Skate Colorado: Bruce Adams

Bruce Adams

SKATE COLORADO BRUCE ADAMS

INTERVIEW BY MERK

PHOTOS BY COBURN HUFF AND TIM MOTT

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

I wanted to talk to some of the biggest contributors to the Colorado scene, so let’s talk about where you’re from and when you started skating.

I was born in Washington, D.C., and raised in Falls Church, VA. My first experience with a skateboard was when I was about 10. My Uncle Rudy handed me my first skateboard called the Shark and said, “Do you want this thing?” It was basically a plank of wood with metal wheels and a shark on it.

Were you full-on from then on or did it take you a while to get amped up on it?

After that, I remember some kid coming to school with a yellow Grentec with soft wheels on it and I had to have one. A few weeks later, while doing my paper route one morning I saw one in a sewer and I climbed down and got it. I rolled around on that thing for a while and, eventually, I got a real skateboard. My freshman year Mark Hooper (owner of Cedar Crest) made me a wooden skateboard in shop class with a homemade wedge kicktail glued on. I asked him to make one for me and he did. That’s how my friendship began with Mark. I went home and drew a full color Dogtown graphic on cardboard and glued it to my board. Back then, Dogtown was the shit. I also remember when I saw my first real Dogtown board, It was a Bob Biniak model. The ads in Skateboarder magazine were always bad ass. Tony Alva’s interview in Skateboarder had a disclaimer before you read it because there was cussing and wild stories of his crazy life as a pro skater. I used to go into Drug Fair and get my film developed and say my name was Jay Adams. T.A. ruled back then. His graphic alone made me want one. I got my first Alva t-shirt at Rolling Surf Skatepark in Ocean City, MD. There was a surf shop there called Sundancer and they had their own line of boards and wheels. If you had a Sundancer board, you looked like a local. The Ocean Bowl was one of the first skateparks built on the East Coast. Josh Marlowe was king of that park. Pat Truitt was a little skate rat at that time. I remember my Dad buying me a G&S Warptail when that came out. I switched from Bennett Trucks to ACS and, at some point, I ended up getting a “Z Woody” Shogo Kubo model. That’s when I went through my “Shogo rules!” phase. Another one of the first parks back then was Skateworld on Wheeler Ave. in Alexandria. That’s where I met Mike Mapp and John Hargadon. That’s when Chris Chaput was pro for Belair Skateboards. He always skated there too. That’s also the first time I ever saw Pat and Willy Clark. There were a couple other local rippers: Connors, Treece, Miles and Dan Recendaz aka Wildman. We reaped all the benefits of the skatepark boom in the ‘70s, then as Skateboarder Magazine was dying and changing to Action Now (what a joke that was) all the skateparks closed and then we got to reap the benefits of all the skateparks being closed again. They were finally free!

In the mid ‘80s, skateboarding blew up again, and I know you were an instrumental part of the Cedar Crest Country Club scene and Lapper magazine. What brought you guys to Cedar Crest?

