DUTY NOW FOR THE FUTURE: TEAM PAIN SKATEPARKS
INTERVIEW BY JIM MURPHY
INTRODUCTION BY JIM MURPHY
PHOTOS BY MATT JOHANIS, DAWNDRA BUDD, TODD HUBER AND TIM PAYNE
For the last 20 years, Tim Payne has been responsible for some of the greatest wooden ramp and bowl creations that skateboarding has ever seen. From the multidimensional Animal Chin ramp created for the Bones Brigade, to the loop that led Hawk past 12 o’clock, Tim has proven again and again that he can build anything out of wood that a skateboarder could imagine. Now with public and private facilities showing interest in building concrete skateparks again after 20 years, Tim is looking to make his mark in the concrete arena and has formed Team Pain to do some damage. Can he pull it off? Read on and feel the pain.
When did you start skateboarding?
What were you skating?
We were skating water skis. The first time I saw a skateboard was when a friend of mine came rolling up on a water ski with wheels and trucks on it. After that we went to garage sales and bought old wooden water skis, because they had a kicktail.
“We started building the vert ramps about the same time the parks started popping up in Florida. One of our favorite parks was the Longwood Pipeline. It had two runs that went downhill, and one of the runs came back under the take off hill and there was a 12 foot fullpipe going through it. The excitement was hitting your helmet in the top of the pipe. That was how you judged if you were a good skater.”
Were you skating parks or just skating freestyle?
We started just riding around. I remember spending a day in the church parking lot, trying to flip my board and falling on my ass. I said, “This isn’t skateboarding”. I didn’t want to stand still and just flip my board. We’d find hills and ditches to skate. We didn’t get parks until ’78.
When did you start building ramps?
We started building little quarter pipes in ’74. We had been skating a ditch called Jimbo’s Gutter. It was cool. It was probably about 70 feet long, but it was 2 miles from my house, so we started building quarter pipes in our driveways. We’d grab wood from construction sites. I had a friend whose parents would let us build stuff in their front yard. I’d get all the 2 x 4’s and he would get all the plywood. After a couple months I noticed every sheet of plywood had a hole in it, so I asked him why. He said he would ride his motorcycle to the construction site, get a sheet of plywood, smash a hole in it and drag it back with a rope.
That was hardcore.
We’d go into the houses being built and pick up all the nails on the ground. We use to build entire vert ramps for $12 dollars.
Were you riding any bowls?
We started riding swimming pools around ’76. These guys name Beetle, and Mark and Dave Albashar would scout out all the pools. We would find about one a month.
When did you start building vert ramps?
Around ’77, when I was still in high school. We had three halfpipes within two miles of each other. We built our first halfpipe in David Slovan’s backyard, and a month later, I had one in mine. When his parents got pissed, we cut his apart and my ramp morphed into the 32 foot wide one. With an 8 foot roll in on the side.
Ten foot trannies with a foot of vert. In ’78, we had a 32 foot wide ramp with an 8 foot roll in.
What was the coping?
Whatever we could find. We’d stick a broomstick or some pvc up there.
Did you do that because you didn’t have a park?
We started building the vert ramps about the same time the parks started popping up in Florida. One of our favorite parks was the Longwood Pipeline. It had two runs that went downhill, and one of the runs came back under the take off hill and there was a 12 foot fullpipe going through it. The excitement was hitting your helmet in the top of the pipe. That was how you judged if you were a good skater.
How did you guys know how to build trannies?
We just kind of guessed. We knew how to frame from building treehouses. When we were kids we had treehouses all over the place in the orange groves and in the woods. There where big oak trees everywhere. We’d have huge tree forts and orange fights.
How did the ramps ride?
They were great. Everybody would bring cans of paint and we would mix it in a trash can and keep the ramps painted all the time. The surface did good, and about once every six weeks we would get a new layer of plywood. One ramp had seven layers of half inch plywood on it. It was rock hard. The main thing that destroyed us was in ’83 we got annexed into the city. At that time we had 11 ramps.
Those outlasted the concrete parks that started disappearing in ’80 or ’81?
Yeah, it was a really quick. A lot of the skateparks were insured by one company, and that company was getting a lot of lawsuits so they folded, and I guess the skateparks felt that they couldn’t stay open. We had 22 concrete parks for about five years.
Did you have a good scene through the early 80’s?
Hell yeah, because we all had ramps and you didn’t have to pay to skate. We never wore any pads because they would just fall off your knees. We use to sneak into skateparks all the time because we didn’t have the money and we hated wearing those stupid pads they had back then, they would just fall off.
Who were your favorite skaters back then.
Monty Nolder, Billy Borigard and John Grigley.
When did you hook up with the Rancheros?
In ’82, I had a ramp in the back of my house that was called Bud’s ramp. It was 32 feet wide, and it had 9 foot transitions, with a foot and a half of vert with a channel and extension. We were getting kicked out of the house so I said we’re going to have a huge contest. I sent out flyers to every skate shop up and down the East Coast. That’s when I first met T.K., Lenny Byrd, John Hughes, and Jimmy O’Brien. Those guys drove all the way to my house from Atlanta.
