Bryce Kanights has paid his dues in skateboarding. Over the last 40+ years, he maintained a pro skateboard career along with a gig at Thrasher where he started from the bottom and worked his way up. The hardcore dedication that Bryce grew up with gave him a unique and valuable outlook on skateboarding. His love of photography helped carry him through and his love for skateboarding can be seen in every shot. Bryce has survived the highs and lows of skateboarding, which can exact an economic and emotional toll on any hardcore skater trying to preserve the integrity and history of the underground skateboard culture. Bryce is a lifer, and his love for skateboarding has never been stronger!
MURF: Name, rank and serial number?
BRYCE: Bryce Kanights, age 57. I’ve been skateboarding since I was 12 years old.
MURF: Where were you born and raised?
BRYCE: I was born and raised in San Francisco.
MURF: When did you first get on a skateboard?
BRYCE: It was the summer of 1975. I was visiting my cousins Kenny and Shawn Fraser down in Ventura, California, and they had these Bahne fiberglass boards. The urethane wheel had just come to market and I went to William-Dennis Surfboards and bought a Bahne skateboard with Chicago trucks and Cadillac wheels. We would run slalom cones and jam around the neighborhood and we learned how to carve and kickturn. That was my first hook. I was like, “This is awesome.” I brought my board back to San Francisco and, from there, I learned about Skateboarder magazine. About a year later, I met Joe Fong, Barryn Makapagal, Aaron Lasnover and the Guerrero brothers and everything started to click.
MURF: When you first saw Skateboarder, did you have concrete parks you were skating?
BRYCE: No. This was a year and a half prior to that. All we had were schoolyards and hills with the driveways out in the Avenues. The Northern California Skateboard Championships at the Cow Palace was where we saw our first pros. The cool thing was, on the side of the big slalom ramp, they had this 8 1/2-foot deep kidney-shaped fiberglass pool. I remember Tony Alva, Rodney Jesse and Jay Adams were skating it. That was the first time I ever saw vertical pool riding with my own eyes. I was blown away. That was just prior to the summer of ‘76.
MURF: Was that a blue Fiber Rider ramp?
BRYCE: No. This was before Fiber Rider. This was just a one-piece fiberglass pool. There were no seams.
MURF: Was it flexi or solid?
BRYCE: It was solid. It had a shallow end and a deep end, but I don’t remember it having pool coping. It was just a fiberglass pool with a hard edge. Those guys were ripping and I was just hooked. Beforehand, I had seen it in the magazine, but I couldn’t quite grasp how they were getting vertical. Seeing Gregg Weaver carving on vertical on the cover of Skateboarder, I didn’t quite understand how he got into that position. Watching these guys live, it was like, “This is groundbreaking. Magical.”
MURF: Did that make you think you needed to go find a pool or get a ramp going?
BRYCE: Absolutely. We started building ramps and we found a square pool in downtown San Francisco called the Jungle Bowl. That’s where I first learned to skate over the light and hit tile and coping. Then we had the Thrasher pool in San Leandro as well.
MURF: Were you still riding the Bahne?
BRYCE: No. The board that I rode the first time I hit coping in a pool was a Logan Earth Ski wedge tail with Powerflex 3’s with Bennett trucks. That was in ‘76.
MURF: When did the wave of concrete parks hit the San Francisco area?
BRYCE: In 1977, some of the first parks hit the Bay area. The first one was up in Sacramento. Skateboard Palace was nicknamed the “Pink Palace” because it had this dust that would kick up while you skated. It was an indoor park with an egg-shaped bowl in the middle with no coping. Your jeans and shirt and gloves would be covered in pink dust. In the back, there were other pools and they kicked up to vert at the last foot or so. There were banked bowls with extensions and tile and you could ride those and get vertical. Alameda Skatepark, by Oakland, across the San Francisco Bay, opened up next. That was the first park where you got a membership card. It was a replica of Concrete Wave in Anaheim and it was pretty cool at the time. You could skate cross country style all over the park.
MURF: Was there a grand opening for that park where the pros came out?
BRYCE: Not for that park particularly, but there was a group of local rippers from Berkeley called the Alot-A-Flex team. They were doing 360 fly-outs and they were very progressive for that time and they always traveled to skate sessions as a group. That was Anthony, Chris, and Dave Fisher, Jeff Sand and Tim Marting, who invented the rock n’ roll years later. Paco Prieto was another name. He was one of the “50 Hot Kids” featured in Skateboarder. About six months after going to Alameda, Tony and Tommy Guerrero got sponsored by Alot-A-Flex. We were like, “You guys ride for Alot-A-Flex. That’s so badass.”
MURF: Did Tony and Tommy have the round wall down?
BRYCE: They both skated everything. Tony was more of a freestyler and Tommy was an all-around street rat and he’d ride bowls too. Tommy was the little grom. He was nine. Tony was 12 or 13 at the time.
MURF: How old were you at that time?
BRYCE: I was 13.
MURF: Did that make you want to be sponsored?
BRYCE: I didn’t really care at that point. I was just stoked for my friends and stoked on skateboarding. From there, the skateparks started popping up and we had more and more of them. There was Rim Rider Skatepark out by SFO airport, which was designed by Tony Alva. It had a corrugated metal pipe that was lined with plywood, which was fun. The rest of it was kind of hodgepodge and not built so well. Then there was Ride On in Newark, Campbell and Winchester skatepark down in San Jose, which had the best keyhole ever. However, the best skatepark was Skatepark Victoria in Milpitas, which was the park where many of us from the Bay Area became locals and cemented long-lasting friendships. That park had it all; so much terrain with assorted pools, snake runs and washboards that were all connected. We’d spend hours playing games of skate tag around the entire park. It took us an hour and a half of public transit to get there, but we would go as often as possible. Once I got my drivers license, the commute time was cut in half. The skatepark only lasted another year and it was closed and dozed in 1980.
MURF: What was it like riding those pools?
BRYCE: It was amazing. We were in the prime of our lives and it was really cool. Unfortunately, some of the parks were built too soon. They lasted maybe a summer and they were gone because of poor craftsmanship or insurance problems. The whole skatepark era in Northern California came and went within three summers. It was magical and surreal.
MURF: When that happened on the East Coast, we couldn’t believe it. Were you in shock?
BRYCE: Yeah. Here we were meeting new friends and some of the best park skating was going on. It was really progressive as the Hester Series started up and then we had all the local rippers that were killing it and learning new tricks. All of a sudden, at the end of ‘79, skateboarding as we knew it had folded. It was done. At the same time, we got into punk rock and taught ourselves to play instruments. We’d build ramps, find empty pools and search out skate spots in the Bay Area. We would steal wood and build a ramp that would last a few months until it was shut down and then we’d take that wood and build somewhere else. We were just trying to keep it going. There was no magazine to follow. Skateboarder caved into Action Now. Thrasher was just starting and we barely knew about it. It was just a bunch of guys from the East Bay, like Shrewgy, John Drummond, Chris Lowe and Dan Magee and those guys in Concord, and our crew in the city, trying to keep it going. There were crews in Berkeley, Sacramento, and Santa Cruz, and San Jose had its scene. We were trying to find spots and connect, but it was tough. You couldn’t just search spots on the internet.
