Skate Colorado: Ashley Mott

Ashley Mott

SKATE COLORADO
ASHLEY MOTT
INTERVIEW by MERK
PHOTOS BY TIM MOTT AND COBURN HUFF

What do you get when you mix together epic countryside, friendly skateboarders, 300 days of sun, a strong DIY ethic, a huge backyard scene and municipal skateparks that are second to none? Colorado! Here are just a few of the core people that make it happen in Colorado. We could fill the whole mag, if we were to interview everyone, so sit back and enjoy and then come on out for a visit. – MERK

Let’s get a little bit of history. Where did you come from and when did you start skating?
I’m from South Florida and I started skateboarding in 1992. I stepped right into some 38 Special NHS wheels. [Laughs] I don’t think I knew what skateparks were back then, but in the woods near my house there was something similar to the Bro Bowl. I’m not sure if it was really supposed to be skateable, but it was almost an exact replica of the Bro Bowl. This was north of Fort Lauderdale, in the Boca Raton/Deerfield area.

1992 was a pretty tough time to get into skating, especially for tranny.
Yeah, I don’t think I knew what kneepads were. My exposure to skating was the hip hop dudes and the punk rock guys. Skaters mingled between those two worlds. There were lots of slappy noseslides to shuvits.

That was a bleak time. What eventually brought you out to Colorado?
My family moved to Fort Collins when I was 16. Then I moved away and ended up back in Denver in 2002.

Were you skating that entire time?
Yes, I got exposed to skateparks during that time. I took a couple of road trips and hit Burnside and was really scared. At Burnside, it took me about ten minutes to get out of the car.

That kind of exposure to tranny riding is a more hardcore type of mentality, huh?
Actually, all of the Burnside guys were really nice to me after I got out of the car, so that was a really good experience. That was one of the first times I ever skated tranny.

Everyone is pretty encouraging. When you got back to Denver, was that 2000?
It was December of 2002 when I moved here.

Was the Vans Park still going then?
Actually, I went out to the Vans Park when I heard about it and they were just closing it, so I never got to skate there. I just missed it. I lived really close to the Denver park, so I started skating there. That’s where I met Lindsey Kuhn and a lot of the Conspiracy guys.

Is that when you started working over at Conspiracy?
Yeah, I was going to school and I had a job in the day lifting boxes of tile. Lindsey and I got to be better friends and he said he needed some help over there. That worked out a lot better with school because he was really supportive when I had to go to class and that kind of stuff.

What were you doing over at Conspiracy?
I was selling boards and hustling.

Conspiracy is going strong. They’re one of the few operations that started early on where you could actually get bigger boards.
It was really good to meet Lindsey right off the bat in Denver because that goes back to the Burnside influence and that big road trip. I was going to all of these tranny parks and before that I was ollieing into curb grinds. I figured out if you use bigger wheels you go way faster. That stuff didn’t ever occur to me. Conspiracy has been going for about 21 years now, before it became fashionable after Dogtown and Z-Boys, and everyone started making their own company. Lindsey was doing it way before any of that. Lindsey and Buckit were just making boards that they wanted to ride.

They started doing the same thing around the same time that Murf and Kessler were doing Wounded Knee. In the mid ‘90s, you couldn’t get a big board to save your life. Lindsey is a good guy. Around that time, these giant parks were opening up all over the Front Range. Was this due to a liberal mentality of the government or a lot of legwork from the skaters?
I think Colorado’s scene was about five years behind Oregon in terms of parks. When I moved here, there were definitely way more parks then any other state. I remember seeing Thrasher, in the late ‘90s to mid 2000s, with coverage of Breckenridge and Aspen. There was stuff going on in the mountains. It was that early phase of Team Pain parks.

It was the first wave of the concrete stuff in the mountains like Crested Butte.
Again, there is that Burnside influence because Red and those guys worked on that park with James from Team Pain. It’s interesting how it all goes back to that source. To answer your question, I think a lot of the Front Range parks now are happening because city planning is very trend specific. Every park planner now is like, “We have to have a skatepark.” That can turn out really good if there are skaters watching or it can turn out really bad if no skaters are involved.

You do a lot of work for the Colorado Coalition of Skateparks. Are they trying to keep their hands in all this stuff or do the cities actually contact you?
It’s both. Generally, we find out about parks first and then we contact the city. Colorado has such a good scene of older skaters that will put in the time to make sure a park will be good, so we try to keep an eye on stuff that no one is trying to keep an eye on. If it’s Arvada and there are 30 guys and Emily Oliver out there at every meeting making sure that it’s fine, we don’t need to be there. The Arvada Army has that handled. It shows too. That park is probably one of the best skateparks ever built. CCPS is trying to watch out for things like American Ramp Company. We are on prefab alert. We are trying to keep prefab parks out of Colorado. Period.

