INTERVIEW WITH MONK HUBBARD
INTERVIEW BY JIM MURPHY
INTRODUCTION BY JIM MURPHY
With a long history of skateboarding all over the country and hopping freight trains, Monk made a lot of friends and earned the reputation of being one of the most nomad hardcore skaters around. Growing up in the Northwest, he got up with Red and started to help create some of the best early skateparks in the country. As skating evolves, Monk’s creations evolve into more vert, more roundwall and mandatory pool coping wherever you can slap it down. His creation of Grindline and the parks he and his crew have made speak for themselves. Monk and Grindline never stagnate and the integrity in what they build and how the builders skate it is a testimony to their skill, patience and dedication as skaters for skaters and the future of skateboarding. Go find it and grind it. This is Monk.“IT’S LIKE YOUR DREAM FROM WHEN YOU’RE A LITTLE KID. WE HAVE POOLS THAT ARE SKATE-ABLE THAT YOU DON’T HAVE TO GET ARRESTED TO GO SKATE.”
Okay, Monk. Let’s start from the beginning. Where were you born and raised?
I was born in Seattle, in 1970. The year of the dog.
[Laughs.] What was it like growing up in Seattle?
It was cool. It was the early ’70s.
When did you get your first skateboard?
1975. It was a yellow fiberglass board. It had clear red urethane wheels. I remember there was this guy in line at the store and he said, “You’ve got the clear red wheels. Those are the good ones.” I was like, “Whoa. I’m set.”
[Laughs.] So what were you skating?
I skated sidewalks and hills for years. I didn’t know anything about skate magazines or skateparks until 1983. I didn’t know about nothing. I just skated to school and back.
No backyard ramps or backyard pools?
Not until I was 12. I always had skateboards. People would give them to me. They’d say, “Someone left this at my shop. I know you like to skateboard. Do you want this board?” I’d skate along the path at Green Lake. I just skated.
You were just skating for fun.
That was my thing. I could get out there. It was free. It didn’t cost anything. I didn’t know about nothing else.
You weren’t skating any banks or tranny?
No. I didn’t even know about curbs.
So you were riding a banana board up until ’83?
Pretty much, yeah. My friends had good boards, but the good board was the aluminum Bonzai board with the Cadillac Wheels. I was behind the times a little bit.
So you hadn’t seen bigger boards around?
No, but when I did, I was freaking. The first time my buddy took me to the skateboard shop I didn’t know what to think. I was like, “The skateboard shop?” We went to the shop and there were ten kids skating the curb out front. I was like, “What is this?” Then my friend said, “Let’s go. We’re going to take the bus over to my buddy’s house. The Grinch is setting up a new board.” Then all ten of us took off skating down the street. I was like, “This is mayhem!”
So we were at this guy’s house and he had photos all over his wall from the magazines. I was like, “Whoa.” I was there with all the other kids that were skating. It was like an instant army. For me, there was nothing like it.
When you hooked up with this crew, did your outlook on skateboarding change?
Yeah, pretty soon, they were calling me up and saying, “What are you doing today? Meet me at the bus.” I’d go meet up with them and skate. Then we went to some street contests at Gravity Sports. It was like a whole other world.
Were they heckling you about your banana board?
Well, by ’83, I had gotten a bigger board. The first big board I got was an Alva Hosoi. No, wait. I had the Sims Hosoi with the rising sun graphic. Then my buddy got the Alva Hosoi board. It was right around the same time. Hosoi was big.
Oh, yeah. He was blowing up.
I was like, “What kind of trucks do I get?” This guy was like, “Indys, dude. They’re the only ones that turn.”
Were you rocking copers back then or did you just go raw?
I went raw at first, but I rode copers later. I remember putting on some copers and going, “Wow! I can grind any curb I want.” I rocked some copers. Yeah.
Hey, I’m not blaming you. I did the same thing.
Yeah. I rocked some copers. I was curb man. I hit curbs from ’83 to ’86. I didn’t get into skating vert until ’86 when I started skating ramps.
Did you guys have any backyard ramps going on in the Seattle area?
Yeah. We had the Natur Ramp and Grannie’s ramp, at Ron Soderstrom’s grandma’s house. Vert skating was big up here in Seattle. It was cool. Dudes were ripping.
Who were you skating with? Who was riding?
Smiley and Gallardo.
Matt Gallardo! Yeah.
There was Ron Soderstrom and Pat Quirk and all the crazy Northwest people. There was the Olympia crew. There were the eastern Washington guys. There were the Portland guys. There were all different sorts of factions. We’d go down to the big ramp in Eugene. They had the only indoor ramp in the Northwest at the time. I ended up moving down there.
What was the scene like? Did all the crews just jam together?
Yeah. We got together all the time and skated different ramps and raged. There were four or five backyard ramps around Washington and Oregon.