MURF: Did you have some backyard pools that you would hit too?
BRYCE: We had a selection of pools out in the East Bay that we would hit. In San Francisco, pools are hard to come by because it’s so densely populated. In the surrounding suburbs, and up in Sacramento and out in the East Bay, like the Oakland Hills, there were pools. We used to ride the Blind School pool, which was a big, wide-open five-lane lap pool and it was rad. We skated that a lot in the early ‘80s.
MURF: The Nude Bowl wasn’t happening back then was it?
BRYCE: It might have been, but we didn’t travel outside the Bay Area much to skate at that time. We would go to Del Mar for those contests and to Pipeline and sometimes Whittier. For the most part, we stayed in Nor Cal. We weren’t sponsored yet, so we didn’t have much of a budget to get on the road. If we went to Southern California, it was on our own dime.
MURF: Was there a SoCal versus NorCal vibe when you would show up down south?
BRYCE: Not really. That was all media play. We got along with everybody pretty much. When we went to Del Mar, we would hang with Owen Nieder, Reese Simpson, Adrian Demain, Allen Losi and Tod Swank. There were always groups of dudes skating and hanging out that were awesome.
MURF: At that point, Thrasher was up and running. Were you guys down with the magazine? Did you hang with Thatcher or Fausto?
BRYCE: Well, let me back up. Our friend, Joe Fong, was a few years older than us and he was the first guy to have a car and he would drive us around to skate spots and pools. He used to take us to all the parks, like Winchester. When the parks closed, Joe had his connection to Fausto and Eric because he was like a test pilot for them when Independent Truck Co. was first happening. Joe wasn’t on the advertised pro team, but he always had the trucks and new shirts, so we were really close to what was going on with the development of the Independent truck brand. When Thrasher was starting, we had heard about it a little and then I met Kevin Thatcher at Rainbow Skates skateboard shop in San Francisco a year or so later. He looked over some of the black and white 8”x10” prints that I had in my backpack and he wanted to publish one of them.
MURF: When did your fever for photography hit?
BRYCE: My dad was into photography and he gave me a used Nikon camera with a 50mm lens for my sixth grade graduation. He was a hobbyist and he had his photos framed up around the house. He shot with Rolleiflexes and medium format cameras and I was inspired by his photos as well as action photos in the skate mags. Anywhere I went to skate, I had my camera in my bag. That’s how I got into it. I just wanted to document what we were doing. After meeting Kevin Thatcher, I ran into him a few months later in the city. He said, “We’re growing the mag and we’re looking for someone to work in the darkroom as our first paid intern.” That was the beginning and I worked in the darkroom, swept floors, washed Fausto’s cars and screened t-shirts and more. I was the shop monkey.
MURF: What was a typical day at the old Indy factory? You were at Thrasher and Ermico?
BRYCE: Yeah. It was located within the old Hunters Point Naval Shipyard. Fausto and Eric had secured really cheap rent for their foundry where they were pouring trucks daily. The Thrasher office was in the barracks on the other side of the building. It was an aging crusty lead paint ridden structure and we would produce the magazine there. On a typical day, I’d show up at 11AM, go in the darkroom and crank the music and process film for the first half of the day. Then we’d make halftones and photo stats and lay everything out. MoFo would be screening shirts and say, “Hey, I need help.” So I’d help him. Fausto would say, “My car is dirty. Wash my car.” At the same time, we were drinking beer and smoking joints late into the night to complete the mag each month. Burning the midnight oil. Ha!
MURF: How old were you at that point?
BRYCE: I was 18, fresh out of high school. I attended San Francisco City College three times a week and worked my remaining hours at Thrasher. My mom saw working at the magazine as a positive thing. I felt that I could always go back to a university if desired, so that’s what I went with at the time and I’m fortunate that I did. I learned so much about magazine production, graphic design, photography and DIY ethics. Fausto said, “You need to learn to shoot photos for the magazine. This is what you do. Buy a Canon camera and you can use our lenses. Just go for it. You can do it.”
MURF: Was there a lot of critique when you brought back the photos?
BRYCE: It was pretty positive. We would go to contests, and I would compete as a sponsored Am. If I was hurt or didn’t make the cut past qualifiers, I’d shoot the contest. As time went on, I’d fly around domestically and shoot with Natas, Duane, JFA, Eric Nash, the Shut Team in NYC or whoever I was assigned to and come back with rolls of film and we’d pick the best shots for the article.
MURF: Would you be a part of choosing which photos would go in the mag or was that up to Fausto and Thatcher?
BRYCE: Fausto was busy, so besides the cover, MoFo and Kevin selected and edited most of the photography. If I had a shot that I felt was worthy, I’d show it and suggest it to Mo.
“You have to trust your heart and go with what you feel and be true to yourself. I owe so much to skateboarding. I can’t let it down.”
MURF: At this point, you’re sponsored by Madrid. How did that come about?
BRYCE: Beau Brown was my first team manager and he put me on the program. I did well in competitions when streetstyle began to emerge, and I also skated vert and could do airs, eggplants, frontside inverts and board slides and other basics at the time. I did a summer tour with Madrid in 1986 and turned pro the following year since there was a demand for my board.
MURF: Where did you go on your first Madrid tour?
BRYCE: Joe Bowers, Claus Grabke, Bill Danforth, Mike Smith and I got in a van for a trip from New York City up to Niagara Falls. We skated a killer backyard ramp in Groton, Connecticut, near the Naval submarine base, and we did a couple of demos up through New England as well.
MURF: Sick. How was it hanging with Danforth?
BRYCE: He was straight edge at the time, so it was pretty rad. That was before he jumped ship and went to your program with Alva. [Laughs]
MURF: I remember that. Oh, man, Mr. Hate.
BRYCE: Oh yeah. The wild card in the bunch was Mike Smith. He was crazy. He taught me a thing or two about how to party that’s for sure.
MURF: I bet. He was a ripper. Smith vert, c’mon.
BRYCE: Yeah. He just had style, Hermosa Beach style.
MURF: So you get sponsored and you’re on the road. Are you digging it?
BRYCE: I was stoked. I was doing what I love. You’re not responsible for much other than skating demos and showing up at the airport on time. Everything else is on top of your griptape and having fun. You’re meeting rad dudes and staying at people’s houses while parents are away. You’re surrounded by quite a few females too. It was awesome.
MURF: Some tours were starting to go overseas then. Did you take any of those trips?
