"We’re all just going for it now because who knows if it’s going to last. We build them cheaper and better than anyone else! "
Interview took place Mid May 2003.
Tell everyone how Grindline came about. Start back from Burnside or when you were a pro skater to building the Big Bowl in your back yard.
I didn’t really help out on Burnside very much, I just was there when they started doing it. I mainly started by doing masonry when I was 16 where we built swimming pools. Then we (Mark and friends) dug that bowl under a bridge in West Seattle. Then we built the bowl here (Marks backyard). I mainly just started with that. The dream is just always wantin to do it. From back in the mid eighties to when I was going all around the world to skateparks. I wasn’t really thinking ‘this would be sick to build’. I was just looking for the coolest parks.
How did you get the bowl going in your backyard that you didn’t even own?
You get enough crazy things going and one things going to pan out. We were digging under that bridge and that fell through. Then our neighbor was like ‘you can build it in my yard’ so we built it in his yard. Then he ended up moving and sold us the house later.
|To contact Grindline to build your skatepark:|
4056 23rd Ave. SW., Seattle, WA 98106
How is the big bowl doing in your yard?
It’s doin pretty good! It gets ridden. People ride it for nostalgia reasons. Lots of people ride it. I’m always thinking of redoing it, but I’m not really into redoing stuff, I’d rather just build another one.
When did you get the notion that building skateparks could turn into a living?
When I was working on them a little bit here and there in Oregon. Every time I came home I’d try to find another (regular) job and work it until they called me up again (for a skatepark job) and then go down there and work. I kept burning out jobs ya know, every time I came home they are like ‘no you’ll just leave again’. Then I did some shotcrete work and things like that. I tried to keep it in the same trade. Then finally I was like, I just got to do it on my own so I can keep busy most of the time. I got house payments and a five year old. I had to just buckle down and figure out how to do it. The experience is there, I just had to put together a team. I tell the guys that always wanted to work with us down there (OR.) you better get a job in the concrete industry. 2 years later when I got my own thing going, there they were, they were all READY. Like Carl, he learned how to run a shotcrete pump from a shotcrete pump company. We ended up buying the same pump model so he was dialed on that. Shags has worked with a bunch of other skatepark companies doing all sorts of stuff. I leave them with the park! A couple guys start it and then those guys finish it.
Are you building parks full time/ year around?
Yea, year round. We’re pretty much overlapping jobs all the time. We always get another one before the last one starts, just barely. This time we got two!
Are you forming multiple work crews?
No, we’re still just starting it out with a couple guys and then the clean-up crew comes in. We’re trying to keep it small. You get too many dudes and your gonna lose it trying to keep everybody busy. You don’t want it to blow up in your face. We’re just trying to keep it simple.
Tell me about that design on your website for the Okinawa park, I think it’s totally amazing. Is it going to happen?
The one with the plex-glass full pipe? No… that’s for the Marine Corps and they wanted 3 different designs so we gave them 3 designs and they chose a different one. They chose a little snake run and we really didn’t want to put that one up on the site. If anyone wants that one it’s up for grabs.
What is your favorite design you’ve built?
Probably our last one, Nags Head North Carolina. Every one is your favorite right after it’s done. You try to improve so much every time. The unfortunate thing about it is you go back 3 or 4 parks and you start thinking your own work sucks. People that skate it every day like it, but the improvement scale seems to be going up so fast it’s hard to stay ahead of your own critique.
What is your favorite skatepark all-time?
Probably the Turf in Milwaukee Wisconsin, or… I like them all, probably those Oregon parks. I like Kona (Florida) because it’s still there. I like this park in Spain called el ?Cabandes?. It’s a big park made out of red cement near Madrid. It’s got a big bowl and a big capsule with a channel that empties out into this huge bathtub. That park is pretty cool. Spain has got some really good older parks.
How long ago did you get your contractors permit and go legit?
About 2 years ago we got our contractors license, bonded, insured and all that crap.
What has been the most difficult aspect of getting a city to choose Grindline for a job?
