EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW FROM JUICE MAGAZINE #76 ARCHIVES
JASON “TIPPY” TIPP
Interview by JIM MURPHY
Photos by KEVIN AKANA, ARTO SAARI and GRANT MONAHAN
To Hawaiians, “mana” is a supernatural force believed to dwell in a person or a sacred object, a power achieved by ritual means. This spiritual force, in the hearts of skateboarders on the Islands, is often transferred into the objects they build. Through the day in and day out of skateboarding, these creations become sacred and embody the energy of those who surround them. Tippy is one of those spirits and, with his dedication to the builds of Graveside and Sheepside, the “mana” has flowed into skateable creations and everyone who had the honor to skate them. DIY is alive and well in Hawaii. Here is, Tippy, one of the crew who helped make it happen, no matter what obstacles lay in his path.
MURF: Hey Tippy. It’s Murf.
TIPPY: What’s up, braddah!
What’s up, bro? Let’s do this interview.
Yeah, man. Let’s do it.
Okay. Where were you born and raised?
I was born in ‘71 and raised on the island of Oahu.
Nice. What was going on when you were growing up?
Well, the year I was born Black Sabbath was formed, so my soul was right into the rock n roll.
Hell yeah! With surfing and skating, which did you get into first?
Well, being from Oahu, I surfed all the time every day. I cut school, and rolled some fattys at the beach and just surfed. Then I was in seventh grade all the way through high school with Kale Sandridge, and Kale wrote in my year book in ninth grade, “Learn how to fuckin’ skate.”
Shortly after that I went to the Bridge Bowl. I had skated ditches and quarter-pipes and I’d skate to the store and do slappies, but I never really rode a pool until I was a little bit out of high school.
Was that in the late ‘80s or early ‘90s?
It was early ‘90s, so I was kind of late into it. In eighth grade, I skated a pool at my house. It was a square and I rolled my ankle. Kale and I would surf together but, when I went to the Bridge Bowl, I thought I’d start ripping grinds, but I was really humbled. Once I got the first hook, it was insane.
Explain what the Bridge Bowl was.
The Bridge Bowl was a perfect figure-eight pool with Arizona slate coping, with a bridge going over the top of it. We had that pool for about eight years and the plaster was quartz, so it was the real deal. A lot of pools in Hawaii popcorn right away but this pool was badass. It had perfect transitions.
It was 8 foot deep with about a foot and a half or two feet of vert. It was an epic pool. You can go fast and lay into your grinds. I ain’t no kickflipping kind of guy. I like to go fast and it’s all about lines.
Speed lines. Rad. In the early ‘90s, you’re at the Bridge Bowl learning how to carve and grind. Did you keep skating with Kale and ride other stuff in that area?
Yeah. It got pretty heavy. After that I had a real love for skating pools. In ‘96, I did my first trip to Cali and we hooked up with Salba. We went up and skated the Flower Shop pool and went to Salbaland and we skated a permission pool called Peppers and we skated another pool up there that was like 13 feet deep. We were ripping pools on that trip. That was my first real trip to the mainland other than trips to Disneyland with my parents. It was insane. I was baffled. We got to skate Baldy pipe.
Sick. Was it you and Kale and Salba?
It was me, Kale and my friend “Grinch” from Oahu. The energy was insane. I had a camera and I was filming the whole time too and Kale was doing stale to tails that were just out of this world. He’d fly six feet out of this pool and just smack his tail on the wall. It was so motivating skating with someone like that.
Yeah. He had kind of a rough battle and he’s doing really good now. I can’t wait to skate with him.
That’s killer. When you came back to Hawaii from that trip to California in ’96, were you skating more pools?”
Well, I kind of had a rough one too and got into the party scene for a good year or two. The chemicals really fucked me up, and it fucked up a lot of my friends too. Then we got back to just drinking beers and rolling fatties. I think the most important thing is being around good energy and friends that love to skate and surf and enjoy every day to the fullest because you never know when you’re going to go.
Yeah. When you were getting back into skating, who were you skating with?