BRYCE: I never traveled overseas as a pro for Madrid. Soon enough though, I noticed that the royalty checks were not coming in. So I got in touch with Paul Schmitt. Paul said, “You and Joey Lopes are good friends, and Monty and Lucero are with us. You should be with us too.” Schmitt Stix was doing really good and his boards were top-notch, so it was a no-brainer for me. I didn’t have a contract to tie me down, so I bailed on Madrid. By ‘88, I was riding for Schmitt and they put out the gargoyle graphic, which was illustrated by Jay Henry from a photo that I shot and provided to Paul. It felt great to be on a team with lots of creative momentum.
MURF: Did you still work at Thrasher?
BRYCE: Yeah. The entire time I was skating as a pro, I was working at the magazine, so I had two incomes, which was crazy. There was only one other skater doing the same thing. Tod Swank was shooting for TransWorld and skating as a pro for Foundation.
MURF: When you worked at the mag, did you miss out on tours with Schmitt Stix?
BRYCE: I definitely sacrificed what I could do with the Schmitt Stix team because I had obligations at the magazine, which I don’t regret. I wasn’t a top level pro, but I feel I was important to what I brought to skateboarding. I invented the nose pick and I’ve done some things in my skateboarding career, but I humbly knew at the time that I wasn’t a Chris Miller or a Tommy Guerrero.
MURF: As street skating started to become more marketable and vert faded away, was there a conscious effort at Thrasher to get more street skating in there?
BRYCE: Yeah. It wasn’t like, “Vert is dead. We’re not going to cover it anymore.” It was an evolution. It was harder for people to have backyard ramps with the noise ordinances and upset neighbors. It’s easier to step out your door and start skating, instead of driving ten miles to skate someone’s ramp. It’s just not freely accessible to skate vert and that’s pretty much why it went away. When street skating hit and Thrasher introduced the first Streetstyle event in 1983, people like Tommy and Natas and Gonz were influencing kids to go out, explore, discover and ride whatever terrain was out there. There are so many variables in street skating, so, by default, street skating became king.
MURF: In the early ‘90s, were you still being sponsored as a skater?
BRYCE: Yeah. In 1990, Schmitt informed me that he was leaving Vision and Brad Dorfman. Schmitt Stix was done as a brand and it was time to start a new effort. Paul told me that he was going to take some of the younger guys from Schmitt Stix, but he just couldn’t carry on any more. I said, “That’s fine. I have my career with Thrasher. I’m good to retire. No worries. Thanks, Paul.” Around that time, Jim Muir had moved to San Francisco where he was relaunching Dogtown Skateboards with John Cardiel, Karma Tsocheff, Wade Speyer, Kris Markovich and JJ Rogers. A few months later, Jim and Fausto approached me (since Fausto had partnered with Jim and Dogtown) and said, “We’d like you to do a pro model with Dogtown because your name could help move units and get this thing going.” I’ve always respected Red Dog, so I designed and endorsed three Dogtown models from mid ‘90 to ‘92. Back then the industry was down, so I didn’t expect to generate the numbers that I was doing with Schmitt Stix, but I was stoked to help out Jim and Fausto. Skateboarding was in a weird spot in ‘92 and a lot of people bailed on it. I remember the Thrasher cover we created with the tombstone that read, “Vert is Dead.” Overall, skateboarding was once again very close to death.
MURF: I remember that. I was like, “Fuck that.”
BRYCE: You remember the baggy pants, small wheels era? I would see kids in San Francisco walking with their skateboards down mellow hills. I would ask them, “What are you doing? You should be skating down these hills.” Their reply would be that they didn’t want to flatspot their small 43mm wheels. I thought, “This is truly ridiculous.” Through that time, Thrasher weathered the storm and diversified and launched another magazine called Slap, which appealed broadly to the next generation of street skaters.
MURF: Were you involved with Slap?
BRYCE: I would help Lance Dawes with some darkroom stuff, but I never really shot any photos for Slap. They were the upstart magazine underneath Thrasher in the same building with a different style.
MURF: When the X Games hit in the mid ‘90s, did that make anyone at the mag think that vert skating could make a comeback?
BRYCE: No. I remember Kevin Thatcher flew out to Rhode Island for the first one and he came back saying, “This is such a shit show circus.” No one thought it would grow to what it has. We were all deniers of it. We thought it was a joke. It was just another corporation jumping on the growing popularity of skateboarding. We didn’t really consider it. We were more interested in what was going on at the core level. At that time, skateboarding was still ours. We felt that we didn’t have to worry about the outsiders.
MURF: In the early 2000’s, skateboarding started picking up and concrete was coming back with the Vans skateparks. What was your vibe on that?
BRYCE: Well, in the mid to late ‘90s, we had a few public skateparks being built in the Bay Area. We had one in Palo Alto, then Napa and Santa Rosa. They were all flow bowls with soft lips and very few grindable edges or pool block. They were fun to jam around, but they weren’t great. Why? For me, knowing what existed in the late ‘70s, these skateparks were not what they could or should be. Then people started to take notice of Burnside and what it had to offer with hips, lines, and vertical with pool block coping. Burnside had it going on early on. Perhaps some of the skatepark developers started to realize that they needed to include some vertical and grindable edges within their parks. That didn’t happen until the early 2000s. That’s when Vans stepped up and put their parks all over the country, and several of them stuck around for a number of years. Thankfully, the combi bowl at The Block is still there, which is awesome. Our local Vans park was in Milpitas and it had a cool bullet-shaped pool. It had straight sidewalls with a round face-wall and tight little corners in the shallow end, so that was super fun. Ben Schroeder designed a washboard, which was nothing like the original at Winchester, but it was fun. We had a good Vans park and there were several of them. That was the start of concrete coming back. Before those parks landed, there were only two guys with solid, worthwhile concrete bowls and that was Kelly Bellmar and Chicken in Southern California. Those guys had the best private backyard bowls I’d ever skated in the ‘90s. You had to search very far to find something comparable.
“I look at skateboarding as a culture, but I’m getting paid as a photographer to shoot it as a sport at these events. I gotta survive too and if I don’t shoot it, someone else will, but I still love skateboarding and I will guide it the best way that I can through my photos. Skateboarding is not just about riding a skateboard. It’s how you look at the world and what you do with that skateboard and the other things it inspires you to do. It gives you a different set of eyes. Being a skateboarder, it gives you an independent free-thinking mind.”
MURF: When did you start going up to Burnside? Was Thrasher into sending you up there?
BRYCE: Yeah. We did some trips up there, usually once or twice a year, to skate. Burnside was an experiment in progression. Red, Hubbard, Sage and the crew were adding on to the park and seeing what they could do. The city of Portland was supportive because they cleaned up the area and got rid of the vagrants, drug use and prostitution. They squatted on the land and made it their own. Fully barged. It’s still there and the park is approaching its 30th anniversary this Halloween.
MURF: Sick. Did you envision what is happening now with concrete parks all over?
BRYCE: No. I never thought that skateboarding would get to this wide mainstream acceptance level. It’s mind blowing how many parks and participants there are now.