Were there any old concrete parks around back then?
No. We just had wood ramps.
When did you start building ramps or bowls to skate?
We started building in ’90.
So in the late ’80s, vert skating was big and then, all of a sudden, street skating started creeping into skateboarding and the vert scene started dying out.
Yeah. The ramps went down. I moved out of Eugene after the indoor ramp closed. I moved to Portland. It was all just street skating at that point.
Were you into the magazines by then? Who were the guys you were looking up to?
We didn’t really buy magazines back then. We were just barely surviving. We’d just gotten out of school. I was taking the freight trains around the country.
Did you take a freight train to Texas?
I took them from Washington to Florida three times.
What inspired that? I remember meeting guys that were taking the freight trains when I lived in Dallas.
We were living in Seattle and wanted to see it all. My mom kicked me out of the house for not going to school because I was skating the ramps and stuff. Then I was at the ramp and I saw Pat Quirk there. I was like, “Are you going on any more trips?” I’d heard that he took the trains. He was like, “Yeah. I’m going to Texas for the Shut Up and Skate contest. Do you want to go?” I was like, “Yeah!” He was like, “All right. We’re leaving tomorrow.”
Yeah. And I didn’t have any money at all. I went and got my sleeping bag and a backpack. Q was like, “Go panhandle for some money downtown.” So I panhandled for $10. Then we took the bus to Tacoma and jumped on the first train out of Tacoma. We went down to Texas to Shut Up and Skate. Then we went to Fresno and skated those pools. We went to Arizona and skated. We met all these people. When we showed up, they were like, “Who are you guys?” We looked all scruffy and dirty. We said, “We’re taking the freight train around the country to all the skateparks.” People were like, “No way.” Everyone was hella nice. They were like, “Do you need a place to stay?” They were instantly cool to us. From 1987 to 1991, I met hundreds and hundreds of diehard core skaters around the country. That was right at the beginning of Burnside getting going. Everything was underground.
Let’s go back to the freight trains. How do you hop a train? How did you know which trains to get on?
You have to know the ropes a little bit. The main line is always the highest line on the track. It’s the one that sits up a little higher on the rocks than all the others. You know a train going through there is going to be going a long way. The trains have to slow down through the yard, so that’s where you jump on. If it’s going east, then it’s going east. You find the yard and see where they’re coming in and where they’re going out. You have to realize that in the yard, there’s usually a policeman. He’s going to be looking for you. You have to dodge them. We dodged all sorts of railroad police. We got thrown in jail a bunch of times. We dodged the FBI in Lafayette, Louisiana. A railroad policeman had been killed there a few days before we went through. This guy in Houston told us we better watch out for Lafayette because they were stopping every train that went up through there. We were like, “All right.” So we got off right before Lafayette and waited at a McDonald’s dumpster. Then we went to the train yard. Then here comes this white truck cruising down the road with tinted windows. We were like, “Oh, shit!” So we jumped into the bushes. They were chasing us. The train was leaving and so we jumped on it and lost them.
We ditched the FBI on the freight trains. In New Orleans, they had SWAT teams. They were ready for us. That was the next town.
Were they inspecting every car on every train?
They were looking for the murderers that had killed the railroad policeman. The railroad police are just like other cops. They’re in the fraternal order.
Do they just wait at each stop to see if anyone gets off the train or do they ride the trains, too?
No. They don’t get on the trains.
What was it like hanging with the other people on the trains? Is there an underground society of people that ride the trains?
Yeah. There are all sorts of gangs and hobos. They looked at us and thought we were heroin addicts, because we were younger. We were just dirty skateboarders. We would jump off the train and skate around the yard. We could make it to the grocery store and back before the train left again. We just had our skateboards and backpacks. We packed so light, we were like super tramps.
[Laughs.] Did the trains have set stops? Was it like you knew you had like, 15 minutes to go get food and get back on the train?
Well, it’s always a gamble. You never leave your shit on the train. I lost my shit that way in Chicago.
Did you ever get worked over by some hobos?
No. There were just gangs at the welfare office in Baltimore.
What were they doing?
I got a welfare check in Baltimore, because I was traveling around the country. I took the train to Baltimore and went to the welfare office to get my check. They saw me go in and get the check and then try to cash it. They grabbed me and tried to mug me. They didn’t get anything, though. I just started swinging my skateboard. Your skateboard is also a weapon. You’re indestructible with the board. That was the only time I had problems during my whole five years of going around the country on the trains.
So that’s what you did from ’87 to ’92. You were busting out on trains and going everywhere?
If I wasn’t on the trains, I had this truck called the Black Cauldron. I’d drive that around and go places.
Did you ever go to Kona and ride the concrete they had there?
