INTERVIEW BY STEVE OLSON
INTRODUCTION BY STEVE OLSON
PHOTOS BY RICHIE WIREMAN
For the love of Brewce’s sake… When one loves something so much…Does so much for what one loves…The result is that of something so amazing…Passion, commitment, lust, trust and rust… As one grows older and wiser, so they say, the proof is in the results, and if the others would follow suit, I’m not sure the world would be able to handle the end result. Can you imagine more than one Brewce Martin? Kind of scary, kind of unthinkable, but besides the world needing love, it needs committed dudes like Brewce Martin…. One crazy ass cat, that rocks…“I WANT TO MAKE A CONCRETE SKATEPARK THAT GOES FROM THE TOP OF THE HILL ALL THE WAY TO THE MUSEUM THAT’S SO MASSIVE THAT PEOPLE CAN FLY OVER IT AND SEE IT OR LOOK AT IT FROM OUTERSPACE.”
How are you, Brewce?
I’m good. What’s going on? Let’s talk about the empire.
[Laughs] Okay. What empire?
I’m building the Skatopia Empire. It’s a monument to skateboard history. I want to build something even the Romans would be proud of.
[Laughs] How did it start? What’s it all about?
It all started in my mom’s basement. I took two closet doors and nailed them to my step-dad’s workbench and put linoleum on the bottom so I could skate them. The next thing was a bank wall up to the vert wall and linoleum on the seams. It’s gone on to infinity. It hasn’t stopped yet. I’m so excited about skateboarding. I still dream about skateboarding.
What year did that go down?
I nailed the two doors to the workbench in 1977. Immediately after that, I got a Logan Earth Ski Bob Biniak model. The next thing I got was a Kryptonics foam board. I skated Apple Skatepark, which was two hours from my house. It was an amazing place to skateboard.
Where were you living then?
I lived in West Virginia. There weren’t many skateboarders in West Virginia and there still aren’t, but now we have a Grindline skatepark, which is pretty exciting.
Why did you start skating?
I actually won my first skateboard from the Parkersburg News and Sentinel. I was 12 years old. I’d been skating before that on other kids’ skateboards, but my first skateboard was a California Free Former.
Was it the plastic one?
Yeah. I have a whole collection of California Free Formers now. I have the Logan Earth Ski Bob Biniak model. My mom bought it at a garage sale in 1990 and gave it to me as a present. I said, “This used to be mine.” That started my collection, and then people started giving me boards. Now I have over 2,000 vintage skateboards. The Skatopia museum is amazing.
What do you find so amazing about that?
The great thing about skateboarding is that a lot of people believe that surfing started skateboarding, but I believe roller-skating started skateboarding. I think people with broken roller skates led to scooters and then scooters led to skateboarding. People started skateboarding all over the world at the same time, whether there were waves or not. Pool skating came from California and Arizona, but skateboarding came from roller skates, which came from Chicago, IL. I show people the differences in skateboards. There are boards with colors and graphics from the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s. I have some amazing skateboards.
What is it about all of those skateboards that gets you going?
Well, there are a lot of things about it. The memories are a great thing and the continuing memories are great. I like to share with people the whole arena of the skateboarding sport and show them that it’s not just a guy doing a kickflip over a handrail or a guy doing an air or a guy riding a full pipe. There’s a whole art to skateboarding that goes beyond the tricks. The museum is a great place for people to understand that there’s a whole history of skateboarding.
It’s still young. It definitely has a history, but do you think the history is important or not?
The history is very important, but I don’t think it necessarily says where it’s going because there are so many people involved now. Skateboarding is an amazing sport and everyone that knows skateboarding knows what it takes to be a great skateboarder. It’s going places. If it ends up in the Olympics as a giant competition sport, it has nothing to do with me or other people. We love skateboarding. It doesn’t matter where it goes. Skateboarding is a great sport. It’s a great hobby, and it’s a great way to find friends. You’ll find friends that you can be friends with until the day you die.
You meet people from all over the world through skateboarding.
People come up my driveway from all over the world. Some kid came here from the Netherlands. He didn’t have his skateboard because his dad said he didn’t have room for it, so I loaned him a skateboard and he skated. It was just cool.
Skateboarding just turns people on. How did you get hooked?
Well, I won my first skateboard from being a paperboy. I was already hooked on skateboarding because a couple of kids in my neighborhood had boards. We were going down hills to see who could make it down first, and whoever made it first was the reigning champ, for a minute. West Virginia is full of hills so that was a big thing for us. I was already hooked on skateboarding and then I got a chance to win one.
