Skate Colorado: Tim Mott

Tim Mott

SKATE COLORADO
TIM MOTT
INTERVIEW by MERK
PHOTOS BY ROB HOOVIS 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

So we’re doing this Colorado story and I wanted to get your two cents because I know that you contribute quite a bit to the scene. Let’s start off from the beginning. Where are you from and when did you start skating?
I grew up down on the Gulf Coast of Florida in Sarasota. At four years old, I got my first skateboard at Maas Brothers.

When you were four years old, what board were you riding?
It was a Nash 15 Toes and it had non-adjustable roller skate trucks and clay wheels with loose ball bearings. There were a couple of kids in the neighborhood that skateboarded and my brother did. That’s what influenced me to get into it. Living in Sarasota, it was kind of a hippie town and they’ve got an art school there. What caught my bug more than anything else was when I saw this barefoot dude in a pair of cut off jean shorts grabbing hold of the back of a pick-up truck on a longboard that was actually made out of a ski. Seeing that, I was like, “I want to do that forever.”

This was in the late ‘70s?
This was around ‘75. By then, skateboarding had really taken control and that was it. From there on out, skateboarding ruined my life. [Laughs]

Skateboarding saved it and ruined it at the same time. So you’re in Florida skating and coming up during the big bang in the mid ‘80s?
We were skating all over the West Coast of Florida and all of the East Coast ramps, like the Cambodia ramp, the Gainesville ramp, St. Pete’s, Sarasota, Naples, 301, NSD, Naples Skate Drunks…

Cambodia ramp, I haven’t heard that one in a while. That was a big monster.
Yeah, and it went through three iterations, as did most of the ramps that were around then. It would start off as a 16-foot wide ramp and then we’d go steal enough plywood to add another eight feet and keep building.

Florida has always had a good strong scene. You had Kona, Orlando, Daytona and all of these awesome spots, so what brought you out to Colorado?
It was reading Action Now and being exposed to snowboarding. [Laughs] That made me want to try and do it.

You never rode a snowboard before?
I never did, but I wanted to. I’ve been following snowboarding almost as long as I’ve been following skateboarding. I thought it was cool as shit. I even ordered an A-Team snowboard out of Action Now so I could go ride the sand dunes because they had the sandboarding deal in Action Now. I was like, “The only way I’m going to do it is to pack my things and move to Colorado.” I’m just not the kind of guy that was able to save the money to come out here for three days and spend $4,000. So I packed up my shit in ‘99 and moved to Vail. I had a buddy, Skip, that I grew up skating with in Naples that was living out here. He was like, “Come on out. You have a place to crash.” I spent two years up in the mountains and they already had some parks going on there. I was like, “Hell yeah. I’ll live in the mountains and go snowboard and hit these new concrete parks getting built out there.” Then Denver happens and the Vans Park happened and it was like, “It’s time to move.”

You came down from Vail to the Front Range. Explain to people what the Front Range of Colorado is so people can get a geographical idea of how the State is split in half.
The State is literally separated by the Rocky Mountains. The Continental Divide runs straight through the middle of the State. It’s pretty flat on the Front Range and, all of a sudden, there are 10,000-foot mountains. It’s absolutely insane. In summertime, it slows up in the mountains, so I ended up hooking up with Murphy Productions and doing the Vans Triple Crown stuff and working for the Vans Park here. It was a no-brainer. We have epic skateparks going on here on the Front Range.

No doubt. The Vans Park was an epic park, but the pay-to-play thing didn’t pan out.
No. Vans opened and, eight months later, the Denver Park opened and you can’t compete with free.

When did the Denver City Skatepark open?
I think it was 2000 or 2001.

That was during the explosion of all of these parks that were starting to blow up. That was the first wave. At the time, the Denver City Park was one of the biggest in the entire world, right?
Absolutely. It was the biggest until Louisville got built. The Denver park was 42,000 square feet when it got built. Louisville was 60,000 square feet.

The Denver Park is epic. My only complaint is the lack of pool coping, but it’s smooth as glass. It’s a fun park to ride.
That’s one thing that is amazing about being out in Colorado. There are skateparks everywhere, even in the mountains. A lot of the initial parks, like Salida, Silverthorne, Breck and Crested Butte were funded by Colorado GOCO grants, which is Great Outdoors Colorado. That’s one of the reasons that we have such an amazing skate scene. The state of Colorado puts money into open space and youth activities.

In Colorado, unbelievable skateparks are popping up like groundhogs. Do the cities just have a more liberal mentality or is there a keeping up with the Joneses type of effect? What do you think it is?
I think there is a little bit of both. Towns like La Junta want to keep up with the Joneses. It was the same with Trinidad. The whole reason they built a park was because there’s a competition of who is going to be the biggest small town in Colorado. I think, more than anything else, it’s a bit more liberal-minded. Just about everyone in Colorado does some kind of activity, whether it’s mountain biking, or rock climbing. There are 70-year-old dudes up on the mountains on skis, so no one thinks about the liability because everyone is doing some kind of activity that could kill them. Even the Frisbee golf guys go out and advocate to have stuff built. That’s what the skateboarders have done here. They’ve taken it into their own hands. Crested Butte was James Hedrick and a bunch of the original Burnside dudes. They approached the city and made it happen. It’s great that there are these kinds of activities out here and I think the cities just kind of go, “Sure. Let’s do this. It makes sense.”

It has a lot to do with a firm showing of people who are willing to stand up and show them what needs to be done and guide them along the way. Aside from all the epic public skateparks, there is a huge DIY aspect here as well. How many backyard pools are there on the Front Range built for skateboarding?
You don’t even have to hop fences to skateboard illegally because everyone has a pool in their backyard. It’s gotten kind of ironic. I will go work on a park and volunteer and I will skate it the entire time it’s being built but, as soon as that thing opens, I’m back in the backyards.

