INTERVIEW BY STEVE OLSON
INTRODUCTION BY STEVE OLSON
PHOTOS BY THEO HAND
Duffy…a grind for a grind, Rail for Rail… Tit for Tat, Fuck all that… This is Pat… Duffy that is…One goes big, for what reason? Cuz he can. Sometimes the bigger, the better… like they say… Go Big, or get the fuck outta here… This stands true, for someone like DUFFY… tough enough to keep rolling, And going HUGE…
“IT’S SOMETHING THAT YOU GET ADDICTED TO. YOU GET TO TAKE ON YOUR PERSONAL BATTLES. IT’S JUST SOMETHING THAT’S IN MY BLOOD. IT’S IN A SKATEBOARDER’S BLOOD TO GO SKATE AND TRY TO PROGRESS AND HAVE FUN.”
Where are you?
I’m in the Thompson Hotel in New York chillin’. I’m going to go out on the street and get out of the room. What’s up with you?
You know. I’m still doing the same shit.
It’s the daily grind, man.
What do you do in New York? Who are you in New York with?
It’s me, Gallant and the Plan B team. We’re just going to skate around. We just skated the jersey barrier today and tooled around. Jody [Morris] is out here shooting photos. ‘Hoops’ is filming. We’ll see what happens. It’s supposed to rain, which sucks. That Brooklyn Banks Contest is coming up.
Are you in it?
No, but I’m definitely going to go skate around and chill out.
So you’re at the Thompson downtown?
I’m on the Lower East Side. It’s a new hotel that opened up on Allen and Houston. It’s a madhouse down here right now. They’re filming an episode of CSI right in front of the hotel. It’s a madhouse. Plus, there are full skate bars right outside our door. You’ve got Epstein’s, which is a full hang out, and Max Fish is two blocks away.
You’re right in the middle of it.
I’m pretty much in the danger zone, if you want to put it that way.
Are you drinking?
[Laughs.] I have a cold Pacifico in my hand right now.
[Laughs.] Good. That answers that question. So I want to talk to you about where you came from, why you skate and what you’re into.
I’m down. Let’s go.
Where were you brought up?
I’m from northern California, Marin County. It’s a little town called Corte Madera. It’s right over the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco.
How did you ever get into skating?
Well, I’ve been around it forever. My next-door neighbor when I was a baby had an old blue Variflex plastic board. I have this photo that my mom took when I was in diapers. I had long blond hair, I don’t even have blond hair anymore, and I’m just riding this board. Then I saved up money when I was ten and bought this board from the drug store for $12. It just went from there. In fifth grade, I saved up and bought myself a Cab. Then I gave it up for a few years. It was kind of not cool to skate for a few years.
Why? It just wasn’t cool?
Yeah. It wasn’t cool with my group of friends. I used to ride my board to school and stash it. We made fun of skaters for some reason. I can’t remember why. Then in high school, I was introduced to my friends Kirk Nelson, Dale and Sodik, and they all skated. I started skating with those guys and finally started learning tricks. I was ollieing up curbs and learning kickflips.
What year was this?
So you just kept skating?
Yeah. I built a ramp in my yard and just fell in love with skateboarding. As soon, as I learned how to ollie, I fell in love.
You had control of the ollie and you could go anywhere.
Exactly. Going up curbs and down stairs was liberating. I just fell in love with it. I never knew it was going to be like ‘do or die’.
So you had a half pipe. I just talked to Ivory Serra. He told me they used to roll over to your house to ride your ramp.
Yeah, Ivory! Totally, man. Ivory and Shelter used to come over a lot. The Carrolls would come over and Danny Sargent would come skate my ramp. Sam Smyth, Nick Lockman and Lavar McBride would come from the city to skate. I had this slider bar out front. Remember Hensley’s part in the H Street video where he was doing shit on the slider bar? Well, I had one of those. It was the only one of its kind around. I stole it from some school. It was like a metal balance beam. So everyone would come to skate that thing too.
How high off the ground was it?