Around 1979, Jeff Jablonski and Mike Mapp built a halfpipe in the woods behind his house. The trail that led down to the ramp was on Annandale Road, hence the name A-town. Mike Mapp helped build most of the ramp as well as the scene. Mike owns Ramptech.com and has never stopped building halfpipes since. A-Town ended up on the cover of Thrasher with Pat Clark and Tim Whistler doing doubles. The first time I ever saw Blaize skate was at A-Town. Micro started going out with Blaize’s sister, Bonnie Blouin. After A-Town got torn down in 1985, vert skating was blowin’ up again. There was a bunch of local backyard ramps everywhere. We were traveling around to ramps in Virginia Beach and Ocean City, street skating at Pulaski Park in D.C., hitting random pools everywhere, Lansdowne. Crofton, etc. That’s when Wade Herrin and I started Lapper Magazine. Actually, our first issue was the memorial issue of A-Town’s demise. As the magazine grew, we ended up documenting the whole history of Cedar Crest’s birth all the way to its demise. It was cool how it happened by coincidence. We started it as a crappy little zine and as Cedar Crest grew into a monster, Lapper grew into a full glossy black and white magazine with a distribution of 5,000. Tower Records in California even carried Lapper! Cedar Crest came about because Mark Hooper had an idea to build a halfpipe at his dad’s country club in Centreville, VA. His dad said, “I don’t care what you do. Just go over there in the woods and do it.” The Hoopers always did everything big, so when Mr. Hooper saw that we had chopped down a shitload of trees with a chainsaw and the Hooper’s bulldozer, he got stoked on our effort, so he had us get with his architect and tell him what we wanted. Next thing you know, we’re all in the woods with the whole Cedar Crest Country Club work force. All of the construction workers from the country club needed work through the holidays, so he sent them into the woods to help us work on the ramp. Mark Hooper took the bull by the horns and went big. Micro with his ramp building experience and the Lapper! posse, ECTT, a lot of locals, and anyone with skills helped out and the rest is history. By 1985, my friend, Jim Beach, and I started a screen printing company named B&A Designs. We would print shirts and stickers for the events, parties and contests and all the travelers that came through town got some sort of memorabilia, kind of like now. In ‘88, we moved our screen printing shop out by Cedar Crest to be closer to the ramp. In 1991, when Cedar Crest closed, we were basically in the middle of nowhere. We were all pretty heavy into snowboarding, so a gang of us went to Colorado on vacation in 1990 to snowboard and visit Sam Irby. He was an A-Town/Cedar Crest local from Virginia and he had moved out here already, and was working at A-Basin. Steve Henson and Wendall Lassiter moved out here next. They started sending me pictures of them skating Jungle Jim’s indoor park and calling me with stories of bottomless powder. About a year later, we folded up our business and moved to Fairplay, Colorado. Pat Clark and Greg Ashley did the same. We had no clue what we were getting into. We just wanted out of Virginia and into Colorado. Once Cedar Crest closed, how could you top that? It was as if we had to go look for it, so we moved out west to Colorado. What year was this? This was about ‘92. We went to Breck to try and find a shop for our business. That was a joke. The rent was too high and places were scarce. We met a guy that told us about a town with a population of 500 called Fairplay. The house we ended up renting was $500 and the warehouse across the street was also $500. I could step out my front door, stick out my thumb and have a ride over the prestigious Hoosier Pass to the town of Breckenridge in 30 minutes. We started getting a lot of work from the local businesses in town. About six months later, Solid Snowboards was moving to Fairplay. Neil Rankin, Ron Bureta and a few others started a snowboard manufacturing company there and we made a deal with them that we would move down the street into a new place, so they could rent the space we had been renting because it was too big for us. We started to print their snowboards and stickers and that was when I met Dave Tuck. He was moving here to work at Solid and he was a ripping pool skater. I remember going to a party at Big Fish halfpipe in a warehouse in Breck, and Dave got on the ramp completely naked and started skating in the middle of this crazy drunken snake session. After about a year in Fairplay and commuting over the mountain to Breck, we got ourselves in some problems with that small town and had to leave. Then an old friend, Jeff Musselman, called and said Tim Payne was coming to Boulder to build a vert ramp.

Is that what brought you to Boulder?

Yeah, Keith Davidson was going to C.U. at the time and him and Jeff were both CCCC locals that had moved here and Jeff told us Tim Payne was coming to build a vert ramp with a steel surface almost the same dimensions as Cedar Crest. I had never heard of Boulder, other than Mork & Mindy, and Greg Ashley and his hippie friends were headed down to Boulder for a “smoke out” and he said they would give us a ride. Steve Henson, another Cedar Crest local, and I came down to help out with construction. They were giving out free punch cards for your first week of skating if we volunteered to help. We ended up staying with Keith and Jeff and helping throughout the whole project. While we were working, I started to ask around about warehouse spaces to move my business into. This was about the time that Ken Park had a ramp in a warehouse there. Boulder seemed like a fun place to live so we found a warehouse and moved here.

This was before concrete was being built, like Crested Butte in the mountains?

Exactly. All of a sudden, vert dogs were coming out of nowhere. Everyone that had moved out here was on that ramp and the decks were packed with East Coasters, Midwesterners, West Coasters and all kinds of vert dogs. I remember skating with Dave Tuck in Breck at Tommy Leggitt’s house. He had a vert ramp in his backyard, which was pretty rare back then. I skated Boulder vert ramp with Dave a few times and I met a lot of friends on that ramp. A lot of these guys are still skating Tim’s skateparks to this day, like Glen Charnoski, Alan John, Chris Sessions, Mark Roth, Mance Thurston, Doug Fletcher, Jeff Hawkins, the Potato, Emag, Jeff Davis, Mike Burnett and Bob Lloyd and many others. Even Tim Altec would show up on his roller skates ever now and then. Finally, our coping and tile dream was coming to Crested Butte, CO, thanks to the efforts of Lenny Byrd, Roller Dave and a few others. Then came all of the rest of the concrete builders like Grindline, RCMC, Site Design and California Skateparks. I think Dreamland built Breckenridge before they started Dreamland. Then a bunch of random concrete companies that had never built skateparks before jumped on the bandwagon. Gangs of us would drive five hours to skate Crested Butte and sleep by the river. It was the thing to do for a few summers and crazy stuff went down by that river.

What led you to open a skate shop on the hill where Colorado University is?

