DUTY NOW FOR THE FUTURE
INTERVIEW WITH DAVE DUNCAN
INTERVIEW BY JIM MURPHY
They know what you want. They know what you need. Carje and Duncan have been skating since the ’70s, and have ridden and built a lot of concrete and wood creations along the way. Duncan established his ramp construction mastery over the years from working with the World Cup Series, ESPN’s X Games and the Gravity Games, while Carje’s concrete skills put his name on the map with his involvement with So Cal’s Chicken’s, Bellmar’s and Basic pools. So, it makes sense for Vans to tap the experience of the R.C.M.C. crew and Duncan Designs in order to develop the right combination of pools, pipes and street courses to make those parks successful. Both are living a dream, getting paid to what they love, all the while keeping their pride and integrity intact. Both have paid their dues and earned the respect of all those who have skated and worked with them. Thanks to Rick and Dave for their hard work and their ability to help the dreams come true for those of us who thought we would never see concrete skateparks again in our lifetime. We’ll never take them for granted again.
What’s been going on, man?
I’ve just been doing a lot of skateboarding this summer. It’s been one of the busiest summers. I just came back from announcing the Gravity Games. I had a good time out there. Right before that we did The World Cup in Germany. Before that we were in Lausanne, Switzerland, Prague, Czech Republic, Austria and before that was the Milpitas Vans Park Opening in California and Marseille. A lot of Vans Triple Crowns and X Games stuff going on.
When you say you’re on the road, who are you on the road with? Who are you working for?
I’m on the road with the World Cup Skateboarding Tour announcing all the competitions. I’m also a freelance designer of ramps and skateparks.
Is the World Cup a Don Bostick thing?
Yeah, Don and Danielle Bostick, they’re a team. 1990 was the first year we went over there with the World Cup – it was actually the NSA at the time. It started out with Germany and we’ve expanded ever since.
“DEALING WITH THE PARKS HASN’T BEEN A CAKEWALK. MY HAT IS OFF TO EACH AND EVERY ONE OF THE CREW, THE WOOD GUYS AND THE CEMENT GUYS. THOSE GUYS LOVE SKATEBOARDING AND THAT’S THE ONLY REASON THEY DO IT.”
Is skateboarding stronger over there?
It’s a year or two behind the states, but it’s pretty strong. There are lots of free public skateparks and private ones too.
Is the World Cup associated with Vans?
World Cup Skateboarding is an association that runs professional events. They’re not really affiliated with anyone unless it’s the event they’re doing. They do the X Games, The Vans Triple Crown and any event where the pros can gain points and need World Cup judging.
Are they in with the Gravity Games?
No, that’s NBC. World Cup signed a 10 year deal with ESPN for the X Games and the Triple Crown. When it comes to the Gravity Games, it’s me, Shrewgy and Chris May that actually run that.
What’s the vibe with the Gravity Games? Is it a good thing?
Yeah, it’s a super good thing. A lot of people that used to work at the X Games switched over to the Gravity Games. Basically NBC and Petersen Publishing that do Skateboarder, Surfer and Snowboarder Magazine. They both wanted to do contests, so they put it together.
What was wrong with the X Games in the beginning?
Well, in the beginning, you had corporate America telling skateboarders how it’s going to be and they had rollerblade-type courses and really jock announcers. When we first got involved with the X Games we weren’t too happy with it, but we knew there was a lot there and that we should stick with it and maybe after 5 years things would turn around and now it’s been about five years and it’s definitely turned around. The courses are a lot better and the announcers are better. They tried it their way and their way didn’t work so now they’re willing to do it our way. They realize they were getting a lot of slander from our industry for how wack it was. It was big money and big tv so a lot of guys would show up and do it anyway, hoping to try and change it. Guys like Tony Hawk, Bob Burnquist and Brian Patch worked with them on committees to try and get opinions from the riders about the X Games. It’s come around quite a bit. The hardest thing about the X Games and the Gravity Games is you’re trying to mix three different sports. That’s tough when it comes to street courses. The vert ramps we all decided on. Skateboarders gets their own ramp and BMXers get their own ramp.
How do you differentiate the skateboard vert ramp from the bike vert ramp?
