Vancouver, Washington native Dean Dickinson has toured up and down the West Coast searching for pools. He's not swimming — it's actually quite the opposite. He pumps water out of the pool. Scrubbing the weathered algae from the sides, removing the diving board, patching the coping, Dickinson is repurposing the pool as a platform for BMX riding.
Dickinson has just released the book You Won't. It documents a six-year pool tour that took him down the coast and into 100 different backyard pools. Every pool has its own shape and feel. But more important to Dickinson, every pool has its own story.
"The biggest kick I get out of riding pools is being somewhere that wasn't meant to be ridden. It's that sense of adventure ... the fact that you shouldn't be there," says Dickinson.
As much as You Won't highlights the pools across the West Coast, it also shares the tales from the road, the ones Dickinson loves to tell. From a gun being pulled in Vancouver to a failed attempt at emptying an apartment complex pool in Portland, each pool has its own legacy.
You Won't also serves as a glimpse into the small niche world of backyard pool-riding culture. Using backyard pools for skating was popularized in the '70s with Californian skateboarders when a record-setting drought scoured pools across the state. Dickinson contends the lifestyle hasn't really expanded past the West Coast, where pools have existed for decades.
"With so many accessible skate parks, the last thing most people want to do is spend an entire day cleaning out an old pool full of scum ..." says Dickinson.
This is exactly what backyard pool riders do: They spend hours cleaning out pools. Most of the time, the pools have already been nearly emptied or are completely abandoned. Using Google Maps or information about foreclosed homes, crews drive through neighborhoods to find new spots. In general, backyard pool riding almost always involves trespassing and a lot of work. "It takes so much to make a pool accessible and rideable, but once you do, you can't describe the sense of accomplishment ... "
Dickinson has made a name for himself in the world of BMX pool riding. From 2002 — 2009, hailed as "the pool rider," he released a pool riding documentary and accomplished the 2009 milestone of riding his 100th pool.
Even though he's traveled all over the West Coast seeking the best pools to ride, one of Dickinson's favorites is a pool a little drive south of his hometown. The Donald Bowl, located in the tiny town of Donald, Oregon, is legally placed inside of a skatepark. Dickinson sees it as one of the best pools in the world. "If this pool was placed in a backyard, it would be a 10," says Dickinson.
Recently in Portland for a book release at Jack London Bar, Dickinson spent time at the Donald Bowl with childhood friends Austin and Spencer McCabe. "The transitions are so mellow, tons of vert, carvable stairs, grinable coping and air in the deep end," he says. Now living in California, the mecca of backyard pool culture, Dickinson thinks back on the Donald Bowl and firmly states, "That's my favorite skatepark pool, for sure."