The last time I wrote about skating I was talking about how I pretty much wasn't inspired to skate anymore. That was around June 2003. It is now June 2004 and a lot has happened since then. The spirit has infected me again. While most people my age are starting to slow down I feel like I'm starting to speed back up. Skating has once again become a HIGH priority in my life.
I skated my first sessions at the cement park in Mason, Michigan. Using one of my old setups, A "Z-33" from Z-Products, Santa Cruz "Teamrider" 57mm wheels and Independent 159 trucks. Everything on that board is around 15+ years old. The wheels didn't seem as fast as I remembered. Maybe it was just me. Board didn't feel right any longer either. It wasn't the shape .. just the "feel" of the wood. After one session I decided to hook myself up with a fresh skate.
Walking into the local skate shop was a bit of a let down. I mean .. all the decks were WAY smaller then I remembered with shapes that didn't make sense to the style of riding that I was used to. Being that I dropped out of sight, I had missed a big part of the evolution of skateboards. So I decided just to get some fresh bearings and see if that would speed things up in my old skate. The wheels still felt slow .. but the only wheels I were finding at the shop were just WAY to small for my taste. I remember throwing wheels away once they GOT that small.
It was around this time I first heard about Bulldog Skates.
Somehow I came across Bulldog's website and what I found was just amazing. I couldn't believe what I was seeing! Familier shapes and sizes in wheels and decks. They do have more "modern" designs but the main focus is on the old style. I was "home". I had found my new deck.
I placed an order for what has become known as their "Sacred Heart" deck. The size is 10"x32" with a classic surfboard shape straight out of 1978. A set of their "Gasser" wheels measured in at 62mm tall with a durometer of 95a. Independent 169s complete the setup. Perfect.
Once I got this deck together I headed back out to Mason to try it out. What a HUGE difference! This setup was WAY fast.. and I found myself flowing all over the transitions. Well... almost flowing. I'll admit. The first time I skated at Mason I was dissappointed. I couldn't keep speed and trying to ride that
place like a halfpipe ramp wasn't going to work. It didn't matter that I hadn't skated in like 10 years. For some reason, in my head, I thought I should be able to go out there and start ripping right away.
Ok .. a little background here. I come from "ramp culture". Our crew always built and rode wooden halfpipe ramps. Simply because there were NO swimming pools or cement skateparks around like there are today. So the skating motion was "back and forth". Any carving was across the coping and not 4 wheels down under it. At Mason I was suddenly forced to learn how to carve flatwall.
It took seeing this one skater, who obviously had NO problem with speed, actually flowing long lines to show me that Mason was indeed very skateable. It was my ego that was getting in the way. "Pooldust", I would later learn was his name. A younger guy with the flow of an old soul. His lines were both mellow and fierce at the same time.
Soooo... I now admit that I need to relearn how to skate. The major problem was this conflict going on in my head. I could remember HOW I skated. I could even "feel it" on the inside. I just couldn't get my body, mostly my knees, to do those same moves again. I also discovered that I wasn't as flexible as I was 10-15 years ago. *laugh* No shit. Thats cool though, once I accepted those limitations, I started to regain my balance and find my flow.
Winter was starting to hit Michigan and to my surprize found that the free parks in Mason and Lansing were locked up and CLOSED for the next few months. Bah. There were many days that we could have skated. One day Yerb and I jumped the fence at Lansing. But that was because about 10 other skaters were already sessioning so we said "what the fuck?". Needless to say, jumping a fence to skate at age 42 give me a couple of cool flashbacks. Food for the soul.
Wednesday and Sunday sessions at Vans-Novi became the typical wintertime rip. Vans also had the bonus of being only about 30 mins away. While there is a huge amount of stuff to skate at Vans, the only thing I ever skated was the pool. Well.. I did drop in to the vert ramp a few times but it was that pool that really had my interest. The vert ramp is world class in structure but its covered in masonite. I hate masonite. The pool is a copy of some famous pool (chicken bowl) in California. Skateable pools in Michigan were always a rare treat for us. In fact I can count the number of pools we skated around Ann Arbor/Detroit on one hand. Its kinda surreal to have this perfect pool sitting in a mall based skatepark.
I like the free cement parks in Mason and Lansing, but what I really wanted was a backyard ramp to skate. I asked at the local skate shop and the occational skater I talked to but never got a clue if any were even around. One skater even remaked that with places like Mason and Lansing WHY would anyone want to build a ramp?. I guess I could see his point. Those free cement skateparks are a dream.. in many ways. But to me, there was no sense of ownership when skating there. I mean .. as I said before, I came from the 1980's "ramp culture". We took pride in designing, building and skating our own ramp structures. The ramp was our clubhouse, where we gathered, our statement to the rest of the skating underground. Besides.. we all like to skate, drink beer, grill out and listen to LOUD music. You get MAJOR hassled at the public places for doing that. Hell .. one time at Mason someone called the cops on us. One of our crew was hassled for smoking a cigarette! It seems that the skatepark is declared a "no smoking" zone. Tony got a fucking ticket for playing his car stereo! $105 I think it was. I guess one of the big rules at Mason is "No Amplified Music". How lame is that?
Ok .. so after a lot of discussion and planning we decide that its time to build our own ramp again. Cool deal! The last ramp that I had any part of was the barn ramp on Joy Rd. Almost 10 years ago. Prior to that I had maintained a ramp, in some form for about 15 years. See related story on the HVR.
So yea.. things are really starting to look good. I'm making new friends through skating, regaining contact with MANY of my old friends. Some wondered what the hell happened to me. I often wondered that myself as I pretty much had disappeared from the skate scene. A few were dealing with their own problems. Drugs, alcohol, bad relationships. Some still skated every now and then. A few never quit. One observation I did make was this, those that had kept skating all these years seem to be the most happy and healthy in mind and spirit today.
So now we have a ramp, I'm skating as much as I my body will let me, trips have been made to Louisville and Skatopia. More trips are being planned. My skateboard collection is growing with many new gems. I really should get my entire collection online. Whats there now is only a small fraction.
I have my life back.   ---Wes