WREX COOK interview by CURT “MEAGER” BAKER and JIM MURPHY and introduction by SALBA
I remember Brian Brannon taking us to this crazy right-hand kidney pool with meatloaf deck coping, which was actually perfect to grind in the blazing Arizona sunshine, which melts you after an hour of skating in the mid-day heat. The pool had a great midsection where the descending tranny met the sidewall tranny. If you were regular foot, you could backside carve over the light to frontside the midwall. The coping ended right next to this wet bar deal that was flush with the midsection wall, so after a few tries I went frontside kickturn out of the pool, onto the bamboo wet bar, and back into the pool. It was killer and we thought we were pretty special for making it. And then Brannon said this kid Wrex was coming over. So the kid shows up and immediately starts destroying with great lines, stylish frontside grinds and frontside ollies. We were impressed, big time. Then we showed him the wet bar line and, within minutes, the kid was busting just like us… plus he ollied out of the pool onto the whole deal. We were thinking, “Who is this kid?” Brannon says, “This is Wrex.” I shook his hand and left impressed. Many years later, while cruising through Colorado, with Kelly Bellmar and Farmboy, we ran into this cat just ripping the Aspen bowl out of the deep into the park, just manhandling the place, complete with ollies to the big rock. The guys were tripping when it dawned on me. “That’s Wrex, all grown up.” It had been a long time. We said our hellos and got back to business. Skating with Wrex always raises the bar and is always fun. With a smile on his greasy mug and power in his attack, he is a skater’s skater through and through. If you have had the pleasure of skating with Wrex, you know what kind of special treat it is to see him in action. He makes it look so damn easy. Wrex, I can’t wait for the next session with ya. – SALBA
After a computer meltdown in 2009, we thought we had lost this interview that Meager did with Wrex but, after yet another computer meltdown, in 2019, we were able to recover it, as well as bring you a new interview with Wrex by Murf. Here is not one, but two interviews with a pool skater who has served his time with 100% dedication to skateboarding always.
INTERVIEW BY CURT “MEAGER” BAKER
MEAGER: Let’s start with the basics. What is your real name?
WREX: My real name is Brian Cook, but the old Tempe crew gave me the nickname “Wrex” because I used to wreck a lot. They used to call me “Wrex from Tex”.
When and where were you born?
I was born in Wichita, Kansas, in 1970, on a road trip, but I grew up in Phoenix, in the Tempe area. I moved to Tempe when I was three and hung out there until I was 24.
When did you start skating?
1979. I had an old Logan Earthski with Gullwing trucks and Park Rider wheels. I was just cruising around on it when I was ditching school one day and I saw a little wooden halfpipe at the back of the racquetball courts. I went over to check it out, and Mike Cornelius of J.F.A. was there. He was skating with a few other Tempe guys and he asked me if I wanted to skate. I was like, “Hell, yeah!” He let me borrow his old Santa Cruz “Bevel” Alba board. I tried to drop in on that thing and ate it. I totally knocked the wind out of myself. The only thing I could do was to get up and try it again. The second time, I made it and I was hooked.
The Tempe ramp crew were some heavy hitters. It’s fortunate to grow up with people like Brian Brannon and Gavin Troy.
It was amazing to me because I would see the skate magazines and skateboard movies, but skateboarding wasn’t really that big. Then I saw those dudes skating and I started going over there every day to skate and it was awesome.
Tempe was a good city to grow up in because you could live downtown and street skate to ASU. You had ramps, pools and everything at your door.
Tempe was a little bit different back then. It was like Venice Beach, out in the middle of the desert. A lot of artists lived there. There was a large hippie community, so they were more open to what was going on, especially with it being such a central area next to ASU. We had students coming through and I met a lot of guys from out of state that skated. We would make ramps and roll around campus. I’m really lucky to grow up where I did. I always had sidewalks and asphalt. Even when the ramps would get torn down because of noise complaints, there was always a pool or a curb to slappy.
In Tempe, you could skate so many different things. In one week, how many different terrains would you get to ride?
When I was young, we didn’t have cars, so we skated everywhere. We’d street skate out to Scottsdale, Mesa or South Tempe just to meet up with other bros and maybe hit a pool or two. There were always some ditches and banks around. We’d skate all day out to Scottsdale, ride Paul’s ramp and Andy Cook’s ramp and skate all day until the sun went down and then skate all the way home for dinner. We were on the streets all the time, and there was always something to skate.
There’s a well rounded group of skaters that came out of that area. Who was your main crew when you were coming up?
