INTERVIEW WITH MERK OF EAST COAST RAMP DESIGNS
INTERVIEW BY JIM MURPHY
INTRODUCTION BY JIM MURPHY
PHOTOS BY BRYAN LATHROP
Building wooden bowls is a true sculptural art form, so when the jobs come around you have to get the right person to build it. Merk is one of those bowl builders where quality is the top priority and pool coping is mandatory! Building roundwall is in his blood and he can make a killer wood bowl in any space you throw at him! So check out one of the few and the proud wood bowl builders, Chris Mearkle, as he works on a high end bowl situation in a million dollar barn!
“I love to build with wood to ride, and there’s a medium there as artwork. I’m a wood guy, and I have a couple other buddies that would prefer it. I’ll take a wooden bowl with pool coping over a concrete bowl with steel coping any day of the week.”
Okay, Merk, this is the first edition of Duty Now for the Future: Secret Spots, so before we go into what this secret spot is, when did you first start building wooden bowls? What inspired it? Was it pure necessity or what?
I think the wooden bowl is an East Coast deal. The first wood round walls I ever remember seeing were at the Hangar. I was thinking, “What is that? It’s a wooden swimming pool. No way. That’s impossible! How do you do that?” It’s intrigued me ever since. I remember the first corner I ever built was this quarter pipe in my driveway. I think I was 13. It was a four-foot elliptical tranny with eight inches of vert on it with pool block on top of it. For the 90-degree corner, I cut 17 radiuses and they were all four inches apart. I was just trying to figure that out because wood isn’t meant to curve. You spend your whole life trying to make straight cuts and then all that shit goes out the window.
Did anybody show you or did you just figure it out by yourself? I know you built your own vert ramp.
I taught myself, but the more people you work with the more you learn different techniques. The first person that showed me how to build corners was Twister. He built Skate Hut and Skaters Island. Twister was one of the first dudes in the Northeast that was doing some good corners and stuff and he showed me a little bit. A lot of it is trial and error. I learned from working with people and seeing that there’s more than one way to skin a cat.
Are there a ton of different ways to build a good corner or is there one standard way?
There’s definitely an industry standard nowadays, but there are different ways of building a ramp. You have the evolution of building ramps. People used to use 2x4s and space them certain distances. I think the standard now is 2x6s and eight inches on center. I remember Twister used to do 2x4s six inches on center with a 4×4 every four feet and spaced the templates four feet apart. The thing was freakin’ bulletproof. He used a lot of material. I think he was singlehandedly trying to chop down the rain forest.
Do you think it was just overbuilt using 4x4s?
Exactly. The whole idea is that you want to make sure that when your plywood breaks on a seam that it’s rock solid. I think the 4×4 was pushing it, but there is a standard. It’s simple math, to a point, but there’s a lot of feel to it as well. I don’t want to sound weird about it, but there’s definitely kind of a Zen to it. It’s not just the corners either. Anybody could build a rectangle bowl. It’s just two mini ramps and four corners, but when you start getting into the pool shapes where there is no flat wall and you have one radius going into another radius into a hip, it gets funky.
If you want a bowl with pool coping, are there certain radiuses that they make pool coping for? Are there standard corners and hips you can go with that dictate what your bowl is going to look like?
Yes and no. Your main limitations are space. Is it indoor or outdoor? If it’s indoor, what is the footage and ceiling height? You can have all the space in the world, but if you have a 13 foot ceiling, you’re only getting a six and half foot deep bowl, or you could try to do a big vert wall thing or something like that. It’s usually space as far as design goes. Everything else is just money. If money is not an issue, then if you can dream it up, we can build it. Pool coping depends on who your suppliers are, but they all come in different radiuses. It’s every other foot, odd and even numbers. You can always pour your own coping too. A lot of people these days are making their own pool coping molds. I remember years ago, pool coping used to be so coveted. We would steal it any chance we would get. If you could find a pool dude, it was like, “Oh my god, pool coping. Steal it!” Then we would build a ramp that fit the pool coping. Now everyone is building molds. Pool coping is not hard to find at all, which is awesome.