It’s a never-ending battle. There are so many awesomely built artistic, gorgeous parks that it amazes me a town would still think it’s okay to put in a prefab park. How could you do that when the town next to you has such amazing concrete?
A lot of that happens because the prefabbers make it so easy for the town. A lot of that stuff is set up where the town doesn’t even have to put it out to bid. No RFP has to be created. They can just pick stuff out of a catalog and problem solved. In their minds, they have a skatepark and they’re a “progressive city.” The city planners think that they have done right by the city and, basically, they just dropped a giant shit on the city, when they could have put more effort in.

They buy junk out of a catalog, it falls apart and then no one skates it. Then it’s easy for them to say they don’t need a skatepark because no one skates it.
A perfect example of what you’re talking about is happening now. One of the things CCPS is trying to do is to help cities that are dealing with that first round of prefab shit. Remember that Mountain Ramp garbage? A lot of that stuff got dropped in Colorado in the late ‘90s and now that shit is falling apart. They didn’t even use pre-treated lumber. It’s garbage. A lot of the time, it’s not sitting there rotting. They’re taking the skatepark away piece by piece, so the kids in that town are just left with grind rails or whatever is on the slab. A lot of these towns have Great Outdoor Colorado Grants, which are lottery grants, which fund a lot of public parks. Under the GOCO grant, that city is obligated to keep a skatepark for a certain amount of years and they can’t keep it because it fell apart, so now they have to find some low cost solution. We’re trying to keep them from replacing prefab with prefab. We want them to replace prefab with concrete.

I don’t think people realize the amount of work that goes into skateparks behind the scenes and what CCPS does.
It’s basically the worst hobby you could ever have. Quite often, I don’t want to do it anymore because it takes so long. Northglenn Skatepark took over ten years and that was one of the first public meetings that I went to when I moved to Colorado. There is all this other stuff you have to do. There is infighting amongst the City Council about locations. A lot of them say, “Do we really need this?” There are a bunch of old timers who don’t see the benefit of it, so it’s a constant struggle. You get to the point of doing the park and people send in RFQs that are total bullshit. Some companies just lie to get jobs.

Explain to people what an RFQ is.
It stands for a Request For Qualifications. That typically happens for a public process. The city will ask if you’re qualified to do the job. They do the request for proposal process and then they go through a selection process. That stuff can take years, as it did with Northglenn. I was involved in that project for seven years and that’s why I was trying to make the grand opening a big deal. It is infrequent that I get that involved with a project because it is too exhausting. When you don’t get paid to do this shit, it’s just too consuming.

I’m blown away. I can’t believe you’re able to pull it off. Talk about patience. I want to talk about what you did with CCPS in the town of Bennett. You built a nice pool and you were able to circumvent some of the city stuff. You guys decided to build it yourself and you raised money on your own. Tell me how that came to be.
This guy that I know, Paul Miller, is a high school teacher out in Bennett. Bennett is about 40 miles east of Denver off I-70 in a small town. The main industry in that town is probably meth amphetamine, so it’s a depressing situation. Anyway, they had this slab with some decrepit ramps. It’s very much the beginning of the dust bowl out there, so it’s pretty wind swept and barren. Paul told me about the park and I came and checked it out. It was really terrible and there were a few kids there that skated. I got to thinking that maybe we could raise some money and pour some concrete and the town was like, “Do whatever you want to do with this park.” We got the idea to go bigger because James from Team Pain had moved to town and built a made-to-skate pool in his backyard. I was like, “It would be cool to do something like that at Bennett.” It just kept growing from there. It was like a big experiment of what we could build. James and the Team Pain guys helped out a lot. The Tony Hawk Foundation gave us $5,000 and we raised about $8,000 on top of that and ended up building a big hotel egg.

You guys raised money and got kids involved and they learned about building too. It was really cool to see. There is a huge amount of backyard stuff going on here too. Do you think that is in direct relation to all of the skatepark builders that live here now?
Yeah. Bennett would have never happened without James and the Team Pain guys. Sometimes I can’t stand doing skatepark advocacy stuff, but then I just think, “Well, if there is Karma in this world, then I got mine back because I got my bowl in my yard, which is there because of James and Shaggy. The joke is that my bowl is a job by Team GrindLand because we had Team Pain guys, Grindline guys, and Dreamland guys help out and it saved a lot of money. I appreciate those guys every day.