Jim and I and were always vending our shirts and stickers at events like Ozzfest as well as snow and skate contests. One day, I’m sitting on the hill in Boulder eating pizza with my Dad and I see a “For Rent” sign in a tiny store across the street. The store was so small that it didn’t even have a bathroom. I went into DQ next door and asked the guy, “How much?” He said, “$950 a month with no deposit.” Within a few days, we had a store in one of the best places in Boulder. We took all the crap that normally sat around our warehouse waiting for the next event and put it in the store and opened up shop. It lasted for about five years, but you couldn’t really put enough inventory in the store to pay the rent. It was the best place in town to hang out though. After a few years of  the B&A Designs store, I tried to make a go as a little skate shop. There was no skate shop on the hill at that time, so it seemed like a great idea. I’d been getting involved with all the parks being built, so I was going to all the meetings and all the skatepark builders were coming to the store and skating at the house; the RCMC crew, California Skatepark crew and the Site Design crew. The only crew that didn’t hang out was the plethora of “sidewalk building” crews building parks like the Westminster, Denver and Louisville parks. All the skateboarder crews would bust ass all day and then come and skate the Humbler or my house and drink and party for years. The same stuff that’s going on right now has always been going on. It’s just a different crew building new skateparks with a different case of beer and another story to tell in another Colorado town.

How did you end up with a big ramp in your backyard?

Ironically, the Humbler at Caleb and Terrill’s house was starting to fall apart. One day, Vince Africano, Caleb Moore and I were at my shop and Vince mentions a mini ramp at Jason Heidecker’s house on 76th Street. He said he skates there all the time and there’s hardly anyone there except Jason and some friends. He took me and Caleb there to skate it. As we’re skating on this five-acre ghetto paradise, I said, “Could you imagine living here?” Vince said, “I think Jason is looking for two roommates.” I was living in Boulder at Vince’s apartment, at the time, and our lease was about to end. When we went home that evening, Vince called Jason and asked him if he still wanted roommates. Jason said we could move in as soon as we wanted. Our lease ended that month and we were in, just like that! I skated there once and then moved in for five years and had some of the best times of my life! Thank you Jason H. You changed my life in 1999!

Your ramp, the Skate Colorado ramp, was a half bowl with a giant over vert extension with escalating pool coping. Skate Colorado was the hot spot. Eventually, you had to tear the ramp down. Why?

Jason was the original builder and owner. Vince and I had moved in and the construction and parties started to grow. Jason finally said “I’m outta here,” and left it for us to do what we wanted. It took on a life of its own after that. Everyone got involved and, next thing you know, there’s a great place to go skate and hang out in Boulder. After a few years, Vince moved on and left it to me. My store was taking on the name SkateColorado and it all stemmed from a snowboard design we had, SurfColorado. In hindsight, I should have made everything in the store just be my own product line of Surf Colorado and SkateColorado stuff. In 2005, there were a few reasons we had to take the ramp down. It was the parties that really put an end to things. We just kept pushing our luck and started to let people camp out and rage all night and we kept expanding the ramp. It got pretty bad when the cops were waking me up to a giant oil patch on the church lawn from some girl’s blown up oil pan with a 50-foot PBR can behind them. One morning I woke up to a notice on the door that said I had 30 days to remove the ramp and every day that I didn’t comply it would be a $100 fine. The County of Boulder said I had an illegal skatepark in my yard, abandoned cars and a trash dump behind the ramp. The stupid thing was the cars weren’t abandoned. Those were our cars, and it definitely wasn’t a skatepark, but we had to comply. After I got the notice, I met with city council in Boulder to see if I could save the ramp. They said no. I asked if I could have one more get-together and they said no, but I did it anyway. It was ironic because we had just painted the coping blood red and given the ramp a fresh coat of white paint. It was time to light up and have a final blow out, so that’s what we did. We had a big party, lit the coping on fire, got some killer photos and said our goodbyes. We had a huge after party with Jerry’s video Skatecolorado at the Dark Horse Bar in Boulder to a packed house and that was the end of it. I rented a giant dumpster and we started to strategically dissect the ramp so we could move it to Denver. Ashley Honeyman knew of a dude with a very large flatbed. In a very sketchy way, we managed to take this thing apart and drive it to Denver. It then got reassembled in a different manner and went on to be known as the Fallen Warehouse.

Anyone that ever came through the Front Range had to check out Skate Colorado. When I moved here, I knew Jerry from Skatopia and he said, “Meet me at Bruce’s.” The day I rolled in you and Jerry were hanging out on the picnic table. I was like, “This is what it’s all about, a nice backyard bowl.” Everyone greeted me with open arms. Why do you think that everyone here has that friendly vibe?

I think that’s just skateboarding. It’s just mutual respect. If you’re a skateboarder, you’re part of the brotherhood and you’re cool with everybody that skates. I think that’s just the way it is.

