Tampa Pro Memories
Posted on Tuesday, March 07, 2006 by Rob Meronek
Tampa Pro MemoriesWords by John Ferguson
I had a wonderful time watching the Tampa Pro this year, as I’ve had several times before. Not only is the skating great, but I admire how a skater-run event can work so smoothly, grow so large, and become so important to both the industry and the fans. This time though, I was quite stoked seeing Dave Duncan there. It brought up an old memory and made me feel like a kid again. Since then, I’ve been recalling that special time in my life, and I’m thankful that the less healthy phases of my life haven’t killed those particular brain cells. I felt an urge to share this story with you. I used to sit at a bar to talk story, now I sit at a keyboard…
I was a year out of high school in 1989, when the National Skateboard Association (N.S.A.) brought their pro finals to my hometown of St. Petersburg. They rolled up like a big concert tour into the (recently demolished) Bayfront Center Arena. I was already working with the city’s Leisure Services Dept., helping them build ramps and organize local skateboard contests at their recreation centers. That put me up on the list when the N.S.A. guys requested some helping hands from the Parks Dept.
That’s when I first met Dave Duncan, along with Tim Payne and some of his east coast posse. They arrived a week early to build a primitive street course (no hips) and an amazing V-shaped vert ramp. Tim had his regular boys with him, so I buddied up with Dave the first afternoon. We framed trannys in the arena’s parking lot as “New Kids on the Block” performed inside. You can imagine the colorful language of a gang of punk-rock carpenters as those teeny boppers were wandering around.
The whole week was a movie-like dream come true for a 20-year-old skater like myself. All these famous people kept showing up around me. The practice sessions were tightly organized into equal time slots, which irritated a lot of the skaters (hence NSA = No Skateboarding Allowed). Fortunately for me, a “ramp builders' session” was fit into the rotation. I’d only been skating vert for about a year, but those sessions were so intense that I learned a lot in just a couple days. Some pros snuck into our sessions. Big Ben Schroeder rode with us, and made the whole ramp shake violently. John Lucero snaked me a lot, but threw down some sick layback grinds.
There were plenty of special moments that week. The Payne crew were eager to hang with Monty Nolder, but he showed up with his tiny six-week-old baby girl. On a promo tour of high schools during lunch time, I hopped into a pick-up truck with a couple of launch ramps and the only two pros we could recruit, Hosoi and Sergie Ventura. The most interesting encounter was with a 15-year-old Danny Way, who just recently turned pro, and was getting a lot of bad vibes from the older varsity…
Dave and I were laying masonite on the street course quarter-pipe when Danny cheerfully trotted up to say hello. Dave apparently was a team captain, and started laying into him about missing a flight to a previous contest. He guilt-tripped him pretty hard, saying that maybe he was too young and irresponsible to be sponsored, and Danny stood there quietly, like a scolded child. The drilling continued, Dave brought up how much they spent on his ticket and entry fees, and how some pros would hitchhike to contests to get there on time. Eventually Danny started crying and apologizing, until Dave told him he could go. I just quietly drilled screws into the masonite and tried not to snicker.
I share that story with all due respect to Danny Way - it just shows some of the dues he paid on the way to becoming one of the world’s gnarliest skaters. Dave Duncan was also just doing his job, but the story demonstrates the respect he commanded behind the scenes. Danny was actually the last pro I talked to that week. A girl I was hanging with found his skateboard under the vert ramp as we were tearing it down. Rather than keeping his board, we swung by his motel on the way home, and gave it back to him. Once again, he got in trouble for loosing it.
The rest of skateboarding’s history was foreshadowed that weekend; Danny actually was the threat that the older vert guys had feared, as a lot of them soon needed day jobs. Young skaters with tech tricks were replacing the old-style varsity. Tony Hawk won both events, and lots of people were quick to point out that his dad was in charge of the N.S.A., (Sound familiar R.C.?). The N.S.A. fell victim to its own bureaucracy, and died in 1993. Ironically, that’s the same year that SPoT was created, and showed everyone how to keep things simple and real. I haven’t followed much of Dave’s career since then, but I’ve read occasionally that he’s been calling contests like he did back-in-the-day. It doesn’t look like he’s changed a bit. As for myself, I’ll save that for another long-winded letter.
Thanks for all you do,