Duty Now For The Future Artisan Skateparks Durand Beasley

Duty Now For The Future Artisan Skateparks Durand Beasley

Have you ever heard the phrase ‘living the dream’? Well, Durand Beasley is a skate rat from the Outer Banks who asked if he could work on an Artisan Skatepark over a decade ago, and he’s been on the road since, living the dream. From projects in the Carolinas, Maryland, Virginia, Vermont, Colorado and multiple trips to Sweden, he has been non-stop slinging crete blurring the fantasy and reality of creating incredible skateparks. After one of the biggest build years for Artisan Skateparks, Foreman Durand sees no end in sight as the demand skyrockets for killer parks.

DUTY NOW FOR THE FUTURE: ARTISAN SKATEPARKS – DURAND BEASLEY

INTERVIEW AND INTRODUCTION BY JIM MURPHY

 

MURF: Name, rank and serial number.

DURAND: Durand Beasley. Worker guy.

Where were you born and raised?

I was born and raised on the Outer Banks in North Carolina, in the Wanchese bowl area, Science Fair’s stomping grounds.

What year were you born?

1984.

When did you start skateboarding?

My uncle was big into skating since he was younger, and he got me a skateboard when I was two years old. He had a mini ramp in my grandparents backyard, so I grew up skating that and watching the older guys. They built the Wanchese bowl when I was 15 and I remember skipping school and skating there a bunch. My uncle and the older guys built it and I was still a little kid hanging around. That got me interested in it. We had so much stuff to skate on the Outer Banks. It’s hard to just skate one thing because there are so many options.

When did you start seeing concrete get built out there?

Well, there is a really small park that they did in a town called Manteo in 2005. Before that, there were a couple of backyard pools. Mike Rowe, I believe, had the first pool around here. Right after I graduated from high school is when all the concrete started showing up.

Did you get into building then?

No. I didn’t get in with the Artisan guys until they did the Raleigh park, in 2008. That was one of the first big parks they did. I was going to school there and skating a lot and when they started building the park, I went out there and helped out. Then they offered me a job and I haven’t been home since.

At that point, they were Artisan and Andy Duck was running it?

Yeah. I think Manteo or Carolina Beach may have been the first Artisan Skateparks and then they did Raleigh, which was one of the first big skateparks that they got to do.

What was in the Raleigh park?

It was big stuff, big concrete. There’s a big bowl that’s 12-foot in the deep end and it has an over vert section and a 9-foot tranny bank wall. It’s big and really fun.

Did you talk to Andy Duck to get on the crew?

Andy and my uncle were in bands together growing up, so I’d known him for a while. I started volunteering and then they offered me a job. Andy didn’t come out there for the first couple of weeks that I was there and then I talked to him and he said, “If you want to do this, you’re on.” Then we went to Ocean Pines, Maryland, after that and it’s all been a blur since then. There is crazy building going on in North Carolina now.

What were you doing at the park in Raleigh? What was your job?

It was like, “Pick that up. Bring that over here.” I was stoked to do whatever. Then they offered me a job building a skatepark and I was like, “You want me to pick up some trash? I’d love to pick up some trash.” It was cool. On the first job, I wasn’t allowed to even touch the concrete. I tied some rebar but, with the concrete thing, if you’ve never done it before, when you touch it, it’s like, “What the hell? I’m really messing this thing up right now.”

What was the job after Raleigh?

It was Ocean Pines, Maryland, a little park near the historic Ocean Bowl park, so we got to skate there a lot.

When you got to the Ocean Pines park, were you already addicted to building skateparks?

I was just shocked that they were going to take me on the road. I was living in Raleigh and they were letting me work and then they asked if I wanted to go on the road and I said, “Yes. Definitely. Let’s go.” I’ve been gone forever after that. It’s awesome.

What were they looking to build at Ocean Pines in Maryland?

It had a flow bowl area and some spines. It was 6 or 7-feet deep with a 5-foot section and a couple of pyramids and a street course and some quarter pipes and a few hubbas. It was a typical little community skatepark. It had some stairs too.

What was your job on the Maryland park? Did you get to touch the concrete?

I was definitely touching the concrete on that job and I did some form work. I had a little bit of a construction past because my granddad owned a plumbing business, so I was always on construction sites. I’d also worked at a yacht building shop with my dad, so I knew woodwork, so I was ready to do whatever they would let me do. There was a lot of guidance being given at that job and I’m still learning stuff every day.

So things started blowing up for Artisan. Were you still on the East Coast for the next job after that?