I used to ride with Jeremy Schmitt and Jeff Neinaber. Jeff actually owned the Tempe Ramp, which was cool. Randy Colvin and I grew up together. We went to school with Brian and Arty Colvin, Randy’s older brothers. Everyone knew each other, so we had a really tight crew. I think we were mostly well rounded because, back then, skateboarding was outlawed. You’d find a pool and then that would be a bust, so you’re back on the streets skateboarding again. Somebody would build a ramp and it would be higher than the height code or the neighbors would complain and that would last for a few months. You’d get to ride a ramp for a few months and then we were back on the streets and then Brian Brannon would call you up and say, “Lets go check out these ditches!”
I just remember the old Scum bowl was the first pool that I ever grinded and you were doing inverts in it already.
I’d been riding a lot of pools before then and then I saw Danforth skate it, so I had to step it up. I showed up there one time and Danforth was there and he was like “Hey, what’s up, bro? Check this out.” He goes right in and does a blunt. That was when he was just coming up with the blunt. We had never seen that before. He goes up, stalls on his tail, and just yanks that thing back in to fakie on the face wall. We were like “What the hell was that?” He was always pushing it up for us. Then we had Brian Brannon and all those guys.
Brian Brannon was always a force in Arizona. JFA was a cast of characters. What was that scene like?
It was great. Brian Brannon, Mike Cornelius and Don Redondo, all those guys were so good to everyone. Brian took me under his wing and we had a blast. He would take me to Las Vegas to compete in NSA contests and he introduced me to the blues. Those guys were really good guys. They’re a punk rock band, but those guys were so down to earth and chill and down for fun. I always liked it when they would show up at a session and just sit and wait and watch. They were scoping you, and then they would drop in and start killing it, and just humble you. It was awesome. I’ve got a lot of respect for Brian. That guy is amazing.
Now that we’re talking about the JFA team, one guy I remember is Sam Esmore. That guy was pretty much better than everybody.
Sam Esmore killed pools. The only guy better than him was Doug Perry and those two traveled together. I still see Sam. He lives down in Tucson and he’s skating and getting into his artwork. He’s an amazing artist. I never knew he painted canvases. That guy used to blow minds.
Only a few people have the stalled invert revert all day long.
Exactly. That guy could skate any wall. He was just a really mellow guy with his denim jacket. You’re thinking, “What’s this guy going to do?” Then he would get in that bowl and just kill it. That was so good. I loved those Westside guys because they were always humble and never really talked a lot of trash, but they would just show up and destroy.
They all had a little different style. A lot of people don’t know that Brian Brannon is probably one of the best fullpipe riders going. I’ve seen him do stuff that no one else can do in a fullpipe.
Yeah. He took me down to those Phoenix pipes when they were first jumping off. That was my first real ho-down in a pipe and they were so perfect and brand new. It was absolutely ridiculous. Those are the ones that were three or four stories underground. They were huge 20-foot pipes with a flat bottom roof. They were so smooth. Towards the end, they were getting kinda blown out and it was sketchy. You’d hear sirens and you’d have to run way back into the end of the pipe and try to hide back there and wait until everybody left. It was cool. That was my first super gnarly mission because you knew you were going to be fucked if you got caught there. Skating pools, you might get a ticket or get kicked out, but with those big pipes, you didn’t want to have anything to do with getting caught there. Some of the stuff that Brannon does in pools is amazing too. That guy has always just been a rubbery man. He never hesitated to do anything. It was like, “Hey, Brian! Roll in on that slide.” He’d just do it. He was always pushing the limits. He was rad because he was so uninhibited. You never expect that when you see those guys. They’d roll up with their paisley shirts and cut-off shorts and start ripping. Those guys were just so good. They knew how to treat people and the way you want to be treated. I thought punk rock was just punk. They were like “No. Punk is a lifestyle. Accept it and respect it.”
Do you remember the WSA?
Oh yeah. Those were some wild times, huh?
“I thought punk rock was just punk. They were like “No. Punk is a lifestyle. Accept it and respect it.”
[Laughs.] We’d skate anything.
We would skate anything. It cracks me up because lot of people, they think of me as either a pool skater or a vert skater, but I’ll go skate anywhere with you because it’s fun.
It’s a magic carpet ride.
When you’re out there doing your own thing, you’re not really limiting yourself because all the doors are open. As much as you want to do it, you can.
I remember another good thing about it. All of the shops around Tempe would throw contests and you’d meet a lot of cool people coming in and out of town.
That was the best. I loved it when Bare Cover would do contests, and TNT. They would throw local shop contests outside of the NSA contest series and everyone would show up. It was cool because you’d skate with the dudes from the West Side. Richard Zuccarello would show up, and Charles Amparan from the West Coast connection and Sam Esmo and Doug Perry. You’d get Cody Boat and Mikey Taylor from Mesa coming out and Randy from Tempe. It was really cool. John De La Cruz, William and Orlando Baker and Brandon Gochanour and everyone would show up. It was rad because here’s all these guys running these shops and they’re really not getting too much out of it, but they’re definitely propping us up as kids and giving us stuff to do. Props to Dave Boydston.
