The Tea Bowls, Santa Barbara California. Local skateboarding legend Tom Sims, discovers two reservoirs on a 340 acre private property called the Tea Gardens. This set a course that would influence a new era in vertical skateboarding. Once Tom and his crew cleaned up the bowls and tested the layout it became a thriving hub for skateboarding activity during the 70s and 80s.
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Rännan is a log flume built in 1959 located just outside Umeå Sweden. A 500 metre u-pipe that stretches along the treetops further than the eye can see. Originally 6 kilometres in length it was built with aluminium sheeting which was later replaced with galvanised steel.
Confusion Skateboarding Magazine issue 33
Palen YouTube channel
Rännan Instagram account
Heja Sverige Tour Video
Sour Files - Transworld
The Tea Gardens or “Mar y Ciel” which translates to “sea and sky” as it was once referred to were built in 1916 by Henry and Ellen Bothin. Henry Bothin was a wealthy real estate owner in San Francisco and you would need to be in order to acquire this type of land. The size of this place is staggering, it is a 340 acre property that winds uphill to a magical view of the surrounding hills below along with sea views. This place was originally intended to host luxurious tea parties and no dime was spared. The property included roman style arches with stunning ocean views. There was also an amphitheatre and a number of roman inspired statues that were situated on the property, along with intricate gardens. Both the arches and amphitheatre still exist today. The property also included a full aqueduct system that flowed from two separate reservoirs located on the property, that helped power several rock pools and water features. There were stories of water ballet being held in the amphitheatre for the guests so you can imagine that type of wealth we are talking about here! Today this neighbourhood is flooded with the rich and famous of the likes of Ellen and Gene Hackman owns a property next door to the Tea Garden estate. To put it into context this place was listed for sale recently at a staggering 78 million US dollars.
Anyhow, now you have an understanding of the wealth associated with this place. The Bothin’s parties continued until around 1923, until Henry Bothin died. Ellen restarted the use of the Tea Gardens several years later until her death in 1965, after she died the property changed owners multiple times. During the 1960’s however, it was not only upper class tea parties that were going down on the property, the uninvited younger generation would also make the Tea Gardens into a place to party, the surroundings were an ideal setting. The rock pools made for a great skinny dipping spot and there was ample secluded space to embrace life and let your hair down.
Skipping ahead to the mid 1970’s, Santa Barbara local skateboarding legend Tom Sims, discovers the two reservoirs that were bone dry. This set a course that would influence a new era in skateboarding history. Once Tom and his crew cleaned up the bowls and tested the layout. It became a thriving hub for skateboarding activity. Looking at some particulars on the bowls, there were two present on the land, the upper bowl, was called the Mogul Bowl and the lower was named the T-Bowl. Both reservoirs had the perfect landscape for skateboarding, the mixture of steep sides and array of bowled sections kicked the development of vertical skateboarding into full swing. Now what I love about the t-bowls is the skill and creativity to skate these things. There was a mixture of steeper and more mellow sections, there were lumps and bumps, the entire bowls were a miss match of different types of surfaces and formations. There were also parts that included almost full vertical walls, with brickwork present on the top. Looking at a lot of photos from this time, it really would have taken a great deal of skill to pull off the moves that were coming out of this place, not to mention the skateboards at the time not being what they are today. So hats off to Tom and company. Many of the promotional material that the SIM skate team released were taken at the t-bowls, it also made a feature in the 1976 film freewheelin featuring Stacy Peralta and Tom Sims. I can really recommend checking out the film for the great footage of the t-bowl and in general as it is a really iconic skate film, you can find it in the link below. It was also a feature In the 1988 addition of insane terrain by Thrasher.
Moving into the 1980’s the spot was still used frequently, it was during this era that the bowls became littered with graffiti, which did annoy some of the original skaters from the 70’s era. It was also during this time that a young skateboarder suffered a broken bone at the t-bowl and the family decided to sue the owner of the property. As a consequence to this the city of Santa Barbra planted TNT throughout various sections of the bowls and blew large sections out. They also dumped a bunch of soil in the bowls to further deter skaters. Yet this did not stop people from skating it. There are stories that a number of TNT did not detonate which did keep sections of the bowl still skateable. Even during the early 90’s people would make the voyage to skate the t-bowl, I have included a link to a clip shot from 1990 in the description below. This was featured in an episode of sk8 tv that was aired on Nickelodeon, following Team Effigy, who were a bunch of local skaters from Santa Barbra. Today the bowls are totally filled with dirt, yet the memories of this iconic skate spot still live on. There is a facebook group dedicated to the t-bowls so that is a must to check out, the link is provided in the description below.
