chrome ball interview #40: pat duffy

chrome ball sits down with the terminator for conversation. 

Yo Pat, you gotta elaborate on this musical project you’re currently doing with Rob Welsh. Thrasher has you guys booked for a set at this year’s South By Southwest. What’s that all about?

The way it happened is that I drove up to the Foundation premiere with Dave Sypniewski from Thrasher. We were rapping about all kinds of different stuff and I mentioned that Rob and I had been playing together a lot… just acoustic-style, jamming country covers or whatever. I didn’t really think anything about it but he ends up hitting me up about doing something at South by Southwest.

Thrasher does that thing where they set-up a mini ramp and a bar and put on shows every night. The idea was to have us play a set on the last day as they tear the ramp down, just a mellow daytime set for when everybody is shot to hell.

I was into it and ol’ Welsh was down. We’re gonna get up there and suck. Butcher a few country tunes and call it a day. But I don’t mind putting myself out there like that. I’ll get up there and suck and not care about it. If somebody tells me that I suck… well, I never said that I was good.

We’re trying to get a drummer, too. Hopefully Ryan Gallant is going to play drums for us. He’s really good.

Does this band have a name yet?

Right now, it’s Patman and Robin. I want to dress up like Batman and Robin and wear cowboy hats but there’s no way I’m gonna get Rob to do that with me.

That would be incredible. You gotta talk him into that.

We’ll see. I’ll keep trying.

So on to more introductory matters, how were you introduced to skateboarding and what was your first board?

Well, I was introduced to skateboarding through my next-door neighbor, Larry. He had a skateboard and I guess as a baby, I would crawl over there and grab it from the front yard. I actually have a photo where I’m kinda standing up on it, wearing a diaper and a little white tee. I’m maybe 2-years-old.

I always had boards hanging around, like buying a Variflex board from the drugstore down the street when I was in 5th grade. Stuff like that. But I didn’t get really into skating until a few years later when I borrowed this guy’s Alva Bill Danforth. It was Halloween of ’88 and while I was just riding around, I learned how to ollie up a curb. That was it. From then on, I was hooked.

The first real board I ever had was a Steve Cab with red and black City Street wheels; all guarded-out with a skid plate, nosebone, lapper and copers. It was rad.

I know you grew up in Marin County, outside of SF. Would you make it into the City a lot as a kid? Did CBS have much of an impact on you back then? Who were some of your influences growing up?

Oh yeah, the first pro I ever skated with back in the day with was Danny Sargent. I loved that dude. But really, it was the old H-Street stuff that really had a big influence on me. They were my favorite. Hensley was a huge idol of mine but I also looked up to Ray Simmonds and Jeff Petit. They were both from around where I lived and were the biggest influences on my skating. I totally wanted to be like Ray Simmonds.

That Bay area scene of the late 80’s/early 90’s is legendary. You must’ve been making quite a name for yourself locally in order to jump onto Plan B like you did. I know you made a sponsor-me tape around this time but that team was far more elite than that…

Some of it came from going into the City and skating EMB with everyone but I also think a lot of it was from having my own mini-ramp. It actually belonged to a friend of mine but he broke his arm and quit so we moved it over to my yard. That’s how I got to meet a lot of different people. The Carroll brothers, Sarge, Rick Ibaseta, Coco, Thiebaud... people were always coming over to skate my ramp.

I remember Lavar and a few of the other little kids from the City would always have their Moms drop them off at my house to skate. Lavar was a bit younger than me but we were always friends and he was actually the one who got me on Thunder and Spitfire. He introduced me to Shrewgy at some contest and gave me a package.

Plus, do you remember that flat bar Hensley skated at Q School in Hokus Pokus? The balance beam? Well, on top of having a mini-ramp, I had one of those rails, too. My buddies and I were out skating this random school that had one when we realized that we could just pull it out and take it with us. And it was sick! People would drive from all over the City and the East Bay to skate that thing.

Was Plan B your first actual board sponsor or were you originally one of the millions residing in the H-Street amateur ranks?

Plan B wasn’t really a thing when I made my sponsor-me tape. I’m sure it was already in the works but I didn’t know anything about it yet. I just wanted on H-Street.

