I’ve never lost interest in skateboarding since I got an SKF skateboard 1984. I learned the basics of skateboarding in Santiago, Chile where there was a skate park. I spend most of my time riding my BMX bike at there, but I brought my skateboard along occasionally to try and learn a few tricks. By tricks I mean learning to simply ride the skateboard and do a kick turn. The skate park in Santiago had a vert bowl with a roll in and pool coping. There was also a snake run that ended in a mellow bowl. (I was filled in and turned into a shopping area sometime in the mid 1990s).
When my family moved back to the States, we went first to Tennessee for a vist before moving back to Virginia. I was given a Sims New Wave deck for my birthday. It was a tank. It was about 31 inches long and ten inches wide. I had independent truck and purple Sims wheels on the board. It came with purple rails and a tail bone. Copers, a nose guard and a bird came shortly there after. Back then, everyone I knew had all the plastic protective stuff one could mount onto a board. I got it in Nashville, Tennessee and spent most of my time learning to street skate. Since I didn’t have my BMX bike, which was being shipped to Virginia, I focused on skating. That summer I skated my first mini ramp. From then on, I was hooked.
Once we moved to Virginia, I started to skate whenever I could. I don’t recall what happened to my Sims deck; it must have fallen apart. I made new skateboarding friends and we skated all over my neighborhood, my high school and the town of McLean. Before I had my driver’s license, I’d skate two miles into town, skate for hours and then skate back. It was mostly street skating at first and the occasional jump ramp we built. I could do little more than a few simple tricks. My friends and I would watch the Powell Peralta Bones Brigade video virtually every day for inspiration and then go out and skate.
There were several things that impacted my skating ability. The first was my parents’ support. They would take me places to skate, watch and encourage me. They bought me the gear when I could not afford it and my dad in particular, who probably would have preferred that I had stuck with baseball, supported me nonetheless. Over the next two years, I got progressively better until one day a skater at my school named Chris Wassel taught me how to ollie. That was the second major change. It reshaped my entire skate experience from that point on. Once I could ollie, I never looked back. I could jump onto curbs and ledges. For street skating, this was unlocking a new dimension. It paid off on ramps too.
There was a mini ramp next to Neil Wadhwa’s house that I skated with Neil and Phil all the time. It was an 8 foot wide, four foot tall mini. We skated that ramp almost every day. If it snowed, we shoveled it off right away so that it’d be dry and we could skate it. I learned a lot of my tricks there. I learned most of my early ramp tricks on this ramp, and took them to bigger ramps later.
The other major factor was getting my driver’s license. I was mobile. I could drive to ramps in Northern Virginia. While I skated street more than anything else, because it was the easiest to get to and by far the most abundant, I craved skating ramps. Mini ramps were the easiest to skate and I could do the most tricks on them, but my true love was vert. I considered pools the pinnacle of skating, but there were few pools to skate. Any pool session was clandestine. There were ramps in McLean, Great Falls, and of course there was Cedar Crest, out in Centerville. With a car, I could hit all these spots. The car also meant that I could go to a really good drainage ditch we called the toll bowl. When it rained, we could go to parking garages. I skated pretty much every day after school, all day Saturday and Sunday if possible. I even snuck out at night sometimes to skate a bit more. At the end of day sessions, we’d end up at Neil’s ramp.
I skated with my buddies Phil Kim and Tari Ahmed whenever I could; we had some really great times skating together.
I went to college in Greensboro, NC. There we had several mini ramps, a ditch called the causeway and some street decent street spots. By 1989, an indoor skate park was built. I would have liked to have gone there more often, but it was about 20 miles away and I didn’t always have access to a car. I’d skate with Nikos Chremos almost every day. We had such fun!
During the summers, I’d skate a lot of ramps at home. I went to Cedar Crest in Centerville, Virginia when I could find the time. It was a gigantic metal ramp that drew some of the best skaters on the east and west coasts. There were puck rock shows and parties there from time to time which where really fun. I’d drive to Richmond or Baltimore to skate for the day; sometimes even farther. Part of the fun was the trip to wherever the next skate spot could be found. All through high school and college, I was into hardcore shows. I’d bring my board wherever we went and we’d skate before and after the shows. If they were matinee show, we’d sometimes skate in between sets.
After college, I moved back to Washington, D.C. I started to skate a bit less because of work and other activities, but I managed to make it out about once a week. I mostly street skated, but would go to ramps whenever I could find one relatively close by.
In June of 1995, I went to Poland with the Peace Corps. I brought a street board because I couldn’t bring a ramp board as well. I brought knee pads, but no other protective gear. I had no idea what I would find. During the first three months in Poland I lived in a town called Tomasow Masowietski. Within days of arriving, I met all the local skaters and we’d street skate together from time to time. It wasn’t until I moved to the town I was posted to; Wroclaw, that I really got to do much skating. I met the locals pretty quickly there as well, and they turned me on to a few local street spots to skate. Within a year of arriving, a local company and the town council built a vert ramp. I was set. My friend Cole came over to visit shortly after the ramp was built and I had him bring the remaining safety gear and my ramp board. I would go there whenever I had the time. Being American, I was exotic and became pretty well known around town. By my second year in Poland, I was taking the train up to Warsaw to party and to skate the two skate parks there. Towards the end of my first year, I was starting to get noticed and skated on the Wroclaw leg of the Pepsi tour and was offered a sponsorship to tour Poland for the summer, which I ended up turning down.
When Silvia and I moved back to the States, I didn’t skate much. We had a busy social life and there wasn’t anything particularly cool to skate near our apartment. I still kept my skateboard in the car in case I saw something worth skating. Around 2003, I started to go to the Vans skate park, which has recently closed. I’d go with the guys on Thursday nights from time to time. It was great because it was like the adult swim at a community pool, only people our age. That was the beginning of my return to skateboarding as it were.
In 2004, a skate park opened in Alexandria near where we lived and I went there a few times while Silvia and Eva were in Spain. It had a two ramps and a street area. It wasn’t great, but certainly much better and closer than anything I’d seen up until then. I didn’t have to wait long for the skate park in North Arlington to be built and that settled it. I had skating on the brain. The skate park has two bowls, a spine and a street area. I go pretty much every Saturday morning for the daddy skate session. I hang with my buddies and skate. It’s brilliant. I see Jamie Early most Saturdays; we started skating together back in 1992. (I’ve added a few pictures to my website: (http://tysonwhitney.googlepages.com/otherinterests) for those who are interested).
This summer I’ll have three weeks without my family and I plan to live at the skate park. I’m even entering a contest on July 29, 2006. Should be fun.
Man, if you’ve read this far, you must be a skater, and if so, then indulge me while I reminisce about all the skateboards I’ve had. After skating for over 20 years, you accumulate some history with the sport and the boards. During my high school period, I had a Tony Magnusson, two Hosoi Hammerhead decks, two Madrid Claus Grabke decks. After high school, during college, and thereafter, in approximately this order, I skated Santa Cruz Claus Grabke, a Schmidtt Stick Andy McDowell, a Sims Kevin Stabb, a Vision Gonzales, a Powell Tony Guerrero, a Small Room, and an Alien Workshop Ron Allen board. After college, I had a Blind Gonzales, and a Jeremy Klein birdhouse deck: I don’t remember the model. I’m now skating a Cult Cooks deck and have a black label Hosoi set up as well as a black label Lucero long board. I also have a five points deck in the wings.