Well, my friend Blake Spinak, moved from LA to Hawaii, and Pat, and they’ve got the grip on the pools. They fly back frequently to the mainland, so I was lucky enough to go out there with them and get some pools. I got to skate with Adam Morgan and that guy is just a beast. He was doing grinds that would bust your eardrums in the shallow end. Then I was skating with Rob Brown, Jonathan Mincher and Mark Yonkers, the North Carolina boys. Those are the more recent guys I skate with. When the Grave crew is together it’s on. Actually, right now I’m on my way to Sheepside and the sun is finally out today and we’re going to hook um.
Nice. After you started skating again, when did you start thinking you wanted to work with concrete and build stuff to skate? What inspired it?
Oh, crazy enough, Steve Ellis had a pool, the Cholo bowl, up here and there was a real bitchy crybaby vibe up there. He wanted everybody to kiss his ass and only session when he wanted to session, and don’t rip it too hard and don’t bust out your camera to take a photo or it might fuck it up. We were over the crybaby vibe and we didn’t want to skate there anymore. We wanted to have fun and skate other things instead of skating in the clean shoes, nice clothes kind of vibe. Don’t get me wrong. His pool is insane, but it was also motivation for us to start digging a hole in Wailua with our whole crew. John Benedict was one of my best friends, so right behind his house is where we dug the original Graveside. We could actually run a hose and power from there, so we had microwave popcorn with flaming margaritas. It was wild. Of course, we were pretty inexperienced. I’m a tile setter by trade, but I’m still learning today. I just had knowledge from friends like Robby O’Connell and Rob Brown who works for Artisan Skateparks. I’m still figuring shit out today. Back then we’d get a shopping cart and a refrigerator and washer or dryer or ex-girlfriends or anything for backfill. You just throw it in there and start stacking and filling.
Who knew how to run the concrete pump?
There were no pumps. This was all wheelbarrow and hand sacked.
Wow! Who taught you how to do that?
We just taught ourselves. At first, I’d use a steel trowel. I didn’t know that you were supposed to use wood first and then magnesium and then finish with steel. Back then we were just going for it and it came out rough and lumpy, but it made for a unique and whole different kind of skating. As the years progressed, the bowl got a lot smoother, but it was still lumpy because it had so many fill joints.
Was that your first build project?
Our first project was phase one at Graveside. That was the one with the washers and dryers and refrigerators and computers in there. It was really organic. That would be a great way to describe it.
What was the tranny? How tall was it?
I’d say it was about eight feet tall in the deep end and about knee high in the shallow. It had this uphill deathbox. It was roots for sure. It was all pool coping harvested from pools around the island. It was fun as shit. In Hawaii, we don’t have as many pools as the mainland, so anything that nears a replica of a pool is all fun.
Hell yeah! What year was that first build?
That was 2004, and then, in 2008, it got crushed. The owner of the land found out and the state was going to start giving him a fine, so he paid for the demo of it.
Did you see that coming at all?
We did see it coming and it was pretty sad. It sucked. I was in tears.
When you first built it, did you have a whole crew of skaters, that skated there?
Oh yeah. We did a final session and we partied and drank a bunch of whiskey and skated all night with lights and shit. The next day it was over.
Were there a bunch of kids that were finding out about it and skating there? Did you create a scene out of it?
Oh yeah. The local kids were hyped. Malakai Montes and Noah Montes were little groms at the time and they were hyped. Look at how good Malakai is now. After it got crushed, I only had $500 in the bank, so I took out $300 and went deep around the point and found this old animal feeder, so there was this existing concrete slab. My friends were like, “You’re crazy. It’s going to get crushed again.” I was like, “Fuck it. I don’t want to skate the park and I don’t want to go back to the scene at Cholos.” So my friend Ali drove all the way from town and we started stacking rocks. Actually, we did it lava rock wall style, and made a circle of rocks. I mean you have to buy cinder blocks, but these rocks were free and the concrete slab was already there.
Whose property was that?
It was the same guy.
[Laughs] Oh man.
Yeah. So we go out there and, by the time spring came and my friend came back from Micronesia, I had the shallow end done.
Sick! How deep was the shallow end?
It was a little deeper than a pool. I’d say it was almost shoulder high and I’m about 5’7” so it was about three and half or four feet.
With five feet tranny on it?