Well, the bike vert ramps have less vert. For a long time they were 10′ trannies with 1′ of vert and the skateboard trannies always wanted 1.9′ of vert. Then skateboard trannies started getting bigger, 10.3′, 10.6′, sometimes 11′, so the bikes have less vert. Skateboarders like extensions and channels more and the bike guys like it pretty clean.
Do you have a lot of input as to how the Gravity Games are presented to America?
No, not really. I have influence over how the courses are designed and how judging and announcing is done, but when it comes to the TV show, we’ve tried to get input to them. But once again, it’s a new thing. They’ve only been doing it a year. They tried some weird stuff, like I’m not allowed to announce during the runs, they just want music. They were trying to come up with something like a video, with just music. They tried it, but most people didn’t like it. If someone does something amazing, you want to hear the crowd get excited about it. We still have a little bit of work to do with the Gravity Games, but the prize money is good. Last weekend we gave away $120,000 prize money; $61,000 for street and $61,000 for vert, $20,000 for 1st place, $11,000 for 2nd place, $7,500 for 3rd all the way down the Top 20. Even the guys ranked 11-20 got $700 each. In that way it’s good.
Another thing we’re trying to do with these big games and a lot of the reason they’re bummed at the X Games is they all just show the top runs. It was like the Tony Hawk show. You’ve got 20 guys up there with different styles. We wanted to show a montage of everybody’s style. Even if a guy gets 8th place, at least his sponsors get recognized. He was there, he competed and here’s his best trick. Last year at the Gravity Games and X Games they didn’t do that and that’s the one thing frustrating the riders right now. Only the top guys are getting the play time. But if you look at the Triple Crown coverage, they show montages of the trials, the semi-finals, and the finals. Everybody got a little play time. We like that. If the sponsors are paying for airfare and hotel rooms to get a guy out there they should at least get 5 seconds of tv time. That’s what we think. Vans Triple Crown is really happy with their show. The announcing is good, the courses are good and it’s 100% Skateboarding. When you mix all these sports in the X Games and the Gravity Games, it becomes a corporate deal.
How long do you think this wave is going to last?
Forever. It’s already in place. You have public skateparks now. You have a lot of the things that were missing. And our economy now is in good shape. If you look at the history of skateboarding, every time we’d have problems it’s been based on the economy. When the economy goes down, skateboarding goes down. In the early ’90s, we had the Gulf War, we had a recession and skateboarding was suffering. In the early ’80s, all the parks closed with liability problems and the industry rejected the corporate media influences. But now, it’s on. We’ve got the internet, mass media and tons of sports channels. All of these networks are looking for shit that’s real. Skateboarding is real. There are new tricks and talent coming up all the time, still innovating. As long as that goes on, it will continue.
Do you think people will get burnt out on it?
Maybe, but you have your hardcore audience. If you go to any skate shop, kids cannot get enough of skate videos. Kids are hungry for it. There’s no such thing as overexposure. I want to see more skateboarding. We don’t really care about the mainstream. We’re stoked they’re checking us out right now but my theory is if you look at the kids, 3-6 years old, they’re watching Bart Simpson everyday on tv riding a skateboard in the opening credits. Then when these kids are ten, you’ve got those kids on skateboarding. It’s a subliminal message. Now all those kids are out skateboarding. You’ve got longboarders, girl skateboarders, parks all over the place, you’ve got vert, you’ve got pools, you’ve got it all going on. I’m stoked on the state of the industry right now.
Do you have an exclusive deal to build all the ramps for the Vans Skate Parks?
Well, I’m not tied to anything but as long as things keep going smooth with me and Vans, we’ll keep working together.
Where are the next parks planned?
We’re going to Jersey, Detroit, Orlando and Denver. They’re talking about one in Germany and San Diego in Cajon.
Any Bowl Series coming for ESPN or Vans?