We mainly stayed around the East Coast for a few years. I think Durham was after that. The next one we did out of town may have been the Highvalley park in Stockholm, Sweden. That was insane. I’d never been out of the country before. I was working with a lot of the concrete then, so I got to do a lot more. That place just blew my mind. It was an awesome place.

What was the design for that park?

It was like 60,000 square feet and there was already a giant slalom ditch there that another company had built. It was a 300-foot long snake run to a bowl. There was a cradle and a bunch of different elevation changes. It was wild. It was the biggest skatepark I had ever seen.

Was it nice and smooth?

Yeah. It was good. We got great concrete out there. The pump guy we worked with was super cool. Actually, when we went back to Sweden four years later, we got up with the same guy and worked with the same concrete company.

I bet it was super competitive to get that job? Were you going up against Grindline for that gig?

I’m not sure. I don’t know much about that end of it. There’s another company that worked out of Sweden called Nord and they do really sick work. Those guys are rad. I’m sure they were bidding on it too. They do a lot of really cool parks out there.

Was it you, Science and Andy that went out there?

Yeah. Dirty was there and Mark Gwaltney and Country and a bunch of dudes. That was probably the funnest trip of my life. That place is rad.

Were you doing every aspect of the build?

No. The Swedish guys had subcontracted us out. They did all the form work and all the rebar and we showed up and did all the concrete. It was three months of doing straight concrete work. It was cool.

So the other company would shoot it and you guys would get out there with the trowels and smooth it out?

Yeah. It was a really organized process. When you do it like that every day for three months, you get in the zone. There’s no stopping to tie rebar or form anything. It was rad. The weather was great when we were there too. It’s one of the best places in the world you can be in the summertime.

What were the local skaters like?

We met a lot of the local guys and they were really nice. There are so many rippers out there. It’s insane. We met that kid David Stenstrom on the train. He’s in the Polar crew. We met him and a lot of the guys from Nord. They all rip. There are lots of really good skateboarders and really good spots.

When you were in Sweden, you must have been on top of the world building something that sick.

It was definitely like, “Wow. I can’t believe we just built that.” At the end, they took us up on this crane in this little basket so we could see how big the park is. We were 200 feet in the air on this crane looking down at this massive snake run. That put it all in perspective. There’s a funny video of that. I had this Go Pro on and I was freaking out and I couldn’t stand up because I’m super scared of heights. I just wanted to get a picture of the whole park. That was cool.

When you got back to the States, did you get more and more work?

Yeah. We came back from Sweden and we went straight to Colorado to do a park in Monte Vista. I don’t even think I went home. That was the first trip out West I’d ever been on, and I had never seen real mountains like that before. We went to the Leadville pipe too, which was cool.

Sick. Were you there with Science?

Yeah. Jerry Hahn, one of Dave’s buddies, took us to Leadville. We hiked through the woods to get to this massive full pipe. It was the first full pipe I’d ever been to and it was insane. It was one of those skate bucket list things I get to check off. It’s the most perfect full pipe. The finish is perfect.

There’s nothing like the feeling and sound of your tail slamming down on pool coping to land  a madonna! Durand takes it over the channel to slap some well worn pool block. Photo © Billy Childress

What was in the park that you guys built in Colorado?

It was a 6-foot to 4-foot deep bowl and a track that had a China bank and a handrail and another tranny bank wall. It was a smaller more laid back park, but it was really fun. That was the first time I’d ever worked with colored concrete. That was cool too. Everything I owned was red from that stuff.

Explain how the colored concrete thing goes down.

They do most of it at the plant. They put red powder in there. The green is expensive and the blue is the most expensive because they use cobalt to make it blue. People always want blue in a skatepark, but then you tell them how much it is and they’re like, “The green looks pretty good too.”

When you’re working with dyed crete, do you feel that it’s more of an artistic thing?

Yeah. It definitely makes it look a little cooler. I just got back from Denver and all the parks out there are red. It makes them look different. If all the shotcrete stuff is in a color and all the flat ground stuff is gray, it makes it pop a little more.

Did they want the colored concrete for a reason?

I don’t know. I could only guess that they wanted it to work with the natural landscape. In Colorado, everything is red like clay. If you’re already going to be getting a bunch of clay on it, you might as well make it red. We were working in Vermont and Vermont has a lot of trees, so they used a lot of green concrete there.

Were you up there with Science in Burlington, Vermont?

Yeah. We were in Burlington for six months. That was a good time. We were there all summer.

Let’s backtrack to Colorado. After Colorado, where did you go?

We did Columbia, SC. There were a couple of parks I forgot to mention like Bluffton, SC, Bedford, VA and Front Royal, VA. They were all scattered in there too.