Yeah, it was within a weeks notice too. I just sent out a flyer that had the dimensions of the ramp, and we put a brand new layer on it. And that’s when we met the Rancheros. The next Thanksgiving they were having a big jam so we all went up there and that’s when we met Blaize Blouin, Clint Deaton and Booger Brown. That was an eye-opening experience for us. Just seeing how many people skated and how cool and hospitable everybody was. The East Coast was super cool growing up because if people came to my house, and if they could hang, then they were totally welcome to spend the night. That’s pretty much the way it was all up and down the East Coast.
What did you think about the Ramp Ranch?
It was 32 feet wide with pool coping all the way across one wall. People were camping out and drinking beer. The entry fee for the contest was a six pack. The judges didn’t even show up to the finals, they were all passed out. So all the skaters picked the winner.
At what point did you start heading out West?
I guess my big break, for getting paid for doing work was helping Paul Schmitt put up some demo ramps for contests around Florida. When Paul moved to Cal. They asked him to build a ramp for the first NSA contests. He was so busy with Vision, he didn’t have the time to leave work for a week. He suggested T.K. and I go build it. When I showed up T.K. and John were cutting transitions with a jig saw. They were there 5 hours before us and had 5 templates cut. I showed up with my half of the crew and cut the other 11 transitions in five minutes. We built that ramp in 24 hours. We were all blown away because that was the first time we had ever built an entire ramp with brand new material. A truck just dropped off a load of lumber. We were freakin’. That event in Alabama was so cool, inside the hanger. You could fit three B 52’s in there. They filmed the last scene of E.T. there.
That was a sick contest.
That’s where I met all you guys. That was so fun. We had free reign of that place. We had the code to get in the gate, so we’d tell all the skaters to meet us back there at 10PM. Every night we would stay till 1 to 2 o’clock and they had 4 days of practice before the event so everybody had time to get to know each other.
Did you realize at that point that you could make a business out of it?
No. I was just soaking up every minute of it. I had that stoner surfer mentality. I was just enjoying every second of it. After the Mobile, Alabama contest, we were contacted by this guy in St. Louis that wanted to do a big demo for the VP fair. That was the one under the arch.
Wasn’t it an elliptical transition?
That was actually the third ramp we had built with elliptical transitions, The first one we did with an elliptical transition, it was 11 1/2 to 9 1/2 with 1’9” of vert.
What’s the science behind elliptical?
Normally on a regular vert ramp you have to pump twice; at the bottom and at the top. With elliptical, the theory is like swinging a chain around your finger, once you start the momentum, the chain winds up by itself because it’s getting smaller and smaller. As you are going up the transition, the transition would get smaller. It was a theory that Chuck Hults and Paul Schmitt told me about. I guess Chuck was the one that really king-pinned it so they asked me to try it out.
What was the reaction from the pros?
They were stoked as hell on it. Usually the first day they would ask me what the trannies were on the ramp and I’d said “What part of the ramp?” They just thought I was totally in space.
Then Lance asked you to build the Animal Chin ramp?
He said that it was a secret project, and not to tell anybody. He wanted me to come out to California in 6 weeks.
How did he hear about you?
He rode Mobile, Alabama. He said that was the first ramp he ever did his whole line in his first run.
How did that make you feel?
Super good. The biggest compliment is just watching people appreciate something you’ve built. I’m there to provide a service, and if I’m not providing that service then I should get the hell out
What was the Animal Chin thing like with all the secrecy?
Lance said we had to keep it undercover because they were filming a new video. He said they wanted to build an insane ramp that nobody had ever seen before. I told them I was down for that. He flew me out there and I had T.K. come out. We got together the first night with Stacy, Cab, McGill and Lance and started drawing stuff on napkins and pieces of paper. T.K. had the idea of building a mini ramp on top of the deck of the ramp, which is cool as shit for using the extensions and Cab was talking about Lakemont Skatepark. It had two pools that were two feet apart and he was asking me if I could duplicate that. I was like, “Hell, we could put the coping right together if you want”.
Like for a spine?
Yeah, I invented the first spine.
You’re claiming the first spine?
What else were they talking about?
They were talking about wide channels, and bowled corners, but we were supposed to start building in two days, and start filming a week after that so any ends that were bowled were cut out at that point. Then Lance said, “What if you could just roll across the deck and down through a tunnel and come out into the ramp?” We were all laughing about that, then I said we could do it right through the spine section, we could cut a hole through it and you could skate right underneath it. That ended up working out well for a bunch of combos like grinding over people coming through the tunnel.
So they were stoked?
Yeah. Lance and Mike McGill helped us work on the ramp. I was standing up on the deck and Lance was saying “Throw me the drill!” So I threw it and when he caught it the 3/16” drill bit when right through the palm of his hand. He was one of the best workers because he never complained. He was totally busting his ass and he kept up with us, too. I was pretty stoked on Lance because he had a lot of drive and personality, except I was bummed on him at the same time.
Because, we had been driving to a restaurant and eating lunch every day and we kept driving by this daycare center. It had a big clown out front and the guys were saying we should go get it, it would be cool if that was on top of the ramp. After the fifth day I was sick of hearing it, so I said, “Stop the van. I’ll go get it right now!” I ran out and grabbed the clown and as I’m running back, they take off.
