Video: Ben Ericson
Story: Travis Knight
Photos: Jenn Heng / Fred Zahina
Baker Beach consists of approximately half of a mile of fancy restaurants, crumbling structures of the past, and the vast, golden blue Pacific Ocean shimmering into distance’s depths. When I used to live in the Sunset District, we would make frequent treks throughout this 800-meter span of beauty, ranging from the Sutro Baths to the Golden Gate Bridge. We’d start at the Sutro Baths, established on March 14th, 1896 gaining its name from the former mayor of San Francisco, Adolph Sutro. In short, the baths consisted of seven large pools basically for wealthy heathens to flaunt their height on the pole that daintily balances upon the scoundrel of classism’s bulky thumb. After closing down due to maintenance issues, it burned down in 1966. The Sutro Baths are now a beautiful labyrinth of ruins, forever withstanding the brutal badgering of the mighty Pacific. It’s a great place to hike, find wildlife, take photos, climb rocks and just soak the magnificence of this tranquil location. Adjacent to the baths is a restaurant called The Cliff House, which is a great place to bring a special lady of your choice. A little pricey, but you’ll definitely get laid. Also, you could go across the street to Beach Chalet if you want a bangin’ burger and a beer.
Plateaus of weathered cement pop up randomly for at least a quarter-mile along the coast. Built by the Spanish military in 1812, in the year 1997 it was then and now still is administered by the National Park Service. In the midst of these sporadic structures, you can find the Battery Chamberlin. This huge artillery battery was named after Captain Lowell A. Chamberlin who served in the Civil War. When 1976 came about, the location of this beast of a weapon was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Journeying on, you will come across the banks that we are skating in the following video documentation. This spot is super hit or miss. One day you can go there with a twelve-pack and skate for hours, another day you might get a hundred fifty dollar ticket from a belligerent cop who probably spends his spare time beating it out with his buds in water polo. The latter was the case for us. These swine came in hot, (probably fresh from the academy) giving us false history lessons and ranting about how we were committing a felony. However, the strange man who called the cops was a much larger sight of tomfoolery. This 70-year old clown was sunbathing–wearing a speedo, mind you–in the heaps of glass plastered on the ground, surrounded by some mindless drivel that teenagers painted on the wall while using bath salts. I guess we were disturbing his chaotic idea of peace. That day was a miss. Following weeks later when this little edit was filmed, we had to pull some guerrilla type maneuver on a hill across the way where we waited for a motorcycle cop to disperse from the entrance. We skated hours on end, for the fog submerged us from the road. That day turned out to be a hit.
Somewhere in the region of Baker Beach, taking place back on May 17th, 1959, an eighteen year old by the name of Albert Kogler Jr. was fatally attacked by a great white shark. The horrible incident was actually the only shark attack on Baker Beach. Also from 1986 to 1990, the northern end of Baker Beach was the original site for the Burning Man Festival. Sometime in 1990, police allowed people to rage and build the gargantuan, wooden effigy but would not allow them to burn it. Well, that kind of fucked that off, so the hippies flew east to wreak havoc in The Black Rock Dessert located in northern Nevada.
In this tale, we didn’t get laid at the Cliff House, or battle any sharks, or even dance with any hippies. We just rode our skateboards and had a great time. So if your ever in the Sunset District and don’t know what to do with yourself, (which is usually inevitable) take the expedition through Baker Beach. Adventure patiently awaits, dwelling somberly in the heart of the great Pacific’s murky fog. -Travis Dylan Knight