THE ULTIMATE BACKYARD
BY TOM RISSER
PART 1: THE ULTIMATE BACKYARD RAMP
It started out as your basic 8’ tall half pipe almost 8 years ago. But learning to skate on the old concrete skateparks of Charlotte in the early eighties, made me long for more interesting terrain. And so the ideas start flowing. What if I chopped down that tree and moved that log pile? I could connect a 3’ high quarter pipe over here with a spine. Or how about a corner connecting the two walls together? Phase 2. Three weeks later: Phase 2 completed. Six months later – I really need a 6’ section. Phase 3. Four weeks later: Phase 3 completed. Eight months later: You know, I need some vert. Phase 4. etc.
Now, I stand at one end of the ramp and scan the magnitude of this monster. I didn’t plan on it getting this large, it just sort of happened. I never told anyone about it either. But one day the neighbor’s kid wandered by and was somewhat impressed. He told someone at school; who told someone else… and before I knew it I was getting calls from Florida from skaters who wanted to schedule their trips around my ramp. I‘ve been told by some that it may be the biggest backyard ramp in the world. Who knows? I’m not really sure it’s fair to call it a ramp. It’s more like a skatepark of overlapping transitions. I do know it consists of:
Over 135 sheets of steel
Over 200 sheets of plywood
Over 500 pieces of ribbing
At least 100 lbs of galvanized screws
At least 200 lbs of nails
It covers approximately 5,620 sq feet of riding surface
Since I’ve performed around 99% of the construction myself, I try not to think about the number of hours (or the $). I know my back will never be the same. . . but. It’s worth it. When all the work is out of the way and you step on your board to fly around the outer-belt (the fast section that loops all around the outside) or transfer from the vert across to the 3’ main ramp, you know this is the greatest technological advancement known to man, at least on urethane wheels. How long can I keep doing this? That’s a question often asked by myself, my parents and my wife. I guess I don’t fit the stereotype. I’m not a teenager. I have kids, a steady job, I don’t have a tattoo. . . but I love to skate! As long as I can I’m going to keep flying around that ramp.
PART 2: THE ULTIMATE BOWL
About five years ago I visited the Charleston Bowl and started thinking about building my own bowl, but I wanted something I could fit inside of a barn and ride for decades. What I really wanted was concrete, but all of the local pool builders didn’t have a clue what I was talking about. Then around October of this year, Brewce Martin told me about Wally Hollyday, the legendary skatepark builder of Cherry Hill fame. I logged on to his website at www.skatedesign.com and sent him an email.
A few days later we were passing design sketches back and forth and talking about some ideas for using state-of-the-art concrete cutting tools, transition templates, cad layouts and precision rolled coping. Within one month Wally was on a flight to NC and I had begun digging a hole next to our house. The end result is what we believe to be the most technically advanced bowl construction ever made. At least for now, because Wally will continue to take these techniques and refine them into some of the best concrete skate structures of all time.
From the day Wally arrived I knew I was not only working with a hands-on perfectionist, but an artist shaping the largest of clay sculptures. One month of curing later, it is perfection. A combination shape of a 6’ square bowl with a 4 1/2’ shallow end hipped over a 3’ mogul into an 8’ kidney. Total shape is 45’ x 60’. It will soon be covered with a metal clad barn and a concrete deck, with landing ramp platforms surrounding it. I may even tie it into the monster ramp for the ultimate snake run.
It’s fast. It’s smooth. It’s simply the best bowl I’ve ever seen. And, it’s in my backyard.
If you or your town are going to build a skatepark, there is only one person to contact. If you want someone who gets down in the dirt and cement, who has the skills and the experience to create a masterpiece of function and quality. . . call Wally Hollyday. There is no one better. . . period.
Regarding those steel skaters surrounding the ramp: Just a few months ago I bought a MIG welder and started tinkering with scrap pieces of metal from work. I made a life size metal “skater dude” and somebody said it looked pretty cool. So, I made another one and now they’re cropping up around the place like frozen robotic ramp security. Sometimes at night I think I hear them grinding the rails. I‘ve noticed they leave fresh scrapes of paint on the black surface where they‘ve ridden. They think they’re so smart because they always stand back in the same place the next morning. But I’m on to their little activities. But really who can blame them when you’re standing that close to the black monster ramp all day watching others shred. I guess there’s a little skater blood in everyone, even if your joints are welded tight.
Top to Bottom: Overview of long time local Dave Maxwell grinding the masterpiece.
Murf checks the air over the new structure.
The Black Monster Ramp
Wally says it was the best crew ever.
Tom’s skater art guards the property.