At that point, what was happening with the evolution of what you were building? A lot of parks were being built with over vert and pools, so is that what Artisan was building?

Yeah. When I first got on, there was a lot of big tranny. Grant Taylor made everyone want to skate big stuff like that, it seemed like. Grant makes it look so fun. Then you build a bunch of them and people are like, “You build so many big parks.” Now stuff has gone away from big handrails and people want to skate fun interesting things, it seems like. Skateboarding changes like it always does. It seems like there’s more of a demand for slappy curbs.

Do you and Andy Duck and the guys get together and brainstorm design concepts?

No. We had some input on the Kitty Hawk park, but a lot of what is built is from the input at the town meetings. I’ve gone to a lot of town meetings and you listen and talk to the locals. I was in Greensboro, NC, and I knew a lot of people there, so I talked to the local skaters and asked them what they wanted because they are the ones that are going to be skating it. It’s the same thing in a small town. My hometown, Buxton, North Carolina, was getting a new park, so I went to that town meeting and there was a bunch of little kids there and they weren’t speaking up. I was like, “You guys have to say something or you’re not going to get what you want.” They were like, “Okay.” So they got in on it too. We try to do whatever we can to give the locals what they want.

What did the little kids say after you got them to say what they wanted in Buxton?

In Buxton, we built a park with a bowl and there’s another bowl and a vert ramp there, so there are a lot of kids that want to skate ledges and China banks, so we built ledges, hips, pyramids and a little snake run section and gave them some smaller stuff. There’s a big vert wall in there too on the backside of it, so they’re able to use that to show skate and surf videos there too. Buxton is a really good surf spot and they already have three bowls, so we gave them street stuff they wanted.

Do you find that when you build bowls at parks that kids don’t want to skate them?

There is always a handful of kids that have learned how to skate the giant stuff, but it does seem like there are always a lot of people that say they want a big bowl, but then they never come back and skate it. Then the kids are there with a big bowl, but the guys that wanted the bowl aren’t there.

Do parents or towns complain if you build a big bowl and no one is riding it?

No. It’s never really from parents or towns. They see the bowl and say, “Oh, this is great.” We mostly get that negative feedback from the internet. You try to build a skatepark for 100 people in a town and they’re not all going to want the same thing.

At the parks you built, are the bowls or the street course getting used more?

Well, there’s a park we built in Waynesville, NC, and there’s no bowl there, but there are big features throughout the park. I think that’s one of the parks that gives people confidence to start to skate a bowl. I feel like the parks that have large features throughout get skated a lot more than the big bowls do. The bowls get skated when a bunch of guys get together and roll through towns and rip them all. That seems to be more the case than like an every day spot. They get shredded, but it’s maybe on less of a frequent pace than the street areas or the hybrid big tranny areas.

So it’s just an evolution until the kids try to ride the big bowls. Before Burlington, what did you guys get into?

We did a few backyard bowls in South Carolina for some young kids out there that rip. There’s one kid named Clay Kreiner. The bowl wasn’t for him, but he was a local kid there that rips. I remember seeing him come skate a bowl that we had just got done with. We had just put the tile on the day before and he came out there and he was just destroying it. We did a few bowls in South Carolina and then we did another park in Sweden, south of Stockholm, in Nynashamn. That was fun. That park just won some local art award for architecture.

What did you guys build there?

It was a symmetrical bowl with a few opposing big tall flat walls that had pool coping and tile and a lot of fun street stuff. They don’t have fire hydrants like we do, so we shipped a real fire hydrant over there and they dug that. That was really cool. We built some jersey barriers and slappy curbs. They have different jersey barriers out there too, so we got some local jersey barriers and put them in the park. That’s a really fun park. It was a really good time. One of the local guys that was designing the place worked at the local brewery and that was probably the best beer I ever had. Every time you go to Sweden or Copenhagen, it’s a good time. I would love to go back.

After all the years with Artisan, are you a foreman now?

For the park in Nynashamn, I was foreman. The park we did in Nebraska was my first foreman job. That was right before we went to Sweden a second time. Now I get to be a foreman.

What is that like?

It’s fun. It’s cool. Everyone that works with us is really good, so I don’t really have to worry about much. I hate talking to city officials and doing paperwork and trying to keep track of the receipts, but the work is fun.

Durand throws down a high speed no comply tailslide. Photo © Billy Childress

Explain to people what you have to deal with when it comes to city inspections.

They come through and look at the plans and the first thing they usually say is, “I don’t know what the hell I’m looking at.” Then they look at the specs of the plans and your rebar and the clearance from the outside of the form. That’s usually one foot spaces unless you’re working with six-inch spaces. Usually, by the end of the job, they’re pretty cool and they don’t really look at your stuff anymore.