After your ramp went down, there was so much stuff being built in people’s backyards. What do you think about the strong DIY ethic where people are building so much stuff in backyards in Colorado?

I think the people that live here are seeking adventure, whether they’re climbin’ it, catchin’ it, killin’ it, ridin’ it, creatin’ it or buildin’ it. We just don’t sit around. That’s why this state has so many healthy people. The weather is always perfect and everybody is always into something. Skaters are hyper-artistic-minded people that can’t sit still, so if there’s nothing in their immediate area to skate, they just take it upon themselves to create it. They don’t wait for someone to do it for them. This is the only thing that worries me about all these perfect parks being handed to a generation of videobots. The video games give kids a false sense of reality in skating and the lack of effort it takes to get a free, perfect, park could lead to a lot of trash and disrespect or scooters. I guess we’ll see. Nothing lasts forever in skateboarding. The older generation of skaters that appreciate the backyard scenes are still doing it and understand the importance of it. You can never take that away from us. They can build up and tear down whatever they want, but we will always have our backyards. Jerry Hahn has created that once again. He took every single ramp in the Denver metro area that was getting torn down and he gave them a place to call home and has spent years putting together a puzzle of ramps to create this outrageous complex skate structure in his yard. You know all about it because you built the bowl. There’s a creative bone in every skateboarder.

It’s almost therapeutic. What we do has a direct relation to all of the city parks that are being built here. All of the locals make sure shit gets built right and so many awesome skatepark builders live here. Why do you think Colorado is so lucky to have so many epic public parks?

That’s a great question. I’m not sure why we’re reaping these benefits. As much as some skaters like to hate on snowboarding, it had a lot to do with it. As snowboarding blew up in Colorado, it brought a lot of skateboarders to the mountain towns with nothing to skate. That’s when the skatepark boom started to creep into Colorado. Crested Butte started it all, then Grand Junction, Durango, Breck, Aspen, Salida, Telluride and Edwards. This has been going on here for over a decade. Now it’s like a contest between these towns around here to see who can go bigger than the next, it seems. I’m sure it’s a situation where they are allotted a certain amount of funds to use. At the end of the day, when your parks and recreation fund has spent all the money they need on other stuff like jungle gyms and ball fields, they have a few hundred thousand dollars left over, so what the hell, “Let’s give the kids a skateboard rink and surround it with landscaping. It’ll look so nice you won’t even be able to tell what it is.”

What is the best and worst part about living in Colorado?

The best part is the weather and all the skateparks. It hardly ever rains. In the winter, it’s the same way. It’s always nice out, so if it does snow, it comes and goes pretty fast. The snow is mostly in the high country, which is an hour and a half away. The worst part is no beach.

In your opinion, who are some of the unsung heroes that make Colorado such a joy to skate in?

There are a lot of people that go in that category, but some that come to mind are Dave Tuck, of course [R.I.P.]. He started building his pool after the ramp got torn down. James Hedrick has been around since the beginning. He built a backyarder in Denver before everyone. Tim and Ashley Mott have made a hardcore contribution to the Colorado skate scene. Mike Peters built a backyard beauty. Greg Kelly did some digging and, of course, Whiskey’s house. Now there are even more backyarders. So many skaters have lived in this area over the years and a lot have remained in the area and keep the flame burnin’. Some have been around a long time like Ric Widenor, Jerry Hahn, Terrill Schmidt, Jeff Wastell and the SBA, Kevin Furlong, Ron Bureta, Greg Kelly, Lindsey Kuhn and more all the time. When I first moved to Fairplay, I remember skating Todd Franzen’s mini ramp in Breck. He had it going on before anyone up there. Then there’s the plethora of chicks that skate around here. From the past to the present, there’s always been groups of hot chicks that skate here. They’ve added a refreshing change to otherwise stinky dudes sessions. Then there are all the vert dogs at the Lafayette and Arvada skateparks that are still skating hard. This is a great state for unsung heroes or should I say peers. They are everywhere around here. It’s all the hardcores who have torn their backyards up to make a pool. Dave Tuck was a good friend, my boss, more than once, and my peer. He was an inspiration to my old ass to try and keep skating. I slam a lot as it is and I had an accident in 2007 at Berthoud Pass resulting in a brain injury. If I hit my head, it could be tragic now, even with a helmet on. We’re all guinea pigs in a sport that involves inflicting pain on yourself for decades. It hurts twice as bad when I slam, but it also hurts if I stop. Stopping skateboarding isn’t easy when it’s an addiction your whole life.

There are a lot of unsung heroes, and I think you are one of them. I just want to say thank you.

Thanks for the opportunity.

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

Bruce Adams

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