Yeah. I rode Kona. I snuck in and then Marty Ramos kicked me out. He was like, “What’s your name?” I was like, “Mink Mank.” He said, “That’s not your real name. Come on inside.” He was bummed because I didn’t have wrist guards. I had a bandana wrapped around one wrist.
Then we went to Stone Edge. Then we went to Pennsylvania. We rode a bunch of shit up there. Once we got out there on the road, it was instant hospitality from people. I shuffled around the country. I came home with more money than I left with. I’d work along the way and get food stamps.
What were you guys doing for work? Were you building any parks or ramps?
No. There were no parks going on then. It was strictly odd jobs and government assistance.
So you could apply for government assistance in Seattle and collect a check on the East Coast somewhere?
Well, that was a scam. We didn’t do that too often. We’d go to a lot of food banks and pack food. We lived cheap and ate lots of Ramen. We’d go to soup kitchens and stuff. We’d just survive. We’d just go out there and do it. My parents weren’t giving me any money. I wasn’t going to sit at home and work at Jack-in-the-Box. I just got out there and started doing it. I met so many people. There are so many people that are willing to help somebody that’s on an adventure. Then you have a network of friends.
After you developed your network, were you still riding the rails or did you settle down?
I was coming back to Seattle a lot. I remember being in Arizona and I told Shags, “We’re going to build concrete skateparks all around the country.” I’d worked in masonry for these three masons. I built pools and did shotcrete. Then I started thinking that we could build some shit. Then the guys at Burnside were building shit. We’d go down there and work on the pool coping when we were on our way through on a train trip.
Were those the first guys you saw building tranny with concrete?
So you got hands on experience building backyard swimming pools?
Yeah. That was when I was 20 or 21. I tried to get the job from them because I thought I’d be able to skate some of the pools. I wasn’t really thinking I wanted to be a mason. I was more thinking that I might get to skate some of the shit we were building.
Did you ever get to skate anything that you built with those dudes?
No. Nothing. They were all square pools. They had the deep end in the middle with square walls. They were lap pools.
So you started working with Burnside then?
In 1990, I moved down there. I remember when they first started pouring shit. I helped them for a little while and then decided to move back to Seattle and start my own shit. I had a bunch of friends up there. Seattle was more like home to me. So I went back up there and did that Schmitz Park bowl that got busted. Then we built the big bowl in West Seattle in ’92.
Whose backyard was that built in?
That was in my neighbor’s backyard. It was this crazy dude named Cody.
What was the deal? You just showed up and said, “Hey, Cody. Let’s build a pool?”
No. He saw that Schmitz Park bowl on the front page of the Times newspaper. He saw that picture and he was like, “Whoa. You could build that in my yard.” We were like, “No way.” He said, “Yeah. Go ahead.” We ended up buying the house next door and building another bowl there. We’ve got both of those houses now. We also had an indoor vert ramp in a church right down the street. We had Skate Town going for a minute in ’93, ’94 and 95. It was a little neighborhood in West Seattle, and we had a bunch of shit going. We were digging pools in rentals. We were just going for it. There were a bunch of dudes living up there. Morris Wainright lived up there. People just started coming and going, “Wow. This is cool.” Then they’d move there. We were taking over. It’s pretty amazing up there.
Hell, yeah. When you were building those pools, were you thinking you’d form a company?
No. We just built the pools and skated them. Then we’d go down to Burnside and skate. We’d go out to The Turf. That was almost finished. We’d skate other parks. We weren’t thinking anything. We were just building shit for ourselves to skate and skating other shit.
What was it like after you build the West Seattle bowl? I heard that bowl is pretty gnarly. Give people an idea of the dimensions of that bowl.
It’s 11-feet deep with six-foot trannies. It’s the gnarliest backyard pool you ever stumbled across.
So you were just trying to build something burly?
We just built it like a swimming pool. We shotcrete it and then tried to finish it. We’d never tried to finish shotcrete.
How was that?
The guys that were shooting it for us were like, “You guys are crazy. You can’t finish this shit. We’ll just cut it and polish it.” We were like, “No. We’re going to finish it.” I was like, “I’m going to do this man. This is radical.” The guy on the nozzle kept saying, “You don’t want to do this, kid.” I was like, “We’re going to do it.” Little did we know that we’d eventually have three pumps and all of these dudes building concrete later on. We had no idea.
You took right to it, huh?
Yeah. Everyone did, all the Northwest guys and all the skater builders. Everyone has so much knowledge. They can do anything. They are craftsmen. They’re so passionate about their shit. There’s no better combination.
And to get paid for it must be amazing.
I can’t believe it.
When did it all heat up?