It was only 18 inches off the ground, but it was like a long ass balance beam.
Is that where you honed your rail skills?
I skated that slider bar every day all day. That’s how I started learning all of the handrail shit. I was just comfortable grinding on metal bars.
It becomes second nature once you have it on lock, no?
When did you start to go huge? I wasn’t in the scene to be honest, but my kid and a lot of other cats that I know now always make reference to you. I just know you as the ‘Duffinator’.
I want to know. They say you were like a madman that took it to new levels. You know the last guy that was telling me about you was Heath.
When I was talking to Heath, he was like, ‘I saw Duffy skate and that was it.’
That’s fuckin’ awesome.
He said you were the guy he saw in the videos and you were just going gigantic.
Well, it just came about that I loved skating handrails. When we were filming for that first Plan B video, there were just a few things that I wanted to do. Other people had skated handrails before, but I guess the ones I did were longer. I mean, I don’t know. That’s what everyone talks about.
But you chose to go on bigger and gnarlier shit.
I was just comfortable with that shit when I was a little tyke.
Didn’t you get served up all the time?
No. For some reason, when you skate that stuff all the time, you learn about how to approach it to where it’s not as dangerous as it looks. I’m sure that Jamie Thomas knows the feeling of looking at a 20-stair and going, ‘Oh, I can warm up and do it like this and run down and jump.’ There are certain ways to approach it that minimize the danger.
How do you approach it?
Well, I would always want to ollie the stairs first. There were some that were too big to do that. Some of them you just put them out of your head and just go for it. I was just comfortable at the time and it was just working. I was in the zone in the beginning of that Plan B era, I guess. Not anymore. I have to work for my shit these days.
Well, we’re a little older and it hurts a little more.
It’s a little more of a struggle, but it’s funny. It’s still just as satisfying. Once you make something, I still get that same rush. I will skate until I die. I’m sure you’re the same way.
Did you ever think when you were a kid that it would lead to what you do now?
No, not really. I just really liked skating at first. Then I thought I might try to become a skateboarder. I was always a skater. I’m not quite sure when it clicked, but I entered these NSA contests in 1990 up in Oregon and I did pretty good. Colin McKay, Chris Senn and John Cardiel were skating. I did good in a couple of those and then it clicked. I was like, ‘These guys are the best. Maybe I could hang with these dudes. If I can hang with these dudes, I’ll give it a shot.’ I was friends with Jeff Petit and Ray Simmons because they were from Marin County and they were H Street dudes. My dream was to get on H Street, so I made this sponsor me video and mailed it to Petit and he mailed it to H Street. Then Dave Andrecht called me up and sent me boards.
You had to deal with Andrecht?
Yeah, Andrecht signed me up and sent me some boards. That was just it.
When did you first get a picture in the mag?
My first picture in the mag, was when I got a cover of Thrasher in 1992. Within that year, I think I had this San Francisco State backside smith that Bryce Kanights shot and that was my first photo in the mag.
How did that feel as kid that’s just skating because he digs skating?
Ah, dude, it was like the best thing ever. That was the pinnacle. I got photos in the mag. I was getting flowed boards from my dream company H Street. That’s all a little fuckin’ skate rat could want.
Did you get paid or were you just on flow then?
I was still a junior in high school, so I was just getting free boards at that point. I was probably 16.
What did your friends think that said skateboarding wasn’t cool during that down period?
Well, that was in seventh grade. By the time I got to high school, all of my friends skated.
So that didn’t even exist anymore?
Well, we were obviously the outcasts of our school because no one liked skateboarders. In ’91, it was a down time.
Was this the baggy pants, little wheels era?
Yeah. It was just getting there. It started in 1990. By ’93, it got really bad with baggy pants and little wheels.
But you were in on that?
Yeah, I was in on it. I had the purple Blind jeans and the little tiny wheels. I had cut off jeans down to my ankles. It was the goofy boy look.
[Laughs.] Whoa. What about your parents? What did they think about your skateboarding and all of that?