Another thing was the California guys would always come over because we were the closest place to really go travel and skate and meet a lot of people.
Yeah. Jason Lee would come out when he was still riding amateur back in the day. Mike Garcia, when he was on Hosoi, would come out. Ray Barbee, Tuma and Ron Chatman would come out. That’s when we were meeting everybody. As we started traveling, we would see each other again and the world just kept on growing. It was awesome.
The Bare Cover team was impressive. There was a heavy-hitting group of people riding for the bikini shop there.
That was a weird thing because it was like the Swatch tour before the Swatch tour came out. They had BMX guys, foot baggers and freestyle Frisbee players and we had the street skaters and ramp skaters. It was all this crap, but it was fun because they were actually paying us to do demos at their barbeques and picnics. It was the first time I had noticed that society was putting something back into skateboarding. It started to get really big for a while. We were having Tony Hawk and other pros come out and skate and they would just blow our minds riding this plexi glass ramp. These were dudes we’d see in the magazines, so it was a rad time. I’m so glad that I got a little piece of that.
Did you ever do demos on the old ‘70s Pepsi ramp?
I was there when that thing came rolling into the parking lot. That’s the ramp that I learned backside bonelesses on. That ramp was so scary. It was plexi glass, four-feet wide, eight-feet tall with no flat bottom, with flip-up vert walls that we used for decks. They would duct tape coping in there.
[Laughs.] They had the PVC coping.
Everything was slick and the skaters thought it was too narrow. It had no flat and it was so slick. It was four-feet off the ground on that trailer, which was crazy. You’d have to climb up on it to skate it. It was just good having that around. We’d skate that thing every day when Dave Boydston used to keep it at his house. It was great. It was sketchy as hell, but it was good to have. I’m not afraid to roll in most places now because I rode that thing as a child.
I saw Tony Hawk do a McTwist on that thing and it was pretty much unskateable.
That was pretty amazing. He did that at the co-op demo that we did out there in ‘82 or ‘83. It was straight up and down on an 8-foot wide ramp. That tripped us out for sure, and then seeing Hosoi on that thing cranking airs. That blew my mind.
What was the line-up on the team?
Dave Boydston ran that stuff and he did a lot for us. It’s hard to remember a lot of the names. Scott Papas was on there, and Charlie Demoe, the roller skater. Those are just the ones that stuck out, like Gnarly Charlie, because he had the old school roller-skate stance with the knees out.
Then Paul Schmitt built the better ramp and started having contests on that.
That was a blast. They built that really good ramp for the Duel at Diablo. That was awesome, because that ramp was really good. It eventually went out to Ocotillo and we sessioned that ramp for days.
That got weird at the end there because they only let two guys skate that ramp.
I always thought that was weird because I’d show up and Orlando Baker was the only guy on the deck. Dutton and I would show up and be like, “Okay, I guess it’s just the three of us on this 13-foot ramp.” That was always weird. I never knew what the deal was with that thing until after it was gone and taken to Thrasherland. It was just good to have a pro quality ramp around.
I remember when they set that up. That’s when I learned how to do real airs.
Remember they had it set up over at the Duel at Diablo contest in ’86. We were all hanging out and partying. I’ll always remember that ramp because of practice nights. The night before, when we were practicing, Lester Kasai or Christian Hosoi crashed in mid-air with Gonz. It totally took Gonz out of the contest. We were just hanging out drinking, starring out on the pros and “Slam!” That one always stuck in my head with that ramp. That was a good time.
There were a lot of good things going on back then, but there was one problem in Arizona and that’s everything that you skated was pretty much illegal. You’d skate down the street and get a ticket. You’d skate a pool and get a ticket, and it started adding up.
Everything was really tight back then. It was pretty open-minded for a while, until it started to catch on and then things were starting to get scratched up all over town and there was a lot of traffic coming through. You had to stay one step ahead of them and you couldn’t stay in one place too long. You were riding your local street spots like they were a backyard pool, like you have to look over the fence and get out quick.
Those trespassing tickets started adding up on me, but you actually had some really bad trouble with that for a while.
Yeah. I got 62 tickets for criminal trespassing through the years and they caught up on me finally because I never really took care of them. I was just a dumb kid and I skated pools for Alva and thought I was cool. When Highway 51 was going through here and they cleared out all of those neighborhoods to make way for the freeway, that was probably the last round I got in before I had to go in front of the judge. He said, “Okay, what do you plead?” I said, “Guilty. I was there skating the pool.” He started looking at my paperwork and he said, “You’ve got more counts here.” I was like “Do I?” I was playing stupid, so he rescheduled the court date to run them consecutive. When I came back, he told me I had 62 counts of criminal trespassing. My jaw dropped and he decided to make an example of me, so he gave two years straight time for that.
