Kevin Mark's Essay
Posted on Tuesday, April 11, 2006 by Marks
There are a lot of kinds of skaters out there these days...ledge dogs, pool kings, hesher trannie terrorists, and fresh blingers workin’ flatground just to name a few. Back when I began my time on a four-wheeled- wooden toy, there weren't so many categories. In my town there were so few skaters that we all hung together simply as "skaters" - a unified sort. As my ability level increased, I gravitated to ramps, and more specifically mini ramps, the smaller variety.
I always dreamed of having a ramp in my backyard. For most skaters of the time, there were few better scenarios. It took me three solid years of begging, asking, and presenting my mom with reasons why I should have one. During my sophmore year, a miracle happened. My dear mother, most likely on the edge of a nervous breakdown from my persistence, gave me the green light to build a ramp.
That spring John Thompson's ramp was being torn down. I was a local there and was able to secure some of the wood from that ramp to start mine. Lawn mowing funds bought the surface layer and we scoured construction sites for scraps for the rest. It was 6’ tall with 7’ trannies, 16’ wide, with a 4’ wide, 1’ taller extension, and PVC coping.
Over the next few years we added to the ramp. I had the good fortune to visit my friend Brodie in Encinitas one summer, and there we went to McGill's Skatepark that had a superior mini-ramp complex. I was hooked and wanted something similar, so that's what I set out to expand my ramp to. I wanted to go from having a mini-ramp to having a mini-ramp complex in the backyard. Hips and spines were, and still are, my favorite terrain to ride.
The first addition came when a small mini-ramp near Brodie's house needed to be moved. We swooped it up and I believe my boss Phil helped us move it with his flat-bed, antique truck. Those two transitions became the spine. We added some flat-bottom off the existing flat and then built a quarter-pipe on the opposite side of the spine so we could return to the main ramp. More money was saved, wood donations were accepted, and by now we had cars and could procure wood in other illicit ways. In what seemed like no time, we had made a 90 degree hip off the far spine quarterpipe. And no sooner was that up and being shralped daily, that we got news from Vernon. He had just married my mom and was in the process of moving all his gear to our pad. The garage just wasn't going to fit all his tools, so plans were laid for a tool shed. The tool shed was slated to occupy some of the real estate where the hip was sitting. No worries, skater ingenuity kicked in and we just expanded the other side and moved the hip there.
Kids from all over the state came to shred over the years. We'd shovel the snow off the ramp in the winter. Plenty of repairs went into the structure, along with a lot of care and love. I still point to one of the last sessions in January of 1990 as one of my finest days of skating ever. All the bros, loud tunes, and me pulling a trick that I'd been working on just briefly and will most likely never make again. So during the latter part of my senior year, I knew I was going away to school. And my agreement with my mom was that it was always just a temporary situation. Mom and Vernon had plans to add on to the back of the house and that meant it was an end of an era. By late February my mighty mini- ramp complex was gone. Now I reminisce and cherish a few photos and a little bit of footage. From that point on, and speaking from experience, I've always been a vocal advocate of ramp ownership. I've assisted in building countless structures of all sizes and most importantly I've been able to skate countless private backyard jewels. I spoke to my mom about the ramp the other night and she looks back with fond memories of all the kids she met and how she helped provide a safe place for the local skaters to congregate. Thanks Mom for the trust and the opportunity to create something so wonderful.
Fast forward to 1998. I had been living in rentals since 1990 and somehow by 1998 I had enough lawn mowing money to buy Edgemont. One factor that led me to decide on Edgemont was a strange, unfinished room off the back of the house. I took one look and knew that I could put a ramp in there. And that's just what I did. With the help of several friends and some generous monetary support from my boss Tod we got to work and filled the room completely with the ramp. It was a relatively small space, but I wanted a creative ramp that used some of the inherent design of the room. It was empty except for a water heater and the washer/dryer. Those items were elevated on a deck and the rest of the room was about five stairs lower. The ramp was mainly 3’ high. The low ceiling wall got 16’ of flat-wall with 3" steel coping. Then there was the parking block section with the least amount of flat. Next to that, laid back 1’, was the ramp-to-wall-ride.
See Eric J blunt fakie the wall
And finally laid back even further was a 4’ quarter. Three walls were windows, so in an effort to prevent breakage we used some old trade show wire frames to cover the windows. But even our best preventative measures weren't enough and there were a few broken windows over the years. The ramp became known as The Cage primarily because if you sketched out and got to close to the wire, it would reach out and grab your shirt...or worse. A handful of pros and plenty of bros skated this ramp. I remember how stoked I was to see the ramp in a magazine. Mike shot Jon West doing an ollie off the parking block to tail on the wall. That was no easy feat and I wasn't even there when it went down.
Ramp ownership is a double-edged sword. It's great to have access anytime, but undoubtedly you sometimes end up looking like an asshole. There is a balance that must be achieved and that's a fine line. In Kansas it was fairly common to come home from school and find some random skater riding the ramp without permission. I've been in that spot myself. You don't know the ramp owner, you're only in town for a day, and no one is home. What do you do? You BARGE IT and skate. So I understand, but I still had to kick kids out at times and that sucks. Things are much easier to control when it's in your actual house, but you still can look like a dick when you don't want to skate and someone does. So I try to keep the crowds to a minimum and notify the local group on days that I am going to skate.
In 2000 I started a partnership and my own business that we ran from Edgemont. It was cool having the ramp there for team riders and skate breaks, but soon we needed the space for inventory. Sometime that year the ramp came down we secured the room and made it look like this.
In November 2002 the partnership had dissolved, but Overboard was growing and was moved into North Park. And by Feb 2003 Saw and Erik Aker built our current wonderland below. I still enjoy the fruits of ramp ownership and encourage you to build a ramp, too.
Backside disaster on my favorite spot of the ramp. This curb was rescued from a near by Kwik Stop.