And you’re standing there with a clown?
Yeah, and his feet fell off because there were concrete blocks weighing the clown down. So I turned around and I was going to take it back but there were people running after me. I took off running with this 80 pound clown under my arm. I ditched the clown in the bushes then started walking all the way back to the site. It was a five mile walk through a swamp. I finally got back to the ramp and those guys were like, “Man, we thought we were going to get arrested”. And I was like, “Man, if you thought that, why did you let me get out of the van?”
How did you settle that?
I just took it in strides. I had it all worked out after that walk.
What happened after that?
When we were building the Animal Chin ramp, Tony Hawk’s dad asked me if I wanted to come with them on the road to do NSA events. I started building a lot of ramps for companies so their riders had a place to skate. I built Jeff Kendall’s park, and Studio 43 for Bryce Kanights and Thrasher. I built the Vision Ramp. For the next five years I lived without a home. Once a month I would travel and build a ramp. I was totally happy. If I built a ramp I would either stay there or check some other places out, and stay with everybody I met on the road.
You were living the dream?
Yeah, I know most people settle down when they turn 21. I just wasn’t down with that. I wanted to see as much and do as much as I could.
So, you went to Europe?
Yeah, I went to Europe about 25 times. I’ve been to Amsterdam and Denmark three times, Italy and Spain, Germany Japan, China, and Singapore.
What was the reception like over there?
It was fantastic. The European skaters were just so stoked to be skating with the American pros. There were a lot of really good skaters over there, too. The thing that was crazy was the population of skaters was so huge. We’d build a 48 foot wide mini ramp and there would be 20 people riding it at once, in a four foot strip doing like 100 tricks just back and forth. That was so insane for us. We were used to riding the whole ramp at once. Everybody there was used to riding narrow crowded ramps. They would all skate at the same time.
How long did the NSA tours last?
They lasted about 4 years. There was a big transition going on when the NSA was trying to go corporate. They were trying to get corporate sponsors but they weren’t able to establish it unless they had a board of directors. And they had to be established for five years. Frank had been lining it up really well. But what happened was the voting members that were on the board were the big companies like Santa Cruz, Powell, Vision, Tracker and Indy. We coined them the ‘Big 5′. They were really worried about all the small companies coming up, so they wanted to only let the people that were on their teams enter the contests.
And they only wanted their banners on the ramp. When I heard that, I thought they were insane. Every month a magazine came out and there was maybe one page of a NSA event, I don’t understand where they thought that power play was going to get them. Frank said that he wasn’t going to have any part of it. It was his organization and it was open to everybody. He wanted a diplomatic way of people becoming pro, like they had to compete in a certain number of amateur events first. They said if you aren’t going to do this, we’ll just vote you out. They voted Frank Hawk out of his own organization!
Who got voted in?
There were some people appointed to run the contests, but the first event after that was planned to be in Tampa, and for the first time in NSA history the event was cancelled. There were people that had traveled from Virginia and St. Louis just to find out that the event was postponed. The next month when the event finally happened, only 500 people showed up. We had filled stadiums before. So that was the first change that I saw in the mismanagement. When the NSA died, that’s when vert skating died.
Was that ’91?
Yeah, that was probably ’90 or ’91.
How did that make you feel?
Basically, I got fired with Frank. I got replaced by two of the guys that were helping me build the ramps.
You’re not bitter are you?
Not really, I just wouldn’t do it to somebody else. I got paid $1000 a month for building those ramps, which is peanuts.
That was good for you?
Yeah, and I did my job and everybody was happy. The best part about it was, Frank was really into building the same ramp every event. He wanted a 32 foot wide ramp with 9 1/2 foot trannies and 1 1/2 feet of vert. I would get there 3 days before everybody else and build the ramp with no supervision. The way I felt about it is that your ramp skating ability shouldn’t be judged on the same material. Skateboarding vert was skateboarding everything. Pools, extensions, channels, hips, bowled corners. We tried to do everything we could to that 32 foot wide ramp to make it different for every event. I really didn’t want to see the sport turn into a gymnastics thing where 50 points were given for doing an invert, and you have to do a invert and a grind and a hand plant in a preliminary run to qualify. It was crazy because that wasn’t skateboarding. Skateboarding is aggression. I don’t want to sit there and see somebody go three feet lower to stay on their board, I want to see them try and push it. We would change every ramp, and that would piss Frank off so bad. We’d put pool coping on the ramp, channels, and escalators. He would show up and he’d say “What the hell is that?” And at the end everybody liked it so he was stoked. Which brings us to the St. Louis ramp, the styrofoam cup.
Explain what that was.
St. Louis had a summer camp going on, and I stayed up there for the whole summer. I sat down with Chris Miller and Micke Alba one night and we were thinking what could we do to really make this vert ramp cool for this event. This guy wanted to build it twice as wide as any other ramp so we were talking 64 feet wide. Chris said why don’t we make each end transition down into the middle of the ramp. I said, what if we took two styrofoam cups and stuck them together so it was even transitions dropping all the way down? Micke, Chris, and I sat there for like three hours working on the schematics for the ramp. The ramp went from 8’6” transitions to 10′ transitions towards the middle. It slid you down towards the middle, so to make you come back, on the outside we made the coping drop down the opposite way. Then the budget ended up getting cut so we ended up building it 32 feet wide with the ramp dropping on one side. That ramp was crazy because you could only go back and forth one time in a straight line, and then you would have to carve, Which pissed some people off. They would say “I can’t do my line”, so I would tell them “Learn how to carve buddy!”.
