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Words and photos by Adam Morris

At one spot along a busy Des Moines thoroughfare called Keosauqua Way there are two nearly identical kinked rails. There’s one on either side of the road, each rail starting at the south flank of the University Avenue bridge and carrying down a hill toward Keo Way below.

Each rail consists of 19 stairs, a short flat, then 21 stairs. A 10-foot patch of cement ending in a guard rail is all that’s at the bottom to prevent a skater from rolling into Keo Way as the cars whip past.

I’d seen this rail for several years. It was right down the street from my college. And I kept thinking that someone should do it. The chance arrived in August 2003 when people came to Des Moines for a skate session.

When we rolled up to the spot, Lucas Baumann, who was then living in Cedar Rapids, and Des Moines blader Chris Tillman geared up. I set up one flash on the grass side and toward the bottom of the kinker Lucas was attempting to topsoul. Then I screwed on my telephoto lens and crossed the bridge for a vantage point near the top of the opposite rail. I wanted to include the spot’s surroundings — namely the bustling University Avenue bridge at the start of the rail and Keo Way below.

This is one of my favorite Iowa skate photos. It has — as did everything I shot on film — its faults. I was learning. Still am. But what’s special to me about this photo is seeing someone do this rail. It’s a spot that, to my knowledge, hadn’t been skated before and hasn’t been skated since that day. From a photographic standpoint, it marks the day I truly realized that it’s OK to take off that wide-angle or fisheye lens, step back, and frame a shot that’s about more than just the skating.

It’s those factors that help me mind a little less that a cloud blocked much of the sunlight only during the time Lucas landed this topsoul, and that Tillman topsouled the opposite rail and I never had the chance to shoot it because we got kicked out right afterward.

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Lucas Baumann. Topsoul. August 2003. (Click to enlarge)

Posts headlined ‘A look back’ are part of an occasional review of old Iowa Connection material, in honor of the site’s six-year anniversary. Anyone with ideas or suggestions for future ‘A look back’ articles should send an e-mail to