In ’99, Lincoln City got a hold of Red. They were like, “We want the Burnside dudes to build our park.” Then Red got a hold of me. We had met in ’87. When we met, it was like we were brothers from another mother. We had this crazy eccentric shit going on. He had this Dodge Demon, and he drove us around to all these parks. He had so much energy. We’d always do shit together. He’d come up and help build on the big bowl when we were working on that. He helped with Schmitz Park a little bit. So he called me about Lincoln City and we built that thing.
Was that a Dreamland project?
That was when we were working for the Parks and Rec department. We all had Lincoln City Parks and Rec Department hats. We wanted to work for them forever. We had no idea that something else was going to happen, too. We just did that and that was it. I went home and started Grindline because I was going to do some Grindline t-shirts. It was just t-shirts. So I made this website after I got home from Lincoln City. It was grindline.com. I made some t-shirt designs and some stupid graphics. Then Red called me up again and he says, “Newberg.”
Yeah. So then we did Newberg. Then it was like, “What are we going to call it? Dreamland or Grindline?” Red was like, “Dreamland.” I was like, “Grindline.”
Did Red have Dreamland going already?
I think so. I don’t know. I just remember, after I had the Grindline shirts made, he said, “No, we’re calling it Dreamland.” I was like, “All right. Whatever.” Then we did Aumsville and Astoria.
Were you still partners at that time?
We were all still working as Parks and Rec employees. I was a Parks and Rec employee in all these different towns.
Did these towns come to you with a design? Did they know what they wanted?
No. The deal was that we got to do whatever we wanted. We just went there and started building.
They said, “Here’s the money. Build something.”
Yeah. They were like, “Do you need excavation equipment? What do you need?” It was cool. We built a lot of good parks with a lot of community involvement and donated material. We’d get used lumber here and there. We were just able to get them the most for their money.
With street skating being so popular, were there kids that wanted street parks?
Oh, yeah. They were fighting us the whole way. Well, they weren’t really fighting us, but we’d be like, “What do you think of the bowl?” This one kid was like, “I like the old bowl better.” The old bowl was only two feet deep. They didn’t know what to think.
Were you guys thinking that you were just going to build the gnarliest shit you could?
Yeah. We knew that after two or three years of riding that shit, they were going to want even more. The one kid that complained, later on I said to him, “Remember when you said you liked the old bowl better?” He goes, “I never said that.” Now he’s like, “I’m working on layback grinds.” And Shags looked at me and said, “Mission accomplished.” Those kids are stoked now.
So it was cool just to see little kids getting into tranny and carving and you guys were making it happen for them?
Yeah. We were force-feeding them.
Compared to all the other places, it seems like the Northwest area has the sickest parks.
Yeah. It kind of just came up in the last few years. Oregon is still number one on the map, but Washington is really coming right up there.
Why was it so easy to get a good skatepark built in the Northwest? Was it because some guy saw what you guys built at Burnside?
It was Burnside, of course. Burnside spurred the whole Northwest skatepark scene. Burnside is the reason that we have all these sick skateparks. In 1990, when it was just getting going, Burnside was the shit. The other reason was because of all the shopping malls and the kids street skating. That’s why they needed the skateparks. If the kids never would have had started hitting all the rails, we’d have none of this shit. It was a blessing in disguise. The people in the commercial districts and the shopping malls were like, “Hey. We can’t take any more of this. Get these kids a skatepark.” They’d go through all the political channels to get it going. Then you had the community involvement. They’d raise money and then it was a done deal. It seems like it takes longer in some parts of the country to actually get through the bureaucratic process.
So it’s a little easier to get a park built in Washington and Oregon?
Well, in Seattle, it’s not. Seattle is hell. People are going through hell in the bigger cities. Look at Donald with its population of 300 or so.
That’s no problem, right?
Yeah. They’re like, “We own this town. Build the kids a skatepark. Keep them out of trouble.” It’s the best.
When did you stop being employees of the state and start your own company?
Hood River. Then we got Port Orford. Eventually, there was so much work. People were calling me for parks. Every time I’d come home, my buddies and I would go and skate all the shitty parks around there that all these assholes built.
Who was building those parks?
It was concrete companies and landscape architects. They build the worst parks.
They were just hiring laborers?
Yeah. All the parks at the beginning just totally sucked. We’d skate them because it was better than skating a curb and a bank. We’d skate them everyday. Then I’d be like, “Well, I’m going back to Oregon.” Smiley and those guys were like, “That’s just great. Go build Oregon another killer park.” Then I just got sick of hearing that. I got sick of not having anything to skate up there. Then Bainbridge Island came to me and said, “We want you to build a park.” Red was going to Austria. I was supposed to go, but instead I took the jobs to build Bainbridge and Sumner, which are both like, 20 miles from my house. My choice was to either go to Austria or stay and build two parks close to my house. After Red came back, he called me up and I helped with Astoria and Brookings. We were still working together. I was like, “You have to come up and skate Bainbridge.” It was never like, “Okay. You’re going this way and I’m going that way.” Then I got Orcas Island and I called him up. That’s why that park is so phenomenal, because that was Dreamland and Grindline.