I remember I got Jeff Petit to take my tape over there because I figured him doing so would mean a little more instead of just randomly sending it in. But, out of the blue, I got a call from Dave Andrecht wanting to send me some boards. I was so psyched. I think I only ended up riding for them maybe 4 or 5 months before MT officially started Plan B.

How did your name get in the mix initially to be a part of that Plan B squad? You, Colin and Ryan Fabry were the only ams back then and they were both pretty big deals at the time.

It was all Mike Ternasky. I was lucky enough to be one of his picks.

I had only met MT once before Plan B but it must’ve been right around the time they were in the planning stages of it. I think they just didn’t have a name for it yet. Mike and I filmed some stuff at Embarcadero that day, some of which ended up being used in Questionable. But I guess it was after hanging out with him like that, something made him decide to ask me.

I remember that I’d just made it through the qualifying rounds of the NSA Amateur Series that year when MT split off to do Plan B. He just asked me to ride for them when, out of nowhere, Tony Magnusson calls me up. I’d never had any contact with him prior to that point but he wanted to send me out to the Am Finals in Atlanta and all this other stuff. It really came down to my choosing between the two of them. MT wanted to fly me down to San Diego for a week so I could meet the guys while Tony is offering to send me to that contest. I remember really wanting to go skate in the Finals but I didn’t know TMag at all and honestly wasn’t sure how all that was going to go. I already knew Mike and San Diego sounded great to me anyway so I blew off the contest to hang out with MT and the dudes. That’s how I got on Plan B.

You mentioned that some of your H-Street footage was used in Questionable. How long did you film for that part?

We filmed about a year or so for Questionable.

What was the vibe like during the making of that thing? I imagine your situation had to be pretty unique because here you are on this elite team as the new guy but everything you’re doing is really making these top guys’ lives more difficult. Was there any sense of competition?

If there was a sense of competition, I never picked up on it. But I’m usually not that type of person anyway. As far as I’m concerned, everybody was cool. I was just a kid doing what I was doing.

You know what I’m going to ask about next: the double-kink 50-50. I always wondered if you’d ever been to that rail before and checked it out previously?

No, that was my first time there.

I was down in SD filming for a week or so, staying at Sean Sheffey’s house. Oscar Jordan and Jordan Richter were there and Dave Schlossbach picked us all up to go skate. I can’t remember what we were doing beforehand but we were pretty much done for the day when Schlossbach brought up this rail he wanted us to look at. Like I said, everybody was pretty much cashed-out for the day but we agreed to go check it out. The thing was that I’d never seen a rail that low before. It was long but it looked safe enough so I tried it.

You’ve mentioned before about having a harder time with other stuff in that part, did you think at the time that the double-kink 50-50 would be the one to really go down in the history books?

I had no idea that 20 years later, I’d still be explaining it. It’s crazy. But thank God for that double-kink because I’m still living off of it.

Was that the trick you were most proud of in that part?

Truthfully, if it had to come down to it, my favorite thing in my Questionable part would probably be that backside smith through the kink because I worked really hard for it. It’s not like I went back repeatedly for it but I definitely lost my mind a few times trying it. I was really stoked on that one because backside smiths were my favorite trick at the time and that was my favorite rail.

…but I must’ve tried it for 3 hours until I got it. Over and over again.

Another one of those iconic images from that first video part: the backlip in the rain. What was the story with that? Did you go there with Mike and it started to rain but you went for it anyway?


That’s the Olive School rail. I’d thought about backlipping that rail for a while. I remember Tobin Yelland asked me about possibly shooting somes photos and I mentioned the backlip to him so we set-up a date to get it. The thing with me is that I’ve always hated wasting photographer’s time... but I got there and honestly, I was a little scared. I wasn’t for sure that I could even do it but Tobin was there and ready to go so I did it.

Mike saw the sequence and decided that we should get it for the video. He was already in San Jose so he came up to stay at my house, specifically to film this trick. The problem was when we woke up the next morning, it’s all wet out and looking like it’s going to rain some more. We just said screw it and raced over there to try it real quick anyway. We get out and I think that I’d maybe done one caveman when it starts raining. Like I said before, I hate wasting people’s time, so I told Mike, “Dude, I’m just gonna try it. Let me warm up real quick before it really starts to pour.”