Yes, definitely. Vans Triple Crown had the Soul Bowl (the vert bowl) last year. Vans brought back the Combi Pool out West because they know that pools are a part of classic skateboarding. They realize why there are not a lot of pool skaters, because there’s not pools everywhere. But, if we can just put the pools out there, it’ll show the kids there are other ways to ride. It’s definitely part of the history of skateboarding and it will be here forever. We’re doing a Concrete Challenge at all the different new concrete skate parks in Colorado. There are a lot of people out there looking for different angles, not just vert, street, vert, street. They want pools, bowls, best trick competitions and a variety of contest formats. It’s not going to get stale, we’re open-minded. We’ve been doing vert halfpipes but we can do vert halfpipes with hips and bowls and big channels with lots of combinations.
How stoked are the skateboarders about the X Games and Gravity Games?
Well, you’re dealing with the top 20 guys and they’re making money, so they’re all stoked. Everyone gets along pretty good and the people from Gravity Games and X Games are taking care of them with good food, massage people, plenty of water, tents and shade. They really want to treat these guys like they’re at the top of the game.
Do you think they’re getting paid enough?
Well, $20,000 to win a contest, is pretty cool. If you enter enough contests, you can make money there. The sponsorships are coming up too, the video game thing, the shoe thing. There are a lot of different ways to make money. A lot of the pros do what they do to get by and just want to travel the world.
Do you think it’s bigger than it’s ever been?
Definitely. I never dreamed there would be so much acceptance from the mainstream society and the city councils. They’re down for skateboarding. There’s been a generation gap that’s been bridged. The people in their thirties and forties are sitting on city councils and they used to skate and their kids are skating now. It’s way more accepted now than it was 10 or 20 years ago.
Do you see any backlash from having to pay to skate at these parks with all the full equipment restrictions with full pads?
Well, definitely from your hardcore riders. In California there are a lot of kids that skate street and don’t even own a helmet. If it’s a rainy day, they might go ahead and pay for Vans or if they’re training for a contest, and want to ride certain terrain they’ll go there. But what’s filling up the parks is beginners and intermediates. That’s 75% or more of the ones paying the bills. They don’t know anything else but going to the parks and putting on your pads to skate. And you got a lot of moms are out there forking over the credit card to get the kid full gear and skateboards. In the ’70s, we were stoked to ride parks because of the perfect terrain and you knew you wouldn’t get hassled. That’s what’s cool about the parks. They’re there, but you can still skate without them. But if you want perfect terrain it’s there. The Vans parks are working. And there are lot of public parks where you don’t have to wear pads and that’s cool too.
I’ve heard cities are building skateboard parks so they can outlaw skateboarding in the rest of the city.
I’ve heard about that and I’m not too happy about that. But, the outlawing of skateboarding on the city streets has been here since the early 90s. These kids have been getting tickets left and right. All I’m saying is ‘give em a place to ride. It’s like you’ve got tennis players, you got tennis courts, you got skateboarders, you need skateboard parks. It’s a pretty simple thing. As long as they build good parks, it’s alright. Don’t build shitty parks, build something the kids can enjoy and want to go back to everyday.
Will skateboarding ever be in the Olympics?
I’m not involved with that angle of it, but I’m open to it. I think the ability of a skateboarder is up there with gymnastics and basketball and any other Olympic Sport, So, now that our sport is being shown on tv as a polished image, maybe it will be. I don’t know about the drug testing. You know the snowboarders had a little bit of problems, the skateboarders might have a few problems there . . .
Are the pros disciplined enough?
Well, the X Games and the Gravity Games are set up as Olympic type atmospheres for alternative sports…
With no drug testing.
Yeah, and I think they’ve been a huge success for what it is. So, I think it opens up the Olympic possibility. I’m not going to push it, it’s not really the goal of a skateboarder to go and be in the Olympics. We don’t really need the Olympics, but who knows? The talent is there. People who don’t even skateboard, like to watch it. People understand how difficult it is.
You’ve been skateboarding a long time, ever get burnt?
I never get burned out. I’m 38 now and my first ride was when I was 7 years old, back in ’69 with steel wheels. It went on to clay wheels and then urethane wheels opened up the terrain to pools, ditches and skateparks. That was like a dream to me. Once the ’80s came around and I was actually sponsored and travelled, I couldn’t believe people were making money off skateboarding. With my ramp building skills, it’s all worked together. What keeps me going the most is riding new terrain. I’ll ride anything. I feel like I’m living a dream creating these Vans Parks. We opened the very first one with the Combi Pool. It was always a dream of mine to see Bob Burnquist and Rune Glifeberg ride The Combi Pool. Instead of just riding two walls let’s see ’em do corner carves and tail slides through the corner and rock n roll slides. That was a dream to me to bring it back. It’s like heaven on earth.
