“Duuude! What massive alien pipe is this?” Tony screamed. “Damn, that’s totally off the hook!” I replied. Bit by bit we recognized my buddy Steve’s new profile photo on the laptop’s screen. He’s proudly posing in front of an enormous fullpipe made of concrete. We’d never seen something that huge before. Tony was so excited. He was partying inside. “We have to go there!” But Steve’s reaction was a bit of a downer: “That could be anywhere in the outback. You’ll never find it.” Big disappointment.
We’re from Germany, but were in Sydney, where Tony was looking for jobs, each and every day. We were in Australia to see as much as we could of the country, going from place to place with a disassembled BMX in the back of our car. One day we visited the BMX shop Steve was working for in Sydney. Deep in conversation with the shop’s owner, Mike, about rad spots in and around Sydney, I felt thrilled like a rat on ecstasy pills. Mike had printed off maps and marked heaps of riding spots all along the east coast of Australia. Poring over these maps Tony suddenly yelled “THE fullpipe!” Fortunately Mike had been at the fullpipe with Steve some weeks ago, and could mark out the route and tell us everything about it. Bingo!
We had the red pencilled treasure map. It felt like christmas, birthday and a lottery win on the same day.
Alright. Tony didn’t find a job in Sydney and the weather forecast didn’t sound too good either. So we hit the road. Steve was definitely right when he said “It’s in the middle of nowhere”. We were driving for days at full speed, accompanied by rain, rain and some more rain.
We slept overnight in our cars, passing through tiny towns that looked like they’d been uprooted from some European country. ‘Skis and snowboards for hire’? Well, that was something mind-boggling. So we had a closer look at our huge map of New South Wales and suddenly it all made sense. We were heading slowly but surely towards the Snowy Mountains. As time and kilometres slid by, the roads were getting more and more narrow and winding. Bends for what felt like 200km, our ears aching from pressure. We crunched the last 25km along gravel tracks through milkvetch-fringed woods. After what seemed like an eternity we reached the end of a road, some 1600m above sea level. Suddenly a gorge and a vast dam appeared. Here we stood, with bated breath, waiting to see what we had dreamt of.
But at first glance there was no fullpipe to be seen, only a monstrous funnel-shaped thing. We had already clocked this via satellite photos on the internet as a suspiciously huge black hole, so we were sure we were in the right place.Obviously a fullpipe like this isn’t part of your typical skatepark. This pipe wasn’t built to go for a family stroll. The only readily identifiable above-ground signs at the dam were ‘DANGER’ signs. That pipe’s black hole acted as an overflow for the huge artificial lake above the dam. We knew we’d found an opening, but to actually get in there we needed to march another twenty minutes to the ‘entrance’ – the overflow’s emergency outlet. The end, so to speak. We fought our way across loose boulders and after a few adventurous climbing manoeuvres we were inside. Inside the pipe!
The concrete was almost completely dry. We only needed to clear out the floor a little to get rid of the rubble before we were ready to carve a path around this alien channel. We inspected the 150-meter-long pipe. There we were, some 15 meters below the level of the dam’s stored water. Standing inside the pipe, we looked up to the funnel’s opening, high above. It felt as if we were tiny ants trapped in a sink’s plughole. With an uneasy feeling I rode my first cautious meters in that pipe. Uneasy, because if that emergency funnel was used we would have been washed out like … ants from a sink’s plughole. The dam was already pretty much full. There were maybe one or two meters left that kept us alive – but it was raining, so we knew we hadn’t got much time. Since we love our lives, we shouldn’t risk too much.
But riding those strange subterranean curves was supernatural pleasure beyond description. With every passing minute the fun increased. With every carve I got higher and faster, gaining confidence, swooping back down before pitching back up to those dark and dizzy heights. I was deep underground and in the middle of nowhere. But I felt on top of the world and right at home.
Words: Max Lehmann & Tony Haupt. Photos: Tony Haupt / tonyhauptphoto.de