Backstreet Atlas: A Q&A With Two Dudes Who Skated From Boston To New York

08.24.12 Andy Cush

The idea began as a joke, when Zach Baker was living in Boston and Adam Abada was living in New York. Someday, the pair of childhood friends would traverse the 225 miles between the two cities using only their feet and their skateboards. The plan gestated for about two years before they made it happen, and somewhere along the way, they decided they’d bring along enough recording equipment to document the entire trip, eventually releasing a film about their experience (Abada’s a movie industry professional who graduated with a degree in film from NYU; Baker’s an enterprising amateur).

Two weeks ago, the pair arrived in NYC, battered but victorious. They’d shot upwards of 30 hours of film, camped on top of coffee shops, and narrowly avoided arrest, 50 miles from the finish line. They also found New England’s great unheralded skate city, Providence, RI– “Really crusty skate spots,” says Baker–and became perhaps the first people ever to use Google walking directions to navigate the Eastern Seaboard.

Abada and Baker hope to release Backstreet Atlas, the documentary about their trip, this fall. They’ll be premiering the film at the various skate shops that gave them hospitality during their journey. I caught up with the team shortly after their successful return to the city.

What was the moment of inspiration for the trip? Was it something you guys came up with, shooting the shit together, or did one of you bring it to the other one?

ADAM: We were talking when Zach was living in Boston. He was joking about skating to New York, and we were just like, “Wait a second.”

ZACH: “Yeah, maybe we might try and do that.”

ADAM: And there’s all this stuff between Boston and New York that we’ve never really seen. I don’t know what goes on in Connecticut, really. Then we figured if we’re actually going to do this, we might as well do it for real, and film it, and make it worth everybody’s time. We realized we’re going to get into some fun stuff, some interesting shit.

ZACH: It’s not the kind of thing that we’re going to do again.

ADAM: Maybe we will.

ZACH: Maybe we will.

What was your first day on the road like?

ZACH: We left Boston on a Wednesday, and our destination for that day was Wrentham, Massachusetts.

ADAM: That day was fucking haggard. It rained all morning. We had to walk in the rain in our killer ponchos. And then we skated 10 miles, in pitch dark, with no shoulder on the road. We would rip down the street, and look over our shoulders until we saw headlights, then dip into the woods until the cars passed. They definitely could not see us.

ZACH: Yeah, just jumping over a guardrail whenever we saw headlights, screaming the word “car.” So that was wild. That was the most raucous time.

Did you ever have to camp?

ZACH: Yeah, we had a two-man tent with us. We camped on the roof of Espresso Royale in Boston, on Newbury Street. We woke up in the morning and got coffee.

ADAM: It was more fun to go to bed than it was to wake up there.

ZACH: For sure. It was a little bit warm, waking up. My pillow was a shoe with a washcloth on top of it.

Did you have any trouble with cops?

ADAM: Most of the time, it was pretty chill. New England, for the most part, was no problem. Occasionally, a cop would see us and be like, “What are you guys doing? Get out of the road.” And then we’d get out of the road until he drove away, and then get back on.

The last day, in Harrison, New York, we got a lot of shit from these two cops. We weren’t doing anything wrong, but they searched all our shit. They were clearly just trying to fuck with us. They told us we were filming without a permit, which is absolute bullshit. After they berated us for a while, they were like, “Alright, you guys can go, but you’ve got to get in the car. We’re taking you to the edge of town.” We were driven out of town, mad old west style. Booted across the town line.

ZACH: “We don’t want you in this town anymore.”

ADAM: “Why are you guys so wet?” I was like, “Yo, I just skated from fucking Stamford. That’s why.”

ZACH: Then they searched the fanny pack, which did have some pot in it, but they didn’t find it. Then they started on Adam, like “You got any weed on you? We’re going to search your bag anyway, you might as well be honest.” Adam says “no,” and they’re like, “You know why were asking you this, right? Look at your socks.” Adam was wearing these socks with pot leaves on them. These cops must have been like, “Who are these crust punks? These kids are definitely up to no good.”

ADAM: But we were up to the most good! We weren’t harming anybody. We were chilling on the fucking sidewalk when these guys started messing with us. I thought, “Well, 50 miles from New York. Close enough, I guess.”

What do you hope people take away from seeing the film?

ADAM: We want to encourage people. The main reason behind this whole trip was to go see more, and do more, and to show that you don’t have to go very far or even think very hard about it. You can do it locally. With the film we want to inspire people to do that, or just show that it’s possible. To get people off their asses, really.

ZACH: This was my summer vacation. It was the best summer vacation I’ve ever been on.