The tale of Ari Chamasmany’s introduction to skateboarding follows a narrative largely similar to that of the ones who first pioneered skateboarding back in the 50’s. Raised in Malibu, Chamasmany began with a surf board under his feet and picked up longboarding with a group of friends as a pastime when the waves died down. When one of the group members piped up and proposed a hill bomb, Ari and the crew stepped up their game and set off to conquer roads like Tuna Canyon and beyond. However, when Chamasmany relocated back to his birthplace of DTLA, The Gel Lab’s Street Sessions began to first take shape.
With no intentions to start what would become a cult-like phenomenon, Chamasmany and some friends stumbled across the perfect garage, located near West 2nd and South Grand Ave. and begun their mission to figure out how best to attack it. Through years of casing the surrounding area, monitoring security patterns, mediating run-ins with police and managing the uncertainties of those unfamiliar with protocol, Chamasmany now has it down to a science.
Everyday Wednesday, just before midnight, the meet up commences with a casual free ride session on a gnarly nearby hill. As the final minutes of the day vanish, the energy of the session intensifies as LA’s midnight marauders show up car after packed car, ready to rip. When the clock strikes 12, Chamasmany skates ahead to secure his secret route in, then ushers a group of typically a dozen or more riders out of the darkness and into the light of a color coded paradise.
Though nothing can convey the allure of the terrain like properly giving it a roll from the top, the basic description of the structure is that of a winding, seven story tower that expands to the left and right at each floor before emptying riders out into a center decline and onto the next level below. With perfectly smooth concrete to chomp, the flow of the descent gives riders unparalleled access to choose whether to hit turns heelside or toeside.
The grade of the garage is mellow enough for less experienced riders to get down by carving, those who throw on a full face and some slide gloves can hit speeds up to and over 30MPH on the way down. The best part? All night elevator service from the basement means riders can give their legs a rest before heading back up and doing it all over again.
As word spread of this perfection that Chamasmany curated, enthusiasts naturally migrated to the sessions looking to put their gear to the test. In addition, companies like Loaded Boards and Orangatang Wheels have even jumped on board to support the movement.
Regardless, as the sessions increased in popularity, there remained a overall atmosphere of mellow vibes at the sessions. This sense of openness is fostered through the freedom granted once the riders step inside the concrete contraption and seclude themselves from all the chaos of the city that will wake up again in the morning. Without formal organization, Chamasmany feels that the sessions provide kids with valuable lessons for their riding habits by stating,
“It’s teaching them that you don’t necessarily need a rhyme or a reason to get on your board and go.”
To the Los Angeles scene, Chamasmany’s efforts to keep the stoke alive for nearly a decade now has permeated across the city and throughout the surrounding counties. When considered in this context, the importance of the grassroots effort as a beacon of hope for the industry shines brightest. To that end, Chamasmany remarked,
“As a barometer for what’s happening, there’s always been people in attendance. Whether the industry has been down or on the up, there’s always been kids showing up. That’s what’s important, right? Our whole business is just getting people to skate.”
With that goal in mind, the lifespan for the future of the Gel Lab Sessions will remain dependent on Chamasmany and the DTLA locals’ adoration for skateboarding. Judging by the collective that tends to show up for the events, that fire isn’t burning out any time soon. Since the sessions start so late, it’s not uncommon for sessions to carry on until the wee hours past two in the morning. With some skaters only calling it quits when the rest take their last run, the general consensus of riders is to disregard whatever time they need to be at work in the morning in order to make the most of their evenings.
Those looking to get a taste of the action can keep a close eye on The Gel Lab’s Facebook page for meet-up flyers that drop every Wednesday. From there, keep your eyes peeled for any Stoked Ride Shop team members who might be out riding way past their bed times.
All photos shot by Christian Rosillo & authorized to use by Loaded Boards