So they’re not looking at the site plans and seeing a 9-foot tranny and you built a 9 1/2-foot tranny?

No. We always test the concrete to test the level of the air and they test the strength of it, but it’s always way over what it’s supposed to be. There are lots of ingredients in concrete. It’s not just rocks, Portland and shotcrete. There is an air level that has to be in there and then you want a certain amount of Portland so it’s sticky and you get a good finish. Then you have to deal with all the rebar specs too. They always want you to build it with rebar like it’s going to be on a bridge or something, so it’s not like DIY where you just put chickenwire in there. You have to follow ACI guidelines, so skateparks are as strong as a bridge. It’s a little bit of overkill, but that’s how they want it to be, so that’s how you have to build it.

Do you build lots of pools with foam core?

We started using foam in Cherokee, NC in 2011. They got two tractor trailers full of foam dropped off on the job site and it was like a skatepark puzzle. We built them all up and did all the dirt work for a skatepark out of foam in two hours. If you do the dirt, it’s going to take you weeks.

Why did you go with foam on that job?

I’m not sure. It was on the side of a hill, and it was on an Indian reservation so maybe we weren’t allowed to dig into the land.

How did you like working with foam?

It’s got its ups and downs. It’s good speed-wise because you can just cut it with a hot wire and set it in place and rebar it and you’re done. You don’t have to wait days to do the dirt work. I like it, but it’s kind of messy. You have these chunks of foam that you’re trying to puzzle piece together. I like using the foam. We use it all the time now. Pretty much every park gets a little bit of foam now.

I heard you guys did a killer pool in Woodbridge, VA. I hear it’s one of the best pools on the East Coast.

Yeah. Woodbridge is a killer pool. That was really fun. We built a kidney and the shallow end was 6 or 7 feet deep and the deep end was 11 feet and it had a foot of black and white checkerboard tile. That’s a really good bowl. They have the old steel vert ramp there too, so we had something to skate while we were building the park, which was cool.

Were the locals stoked on that pool?

Yeah. Actually, Salba came out there and skated when a few of our guys were there doing the punch out work, and he said it was one of the smoothest pools he’s ever skated, so that was cool. At the park we built in Burlington, Tony Hawk went there and did a 540 in it, so that was cool. I get stoked when I see parks we’ve built in videos and guys doing something sick. I think, “I knew someone was going to do that there.” I love seeing that.

Oh yeah. I’m sure you get to see Science skating a lot of the builds too.

Yeah. Science is insane. He is wild. It’s hard to catch him on camera because he goes crazy. By the time you get the camera, he mellows out. Next thing you know, he’s doing a 6-foot boneless in your face. He and I are the two longest hanging in there from the original squad. Dave is rad. I love skating his bowl. Have you been there?

I was there when he was just starting to build it.

It’s done. You’ve got to check it out. There is so much to skate on the Outer Banks and the islands that we live on. Every little town has one. It’s wild.

How many skateparks have you guys built since the beginning?

I’m not sure. I missed the first four or five. I’d say, Artisan, has probably built over 60 parks, including backyard bowls. We did one in DC that is really fun. We did two in South Carolina and one in North Carolina, which is my favorite. There are six or seven backyard pools that we’ve built too. I’d say it’s over 60 projects and I’ve been on 55 of them.

What do you see as the overall Artisan Skateparks philosophy when it comes to building skateparks?

Everyone has to skate. That’s one thing. Everyone just shows up and works as hard as they can and everything is good. We have a lot of fun.

Explain to people why it’s important to have someone that skates build a park?

Well, sometimes stuff looks good on paper and then you get out in the field and you see there’s not enough room to make the turn to hit a hip or something, so it’s best to have someone there that can decide on the best thing to build to skate. Someone that doesn’t skate may look at it like, “How can we cut this corner and make this easier to build and save money?” We don’t think like that. We always try to build the best thing to skate. We say, “How can we make this rad and functional?” It helps to have guys that skate that are excited to skate it at the end. They’re building the best thing they can because they’re going to ride it.

Rad. It sounds like you don’t take shortcuts.

Yeah. If anything, we always build something extra. At the park we built in Greensboro, it was a tiny thing behind this community center, but we ended up making the bank taller. It definitely made it better, and it is 9” taller. We did that on purpose to make it more functional and make everyone happy. We always add something extra in there.

Is Andy a good boss? Even if you go over budget, is he cool?

Yeah. I’ve never heard him complain about the budget, so hopefully we’re doing alright. He’s a great boss. I’ve known him since I was three. He’s always been a good dude and he’s great to work for. He takes care of us. He’s sent me around the world and pays me, so I think that’s pretty cool.