I started skating it and didn’t want to stop. It ended up working out.

It’s weird because I had done it twice that morning, but for whatever reason, I kept wanting to get it better. I never think like that. Even Mike was like, “Dude, it’s great.” But I wanted to slide it longer and ended up slamming really hard. I tried to go at it a little slower and totally ate shit.

How was filming with Ternasky? Were you comfortable with how he’d finesse riders in order to get the best results?

Honestly, I was fine with it. People talk about the bribery or whatever but he was a really good judge of people’s ability. I don’t think that he would’ve forced anyone into a dangerous situation if he thought they would’ve really gotten hurt. H wouldn’t have pushed somebody if he didn’t truly believe they were capable of doing it.

And it’s not like he was the only person to do that bribery-type stuff. I heard Stacy Peralta used to do that shit all the time.

Totally. I actually think more so than Mike did. With Frankie Hill, definitely.

One rumor I’ve heard about Questionable involves Kanten Russell’s Plan B rejection which supposedly resulted in MT forcing the team to replicate many of his tricks for the video. Is there any truth to that?

Yeah, I’ve heard that but I don’t really know for sure. I know I never did anything in that part because of him. When I backside 180’d the Sports Arena double-set, I didn’t know at the time that Kanten had already done it. I honestly didn’t know. I’d say that Schlossbach probably knew and maybe kept it from me. I just wanted to do it because it was big and I wanted to do it.

But I don’t know if there’s any truth to that whole thing.

Were you ready to do another part for Virtual Reality so quickly after Questionable? I guess the yearly-thing was standard back then.

I didn’t really mind making another video. We just kept at it. I didn’t care about rest or anything like that back then. I just cared about skating.

I have to imagine VR being a very different experience for you. Did you feel pressure after the success of Questionable in trying to recreate that same sort of impact?

I do remember feeling it a little more but it was also a bigger stage for me at that point. Things were different for me in general after Questionable. I’d never been on tours or anything like that before. Skating in front of crowds was a different thing for me and definitely had an impact. But you have to remember, I was only 20-years-old at the time. I was just going with it. I was stoked to be living in San Diego, skating every day and partying every night.

I’ve always found your Virtual Reality part to be just as bonkers as your debut, but like you said, you were in a much different place then. Were you ultimately pleased with it?

Yeah, I was happy with it. There were honestly a few things that I wanted to get for it and didn’t but overall, I was happy.

Like what?

The Cardiel rail in SF. The gold one. I actually went to lipslide it for that part but it never happened. I was bummed on that. I also remember during the crunchtime of filming, I missed doing a kickflip backside nosebluntslide down a bench in Webb Park. There were a few little things here and there that I wish that I would’ve gotten but overall, I liked that part.

My problem with video parts is that I’m not the type of skateboarder that plans things. It might’ve worked out better for me in the long run but I’ve never done the checklists or anything. I’ve never been like that.

I think it’s more rad that you don’t do all that stuff. Now I know Rick Howard called you the day of to fill you in on what was happening with Girl. Could you see that coming?

I’d heard those dudes were unhappy. I guess they trashed the van on a tour and wrote some shit about Mike in there but I didn’t really know all that was coming. I was kinda hearing things secondhand about what was happening and the feelings that people were having toward the management.

Were you ever an option?

Nah, they never asked me. Rick definitely called to tell me what they were doing and I respected him for that. I’m glad he let me know before they all showed up at the contest with Girl shirts on. But I didn’t have the option to go. Even if they would’ve asked me, I don’t think I would’ve left. I felt very loyal to Mike.

But you kept doing your thing. It was around this time that you got the cover of Slap doing a 180 nosegrind down Hollywood High. Had anybody even skated that rail yet?

I don’t think so. I can’t say for sure but I’d never seen or heard of anybody skating there. I drove up there for that with Gabe Morford, Kelly Bird and Lance Dawes. I remember getting out of the car and messing around on it. I noseslid it first. I did that a few times and was pretty pleased with it until Lance says, “Yeah, but it’s just another noseslide.”