Oh no. This thing was a whipper snipper. It was a knee jerker for sure. If you drop in, you might slam. It was a tight little buttercup. It was insane. Once we got the shallow end done and my friend, Mitchell, came back from Indonesia (we call him the Angry Hippie) and he saw the shallow end, he was like, “It’s on!” Picture this. You have an existing concrete slab that’s four feet thick and that’s what the shallow end was. So we dug a hole next to the shallow to create our deep end. We circled some cinder blocks and made the shape we wanted and then we just started digging with shovels. The more we dug, the more the shape came alive and the more the fire was lit and everyone got amped. It’s the best feeling to ride our own build. I want to say ‘our’ because it’s not like I did it by myself. It’s a group effort. To ride your own shit, it’s the best.
So back to the Grave. One year after the destruction of Grave 1 with phase one, two and three, we had another bowl, and that feeling was insane! I came home from work one day and the stairs were there. I looked at Mitchell like, “What the fuck?” He was like, “We made them out of brick.” I was like, “Let’s get um.” Sure enough, first day, we were crushing them. You could wind up in the deep end and then lay into them as hard as you wanted to.”
How deep was the deep end?
That pool was pretty shallow. It was about seven feet with a foot and half of vert towards the hip. We did elliptical transitions on the waterfall and it really had the feeling of a pool. There was a love seat and a deathbox.
It sounds snappy.
It was snappy, bro. Anyone that heard about it in Hawaii was like, “Where is Graveside? We want to go to Graveside.” I met so many friends out there. Probably the best people in my life have come from out there. Skateboarding is the best thing ever. Don’t get me wrong. I love my friends that are surfers, but skateboarders have a different way of life and a different mentality anywhere you go.
Yes. After you saw the first Graveside get crushed and you’re out there on the same property, how did you keep it low profile?
Oh man, it was gnarly. I thought for sure he’d find out right away, but we had eight more years out there before he found out. It was a mad scene.
Was he a chill Hawaiian dude or what?
No. He’s some rich fucker from Santa Barbara that owns property all over the world. When he found out about it the second time, it was the same thing. There were some ice heads living out there on the point, and the state worker told them they couldn’t live out there and they had to stop camping there. Then the ice heads told the state worker, “Oh yeah? Well, then why can they have their skate thing there?” So the state worker walked into the bushes and saw the bowl and the next thing you know it was a fucked year for me. I go to my PO Box and there’s this legal letter that I had to sign for and it was a cease and desist letter from the owner of the property. Then he hired a P.I. that acted like he was weed whacking in the cemetery. Meanwhile, the guy was spying on me.
Oh no. Did he get you for trespassing?
He got me on trespassing and encouraging people to bring beer and illegal substances onto his land. He gave me all this shit. It was weird. I talked to a lawyer and he said there was no way he got me. He had photos of me though. The guy saw me there every day bringing in concrete. When I talked to the lawyer he said, “You either claim bankruptcy or you’re toast.” I talked to the property owner and he said, “You have two weeks to jackhammer it out and move all this concrete out of here.” I almost wanted to die, but I didn’t want any legal shit.
You don’t want to be doing any jail time.
Yeah. I was pretty sour. At the same time, I met some of the best people of my life out there, not to mention heavy hitters like Grant Taylor and Raven Tershy. There were phenomenal sessions.
Did Salba and his crew get out there?
I skated the old Grave with him, but I don’t know if he ever made it to the new one. Some of Pedro’s boys from Brazil came over there. There were some underground cats that came over and just murdered it. I’d be out there with my dog, just drinking a beer, and setting some coping and, all of a sudden, there’d be three heads walking up through the bushes. They’d be like, “What’s up man? I Google Earthed this thing.” The next thing you know, the session is erupting. You don’t even know when it’s going to happen. It’s so fun.
The second Grave went down in what year?
It went down in 2016, exactly two years ago.
Did you go back to the guy’s property and find a spot to build something else?
Well, there was a year where it was dormant and then we found this old building on the island of Oahu and started building Sheepside. It’s an old building from the 1960’s with banyan trees with roots growing through the walls. It’s abandoned and it’s crazy. I think it’s an old insane asylum or juvenile detention center or something. It has bars on the windows.
So you started building again.