MURF: It’s a whole new generation and it’s the biggest generation it’s ever been. You’ve got all of these parks and it’s generating more skaters. From 2000 to 2010, were you at Thrasher that whole time?
BRYCE: No. I left Thrasher in 1996.
MURF: What happened?
BRYCE: I think it was a case of me not wanting to give in. Jake Phelps was self-assigning himself on trips for the magazine armed with only a point and shoot camera and returning with horrible photos. I was working at the magazine and directing the video magazine as well. We were competing against 411VM, as Thrasher Video Magazine, so I was responsible for a lot of additional work. Jake was going on his trips with the Hellride crew and I felt that he just wasn’t pulling his weight. He was talking shit about me and we grew apart and I was over it, so I went to work with Tony Guerrero at his company, Switch Bindings, an emerging step-in snowboard binding brand. It was a new category for snowboarding. I served as the Team Marketing Manager at Switch for a number of years until we were acquired by Vans in 2000. I went into a new field of work and traveled the world snowboarding for a bit, which was cool and exciting. All the while, I continued to skate and shoot photos for skate mags. After the Vans acquisition of Switch, I began to shoot more freelance gigs, and I ended up hired at a web start up for action sports. A few years later I became involved with editing and photo production for Independent Truck Company’s 25th Anniversary book, Built to Grind. That was an 18-month project, which was really detailed and fun.
MURF: What year did that hit?
BRYCE: It started to take shape in 2002 and it was awesome. Joey Tershay, Keith Wilson, Bob Denike, Johnny Munnerlyn and I put it together. It was a very creative and time-intensive project of reaching out to different photographers, team riders and key individuals to come up with different features for the book. What was really cool was digging up old artifacts and stories from people about Indy and talking to Richard Novak, Eric Swenson and Fausto Vitello about how it worked and how it came together. The book is a testament to how important that truck company is to skateboarding. It was gratifying to dig up old photos and pieces of a brand that meant so much to us and skateboarders as a whole.
MURF: How did it happen that you got involved with the Independent book project? Did Fausto hit you up and say, “Do you want to be involved with the book?”
BRYCE: No. It had nothing to do with Fausto specifically at first. The book stemmed from the NHS side of it. It was pretty much through Bob Denike, because Independent Truck Company’s 25th anniversary was coming up. Bob contacted me and we had a few meetings where we decided to go for it. Our team generated a few preliminary mock-up pages to present to Fausto, Swenson and Novak. Once Bob showed Fausto those pages and the overall creative direction, we got his blessing to do it. We had a large signing event at the ASR trade show for the book’s launch in the spring of 2004. It was a rad and timeless document to produce and put out there for skateboarding and its history. I was able to get in touch with many of the original magazine photographers that shot the early mind blowing action images, like James Cassimus, Jim Goodrich and Craig Fineman. Unfortunately, Craig passed away during production and didn’t get to see the completed book, but he was really generous in providing his images. Many of these guys sent me their original color slides and negatives to scan. It was insane to actually hold and view and be responsible for those originals. Unfortunately, Glen Friedman had a problem with Fausto. I don’t know what the reason was, but Glen said, “As long as it’s to do with Fausto and his brand, I can’t contribute to the book.” Everybody else committed and I truly feel that the book turned out great. It was an honor to work alongside Bob Denike, Joey Tershay, Keith Wilson and Johnny Munnerlyn on that project.
MURF: After the Vans acquisition of Switch, you were doing freelance photography?
BRYCE: Yeah. I was shooting for Big Brother, Heckler, Stance, Juice, Concussion and several other magazines. I was making a decent income and then I began shooting events and competitions. Thanks to Don Bostick at World Cup Skateboarding, I began shooting the X Games in 2001.
MURF: What is it like working for the X Games?
BRYCE: It’s a corporate thing, but the people that I work for totally understand my history and what I’m bringing to the table. For the most part, they give me the freedom to create and do what I have to do to get the photos they need. People can hate on the X Games, Dew Tour, and Street League but, on a core level, skateboarding is still there once you open your door and get out there. I have the opportunity to shoot these events and they have many of the best skateboarders. It’s a controlled environment, so it’s not real street skating or a real backyard pool, but these guys and gals competing are amongst the greatest of skateboarders. I’m into it and I’m witnessing some of the sickest tricks go down.
MURF: What did you get into next?
BRYCE: I worked at Adidas and built the team program for Adidas Skateboarding.
MURF: What was the vibe with Adidas?
BRYCE: I was brought on as the Team Marketing Manager for that re-launch in 2006. They retained Mark Gonzales from the previous team and I built the new team beginning with Dennis Busenitz and then Tim O’Connor, and I brought several others onboard. When I first got the gig, I asked the guy that hired me what happened to the old team and he said, “We just wanted to keep Gonz because he has an artistic aesthetic and he’s a legend.” I said, “Why did you let Lance Mountain go? Lance is awesome and I would have loved to work with him.” He said that Lance was becoming older and more irrelevant to skateboarding. When he said that, I felt like punching the guy in the face. I kept my cool and right then I knew what I was dealing with. He didn’t understand skateboarding, yet he was trying to be the cool guy working in skateboarding – a real wolf in sheep’s clothing. Over the next two years I helped hire the creative agency and brought some key players onto the skate program, all the way up to Silas Baxter-Neal and then I was let go. The same guy that didn’t renew my contract got fired a week later because of his bullshit, including letting me go. Since then, I’ve followed my heart and I’m not driven only by money. I enjoy working on meaningful projects with brands that have integrity and that’s what I strive to maintain.
MURF: Now you know what you really want to do and you know what you really don’t want to do.
BRYCE: Yeah. You have to trust your heart and go with what you feel and be true to yourself. I owe so much to skateboarding. I can’t let it down.
MURF: Why did you move to Portland?
BRYCE: I moved to Portland because of my work with Adidas at the time primarily. Their U.S. offices are based in Portland and they helped with the move up here. My wife and I took a summer road trip up here in 2005 and we camped and stayed at a few hotels and then returned to SF after camping at Crater Lake. We just loved it here and we were like, “The Bay Area is getting blown out. Let’s move.” So that’s what we did. We sold her condo in San Francisco’s Haight neighborhood and bought a house here in Portland. We’ve been living here ever since. It’s awesome, but it’s always raining.
MURF: How is Portland different from SF?
BRYCE: The cool thing about it is that we have seasons. We receive the long cold months of winter and we get the sun of spring. We get hot summers and we enjoy fall color. In San Francisco, it was usually foggy gray days in mid-summer. You didn’t have the changing of the colors of the leaves of trees. It’s different living by the coast in northern California. I like that we have plenty of skateparks in Oregon and it’s nice to have some nature close by. I like the buzz of the city and the traffic and people, but it’s also nice to spread out and relax a little bit.
MURF: When Lifeblood Skateboards started, was that during the Adidas thing or after?
