out our YouTube channel and you can see some shorter clips of some of the other places that we are gonna feature on Skate Spot Pod. If you are on Spotify, please follow this podcast so you can keep up to date with the latest episode releases and do the same across all the other platforms that you get your podcast from.

Until next time, really appreciate you dropping by and listening to this and have a great evening or a great morning wherever you are in the world, take care and that's us for Skate Spot Pod for today.

Wet Willys Waterslide
Rooler Gab