The Bryan Ridgeway Interview in Coping Block Skateboarding Magazine
By Cleo Coney Jr.
Coping Block Skateboarding Magazine
CB – I’m hearing it’s pretty much unanimous that you are in the upper echelon of knowledge holders with respect to what’s happening in the skate industry. Why is it so difficult to get a discussion about your experiences?
BR – Three things come to mind Cleo.
● It’s not that it’s difficult to discuss, it’s just easier not to be bothered discussing. (Laughing) ● Honestly, I just never thought it was all that much interesting to people that aren’t involved in it. ● I’d say skateboarding itself is the primary draw, why muddle it with the BS that occurs in this industry (good or bad)?
CB- Bryan you’re currently living in California, but where are you originally from?
BR- I was born the third son of Raymond and Sylvia Ridgeway; raised well, and given my first skateboard by my cousin Chris Kennedy in Huntington, West Virginia.
CB- I know you are one of the most, if not “THE” most, confidential guy in skateboarding, but hopefully for our purposes you can give a little insight as to what it has been like to work and grow within the business of skateboarding. In a nutshell what’s it been like?
BR- Well, it’s been “N” SANE! A lil’ skinny kid from West Virginia that sent dollar bills to companies for brochures and stickers, that ended up having the opportunity of a lifetime. I thought I was lucky then and I still feel that way today after twenty-five years of contributing to the growth of an industry. On the confidential accolades, I have a “TELL ALL” book release for March 2035”. (Laughing) Wonder if there will actually be books then. “Those who know don’t tell and those who tell don’t know!”-Do tha right Thing.
CB- Bryan, what was the cog that set it all in motion?
BR- Hmmm, back then in the early 80’s it was like an apocalypse had happened. Only the most enthusiastic and passionate skaters had survived. There was no outside communication to other skaters in other areas. I wrote notes to skate companies as a lifeline for information. Since I like my Powell-Peralta / Tracker setups, those were the companies I sent letters to. Todd Haistings and Stacy Peralta responded from Powell and there were two women sending notes back from Tracker. Peggy actually understood skateboarding and I had never heard of a woman knowing “ANYTHING” about it before that, who wasn’t a skater. Stacy really kept me motivated to keep moving forward even if I was alone at times. I was now getting product from Powell Peralta and Tracker regularly. That was awesome! When Thrasher Magazine started! It was like I found an inhabited planet that could sustain life again! Thrasher had a huge impact on my life. I carried their skate magazines around like bibles…everywhere. Then I started an underground skate zine and joined a network that Thrasher had published. (The Monthly Shredder) I helped build a twelve foot-wide half-pipe with my friend John Wittpenn after Thrasher published the “HOW TO BUILD A RAMP” article. Then I saved my summer job money and bought my first plane ticket at seventeen years old. Destination, LA. I hit up Nor Cal and So Cal by taking buses and reading maps. I had made previous contacts via the “skate zine network” and stayed with them mostly. Chris May in Long Beach and GSD (Garry Scott Davis of Ohio) now living in Nor Cal. I met Neil Blender and John Lucero while at Whittier skate park. They were very cool to me. I met Tracker Trucks owner Larry Balma, and Tony Hawk at the Del Mar contest, which was a Rusty Harris Event. I slept in an outdoor press box for RC cars beside next to the park. Ants were all over me by the morning.
CB – Dang Ridge, talk about skate dedication!
BR - Larry Balma introduces me to Craig Stecyk III. He informs me he writes for Thrasher, but it was under another name. I didn’t know it, but I had been sending my skate zines to him for quite a while. Craig walks me to a white vehicle and has me sit down in front of it. Takes a picture of me and then he was is on his way. Dude took the photo and just walked away without saying another word. I didn’t know what that was about!!! Two months later a Thrasher shows up at my home in West Virginia and the answer was within. I was in a Tracker ad with GSD. He had been shot in front of a black car at a separate time. This was the highlight of my skateboarding journey up to that point for sure. I got some big packages from Powell Peralta and Tracker Trucks right after that. I skated harder than ever.
CB – Wow! You must’ve of been stoked! What did you do next?
BR- Skaters in our “ skate zine network” decided to create a contest series of our own called M.E.S.S. (Mid-Eastern Skateboard Series) Skaters from thirteen states got involved. I coordinated most of it with Britt Parrott of Tennessee. California skateboard companies took notice and began sponsoring some of the skaters in our series. In May of 1983, Tracker started its’ own magazine called TWS (Trans World Skateboarding) and used an article from my skate skate zine in their first issue. Once again…I had no clue this was happening. I had a story in a real magazine and it just opened my eyes that I could do things I had never thought about before. They made me a staff member and I was just honored to be one along with Neil Blender, Lance Mountain, Garry Davis and some others. Then in August of 1983, I had saved up enough money again for a trip to California. The magazine was in full swing, and I was asked to work on that issue with Grant Brittain and the other staff. I was all for it even though I didn’t know how a REAL magazine worked. I had only made Xerox copies for The Shredder. I learned daily what had to be done to produce a real magazine.