What year was that?
That was ‘90 through ‘92.
Was that during Seller’s time?
It was just after Seller’s. After that died, we didn’t have any ramps to ride, but we weren’t staying out of the pools. You can’t open up a 10 or 15 mile area radius of old houses full of pools and not expect some skateboarder to go in there and skate them.
[Laughs.] Explain how many pools you’d skate in one day and why the trespassing tickets would start adding up on you.
It was amazing. You’d go into the neighborhood and park and just cruise down the streets of empty neighborhoods. You’d skate one pool and be having a blast, and then one guy looks over the fence and goes, “Hey, look at this pool!” You’d jump the fence and it would just continue. You could definitely skate 20 different pools in a day and then go back and get more pools the next day. It was insane. I’ve never seen that many pools. It was like an open oasis with pools everywhere.
It starts adding up. You start getting busted. You keep skating. The next thing you know you’re sitting in jail for two years. Were you in County or in prison?
I did most of my time in County until I got processed. I did my last nine months on the yard out in Florence. That was pretty weird going through the cycle, but it got weirder when I got to the yard and half the people there were people I knew from high school. Luckily, I didn’t have it too bad, but it was crazy. That totally blew my mind. In my wildest dreams, I never thought skateboarding in pools would get you a number and state time. I’m sitting in there with guys that raped people and killed people and all I had been doing was riding my board.
What did you do to pass the time in there? Did people remember you?
Yeah. People remembered me. I wrote a lot and drew a lot. My buddy, Glen, was sending me magazines and stuff. I just stayed busy. I had a day job while I was there and I did anything I could to stay busy and keep in contact with people. Next thing I knew, it was time for me to go. I was like “I’m out of here. I’ll never see you again.”
What was it like to start skateboarding after sitting around for two years and just thinking about it?
It was weird but, once you do it, you get it back. You just have to get your head back in the game. The rest just follows. I mean look at Christian. He was gone for a while, but he’s still blasting.
It’s really good to see him back in action.
It’s so good to see him out there now. I have so much respect for that guy. He’s is a mind-blower in terms of skateboarding and the things he’s gone through and overcome. It’s pretty awesome. I’m so glad he’s back on the scene.
So you get out of prison and start skating again. Is that when you decided to shuck Arizona for a while and go to Colorado?
I got out and I was ready to just do the right thing and get things going again. Half of the people here were getting heavy into drugs and had quit skating. It got hard for skating because the boards got shitty and the wheels got small and the ramps were out. It was time for a new environment for me, so I moved to Colorado, which is an amazing place. It was good to get away and clear my mind and get my shit back together. I got my mind and life straight.
I had to leave for the same reason. I went and hid in Florida and paid my $4.25 at Stone Edge to go skate. Where did you first go in Colorado?
I went to Colorado Springs first because that’s where my parents were from. They all went to school there, so I have family roots there. It was great. I skated Acacia Park with Atiba Jefferson and Shad Lambert and the Acacia Curb Posse. Those guys were awesome. They were motivated, young, energetic and they actually did things. Look at Atiba now. He’s one of the best photographers out there. It was so good to hang out with people that were hungry again.
There’s a lot of clean energy in Colorado. People want to get out of their house and make something happen.
Yeah. I met a lot of people and most of them weren’t from there. They all just got tired of the bullshit that was going on in their lives and decided to go up to the mountains and live a clean life.
They built a park there and everybody still remembered you. They’re like “We thought this guy was a tranny skater and then he would jump on a handrail out of the blue.”
[Laughs.] I skated street with those guys a lot. They taught me a lot of good new stuff. I always rode with Randy and he was always on the forefront, but everything just died down after a while. We’d get stuck with the same tricks, so it was good to get a fresh outlook and meet some people that were really hungry. It was fun. I’m so glad I got to meet and hang out with those people.
When I saw you again, you were up in Crested Butte, Colorado.
[Laughs.] That’s right. You guys came up for free ski week and we put you to work.
[Laughs.] We chipped out the bowl with a pickaxe. It was good times.
You guys came to get some snowboarding in and you ended up digging eight feet of snow out of the bowl. I was so glad you guys came out and rescued me because I couldn’t get any of the locals to help because they just wanted to keep snowboarding. That was great. You guys came out to see Finny and Lenny Bird.
Yeah. I had spent a lot of time out there and knew the mountain well. When it was all iced up, it was time to get the pickaxe and chip the bowl out instead of riding the mountain. I went to the snowboard shop with you, and the guy just heckled me and threw my snowboard down and gave me a brand new one to ride while I was in town.