What’s the sickest shit that you’ve seen in skateboarding?
The best trick contest at the Gravity Games when Tony Hawk did the 900. And the Quiksilver Marseille contest last June was the most intense 40 minutes of skateboarding I’ve ever seen. Guys like Cardiel, Omar Hassan, Patch, Wade Speyer, Chris Senn.
Who won it?
Omar Hassan won it. It was a 40 minute session with 13 guys, all with their own lines, jumping the hips and criss-crossing. They were dropping in whenever they wanted – jam session, hell bent. It was like a punk rock slam pit on wheels. Seriously, it was the most insane skateboarding I’ve seen to date. Chet Childress was 3rd and Alan Peterson got 2nd. Childress ruled it. Heineken sponsored it with hundreds of cases of beer at the park and the hotels. It was off the hook.
What’s going on in Australia and Japan?
Everybody that goes to Australia says its good. Europe is good, Canada has a lot of new cement parks. Worldwide, skateboarding is definitely blowing up. I’m proud to still be rolling. Those Vans Parks openings just bring it all together. People like Ben Schroeder and the Nor Cal guys come out of the woodwork.
Who are some of the older skaters back in the scene?
We were at the Hermosa Beach Masters and Craig Johnson took 2nd for $1000 and Lance won it. The Godoy bros are out a lot, Schroeder, Randy Katen and Salba. In Texas, you see guys like Craig Johnson, Billy Smith, John Gibson, Ken Fillion and Troy Chasen, too. The openings bring everyone out, all your legends, vert guys, street guys, all together.
What’s up with Steve Van Doren working all the time?
I gotta tell you, he’s the reason I work with Vans. I love the guy. His father built the Vans Corporation and he’s just trying to live out his father’s dream. He does the Warped Tour. He’s out there shaking hands everyday. Vans is definitely stepping up and they like to have fun. They mix up music and skating and they keep that punk edge to it.
When are you going to settle down?
I don’t even think about settling down. I like to travel and meet people. I like meeting skateboarders. I worked for a lot of a years as a carpenter, so I love building the ramps. Right now I got a real good crew, guys like Eddie Reatugui doing a great job building the ramps. I’m doing a lot 3-d computer work. We can ride it in our minds and drop in before we actually build it. I’m fine tuning my skatepark designs and getting input from the best pros in the world. I’m definitely going to be here 20 years from now. I’m really happy with where I’m at. I’m enjoying doing the announcing on the contest circuit and enjoying the energy of the riders and the crowd. I’m just enjoying the moment.
Are you going to get more involved with designing concrete?
I came up in the ’80s when there was no money for concrete, so my thing is wood. I’ve ridden a lot of concrete and I’ve worked with a lot of concrete over the years. With the Vans Parks there’s been a lot of concrete and I’ve been working with Carje and the R.C.M.C. crew. I love those guys. Dealing with the parks hasn’t been a cakewalk. It’s been a very tough thing, dealing with the cities, the inspectors, rushing the deadlines. It’s a hard job and my hats off to each and every one of the crew, the wood guys and the cement guys. Those guys love skateboarding and that’s the only reason they do it.
Who has the final decision about what goes into a park?
It’s always a group decision, but I have a lot of input. We look at the history of the town and figure out what they want. Like in Milpitas, we did the Winchester Washboard and Caballero wanted the clam shape. We knew he’d be skating that park more than anyone, so that’s what we built. We like to build the replicas but we’re wide open for the future.
Anyone you want to thank?
My family and friends, all the Alva posse from the ’80s and ’90s, Don and Danielle Bostick at World Cup Skateboarding, Steve Van Doren from Vans, all the promoters I’ve worked with over the years, all the skaters I’ve ever skated with, the list is way too big. All I can say is ‘It’s go time. You know what’s up!’