CB – So like Biggie Smalls you were going back to Cali.
BR - Yeah, and on September first I was supposed to be back in West Virginia to complete my third year of college, but Stacy Peralta asked me if whether I wanted to work in skateboarding or go back to school. I told him I had a scholarship and I didn’t know what I could do in skateboarding. He told me I was already doing it and that school is for learning what you want to do later. Stacy said, “there were many ways to get to the same spot”. Learn what you want to learn vs. what others want you to learn was the suggestion. I chose to learn what I wanted to know! Stacy said he’d work with me and teach me things he knew that I didn’t know. Stecyk would be a part of that mission too. Larry of Tracker/TWS went upstairs and came down with some leather bag and handed me $300 and told me to give him my return ticket. I gave it to him and he tore it up and told me to call my momma and tell her I just moved to California. That was the absolute scariest call of my life! It took me five minutes to decide, and four of those five minutes were spent trying to figure out how I would tell my parents that I was giving up my Civil Engineering scholarship. Wasn’t like anyone in my family ever had a scholarship for College at that point, my parents were bummed, scared, disappointed and had a right to be. Who does that at age nineteen with a scholarship in those days? It was unheard of but I knew I was following what I loved. I just knew it! I stayed with Peggy and her family for a bit, and with Larry and his daughter on and off and on for a year or so until I could get a place with other skaters in due time. I worked on Tracker in the day, TWS during the nights with GSD (Gary Scott Davis), Grant Brittain, Neil Blender, Lance Mountain and Marty Jimenez. That was just too fun! No pay for TWS work, it was just pure joy and passion.
CB – So did they hire you fulltime or what?
BR - Well I worked at Tracker folding hot lappers and packaging those as well as copers’ back then. I boxed up orders for team riders and wrote articles for the magazine at nights after skating. I worked along-side Peggy on Ad coordination, and responding to skaters from around the world that would write letters to the magazine. I had been on the other end of that and knew the impact of a reply. It was a new beginning for sure!
CB- As an original east coast skateboarder, what skate crews did you skate with and where did you guys ride?
BR- The HTGN (Huntington West Virginia) solid-for-life crew (yes…even as of today) would be Tim Cline, Rick Summerfield, John Wittpenn, Byron Johnson, Dave Jones and Chris Carter (Co-Founder Alien Workshop). We skated our home park FALCON, Apple Skate Park in Columbus, OH and Ramps with some cool dudes in Cross Lanes, WV, as well as our own home ramps. Also, local streets and then M.E.S.S. contests together. I think anyone that has a posse like this can relate as to why we are still all so stoked to be around one another. We are all in different parts of the country now, but we somehow we hookup at least once a year someplace. It’s 100% laughs!
CB- Obviously, you had some early influences in Skateboarding, skaters that stoked you, who were those cats?
BR- I think I went the first three years without knowing anyone other than my friends that skated. When I saw the first magazine at a store I couldn’t believe the scene! I was blown away, but had to go to the store when I could because I couldn’t afford to buy a magazine. I spent hours looking at those skate magazines! Couldn’t figure out how things were done by looking at the pictures so I studied and studied instead of reading the articles. Once I began reading I was able to dial in who influenced me. Stacy Peralta, Shugo Kubo, and then when I saw another brotha in a magazine (Freddie Desota) that validated everything I needed. I was bashed a bit for doing what the “WHITE” kids did. I would avoid certain areas ‘cause I didn’t want to hear anyone vibe my good times. Seeing those early photos of Freddie just sent me to another level. I wasn’t the only one! Later I really got into the guys that were progressive like Caballero and the Powell-Peralta guys. I Loved people I didn’t understand like Duane Peters and Bulky Olson. I was never exposed to Punk stuff so they intrigued me. The writings of Craig Stecyk III were like a skate fantasy. He sparked something in me that I can directly point to today that enabled me to have a career doing something I have loved most of my life. Thought Provoking to say the least.
CB- Do you remember your first complete skateboard, and what was it?
Bryan Ridgeway Backside Air Back in Virginia. Coping Block Skateboarding Magazine
BR- My cousin gave me two skateboards (one with steel wheels and the other with clay) I rode for two weeks only ‘cause I knew there were better wheels. My mom got me a $13.50 board, it didn’t have any grip tape. Three weeks later I had cut enough grass to buy a NEWPORT while on vacation in Washington DC. Next, I got a Logan Earth Ski, then a Hobie Mike Weed model, then a Kryptonic with Alva Wheels and then I stayed on a Powel Peralta deck with Tracker Trucks for many years after.
CB- What would’ve been your dream set up back in the day?
BR- I dumped trash cans, swept floors, shoveled snow, raked leaves, cut grass, mopped bathrooms, dusted furniture, salted walkways and collected newspapers to sell, all in order to buy any skateboard set-up I wanted. I always got what I wanted ‘cause I earned the money to have that power. I rocked a Ray “Bones” Rodriguez with Trackers and mini-cubes! It felt soooooo good to me!
CB- What do you think the biggest difference is between the east and west coast skate realms?