That ramp was rad.
That ramp was sick. Some people were doing the biggest carving airs on that. And so many people helped me build it. Allen Losi, Ben Schroeder, and Micke and Steve Alba helped work on some ramps. It was really cool. I would always get side jobs, like when I built Studio 43, I built that ramp for $350. I built Vision’s ramp for $750. Micke Alba’s ramp, I built in his backyard for $300. I would do the couch tour. I would go hang out with them and go skate Baldy. I wanted them to have a ramp.
You were in a position where you could have exploited a lot of people for cash but you didn’t.
Yeah, it felt good to be a part of that because I knew it was helping them out, and at the same time they were helping me out. They would give me clothes and boards. I got a good word of mouth reputation for some of the bigger jobs.
I remember you built Charleston, SC. That park was insane! What inspired that bowl?
I had a friend that lived in California and Tim Putnam, Laney Cobb and I would go visit him. He was living with Chicken. My first time to California, I stayed for three and a half months riding pools. I hooked up with this guy named Arab and we skated the San Juan Capistrano pool. I just thought I had to duplicate it with better hips and a better shallow end. It was one that had to be redone. And we finally had our chance. I had two jobs lined up; one for Atlanta Skatezone and one for Charleston. Atlanta was really weird. It was a narrow building with poles all in the way so we built the kidney pool there. Then we went to Charleston, which was a wide open warehouse. The San Juan Capistrano pool spined over into a mini bowl. The thing that was sick was making the spine wrap around like it did.
That was one of the best bowls I ever rode.
We wanted to make it fun, plus both of the buildings had limited ceiling heights so we made them nine foot trannies with 1’3” of vert. We had to make the ramp so it fit in the building. It was mostly bowls so you didn’t need as much vert or as much trannie because you were usually carving. They had some insane contests there. Rich and Nancy Moore were the greatest. They owned the park and Rich skated. They had the BBC come through with Phillips. That was Blaze’s hometown. It was a good place to be.
Was that the first bowl you built?
No, we built a couple before that. We built a bowl at Visalia YMCA. The Vision warehouse, I did the one with the hip and the 3 bowl corner. It was supposed to go up into a shallow end and Dorkman got a whole bunch of shoes, so he cut out the shallow end so he could add more shelves. We were so pissed. That Vision Skate Escape ramp was dominated by the Chrome Domers – Remy Stratton and Omar Hassan and those guys. We’d be skating and a pretty serious session would be going on with the Vison team and then this carload of guys with chrome helmets would pull up and they would just dominate. They would roll in and snake every single person. It usually ended up with, The only people riding the ramp had chrome helmets. and they where just a bunch of young amateur kids.
What’s the deal with the chrome helmets?
I don’t know, it was just their little coin. I had so much respect for those guys because they were just dominating.
Omar killed it.
So, you build Charleston and that kicked ass, and all of a sudden it’s the early 90’s and things start falling apart.
Things went downhill. It seemed like all across the nation, skateboarding was becoming illegal. You weren’t allowed to have a ramp in your driveway, you weren’t allowed to build a ramp in your yard. All across the nation vert ramps were getting torn down, and ironically it was the same time the NSA lost their power to hold events. All across the nation, vert skating became extinct. The last event I did was the Hawaii Blazedale thing with that wide mini ramp. That was my and Paul Schmitt’s design. It had a hip and a bowl corner. We stole pool coping off a pool. Then we went outside the Blazedale Auditorium with a forklift and grabbed two marble benches and put them on the coping.
That was a good ramp.
It was super fun. That’s what we thought the event should be like, we were trying to make them fun. Then things started going downhill with the NSA, and skateboarding was changing to street skating, and there wasn’t a lot of people building skateparks, so I went back to building houses. I did that for a couple months and started helping build nightclubs which was really cool. I did a lot of surfing and skating and just stayed home and enjoyed that time.
Did you ever think it would come back or did you think it was pretty much the end?
I knew someday vert skating would come back, I just didn’t know when. I knew someday the cities would have to build skateboard parks. That was one thing that kept me trying so hard. In 1984 when all our ramps got red tagged and torn down, we started petitioning the city of Orlando, and the city made skateboarding illegal downtown in 1986 and promised to build a public skatepark. I was on the board of directors for like 7 years going to these meetings once a month and just listening to all the bureaucracy of what it took to get a skatepark. That helped educate me with attorneys and the lingo, and ironically Orlando still doesn’t have a skatepark. Eventually our company bloomed into building a lot of public skateparks.
When did you start building public parks?
It started happening about 5 years ago. We had built some small city parks when skateboarding was slow. It was just some banked street ramps and railslides. Ocean City, MD was the first real skatepark that we built for a city. The only bad thing about that was a pool contractor donated the pool for the park, and when it came his turn to start building it, he got all the material money for building it and then he got really busy, so we built half of the pool. We shaped it and steeled it and then they came and did the plaster work on it. It was all bumpy and lumpy and it sucked. We were bummed about that. After that I got together a group of guys and started building parks. Red was helping us for a little while.