At the point when Red went to Austria, he was doing Dreamland and you were just thinking you’d do your own parks under Grindline?
Well, that was when I was working on Bainbridge.
Bainbridge was a Grindline park?
Yeah. It wasn’t like “I’m Grindline now.” When Red came back, I helped him. I wanted to combine forces. I knew it was going to blow up big and we were going to end up doing five or six parks at a time. I don’t think Red really saw it that way. He wanted to just keep doing one park at a time and keep the quality perfect and under his supervision. I saw it like, more people needed to get their input in there because you have to have a big melting pot. You need a lot of people and a lot of ideas if we’re going to build this shit all over the world. Now we have seven foremen, and they all call me and say, “We’re building the best park in the world.” I’m like, “I don’t know. Rabbi says Missoula’s pretty good.” And they’re like, “Not even.” And they’re building something sick in Aztec, NM. I’m like, “Yeah, whatever. Dillon is going to be the sickest.” And Red is trying to build the sickest parks in the world. It’s like skatepark wars. Everyone’s giving it their heart and soul. We’re living until we die.
I heard that Orcas has the most pool coping of any park ever built.
Yeah. It’s got over 250 blocks.
Tell all the people reading this why you like pool coping as opposed to pipe.
You can build whatever you want, and throw pool coping on and it’s bio. Know what I’m saying?
[Laughs.] Oh, yeah. I know what you’re saying. Preach it, man. Tell them what’s up.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a two-foot high shallow end, if it’s got pool coping, you can skate it all day and have fun. If it’s pipe or steel, it’s like, “Why would I want to grind or slide down a two foot high piece of steel?”
Yeah. I’ve had people that build parks tell me that they’re not going to put pool coping in because they would have to maintain it.
Pool coping doesn’t need any more maintenance than anything else. Any good skatepark contractor should back up their pool coping. We give a warranty on our parks.
It’s like we have a park out in Brooklyn and if the pool coping is getting grinded down to where it’s chipping up and breaking apart because you’re skating it so much, the builder is not responsible, are they?
It’s not that hard to fix. Up at Orcas, the locals fixed it. The bowl was getting a little chipped up. It’s a skatepark. It’s about bringing the community together. Some guy goes down there with a concrete saw and patches it up. I’ve seen bondo and grout used. You can put some high strength concrete in there and it’s better than before. It’s not hard to fix.
What are your feelings about Salba sauce?
Some people are anti-Salba sauce. Personally, I don’t like it when it’s too sauced. I like it when it needs a little bit of sauce. That’s when I like it. I prefer riding a skatepark pool with it on there, because otherwise it gets all chunked up and you don’t know what is going on anywhere, until you know the pool, of course. I appreciate the sauce, but I don’t carry a can around with me.
So let’s go back to the evolution of the parks. You’re back from Orcas and now you’re starting Grindline.
Yeah. Red left Orcas. He got another job in Hailey, ID. I was like, “Can I come and help?” He was like, “No. This is it.” I was like, “What?” He was like, “You can’t come with me.” I was like, “Alright, whatever.” Then we got the West Linn job. So I called Shaggy, Rabbi, Carl, Sanders, and all these dudes that had been bugging me forever. I was like, “Alright, you wanted to do it. We’re doing it.”
How did you guys design West Linn?
We did it all as we were just standing there. There were seven of us trying to build the greatest skatepark in the world. It got way too complicated. Most people love that park. It’s got everything. We just went way over budget. Then we got a park in Trinidad and went over budget. Then we got Nags Head and went over budget. Then we had Athens, OH and went over budget. We did all those parks and then, all of a sudden, I was in $350,000 in debt. My partner Chris Hildebrand was like, “Come back home. We’ve got to meet with the bankruptcy attorney.” The bankruptcy attorney told us, “You guys can’t make money on a job if your life depended on it.” He was looking at our books and telling us we were done. I was like, “No way.” We just built four parks across the country. They’re insane parks. In a few months, the phone is going to be ringing off the hook. We’ll get the jobs. He was like, “If you’re still going in six months to a year, you guys got passion. I don’t know how you’re going to do it.” Their advice was for us to call it a day and quit.
Why were you guys losing money?
We’d get a budget for a job and we go there and build it, but there are all these factors. There’s overtime. There are seven dudes trying to build the best park possible. We’re building them big and deep. We weren’t thinking about making money at all. It had nothing to do with money. It was like, “How much concrete can we get out here? What can we build before the world ends?” I remember on 9/11, we were pouring concrete. The truck driver was like, “A plane just hit the Twin Towers.” We were shooting concrete on a 12-foot wall. Then he was like, “Another plane just hit.” We were like, “Oh, shit.” Ever since the new millennium, I’ve been thinking the end of the world is any day now.