Yeah. I approached a few of my friends that have money and they said, “What do you want to build?” I showed them a picture of a cradle and they were like, “Fuck that! Someone is going to break their neck for sure.” They didn’t want the liability and whatnot, but, at this new spot, we’re picking up the trash and kind of policing the area. My Hawaiian friend, who has the run of the land, has given us permission and I have a key and everything. Basically, if anyone gets hurt, they didn’t get hurt there.
Right. Be cool. No kooks.
Exactly. No clowns. The place is magical because, once we removed all the dirt from the ground and the roots of the trees were growing up through the ground, we figured out that it was completely smooth rideable concrete underneath. We were like, “Yeah!” We were tripping on it. It’s like in the courtyard area of what might have been a recreation area. The walls are solid concrete. Willy Akers was amped on it and he came in with what I believe are transitions that are similar to FDR, nine feet high with 6 feet radius. Nice shit. I like the perfect tranny, but I like to throw a little kink here and there and make it kind of gutted.
You’re making it organic and not robotic. You can’t dial it in your first run. You have to get used to it.
Exactly. The puppet window, for instance, is just wacky. There are all kinds of crazy obstacles in there. It’s been over a year now and we’re already thinking about going into other rooms to build and maybe putting a pool in the back.
Do you have people that are helping you out financially? Are there enough heads contributing to it to keep it going?
It’s funny you say that. Some people from some of the companies help out big time. Herbie Fletcher just came through and gave us some money. Ivan Florence and Greyson Fletcher brought ten bags of Portland. Even kids that don’t have any money are bringing bags of Portland, which is really expensive over here in Hawaii.
So you’re still building it all by hand, wheelbarrow style?
Yep. It’s all wheelbarrow style. The wheelbarrow is kind of small, so sometimes, if you have six or eight guys there, you just mix that shit right on the ground. I use blacksand with a 1/4 inch of gravel in there, and you just mix the Portland in. It’s way cheaper than sacked ‘crete. Gone are the days of sacked ‘crete. I put the first load in the back of my truck and I go back and unload it and then go get the second load. For a couple of hundred bucks, you can do a nice section.
So it’s just all straight ‘crete. You don’t do any plaster coat?
It’s just straight ‘crete. Sometimes we splatter it to give it texture. Once it’s textured, the next day we do what we call ‘snowball it’. We make these little snowballs and stack it. It’s also important, I learned, when we’re doing concrete, to get there early, so you’re not out there with a flashlight trying to finish that shit. The quicker you get it up on the wall, the more time you have to finish it.
How many guys do you have out there helping out? When the concrete is wet, who are your finishers?
We have Rob Brown right now and he’s a badass. I like to fuck with him though. I’ll make something fucked up to get him a little hot-headed. We have Patty B. He’s a Washington Street guy, so he can finish as well. We have a couple guys from town that come up. Mike is a really good skater and a good finisher. He’s making trowels. Isiah and Will and Sean Reilly have been getting into it too. Isiah is a little bit younger and he’s picking it up quick. I like it when kids are not scared to grab a trowel and start shaping and cutting and finishing.
Yeah. Do you have a lot of kids out there that want to build their own shit to skate?
This 12-year-old kid showed up other day and I said, “Perfect timing. Grab a bag.” It was classic.
He was stoked, right?
Yeah. He was stoked. I’m like, “Do you think you’re just going to skate right now? Hell no.” Afterwards, I laugh and give them a soda water and thank them for their help. On a typical day, we get a couple of 30 packs and light up the BBQ and start chopping. the ‘crete and make it a great day.
Nice. Do you have skateparks out there that you guys ride too?
I’ll skate anything. We’ve got the hippie pool here on the North Shore, which is a built-to-skate, but it has quartz plaster and amazing coping. There are a few parks here and I’ll skate the parks if my friends are there, but I don’t normally go to the parks. It’s not really my type of thing, but I’m not against it. I’ll bomb a hill and do some slappies skating to the liquor store. I’ll skate wherever.
Are you getting heavy hitters coming to Sheepside like you used to at Graveside?
