There’s an enormous park near where we live. The Yarra River runs through the park, winding its way around the bends, flowing under the bridges, past the manufacturing buildings that are all deserted now, cascading over a short waterfall of rocks and then heading off through the city and eventually into the sea. For decades, this park has been a place for families to enjoy a picnic, take beautiful, peaceful walks and to play games like cricket and Frisbee. At certain points on the river the banks were quite sandy and you could swim there in the summer. In one popular picnic spot, an enterprising company had set up a few rowboats that could be hired by the hour for a leisurely paddle up the river and back.
Our family had grown up in this area and during the milder seasons of Autumn and Spring, it was a great place to visit. The picnics were sometimes with just immediate family while at other times it might be an enormous extended gathering of all the relatives. They were always a lot of fun. I remember many times swimming in the river during summer, usually with a group of my friends. The river never looked clean, it always seemed to be carrying a lot of mud and silt which gave it a brown look. People used to refer to it as the river that ‘flowed upside down’!
In one part of the park where the main road was on a much higher level, there was a turn off that took you down to the picnic and rowboat hire area. On the weekends, the carpark at the bottom was always well and truly full by midday, particularly if the weather was sunny and mild. This entry road was about a 1.5 km (1 mile) in length as it wound its way down to the parking area. As kids, we were always up to the challenge to take on gravity and career down the road with whatever way we could find. We called this death defying road “Snake Hill”.
The risk of severe injury was quite high and when some of the most adventurous kids started turning up at the top of the hill with awesome longboards, we were taking the risk a notch or two higher. We had coasted down Snake Hill on roller blades, roller skates, bicycles, skateboards and billy carts and many of these downward trips had resulted in minor injuries.
The longboards caused a bit of interest and pretty soon we were all getting to the point where our desire to try these new speed demons had us looking at just how much these awesome speed machines would cost. Top of the range boards were a little over our personal budgets but there were some rather good longboards you could buy for under $100. It wasn’t the speed you attained going down the hill it was how well you could corner and how quickly you could stop that were the real challenges.