The folks up there are really good people and they just like to have fun. I usually get in trouble for having fun, but it’s a different scene up there.
That’s one of the better mountains in Colorado. What was it like snowboarding up there for a couple seasons?
I loved it. I never snowboarded that much coming from the desert, but I went up there and clicked right in. It was fun. It was like doing lipslides all the way down the mountain. I had a blast and picked it up quick. That mountain is so good.
It’s a gnarly place to ride.
The cliff drops are so good and they’ve got good snow. It was awesome. It totally blew my mind about how much fun and how quick and easy you can get onto it. Just about anybody can do it. Eventually, the guys over at the Air Up were managing Nidecker snowboards and the Donuts snowboard team, and they offered me a spot on the team. I was like “Me? I skate.” They were like “Oh, dude, you rip!” Then I was like “Okay, sure.” Donuts was starting a surfing, skateboarding and snowboarding company, so that was great. They took us on tours to Mt. Hood, and other mountains and resort areas and that was a blast.
I never knew you got to do that. That’s awesome. You went on a little ride adventure too, a little Andy Hetzel style.
Yeah. It was cool and it clicked quickly for me. It’s what you’re going to do in the winter because you’ve got four feet of snow all around you. You aren’t going skating unless someone has an indoor warehouse. I picked up on that and it opened other doors for me.
Did you go from Crested Butte back to Arizona?
I lived in Colorado Springs for a while and built ramps with my buddy, and then Crested Butte Skatepark got finished, so we went out there to go ride it. We got a vanload of guys together and went. Allen Losi and TA happened to be out there that weekend and we just shot the shit. I had so much fun at that pool. I said, “I’m moving here next weekend.” Sure enough, I packed all my stuff and went. My buddy just dropped me off with my tent and all my stuff and I lived up on that mountain for about nine months, right behind the park. I had a part-time job just to keep things going. I was there to clear my head and have a good time and not really get too far ahead of myself. It was so good. I’d wake up in the forest, then head on down the hill to the bowl, pad up and skate for a while, and then go to work, and then come back and see everyone. It was a blast. From there, I moved to Carbondale, and hung out there for a few years. That was before the Carbondale Grindline park got built. From there, I moved to Denver because I started riding for Conspiracy Skateboards and that’s where they were based. I wanted to skate more because I was really missing skating and I had been getting into more snowboarding than I wanted. I moved to Denver and that was great. There’s such a large scene of skaters up there.
Colorado is where all the old skaters go.
It’s rad. You’ve got Glen Charnoski and all kinds of amazing rippers with good spirit. I highly recommend that people take a skate trip to Colorado in the summer. It’s good for the spirit.
When you were riding for Conspiracy, did you get to ride that warehouse they had?
Yeah. The Fallen warehouse was great. If you remember the Skate Colorado ramp up in Boulder, the blue ramp with the little oververt on it, they had to tear it down and they rebuilt it into this amazing bowl in Denver. That thing was so fun, but it was short-lived. They used to throw parties there, so there were all of these rich punk rock kids sitting in the middle of the heroin district. The police would pull over and say, “What are you guys doing out here in the heroin district?” They’re like “Oh, it’s a party!” The cops went in there and saw that big old bowl and stopped everything and said it was a fire hazard. They had to rip it all out, which was a bummer because that bowl was really good and had all hand-poured coping. It was beautiful.
How long did you ride for Conspiracy?
I rode for Lindsey and Buckit for four years. Those were really good times and they are really good guys. They’re really into having fun and going out and doing things. Lindsey has got an “in” with everybody because he does the rock posters, so he knows everyone. Everywhere we went, it was, “Hey, Lindsey. Come on in.” That was really cool. He’s always down for the cause. I had a blast with those guys. I miss them a bunch.
Did you ever take any adventures up to those fullpipes up in the mountains?
[Laughs.] Oh yeah. I won’t tell you where they are, but they’re good.
[Laughs.] We rode some last summer.
There are some really good ones. There are a few smooth ones and a couple of rough ones, but there are tons of them. They’ve got all that water drainage up there, so there are pipes everywhere. All you have to do is get on your computer and look up reservoirs. Go check them out. You’ll find one.
Crested Butte was one of the first skateparks to be built in Colorado, right?
Actually, Grand Junction was the very first one and that thing was so lumpy. Tim Alteck had to go and grind the vert back so you could actually have a lip. That thing was pretty janky, but that Crested Butte bowl was the first legitimate vert bowl with pool coping and tiles. It was awesome. Thanks to Dave and Lenny and all those cats for getting that going. That opened up doors for everybody and brought a lot of people back on their boards. I’m really thankful to those guys for building that.