BRYCE: It was a couple of years after the Adidas gig. In 2010, I started growing a small board brand called Lifeblood Skateboards. The guys on our squad were mostly from the Northwest where there are a lot of skateboard parks and their skateboarding was rooted in concrete bowls and gnarly terrain.
MURF: What made you want to start a skate company?
BRYCE: It was so that I could lose my mind and lose some money. I don’t know. [Laughs] We started Lifeblood because my partners at the time had a brand called Bacon Skateboards and they were having difficulty getting it moving. One of them offered, “Why don’t we collaborate and start a new brand together?” We came to an agreement that we should start a new brand and name it Lifeblood. That was a name that I’d been holding on to for quite some time and I thought it would be fitting for what we were doing; so we went for it. We took the first team riders up to Orcas Island and filmed a promo video and launched the brand. We had pretty good success.
“I donated all funds from the print sales of my photos to kids at Pine Ridge and the Stronghold Society. We garnered $3,200 in donations to help those kids go skateboarding with new helmets. That’s the kind of thing I like to do for skateboarding and I’m really honored to do that.”
MURF: What kinds of guys did you sponsor?
BRYCE: Those that skate everything. We sponsored Kevin Kowalski, Cody Lockwood, Mason Merlino, Mark “Red” Scott, Dalton Dern, Adam Hopkins, Jake Selover, Sean Blueitt, John Worthington and Maddie Collins.
MURF: What was it like to see Kowalski evolve?
BRYCE: He originally rode for Bacon Skateboards. He was 16 when I met him and now he’s one of the best skaters from the Northwest. He just looks at skateboarding with different eyes and has freakishly skilled abilities. He does a loop revert and who does that? It’s because he can, that’s why.
MURF: When I saw Kowalski and Merlino in Montana, they seemed like gnarly skaters.
BRYCE: Those guys skate and get their own recognition and it’s all on account of what they do. They’re just gnarly. They blow your mind when you see them skate. Jeff Ament texted me about the Browning Skatepark opening and he said, “I know you’re coming out, but do you think some of your guys would want to come out too?” I asked them and they said, “Let’s do it!” They were like, “Really? He wants us? He could ask Tony Hawk or whoever.” They were really stoked and they put on a great show for the kids. What a great time that was.
MURF: It was mind blowing. The vibe was crazy.
BRYCE: It was the first time I’d ever been on a Native American reservation with kids skating. I saw the difficult means that they come from and I wish I had brought more boards to give out.
MURF: Remember the kid Toby who did the frontside slash grind on his second try?
BRYCE: Yeah. I provided him with a brand new board. We set it up and put his old trucks and wheels on it and we were all there when he did his first frontside grind. He didn’t do a quick little scratch grind. He went two blocks, arm behind the back, full surf style slash. It was awesome. He laid all of his body weight into that thing. It was insane.
MURF: If he had put his hand down, he would have looked like Jay Smith.
BRYCE: Absolutely. It was great. He was learning stuff so fast. I also taught that eight-year-old girl, Shaley, how to drop in. It was rad. We judged the contest, and it was great to see those kids just glowing off of what had been provided to them. That was really empowering. That’s what it’s all about right there. Those kids now have a path and they can think freely and independently on what they want to do in life. That skateboard is going to open doors and I hope it has a positive effect on many of them.
MURF: It will. Skateboarding is so addicting. Look at us. We’ve been doing it since the ‘70s and we’re still doing it. How does it feel to be over 50 and skating?
BRYCE: It fuels me to keep pushing, to see how far I can go. It’s given me a great life. Why should I quit now? My neighbors across the street are really great people. They don’t skate, but they understand what I do. They see me leaving in the morning with skateboards and my camera gear and they’re like, “That guy is living life. He’s not going 9 to 5 in a cubicle every day. He’s heading out to go skate or to travel to the X Games.” They always say, “You have a really good life.” I feel blessed for that.
MURF: What was the rest of 2015 like for you?
BRYCE: My next road trip was with you out to the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota with Levi’s Skateboarding. The skateboarding youth are being supported through the Stronghold Society and they were gifted a phase two of their skateboard park in Pine Ridge. There is also a new skateboard park in Wounded Knee in the town of Manderson, so we went out there to skate with the kids and provide them with some gear. There’s a lot of drug use and suicide and, if we can help these kids, I’m down. You have Wounded Knee Skateboards going and you’re giving back to the Native American kids and that’s amazing. It was great to go to Wounded Knee and support those kids and see how they came alive because they had skateboarding. Weeks later, I traveled to Shanghai for the World Extreme Games, which included skateboarding, BMX and a speed climbing contest.
MURF: How was skateboarding seen in Chinese culture?
BRYCE: Well, China doesn’t really have mainstream skateboarding like we do. Each morning, I’d skate through Shanghai and shoot street photography of the fish markets and people selling their goods and people would trip on me just rolling by. I was like the white elephant in their neighborhood rolling through the streets on a skateboard.
MURF: There were no street skaters around?
BRYCE: There are street skaters there, but you’d never see them unless you went to a spot. You’d never see a pack of skaters just skating through the city.
MURF: What about that huge concrete park they have in Shanghai?
BRYCE: It’s a big waste of concrete. It’s just crumbling and falling apart. It’s situated on bad landfill and it’s indicative of poor construction. It is way outside of the city limits and it’s not very populated there, so it’s like a ghost town skatepark, unfortunately.
MURF: What a waste. Was the World Extreme Games an international competition where they had Russian skaters too?
BRYCE: Most of the skaters were American and then there were a few from Australia, Asia and Europe. There was vert, a mini Mega ramp and a street contest. It was cool to see skateboarding at that level in China because I’d been to China in 2007 with the Adidas team and it was so small at the time.
“We have lost quite a few guys, like Jeff Grosso, P-Stone, Jake and Monk, who were important to the core culture of skateboarding. We can’t let what they brought to skateboarding die. We have to keep it going or skateboarding will become a sport more than a culture.”
MURF: Tell us about the silent auction show you did at Agenda. How did that come to be?
BRYCE: Matt Sharkey, who did PR for Levi’s Skateboarding, asked if I wanted to do a photo show in conjunction with their line of clothing, which was inspired by my photo of Gonz at Alcatraz. They designed and produced striped shirts and a striped jacket and pieces of their Fall 2015 line were inspired by Alcatraz. Matt said, “It would be great if we did a photo show around the Agenda Show in Long Beach. Do you want to have everything framed or do you want to do a t-shirt with Gonz to give out?” I said, “We can do a t-shirt to give away.” I got Gonz’ blessing and we gave out limited edition shirts to people that came to the show with a skateboard or a set of trucks or wheels to donate to Pine Ridge. We received 30 boards and ten sets of trucks and some wheels, and I donated all of the funds from the auction of my photos to the kids at Pine Ridge and Stronghold Society. We garnered $3,200 to help those kids go skateboarding with new helmets and pads.
MURF: The money went towards 50 sets of helmets, elbow pads and kneepads from Triple 8. We also got rooms for the skaters from Pine Ridge for the contest, so thank you.
