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From Boston to NY by Skateboard: “The Backstreet Atlas”

Every adult skater reminisces about the carefree days of his childhood when he could just wake up, grab his skateboard,  hit the streets with friends, and skate ’til the sun wasn’t shining anymore.

As we get older and saddled with more responsibility days like these get rarer. This past summer skaters Adam Abada and Zach Baker set out to recapture that feeling by skating all the way from Boston to New York using their skateboards as the only means of transportation.

The two friends pushed their way through small towns in the Northeast  on hot summer days,  filming the entire journey. Besides the overall enlightening experience, the outcome of the trip is “Backstreet Atlas”–a short documentary they’re releasing in January.

Check out the trailer above and our conversation with Adam and Zach below.

Mass Appeal: Did you intend on making a documentary when you decided to take this trip or did the idea come later?

Zach Baker: Well he [Adam] has always been a filmmaker since I knew him. He was the one doing skate videos when we were in middle school and shit. So that was definitely always in consideration. We knew we were going to document it in someway but when we decided to buckle down and actually do something serious with it, it came a little bit after.

Adam Abada: Yeah I think it was a little after. We had the idea (of the trip) first and then realized it would make sense to make a film out of it.

How did using Kickstarter help the project?

AA: We used Kickstarter for pretty much the cameras and to get a little bit of money just for the road. That was pretty rad. You [Zach] would have been one hundred percent broke if we hadn’t right?

ZB: Yeah definitely. When we got back, we hadn’t gotten the money from the Kickstarter yet, so I had like fucking ten dollars on me.

back street atlas

What type of equipment did you use to shoot it?

AA: Our main camera was a Sony XM30 U and then we had a Cannon S100 which is a cool point-and-shoot camera which you can take video on, a couple of flip camera, a go pro, and we used my iPhone a little bit.

How much of a nuisance was it skating with all that equipment around?

AA: That was the most annoying. That was like all we had to carry essentially, that was the weight. My backpack was just like a camera bag.

ZB: Yeah, and anything that wasn’t camera equipment, like T-Shirts and shit were just strapped to the outside of it.

AA: It had the charger, the drives, the laptop, the cameras, all the extra batteries, a light, a couple clamps, a little mini tripod, it was probably around thirty pounds.

Along the way did you receive support from local skate shops?

ZB: Yeah, a couple of shops hooked us up on our way. Boulevard in Boston, which is now closed, gave us a couple shirts, socks, and wheels. We had hit up a lot of shops before hand and told them we were coming through.

AA: Part of the idea for us was to promote the different skateboarding scenes along the way as well. So we purposely wanted to stop at the shops and see what was going on. Especially for me personally, I’ve been to Boston so many times but never have I stopped in Rhode Island and see what’s going on there in terms of skateboarding or even Connecticut.

Who was the most interesting character you’ve met on the way?

AA: There were a lot of freaky characters along the way, some we didn’t even get to film, just because we were so tired. We met this one dude named Larry, some crazy ex-con, he said he was a eighteen time convicted felon. I guess he murdered someone.

ZB: No, he said he stabbed a cop or something.

AA: That was in jail, he like stabbed a C.O. or something, that’s what I thought. I believed him though and that was in New Haven. He was kicking it with some crazy fucking Vietnam vet.

ZB: He was missing teeth and was a monster fucking white dude. We walk down to the pool at the motel in New Haven, and this dude is swimming in the pool with his back out, t-shirt on, hat on, and is like “Are you guys looking for your brother?” and I’m like “No.” So then we sit down and the ex-con Larry starts giving us cans of Natural Ice and were giving him some of our Jim Beam. He’s hanging out with his disabled son and keeps having the son go get him ice for his beer. We were just burning and drinking with him.

back street atlas

Did you have any run ins with the cops?

AA: We didn’t have much but towards the end we had a little run in like 20 miles away from New York City. I guess the closer you get to New York the more fucking people give a shit. In Harrison, NY we got stopped by a couple cops who had no reason to stop us. They searched us for drugs and gave us shit.

ZB: Yeah, then they drove us to the town line and were like “get the hell out of our town.” We looked suspicious I guess and It didn’t register to them what we were doing. They asked “why are you all wet” and were like “because we skated from Stamford (12.4 miles away).

Where did you guys sleep during the trip?

AA: We camped a bit and we knew we had some places where we knew people we could stay with. We also got some motels. I would’ve liked to camp everywhere but it wasn’t that type of vibe being on the East Coast.

ZB: Yeah, there were certain places where we really shouldn’t have camped. Like in New Haven [Connecticut] there was no other option but a motel. We didn’t know anyone there and to camp in that city would have been just asking  for trouble. Especially with valuables like the camera gear and what not.

Is New Haven the gnarliest place you stopped at?

AA I think so.

ZB: Yea, it’s disgusting [laughs]. Bridgeport was really trife too.

If you guys could take the trip with another well-known skater who would it be?

ZB: John Cardiel on a bike or Tony T would have been down to.

AA: The Gonz likes to skate a lot also.

back street atlas

Which leg of the trip was the most brutal?

AA: I think we clocked in 30 miles one day from New London, RI to Hammonasset Beach State Park.

ZB: Yea that was a thirty mile day, but how far was Providence to Narragansett?

AA: I think that was 30 miles too, but that was actually the hardest part. It was our third day on the road and it was just shitty. The first half of the day was like gnarly roads with crusty, cracked ground, up hill. We stopped as East Greenwich, it rained, we had lunch, stopped at Civil skate shop then we moved on to Narragansett.

ZB: And that stretch was like 8-10 miles of highway with us skating down the shoulder.

Lastly, did you gain any lessons about people or society in general from the trip?

ZB: People are pretty nice.

AA: Yeah, and it’s interesting how local places get–even in a world where you think they’re not that removed from society. So it was cool seeing how similar and how different people are, and are just living their lives like anyone else. Every little town has its own history and every little nook had its own culture, so it was fun.

back street atlas

For more info about their trip and the documentary check out

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