How did you win the skateboard?
I had the most new customers on my paper route in a month.
Did you know the prize was a skateboard?
I got to pick the prize. It was a skateboard, a basketball or some other sporting item. And I was on the cover of that newspaper. I’ve been on the cover of that newspaper twenty times skateboarding in my life. I was just on the cover of that newspaper three weeks ago. They came out here and interviewed me. At Ohio University, which is 30 miles from here, they have a big journalism program. People studying journalism get a job at the paper if they need money. A lot of times, the people that are running the paper will say, “Go to Skatopia. You’ll meet interesting people and find really unique things.” They always come out and it turns out really well. I love skateboarding. Skateboarding is the heart of this man. That’s what makes me go.
Why do you love skateboarding so much?
Well, I was an All State centerfielder playing baseball and I was a very gifted athlete. The Oakland Raiders drafted my dad as a fullback. For me, skateboarding was such a unique, open-ended sport. It was perfect for somebody that wasn’t ready to climb aboard with these other sports. I had friends that skateboarded. In the ‘70s, I had a quarter pipe in my driveway that my mom paid some guy to build. I still have pictures of my brother and I tailtapping on this ramp. We had seen other people doing it in the magazines, so we were doing it. We were so far behind that we didn’t see but one magazine every four or five months, but we would try to imitate the moves. Skateboarding is such a great thing for me. I just couldn’t live without it. I don’t care if I’m 70 years old and can barely push down the street. I’m going.
[Laughs] Yes. It’s part of your life. There’s a man in Italy that skateboards that’s 85 years old.
I was in Marseilles the day after I did the naked frontside invert in the pool. There was glass broken all over the skatepark and this 70-year-old man came out and we cleaned up the park and then we skated together. It was cool to skate with him. It was like seeing my own future. He had his grandson with him and he was skateboarding. He was following me through the bowl. He was like, “How do you go so fast?” I was like, “Just follow me and try to do my lines.” He followed me through the pool and got faster. He said, “I see. You pump up and you pump around the corners.” He was a cool guy. I was like, “That’s me in the future.” He was my future. I don’t know if he was really real, but I didn’t drink or anything then, so I’m pretty sure he was real.
[Laughs] He was real.
[Laughs] I had some great times in Marseilles. They put me in a room with Pigpen. They were like, “You’re crazy, Brewce Martin, so we’re going to put you in a room with a crazier guy than you.” By the time it was over. Pigpen was like, “You’re crazy, man. Why are you so crazy? What are you thinking?” I was like, “I’m not even trying.”
Back in the ‘70s, did you build your own ramps?
You know what’s funny? Terri, the owner of Juice Magazine, lived one street away from me in the ‘70s. She lived on 13th Avenue in West Virginia. You could see her house from my house. She moved in seventh grade, but she lived one street away from me. Years later, I ran into her and she was doing a skateboarding magazine.
Did you know her?
Yeah. I totally knew her. We all went to the same elementary school together. Terri and I were always good friends. We were good friends until she moved. Then I ran into her in Wilmington, NC in 1985. I was a Domino’s Pizza delivery guy, and I was delivering a pizza and there she was working on the magazine in her apartment. Then Jim Murphy took me to her apartment in New York City and we put it all together. I was like, “You’re from Vienna, WV.” She said, “Of course. I know. So are you. It’s crazy.”
That is insane.
That’s what’s so crazy about it. She runs that magazine and we grew up together one street apart. I grew up on 12th Avenue and she grew up on 13th Avenue in a very small town. They had cops like Nazis. When we were kids, the cops there were Nazis. They weren’t looking for drugs. They were looking for you to do anything.
[Laughs] Did you skateboard near her house?
I didn’t skateboard around her house too much because we had a quarter pipe in my driveway and there was another quarter pipe one street past hers, but she lived part way up one of the hills that we used to skate.
Would you guys show off for the girls and cruise by like, “I’m the hot guy on the skateboard”?
No. We were just kids. I’m more like that now. It took me a minute to really develop that. I was more worried about skateboarding than anything else. When I was 12, I was a skater. I wasn’t worried about girls. As soon as I discovered them, it was a big problem. I realized that I’d have to deal with that too.
[Laughs] So you’re skating around and you have your quarter pipes and then what happens?
