INTERVIEW BY MARK “RED” SCOTT
INTRODUCTION BY MARK “RED” SCOTT
PHOTOS BY FRANKIE AND DAVE HUPP
PROLOGUE BY BEN KRAHN
Ben Krahn is a very nice person. When he rides his skateboard, it looks very smooth and consistent always improving it seems to its current point of excellence. His committment to riding this past year is reflected in some of the most amazing video footage I’ve ever seen. He seems to have a very positive attitude and is always a pleasure to ride and hang out with. Here’s my friend, Ben Krahn.“TO ALL THE KOOKS, CREEPS, NAYSAYERS, BACKSTABBERS, HATERS AND SHIT-TALKERS: YOU HAVE NEVER STOPPED ME FROM SKATING OR DIMINISHED MY LOVE FOR IT AND YOU NEVER WILL. I WILL CONTINUE TO RIP WHILE YOU DWELL IN YOUR OWN NEGATIVE VORTEX.”
PROLOGUE BY BEN KRAHN
I was born in the summer of 1973. I was too young to be seriously involved with skateboarding in the 70’s, but my older brother had a banana board that we’d play around on. Since skateboarding was a hot new craze of the time, I remember seeing it on TV and thinking that it looked cool.
I grew up in a rural environment outside of the Seattle area and all there was to skate near my childhood home was the two-lane blacktop road, sans sidewalk. Despite the lack of terrain, I was somehow attracted to skateboarding and would occasionally break out the old banana board and flail around on it. At this point, it was the early ‘80s and I hadn’t yet realized that skateboarding had progressed beyond the banana board. I lived in the middle of the woods and my only source of information on skating was an instructional book from the ‘70s that my dad had brought home from a garage sale. It had lots of pictures of weird, long-haired mustachioed guys wearing gardening gloves while flying down hills, carving banks and skating tandem with pretty girls in Daisy Dukes. It looked pretty cool to me.
Eventually, I realized that banana boards were outdated and skaters had upgraded to riding bigger and better boards. I desperately wanted one of these “new” boards and pleaded for one for my 13th birthday. Thanks to my grandparents, my birthday wish came true and I began skating more often. I still didn’t know much about the state of skating of the time, but the lack of accessible terrain led me to constructing makeshift wooden ramps in my yard. My father was a handyman and had a lot of wood scraps and partial sheets of plywood left over from various projects. I began arranging these in various track-like formations, complete with little embankments propped up on picnic benches. My construction techniques were very primitive, consisting of overlapping sheets of wood, which rendered the tracks skateable in only one direction. I didn’t know about the existence of skateparks or ramps, at that point, so I think my inspiration must have come from dirt BMX tracks. I quickly received my first serious injury from skating on one of my obstacle course set-ups. The first actual bone I broke was my wrist in fourth grade after a childhood friend and I attempted to re-enact a MacGyver episode by setting up a zip line – constructed of a short PVC tube and a clothesline – that spanned a playground structure and a swing set. Needless to say, the clothesline instantly snapped and was followed soon thereafter by my wrist. During one of my early attempts to “get air” on a skateboard, I broke the side of my leading foot while trying to acid drop off of a picnic bench on the track. I remember getting in trouble from my dad about this, not because I had hurt myself skateboarding, but because, rather than call out to him for help – since he was nearby working outside – I chose to crawl all the way back to the house by myself. For some reason, that really bothered him. I began to learn about the nature of injuries through my introduction to crutches and forced downtime. Due to my youth and enthusiasm, I healed quickly and was back on that skateboard as soon as possible.
Around that time, I saw my first skateboarding magazine and was absolutely blown away. My parents used to love treasure hunting at swap meets on weekends and I would bring my skateboard along on these excursions and cruise around the empty parking lots and deserted fairgrounds while they did their thing. One of these times, I went to a corner store to buy a soda and, lo and behold, one of the magazines on the rack was about skateboarding! I hadn’t even realized that there were magazines featuring skateboarding and my mind was blown by the modern skating pictured inside the mag! I was fascinated by the street ollie. I could bunny hop on my BMX and didn’t know that it was possible to do it on a skateboard, too. I was also amazed by wall rides. It completely mystified me as to how they could ride up a totally vertical wall. Most of all, I was mesmerized by the pictures of the flying men on the wooden half-pipes. I’d never heard of a half-pipe and remember thinking they looked like pirate ships. I couldn’t figure out how the skaters got into the air or how the board stuck to their feet. It looked magical. One guy had duct tape on his shoe and I assumed that the skaters were attached to their boards with duct tape. Since I only had enough money for a soda, I left the store without buying the magazine, but it had left a significant impression on me. I couldn’t figure out how they did it, but I knew that I had to do it too.
Flying had been an obsession of mine since early childhood. I loved reading comic books featuring flying superheroes and wanted to fly like them too. At the age of four, I figured out how to jump out of our backyard swing set while it was at the peak of its swing. At age six, I broke my glasses in half when I dove off a picnic table in an attempt to achieve wingless flight. What I lacked in common sense, I overcompensated with enthusiasm and imagination. According to my mother, I was a very active child, always scrambling about and jumping off things. Apparently, not much has changed. After seeing the flying skaters in the magazine, I felt like skateboarding was what I’d been looking for in order to fly. I still consider my greatest achievement in skateboarding to be the ability to get air on a transition. I am not the best, fastest or craziest skater and never will be, but I can get air. At least, I can say that. That’s all I ever really wanted from skateboarding.