BRYCE: You’re welcome. That’s the kind of thing I like to do for skateboarding and I’m honored to do it.
MURF: Let’s talk more about the evolution of Lifeblood. What was going on in 2016?
BRYCE: Well, in 2016, things were really busy for me. I was still very active in running Lifeblood Skateboards and shooting events around the world for Monster Energy, Vans, X Games and Dew Tour.
MURF: You also went to Europe with Vans for the Vans Park Series. We went to Europe in the ‘80s as pros and there was a lot of interest in skateboarding. Were you seeing the same level of stoke in 2016, 2017 and 2018 from the Europeans?
BRYCE: Well, there were definitely more participants and more parents involved. Germany has its scene and France has its scene and the U.K. has always had its scene. There is just more fire power amongst all the countries now. You also have the moms and dads involved now and they’re looking to see if their kid can become the next Tony Hawk. There is acceptance of it as a pathway to something legit; to do something in your life with skateboarding.
MURF: Did you see skaters as gnarly as Cody Lockwood and Kevin Kowalski in Europe?
BRYCE: Oh yeah. There’s this guy Martino Cattaneo, from Switzerland, and he is insane. He doesn’t have a lot of support sponsorship-wise, but he’s had some photos in Thrasher. There are kids who are just killing it and doing it for the love of it. They’re not trying to be the next big thing. Of course, they’d like to do more. It’s just hard because there is not enough support for some of the not as recognized skaters.
MURF: It seems like everything is going towards contest pros and away from underground skateboarders, right?
BRYCE: You’re either an event skater, an underground skater or a skater that caught fire through videos and social media. Jacopo Carozzi is a rad all around skater from Italy. We were aware of him for years and now he’s riding for Baker because Andrew Reynolds saw footage of him shared by P-Stone. There are guys who catch a glimmer from a top pro in the States and, boom, they’re on.
MURF: Those are the guys that just show up and blow doors on people, right?
BRYCE: Yeah. Skateboarding is now truly global. You used to be able to tour the country and sleep on someone’s couch and skate their ramp, and you’d have a place to stay, right? Now you can do that all over the world. People will put you up no problem. By and large, we support one another because we are all part of this community. It’s rad.
MURF: More DIY stuff is getting built, so kids are constantly evolving.
BRYCE: Yeah. It’s all creative, from riding your skateboard to making your scene happen, be it concrete or a backyard ramp and finding spots. Skateboarding teaches you how to do it. By having a skateboard, you learn how to put wheels on and take bearings out and take the trucks off and file down new grip tape. You become knowledgeable about how to work with tools and put things together. It’s pretty rad.
MURF: That’s cool. With all of the touring that you were doing and running Lifeblood, how hard was it to balance? Were your team guys out on tour with you?
BRYCE: Yeah. We did plenty of tours. Towards the end of Lifeblood’s good years, we toured Europe and we went to Japan. It’s just really difficult to maintain a small board brand and keep it profitable continually to properly support a team of skaters.
MURF: Would Kowalski be competing in some of the events that you were shooting?
BRYCE: He would be in a lot of them, especially the Vans Park Series. He was sponsored by Lifeblood, but he also had support from other sponsors, so that helped him get to each spot, and then I would make sure he had hotels or transportation. It was great traveling with Kevin in those years. There is stuff that he was doing way before others. There is a three stories tall bank wall in New Zealand and he did a frontside boneless at the very top of it. Still nobody can touch that. The Waldport park near his house has a parabola where the tranny goes up to just over vert and then it continues straight for another three feet and he back Smiths around the top of that thing. When he carved the helmet at the Polson park in Montana, it blew my mind. Nobody has done that.
MURF: What was it like watching him try that?
BRYCE: He was confident and then he had one fall where he didn’t have enough speed and he fell from like 12 o’clock. Luckily, he jumped out to catch the tranny and he kinda butt slid out of it. It was scary. Within five tries, he did it. I shot a sequence of it and Josh Peacock filmed it. The footage of it is in his part in Service For The Sick on Lifeblood’s Vimeo page.
MURF: What’s the status of Lifeblood now?
BRYCE: Well, it’s still moving forward and I’m still moving product. The last 8-10 months of the partnership, we weren’t selling enough lumber, t-shirts or accessories to support a talented team of skaters to include travel support or video projects and it wasn’t fair to them. I had a good talk with Cody and Kevin and they agreed. So my business partners and I agreed to cease the business. I now have sole ownership of the brand. Over the years, I worked hard to secure additional sponsors for Lifeblood’s team riders. I wanted to see those guys do well and they did. Today, Cody is on Creature and Kevin is with Blood Wizard and several of the other riders such as John Worthington and Dalton Dern are still shredding with their sponsors as well.
MURF: Do you mentor kids with photography?
BRYCE: I used to go to Woodward and teach photography every summer. I got to instruct kids that were into it and were skaters. Within seven days, you could see how they were grasping it and moving it forward. It was cool. You are enlightening kids and giving some of them the basics and others more of the creative side of it. Over the years, it’s been awesome to see how that program has grown. It’s very rewarding.
MURF: I was looking at that Moonscapes of Montana video. Explain to people what’s going on in Montana right now.
BRYCE: Well, that video was a project that I shot for GoPro. It covers the skateparks built in Montana in recent years, mainly the moonscape parks, which were designed and built by Evergreen. They are an experience like no other. They are not geared towards technical tricks. It’s more about flow, continuity and speed. You’re just putting four wheels down and pumping up over bumps and flying over hips onto concrete coping and launching transfers. It’s all one connected wave form. You go wherever your mind wants to go. That’s not to discredit the parks elsewhere in Montana, because they are just as rad in their own way. You have Grindline and Dreamland parks that laid the skatepark foundation in the state and now Evergreen is coming in with different parks. Now you can do a road trip in Montana and hit a park every hour or so. It’s insane. There are so many parks in Montana. It’s wide open and they’re not blown out parks. You show up to most of these parks and there are maybe five or ten kids. Sometimes there is nobody. You don’t have the population centers that California and other states do. It’s an experience that everyone should do at least once in their life. Get in the car with your friends and road trip through Montana. It’s one of the best experiences you’ll ever have.
MURF: Do you flash back to the ‘70s park scene when you skate those Evergreen parks?
BRYCE: Yeah. It takes me back to my first experiences of pumping around on snake runs and mogul bowls. It’s back to the roots of being a kid on a board and that magic feeling of just rolling and pumping around. It’s really fun. It might not be everyone’s preference in skateboarding, but I love it.
MURF: It seems like, if you really want to make everyone happy in a community, you have to put all aspects into these parks. The way you and I grew up, when we went to those mogul parks, your body eventually got the rhythm of pumping and forming to any kind of concrete situation. When the halfpipe thing came in, I still wished I could ride those mogul parks again, but you can’t do an invert in them.