I couldn’t believe it. Really? That’s just another noseslide?

So I tried the 180 nosegrind.

Crazy. So this is something that’s always driven me crazy: what made you choose that Charlie Brown song in Second Hand Smoke?

Well… I smoked a lot of pot back then.

I’ve played guitar since I was 10-years-old and I remember listening to jazz one night with my buddy stoned out of my mind. We were listening to these sax solos and, in my best stoner voice, I was like, “Dude! That’s how I want to play guitar, man!”

I’d always loved that Charlie Brown tune so I went out and bought the album and was super into it. The Vince Guaraldi Trio. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to do Primus again but I don’t think that they had anything new out since my last part anyway so I went with that instead.

Do you ever get sick of people presuming you listen to Primus 24-hours-a-day?

I used to. I don’t get it too much now but back then, it was like everywhere I went, people were trying to play me Primus. “Dude, we’ll put some Primus on for you right now!”

Once Plan B shut its doors, what made you go with Think? Granted it’s NorCal but I didn’t really see that one coming.

I had a couple options but I remember coming home one day and having 10 messages on my machine. Each one ended up being from a different Think rider… like Wade, Pancho, Tim McKenney, Greg Carroll, Keith Cochraine. They all left me messages about how stoked they’d be if I rode for Think and that just got me in my heart. Like, wow, these guys really want me to ride for them. They were obviously super down so why wouldn’t I ride for them? Plus, it was NorCal and I’d known Greg throughout my whole skateboard career. It just made sense.

That Dedication part from this time is essentially 30 seconds of straight bangers. What was the story behind that one? Was that part supposed to be longer but you got hurt or something?

No, it’s because their video was basically already done when I got on. I’d been living in Lake Tahoe and didn’t really have any footy. They thought it would be cool if I get some stuff in there real quick so I went down for a weekend and filmed that stuff. That was it. Just a day or two.

That backside tail at China Banks is still ridiculous.

I’d always thought about trying that and it just kinda happened. I was there filming for that video with Drehobl and McKenney. I think we were warming up for the day and I got lucky.

What was the story with Legacy skateboards? It looked promising enough and had a solid team, what happened there?

This was when I was living down in LA. It’s not that I was burned out on Think but Drehobl had left and Wade was no longer on the team. I just wanted to try something else. Strubing and I were super tight and we always talked about riding for the same company... so when Mumford asked about Legacy and told me about trying to get Strubing as well, I was stoked.

I loved Legacy. I thought it was super cool.

Shame it was so short-lived. Did it just not catch on?

I know we did a few trips early on that were fairly expensive. We did a whole New Zealand trip and a Miami trip and both were amazing. Two of the raddest trips I’ve been on. But I think the company got itself into a hole early and after a year, Dwindle decided that there was no way of getting out of it.

It was a bummer because it was such a rad deal. The team was sick and I loved the graphics. The pirate ship and the darkness of it all was so great. We had the raddest ams, too. Shane Cross, Andrew Allen… it was heartbreaking when it didn’t work out.

Talk a little about the resurrection of Plan B. Had this idea been brought up before over the years?

Danny Way talked to me about it a little bit before I got on but it never came up prior to that. Not to my knowledge.

We were on a Transworld trip when Danny told me that doing Plan B again was on the table. At that point, they didn’t even know who was gonna be on the team or who the company was gonna be through but he knew that he wanted me to be involved. He felt he had to reintroduce it the right way first and make sure he could pull it off before bringing me in. I respected that. I was gonna agree to it no matter what.

I don’t think anybody could imagine you anywhere else. So I know you just got on Vox and have a shoe coming up. Congratulations, man. That’s really good to see.

Thanks, man. Yeah, my shoe’s coming out very shortly. I’m really hyped. I love Vox. They make really good shoes and they’re just a true skateboard brand. We just came up with a new composite for the gumsoles and it’s gonna be really amazing.

Is that your first pro model shoe?

Pretty much, I’ve made some really bad shoe decisions over the years.

I wasn’t sure if I wanted to bring some of those up...