After seeing that first skate mag, I began skating with renewed intention: to try and emulate what I had seen in the magazine. Once I figured out how to ollie, it was on. I was hooked and, for some unexplainable reason, I wanted to be as good as I possibly could be on the thing.
I began to pursue a life of skateboarding and, throughout the years, I have been lurking on the fringes of sponsored and professional skateboarding. Nobody handed this to me on a golden spoon. I had to figure it all out by myself through trial and error and I paid my dues in full with blood, sweat and tears. That’s the story of how I began skateboarding and it seems like a long time ago. When I look back on my past, I feel fortunate to have been able to start skating right when modern skateboarding was beginning to develop. I also feel proud to be an O.G. Northwest skate ambassador and, quite honestly, I think I’ve done a good job of it throughout the years. I have always skated in my own way, despite the trends, and I’ve never sold out by endorsing some garbage that helped non-skating vampires get their foot in the door. I’ve never stabbed anybody in the back and, most importantly, I’ve never stopped skating throughout all the ups and downs of life. I continue to love skateboarding and plan to continue doing it for as long as I am physically able. Amazingly, I still have that feeling of wanting to be as good as I possibly can be at skating and I continue to skate as often as possible. I make an effort to try and skate daily, even if it is only for a couple of minutes. I’m fortunate to live in the midst of skatepark paradise and within skating distance of the legendary Burnside skatepark.
It’s cool to see the Northwest scene and riders finally begin to get the respect that is long deserved. Now the Northwest is one of the hotspots in skating and everyone wants to come here and get a piece of the action. More or less, I’m cool with that; I say spread the wealth. Most of us had to pay our Cali dues to get somewhere in the skate industry and now the shoe is on the other foot. Recognize that we have been doing this shit for just as long and hard as everybody else so don’t come here and expect us to be impressed with some rock star bullshit. Straight up. To all the kooks, creeps, naysayers, backstabbers, haters and shit-talkers: You have never stopped me from skating or diminished my love for it and you never will. I will continue to rip while you dwell in your own negative vortex. What goes around, comes around. Good luck with that. To everyone who has helped me follow my path of skateboarding: There are too many of you to list but you know who you are. I truly appreciate your help and support and I would not have been able to do this without you. Special thanks to Juice Magazine and Dave Hupp for this opportunity and to my lady, Cara B. Props to all of my sponsors: Blood Wizard, Volcom, Emerica, Satori, Independent, Roughneck Hardware, and Shrunken Head Skate shop. Last, but not least, thanks to all of you out there for your interest in reading this. As a final piece of advice, I would like to offer this: Never give up on the dream, even when it seems like the dream has given up on you. Maybe I will see you at the skatepark…
Interview BY RED
Hi, Ben. How are you?
Hello. I’m excellent. How are you?
I’m good. Where are you from?
I’m from a small town called Enumclaw, Washington. It’s southeast of Seattle. That’s where I grew up, but now I live here in Portland.
You’ve been in Portland for a while, right?
That’s correct. I’m coming up on ten years here.
Cool. From Enumclaw, you went to Seattle for a little while.
Were you there for about ten years as well?
It wasn’t ten years, but there were a good couple of years there though.
What inspired you to start skateboarding?
The original start was that my older brother had gotten a skateboard as a gift. I was just a little kid, maybe four or five. That was my first introduction to it. Thinking back, I’m not sure exactly why I was super attracted to it, but I was.
It’s pretty ironic. I have the same story. My older brother had a banana board and I just started to use it a lot. Did your older brother have a banana board?
Yeah. It was a plastic banana board with the big ass wheels. Does your brother still skate?
Not really. He has been though. His sons do a little bit, but he doesn’t skate on a regular basis. My brother is nine years older than me. How old is yours?
He’s only a year and a half older.
When did you start thinking about getting your own set up from the toy store or whatever?
I figured out that there were bigger boards. For my thirteenth birthday, I really wanted one and so my grandparents got me one.
What are some of your hobbies?
I’d say one of my main hobbies is music. I like to play guitar mostly. That’s one of the main ones. I like to make art type stuff in all kinds of different mediums. Is reading a hobby? I just ready Ozzy’s autobiography. It was a killer book.
He had some pretty rough miles on him in the beginning.
I think the whole way through he had some rough miles.
[Laughs] Was he even able to recall a lot of growing up?
There’s a lot of it. I think he lived a lot, so he’s forgotten half of it, but he’s lived so much that he remembers a lot, too. It’s pretty good. At the end of the book, he says that on his tombstone he wants it to say, “I bit the head off a bat.” He doesn’t want to be cremated. He wants to be buried in the ground with a crabapple tree planted above him so that his great grand kids can make alcoholic cider out of them. I thought that was funny. Reading would be one of my hobbies. I’m on a motorcycle sometimes, too.