From the archive: Steppin’ it up at The Shells

This was originally posted Oct. 20, 2003. What a great day. My shoulder was in a sling from surgery, but we all enjoyed an epic session.

Keene and Randall

I know I say this at every time of year, but this is definitely the best time to ride. We’re in great shape, we don’t have races to attend and the weather is cooler but still dry. The shortcomings we felt at the races are still tender, and we’re fired up about building new skills. Also, it’s a fun time to hook up with guys you haven’t seen in a while and ride just for the fun of it.

On Sunday a bunch of us met at one of our jumping spots, The Shells. It’s just south of the San Mateo Bridge in Foster City, sandwiched between a paved bike path and the San Francisco Bay. (Map) The ground consists of sand and ground up oyster shells, hence the name Shells.

On this fine day clouds floated high, planes cruised overhead and a breeze rustled our t-shirts. The conditions were prime, and so was the crew:

– Nelson “Nelly” Auerbach, semipro racer and fashion plate
– Curtis Keene, pro downhiller and soon-to-be ex-electrician (we hope)
– Matt V, semipro racer and all-around go-for-it guy
– Gabe Randall, high school senior and smooth-jumping rhythm master
– Erron “McDirty” McCurdy, expert racer and restless character
– and, of course, the Beautiful One himself, Rich Gonsalves. Expert racer, real estate appraiser and romance novel cover boy. The way most of us feel about Tri-Flow, that’s how Rich feels about hair spray.

Nelly   Rich

We’ve been out to Shells about ten million times, but today the boys were digging deep, like Grizzly Adams crossing an icy river with a wounded doe. They were hitting new combos, doing stuff backwards and transferring like crazy: There was transfer of power, Manhattan Transfer and all that.

Unsafe lane changes

The big rhythm section is as wide as a freeway, with as many lanes. Keene and V were transferring from far right to far left. It’s a good thing they run mirrors on their helmets. That way they could check to see whether Gabe was arcing over the carpool lane.


No, not the bar. But Keene and I did have a beer at a Hooters in Vegas. I swear our waitress was after me. She kept asking, “Can I get you anything?” … Oh yeah.

Hooters is a set of two 20-foot doubles right by the bay shore. The boys were throwing all the way down.

Give Gabe a decent sized jump, and he’ll throw it over his knee and whoop its ass. I swear, this guy is one of the most stylish, soulful jumpers I’ve seen. He’s grown A LOT over the past few years. I barely recognize the guy.

Small pack

The smaller sets out there are pretty tricky. Wierd spacing and some funky lips.

Rollingham Republic

A nondescript set of rollers kept us busy for over an hour. First it was, Can you double through? Then, Manual two at a time? Then, Manual the whole thing? Finally, it was like, can you do it backwards — uphill? Matt V and Nelly almost crashed head-on.


Everyone’s into jumping. But me, I’m into cornering. I coerced Matt into hitting a berm for me. Watch that 2.35 Minion go!