That was one of the first good parks to be built when everything started turning back to concrete. I know you spent some time building parks. What companies did you get to work for?
I worked for California Skateparks, but it was a limiting type deal. You do your cookie cutters and that’s it and you don’t get much input. Of course, I’d always have to say something like, “Hey, you can’t put this hip here because you’re going to run right into this wall over here.” It was little things like that, but that got translated into me having a bad attitude. I worked for them for about three years and then had my fill with that. It’s like being an artist that’s only given crayons. It was kind of a bummer. I have to give it up for the skater-built parks. Those guys can see what’s going on by looking at it and saying “Hey, that setup is not right. Maybe we can tweak it a little bit.”
Let people who ride build the parks.
When you’re not skating, how do you spend your time?
I’m either painting canvases or working. I definitely don’t have a lack of things to do in my off time, that’s for sure. I do a lot of painting. I live a pretty average life. I pretty much skate eight hours of the day still. There is really not any time that I’m not skating. I have to skate.
What kind of painting do you do?
I’m doing acrylic on canvas. I don’t like to mess with the oils because they take too long to dry. I’ve been doing a lot of acrylics and mixed medium type deals. It’s just what pops in my head and what I’m feeling at the time. I don’t really get on one thing and stay with it. Sometimes I get into woodcarving and make tikis. Maybe next week I’ll be painting a canvas and the next week after that I’ll be doing some stencil artwork. It’s just what’s striking me at the moment.
What do you do with all of your artwork? Is it hanging up around your house?
I’ve got stacks around the house, but I usually end up giving it to friends. It’s hard for me to charge for my artwork because it’s not money to me. It’s expression. If somebody’s really into it, I’m willing to let them have it. It’s more for me and not for making money.
“I’ve seen a lot of kids that were getting into trouble and we hooked them up with skateboards and got them out to the skateparks and they changed completely. Now they’re vocal, happy and not getting in any trouble anymore.”
You’re a skater. You’re an artist. You’ve built skateparks for years. You know what people want to ride. A lot of people have helped you and you’ve mentioned a lot of them. You rode for a lot of teams and got to do a lot of cool things because you met a lot of cool people. Is there anyone you’d want to thank along the way?
First of all, thanks to Terri and Dan and everyone at Juice for giving me this opportunity. I want to thank Mike and Brian at Old Man Army for their support. Thanks to Paul and Aaron at Pole Star Distribution for giving me a pro model wheel. Thanks to Lindsay Kuhn over at Conspiracy. Thanks to Rockin’ Ron and the Foster family. Shout out to the Falahee family and ATM Click. John has kept me rolling since the Alva days in the late ‘80s. I want to thank Brian Brannon and the boys at JFA for getting me into skating and backyard pools. Thanks to Lenny Bird, Shaggy, Livingston and Monk. My whole life has been a collage of meeting people and learning from people and growing with them. Thanks to Dave Boydston, Buddy Carr and Kevin Staab. Kevin taught me how to do inverts, him and Andy Hickey. I thank Salba for being cool to me when I was a kid. He’d call me all the time. He still calls me and lets me know what’s up. When I’m in town, he says, “Meet me here. I’m taking you around to skate some pools.” No questions asked. It’s always been so tight-knit and everyone has been so good to me. Thanks to the true diehard skateboarders that are living it and doing it. Those are the people you can roll into town and meet and they’ll feed you and take care of you, and you’d do the same for them when they roll into town. I want to thank everybody that skates with me. I get stoked on skating, and I’m just stoked on the whole skate scene. Thanks to everyone. Most of all, thanks to my family; my son Elijah, and Kim, for all of the support.
Being a skateboarder is a blessed life. You have hundreds of brothers and sisters all over the world.
It’s a connection you can’t get through anything else. A lot of people have troubled lives, and that’s why they picked up such an individual sport and have grown with it. It’s been great. I know it’s a little different now with the new generation coming up. With skateparks, there’s not the same appreciation as we have for them. That might be the demise of some of it because kids won’t take care of the parks. The cities are going to get tired of it and shut them down. It’s up to us older guys to keep them in line until they see what’s up. You have to respect your skatepark or risk losing it.
I hear you. Someone you just mentioned struck a nerve with me, and that’s Kevin Staab. What a character he is. He’s the best skater in the world and he’s wearing shin guards, gardener gloves and pink sweats. It’s really funny. He mixes the two together.
He would do six-foot backside ollies and it would look like a kickturn in the air. I don’t know how he was able to do it with all that crap he had on, but he did it. He still wears a lot of that stuff and still kills it so hard. That guy was always so open and nice. I was just some punk kid at the Tempe ramp, and he would come to skate and take it on himself to help me with tricks. He’s a really cool guy. I saw him out in Encinitas and he’s the same old Kevin; wearing purple and leopard print and just smiling and doing huge ollies. He’s still ripping. Back in the day, there was a lot of attitude and “locals only” type stuff and what you had was yours and there was not much of it, so you had to regulate it, but that guy was always so open.
