6.26.2019

chrome ball interview #131: ron knigge

chops and ron talk gangster fish.


I gotta admit, even though I’ve been a fan since junior high… how do you say your last name?

(laughs) How do you say my last name?

I’ve always said “Kuhnig”?

Okay, it’s “Kuhniggy”. The actual correct German pronunciation is “Kuhnaygah” but my family lives in New Jersey, so there you go.

Must people just go with “Ron” or “Ron K.”

Gotcha. So what can you tell us about the upcoming New Deal resurrection? What’s your involvement with the project and what all have you seen?

Steve Douglas contacted me about a little reissue/rebrand they’re doing with the original 1990 catalog. It’s super cool, man. It’s not your typical reissue thing because they’ve recruited different artists and there’s some re-imaginings to go along with all the original stuff. It’s amazing what all they have planned.

Are they planning on reissuing any of your old boards?

Yes, which is so cool. The plan is to start out with all the original stuff and eventually go through ‘92, one year at a time. So I should have stuff coming out soon.


That’s rad. Have you maintained contact with your old ND teammates over the years? And do you still keep up with skateboarding at all?

Well, I’ve always stayed in contact with Steve Douglas but there was a bit of a lull with everyone else, just due to people moving around over the years. But through this reissue thing, I’ve been to able to reconnect with so many people… Justin Girard, Gorm, John Montessi, Chris Hall. It’s really been great hearing from everyone again.

And yes, I keep up with skateboarding still. I’ll go out and skate every now and then, which is always fun. I was actually just out skating about 10 minutes ago.

Do you still have a lot of that flatground stuff you used to do?

The crazy tech stuff from back in the day? I do, actually! It’s all muscle memory. And it’s funny because a lot of tricks, I’ll try to do a single flip but almost automatically do them double. I don’t know why that is. Maybe I’m just mechanically made for double flips or something. (laughs)

So you’re born and raised New Jersey, right?

Correct. I grew up in a town called Roseland. Just a cool little town with lots of access. I could skate through a few neighborhoods and hop on a bus to New York City.


Would you head over to the Brooklyn Banks a lot?

Honestly, I mostly stuck around here in New Jersey but I would head over there from time to time. My local spots weren’t fantastic but they worked. And we made our own fun, too. Building jump ramps, stealing picnic table benches from neighbors and getting chased out of spots. Stuff like that.

I started back in the mid to late-80’s, so this is early Bones Brigade days, you know? Everything just felt so new.

I imagine Mike V being huge for you guys.

Oh man, Mike V was our guy. To know that a local dude was in the Bones Brigade was unbelievable. Because he was one of us! It suddenly felt so real and possible. I mean, he’s skating the Brooklyn Banks in those videos! We skate there, too!

Back when the Banks were much sketchier, especially for a younger dude.

Yeah, the Banks could definitely get sketchy, it just kinda depended on the day. We’d head over there sometimes and it would be nothing but skaters, which was all good. But other times, you’d go down there and see guys hanging around, looking kinda suspect. You just knew to keep it moving.

In what way?

I remember tripping whenever I’d see a younger dude walking around with a cane… or somebody wearing a cast that really didn’t seem to be all that hurt. You had to watch out for those guys because they’d come creeping up from behind and smack you over the head with it. There was a lot of that going on.

It’s funny to think that if I ever saw anybody limping towards me with a cane, I automatically crossed the street. But that’s just how it was. I didn’t play around with that, even at age 15. (laughs)


You were “discovered” by Ed Templeton at a demo, right? But were you sponsored before that?

My friend Alyasha Moore actually got me on Blockhead flow for a little bit prior to New Deal. He hooked that up for me, almost at random. I just ran into him one day.

“Hey, I can get you some boards if you want?”

But it’s not like I had some type of career trajectory there. I did go out to Dave’s ramp once, that big Omar Hassan one, but it really wasn’t a thing. That wasn’t for very long but I guess it technically was my first sponsor.

I just kinda fell into things. It’s not like I was sending out sponsor-me tapes or anything.

So how’d that Ed demo go down?

It was Ed, Felix Arguelles, Dune and Mike V doing a demo at a little roller rink in Mike’s hometown of Edison.

At this point, there was a lot of buzz around New Deal. The ads and the Promo Video had come out but the product hadn’t hit yet. Everybody was super excited about it.

So yeah, the demo was awesome and when it was over, everybody spilled out onto the course to skate the ramps. I was just out there skating and having fun. It’s not like I was trying to show off or anything. But it was actually Felix who called me over and introduced me to Ed. I was a big fan so I’m already nervous, and then he hits me with it.

“Hey, would you like to ride for New Deal?”

I’ll be honest, I don’t even remember what I said back to him. It’s like I blacked out or something… the world started to melt. I couldn’t even believe it. All I remember is writing down my phone number for him on a little scrap of paper before walking away. My friends were all freaking out, too.