The Tea Gardens had their fair share of controversy, and this carried through into the 2000’s. In the November of 2008 some college kids started a bonfire on the property, they told the fire department that they had put the fire out when leaving, yet it is said that the heavy winds during the night restarted the fire which burned 1940 acres and destroyed 210 homes. So just horrible, that it was such a scene for destruction.
As mentioned earlier the Tea Gardens were listed again for sale in Jan of 22, for a whopping 78 million USD. It seems like the listing is still for sale, yet the price has been reduced to 58 million USD. Both bowls are still visible from Google Earth, the Mogel bowl is much easier to spot but the remains of the t-bowl can still be seen with a bit more of a detailed look.
So the second skate spot is located in Umeå Sweden and Umeå is often referred to as the capital of northern Sweden, surrounded by mountains, forests and endless coastline, it is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. The city also holds notoriety for one of the most unique skateboarding setups, a truly amazing spot that should be on the bucket list for any skater. A 500 metre u-pipe that stretches along the treetops further than the eye can see. This spot is called Rännan. Just to mention that I actually put together an article on issue 33 of Confusion Skateboarding Magazine on this place, so please be sure to go and buy this mag, there are a whole bunch of historical images and also more recent photos from the place to show just how epic it is.
Rännan is a log flume located in Klabböle, a village just outside Umeå. The flume was built in 1959 alongside the construction of a nearby Power Plant. It´s purpose was to float timber downstream, which provided a cheap and relatively easy means of transportation. These could be found all over Sweden, however, they were particularly popular in the north of the country due its dense forests. Originally 6 kilometres in length it was built with aluminium sheeting which was later replaced with galvanised steel. The flume transported around 30,000 logs per day and up to 12 million per year. It was in operation until 1980 yet in 1984 large amounts were sold for scrap. Luckily today 500 metres of it has been preserved. Rännan’s structure mimics that of a u-pipe, the speed and flow that are created in combination with its sheer length are out of this world.
So I actually caught up with some first generation street skaters from Umeå, when I was putting together the article for Confusion Skateboarding Magazine and it was around 92 that this place started to be skated. Originally it was skated more like a half-pipe, which is really hard. There is such limited flat space at the bottom, it can be a real challenge. There is also this 6 foot drop off on either side down towards the forest floor, so it is much harder to skate than it looks. The lip of this thing is also really sharp so these two combinations make it a beast. These days many guys just carve down the flume, picking up as much speed as possible. It’s not hard to get some serious height if you are game enough to hit the lip.
Yet During the mid 2000’s skaters started adopting more of a trick orientated approach to Rännan and the place gained more popularity as skaters started pushing its boundaries. During 2014, Rännan featured on the cover of Swedish Skateboarding Magazine Giftorm which also followed with a feature in Giftorm’s Heja Sverige tour video during 2016. Its popularity and interest also increased with footage shot of skater John Magnusson. More recently its popularity has gained international attention. In 2016 it was skated by Wes Kremer, his footage was captured by filmmaker Jonathan Lomar, which was released in an episode of the Sour Files complements of Transworld Skateboarding. It has also made some recent drops on social media by Karl Berglind for Red Bull Skateboarding. Yet Rännans appearance in the media goes way back, documented in a number of early Swedish skate films as early as 1999.
During recent years Rännan’s local ambassadors have been using social media to promote the uniqueness of this spot. Palen and his YouTube channel underfliped features content that showcases this amazing setup.
Despite now gaining more international attention, Rännan's roots lie with the local skateboarding community. A few things that became apparent during the process of writing this article was the northern community's friendly nature and love for skateboarding. Their passion for Rännan shines as does their pride for its uniqueness. Time and time again I would hear of locals taking visitors under their wings to allow them to experience the spot. Everyone who skates Rännan, local or not, creates lifelong memories and remembers the place of two things, the people and the setup.