In Pennsylvania, I built a great many ramps in my time. It was necessary if one wanted to skate. With the harsh winters & buckled concrete & asphalt roadways, there was little in the way of terrain to ride. Therefore, I built ‘pretend’ pools. Every so often, I would add a foot of vert, build an extension, or put cement blocks on top to simulate coping. It is laughable now, but back then… it was progression for me. Jim Howell & I would modify the ramp as we learned new tricks as well.
One year, I saw an article in Skateboarder magazine. It had a feature on the ‘High Roller’ contest in Arizona. I remember seeing the tombstone & had to add one to my ramp. The problem was, my ramp was only 8 foot wide & I had no extra wood or money. I cut a piece of old flooring up from a shed & covered it with scrap plywood; making my tombstone. You can see that it was a joke…but I did airs off of it regardless. Jim Howell pulled rock-n-rolls on it regularly! I was so poor, I would straighten bent nails from old 2X4s and reuse them. I obtained many bruised fingers from the nail spinning in my fingers as I tried to hammer it straight again!
In one picture, you can see the old cinder blocks that I used as coping for awhile. When I built the additional vert, I didn’t have enough wood, so I used the existing cinder blocks to ‘beef it up’. They helped prevent it from collapsing. Another time, Jim Howell & I, learned of this big in-ground pool, that had no transitions at all. However, it had 12 foot sections of aluminum coping on it.
One day, we became tired of riding & grinding the wood edge of my ramp, so we drove to the house where the pool was located. We sat in the car, a few doors away. We were scared, but eager for different coping. When the owners drove away, we hopped the fence and pried the end of the coping up. As I pulled on it, the screws holding it down, shot up into the air, phew! phew! phew!….it was funny. Jim & I were laughing, until we got it out to the car & realized it wouldn’t fit. It was 12 foot long ! We ended up just cramming it into the back seat & left it hanging out the passengers side window. I rode shotgun and I kept my arm securely around that coping. We must have looked like complete hooligans, driving in an old Dodge Dart, with 8 or 9 feet of coping sticking out the side of the car!
Jim & I truly didn’t care….much. On a Friday, we would gather our cash together, (less than 25 bucks), steal bread & canned fruit from his parents cupboard, then drive all night on bald tires, just to ride some crappy ditches in Maryland or Virginia. We kept only enough money to make it home. Ahhh, the good old days. Another time, we bought two mini- kegs of Dinkel Acker beer, and each drank one. We were looking at pictures of Alva team member–Fred Smith. Fred had ‘dreadlocks’ and I wanted some as well. Jim told me that he could help me. Drunkenly, he swore that he could make me look like, “… Bob Marley himself.” With such a boast, I assented & bowed to his-obvious- professional expertise. He began pouring copious amounts of Dinkel Acker into my hair; rolling it up into dreads. It didn’t work & the next day my head hurt …& stank horrendously!
One other story comes to mind. We were shooting pool in a bar around 9pm on a Friday night in February. We decided to drive to the Baskin Ridge, NJ barn ramp. We gathered food & blankets, our gear, then drove the few hours down there. It was located in a drafty old barn. When we got there, it was after midnite. Jim & I, rolled out our blankets, found a plastic tarp & duct taped 3 sides down to the flat bottom of the ramp & crawled inside. It was raw outside; near freezing. We were well fortified with man-beverages and fell asleep quickly. When we awoke at dawn, there was a light layer of snow over us, that had drifted through the roof slats & shingles. If I recall, it was a cold start that day! That was also the day, we rode with Tom Groholski, Backwards Bernie ODowd, Jay Henry, the ‘Twins’ , Geoff Graham, the Sigafoos brothers, Rick Charnoski, Dan Tag & others for the first time.
I have over 30 years of documented vert skating behind me. I’m hoping to have 30 years more, ahead of me. I will keep skating & writing, because it makes my life better, and hurts no others. It’s my opiate; my religion. By-the-way, if anyone would like some ‘hair care’ tips…just ask! Funny…and I thought I looked rad back then! Comical. Thank You…Jim Howell. I love you brother. Thanks to my father, David Ausband for shooting the photographs & to Scott Ward for scanning my old photos & laughing at my hair farm. Skate Long….Never stop. Ozzie