A few days later, the phone rings and my Mom picks up.

“Hey Ron, there’s some English guy asking for you on the phone.”

It was Steve Douglas, wanting to talk to me about riding for New Deal. Just like that. (laughs)


You were automatically on the team?

No, I started out as flow and then got bumped up to the actual team.

How’d you manage to get bumped up, all the way out in New Jersey?

That’s where footage started coming into play. Steve asked me to make a tape and send it in. And even though I didn’t have a camera, I was able to borrow one and film some stuff. But I remember being in such a hurry to get this tape to Steve… I thought I had to get it done immediately. Steve needs this right away! (laughs)

So off I go with a friend of mine to a local spot, a little ledge over some stairs. And it’s totally a weird time of day when we probably shouldn’t have been there. Like, rush hour with people still working… and then there’s me, skating in the middle of everything. Not the best.

The problem was, as soon as my friend turns on the camera, there’s hardly any battery left.

“Hey, this thing is about to die. The battery’s already flashing on the display.”

But instead of calling it for the day, I just go for it. Because Steve needs this tape! Lipslide to fakie, run up the stairs, 50-50, run back… I ended up doing like 20 tricks that day, all in one shot. Literally every try with no pausing because I wanted use all of what battery we had left. So I’m running around, trying to get everything I could before the camera died. And then I just mail the tape to Steve. The whole thing.   

All in one shot?

Yeah! Me talking to the camera, running back in-between tries… Everything. (laughs)

I immediately regretted sending it in afterwards, because I’m sure I looked like a mental patient. But luckily, Steve thought it was hilarious. And I was on the team after that.


Incredible. And that leads us to your big debut in Useless Wooden Toys, which probably wasn’t filmed all in one shot but definitely looks like it was filmed in one day.

Yeah, that was all pretty much one day.

The thing with most of those New Deal parts is that I didn’t have access to a camera. So for Useless Wooden Toys, Steve Douglas actually sent me out a video camera with instructions to forward it on when I was done. That’s how it was for a few of those videos.

Really? That’s psycho! What other videos did you do that in?

I want to say all of them except for Children of the Sun.

I don’t know why I never just bought my own camera. Because filming a part is stressful enough, to only have the camera for such a limited time made it so much worse. Because a lot of those tricks, I’d never actually done before. They were just things I’d been thinking about. So I was largely learning tricks on camera, which is a different mindset versus things you’ve already done before. A lot of that stuff was sketchy but I was just glad to have landed it at all.

It wasn’t until I started looking at stuff later that I wished I’d maybe given things a few more tries. But you only had so much time, you had to make the most of it.

Well, you definitely made the most out of that day for Useless Wooden Toys.

Honestly, I’ve always been self-conscious about that part because I’m wearing a new pair of Half-Cabs and had just set up a new board… Everything looks so new!

That part was before I had a car, too. So all I could do was call up my friend and go film stuff around our local spots. Like, literally down the street to a parking lot for some flatground and around the corner to hit that bench… which is funny because I’d never even skated that bench before. And I ended up filming half my part there! We just stumbled upon it that day after taking a wrong turn.

I did get a couple clips at the Brooklyn Banks, which helped. But even that was weird because there was absolutely nobody there that day. Completely deserted, which also mean that I didn’t have a spotter for going over the wall. So if you watch that clip where I do the backside 180 grab, I immediately start swerving to the side because I honestly didn’t know if there was anything coming or not. I just wanted the clip. Super sketchy.


The shuv-manual stuff you were doing back then, did you come up with that on your own?

Yeah, I’d been doing that kinda stuff for years. It was a common one for me to throw out there. Just a fun thing to do. I guess that’s just what I was feeling back then.

That song is pretty wild…

(laughs) Right!?! What is that? I don’t even know who that is?

(sings) “I want a love drug, baby! Yeah, baby!”

It’s funny because in gearing up for this New Deal relaunch, Steve Douglas actually sent that part over, asking if there was anything I’d like to take out. The only thing I could think of was the song. Because watching it again, after all these years, I seriously had to put it on mute. (laughs)

How did filming for 1281 compare to Useless Wooden Toys? Seems like you had a lot more time with that one.

Yeah, like I said, Useless Wooden Toys was all around my house, super quick. 1281 was mostly filmed out in San Francisco, staying at Justin Girard’s house.

I was about to say, that’s a lot of Embarcadero footage for a kid from New Jersey.

Total couch tour, I just bought a one-way ticket to California and stayed out there for as long as I could. I had initially gone out to Costa Mesa, just hanging around the New Deal office and getting to know everybody. And from there, I went up to San Francisco, which is what really made a difference in my part.

