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6th Annual
Secrets of The City
by Shawn Blore
illustrations by Tomio Nitto

(First published in Vancouver, November 1998)

Infamous Visitors

Moving Violations

Bad Addresses


Tunnel Visions

Screen Gems

Quiz: Welcome to Genericville

Halibut surfing no big surprise? Then how about Vancouver as a fearsome hockey power!!!

What with their propensity for turning virgin rainforest into goop speedways, mountain bikers are about as popular with the authorities as those other one-percenters. A few years ago a group called the Secret Trail Society began building its own trails off the official pathways, marking them with notices reading "You are entering Secret Territory." But as the bike trails grew more popular, park employees soon twigged to their existence and shut them down.

In response the bikers have gone ever further underground. Most trails are now unmarked walk-ins, meaning bikes have to be lugged stealthily off the official trails and through the bush to get to the trailhead. As enforcement grows, the circle of people aware of the secret locations is becoming ever more restricted. Perhaps 50 people know of Sagarmatha, located somewhere on the slopes of Cypress. Blind Skier, the Reaper and the Pre-Reaper are somewhat better known. Nearly new is the Circus, an obstacle course noted for its dangerous teeter-totters and ramps.

And then there's Canoe, which boasts a 40-foot long hollowed-out cedar splayed along a steep slope. The challenge is to ride the polished wooden half-pipe all the way to the bottom. As you go, you're supposed to call out "Canouuuu!"

Ever wonder where your food's been before it arrived at the table? In the case of halibut - a flat, oval-shaped fish - and a certain local fish plant, it's probably best not to ask. Displaying the same sort of working-class ingenuity that led to belt-sander racing, workers on the graveyard shift have invented a brand new sport: halibut surfing. To play, all you need is the frozen carcass of a largish halibut and a forklift. The rules are relatively simple. The contestant places the fish on the floor, his feet on the fish, and his hands on the back of the forklift. The forklift driver then attempts to swerve and weave and brake in order to force the surfer to go flying off into a corner. Whoever hangs on longest wins. Could this be our demonstration sport in the 2010 Olympics?

There's a fin for the winner.

Those agog over GM Place take heed - Vancouver has a history of great arenas. For some time, in fact, the city boasted the world's largest: a 10,000-seat ice palace built in 1911 at the foot of Denman Street. The creatively named Denman Street Arena (Oh that it could have been known as Hupmobile Place) was home to the Vancouver Millionaires, a pro team that competed with counterparts in Victoria and Seattle. Each of the three won a Stanley Cup, playing off against teams from that eastern-based circuit, the NHL. Sadly, the arena burned to the ground in a 1936 blaze - need we add that hockey hasn't been the same since?

The Denman Street - yes, Denman Street - Arena.

Bet you thought this item - the second part at least - was about our beloved Grizzlies. Wrong. It's about the city's highest and lowest courts, relative to the ground. The lowest is hidden away in the loading dock beneath the Waterfront Hotel. When a truck isn't blocking the way, employees shoot hoops - although rather carefully; missed balls can bounce into a hydro-transformer compound or onto nearby railway tracks, so accuracy is advised. Likewise on the city's highest court, frequented by off-shift postal workers who play their game on the roof of the downtown post office. Air ball! Er, sorry ma'am.

High hoops and lows.