We discovered Apple Skatepark in Columbus, Ohio. The same people that built Cherry Hill built Apple Skatepark. As soon as it opened up in ‘79, we started going there every chance I could get my mom to drive us there. That’s where we really discovered pool skating. Transition skating really became the thing to do. We had quarter pipes at home, but at Apple Skatepark we were skating things that you could just keep going in. Apple was a great park.
I know. I rode Apple a couple of times.
It’s one of the better parks, for sure. There was Cherry Hill, Apple, Getaways and the Turf. Those were all great skateparks and I skated them all. I’m the one that talked Wally Hollyday into coming back out of retirement and building a skatepark. I got him his first job in Charlotte, NC, so he came back out of retirement to build skateparks. At the time, he was doing interior design. I contacted him and said, “I’ve skated some of your parks and they were great. You should start building places to skate again.” He built a pool for this guy in Charlotte, NC and he’s been building skateparks ever since. I take credit for that.
Nice. We’ll give you credit.
Wally Hollyday will tell you. Straight up. He was supposed to donate something to Skatopia one day, but he hasn’t yet. Maybe he will, one day.
You got to go to the skateparks all over that area?
Yeah. My mom is a black belt and she’s a very gifted piano person and she loved her kids more than anything. She took my brother and I skating as much as she could afford it. My dad moved to California and got a new wife. After that happened, my mom would put us on a plane and we’d fly to California to see my dad. We skated Whittier a bunch. My dad lived in Pasadena, so that was the closest skatepark he could find. We found Upland and Whittier. Those were the two parks we skated the most when we went to California. I’ve got pictures of people skating both of those parks from the ‘80s.
Did you make it to Lakewood?
No. We were just kids in ’81, ‘82 and ‘83. We were lucky. My dad is a chemical engineer, and work is his life. We were lucky to get to go skate at all while we were there. It was a great thing though because we were kids. I skated with Micke and Steve Alba and Neil Blender. Coming from West Virginia, those were great moments. We were at Upland one time and Duke Rennie, the roller skater, was there. Duke Rennie did the first 540 that he’d ever done at Upland, and I was there that day. Years later, Duke and I collided at the Encinitas bowl and he had to get life-flighted out of there because he got hurt. He rolled in on me when I was dropping in the deep end of the bowl. He tried to jump over my shoulders and caught my shoulder with his skate and flipped right on his head. I thought he broke his neck. They had to life-flight him out of there. It was the same guy twenty years later. I saw him do his first McTwist and then 20 years later…
[Laughs] You saw him do his first air-flight.
[Laughs] I didn’t see the air flight. We got out of there. We had the limo out there that time. I have a new limo now. It’s all green plaid. My friend owns one of those sticker companies and he stickered the whole thing with green plaid. It’s sick.
Nice. So in the ‘80s, your mom would drive you to the skateparks in that surrounding area, and your dad was taking you to Upland and Whittier. When you couldn’t ride those spots, what were you skating?
I started building stuff when I was 14, because we moved from the city to the country and we had a lot of acreage. We had a quarter pipe with a 70-foot runway so you rode down the runway and hit the quarter pipe at the bottom. Right after that, I bought a plexiglass half pipe from a skatepark. I still have it here. We bought that half pipe and split it apart and put a flat bottom and decks on it. We rode that until 1986. Then I built a public skatepark in Parkersburg, WV in 1984, so there was a ramp in our city park from ‘84 to ‘87. That’s an early city skatepark.
How did you get the city to let you do that?
The weirdest thing was that they had a concession area in the middle of the skatepark and the guy that ran it was as gay as they get. He was the nicest, coolest person and he never hit on anybody or did anything inappropriate. He just wanted to see people have fun. Anyway, he was a city councilman. He went as far as he possibly could to make that skatepark happen, and I thank him for it. He’s a great man. That’s when I really started learning about life. I realized that people were different and that everyone has a lot of different ideas, and if you can make all the ideas mix together and everyone can get along, you can take the ball and run. That’s what I’m doing at Skatopia. I’m taking the ball and running. I’ve got momentum and I’m building an empire and I want it to be here for a long time. I want people to be able to come here and ride the concrete for a long time.
How much concrete do you have there now?
We’ve got a lot. Since you were here last, we put in another 150 yards of concrete. The bowl at the top of the hill has a whole new area that goes all the way around it now. It’s getting big. We have a concrete pool dug out. We dug up under the concrete pool in the metal building with a track hoe and jack hammered the flat and redid it and now it’s perfect. It never has water in it. It’s perfect and it’s indoors. We put a second floor above it, so we have a stage up there. You’ll be surprised when you come back.