I still remember the first time I went to Embarcadero. Everybody was so cool and I just kinda fell into that group. I couldn’t believe nobody was going to kick us out. It was like heaven. We’d skate down there all day long.


How long were you out in California?

I can’t even remember. Like I said, I was staying at Justin’s house for a long time and after that, I stayed with Julien Stranger for a while. I actually remember going down to Embarcadero with him once, not that he really wanted to go down there. He was just showing me a route to skate there so I didn’t have to take the bus.

“That really isn’t my scene.”

It’s funny to think about because even with all the tech stuff we were doing, everybody was a Julien fan. He didn’t have to do the crazy tech stuff we were doing… we almost didn’t want him to. I know I didn’t.

But some of the best memories I have of San Francisco are cruising down the hills with Julien. Hitting stuff as we skated through to wherever. It really made you choose your tricks carefully because if you missed, he was gone. Julien was incredible.

Was this Underworld Element Julien? How’d you fall in with that dude?

He was about to get on Element, it just hadn’t happened yet. But I met him through Justin. We were already in that same SF mix and Julien had a little skate house going. Justin hooked it up for me. There were a few other people staying there at the time. Tobin Yelland had the bed to my left and Luke Ogden had the bed to my right. I was on the floor in-between.

It was definitely not the house to buy food and put in the fridge, expecting for it to be there later. Because I didn’t have a lot of money, I’d go to Popeye’s a lot and buy beans and rice, eat some and then put the rest in the fridge. I’d go to get it later and it would be long gone. Like, immediately. I swear there must’ve been a fake back to that fridge and people got into it that way. Because I would actually watch that fridge sometimes. Nobody would even open it and food would still magically disappear. (laughs)


Going back to 1281, were you just learning pressure flips in that one? Because Chris Fissell and Justin Girard were the early kings of that stuff and it seems like you were heavy in that mix.  

Oh, they were definitely the early pressure flip masters.

The thing was that I had a sprained ankle on my front foot when I first arrived in San Francisco. So if you go back and watch that part, most of those EMB clips are either nollie or switchstance, because it hurt to ollie.

It was Justin who actually showed me pressure flips one day.

“Hey, have you ever tried this?”

It honestly took me a second to wrap my head around it. But once I figured out that it was all in the back foot, I was in there! That was my good foot!

So yeah, that footage is literally me learning pressure flips. Those are basically the first ones I’d ever done. We went to a bank, so that was the first one I ever did on a bank. That one on the bank with the pivot out? First one of those I ever did, too.


You were popping them pretty well, especially for back then.

But I gotta tell you a funny thing about my opening line in that part!

I was waiting down at Embarcadero to film that day and the filmer was running a little late. By the time he arrived, I had to use the bathroom… there was an office building there in view, I’ll just go in there.

So I’m in the stall, doing my thing, when I look down and see these two feet facing towards me under the door. I look up and there’s a face pressed against the crack where the door meets the wall… and a big crazy eye staring at me!

I scream out “What the fuck!?!” and punch the door!

Next thing I know, he runs over to the stall beside me and starts trying to climb over to get me. I grab my board and he falls back… because I was about to hit him as hard as I could.

So he ends up going to the sink and pretends to start washing his hands, but I can see from the stall that he’s just staring at me in the mirror. Then he goes over and opens the door, pretending to leave… but I can see him hiding against the wall!

“Dude, I don’t know what the fuck is going on with you…”

Silence. Luckily, some other people came into the bathroom and he left. So I was able to get out of there but I’m really freaked out, obviously. I keep on looking over my shoulder... It didn’t seem like a sex thing, though. The guy was just nuts.

And yeah, a few minutes later, I do my line at EMB that’s in 1281. (laughs) 


Jesus, man… Well, you brought up visiting the actual 1281 New Deal headquarters at this time, what was that like to walk in to?  

Oh man, it was mind-blowing. Basically like the manifestation of all that magic. Because on one hand, you had Andy Howell going off in his little studio, drawing all of these amazing graphics with music playing. But at the same time, you had Paul Schmitt in the back, doing his thing. The Professor at work, coming up with all of these crazy new board constructions and concaves. Stuff that would seriously revolutionize how skateboards are made.

One thing that always sticks in my head is all of the questions Paul used to ask me about my board.

“Why are there so many stickers on the nose?”

“Oh, I don’t know. I just like the way it looks.”

“You know you’re throwing off the balance of your board, right?”

I’d never really thought about it like that before… but he was right! And, of course, him saying that got inside my head so I only put stickers in the wheel wells afterwards. Gotta keep everything in check! (laughs)

After 1281, New Deal seemed to fracture off a bit with Underworld Element and Ed and Mike starting TV as well. What was going on there? Did it just get too big?