So you’re just going balls to the wall to build the gnarliest shit you can?
We just want to build something that’s going to last.
That’s like Little Eddie’s attitude. He was like, “We’re going to build the best we can. Nevermind the budget.”
What else can you do? We’re out here under the microscope with all of our peers. Everyone is looking at everything that we do. We’re trying to put our vision and everyone else’s vision out there. We’re just trying to do the best we can.
When did you start thinking about doing the over vert pockets and the capsule full pipes?
Red came up with the cradle. We just threw a full pipe on the end of it.
What did you think of the cradle concept?
It’s insane. It stepped it up a whole other level. It’s like, “What else can you do beside a bowl, a street course and a snake run?” I come up with shit that I don’t even know how to pull off. The world is full of ideas. We’re all just trying to come together. We’ve done almost 100 parks now and we’re struggling for content. We need help from everyone.
I saw the evolution from your Athens, OH park with the full pipe capsule thing and now you have Kokomo, IN with the elbow full pipe.
We were struggling for the next big thing. Now I’m starting to think that simple is better.
Have you built a lot of snake runs?
The bowls have turned into snake runs. Since you have such a big expansive bowl, it’s like a snake run. You can cruise the whole thing, except it has pool coping on it. We used to go to this snake run in Canada. It’s this big snake run with no coping around the whole thing. We skated the parks up in Canada a lot in the ’90s and late ’80s. None of them had vert or coping. That might have a lot to do with what we’re doing now and why we do all vert and coping.
So you thought those parks were cool, but not gnarly enough?
We thought the parks were cool, but we wanted to grind.
You have to get some pool coping on there.
Yeah. You can do airs with pool coping, too.
Oh, yeah. Do you find, with all these parks you’re building, that it gets to a point where the skaters get burnt out on a park and want something new?
Actually, it’s more complicated than that. Like Bainbridge was one of the first parks we did. I never liked that park from the get go. I was like, “This skatepark sucks.” Everyone else was like, “Bainbridge is so sick.” I was like, “It’s lumpy. It’s crazy big, but I’m just not into it that much.” Then I went there five years later and there was this huge session. I had brand new big wheels. After I rode it, I was like, “This is the best park in the world.” I couldn’t believe it. It’s just where you’re at, at the time. That’s just the way it is. When I went to Trinidad, I was skating there by myself and I was like, “This park sucks.” I took a couple of runs and then I cut. I went back up there later, and Wrex Cook was there with all the Colorado dudes having a big session. I was like, “Holy shit. This park is the best ever.” It’s all about the session.
Do you remember riding Pennsylvania?
Yeah. I remember the Kink Sink. That was the best session ever. Groholski took me there. It was Groholski and all sorts of dudes that I didn’t know. Dan Tag, Sean Miller and Darren Menditto were there. I snuck into the Cheap Skates Park and they kicked me out. I snuck into every park back then.
Did you ever think you’d be where you are now?
Hell, no. There was the little bit I know, but it was mostly research and development. I was skating parks all over the world. I rode all the parks in Europe.
Did you ride that one in Munster?
Yeah. I loved it. It was awesome. It’s steel. That thing ain’t shaking. I was there for the World Cup. I was the worst dude there. I was sick. Phelps was like, “It’s your year, dude. You’re on the deck.” I was like, “All right. I’ll do it.” I’ve been in that situation lots of times. I’m not afraid to lose, you know?
Just show up and have fun. Did you have anything to do with that park in Shanghai, China?
No. That was Dorfus. He’s the gnarliest skater alive. There are all sorts of us, man. We’re an army of construction skaters all over the world. We’re trying to get Dorfus a visa to come and build parks with us here. We’re all going to team up with Red and those dudes to build some crazy stuff. The skaters are going to own this industry.
Do you find that you’re still going up against a lot of corporate skatepark builders because they’re bonded and competitive with bidding?
Yeah, but now we’re bonded and competitive, too. We’re the real deal. We’ve got licenses, bonding, insurance and all that. We spend a few hundred thousand dollars a year in insurance. We have five people in the office doing CAD and three-D designs. We have office managers and bookkeepers. We have close to 50 people in the field.
Are you an integral part of the design process?
I look at shit every time I’m home to see what’s going out. I’m not like, “I have to see every design before it goes out.” It comes down to whoever is building it. I let everyone do their own thing. The foremen design and build every park. The guys in the office are involved in the design. Every park has its own style.
What happens when you come into a situation with a town and they want something specific? What if a town wants something really cheesy?