(laughs) Yeah, I don’t mind. They didn’t seem like that bad of decisions at the time. Though I will say that Pyro was the worst. I really didn’t want to do that one. I knew straight off the bat that it was gonna suck. And then there was Recs Shoe Systems…

But it all worked out in the end. I’m psyched on Vox. It’s cool because it was actually Dave Andrecht that got me on Vox so it’s kinda gone full-circle.

Is there a full-length Plan B video in the works, too? It seems like people have been talking about that thing forever.

Yeah, we’re in the midst of filming for it. It’s set for this year or the beginning of next. Everyone is super psyched. I have some good stuff already but like I said, I’m not a planner for video parts…. though I am thinking about changing that up for this one. I really want this part. I just turned 38. I can’t go out there like I’m 25 and roll around. I get a clip now and it’s golden for me. I have to be more "on it" now.

What would you say is the most important lesson you learned from Mike Ternasky?

That’s a hard one…

I would say that most importantly, he taught me to be myself. To not ever act a certain way or do certain things just for the sake of other people.

I used to get really freaked out being in front of crowds. There’ve been more than a few times where I would skate off during demos and go hang out at the Burger King across the street. He taught me that being there was the most important thing. If you don’t feel like you’re up to skating, you can hang out with the kids and make just as big of an impact.

I’ve often heard critics cite the formation of the original Plan B as representing a real change in skateboarding, that it brought a more “jock” mentality than had been previously seen. How would you respond to that?

I don’t want to say skateboarding is a jock sport but people have embraced that side of it. I don’t think that it’s gotten out-of-control jock-ish but there are skaters out there really holding contests to a high regard. They’re out there specifically training for them with nutritionists and everything. It’s just a different mindset, a different type of rider. But I don’t think all that stems from Plan B. Not at all.

If anything, it was Tony Hawk that showed us how lucrative skateboarding could be. Being up on your consistency for contests and taking a training approach could be one of the avenues where you could take your skating if you wanted to. But I really don’t think that you can point the finger directly at Plan B for all of this stuff, no.

A complete unknown joins the superteam of its day and one-ups the world with the biggest debut in skateboarding history. Do you think that this same thing could happen again today?

It’s definitely gonna be a lot harder. You’d actually have to put a lot of effort into having stuff not come out. Especially if you’re bringing it to a level that would make a real impact, it would be impossible for word not to get out. I mean there’s literally a camera in everyone’s pocket now.

Very true, Pat. Well, that’s all I got. I can’t thank you enough for doing this. Good luck with the shoe coming out and working on that part. Anything you’d like to add? Shout-outs or words of wisdom for future generations?

Nah, I’m not that good to bestow wisdom on the future. But I would like to pass on what MT taught me: just be yourself and remember, what comes around and goes around. Do on the others… that whole thing.

I’d like to thank all my sponsors and everyone that has supported me over the years. Keep shredding.

special thanks to rob brink and pat for taking the time.


D. said...

Amazing interview. I love this site. I would love to have heard what other companies were interested in Duffy after Plan B called it quits the first time around. I do remember hearing a rumor back then that Anti Hero really wanted Duffy to ride for them. Wouldn't have surprised me though, Duffy is such a beast. Legend status.

Leiv said...

“Right now, it’s Patman and Robin. I want to dress up like Batman and Robin and wear cowboy hats but there’s no way I’m gonna get Rob to do that with me.”
^ That is too funny.
Good stuff.

Anonymous said...

Great interview.
Pat is a legend.

ciaran said...

Dope interview, love this guy's skating, he's got the best "hard basic" tricks like fs crooks, bs smiths, bs tailslide and 360 flips, always a treat to watch.
Good to hear he's found a respectable shoe company to shack up with, though I'm surprised that DC never made him a concrete offer given how much he'd wear their shoes in the past.

Anonymous said...

Good interview overall, but no questions asked about the slam on Bob Burnquist's ramp??! I mean seriously dude, that was one of the scariest slams I ever seen, and it definitely must have had an impact on Pat's life...Did he not want to talk about that subject?? Other than that, once again great interview...

ODB said...

WOW. Amazing interview. Good work Chops.

Giles said...

Awesome! Thanks Chops!

Paul said...