My mom was super into it. My dad passed away when I was a little kid. My mom let us have the ramp in the yard. She loved it. She would come out and take pictures when I was skating the street jump across the street. She was totally into it. She would make snacks for everyone that was skating.
That’s cool. I’m sorry to hear that your dad passed away.
Oh, that’s when I was eight years old. My mom supported me the whole entire time.
Nice. Who built the ramp?
It was my best friend, Ethan Carter and I. My friend Joe that I grew up with, his dad bought all the wood for us and we built it way up on this hill on his property. Within two months, Ethan slammed and broke his arm. He quit skating right then. He said, ‘I’m out.’ So I got some dudes from the shop to help me break down the ramp and take it to my house.
You had your own ramp. That’s huge.
Totally. We had sessions every day at the ramp.
And all these guys would come out and skate there and then they all turned into the big dudes, no?
Yeah. It was crazy. I was so star-struck when Danny Sargent showed up to skate. He was the first pro dude that I skated with. I was just blown away. He came and skated my ramp and I was like, ‘What the fuck? This dude is amazing.’
Then what goes down?
I had also made friends with the EMB dudes at that point. That was from cutting school and taking the bus in there and hanging out. I was friends with Lavar McBride and he’s got me my first sponsor. He put me on Thunder and Spitfire when I was a kid. He gave me my first package, so I was super
stoked on Lavar.
You were stoked out of your mind as a kid.
So then what happens with your skateboarding career?
I was skating for Plan B and then the Plan B video came out. It was all the heavy hitters.
It took you to the next level, no?
Well, when Mike Ternasky left H Street and took a few select dudes with him, I just happened to be one of the dudes lucky enough to get asked to go with him. I made the NSA finals that were in Atlanta that year, in 1991 or 1990, so then Tony Mag called me and said, ‘If you want to stick with H Street, I’ll fly you out there to the contest.’ That was a big deal to me. I had never talked to Mag before. Mike Ternasky said, ‘Why don’t you just stay and I’ll fly you down to San Diego and you can skate with us?’ I had hung out with Ternasky before, so I was like, ‘All right.’ So I went and skated with them.
Then you kept going and Plan B became Plan B.
Yeah, we filmed for the Plan B video all that summer.
Who else was on Plan B?
It was Mike Carroll, Rick Howard, Sean Sheffey, Sal Barbier, Rodney Mullen, Matt Hensley, Colin McKay and Danny Way. Ryan Fabry and I were ams.
What did you guys do as a team? Did you go on tour?
Yeah, we went on tour.
But there was no money in skateboarding then really?
No. M.T. told me that if I moved to San Diego after high school and kept skating, he’d buy me a car and help out with my rent. He said he’d start paying me, so he gave me money. I bought a car and loaded it up after I graduated from high school and moved to San Diego. I went down there and found a place to live with some of my friends from high school. It was right on the beach in Mission Beach. That was a scene.
There was a whole big scene going on down there.
There was big crazy scene going on. I just kept skating and filming. Then the Plan B videos came out and there was a big response to it.
It was a huge response.
Yeah. There was a really good response to my video parts and stuff, which I was blown away by, you know?
Were you like, ‘Yo, mom, you won’t believe this.’
I can only go by how I dealt with it. It seemed like something that was just unfathomable. It was crazy. Mike Ternasky had actually come down and met
my mom. He came and hung out at my house for a few days, slept over, hung with my mom and kind of assured her. He was like, ‘Listen. It’s all good.’ I tried to go to college down there, but it didn’t really work out. He just set her mind at ease. He was like, ‘If he wants to come and do this and pursue skateboarding, I’ll look after him.’ He wanted her to know that I was going to be taken care of.
But everyone was skateboarding because they loved skateboarding. It wasn’t like you were trying to get rich from skateboarding.
Why do you think you’re so passionate about skateboarding?
It’s just one of those things. It’s something that you get addicted to. You get to take on your personal battles. It’s just something that’s in my blood. It’s in a skateboarder’s blood to go skate and try to progress and have fun.