Yeah. Raney Beres was here and he did a good buddy, which is a frontside invert to revert. That was heavy. Robbie Russo and a couple other kids were with Raney. Prior to that, Chris Cope came to visit. He’s friends with my friend Pat, and that guy is like an alien. He’s just phenomenal. He did some of the heaviest shit I’ve seen for sure. I can’t wait to see Grant Taylor skate here, just because of his vibe, and he’s goofy-footed as well, so I want to check out the lines he’d have. Now that the loop is done, if Cope comes back, it’s going to be on.
Tell me about the loop you built.
I think it’s about 7 feet high and about 8 feet tall. It funnels in, so it’s a real whipper. There are so many other obstacles in there, but everybody has been drawn to the loop. As we say, “Hook um.” Kale told me back in the day, “If you show up with me, you better hook um.” That stuck with me, so now we got hook um and loop um. [Laughs]
Yeah bro. You just gotta go for it.
Yeah. No hesitation because if you hesitate you’ll get served. You’re literally upside down. It’s weird because it’s really surfed out. It feels like surfing. You’re hitting the lip. Pow! It’s so quick. I love it. I can’t wait to loop um today. When we built it, Rob Brown was the mad scientist and I was looking at it like, ‘Is this even going to be doable?’ Then it was like, “Loop um, bro.” I was sitting there with an ice pack on my shoulder watching all my friends loop it and I’m like, “Fuck this. I’ve gotta loop um!”
When you first tried it, did you go to your head or your shoulder? Were all your bros trying it?
Oh yeah! Guys were eating shit. The first try I hit my head on the top of the thing. The second try I bailed halfway up and hyper extended my shoulder. I was watching my friend loop it goofy foot and then my friend Rob was just smokin’ it. I was like, “PMA bro. HR from Bad Brains. I’m gonna make it.” The more you loop um the more you get um. Now I’m getting a no-hander. The loop is insane.
It’s such a motivator right? Every day is a challenge. Skating a pool is one thing, but that loop is a whole different rush, right?
It’s funny you say that. I was talking to Pat and he’s a badass pool skater and he came and looped um backside, no hands, regular foot, and he was so stoked. He said it changed his life. He looked at me and he was like, “We can’t just go vertical anymore. Now we have to loop um.” I’m like, “Yeah, braddah, we gotta loop um!” If you think about it, it’s a loopy world, you know?
Hell yeah. That’s rad. Loop um and then you can go to bigger loops once you’ve got that one dialed in.
Oh, man, I would love to.
You could be like Burnquist doing the 10 footers or trying to loop Baldy.
No way. That shit is next level. Prior to the loop being built, I was sitting at home and watching Kowalski’s loop videos and Skreech and thinking, “Wow. These guys are badass.”
Yeah. Those dudes are unreal.
Burnquist at the Baldy pipe was crazy. I’ve skated Baldy and that shit is no joke.
That’s commitment. When you dial in your loop, you have to build a bigger one.
That’s an amazing idea. I’m going to talk to Rob about that today. Arto is building something sick at his house right now too.
Is it a pool?
No. It’s more like a rounded bowl with a shallow end and a waterfall rabbit run with hips and like a six foot deep end. It’s more like a park pool. He’s going to have parking blocks, slappy city. Arto is a genius. I’m really excited to see what happens there for sure. The North Shore is slowly blowing up as far as skateboarding goes. And why not? You’ve got the best waves in the world and you’ve got the most talented surfers and skateboarders over here. You have to keep the energy high.
Absolutely. What you guys have got going on is so core and organic.
I wouldn’t trade it for the world. What am I going to do? Pay off a mortgage when I’m 70? I can’t just sit in the house and cut the grass. Fuck that. I’m gonna skate until I drop and enjoy life with my friends and build shit to ride and get creative and find a new spot. I’m tired of driving all the way to Sunset, so I’m gonna find a new spot in Wailua.
You’re doing it. You’re building loops and bowls and every day you can think of something new to build. It’s rad bro. There is no limit to what you can build. You’re living the dream in paradise.
Yeah. I always say living the broken dream, bro. Graveside. Sheepside. You know we’re pressing our own decks now too. We’ve got Graveside decks. Me and the Angry Hippy are partners. It’s fun to have your own bowl to skate and your own boards to ride. It’s like a surfboard shaper getting barreled on his own board, you know what I mean?