Are your crews doing the one shot concrete or are you doing a two layer thing?
What are the advantages?
The one shot deal is, you have to get it right the first time. Concrete placement is key.
Is that Gunite?
No. We are doing regular concrete Air entrained with more portland in the mix. A gunite mixture has a lot more sand in it. We’re just using a more regular concrete with P rock in it so it will shoot through the gun easier. The gunite is made to shoot on the wall and dry quickly. The plaster that goes over it gives it a lot of the strength. We try to do a single pour so we don’t ever have to worry about it popping off later.
Does that give you the best finish?
You can get the same finish out of both products. A lot of the problems I see with the plaster parks is they’re too slippery.
When you go on a job do you specify how you want the concrete poured?
We give the city specs on how we’re going to build it, then the city uses their engineering department. They go over our paper work and tell us what they like or dislike about the way we do things and then we come to a basic agreement.
Do you tell them what trannies you are going to put where and if you are going to use pipe or pool coping?
Yeah, That’s really key, I love riding tile and pool coping, but most of our parks have been more of a skatepark where you can skate everything in the whole park. Some places are hard to get coping and you have to ship it in. We just haven’t had a lot of opportunity, usually it’s a time factor, but we definitely want to use more pool coping.
Well you’ve got my vote to put pool coping anywhere you can.
I’m down with that.
How do you get these park building jobs?
Normally it’s a bid process where you get sent a bid package. It’s usually between 40-100 pages. What’s crazy is 50% of the bids have been just a blank page bid. They say “We have 10,000 square feet and we don’t know what we want. You can either pour a slab and build ramps or build all concrete. Send us your design and your quote,”
As far as pricing goes, are you feeling like you have to low ball it to get the work?
No, We have done it from a grass roots basis instead of a construction company point of view where they have crazy overhead costs. And we specialize in building skateboard parks.
You’re going up against companies that are doing pre-fab stuff, so are you losing work because they are going for the lowest bid?
The uneducated cities have definitely gone with the lowest bidder. I see cities pour a slab, set a grindbox, a transition and a bank ramp and call it a city skatepark which is just pathetic. I really want to see skateparks that are as big as the skateparks that we grew up skating which were 80,000 to 160,000 square feet.
Are you seeing parks being built now that are just totally shitty?
I’d say 90% of the skateparks built today are shitty.
Why do you think that is?
Because the cities don’t take the time to educate themselves on what a skatepark is. They didn’t listen to the local community on what they needed. They fly out to Huntington Beach and take pictures of that shitty park and say it’s the best thing in the world. They did theirs for $85,000 so we must be able to do it for around $100,000.
They’re not getting local skaters involved it’s just bureaucrats talking with other bureaucrats.
And the skaters don’t get heard. Usually the skaters don’t come in with a plan of attack. There are usually kids who come in and say, “I want a handrail, I want a bank.” They don’t have any drawings put together. That makes it hard for the cities. The thing that I find so backwards, is the city determines the budget before they have done the research. They say, “We have $200,000. What can we get? Instead of saying we have 4 million people here, so we need to build six skateparks. Somehow they come up with this number that they think justifies building one skateboard park.
You don’t know where the hell they’re getting that number?
No, and it’s crazy because that number has been predetermined somehow. The cities that we work with, are more on a grassroots level. We are hired because they want us to build their park. There isn’t anther company like us that’s out there trying to help the cities see that they can accept nonprofit funds. They can go out and solicit more money and put a guy’s name on a plaque with donators. We let the cities know that if we buy the materials through them, they don’t have to pay tax on it. A lot of the cities that we work in are mountainous areas with a lot of earth moving equipment at their disposal. We just ask them if we can use their machinery so we can reduce the cost of rental equipment and instead of pocketing that money, we put it back into the park and yield a bigger park for the money. In other words we are building the most skatepark for the money.
Are you getting good reactions from the city when you do that for them?
Yes, because we are working hand in hand with them. Usually inspectors are not very welcome on job-sites. Coming from a construction background, I’m used to dealing with city inspectors, so it a more relaxed job site. We are coming in and befriending the city and the community.
Are bowls coming back?
Definitely. I think it’s cool to build a combination street course with bowls Because, there’s a lot more to skate and you can keep your flow.
Do you find people that say I used to skate, let see some stuff from the 70’s
Definitely. But it all comes down to a budget thing. What’s the most important? The first priority is getting street and bowls in there so it doesn’t leave much room for anything else. We are trying to make a city see that you need to have a little separation, beginners need an area and you need to have some mini ramps maybe even build a separate mini ramp. Just so the mini ramp skaters can go ride that and build a killer combi- bowl, an intermediate bowl, and a snakerun. Do it where you can have 300 people skating at a time without colliding in to each other.
Are any of them outlawing skating in the city by saying you have a skatepark now?