Just the whole skatepark industry is pretty wearing. You put all your energy into a park or into helping people do whatever they need to do to try to hire you and it turns around and either they don’t do it or they put in on the back burner or someone else does it. No ones really looking out for our interests and we’re trying to look out for every ones best interest. So the hardest part about it is all the energy spent on jobs that don’t really happen. Now I’ve got a guy that does that now. Chris is a good guy and he’s got a lot of patience and he can deal with it. He just tells me when the next one comes in. When I ask him why the other ones didn’t happen he just tells me. You can really get discouraged with all the time and effort you put into one little project. We can draw them up a free design and spend hours and hours doing all sorts of work and all of a sudden it’s like ‘WHEEW’ what happened?
How many parks can Grindline build in a year?
We could probably do like 8 or 9 if we were really cooking. We’ve done like 6. 6 is the most in a year. I’d like to do 12 in a year. That’s my goal, one a month.
How do you bring in new people to help build?
Well people just show up on my site and they’re like "I wanna work". I usually say "No, we can’t afford it and we got enough guys." If they leave then cool.
Then they just barge it?
Yea, then they just barge it. They barge on our crew. And if they’re good and they can take the heat, cuz the veterans on the crew don’t like to deal with new people real easily. If they can make it through that, then we found a good worker.
How do you handle the street skater mentality vs. bowl rider and how does it play out when designing Grindline parks?
Most kids want street because that’s what they see. We we’re just gonna be like ‘We’re the bowl guys’, but there’s really not that many people looking for bowls. We’ll decided we’ll build some street on the decks. That’s kinda been helping a lot. We go in there now and say ‘we’ll build street don’t worry, don’t worry". We just build a huge crazy bowl and they start freaking out. Then we build a few pyramids on the decks and some little hubba ledges and stuff like that and then they like that because they got a huge bowl that’s something new. Once they (skaters) skate that they like it, if not better than, just as much as all the pyramids. We kinda force it on them. It’s kind of a force feed vertical philosophy.
I think they need that myself
Yea. People have never had that so they don’t know what it’s like and they’re not going to try it out unless you give it them. Then their always happy. If they’re afraid of that then they get somebody else or we tell them to call our last customer. It seems like every parks and rec director that hires us becomes like a salesman for us. They’re like ‘what can we do (to help spread the word)?’, because we go in there and build a park as big as we can, use all the money for labor and materials. We pretty much leave every job without making any money. Just enough to pay the laborers ourselves and buy materials. We know if we keep doing that for a couple years we could blow everyone away. In 5 years we could be the hot item. We paid our dues, but we’re just gonna keep payin them.
What are the chances of getting Grindline into Southern California or any other state that hasn’t been graced with a Grindline skatepark?
We got contractors licenses for everywhere. Our big problem is that we’re not millionaires with double the park budget in the bank. This is needed for a lot of these states. It’s called a performance bond and you need twice the amount of the contract money in the bank in case you mess up so they can come and hire someone else. That’s been our problem getting bigger cities and places to give us jobs like that. We’re not huge and we don’t have any investors.
What do you like most about completing a new skatepark?
I like to skate it. I like the look of it. You leave and you gave everyone something. You don’t just come into a town and take something and leave. You leave something. That’s the coolest part about it. Being able to have your opportunity to leave your interpretation of skateboarding around the country, that’s the best thing. Trying to open people up to different shit.
Do you feel that standards should be set up for skatepark builders?
I don’t know. There’s bad parks that go on and there’s good parks that go on and I’m not sure that standards would benefit the skatepark construction industry or the end users. It might hinder more than it does. It might be a paper tiger. Or it might work, I’m not really one to say. I know there’s a lot of politics about it. All I really know is that I hope they don’t try to start telling us how to build them.
What’s next for you and Grindline?
We’re going to go to Edina Minnesota and build a 15,000 square foot park. Then we’re going to go to Cody Wyoming and build a park. Then hopefully by the time we’re half way through Cody we’ll have another one. The guys have been on the road (this interview took place mid May 2003) since Christmas and they’re still out there. But they’re lovin it. You gotta make hay when the sun is shinin’. We’re all just going for it now because who knows if it’s going to last. We build them cheaper and better than anyone else!