Exactly. Well, thanks for the work that you and the crew put into building Graveside and Sheepside.
Yep. The first obstacle we built was this big giant deathbox like two cinder blocks wide. You could fit a toaster oven in the thing. In phase two of Graveside, we had a toaster oven deathbox and there was a Dr. Know sticker in the deathbox and we called it the Dr. Knowster. If you grinded it just right, you’d hear the “Ding!” The bell would go off.
[Laughs] Sick! It’s all done!
Toast it up. Back in 2008, at the second Graveside, after the first one got crushed, we’re out there skating, and the crackheads might have been cooking ice out at the point, and there’s all this California grass out there, eight feet high brush. It was summertime, and the next thing you know, a fire breaks out. My friend Rob Brown was getting ready to do frontside stairs for the first time, and I’m looking at the fire and it was getting closer and closer and I was like, “Rob, man, you better hurry up! The fire is coming!” Finally, these four cops show up on the mound and they’re yelling, “Yo! Get the hell out of there!” I’m like, “Okay, sir.” I’m packing my backpack and I look at Rob and I said, “Get these fuckers now!” He literally smoked um bro. [Laughs] Then we ran out and we’re standing in this cemetery watching this fire. My friend Philly was like, “Oh, no, the bowl is going to burn down!” I looked at him and said, “No, you idiot, the bowl is made of concrete. That shit aint’ gonna melt. Where did you go to school? Drink a beer and chill.” The fire was crazy because the houses were right there and the trade winds were whipping that day. The neighbors were hosing down their roofs and the flames were 20 feet high, and the firefighters were able to stand on top of the bowl and redirect the fire to the point. In a way, that bowl saved those houses.
Whoa. That’s insane.
Yeah. That’s just one of the great memories. There are so many memories and so many more blacked out sessions that I had to hear about later. I was like, “I did what?” They’d be like, “You asshole, you threw all the BBQ shit in the bowl and shut down the session.” I’d break a bottle or something. Some of the younger kids would have night sessions without letting me know and I was like, “You better let me know you’re having a night session.” Sometimes, when people start skating really good, it gets to their head. I don’t like that attitude. You’ve got to be the same ripper off your board and on.
Yeah. No egos in skateboarding.
Yeah. I might get drunk and get a little rowdy when I’m drunk, but doesn’t everybody? That’s how we do it. I try to drink soda water as well. I drink the Schweppes. I’ll have five Coors Lights and one soda water and two more Coors Lights and one more soda water. You’ve got to keep hydrated.
Yeah. So what is your Duty Now For The Future? You’re building killer shit to skate, so what do you see for the future?
Well, I want to go to the Mentawai’s. At Lace’s Lefts, we met these cool dudes from South Africa and they want a bowl in the jungle over there. For the love of skateboarding, and these kids who don’t even have running water, I want to build them a bowl and teach them skateboarding. That would be amazing. That would be my gift back to the world. Skateboarding has done so much for me. It’s my happiness. To make other people happy, especially in a third world country with poverty stricken kids, I’m in. It’s 100% a go. We were going to do it this year, but their motor broke on the big boat and that’s priority. As far as the future on Oahu, we’re going to keep going hard. It’s all about motivation and now we’ve got the young kids and we’re gonna keep sculpting some anarchy. Ride your skateboard once a day and tie a little rebar, and if you see some fenders on the side of the road, grab them.
Yeah! Get some vert extensions going.
Yeah. The future looks bright for sure. It’s all a mind frame. Every morning I get up, and I’m not religious, but I thank God for every day. There’s got to be a higher power because it’s a pretty heavy world that we live in. If you can find happiness, you’re winning. It ain’t about money. Money helps, don’t get me wrong, but happiness comes from within. If we can make it happen, and be happy and hook um and loop um, it’s on!
[Laughs] Good karma. You got it right. You’re living it.
Thank you, braddah. I really appreciate the vibes and if there is anybody that wants to donate, hit me up.
Where can people send donations?
You can hit me up on Instagram at @gutted_world and I’ll tell people where they can send a PO box check or money order. That would be very much appreciated. Well, the sun is going down and I’m going to go broom it up and loop um.
For the print version of this story, get Juice Magazine #76 here.