I have heard about that happening in a couple of cities. When we hear about it, we definitely tell the cities that it’s not a good idea. We are trying to keep skaters from being outlaws. It’s crazy when you have bicycles and roller bladers on the street, and then you look at some kid with a skateboard and tell him he can’t skate. That’s crazy.
Back in the 70’s we had all these parks and then boom they were gone. Is there anything telling you that may happen again?
I don’t really see it happening again because most of the people that built the parks back in the 70’s were from what I call the disco roller skating phase. That’s back when building roller skating rinks were really popular and the way it happened in Florida, half of the parks were built by Merrill Lynch. Their whole key was to buy property and sit on it for five years and build a skateboard park so they could have income on the property while we they were holding on to it. Like Pipeline in Longwood, they had 50 investors in one skateboard park that had a 10′ by 10′ pro shop that sold popcorn and candy bars. You’re not going to make money like that. You need a skate shop. Back then it was $7 a day to skate. Who can afford that? I want to see free public skateparks.
You’re not building private concrete parks?
We do still build private indoor parks.
How are they doing?
Awesome. They are providing a need for the community,
and a safe place to skate. We try to talk the owners into charging a reasonable fee. The best thing about that is they are indoors. 50% of our business is building indoor parks, and the ramps for ESPN. Our crew built the vert ramp for the Gravity Games and ESPN.
Are you still on with those people?
It’s a year to year contract, so they never tell me what’s going on because I’m just a construction worker. They are ESPN. They are out to provide something for television at the cheapest way possible.
You’d think that for television they would want the best that money can buy.
What I’ve learned is the show is made for television. They are selling commercial space on television. For the last couple years, they have been giving some things back to the community. They have been getting involved in giving some money back to the skateboard parks. I’ve been involved in helping them give away the ramps at the end of the year. They just got involved with Woodward in building more summer camps. There’s a lot going on.
Are you involved with any Woodward stuff?
I hope so, since we built the backbone of what Woodward is today.
Tell us about Woodward.
They were a gymnastics camp for 25 years and they had a couple of people that wanted to start BMX racing up there. They had a fair amount of bikers coming up to race. They wanted a ramp to ride. So they hired Mike Sparanzo and Clint Deaton. They wanted to start getting skateboarders involved because they had a ramp now. The first year Mike and Clint went up there and added a foot and a half of vert to make it rideable. They thought it wasn’t going to work and they were going to have to build brand new stuff. Thanks to Mike and Clint I was asked to go up there the next year and build two street courses, a vert ramp and a spine ramp. It was really cool. I went back four years in a row and added on to the camp.
And it just keeps getting bigger and bigger.
Yeah, we just built a concrete bowl and last year we built an additional 20,000 sq. feet of concrete with bowls and hips.
Supposedly in the next three years Woodward is going to open up three more camps.
Then I guess there is going to be the X-Games Skateparks too.
What’s that all about?
It’s going to be like Van’s deal where they go into a mall and build a skatepark.
They’re going to build combi ESPN parks.
Yeah, they’re going to be called X-Games Skateparks.
Do you have any involvement with that?
I’m not sure. I’ve been verbally involved. Mark Podurski built the first one in Atlanta.
ESPN is going head to head with Vans?
I don’t see it as a competitive thing.
It looks like you’ve got a good future.
I’m not sure if we’re going to be doing any of the work. I still like the idea of building free public parks. If Woodward wants to build summer camps, I’m all about that because you get to be a lot more creative. I heard it’s been really hard for the guys building the Van’s parks because of the building time.
Carje gets rushed.
Props go out to him for all the struggle of working with unions and dealing with roofers, air conditioning and sprinklers guys working over there heads all the time. I’ve heard of him doing three 24 hour shifts with the same guys. That’s crazy stuff.
What is your duty now…for the future?
I really want to convince people to build larger parks.
You ever kill a man with a nail gun?
Thanks for building the best ramps I ever rode. And Charleston, one of the best bowls. You wanna give props to anyone?
Thanks to you for all the old Alva days, and the Zorlac days. Thanks to everybody that has helped us. We have 28 people that are working for us. Dave Ellis, Jeff Hammond, James Hedrick, Lance Spiker My wife Linda…The list could be this whole article. There are so many people that have helped us along the way.
What about the name Team Pain?
It started out as a nickname for me when I was 17 or 18. People just called me Pain. All my surfing buddies would call me Team Pain. It started out as a joke. When I started a corporation six years ago I thought it would be funny if I called it Team Pain. Now it’s funny to hear people answering the phone “Team Pain Enterprises”. It makes me laugh every time.
You’ve come a long way from building tree forts. Let’s talk about secret missions. Tell me about the first Tony Hawk full pipe.