It wasn’t that it got too big, it was more of just the natural progression of things. I feel like the initial approach of having a skater-owned company was to see if they could actually pull it off. And once it did, that made the possibility of doing even more projects that much more realistic. With everyone being so creative, things just naturally branched out on their own.


Didn’t Ed ask you to ride for TV?

He did. This was before I had a model out on New Deal, Ed and Mike offered me a board on TV… Steve Douglas was planning on turning me pro for New Deal, too. It was in the cards, it just hadn’t happened yet.

But that was a hard decision for me, as I really did consider both TV and New Deal to be my friends. It was hard having to choose between them. Because while New Deal was the company that had given me my chance in the industry, it was Ed Templeton who actually got me on New Deal to begin with.

I’m terrible at decisions. I never want to hurt anyone’s feelings or do the wrong thing. And I even remember Mike V pulling me aside at one point to tell me, straight-up, “Whatever you decide, it’s cool.” To hear him say that meant so much, because he was basically my childhood hero!

In the end, I wanted to be loyal to New Deal and everything they had done for me. With New Deal having started as a rebuke to Brad Dorfman, who was now backing TV, I was afraid that my leaving for TV would’ve been seen as a slap in the face to Paul Schmitt and those guys. I didn’t want to do that.

I actually talked to Mike V about it again, years later, and he thought I’d made the right decision. Because you never want to be that butterfly, constantly floating around to the next shiny thing. I think I made the right choice.

Any other offers from board brands over the years?

Not really. I’d hear things every now and then but I never really paid it any mind. I never pursued anything.

One of the funniest things was back when I was Blockhead flow, they actually cut me from that. I got a little letter in the mail, saying that they weren’t going to be sending me boards anymore. But not too long after that, I was skating around at a local contest when some dude from Blockhead actually came up and asked me to ride for them.

“Oh, I’m actually on New Deal. Sorry.”

I gotta admit, that felt pretty good… even though I didn’t have the heart to tell him that they’d already cut me from their flow list. (laughs)


But with New Deal fracturing off, Da Deal isDead felt like your big project, having a three-minute long ender part like that.

Yeah, it’s almost too long. Honestly, there are a few tricks in there that feel a little too similar for my taste. How skateboarding was at the time, you’d typically just go out and experiment with tricks but I feel like all of that stuff found its way into my part somehow. I wish I could’ve had a hand in the editing, for sure.

But I love the whole vibe of Da Deal is Dead because it still had that early New Deal vibe to it, even down to the VHS cover. I feel like we started getting away from all that afterwards.

Was that part you still passing along the camera? Because it feels like several months to me.

Yeah, I was still passing around the camera. So no, I didn’t film for very long on that one either… maybe a week? There are a lot of tricks but most of them are at the same two spots, along with some Woodward stuff.

A lot of that part was filmed at this abandoned gas station in a pretty sketchy area… which was fun to hit because it was empty and nobody really cared.

“You want to hang out here? Good luck!”

And then there was a college in town that you could also skate all day as well. So between those two spots that you didn’t get kicked out of and some skatepark/skatecamp stuff, I was able to put together a part pretty quickly.


Was the Brand New Heavies track your pick?

Kind of…We all got a list of song choices to choose from. So yes and no.

And that guy jumping off that fence in the intro?

(laughs) That was at Woodward. Steve had sent me up there to hang out for a bit. They had a fun course and I got to teach people tricks. But we had the camera going on one of those afternoons when a random camper hit me with the “Hey, film this!”

And off he went! It was hilarious. A lot of people thought that was me but it’s not. And that’s actually Tom Boyle in there as well, scaling the rafters above the indoor street course and dropping into the quarterpipe on his butt. He was raging drunk, Spiderman-ing around the ceiling. No net. And I was sure things were about to end badly… both for Tom and the street course. Because he wasn’t a small dude. (laughs)


So good. Why the aqua motif in your graphics? The gangster fish and the sharks?

I’ve just always had an affinity for sharks. It’s like a fear and a love.

I remember talking to Jose Gomez as my first board was coming together. I’d picked out the shape and was talking to him about graphics. He had a graphic already that he’d drawn for Felix and Planet Earth that wasn’t being used, which actually had an underwater theme. We didn’t end up using that as it just didn’t feel right to use somebody else’s rejected graphic for your first board, you know?  But I feel like that’s what got us heading in that underwater direction. We started kicking around ideas and Jose wanted to mesh in some street stuff, too. Next thing you know, I got some gangster fish… You know how it is in the shallows, man. (laughs)

How much input did you have in your graphics? Like Frog & Toad and the Sugarcubes?

It’s kind of a mixed bag. Some boards were all my ideas, while others, I had no input with whatsoever. I wasn’t always on top of every single one of them but I did have a few good ones. The Frog and Toad one is a favorite of mine. Gorm did that after I told him what a big fan I was. He was laughing at me the whole time but it came out great. I really like the Sugarcubes one, too. I was madly in love with Bjork back then.


