Marty where were you born?
Jacksonville, FL . . . born and raised.
Marty, how do you begin to explain how your family became a skateboarding fixture in the state of Florida?
Mom and Dad had some skateboards under the Christmas tree back in the early 70’s. I was hooked right from the beginning. A few years later I started skating Kona. When it closed down in 1978 Dad thought it a novel idea to buy it and make it a great place for kids and families. It re-opened in June of 1979 and we’ve been here ever since.
By the way . . . you can see that same board that was under the Christmas tree hanging up at Kona today.
Kona Skate Park is a dinosaur relative to how long previous skate parks have lasted around the United States. Scientists can’t explain it either, how has Kona Skate Park survived so long?
Probably a combination of luck, timing and keeping to the root values that Mom and Dad established as a safe, fun place for kids and families. Plus they always had full time jobs. The skate park wasn’t our main source of income until the 1990’s. We’ve ridden the wave of good and bad times for sure. There is no security in skate park ownership . . . just got to roll with the punches.
Marty, how does it feel to know that a business your family started has played an indirect part in the financial success of many other lives through skateboarding?
Not really aware of anyone benefiting financially from Kona. It’s just nice to still be here. It seems that the park has added some accessibility for some upcoming skaters . . . but skateboarders find ways to skate regardless.
As a kid growing up around skateboarding as a family business, it couldn’t of all been roses for you. There must have been some instances when you wanted to be as far away from that skate park as possible?
Being the owners kid can be a double-edged sword for sure. Its’ been a great ride so far and the benefits have far outweighed any negative stuff that has happened along the way. I moved out to Colorado in 1992 after G&S (my sponsor at the time) closed. It felt like I needed to do something different for a while. Ran a snowboard shop and got tons of riding in. Eventually I came back for a multitude of reasons. Mainly for school . . . but ended up staying because my Dad got sick.
Which do you prefer, high tops, low tops, or mids?
I prefer Vans.
One thing that I always loved about Kona Skate Park was your folk’s man!
I always felt safe and secure at the Park because of them. They always remembered my name and where I was from, and which company I rode for. You have picked up a great deal from them and I witnessed how you handled yourself at the Surf Skate Expo in Orlando like a real professional. What advice do you have for new skate park owners?
Get a real job. Skate park ownership is 90% passion and 10% business.
My parents were passionate about people. It just happened to be skateboarding that they got into. They didn’t care whom you were, where you came from, how many tattoo’s you had or if you just got out of jail. Everyone was treated with the same kindness and respect that you wouldn’t always expect at a skate
park. Let’s face it . . . in those early days they were dealing with the dregs of society. Some of the gnarliest dudes in town became great friends with my parents. And they were as main stream as it gets. Dad was an accountant and mom was the head guidance counselor at the local high school. Not any surf or skate background at all. They just wanted to have a place for kid’s that was fun and safe.
Thanks for the props on the event at Surf Expo. Its’ been great to be able to pursue those opportunities as they come up.
The Tombstone has been a proving ground of sorts over many years with skaters like Duane Peters, Mark Lake, Tony Alva, Buck Smith, Shawn Peddie, Bobby Reeves, and others building their skateboarding reps through attacking that monstrosity. Who’s idea was it to build the Tomb Stone?
Not sure who came up with that one. Mitch Kaufman probably knows. It was already attached to the bowl when my parents bought the park.
It definitely defines the park though. I’ve seen many a professional skater get broken off on that thing. That and the snake run . . . it’s way faster than it looks.
With the fiberglass stripped from the old half-pipe, it sits there under the sun holding lifetimes of memories and dissipating energy from sessions passed. What about that ramp and the skating that took place on it do you remember the most?
The old fiber-glassy ramp was so much more than I think people realize. It hosted the first-ever professional vert ramp contest. There were a few other Pro ½ pipe events before that . . . but the Kona event in 1981 was the first time there was a contest on a wooden ramp with flat-bottom and vert. It was the first modern day vert ramp as we know it.
The first summer it was completed was in 1980. The Variflex team was doing a nationwide tour, came to Kona, and fell in love with the ramp. It had a plywood surface then and and guys like Eric Grisham, Steve Hirsh, Freddy De Sota, Alan Losi and Ziggy Zigler were taking all their pool tricks and doing them on a wooden ramp for the first time. Gil Losi (owner of Variflex) and my Dad really got along well and decided to partner up and developed the Kona / Variflex Summer Nationals. The rest is history.
As far as memories of that ramp go:
- Really slippery
- Wood 2x4 for coping
- Big speed bump in the center of both walls due to all the patches
- Bob Reeves doing huge method airs and stalled inverts
- Buck Smith winning all the am events
- Chris Baucom . . . well . . . just being Chris
- Hosoi and Gator break dancing during one of many rain delays
- All the dudes from Texas . . . “shut up and skate”!
- The Summer National events with the top pros coming out each summer
- The innovation and energy of those times doing what had never been done before on skateboards . . . the list of first time tricks is waaaaaaay to long. But I will say this . . . the mute-air as we know it, was first done by Buck Smith on that ramp. A few months later it showed up in a magazine giving someone else credit.
I remember way back in the day (28 years or so) watching you skate the half-pipe and pool, ripping it up with various Kona locals. Who were your core local skaters back then and are they still skating today?