The first one was a nightmare. I’d been thinking about the loop, because it had always been a dream of mine to build a big wooden full pipe in my backyard. Tony called me up and said, “You can’t tell anybody but I want to build the loop.” He wanted me to come out in 3 weeks and build it. So I said, “Okay, tell me how you want it built.” He wanted an entrance and an exit going out of a full pipe, and I was like “That’s not going to work.” He said, “That’s the way it was when Duane first did it.” I said, “Okay but I really think the wall should be curved, like the bottom of the ramp is turning the whole way around. But he said he really wanted to try it with the full pipe in the middle and the entrance and the exit on each side. It was insane. He was going in and leaning in on his toes, and when he was going over vert he had to switch his weight back over to his heels to carve out of it. He said it was such a pendulum that it would knock him off his board. When you are looking at the distance you only have to carve over 8 feet but it was too hard to get all the way over. He killed himself for three hours and at one point he was making it all the way around trying to find the exit but he couldn’t find it. One thing that was really evident was the take-off ramp really didn’t need to be that tall. Because all the momentum is in your hips and your upper body when you get your feet up over your head and he was developing a pump, where he would pump up the wall and pump again coming down the wall. It looked so cool when he was doing it. We wanted to cut a hole in it so he could ride off into the sunset. He said if he stopped now he wouldn’t be able to continue. He had just totally wrecked himself. He said the biggest problem was just mental, and he couldn’t get his body to do what he was picturing. It was crazy. That guy had tons of determination. He wrecked himself over and over again.
How was it when he made the first rotation all the way around?
Well that was on the next ramp.
He never made it on the first one?
No. I know Tony’s goal was to make the loop. He got Airwalk to back it so he could do the loop and they got that one shot of him upside down. That’s when I was telling him we had to build it like a Hot Wheels track. You know how the rubber bends when it goes around? That’s how you have to make the wood go. It holds you on the corner going up and on the wall going back down. After that, he was making them left and right.
How did you figure out how to construct it?
I just visualized it. It’s like building a bowl corner but it’s a flat surface. You need to make it consistent all the way around. Building bowls are way harder than building the loop.
What was the initial trannie of the loop?
It was 7′. But we started building them 7’6” after that so they were a little bit bigger. The first two loops were fourteen feet tall.
Why did you go with 7′ instead of 6′ or 8’?
Well the bigger you build it, the more speed you need to make it around. Tony was feeling comfortable with the first one being 7′. That’s what he was mentally prepared for and I wasn’t going to second guess him.
How was it compared to the one Duane rode?
It was the same trannies, that’s what Tony wanted. You remember that picture of Duane falling from 12 o clock?
There have been a lot of secret projects, like Danny Way’s big air ramp. We were talking about that for a long time. He rode motorcycles out in the desert and he wanted to build a big jump ramp that descended 10 foot. He was going to try to jump 70 feet. He was going to try to jump the length of a semi. He wanted a big transition take-off and then a big landing. We talked about that for over a year. When the time came around DC wanted him to do the highest air first. They said they would do the long jump next year. That ramp was sick, 16 foot trannies, two feet of vert, 34 foot tall drop in.
How did you figure having a 16 foot trannie?
Danny told me that’s what he wanted.
How did he come up with that number?
Danny had been talking to Steve Alba about the 30 foot fullpipes and what’s pumpable and what you could actually ride without going overboard. He wanted to go 18, but he was scared that the bigger he went, the harder it would be for him to handle. He wanted to go with 16, and 2. Our original idea was to build 3 different quarter pipes a 16 foot 18 foot and 20 foot. But the budget wouldn’t allow it.
What made him think to jump out of the helicopter?
He was just standing there and said, “There’s a helicopter. I’ll jump out of it.” And he did it. He’s insane. People thought he was joking. He did 13 foot kickflip indies, and 16 foot airs. He had been running up and down that ramp for hours. That dude is in super good shape. There was the roll-in going up 34 feet in the air and he was running up the 2×4 blocks nailed to that thing all the way up the take-off ramp. And he still had enough energy to jump out of a helicopter.
How high was he getting?
He easily got 16 and a half feet, to the bottom of his tail. But when we did the MTV one, they were measuring to the lowest point of your body. And I was pissed because the whole purpose in skateboarding is the action of your body and the emphasis of your board. When we judge anything, we judge it by the lowest point of your board.
Who determined that from MTV?
I don’t know, we were all screaming and complaining. I hate it when corporations get involved where they have no clue. They were judging people by how low there ass was.
Did they get pros to help judge it and legitimize it?
No. It was totally out of any skateboarder’s hands. They were using an electronic beam to judge, and They had some kind of camera mounted on the board. The whole MTV thing was a fiasco. They swore up and down to me for 6 months that it was just a skateboarding event. Then I get out there and they’ve got rollerbladers and bikers on the ramp. They made the skateboarders go at 9 in the morning to see who could get the highest air. Then the bikers got to go that night, prime time. The thing that pisses me of the most is that they have the most qualified people in the world sitting there and they never ask their opinion.
You never worked with them again?
No, I have worked with them again.
What about the Mexico loop thing with Tony Hawk. That was for the video “The End” right?
Yeah, it was a bullfight arena in Mexico. It was awful. Jamie Mosberg drove us down there and left us with his girlfriend’s 1976 Grand Torino. He said, “Stay here and I’ll be back in four days.” We were working on the ramp in this arena that was closed down for the summer. Every day these guys were coming by going, “Hey, you got your green card?” Are you allowed to be working here?” I was freaking that they were going to call the federales. We had no licensing to be there.
What was Mouseberg doing?
He was back in California kicking it.
No, maybe? I don’t know. Was he Tony’s point man. He was the producer and filmer of the video. He was the person that put together all that footage for the video. He’s an awesome photographer. He lacks a little bit in the management department though.
