1.) You are one of the best ambassadors for skateboarding out there. Can you share with the 'newbies' what you do exactly under the 'Dr. Skateboard' name?
People often ask, “Why are you Dr. Skateboard?” or “What’s up with the Dr. Skateboard thing?” So let me give you and your readers some of the backstory.
I’ll begin with the skateboard. I have been a skateboarder now for almost 40 years. I started skateboarding when I was thirteen years old, because it was something fun to do with my friends. When I was in middle school in Richmond, VA, I also decided that I wanted to be a professional skateboarder. As I progressed in the sport I competed as an amateur and this allowed me to travel up and down the East Coast and even out to California. In the 1980s, I turned professional and continued to do contests and demonstrations; I went around the country and had chances to travel abroad. In the late 90s and early 2000s, I did shows and participated at many interesting venues including state fairs, skateparks and music festivals. Today, I continue to do demonstrations, mostly in schools. I am a skateboarder. It is part of who I am. That’s the skateboard.
Now for the doctor. You might think that since I have been skateboarding for so long, it would make me a doctor. Well it goes a little further than that. When I was in middle school, I set some goals to try and achieve success in my education as well as my activities. Really, no one in my circle had a doctorate. One skateboarding buddy said, “Dude, I don’t know anyone with a Ph.D.” I had a dream of going to college, and that dream took me all the way to getting a Ph.D., something I never thought would happen. Dr. Skateboard became a path for me to connect with students about setting high goals in all that they do. It is a way of bringing together high achievement in what you enjoy and your education.
In this way as Dr. Skateboard, I’m trying to reach out to the kid who’s maybe not that interested in school, maybe a bit marginalized and find pathways for those people to learning. I believe if we can tap into what kids like to do and help them to make connections to their learning, and we can carefully guide them and caringly guide them through this process, they can really achieve success. It’s about inspiring others to use their gifts to achieve success and to help one another.
2.) There are only a few people out there who can lock in 1-footed 360s with style. Your form appears to be flawless to me. How long have you been doing them and do you have any tips for us?
When I started skateboarding, being able to spin 360s was a real marker of your talent and commitment. We would do contests and see who could do the most 360s, that was a measure of your ability as a skateboarder, much like today, with the challenge of how high can a person Ollie. We all learned how to spin frontside and backside, on the nose and the tail, with 2 feet and on 1 foot. I really took to spinning in many ways, as you mentioned, found a way to lock in on 1-footed spins so that I could do them with precision. A lot of that comes from practice, and also from the large number of demos I have done over the years. For me, people would always remember and comment on my handstand fingerflips and my 360 spins. Since I did the 1-footed 360s as a finale in my demos and contest runs, it was a trick I wanted to perfect with power and style. I think that still runs true today in demos for me, and it is still a trick I use as my final maneuver.
3.) Walker was the main freestyle brand in the East Coast. When did Bruce Walker discover you and how did it happen? Let's talk about your first pro model on Walker.
I grew up in Richmond, Virginia and started skateboarding in seventh grade at the age of 13. I started freestyle skateboarding when I began skateboarding, as to be a skateboarder in the mid-70s was to do tricks, go fast downhill, do slalom, ride ditches, pools and parks. It was just part of what we did.
My getting hooked up with Bruce Walker came from my friendship with Reggie Barnes, who was a fellow skater who was a teammate for many years, first with East Coast, Bahne, then East Coast Powerflex, and then with Walker. The thing about Reggie was that he always had your back if you were on his team, and he is the same guy I knew from Raleigh back when I started skateboarding. He has been wildly successful in skateboarding as a rider and a businessman, yet his integrity and honor always stand out to me personally. I also feel I owe high a debt of gratitude, for helping me to get on Walker and for launching me on a path that lead me to be a pro.
Bruce Walker believed in me as a skateboarder, and gave me a chance to get my first pro model and to turn professional in 1988 in Louisville, Kentucky. In fact, after an big amateur contest in which I placed fifth, Bruce pulled me aside and said I should go professional, before Tim Morris and Joe Humeres, both of whom were amateur champions on Walker. I think he saw that I had my own way and style, and he also had the courage to challenge me to move forward. Bruce was and is a guy who is always helping others to reach and to achieve, in skateboarding, in surfing, in life. He also is inspirational in that he keeps on going! He recently got his own signature longboard for Sector 9, and keeps on riding and ripping!
4.) You made a prototype for your second model on Walker Skateboards right before the downfall of freestyle in the 90s. Can you walk us through the design process for this shape? Also, was the decline of freestyle predicted or did it happen abruptly?
When I started riding for Walker, for freestyle, I was using a Reggie Barnes model, which was about 7 inches wide and about 27 inches long. While it was a standard size and shape for freestyle boards, I had a style that was more rolling and seemed to work better on a slightly bigger board. At that time in the late 1980s, there were freestyle boards (small) and park boards (big), with the “mini” as one marketed as a youth board for parks and ramps. I saw that the middle ground fit me on the flatland too, so I started to work on shapes and sizes that would fit my style and fill in this part of the middle ground. The model we settled on after a year of testing was 28 ¾” long, 8” wide, with a 6”tail, 6”nose or 5 ¼” nose (12” wheelbase or 12 ¾” wheelbase), depending on which holes you used. This deck was a unique design for the time and fit well into the gap between large street decks and small standard freestyle boards. I designed this board to accommodate my rolling style, and the larger squaretail and nose were ideal for shove it and pop shove it tricks.
5.) What equipment did you use in the 80s and what are you riding now?
In the 1980s, I rode my pro model from Walker for freestyle and used Walker boards for street and ramps. I rode for tracker Trucks for over 25 years, even made into the Tracker book that just came out. I also rode for Santa Cruz Speed Wheels, which were awesome and had many sizes and hardness’s to match the needs of someone like myself who had a quiver of boards for different purposes.
Today, I am all in on ABEC-11 and have been for the past four years. Much of that in a result of my friendship with Chris Chaput who I think is a design and engineering genius. Chris was also someone whose style and tricks I worked to emulate, and I was also fortunate to meet him when I was a kid on the East Coast and he rode for BelAir out of Maryland. He is also my current sponsor today, as I ride for ABEC-11, JET Skateboards, Liquid Trucks and Biltin bearings. He also is committed to increasing the impacts of skateboarding in education, and has so many great ideas that he puts into reality. He was and is an inspiration to me as a rider and an innovator.
As for primary shapes, I use boards and set ups for park, flatland, longboarding, and cruising. ABEC-11 offers a number of boards sizes, and designs, and for the skatepark, I use a 8.5 by 32 inch Jet Skateboard with 149 Liquid trucks and 60 mm ABEC-11 wheels of 100a durometer. I have also designed a board with Chaput for flatland that is 32.00” long, 7.875” wide, has a 14.25” wheelbase with a 6.75” nose and a 6.50” tail. I use 139 Liquid trucks and 56 mm slimeballs or cut down ABEC 11 wheels to match the rails as well.