BRYCE: Yeah. These flow parks will keep us skating into our seventies. A street plaza is very time sensitive. You’re going to ride that thing into your 30s and maybe your 40s but, with exception, most are probably not skating street terrain in their 50s. There are plenty of street plazas out there. I just think that Montana is doing it right for right now.
MURF: It’s an interesting argument. Would you rather build a kid something gnarly so he can adapt or build something easier to ride so they don’t get disappointed?
BRYCE: You want them to be engaged for sure. You have to work with the community to provide the kids what they want, but how do they know what they want if they’re so inexperienced? You have to offer them good examples of why something works. Putting a stair set in a skatepark doesn’t make sense to me. It’s always one direction and down. At least with a Euro gap, you can go up and back down. You can still launch off of a bump or mogul and do a huge kickflip and land on the backside of it, on the tranny. A skatepark is not trying to pretend to be anything but a skatepark. It’s not trying to be real street. If you want to be a street skater, you need to be in the streets skating street because that’s where it’s legit.
MURF: Let’s talk about snake runs.
BRYCE: Nobody has built a ‘70s style snake run since the ‘70s. In all of the new parks, no one has designed a proper snake run. Colton had the best snake run ever. Milpitas was amazing too. A proper snake run starts out at probably three feet tall and goes down a grade that’s not too steep, and it snakes back and forth five to seven times and feeds into a bowl or a pool. It snakes all the way down, so you can either carve through each of the pockets of the snake or pump over the hips of the snake or launch over the bumps successively and generate enough speed that, when you hit the bowl, you have the speed to come all the way back up. That’s a proper snake run. It’s like a fish ladder. You just pump up the bumps and go all the way up. Continuum matters.
MURF: Why do you think no one has built one?
BRYCE: I was talking to Billy from Evergreen Skateparks and he said that you have to have the space to do it and it takes a lot of yardage of concrete to make it happen. It’s somewhat cost prohibitive. Maybe Texas has the money for it.
MURF: Portland doesn’t have the money for it?
BRYCE: I wish. [Laughs]
MURF: You must have bros from back in the day, like Caballero, that would like to have a proper snake run, right?
BRYCE: Cab had a great one at Campbell Skatepark, which was his local park. You could pump around the whole park without even pushing. It was great. You could also do laps on the washboard at Winchester Skatepark just by pumping those bumps and hitting the quarter pipe and launching and landing and carving around and go back at it all day long. Those functional forms are crucial to skatepark design.
MURF: What is going on in the Northwest now? Do you have any new parks coming in?
BRYCE: There is really nothing new coming in. Everything is on hold right now since this pandemic hit. I know that there are some parks in Idaho that Dreamland is finishing up. There is one in Eastern Washington that Evergreen just finished, which was designed by Grindline.
MURF: Have you seen any new skateparks that are different or innovative?
BRYCE: The one in Lake Elsinore, CA, looks amazing. It’s a Grindline park with big walls and love seats and all kinds of unique and creative features. That’s the latest one that looks exciting that I want to check out. That’s part of the thing that these cities need to understand. If they put in a groundbreaking design in their skatepark, they are going to get a lot of travelers coming to their area to experience those parks. If you put a boring design or a small footprint of a skatepark in the ground, there’s no attraction for people to travel from other states or internationally to visit and share in that stoke.
MURF: When talk of the Olympics hit, you’d think there’d be more skateparks being built.
BRYCE: Yeah. It just takes so long for these cities to wrap their minds around it and come up with the funding. By the time a park gets built, most of those young kids that helped with fundraisers are heading off to college. There may be a 14-year-old ripper pushing to get a park but, by the time the park gets built, they’re 20 years old and they’re off to another chapter of his or her life.
MURF: Did you find that the attitude about skateparks changed once everyone knew the Olympics was coming?
BRYCE: Yeah. It would have been better if the Olympics had happened this summer in 2020. Then there would be this visual thing on TV that would help to better educate people more. Unfortunately, it’s not going to happen this year and it might not happen next year. Even if you’re not into the Olympics, it would really help put skateboarding in a positive light.
MURF: Do you think there will eventually be one template for Olympic style skateparks and it will dumb down all skatepark designs to something generic?
BRYCE: I don’t think we will see a big cradle in the Olympic park or a super big tombstone. They are gonna keep to a maximum height of eight or nine feet with a spine and some hips and offsets to make it manageable for guys and girls. There are a lot of considerations that go into it. A 12-foot wall definitely separates a lot of people. If they keep the design creative at eight or nine feet, everyone is on a similar playing field.
MURF: You were working the Vans Park Series. Were those parks the model for what the Olympics skatepark is going to be?
BRYCE: The Vans Park Series set the tone of the style of a park for competitions. Vans was actually going to go forward with World Skate, the organizational body for the Olympics. All of a sudden, there was a problem in China at one of the stops and Vans said, “Nope. We are pulling our partnership and we’re going to do our own thing.” That left World Skate with no hand to hold and they had to think for themselves.
MURF: Those eight footers, are they seven feet of tranny with a foot of vert?
BRYCE: Yeah. It’s maybe 8-foot tranny with a foot of vert, so nine feet. Those walls can’t be too small where you can’t do a 540.
MURF: What is the basic design of those parks?
BRYCE: They’re all different. Over the past two years, Vans put four parks in the ground and left them there. There is one in Sao Paulo, another in Paris, one in Montreal and another in Salt Lake City. They’re not huge. They are all different shapes and they have spines and hips and offsets and a lot of pool block, which is cool. They started out by building some of their designs in Huntington Beach on the beach, but then they would have to tear down the parks after the contest was over. They were sort of mimicking Marseille with the long spine off the back wall and then they had the main bowl. That’s how they started, but it’s evolved from that.
MURF: When snowboarding went into the Olympics, the halfpipes got bigger over time to go along with how snowboarding was evolving and pros were progressing. Do you think skateparks will get bigger over time too?
BRYCE: I think they will keep them at a minimum, middle ground, at 8 to 9 feet tall and not go huge. We’ve also seen that Tony Hawk is now sponsored by Vans and, when this pandemic thing clears, he is going to roll out his own vert ramp series with Vans. I don’t know much about it, but this series would probably take place on a bigger vert ramp similar to the scale of his ramp. There are a lot of guys ripping vert and, hopefully, more women will get into it in the years to come. There are only a handful of women that are skating vert, so that could be a cool thing.
MURF: That’d be cool. Have you seen girls riding vert and killing it in Europe and China?
BRYCE: No. It’s mainly a handful of American and Japanese ladies. That’s why the IOC have not been talking about putting a vert competition into the Olympics – there are not enough females that skate vert. Maybe it will get there in eight years and there will be a new thing with vert skating. Perhaps Tony Hawk will be the one that sparks a vert rebirth with the aforementioned Vans vert series.
MURF: Do the X Games still have vert contests?