What has kept you in New Jersey all these years?

I’ve just always liked the East Coast. I feel like there’s more of an edge here… although I would definitely feel isolated quite a bit, too. But even to this day, if I would move anywhere, it would be to San Francisco. I love that city and have always felt great every time I’ve gone there.

Why didn’t you move?

I don’t know. I ask myself that question a lot actually, especially when I think about my skateboarding days. I could just never pull the trigger.

Because your next part in Whatever is literally filled with snow plows, parking garages and double sweatshirts.

Large bulky fabric. That was the style, man. (laughs)

Was that filmed in the dead of winter or something?

Whatever is a weird one because it kinda came out of nowhere. I hadn’t been skating for weeks leading up to it because not only was the weather bad, I’d also been hurt. And honestly, I didn’t even know that a video project was coming up like that. Until one day, a camera shows up… like, aw shit.

Well, let’s go out and find some parking garages to film in.

As an outsider, that video did feel like it kinda came out of the blue.

(laughs) Even as a rider, it came out of the blue. There wasn’t a lot of notice on that one at all. We were all down to do it, of course, but I feel like there wasn’t much of a gap between Deal is Dead and Whatever.

Maybe 6 months?

Yeah, it definitely came quick.

It’s funny because there’s some footage in my part from a warm day… one warm day. In every other clip, it’s literally freezing outside. So yeah, that part was a bit of a scramble for me. There were just so many factors lined up against me. I mean, there was a foot of snow outside, man! That’s why it’s almost all parking garage footage, I had nowhere else to go! But I still had that deadline.

Trying to put that part together was the worst.

But you were still able to get 5 minutes of footage! How consistent were you with all of this technical stuff? Because at this point, we’re in super tech mode.

I was actually pretty consistent with most of the tech stuff. I was never one to camp out for too long, trying something over and over again. That was never me. With a few of those spots we skated back in the day, like I said, they weren’t in the best areas. You learned to be consistent because you wanted to get the hell out of there.

There are a few clips in that part where I was very much doing something for the first time. Things that I’d been thinking about. And it’s funny because I think if I would’ve gone about some of that stuff in a different way, not necessarily in a late flip way but with regular kickflips and heelflips, a lot of those tricks might now be considered forward-thinking and not so of the time.


Had you ever done a switch triple flip before?

I could just do that stuff somehow. It’s kinda wild to think back on.

When switchstance became such a thing, I just got really into it. We all did. Because it was lying right there under our noses for so long. Once street skating had evolved enough with more functional board shapes, I feel like we all got so excited about the potential. It was a whole new way of thinking. Experimenting with tricks became the thing to do. That’s just where skateboarding was at the time.

My approach was always about looking down and wondering what was possible… I guess I just got caught up in that for a while. 

What was your process like with new tech tricks back then?

There was some visualization but I feel like a lot of tricks actually stemmed from happy little accidents. Bailing or getting caught in something the wrong way and suddenly you had a new idea. Like, if you’re doing a tailslide but it’s not as slick as you thought and you fall forward, your board will almost automatically do a shove. Realizing that for the first time is like an “oh” moment. Maybe I could shove-it and land back in the same slide? That sort of thing. Or if you’re doing a bluntslide and you bail, accidentally kickflipping it. Unlocking things on accident and then going back to try them again on purpose.

In most cases, my ideas for tricks would hardly ever work. They either didn’t flow or just weren’t practical. But those other tricks that I basically found by accident always turned out to be a lot of fun.

Example?

Nollie flipping out of crooked grinds, you can also just push it forward with your foot and it will still flip. That was something I learned completely out of the blue for that part. But when you make that, more ideas pop up. Can I go 180 with it? What about a varial?  It was easy to get caught up in that mode of thinking.


If switch triple flips didn’t give you much trouble back in the day, what’s something that did?

Probably the most frustrating thing for me back then was becoming so fixated on all this tech stuff that I forgot about simpler, cleaner tricks. Essentially taking all of those building blocks for granted. You end up driving yourself crazy on these tech combos, only to realize that coming out clean with something simpler feels so much better.

I was going to ask where style came into all this. Because for most, it did seem like style took a bit of a backseat at this time, in favor of simply landing the trick.

Yeah, there was a lot of that. And I was definitely guilty of that while trying to learn all this new stuff.

It’s like we forgot that we’d actually have to look at this stuff later. Because watching it now, a lot of this stuff could’ve been so much cleaner. Why didn’t I go faster? Why didn’t I do that at a different spot? You can always pick things apart but I think when it came to this era specifically, there was just so much stuff going on. I was so preoccupied with progression and landing stuff that had never been done before… we’ll worry about style later. (laughs)


But in this same part, you do a nollie 540 varial double flip. How does that happen?