You’d always want to heckle him because he was wearing pink sweats, and then he’d do a half-Cab over your head.
[Laughs.] You have to heckle a guy with a pink helmet and a Cure sticker on it, but then he’d do a half-Cab over your head. When you finally end up meeting the guy, he’s really a class act.
Well, I’m glad you’re one of the guys that made it through all of the nonsense. We lost a lot of friends to a lot of partying, nonsense and small wheels, but some of us from Arizona made it through. I’m glad you’re still ripping and making it happen.
Thanks. Skateboarding is my salvation. It’s the only thing that keeps me going. I need it to breathe and to live. I need to have that outlet. I don’t know what I’d be like if I didn’t have that outlet. That’s one thing that parents need to understand. A lot of kids have troubles, and some parents don’t want them to get into skateboarding because they think it’s a subculture type thing and they’ll just sink deeper, but a lot of kids get an opportunity to do something for themselves and it becomes their thing. I’ve seen a lot of kids that were getting into trouble and we hooked them up with skateboards and got them out to the skateparks and they changed completely. Now they’re vocal, happy, and not getting in trouble anymore.
INTERVIEW BY JIM MURPHY
MURF: By 2009, Colorado had a lot of concrete skateparks. After the Denver park, what was the next park that got built?
WREX: A bunch of little parks started jumping off. Littleton got some parks and Edgewater and some smaller towns. Those parks were built by a local landscaping company and they did a pretty good job for not being skateboarders. The Grindline parks were built in the mountain towns and that’s how we got Carbondale. At that time, the cities didn’t have the regulations they do now, so it was easier for companies to get bids. All of a sudden, the mountain towns were jumping off with these amazing parks. Kremmling and Leadville got built. Did you ever skate the Fairplay Grindline park?
That one is gnarly, but it’s so good. It scares the hell out of you the whole time. That’s what the town needs because that’s what the town is like.
I saw video of Science Fair riding that park and it was ridiculous.
Yeah. Science actually lived here for a while, which was really cool. That dude is so good and he’s not serious about anything, which makes it even better. Shaggy lived here for a little bit too. People come here all the time and stay for a while. It’s cool. Now all of these parks are really bringing people in, which is great, and we’ve got it really good now.
With every park that got built, everyone was psyched, right?
Yeah. We were blown away. Each city was like, “Yeah! We got one!” We’d rip the fuck out out of those things because it was what we needed.
In 2008, Team Pain built that Colorado Springs park and didn’t that have a vert ramp at it too?
Yeah. That’s a good one. They moved the old X Games ramp there and added on to it, so it was double bigger.
So you had a new generation of vert kids coming up there?
Oh yeah. I rode with some of the dudes last night at a hangar session that we had here and I can’t even imagine ripping that hard at that age. Frontside inverts no pads, taking it to fakie. It’s awesome! Charlie Martin and Derek Scott are two kids coming out of here and blowing minds.
Now you’ve got Arvada and Roxborough and a bunch of spots like Fort Collins. Do you ever show up at these parks and find them empty or are you finding the more parks they build, the more kids skate?
The more parks they build, the more kids come out. They don’t just come out on skateboards. They come out on everything, and I understand that. When we were younger, we skated with roller skaters and did demos together, so I’m down with it. It just shows the demand for parks. No one even realizes how much a park is going to get used until they build one. Those things are going 24-7. They’ve got to shut the lights out or kids would be out there all night. Whereas the tennis courts, I see sitting empty. It’s a different generation now getting into skateboarding and it’s everywhere.
At the gnarly parks, like Arvada, do you find the deeper gnarlier stuff is being sessioned by kids?
Well, there’s always a section of kids that are just rolling around and shooting back and forth. Some of those kids are climbing into the bowls before they can even drop in, and they’re in there sliding around and trying to ride them. I’m seeing a lot more kids trying it. When the kids come over to the bowl, we’re like, “Get in there! Ride!” That’s the vibe. It’s always been that way at the big bowls and on the vert decks because you’re always trying to get more people to do it.
Everything has evolved and we have these killer skateparks. What is your perception of the skateboard industry now?