BRYCE: Yes. It’s usually the first event of the week’s competitions and it’s an invite only thing with eight guys and it’s not on the televised broadcast. It’s cool that they are still doing it, but it’s not what it used to be. I think that the biggest problem for vert is accessibility. The majority of skaters don’t have access to vert ramps. Then there’s the desire. Do skaters really want to wear a helmet and full pads to go skate? Most of them just want to walk out the door and go street skate.
MURF: You were in Minneapolis when those guys were blasting on the Mega Ramp. What is it like watching that go down? You’ve got Trey Wood locking on a 900.
BRYCE: I actually shot the photo of him doing that. It was harsh. He hit his femur on the coping. It was so gnarly and he got up from that. That kid is so tough. The Mega Ramp is nothing to take lightly. Each run is gnarly when you consider the risks involved. One misstep can lead to serious injury, but it sure is thrilling to watch!
MURF: Remember Jake Brown’s Mega Ramp slam?
BRYCE: Yeah. That occurred at the Staples Center in LA. I’ll tell you this. I’ve been at the top of the Mega Ramp at the chute where you drop in and, when you look down that thing, it’s like, “Hell no!” Once you drop in, there are no brakes. There is no going back. It’s a full commitment. It’s land or slam. That will put your heart right in your throat. It’s scary. The Mega Ramp is gnarly. Jake’s slam was one of the gnarliest situations that I’ve ever witnessed in skateboarding.
MURF: Some people don’t realize how gnarly it is because they make it look easy. Seeing Clay Kreiner riding that thing and doing a 23-foot McTwist, it’s just insane.
BRYCE: Elliot Sloan, Bob Burnquist, Danny Way, Jake Brown, Clay Kreiner, Trey Wood, Tom Schaar and anyone that skates the Mega Ramp comfortably are gnarly humans.
MURF: Danny Way started it. Did you ever see that coming with the Mega Ramp?
BRYCE: No. I saw that transitions on vert ramps were getting bigger. That was happening right after my ramp was dismantled. My ramp was 9 1/2 with 1 1/2 foot of vert. The standard ramp was 11 foot and then it all started getting bigger when the first DC Ramp went up. I think it was 12 foot with two foot of vert, so it was 14 foot. Everything was scaling up and airs were getting bigger. Danny Way was leading the charge and then he built the Mega Ramp.
MURF: Are the people cool that you work with at the X Games?
BRYCE: Totally. Most of the people involved understand it and they skateboard, surf or snowboard. They get it and they listen to the riders. There’s community input at a lot of meetings, so they’re offering to do the right thing with intention. Their production has grown a lot over the last 25 years and it’s amazing the things that are being built and the events that they are pulling off.
MURF: Here we are in COVID 19 world. Have you been in touch with people at X Games?
BRYCE: I haven’t talked to them, but I know that the X Games are cancelled for 2020. Everybody is in shut down mode for the year. I talked to Chris Ortiz at Dew Tour and they have cancelled their events for the year as well. I kinda wish I lived in Montana right now. Randy Katen is out there enjoying life with big open fields right by his house and the skateparks are still open. Depending on where you live, it can be really severe. In New York City, where you live, it was sad and gnarly. John Grigley, bless his heart, got sick and got out of it. You just have to be smart about what you’re doing. If you feel sick, stay home. Even if you’re not sick, stay home. That doesn’t mean don’t exercise or go skate or ride your bike, but be smart about it. We’ve never been through anything like this in our lifetime, so we all have to adapt. Fortunately, for me, there are backyard bowls here that I get to go skate with just a few friends and we socially distance and share the stoke.
MURF: Who is your crew nowadays? When you want to go skate, who do you call?
BRYCE: Usually, it’s Mark Conahan, Rich Burton, Cody Lockwood or Willis Kimbel. It’s older dogs and young guys too. We have a good skate community.
MURF: Kowalski has his own private deal too?
BRYCE: He does, but he’s three hours away, so it’s a bit of a stretch. I’m staying closer to the city because of all of the unknowns out there.
MURF: What are your plans for the rest of 2020?
BRYCE: Well, under normal circumstances, I would have already been to Peru and China for the Olympic qualifiers. Then I would have attended the Dew Tour in Long Beach and back to China for the World Skate Championships and then the Vans Park Series in Paris. I would have been going to the Summer Olympics in Tokyo and I would have missed out on Montana this year.
MURF: Yeah. When you go to Montana, do you get there a week early to skate?
BRYCE: I try to go late so everybody gets their ya-yas out and the crew shows up at Big Sandy for the blow out. After most people bail back home, I hang out and do my own side trips. It’s not that I don’t like the crowd, but I prefer to just skate with a few friends.
MURF: Have you ridden Alberton yet?
BRYCE: Yes. Alberton is the best. The pump bump waterfall is the best thing ever. You can pump it sideways to the side wall or straight on towards the face wall. That park has a small footprint, but it’s really fun.
MURF: I haven’t ridden many of the skateparks in the Bitterroot Valley area in Montana. What are those parks like?
BRYCE: Darby is smaller, like 7 foot in the deepest end, but it’s all flowing and connected with pool block. Hamilton is the one. It’s truly a lunar landscape. It’s got bigger walls and lots of lines and transfers and it’s got a killer egg pool with the wedding cake in the shallow end. Stevensville is good. It’s got a cake in it as well and it’s more of an open-ended bowl with a pump track around the outside of it with moguls. Those parks are all unique and fun in their own way. That’s one thing that I have to look forward to next summer.
MURF: You don’t have any gigs now?
BRYCE: All of the event gigs have been cancelled for 2020. I’m freelance, so it’s the first time that I’ve applied for unemployment in my life. I’m not the only one. There are over 30 million of us. All you can do is enjoy what you have and keep going.
MURF: Yep. We all just gotta try to keep it all going. Do you have any shout outs to people or thanks you want to give?
BRYCE: I want to thank my wife, Donna, my mom, my dad and anybody that has ever given skateboarding a shot and still believes in it. I have a special appreciation for the guys that I skated with in those early years – Joe Fong, Tony and Tommy Guerrero, Aaron Lasnover, Shrewgy, Fish, Joe Lopes, Ffej and others. I want to thank the Vitello family and the NHS crew and Bob Denike and Keith Wilson. Thanks to everyone that I’ve had the pleasure to shoot photos with or work or skate with over the years. We have lost quite a few guys, like Jeff Grosso, P-Stone, Jake and Monk, who were important to the core culture of skateboarding. We can’t let what they brought to skateboarding die. We have to keep it going or skateboarding will become a sport more than a culture. I walk a double-edged sword because I look at skateboarding as a culture, but I am also getting paid as a photographer to shoot it as a sport at these events. I gotta survive too and, if I don’t shoot it, someone else will, but I still love skateboarding and I will guide it the best way that I can through my photos. Skateboarding is not just about riding a skateboard. It’s how you look at the world and what you do with that skateboard and the other things it inspires you to do. It provides you with a different set of eyes. Being a skateboarder, it gives you an independent free-thinking mind. Skateboarding will always be in my heart no matter what.
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