That one was honestly a goof.

Really?

Yeah, I was just messing around. A friend of mine had said something about doing a nollie 540 double flip and it just became this jokey thing… so I did one. But that was seriously just a total goof.

It was only a couple of tries.

Jesus…

Yeah, I could just flip that thing. The board I was riding had a lot of pop off the front and was lightweight enough in the back…

It’s those damn stickers again! But wasn’t that an ad?

(laughs) Yeah, it was a full-page ad. New Deal saw the footage and immediately wanted to use videograbs for an ad.

 I just remember thinking to myself, “Oh man… Maybe the joke’s on me!”


But didn’t this ultra-tech stuff start to feel like a bit too much after a while? That things had gotten so complex that they just weren’t fun anymore? 

1000% yes.

I want to say after the Whatever video, I felt things had gotten a bit too far out there and I was consciously trying to reign it back in. I got really into enjoying a more simplistic approach to my skating. Doing things cleaner. And I feel like I was actually having fun again. Not that the late flip stuff wasn’t fun, it just didn’t flow very well. Even if you hit that stuff clean, it still has a tendency to stall out on most terrain, you know? It just loses something.

But the tech stuff not only started to feel stagnant, it also just all started to feel the same. Just too much and I reached a point where I intentionally stopped doing a lot of those tricks on purpose.


Did you arrive at this on your own or did somebody possibly say something? Because there was a backlash against this type of skating in ‘93.

It was a little bit of both. I was definitely arriving there on my own but at the same time, I feel like myself and New Deal, in general, had become typecast by that style of skating… especially after the Whatever video. We were seen as the super tech team, which was never our intention. Not that everyone on New Deal was super tech… John Montessi, for example. But I feel like New Deal helped usher in tech skating early on and a lot of us got stuck in that mode for a while.

Like Julio De La Cruz going bonkers with all that underflip and half-flip stuff…

Duct taping his board to a tree. The dude didn’t even need trucks anymore! I still remember seeing that for the first time, like, “What are you doing!?!” (laughs)

He was into some crazy stuff, for sure. Jumping up and karate kicking it. It was wild, man. I mean, I’m all for people doing what they want. It was fun and different, but you just knew that it had probably gone too far by that point.


Children of the Sun felt like a change of tone for New Deal overall, and your part specifically. It really is a great part. Was that project a conscious decision to dial back the tech in favor of cleaner lines?  

I’m happy to hear you say that because I’ve always been a little uptight about that one. It was fun to film and was cleaner, for sure, but I remember feeling like I could’ve put a little more in there. I was working on so many things back then.

At one point, there was actually a plan for Jordan Richter and I to hop in a car with the camera and make a video together. Because he didn’t have much for Children of the Sun, this video was just gonna be the two of us. I always thought that would’ve been cool but it unfortunately never happened.

I can understand the uneasiness, though, as that part was a pretty drastic change from the 4-trick tech combos in your last part. 

It’s not that I was nervous because it wasn’t crazy tech, I just felt like I didn’t have enough in it. The things that I was working on, they weren’t super tech either. I just feel like they would’ve rounded out that part a little better. Made it more complete.

It was fun skating cleaner but I think it could’ve been a little more progressive. I wish that I could’ve gotten outside of my head a little more, instead of just going with straight kickflips and heelflips so much. I could’ve been more imaginative there… but at least I was enjoying my skating again. That was refreshing to me.


You had some really great lines in there.

The opening line at Lockwood was supposed to be longer but I rounded the corner after that switch flip and Joey Suriel had moved the benches I’d set up. (laughs)

I think there was supposed to be a heelflip 5-0 and a few other things in there. But we didn’t get to do a 2nd take because some kind of gang initiation had started up in the yard. All I know is that there were some gunshots and a group of adults stomping these two kids on the ground. I thought they were gonna kill them! In the raw footage, you can hear the gun shots and I look into the camera with these wide eyes. Jody Morris and I tried to stay cool but when we saw those kids crawling out, beaten to a pulp, we knew it was time to get out of there.

That fence suddenly looked twice as high after all that went down.

Was Buffalo Tom your choice? A stark contrast to those prior Diamond D and Grand Puba jams, which might’ve made that part feel even more different.

I’ve never really thought about that but you’re probably right… and yeah, that was the same scenario where we had a list of songs to choose from.


What about that crusty old ledge you boardslid in that part? Like three-stories high. Did you ever get that thing?

That was a wild one, man. Because there was a giant crack at the bottom of the ledge, right where you land. That was the problem. Because I had actually made it before... I don’t know if that crack wasn’t there before or what, but on the day we were filming, I just kept hitting it. Over and over again. I bruised both of my palms and both of my heels. It was the worst. And after hitting that crack a couple times at speed, I was over it. So I never actually got a clean ride off on tape.

