Growing up in Alhambra in the summer of 85 was not your ordinary summer. That year my old man and I built my first quarter pipe/launch ramp. I call it a mix of both because the transitions were horrible and if you went too fast you could launch out of it. It had no coping and the wood could splinter the hell out of you if you weren t careful. I would bring it out every day and usually session by myself or with my friend Daniel Riggi.
I was lucky enough to have skated Pipeline Park a few times and was just learning how to work transitions. Street skating was an everyday event, to school and back. Skateboarding was beginning to become a way of life, not just an “I’m bored” activity. One day while working the ramp, my neighbors Walter and Henry came by. They were brothers who lived up the street and we had known each other from back in the BMX days. They heard I had “this ramp” and wanted to skate it. It was the first time I had ever seen someone Ollie up a curb. I was amazed, ecstatic. I had to learn that. Luckily for me the brothers were super cool and taught me a few tricks. I watched as they did airs off the ramp and something called a “boneless”. After the session my mom hooked us up with some kool-aid and they began to talk about a place called Phil’s Ramp.
The Channel – a ‘New Thing’ in skateboarding
This clip above is from Alec Schroeders ‘Beneath the Grey Dome’ Zine.
Phil’s ramp was a vert ramp not to far up the street from my house. It was near our local bike/skate shop called Main Bikes. According to the Walter it had a thing called a “channel” that was like a slide you went down on your board. I had to check this place out. After a few kool-aids and some cohesion, Henry gave up the directions. He told me it was really hard to get into and most of the time the sessions were “private”. I was not deterred, if anything I was more intrigued. My mission was simple, get in and get down at all costs.
The very next day I was on it, rode through Chapel to Main. Driveway sess slides and baby ollies along the way. When I came to the ally I could feel my heart beating in my chest. How would it all go down? Could I even get in? If I did then what? All these emotions flowing like a water bottle being emptied. As I approached the gate, I could hear strange noises. Sounds of plastic on wood and bangs and cracks, wheels rolling back and forth. Cheers with ohs and ahs. As I looked over I saw it, this gigantic, enormous wooden structure. All the pictures I’d seen in Transworld couldn’t even do it justice. I lost myself in the panels and layers of wood that created its’ shape and size. Then out of nowhere a voice screamed out form the distance, “who the hell are you?” I would later learn it was Bobby Kwan, keeper of the keys, master of the gate. I gave my rehearsed song and dance about Henry and Walter and how I was to meet them there that day. I got lucky, the brothers were well liked and their names got me in. I was instructed to sit on the bricks near the middle of the ramp and not bother anyone, period. I watched as local rippers like Tim and Eric (don’t remember their last names) threw up inverts and back side airs. Some dude named Dog killing it with boneless over the channel. All out skate and destroy, no holds bar vert shreddage. Then I heard the voice that would stick with me the rest of my life. A voice so powerful it shook me to the core. The voice of one Steve Mokler. “Moke” as he was called was a man of immense stature. You could tell he was “the man” just by the way he skated. Every time he did an invert, his muscles would pop out of his arms’ like some kinda secret weapon. He would become a huge influence on my skating and one of the people that taught me how to ride vert. I was never really good at it, but at least I could hold my own to some degree.
It was an amazing time in my life and that of skateboarding. I would session Phil’s ramp all the way until 1989. The funny thing is in all those years I only met Phil on three different occasions and only skated with him once. Bobby Kwan however would be a presence in my life for some time until I lost track of him in late 1989. 1990 they cut the ramp down to a mini-ramp and after that I went off to college. Skateboarding became a “liquor-store” run tool and a way to get around campus. Phil’s ramp will always be one of the greatest parts of skateboard history as far as I’m concerned. As I look down from over the hill, those memories make the hike downward a lot easier…
Many Thanks to Alec Schroeder for scanning in these Beneath the Grey Dome (B & W) images to share with us. The color pictures are from the Walrus’ personal collection.