This list is so very long that I would hate to leave anyone out. A lot of them still skate . . . probably more skating than not skating. I think anyone that was around back then know who they are.
Are you able to skate as much as you’d like these days, or does the business side keep you off your skateboard more than you’d like it to?
Its’ been really tough balancing skating and working. Work has definitely won out over the past few years. I keep telling myself I’m going to get back out there on a regular basis . . . but for now it’s about once a month.
You’ve always had a large PRO Shop at Kona, in fact us St. Pete guys couldn’t wait to get in there and see all your stuff back in the day. Is it harder today to stock inventory that will move than say just ten years ago?
Retail has changed a ton over the past ten years. But the shop has always been at the heart of the business. Sometimes I describe the Skate Park business model as a Skate Shop with a Skate Park out back.
What area of Kona Skate Park has the biggest contingency of skaters?
Street is still king. But the concrete kids are starting to come up. But I think street will always be the most popular because its so accessible and the fear factor isn’t anything like pools or vert. . . . . unless you’re doing huge gaps and rails.
Where is the Kona Skate Park Marty Ramos signature model with Kona Skate Park wheels?
Probably need to skate more than once a month to make that legit.
Martin killing a backside ollie over the tunnel.
What’s your favorite fast food chain?
Not a fan of fast food.
When are you producing the script to Kona Skate Park the movie?
Ask Stacy Peralta about that one. As far as a movie or documentary goes, I wouldn’t consider anyone else touching it other than him. If he isn’t into it then it probably won’t be done.
Elaborate a little about your affiliation with Stone Edge Skate Park in Daytona?
I bought Stone Edge in 2003 after the concrete bowls were removed (except the 9-bowl). Been holding on ever since. As if it wasn’t tough enough keeping one going, but I couldn’t pass it up. Way more of an emotional decision than a business one. I spent so much time skating the blue ramp and hanging out with Team Glug that it was important to try and preserve it.
Would you consider taking donations to build additional new pools and bowls to replace older less skated structures at Kona Skate Park?
Please make payable to: Kona USA Inc.
Martin's been ripping for years! Here he is floating a lofty frontside ollie.
Why isn’t there more prize money in skateboarding?
As an industry, skateboarding is retarded. We are notorious for shooting ourselves in the foot time after time. We need to realize it’s important to promote skateboarding as an industry, and create an organized, understandable path to being a professional. Otherwise it will always be a struggle for both professionals and retailers.
It isn’t that there isn’t prize money . . . its that it’s a top feeder system. Only supports the top one percent of professionals and everyone else is left scrambling for leftovers.
Kona has hosted so many rad events like the Lords of Dogtown viewing, Old School Skateboard Reunion, Florida Skateboard Hall of Fame Inductions, Kona Anniversary with Tony Hawk, the Bowl Riders Cup recently, Grind For Life Events, what’s next for Kona in event marketing?
It would be great to bring a nationally televised event to Kona. With all the history, the uniqueness of the existing concrete and the passion that the industry shows for it . . . I feel it’s a winning situation for everyone that would be involved.
Martin enjoying a Cocoa Beach Skate Park evening Grind.
You are a businessman Marty but at your core you are a skateboarder first, who are your all-time favorite skateboarders to watch skate?
That is a tough one. Chris Miller comes to mind first . . . but being around guys like Buck Smith and Tim Johnson is like a daily inspiration. They are so raw and talented and bring a ton of energy to any session.
You ever just want to load up a van and drive around the country and skate different skate spots?
When you were a kid what was your dream skateboard set up?
One that I could spin 540 on. Still waiting for that set up.
Pancakes or Waffles?
Is there a skate park that you always wanted to skate but never got the chance to go ride ?
The Turf in Wisconsin. Ironically they just unearthed a portion of it while some road construction was clearing land. There is a big push to save it and it appears that I may be able to skate it after all.
Marty did you know that the first piece of press I got was in your Kona Flyer almost thirty years ago! Now you are being interviewed in my own Skateboarding Magazine.
Full circle I guess, I want to thank you and your family for being the first to recognize my skateboarding.
Dad came up with the idea for the mag. It seems to have impacted way more people than any of us ever realized. It was such a small thing at the time. All about our local scene . . . but with the traffic the park received, a ton of non-locals were getting coverage as well. I can still remember that White G&S side-cut board you rode.
Dang! Forgot about that deck!
Marty, how has your view on life changed since you became a family man yourself?
Family first. Kids are great. They really put things into perspective. I was blessed to have the same two parents throughout my life. Its important to make sure the things my parents engrained into me are carried forward in my family.
Do you have any companies or persons you want to thank or recognize at this time?
Anyone that has ever come to Kona and enabled us to survive for this long, and all the volunteers that continuously step up and help with events, camps, and contests. But lately its’ been the support of my wife and family. As the economy has beaten up everyone, we too have felt the pressure. It’s like old times now with all my girls helping out on a daily basis. Laurie (wife) is helping out with daily operations and Cassidy (16 year old daughter) has taken over with events and such. Roxanne (6 years old) and Scarlet (4 years old) have even started working the snack bar. It is truly a family business.
And lastly but certainly not the least . . . my Mom . . . she rocks!
Thanks for taking the time to chat with Coping Block!
Its’ been an honor.
Push, Carve, Grind!