The top was super rough, too. I could barely even roll on it. We probably should’ve got some plywood but the ledge was extra chunky, too. It was literally eating my board. Some proper Jersey crust for you. (laughs)


And the proper fakie tre flip to fakie manual for your ender…

That was in Santa Monica. I was skating with Pat Channita that day, right before he got on Plan B. He was actually talking about it as we were skating. But yeah, I’d been messing around with that trick for a while. I remember telling Steve Douglas about how I was hopefully going to get it for the video. At the time, he would always wear this vintage Fred Perry jacket that I really liked, so he decided to make a little deal with me.

“If you hit that trick for the video, I’ll give you my jacket.”

And I did it! I won his jacket. True to his word, he gave it to me.

Fast forward to 2010 or so, I ended up mailing it back to him. I never even wore the thing… because it was always Steve’s jacket! It was such a funny thing for him to give it up, I couldn’t keep it. I had to send it back but I appreciated the gesture.


So I gotta ask what everyone is wondering… what happened, Ron? Why’d you just disappear like that?  

Yeah, I just kinda walked away, which is weird because I was probably doing some of my best skating in ’95. I was healthy and on my own little hellride… getting back to what I always felt was pure skating. Going fast and hitting things hard. Wheels were getting bigger and it was fun to pop things high and clean.

But this is back when skate fashion was still baggy and saggy, but starting to get a little more designer, too. Shoes were becoming more athletic… trying to look “fresh”. I was on the total opposite end of the spectrum at that point, wearing low-top dirty Vans with no socks, a bent brimmed hat with salt stains and Dickies.  Just a totally different place. And I honestly felt so detached from the skate community as a whole. Because I just didn’t know what to do with it, you know? I wasn't sure where I fit in, or if I even did fit in. Not quite being in alignment with the current trends left me feeling alienated and separate from something I always felt so connected to… I was going through something that I can’t quite explain. Some kind of conflict in my head. Spending a lot of time alone and just trying to get back to center. It’s not that I was feeling old or in the way with it, I just wasn’t feeling all the way there with skateboarding anymore.

At the time, I was hitting up this street that was under construction. It had all of these metal grates and large plastics, so I basically set up a little course. I told Steve about it and promised him some footage, because I was excited to share all the new stuff I was working on. The problem was that all of my old skate friends were no longer skating. I only had one guy that I could ask to film, but after being stood up multiple times, I just stopped asking. I was simultaneously motivated and frustrated. And honestly, a little embarrassed that I didn’t have any of the footage I promised Steve, not that it was my fault.

I kept on getting brushed off by this guy who was supposed to be filming me, so I’d just skate around on my own, you know? I ended up hitting the line of my life at that spot, the one that I was hoping to film the whole time. And the only person who saw it was this homeless guy… and he clapped. I still remember that dude, so awesome. (laughs)

I got home around 1 in the morning or so. I was happy but I’d also been thinking about things. I ended up making the decision to leave my board outside of my apartment building in a dark corner. If it was there in the morning, I was all in and probably going to move out of New Jersey. If it’s not there, I’m out. I’ll quit. A total flip of the coin. Either way, I knew that I just needed a change. No more bullshit.

I woke up around 7:30 in the morning and looked outside, the board was gone. I called Steve Douglas up that afternoon and quit.

In many respects, I broke my own heart. Because it was really hard for me to leave like that, but it was my decision. I cried after that phone call, because I didn’t know if I was doing the right thing. I felt like I had more to share but I’d also changed so much as well.

It’s wild to think back on all this stuff now… because I was only 22 at the time.


Were you just in a rut, perhaps?

I think so. I was spending a lot of time by myself… Not that I mind skating alone, I loved that. But I just felt so isolated, especially as a professional skateboarder. Here I am, trying to do all this stuff and I felt like I just couldn’t get anything accomplished. Like I said, most of my friends had now quit skating, a few of them had moved on to hard drugs. The scene had changed so much and it didn’t feel like me anymore.

But you obviously had talent. Skateboarding was just in a weird place for what would be the biggest years of your career. You had some really big sponsors back then who all seemed to back you…

Yeah, Vans, Thunder and New Deal were always very supportive of me. I rarely had to call them to ask for anything and I always appreciated that.

But there was also a lot of vibing back then, too. You’d always hear about people saying this and that. It all seemed pretty vicious. And in a way, I felt like I almost had to prove myself all over again after those early videos. That I wasn’t just ultra tech. And I was up for that. I always felt like I had been typecast with that stuff. Because the tech stuff was only one aspect of my skating, there was always more to it than that. I just rarely filmed it.

Do you regret walking away when you did?

I just didn’t expect to lose touch with everyone. That’s where the real regret lies, which was never intended. Because these were pre-cell phone days, I lost contact with everyone. That was the hardest thing to deal with. Because I fell off the map entirely.