Super good Interview!!!His shoe looks also really good to me. Would be super psyched to see a new Duffy Part.

Have a nice weekend Chops!

Anonymous said...

Thanks Chops. Duffy should get Wray back on the B

stephen said...

^^^ yeah, wray on the new plan B seems like a no brainer...

Thanks for another good read. Duffy is def one of the best to ever do it.

chops said...

thanks guys.

yeah, pat is a true legend as well as being a really nice dude. stoked on this one.

apologies to matt mumford, who stopped by during the interview but Pat was too busy talking to my goofy ass. trippy.

anon2, i did talk to him a little about the burnquist slam but I didn't really press it. I could tell that he probably didn't want to get into that whole thing again though I'm sure he would've talked about it if need be.

We had so much other stuff to cover, I just left it at that.

Jim Dwyer said...

few have left a mark so long in skateboarding such as pat duffy. the double kink 5050 was, of course, way ahead of the times as we all know. his second hand smoke part was one of my favorites as a teenager, but i think it was also due to smoking pot and the catchy Peanuts song. i am also surprised that DC didn't do anything for him, especially with all the close connections that were tied in over there. thanks again CBI for a great read, you make my work days good and bad. good for the read but bad because i am itching to push my board right now!

Skately said...

Used to live in Lake Tahoe and knew Pat through his roommate Eden and a few other mutual friends. Was always amazed at how humble and friendly he was, no attitude whatsoever.

He wouldn't skate for months and then we'd drive into Reno and he'd dismantle the entire park within minutes. One of skateboarding's great natural talents.

Ross said...

I saw him punch this super steep vert quarter at Shady Skates right in the balls. Such a natural ripper!

Bif said...

Pat truly is a Terminator. Everything he does is amazing. I still remember the first time I saw "A Questionable Video". I was 7 and the older boy in my apartment complex who first got me into skating brought it over. I had never seen anything so gnarly. I must have rewound his part 5 or 6 times before watching the rest of the video. From that point on I stopped pretending the be Wolferine and Superman and started to pretend I way Pat Duffy because in my 7 year old mind Pat was way better than those two combined and the best part was... Pat was real!

You did it again Chops, another great interview.

When is South By Southwest? I'd like to check out Patman & Robbin and the premier of D-Way's doc.

PS: I wonder if Pat ever got a comped Hotel room or anything cool because he shares a name with Patrick Duffy (Bobby from "Dallas" and the Dad from "Step By Step")

The Chez said...

I remember being just skull f*cked watching Questionable the first time. Just the whole intro to his part was nerdy as hell but then his part dropped and you knew this video was changing things. I'd never been more scared after watching that as to the direction of skateboarding. This guy was locking on to HUGE rails and making it look smooth. No more Julien baby rails(no disrespect). Lipslides on 20 stairs? Unheard of! I know the rest of the video didn't matter all that much the first time even though it's all time as a video for me. My mind was still reeling from what Pat Duffy did.
Good job Chops! I like that you pry into things with these guys but not too invasive. I have the feeling something like the Mega bail was something you just let lie.

Anonymous said...

Man. I thought I was pretty good at skating and then when questionable dropped it was the first time I ever felt that like motherfuckers were on an entirely different level with Carroll and Duffy's part.

Keith said...

great interview. I read in another one that he was embarrassed about the mega ramp slam being in an MTV Scarred episode.

Patman and Robin lol That's awesome.

Agree with the Chez... when I first saw Questionable, his opener was super fucked to watch. The sheer magnitude of the size of the rails was beyond comprehension.

Never saw that sponsor me video before... doing lots of gnarly stuff even then including shit on that big rail and a fuzzed out 360 flip down the emb seven. It kinda trips me out back then that there were Bay area skaters that shredded and made it in the industry but weren't really EMB guys.

Duffy's a golfer as well right?

Anonymous said...

Wow I can't believe how nonchalantly he mentions lipslideing the Cardiel rail! That would have been insane.. Pat is a beast! Thank you Chops for another outstanding read.

Anonymous said...

questionnable is maybe the video i watched the most...
thank you for this pat interview. this is awesome.

Tai Kahn said...

Epic interview. Incredible skater. History made.