You’re in the middle of Mexico in some abandoned arena building a ramp, and some guys were giving you shit?
Yeah, people were walking in saying “What the hell are you working in our country for gringo? You’re taking money out of our worker’s mouths.” It was like the union times ten.
So did you stop working?
No, I knew they were either working us for money or they could have really reported us. I just played stupid. I told them to come back in five days, and they kept coming back daily with more people. But nothing ever happened.
What were you building exactly?
A 48 foot wide vert ramp that attached to the loop. That ramp had 12 foot trannies and two feet of vert. Tony likes a lot of transition. He’s stoked on big trannies, and that’s what we have been trying to push for the last 4 years at these events. There are those stuck in the mud people that want to ride a 32 foot wide ramp with 9 1/2 foot transitions.
What is your argument?
Bigger trannies give you more time to land the tricks. You go bigger, you flow better, of course it’s harder to pump but you’ve got way more transition to land on.
Are you limited on lip tricks?
Yeah, for about the first half hour, until you get used to it.
Do the majority of the pro’s want it?
Did they say that because they thought that some folks would be at an advantage?
Yeah, there are some things that need to be worked out in the organization. I wish contests would go back to judging people on aggression.
Have you seen politics entering judging? We hear that certain people are making the cut just because of who they are.
I don’t think so? In contests, you are getting judged on staying on the board instead of what you are doing with the board. You can have some lame-ass run and stay on the board the whole time and get judged higher than some guy that did sick tricks. He gets like 30 points, and the other guy that stays on his board going two feet above the coping, gets 97 and you’re like “What the fuck just happened?”
Because the other guys fell?
Yeah. First of all, that’s not skateboarding to me, doing some gymnast run where you have three elementary tricks. You do a handstand, an iron cross, and a flip off the rings. That’s just not it. Skateboarding is about going off. I want to watch skateboarding that’s exciting. That’s why backyard contests are way more happening. I just wish the events would have at least one contest a year based on aggression.
Who has the final say on how the stuff is run?
I think it’s going back to the people’s idea of a contest. You stay on your board for 45 seconds, I just think that needs to be done away with. That’s fine for some events, but there needs to be something else.
Like a jam session.
You know it!
Kind of like the stuff they do in Marseilles.
Yeah. This year at the ESPN finals in Philadelphia, there were only two people out of four hours that had a insane run where you stood up and clapped. For four hours you just sat there and watched people do safety runs. It was boring except for Bob Burnquist’s run at the end where he just barely stayed on and sketched on 3 tricks and still pulled it off. Everybody was freaking out. That’s what would be happening every run if they did a jam.
Do you think the pros just feel pressure to make the cut and get coverage?
No, I think it’s the organization. A lot of the organizations are saving mad amounts of money because they edit the footage right there at the contestant’s expense. I’ve seen people stand on the deck for 45 minutes in fifty degree weather before their next run. The contest goes into the evening, they’re up there freezing and they’re expected to do a sick run. It’s not fair to the skaters. Everyone says, “These guys are pros. They should be able to do a sick run without warming up”. On the average, practice is more fun to watch.
What do you have coming up?
We got tons of concrete parks coming up. Our guys on the concrete crew are kicking ass. We built Asheville, Breckenridge and St. Augustine. Our heart has always been in free public skateparks, I’d like to be able to drive every 30 miles and pull over and skate somewhere instead of pulling over at a rest stop.
What do you think the future is for privately-owned parks?
It seems like cities are building parks outdoors, and then in the winter time nobody has a place to skate. The cities are catching on but they’re still not filling the skater’s needs. You need a place that’s protected from the elements. There’s still plenty of room for private indoor parks.
You haven’t built any public indoor facilities?
Not for cities.
Name the worst skatepark you have ever seen?
There are a lot, like Huntington Beach. They have a little pyramid and a rail, and the other one is an ashtray. Both of the parks cost like $150,000 to construct. When I was making Skatepark Revolution video for Airwalk, I went to FDR and spoke to the Parks Department, and they told me they spent $180,000 putting that asphalt down and building that pyramid and that curb. Our jaws dropped, That’s all they could build for $180,000! And these guy were patting themselves on the back. Thank God for all those guys that have the local scene. They busted ass and made their own environment. That’s the way we grew up and I appreciate seeing that stuff. I just hope that the cities start to realize how important the size of a skatepark is and the fact that there needs to be more than one skatepark in a town. There are 50 basketball courts and 65 baseball fields that are empty all summer. The baseball fields are only used for two months out of the year. The water that it costs to maintain those baseball fields is a lot more than what’s spent on the skateboard parks. Something is wrong. To justify $300,000 for a skatepark is just not enough.
What is it going to take?
I think it’s basically the one up factor; the word of mouth getting around about some of the larger parks. Some of the cities that have good parks are overrun and they’re building second and third parks. It’s happening slowly, but only time will tell. They need to build larger parks, and keep pushing the envelope.
Any other final comments?
Just think about the world you’re living in. Think about what you can do to make a difference. Don’t just be a bump on the log and expect other people to do stuff for you. And look up and be thankful for what you do have. Make your dreams a reality!