The Golden Gate Bridge is under attack. Corrosive salt air, roadway contaminants, age, UV rays—all these things are trying to turn the majestic span into a pitted skeleton.
Luckily the bridge has a powerful ally: an elite squad of painters, numbering just a few dozen. These busy operatives scurry up, down, and around the span on a never-ending quest to keep it protected and looking sharp.
The job has its ups and downs. There’s the swinging through the sky, the whale-watching, and the wielding of badass tools reminiscent of alien torture implements. Less nice, there’s a weird kind of marine vertigo and regular exposure to suicides. But Chad Allan sounds like he’d prefer nothing else…
But being a painter also involves sublime beauty—hovering above the fog line, with the towers jutting up like periscopes on a hidden airship, or spying dolphins, orcas, and the occasional whale gliding silently below. For Allan, much of the pleasure comes from the work itself, and the pride of maintaining one of the most renowned bridges in the world.
“To be a Golden Gate Bridge painter,” he says, “you have arrived.”
Don’t miss John Metcalfe’s full story and interview of Chad Allan: The Fascinating, Never-ending Job of Painting the Golden Gate Bridge