Well, that is a loaded question because we all have our views and loyalties, but I’ve been through hard times and good times and, right now, these are the butter days and we should enjoy them. I don’t think we’d have these butter days if it wasn’t for the X Games and Mountain Dew putting skateboarding on televisions in people’s living rooms and letting people know, “Hey, this isn’t outlaw. This is an art form and a competition.” These companies putting skateboarding on TV made it the norm. I hate to say that because we come from the anti-norm, but if we didn’t have it becoming the norm, we wouldn’t have all of these places to skate and all of the acceptance that skateboarding has now. Believe it or not, we are accepted now. We don’t have to fight people anymore to skateboard. We don’t get locked up for skateboarding anymore. They’ve given us places where we can skate. For me, it’s a blessing, and I’m all about it. I know some dudes are like, “We don’t go to skate parks.” I’m like, “Cool. More runs for me. I love the parks.” The fact that I’m at the park, keeps me in touch with the kids and the teenagers and the dudes my age too. It’s not just my little scene anymore. There is a whole world out there doing it. Having parks is awesome. When I was a kid, it was hard to find other skateboarders. Now there are 150 of them out there and it’s awesome. I’m stoked on that. We can skate with the kids at the park and tell them, “It’s awesome that we have these parks and we have to respect them.” Some kids don’t, but some do, and that keeps the tradition going. To me, that’s vital to the growth of skateboarding.
When skateboarding’s popularity died out in the early ‘90s, a bunch of people just quit. Do you see that happening again, where kids hit 16 and stop skating?
I’ve seen it happen all of my life, but I think people go down the tubes less these days because it’s more of a positive thing now rather than always being kicked in the dirt. It’s here and now and it’s what you make of it. It’s about what you bring to the table in your local area. In our area, we try to keep it tight, like a community. I get frustrated sometimes, but then I remember that this kid wants to learn. After a while, everyone lightens up and looks out for each other.
What do you think about skateboarding going into the Olympics?
I’m still swallowing that one. I’m trying to envision the positive aspects, but there’s going to be a lot of kooking it, because that comes with the public acceptance of it and the public is kinda kooky in general. I don’t know. Blow it up. Make skateboarding the best thing in the world. That’s cool with me.
Sometimes I look at it like the more hype it gets the more skateparks they will build. Then there’s the debate about it killing the soul of skateboarding. Do you think most kids will keep skateboarding for fun no matter what?
Kids are always going to figure it out, jock or not. It was that way when we were kids. There was always that one dude that was the competitor that jocked everything out and there was always the one dude who didn’t really give a fuck that was in the parking lot partying. It’s always going to be that way, no matter what level we take it. All this shit that’s going on right now in skateboarding, with all of this money for contest prizes, doesn’t affect my skateboarding world in the least bit. It’s not my world. I’m just skateboarding. I’m not worried about my stock going down in skateboarding, because we are skateboarding. That’s who we are. Guys like us have been through it all and once we get on four wheels, everything else just fades away.
It’s interesting how far we’ve come from you doing time in prison for skating pools to skateboarding going into the Olympics.
Yeah. It’s crazy. It’s a catch 22 because the X Games and stuff like that has opened up doors for new skateparks. At the same time, skateboarding is my sanctuary, so it’s hard for me to see it get displayed in Target. It’s weird. Now it’s going be in the Olympics, so I hope that the people that don’t skate will understand a little more about what’s going on in skateboard culture and then give it more resources to keep it growing. For me, the more skateboarding going on out there, the better this world is going to be. Whether they get it from a Mountain Dew commercial or from the streets, they’re doing it. It’s up to us as skateboarders to communicate with each other and keep that soul going. It’s not the industry’s fault if the soul goes away. It’s skateboarders’ fault for not keeping it in it. That’s why the community has to stay in it. They can have skateboarding in the Olympics and it’s not going to have any change on a session here. Hopefully, one of the kids I’m skating with will be riding in the Olympics and might be missing for the weekend, but good for him. We used to have to scrounge and fight and build stuff to skate so now these kids can have it. This is what we were always fighting for, through the ‘80s and the ‘90s, to get to this point. Now it’s up to us to lead it any direction we want and that happens in our backyard scenes and our park scenes.
Colorado has such a killer scene. You’ve got backyard pools, indoor bowls and sick concrete skateparks. How do you choose what to skate?
The only way to do it is to not make plans because there is always something jumping off. You may have decided to go one place, but then there’s a session at another place, so you just go wherever. It’s awesome. Now I say, “Where are we going to skate today?” I have a big smile because we have lots of spots. The backyard scene is thriving and we still have parks being poured and I think that’s always going to happen. Skateboarding is naturally an anti-social activity because it’s a singular thing that you can do with others, so there’s always going to be the thing of anti-socials in the scene. It does get a little crowded sometimes, so there’s always going to be people needing a bowl and we’re going to be building them in the backyards, so there’s always going to be backyard sessions. I think those are always going to be there.
FOR THE REST OF THE STORY, GET ISSUE #77 AT THE JUICE SHOP HERE.