It’s a labor of love. If you build skateparks for a living and the weekend comes along and you’re building another one, it’s just what you do. It’s in your blood. For people that aren’t involved in it, there is no way they can comprehend it.
When I look out my kitchen window and see that bowl, I never even dreamed of that. There was no concept when I was a kid that I could possibly have something like that. I didn’t even dream of having that in a public park. It’s insane. A few Saturdays and Sundays will go by where only a few guys will show up. There are people that are friends of mine that I skate with that have never even come over to my house because there is so much shit to ride. Ten years ago, that would have been the hottest ticket in town. Now it’s like one of a dozen.

Ten years ago, you would have driven four hours to skate that. Since we are old enough to have been through the hard times, I think we can appreciate it. Do you think it makes the younger kids spoiled that might have no idea what goes into building these parks?
I would say that kids are the same now as they were 20 years ago. They don’t give a shit about anything. I don’t think about the fact that these kids don’t know what they have. There’s a bunch of old dudes in Colorado that don’t know what they have either and they don’t care. If Team Pain builds it, they’re fine. The only time I ever hear about skateparks from anybody is when it doesn’t turn out right. That’s the only time people care.

Everyone is a critic. Working with the cities and CCPS, do you feel sometimes that, being a woman, you get more flak?
I don’t know. Being a skateboarder and being a girl back before there were many girls skating, I guess I’ve gotten thick skin when it comes to that stuff. Sometimes I don’t really notice when people are trying to make me feel that way.

You are a lot gnarlier than most dudes I know. You can chew them up and spit them out. No problem.
The city people are like, “Oh, you skateboard?” I’m like, “Why would I be doing this if I didn’t?” They’re probably the only ones. I just don’t think it’s that big of a deal anymore.

What is the biggest misconception about Colorado?
It’s probably that there are a lot of granola type people here. There are a lot of those types of people, but if you’re a skateboarder and you want to retire somewhere, there is probably no better place than Colorado. There are a lot of like-minded people, if you’re older and skate. There are not a lot of places in the country where you have such a large group of people like us.

What I was most impressed with when I moved out here is how friendly all of the people are. Why do you think that is? Is it a different mentality because not too many people are from here?
I think that is definitely it. Most people that we know that live in Colorado are not from here and they choose to live here. That’s a huge difference in somebody’s day-to-day mentality. We’re really stoked on our scene and we want to show everybody what’s up. I’m not trying to bag on anybody else, but it is not California. You don’t have to know somebody to skate one of the backyards here. If that’s your perception, you’re wrong because that’s not how it is.

What do you think is the best and the worst part of Colorado?
I have been all over and I can’t think of any place better to skate and to be a skateboarder. I wish it snowed less, but that’s the Florida in me.

One of the biggest misconceptions that people think of is The Shining and the snow but, when you’re east of the Continental Divide, it’s not uncommon to have 70-degree days in February.
New England is a whole different game. Colorado is powder puff. It’s no big deal.

Besides your backyard, what is your favorite spot to skate in Colorado?
That’s easy, hands down James’ backyard. No contest. That’s the best made-to-skate pool on the planet.

There you go. Who do you think are some of the people that really make it happen for the skate scene in Colorado?
If you’re looking for behind-the-scenes guys, there is Tim Gordon. Tim volunteers at CCPS too. He is a big reason that CCPS has been a successful entity. Not a lot of people know Tim, but he has done a lot for skateboarding in Colorado. He’s not the kind of guy that looks for a pat on the back. The concrete is the reward for him. You can show up to the park with a case of beers for the builders, but someone like Tim is putting in time to make sure those guys can even show up. Tim is a big help. I would say the Arvada Army has also shaped a lot of what the scene is. Jerry Hahn, Bruce Adams, and the SkateColorado crew shaped a lot of what the scene turned out to be. It’s not just SkateColorado. It’s the Jesus Saves warehouse and all that kind of stuff that has built it up to where we are now. There are so many spots. James had a big influence. He’s gotten a lot of cities to see what a skatepark is supposed to look like versus a prefab piece of shit.

It’s a never-ending battle. Keep fighting. Ash, we appreciate your time.
Thanks, Merk. It was fun.

FOR THE REST OF THE STORY, ORDER ISSUE #73 AT THE JUICE SHOP…

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1 comment

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