Introduction: - Roll-In
In my universe, there's a lottery of rare adventures: worthy building projects with a circus of skilled and quirky cohorts. I have a peculiar kind of luck. I get to be one of the builders. The world of construction is my amusement park.
The simple fact that I need a job or a project to survive faces me with an urgent puzzle at each turn of the wheel, and I'm sure that’s one of my luck charms. I've got to have a gig. The material question has always been a ticket to adventure for me. My son Johnny (JW) has been another source of good fortune. He grew up on Hawaii's Big Island, and when he was high school age, we moved to the mainland. We had four years together in Southern California before he would be on his own. We opened doors for each other, climbed over fences, or crawled under gates, ignored "no trespassing" signs. We set out to have a good time, and hit the jackpot.
People want something built for lots of different reasons. Projects over the years have sprung out necessity, or art, or profit; out of luxury and vanity, or comfort. I find satisfaction in the things we've built and I find fun in the daily exchanges between the crews, clients, inspectors and contractors. In the case of building skateboard ramps, where the whole motivation is fun, it has been doubly satisfying and triple the fun, since my co-workers were skaters themselves, a famously fun-loving subculture. For these few years, it was my pleasure to apply my skills to the crafting of ideal surfaces for their kinetic sensual pastime.
I started work at Powell-Peralta Skateboards in Santa Barbara, California in 1987 just in time to take part in the building of a mobile halfpipe that toured the country with our professional team for years. From that time on, I was in the middle of the company's ramp building efforts, making many small ramps used for our public demos and contests, becoming progressively more elaborate, leading up to the creation of the SkateZone indoor skatepark at the company factory in 1990.
We became close friends with the key players of the R&D department and skaters who worked at the company and travelled with them to some of the top skateboard parks and locations on the West Coast, from Tijuana to Vancouver. Our unofficial R&D mission was learning as much as we could about ramp building so that when we finally got to build the SkateZone, we would know what it was that made the good ones good, the fun ones fun, and the dangerous ones dangerous. All the time, I was taking pictures, and JW was making drawings.
In 1991, with the SkateZone completed, and JW living over by SB City College, I moved on to Northern California to continue my carpenter's odyssey, thinking I was leaving the skateboard world behind.
In 1997, to my surprise, I was invited to participate in building a big beautiful skatepark, SkateStreet, in Ventura, California, and I joined forces with JW and his pals once again.
This is the story of how it all unfolded; how our ramp building evolved, how tribes of skaters welcomed us, and how hidden hands seemed to be helping us every step of the way.
© 2017 John Oliver
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