If they want something really cheesy, they don’t usually come to us. The kids might suggest it, but the higher-ups are like, “Do your thing. We know this is why you guys get paid.” Every single park we build is a reference. It’s how we get work. We don’t get our jobs from the Internet. We get work from towns calling other towns and going, “Who built your skatepark? Who should we get to build our park?” They’re like, “Get Grindline, and let them do whatever they want.”
I’m serious. I swear, it’s been like that ever since West Linn. We got the Trinidad job because of West Linn. Trinidad called West Linn. West Linn was like, “Look, we were really scared. All the kids were like, ‘What the hell are they doing?’ Now we have a million dollar facility for like $200,000. You wouldn’t even believe it if I sent you a picture of it that we built it for that kind of money. These guys, their hearts are into it. Let them build whatever they want. They’re artists.” After Trinidad called a few times and talked to West Linn, then they called us up. We didn’t even have to talk them into it. We were like, “All right. We’ll do it.”
So you don’t have a bunch of people in the office on the phone making cold calls for work?
No. We never have.
How many parks are you building right now?
We’re building six parks right now. We’re building Missoula, MT, Aztec, NM, Telluride, CO, …. I don’t even know.
Are these all city parks?
Yeah. Some of them are big huge jobs where we’re doing 50-foot retaining walls. We’re not just digging bowls. We’re building buildings, too. They’re big contractor jobs.
So you’re not building any private parks?
No. They’re all public parks.
Is there anything you’re building now that has something different than you’ve built in the past?
Yeah. All of them are different. I’ve got the track going in the park I’m building right now in Dillon. You start out on a little four-foot path. It goes about 60 feet downhill and you jump a fly ramp and go over a grass gap and land on the other side of a pyramid and then go down and hit a bank and cruise on down and hit the snake run. The snake run goes for 400 feet, but it’s only 20 feet wide. Then you turn around and come back on another path that runs right beside it. It’s miles and miles of flat concrete with oceans in the middle. They’re not paying for just a big slab of concrete. The square footage works out better. You get a huge park. The main thing I’m trying to do now is work with communities that have a lot of community involvement. They want to help build the park. They’re like, “You tell us where to put the drains and we’ll dig it.” This one job we’re on now wanted a full pipe. One guy says, “I’ve got a full pipe. It’s an old metal silo.” He’s going to bring the full pipe down and we’re going to sink it in. We’re getting it all ready for concrete and then one of my crews will come in and do the finishing.
With a metal silo, do you rebar and then shoot onto it?
The silo owner actually poured concrete over the top of it and left the inside metal. I’m going to make a run through it and then up and around and over it. It’s going to be like a figure eight snake run. You go over it and then down and then down and down and then through it and then up and then up and then over it.
It’s like a go-kart track?
Have you seen the metal full pipe? Does it have seams and stuff?
I checked it out already. I skated it. It’s perfect.
What’s the tranny?
It’s six-foot tranny. It’s a 12-foot pipe. It’s only 20 feet long. It’s going to be sick. The half pipe part is going to taper into the full pipe. The half pipe part is going to be 60 feet long. I’m going to drop the pipe in the middle and throw the tapers off the edges and run it through and up and over. It’s going to be a good one. I’m building the best park in the world, right here. It’s going to be like, $10 a square foot.
That sounds sick. Where is this?
Dillon, Montana. Montana and Idaho and eastern Washington are going off big time.
Are there a lot of skaters up in Montana?
Hell, yeah. There are 15 parks in the vicinity that I could hit in a couple days.
Are these older or younger skaters getting involved?
It’s everyone. We’ve got the dudes with the pads and the kids with the iPods. It’s going off. I didn’t think we’d last past 2000 and now it’s six years later. Kids are going to be in the local government soon. Pretty soon we’re going to be running shit, Murf. We’ve got to start a Skate Town. They’re talking about it on the Indian Reservations. We could build free skateparks on Indian Reservations.
You know those casinos are supposed to be putting money aside for recreational facilities.
Something is going to happen. I think skaters need to come together somewhere and build a Skate Town. I’m thinking about building one at my new place in Seattle. I have 16 lots. I’m going to build eight houses, a snake run, a bowl and a bunch of shit. It’s going to be a community co-op Skate Town.
You already own 16 lots in Seattle?
Yeah. I sold my house with the bowl and I bought this place. It’s surrounded by a hundred acres of Greenbelt and it overlooks the river. You can take motorcycle trails to the West Side bowl. We’ve got the office there and the house and garage. We’re going to build a bunch of shit. I’m going to build a vert ramp, too. We’re talking about developing it and making it Skate Town.
It sounds like I should buy a few lots there.
Yeah. Come on. We need you there, too. We should do one in every state. Then we can travel around and stay at all the different Skate Towns and skate all the parks in the area. We’re doing it in the next 10-15 years.
We need to get the boys together and have a meeting.
Let’s do it. Let’s have a collaborative meeting.
We’ve got to have Little Eddie and Collette there.