Was this considered a retirement?

Yeah, Steve Douglas and I were actually working on a retirement board. He is such a father figure to me and after we had our little talk, he insisted on doing a retirement board for me. I can’t remember the ins-and-outs of it but my retirement board never materialized for whatever reason.

What was the graphic?

I can’t tell you because Paul Schmitt recently brought up the possibility of finally putting it out. (laughs)

That would be so awesome to put it out, all these years later.

I honestly want it more as a way of saying my proper goodbye. I feel like I never got to the chance thank everyone back then, which I’ve always regretted. I realize that the people who know me are aware that I appreciate everything, but to finally be able to say so properly is very important to me.

Were you at all bitter over the years?

No, quite the opposite, actually. It was all love. I’ve always felt like I could’ve done more but I was never bitter about it. Nothing but fond memories.

But were you still skating?

I skated a little bit after all that, but nothing serious. And I’d still pick up a magazine every now and then to see what was going on. But I was done. I started going to school and getting into making cakes, actually. Just moving on with things. 


Because you seriously just missed a New Jersey explosion that was about to take place only a few years later…

I did. I totally did. Which was awesome to see but also weird for me personally after being an isolated pro in New Jersey for so long.

I couldn’t help but feel like, “Oh yeah? …of course!” (laughs)

Could you foresee that happening at all back then? Did you ever get approached by any of those companies?

I knew a lot of the people involved and was happy for them. But no, I was never approached by any of those companies, like Zoo York or whatever. I was probably too far gone by then.

Do you think moving or possibly switching sponsors might’ve helped things work out a little differently?

Well, after Mad Circle got more established, Justin and I actually talked about me going over there. Because I was really close with both him and Gorm Boberg. Those guys were like my brothers from other mothers. On Mad Circle, I would’ve still been under the Giant Distribution umbrella, kinda like when Rick Ibaseta went to Underworld Element. Plus, I just wanted to grow and be back in SF. I felt connected there and that creative atmosphere around Justin would’ve been healthy for me.

I thought it would’ve been a perfect fit but it didn’t quite work out with Giant, unfortunately. I feel like that was a pivotal moment that probably indirectly influenced the decisions that I’d make with my career shortly there after.


When was the last time you watched any of your parts? And which one would you say is your favorite?

I have watched Useless Wooden Toys and 1281 pretty recently but I haven’t seen the other ones in a minute. And I’d say that 1281 probably sticks out in my mind the most. Just because I was having so much fun. Being in San Francisco at that time was incredible.

So all of these years later, what does your time on New Deal mean to you?

It means everything to me, to be honest. I look back on those times almost with disbelief. Obviously, being able to witness so many amazing things firsthand but also meeting these people who would play such an instrumental part in something I love. Being a part of that family. New Deal was this huge experiment that actually worked. And even now, touching base with everybody all these years later, there’s still that bond. Genuine friendships that were born out of something so special. I love those guys.

What are you most proud of in your skateboarding career?

Just having the nerve to go forward and do it. Because it’s so easy to be intimidated. I’ve always been a bit of an introvert. I tend to get excited in observing what other people do, so I’m proud that I was able to find my own way into the session. That I could express myself like that from within. It can be hard to put yourself out there like that sometimes. I’m glad I did.

special thanks to steve douglas, ron, dalynn, ziggy, zappa and zoe.

14 comments:

Matos said...

Such a good interview. His skating always kept me hyped. Still to this day it gets me pumped. Golden era.

Anonymous said...

Legend! Thank you for this!

Anonymous said...

Great interview! Still remember him touring Australia in the early 90s.... he blew minds with his consistency and tech : )

Temple said...

Such a rad and influential skater - pioneered a lot of NBDs with a good vibe :)

Anonymous said...

So good.

Would’ve loved to seen him on Mad Circle.

nettic said...

Love this. Was a huge fan. And honestly, I loved the style. I loved the thrill of the 'first make'... skating was in hyperdrive at that time. 6 months then was like a decade now.

Can I also just say, Ron's flatground lines in 'Useless Wooden Toys' (1990), are as pivotal and important as Ray Barbee 'Public Domain' (1988) flatground lines... Can you believe there are only 2 years apart?

Anonymous said...

Ron, im from north Caldwell nj, and 44, people in the 80's would talk about you, like' I just saw ron do a ho- ho at bradlees on Bloomfield ave', I guess that was your skate plaza, anyway you slayed weasel park in clifton that shit was dope, anyway, I never met you but it's cool you were the local legend. - Victor

Anonymous said...

Been waiting/hoping for this interview for years. Exceeded all expectations.

Anonymous said...

Thank you both. So rad.

Unknown said...

Great interview...👍👍👍

Unknown said...

Good stuff....👍👍👍

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