Dolores Street, July 9, 2020. Photo by Julian Mark

One might think there’s a higher philosophical purpose for bombing down Dolores Street on a skateboard, holding an overflowing beer in one hand and a fuming blunt in the other — both raised to the heavens. But really, one primary thing brings about several dozen of the bravest skaters to the top of this hill every July: Speed. It’s called the Fastest Hill Bomb, and COVID-19 didn’t stand in its way.

“I come for one thing and one thing only — to go fast,” said a recent high school graduate standing at the top of Dolores and 21st with a skateboard under his feet on Thursday evening, preparing to bomb the hill. 

The 18-year-old “Speed Digester,” as he’s called, said he likes to imagine himself as the character Lightning McQueen from the movie Cars. When he’s “cranking speed” with the wind in his face, Speed Digester said, “it feels really good.” 

“Hell yeah!” he says before kicking off a few times and shooting down the hill. 

Preparing to bomb the hill on 21st. Photo by Julian Mark

The “Fastest Hill Bomb,” as some call it, has taken place for the last half-decade or so; it usually falls on a random Thursday in July. It almost always sees hundreds of young people crowd Dolores Street between 18th and 21st to watch speed demons bomb down the hill. 

Most ride down with their hands high in the air. Some lean down with their hands only centimeters above the asphalt. Some bomb on their stomachs, or sit down on the board. Some even ride bikes, popping wheelies or standing on the bikes like they’re skateboards. 

The spectators cheer when someone flies down the hill flawlessly — or falls and “eats shit.”

Those at the top of the hill estimate that they can top 30 MPH. “Or more,” said Drake, 26, standing on 21st, preparing to ride down. 

He considered the bomb down Dolores to be difficult. But that’s why it’s fun. “You’re going so fast — you’re so in the moment — you can’t focus on anything else.” 

Drake said there was something of a higher, binding purpose for gathering every summer for the Fastest Hill Bomb. “Freedom,” he said. Also, “bringing everyone together” and “showing that we’re not here to hurt anyone.” 

He recalled the Dolores hill bomb in 2017, when police converged on the event — and one officer appeared to deliberately block a 19-year-old skateboarder, causing him to fall, tumble over the hood of a police car, and sustain severe injuries

The police haven’t shown up since, Drake said. “They knew they fucked up.” 

While it might have been Drake’s intention to keep everyone safe and not hurt anyone, a rowdy crowd of spectators at the bottom of the hill was not kind to an SUV that accidentally found itself in the blocked-off area Thursday evening. The crowd swarmed the car, threw water bottles at it, and then they shattered its windows before allowing it to drive off. 

A lesson learned, perhaps: Don’t drive your car on Dolores Street between 18th and 21st during the annual Fastest Hill Bomb

Some at the top were not as brave as Drake and Speed Digester. 

Austin, 16, said he showed up to the Fastest Hill Bomb to “feel free.” But he considered Dolores a hard hill to bomb. He had never done it. “I’m deciding still,” he said, agreeing the notion of going 30 MPH for the first time, with no helmet on, was nerve-wracking. 

Speed Digester, meanwhile, made it back up to the top. He would do it “two more times,” he said. “And afterward, two times two, times two, times two — and another two.

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19 Comments

  1. How is the young lady who a few years back sustained a serious head injury. I believe she owned or worked at a local skateboard shop and was riding without a helmet.

    1. Tomo is good! Not an easy recovery for sure but she’s a champ and already skating again. Her skate company @tomoskateco is doing well and still selling beautiful grip tape worldwide.

      1. I’m so glad to hear that. I saw her get hurt and read about her cracking her skull. I thought about her last night, but stayed away from the crowds this year!

  2. This event is a total terror for anyone who lives in the neighborhood. This year, at least two cars got pummeled and windows broken. The neighborhood streets were used as an outdoor urinal (despite the facilities open in Dolores Park minutes away!) and an elderly resident got beaten up and several others smacked with skateboards for trying to prevent peeing on the streets. Cops (who ended up arresting two people involved in the incident that resulted in the battery of the elderly resident) and the attacked resident himself got accused of racism even though the attacked resident was Asian and the cops witnessed the assault as it happened (as did I) and intervened accordingly. This is not culture. This is disrespectful, violent, out-of-control behavior and recent events giving rise to BLM (a movement I fully support) do not grant the skater mob a blanket license to act out of control and then accuse everyone else of racism when attempts are made to curb that behavior. Please install those rumble strips already on Dolores so that we can be done with this BS!

    1. This year was different than the previous events. I have never seen the violence like I saw last night.
      I’d suggest people stay in their homes, wash the pee off later and avoid confrontations with a drunk group of guys who were ready to fight.
      I’m surprised more people did not get hurt, as the cops just stood there and did nothing to break up arguments after the attack of the elderly man. Yes, having your front doors used as a urinal is annoying, but not worth getting attacked over!

      1. I disagree with the notion that this event has not been violent or out of control in the past. Just look up the records from the 2017 event. In both 2017 and 2016, I personally know of people, male and female, of various backgrounds and ages, who got heckled and intimidated who were in no way part of “pee patrol”, just for trying to come home (either by foot or by car).

        I do agree with your notion though that it is not worth getting attacked for and intend to stay away (out of town if possible, although it is difficult to do that when the date is not announced) going forward. However, I 100% prefer the option of installing the speed strips on Dolores. This event is both a nuisance and a huge safety hazard to both the event attendees and others, to say the least.

    2. It is ironic that so many “enlightened” youth feel compelled to tolerate the cruel and injurious behavior of their peers – effectively mirroring the problematic worst case behavior of the police. Two steps forward, two steps back. Because of that, nothing will change.

  3. The city should sanction this event. Block the streets, notify the community, put up “skate at your own risk” signs, have an ambulance nearby, let some knowledgeable people from the local skate scene organize things and otherwise leave them alone. I believe assaults and property damage will be limited this way.

  4. There is a clip of a skater being knocked-out after falling on his skateboard on Dolores, he has an obvious decerebrate posture (brain damage)

    Google: ‘HMFT after I roll down the pavement on my face’

    What a wonderful sight, hopefully he’ll be eating pudding in the hospital for a long, long time.

  5. this is not a one day event it has been going on for several days with fireworks running late into the night. Dogs and people are terrified.

  6. I wish there was some way helmets could be cool. I’m a nurse who lives on a busy curvy street on a hill and there are regularly skateboarders and bicyclists bombing down unhelmeted. Yesterday’s accident was a teenaged unhelmeted young man who came around the curve and ran into a car. I’m afraid may have a serious brain injury and I keep thinking about his face covered in blood . Sorry to be graphic but I am so pro-helmet.

  7. Lots of people in close proximity with hardly a mask in sight. The stupidity on display is amazing. Oh, and then there’s the bicyclist who died…

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