Yeah. We need all of the representatives from every state.
I can’t believe it’s this huge.
So are you on the road 24-7, 365 days a year?
I do a lot of traveling. I pretty much live on the road. I have a little RV and a trailer with all of my tools in it. I’ve got my motorcycle in there. If I want to go home, I just fill up the bike and I’m home in 12 hours. I can get home for like, $30. I’m on the road a lot. I’ve got two kids, so I’ve been home more lately. I’m letting the guys do their thing. I go and help when they’re doing concrete or if they’re short a man on the job. The last year or so, I’ve been letting them do their thing.
Are you the one that has to lay it out for the community before the crew comes in to build?
The office does that stuff. I like to work on the jobs that are low key, instead of dealing with a lot of inspectors and design plans. I like to build it when they say, “We don’t care. Just build something cool.”
That’s incredible that a city can say, “Just build something cool.”
Yeah, but they look at the website, and they usually call a couple of towns where we’ve built parks before they call us. Our reputation really does pretty well for us.
You’ve got to love that. Did you read the Little Eddie interview in the last issue of “Juice”?
We got a letter about that interview from some guy saying that it had a negative effect on the image of Grindline, because of Little Eddie’s partying. Do things like that matter to you? Do you take that into account?
No. I don’t care what they say. You just have to go ride one of Little Eddie’s parks. I don’t try to censor anything. We are what we are. We do what we do. We say what we say. It’s all destiny. Nothing is going to stop us.
I wouldn’t think you’d want to candy coat anything.
No. We’re going for it. We live out on the road 365 days a year. We try to build the best parks that we can. We just try to make the best of every situation.
What’s your “Duty now for the Future”?
Skate Towns are my duty. I’m starting Skate Towns. It’s been a long time coming. I wanted to throw that one out there because I need some help on that one. I need some support. Tell the people to email me at [email protected]
Is there anyone you want to thank?
I want to thank all of my foremen. I want to thank Shaggy. He’s the gnarliest pool skater and skatepark designer in the world. How can you not let Shaggy build your park?
Little Eddie is like, 4’2” and he’s blowing concrete and building sick parks. How do you find these guys?
All these guys just come to me with destiny in their eyes. They’re like, “I’m going to do this.” They’ve done it. They do it. You can’t stop them. There are so many of them, Rabbi, Eddie, Wade, Jimmy, Donny, Little B, Science, and Scooter are the best. Scooter built the Vagabond when we did all the new concrete. He’s one of my top finishers now. Ben Smith is good. He worked for all of these skatepark companies. They end up defecting and coming to us. I’m like, “Come and build whatever you want.” Randy Colvin was working for us. All of these crazy skateboarders are working with us. Science, Ed Peck, Frenchy, Danger and Larry North all do it up right. I’ve met so many people through this shit. It’s not even funny.
They’re all building great stuff.
They are. They’re all giving it their heart and soul.
The pool coping that’s going up is just insane. You guys are killing it. Every time I go to one of your parks, I just can’t believe it. I know that everyone of those places you build, the people that come to skate it are stoked. You guys have to keep doing what you’re doing. You guys have integrity. We completely respect what you do. You have to be proud.
Yeah. I am proud. I’m proud of what we have and what we’ve all watched this thing grow into and the way it’s going. We don’t even know what’s going to happen next. We could get dudes in every state in every country building Skate Towns. We can develop it from nothing. Skateboarding has only really been happening since the ’70s. Think about 2010 and 2020 and 2030.
I just can’t believe it’s still powering forward. We just have to keep skating. I look at your website and I just can’t believe all the great parks you’ve built.
Look at the other websites, too. Everyone is doing it. It’s going insane. Wally Hollyday and Site Design are doing it. Team Pain is doing it. It’s great to have all these parks out there. Everyone is trying their hardest. I know we are.
I know you are. I’ve seen the pool coping. Is there anything else you want to say?
Just thanks to the people in the office. They’re killing it too. Chris, James and Micah are running shit. Emily, our bookkeeper, keeps us in business. I want to thank my wife, Jennifer, especially. She put our house on the line. My wife has supported me since 1991. I couldn’t have done it without her. I want to thank my kids, Kaya and Leona, because they hype me up and draw skateparks for me. I wouldn’t be anywhere without my family.
Well, we all owe you one.
No, I owe the world. That’s why I’m doing this until I’m broke or dead.
You’re the man. Keep that spirit going. We need people like you out there.
Murf, thank you for the inspiration. Let’s get the National Skate Conference going.
Right on. I’m in.
What state are you in?
I’m in New York City now.
Okay. I’ve got Washington. You’ve got New York. Whoever else wants to claim a state better step it up. We’re going to do this.
Mark Hubbard for president. You’ve got my vote.
[Laughs.] Thanks, Murf.