We’re either building or we know people who are building, so we skate the bowls first. Once it’s open, there are too many kids with scooters.
Exactly. I think that’s prevalent not just in Colorado. It’s pretty amazing that we have six backyards that are poured in place concrete with pool coping, besides the epic backyard structure at Jerry’s. It’s absolutely insane. The reason is that we all grew up skating backyards and now that we’ve figured out how to work with concrete, why build a ramp? I absolutely love a backyard ramp but, if you own a home and you’re putting it in as an investment, per square foot, you can’t beat concrete. It’s like, “Let’s build a bowl. Let’s build what they’re not building in the skateparks like backyard pools or really big gnarly bowls.”

One thing that struck me the most when I moved here is the friendliness of the people. What do you think it is that makes people so friendly and welcoming?
That has a lot to do with the majority of the people here aren’t from here. We’re all from other places in the country. There is a Michigan contingent and a Virginia contingent. We chose to be here because of the lifestyle and because there is snowboarding and it’s pretty liberal on the Front Range. We all want to be here. We didn’t want to go to California. We didn’t want to try and go be big. We just wanted to be. We just wanted to have positive people to skate with. When I moved out here to snowboard, I found skateboard mecca.

What is the biggest misconception about Colorado?
It’s that we’re all snowboarders or hippies.

What do you think is the best and worst part about Colorado?
The worst part is not having a beach. Growing up on the coast of Florida, you get used to a large body of water. Living here, if the mountains were the ocean, it would be epic. For me, the best part of moving here was meeting a whole other world of skateboarders who are in my age bracket and peer group. I’ve never skated with so many people that are the same age as me, even though we’ve traveled the States. In Florida, we’d drive six hours just to ride a 16-foot wide vert ramp. Colorado is like a retirement home for old East Coast skaters. Even in California, I’ve never seen as many people on skateboards as I have seen here.

What is your favorite part of Colorado?
The mountains are beautiful, but I love the backyards and the friendliness and the good people.

What is your favorite spot to skate here?
My backyard. [Laughs] It’s kind of a retirement bowl, but it can be as gnarly as you want it to be or as mellow as you want it to be. It’s 7-foot with 7-foot trannies in the deep end with a 9-foot top radius. It has about 2 feet of flat bottom in the deep end, so it’s very pool-like. The shallow end is 4 feet deep with 6-foot trannies, so it’s a little whippy and a perfect little mini ramp with two square corners in it. It’s something that you will be able rip ride all your life.

What were your costs and concerns going into building the bowl? Did you do a call with the city and find out about liabilities or did you just dig it?
Actually, I will start with the Egg House because that was the same. We rented this house with a one-car garage and a dirt floor. One night at the bar, we were doing shots and we were like, “We can either bowl in the ramp or we can build a bowl in a one-car garage. Let’s build a bowl in a one-car garage.” After that night drinking at the bar, we woke up and started digging. It was kind of funny. We made the choice wasted, but we started digging sober. Now that we have our new house, a ripping guy, Joe Hernandez, moved into the joint and dug the bowl back out after we moved out.

Let’s talk about the bowl at your new house.
We looked for a house that didn’t back up to anybody and had a nice quiet facade from the exterior. I figured out the shape and then arranged to have 15 roll-off dumpsters come one hour a piece on a Saturday. I rented a mini excavator and a Bobcat and ran the entire thing in a day and a half.

Do you think one of the reasons there are so many great backyard pools at everyone’s house is because of all of the skatepark builders that live here?
Absolutely. “Team Grindland” built our bowl. You couldn’t pay to have that crew. I’m so grateful to Shaggy and James for all of the guidance and help. Without those two guys, it wouldn’t have happened. I would be hand-stacking that shit, and that is a whole other story.

With all of that said and done, tell me a little bit about Bad Egg, the zine that you and your wife, Ashley, do. Do you think the art of the zine is being lost with the Internet takeover?
I think possibly it is being lost. That’s one of the reasons that I was into the idea. Ash was like, “We should do one for Colorado. We haven’t seen any zines out here and we have such a great scene. Let’s make a zine about it.” We produced the first issue and, luckily, we got some amazingly good people to take photographs of.

Who do you think contributes the most to the skate scene in Colorado?
I have to give props, first and foremost, to Bruce Adams. Cedar Crest, hell yeah! That’s another reason this place is so amazing. It’s directly related to him. Secondly, I have to give it up to Caleb Moore and Terrill for building the Humbler. Before I even moved here, I remember seeing photos of the Humbler, which was basically an above ground wooden pool. I was like, “Holy shit. Look at that thing.” Props to the entire Arvada Army: Jeff Wastell, Dave Tuck (R.I.P.), Jerry Hahn, and on and on. It is just amazing. We have some guys up in the mountains that really hold it down as well. It’s phenomenal and we love everybody in this scene. I think everybody brings something to the table, just like any other place but for some reason we just have a vast majority.

Everyone contributes. If you can’t help build it, at least bring the beer and lend a hand.
I have to really give my wife a lot of props for everything she does. She has been all over this state making sure that our skateparks are built by skateboarders for skateboarders. She is the one that goes to all the city council meetings that no one wants to go to and what she does is amazing.

I don’t know how she does it. It’s tireless work. That’s how this stuff gets built. We all should say thanks to Ashley and the CCPS. Mott, it’s been really good talking to you.
You too. Thanks, Merk.

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

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