What do you think of skateboarding being in the Olympics?

I think it’s cool. I’m not too mad at it. I just hope they don’t make it lame. I hope they have good people on the board to make sure they do a good contest and they get a good course. What are they going to do? Are they going to have freestyle in it?

It’ll be street and skatepark. It’s similar to what the Vans Park Series is doing.

That’s cool. I’m still not sure which skateboarders are going to pass the drug test, but we’ll see. Now weed is legal everywhere, so we’ll see what happens. I think it’s cool. I think it can only be good for what we do. There is always going to be core guys that are bummed, but skateboarding just keeps evolving.

It seems like skatepark building is still on fire. Do you see it leveling out or do you think it will keep building?

I think about that sometimes with all the parks we’re building. Sooner or later, we’re going to run out of places to build. There’s been a few things that we’ve done in the last four years, where we go tear out all that old pre-fab stuff. Eight years ago, they made all those pre-fab parks and now they’re all falling apart. Now towns have slab city with all these broken ramps, so they’re hiring us to tear it down and build with concrete instead. I like doing that. There is a satisfaction in tearing down some old shitty stuff and building concrete.

So you’re seeing towns that had old parks and they’re investing in new parks now?

Exactly. When you build with concrete, it doesn’t have a lot of maintenance, compared to when you have rusty screws sticking out of old pre-fab ramps. That’s a liability and you have parents complaining. With concrete, you build it and you spray some sealant on it every year and you should be good to go. Concrete is pretty resilient stuff.

Do you have a manufacturers warrantee on the parks you build, where they are guaranteed to last or you fix them?

We have a one-year warranty. I had to replace some coping block at a park we did in Currituck because a bike peg had taken a big chunk out of it. We will go back and fix something if it needs fixing within that year. That’s always cool too because then we get to go back and skate the park.

What is your preferential pool coping?

I like Tedderstone the best. It’s good stuff.

Is Tedderstone the one with a mellower nose than the Fed Stone?

Yeah. The Fed Stone has more of a lift on it. A lot of people on the East Coast like that Fed Stone. They’re based out of Maryland or Virginia. I went to their factory one time. A lot of the East Coast guys really love that stuff, but we’ve been doing a lot of Tedderstone just because it’s different. We skated a bowl in Nebraska called Donut Hills and that had Tedderstone on it. After that, we were like, “We have to get some of that stuff. It’s cool.”

How do you see the pool coping in your parks holding up?

It’s been good.

If someone gets a park built, what is your recommendation for replacing the pool coping? How many years should they be looking at before the coping needs to be replaced?

We haven’t really had to do that yet, but we might see that over the next ten years. It also has a lot to do with where the park is and the environment it’s in. The hard winters are tough on that stuff and people will go out there in the winter and try to chip it off and that messes it up. A lot of the stuff on the East Coast is holding up really good.

What is the future for Artisan?

Right now we are capping off the busiest year we’ve ever had, and it’s something new all the time. Andy always has something brewing. It’s always good when he says we have work lined up for the next six to eight months under contract. I just hope we can keep up the good vibes and keep building parks.

What is your Duty Now For The Future?

I want to build a giant downhill snake run somewhere with big rolling jumps.

When you envision the perfect snake run, what are the dimensions?

I like when it ends in a big vert section. I just skated Arvada for the first time and that snake run was fun. It was 6 or 7-foot tall moguls that you can jump and fly across and you’re not going to hang up. My snake run would empty out into something big or maybe it empties out and you could shoot through a channel for more. Lansdowne was really fun and it started out really tight and then opened up into a big wide run. I like all those features.

It seems like things are evolving back to the ‘70s with a lot of moguls and lunar landscape type features in parks.

Yeah. I like that. It’s fun. Skateboarding is really fun right now. No one is very serious. People are doing old tricks again. There are lots of handplants and boneless ones and Andrechts. I’m into it. I love to see that.

Yeah. Is there anyone you want to thank?

I want to thank all the dudes I’ve worked with at Artisan, all the guys I work with now and all the guys that are doing other things now. Thanks to all the guys that have made it a fun ride. Hopefully, we can keep up the good times and build more fun parks and travel the world.

Well, thanks for the interview.

Sick. Thanks for giving us the opportunity. It’s an honor. We love the magazine.

Thanks. East Coast! That’s what it’s all about.

That’s right. Keep up the good work.

You too. Keep working hard, bro.

Alright, bud. Have a good one.

FOR THE REST OF THE STORY, GET ISSUE #76 AT THE JUICE SHOP HERE.

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