Sarge and Bryan Ridgeway Coping Block Skateboarding Magazine
Bryan Ridgeway during a trip back east hooking the kids up.
Ridge's original skate crew.
BR- Well, I rented an apartment with Grant Brittain after I had been living in California on floors for six months. I would have conversations about East Coast skateboarding all the time with him. He basically ended up saying the same thing over and over....”I can’t get any good quality photos from anyone”. He was totally right. skate zine shots were different than shots needed for the major magazine. I asked him to teach me a few things as I only had experience with instamatics or Polaroid’s (aka NO EXPERIENCE). I figured if I could learn from one of the best maybe I had a chance to get shots of skaters back East myself and they could get published in the magazine. It’s exactly what occurred. Once I did this, others started shooting back East and we were able to put an article together. It was called “ East meets West” in 1985, and my intent was to bridge the gap of perceptions. My thought process back then was to embrace the differences that made each side unique, but to also show what we all have in common, which was passion for what drove us all...SKATEBOARDING. Vert, Street, Downhill, Slalom, and Freestyle all shared that one thing as well, as we looked beyond maps. When everyone got equal billing in this article it opened eyes to the entire world that there were great skaters with different styles outside of California. To me, it’s the most important article I ever pulled off. It benefited so many skaters, and not just myself. So many people got sponsored and the concentration of sponsorships left the “CALIFORNIA ONLY” mentality and started incubating others in different areas. Still…they had to come West to really make it big until the magazines started traveling to places like Texas and taking tours of skate parks in the early 80’s. Even Europeans, South Americans and Aussies eventually had to at least visit the US regularly to become accepted as more than local heroes. I also think there is a little more aggressiveness in the East because of weather conditions and rawness of the terrain at times. It’s not all silky smooth like it is out West and you have to go a bit harder to make tricks work properly. Skaters become a bit more refined as the terrain takes a toll on equipment so they have to make each attempt count a bit more. Not saying West Coast isn’t aggressive, just saying it takes a bit more to skate the conditions faced by the East. Obviously great skaters exist on both coasts as well as in the Central US. Always have and most likely always will. I also wondered how fast things might have progressed if the magazines were all back East as well as the weather and good terrain. If the script were flipped it would be interesting who would have stood out. Fun to imagine even though I like the way things happened in real life. That’s Skateboarding. Today, you can put your talents online no matter where you live on the planet. It’s just a phenomenal thing that has transpired over the course of 30 years. You can live anywhere and be known if that’s your dream. As the great Lance Mountain once said about getting sponsored “, if you are good, companies will hear about it and find YOU!”
Bryan Ridgeway and Eric Koston Coping Block Skateboarding Magazine
CB- Bryan you have been involved with Skateboarding for how many years now?
BR- I saw my first skateboard at a seventh grade party at a friend’s house (Steve Diniaco). It was a night I can’t forget. That was June 4th, 1976, at seven thirty seven pm EXACTLY! I moved to California to work and help with the creation of Trans World Skateboarding magazine in the summer of nineteen eighty-three1983. It’s 2012 now and I’m still working within the skateboard industry in many capacities. So it’s been thirty-six years!
CB- How often do you get to skate these days?
BR- Every day! Even if it’s only scooting around the warehouse, I get on a skateboard every day! Skate parks every other weekend or so. With my skate crew we try at least one to two times a year when possible. We all make the effort.
CB- You have a skate history that reaches across so many different skateboarding companies, what are some of the companies that you have worked for and with over the years?
BR- Yeah, there’s been a few, here’s the breakdown: • Tracker Trucks- Team Manager and Marketing Director • Neighborhood Skateboards-Creative/Marketing Director and Co-founder with Armando Barajas and Julio De La Cruz • Orion Truck- Exec-Creative Director and Co-Founder with Rob Dyrdeck / Eric Koston / Kareem Campbell • Blitz Distribution (Birdhouse, Flip, Fury, Hook-ups, The Firm, Baker) – General Manager • (Birdhouse, Flip, Fury, Hook-ups, The Firm, Baker) Flip Skateboards-Brand Manager • Baker Skateboards-Brand Manager • The Firm Skateboards-Brand Manager • Fury Trucks-Brand Manager • www.CreateAskate.org-Managing Director • Black Box Distribution (Zero/Mystery) – VP of Operations • Globe/ Dwindle - OEM Director • Quiksilver (Hawk Clothing Division) -External Global Marketing Director • Independent Consultant for various other brands • www.Skateistan.org-, Strategic Global Advisor • Juggernaut Distribution-Destructo Trucks/Speed Metal Bearings –Operations Director
CB- How can you hold so many key positions at different brands that are all pretty much competitors?
BR- Well, I think if you review that list I mentioned, they are all leaders in the industry and you don’t get to be a leader by shying away from trying to acquire experience and abilities that can better your company. The easiest explanation I can give is INTEGRITY. It’s pretty much known that I don’t divulge anything sensitive about any company I’m working with or have worked for in the past. Doesn’t matter how any relationship ends etc. I have a passion for working with many styles of companies and people, but it’s in my best interest to be high on integrity.
CB- Are you saying you have valuable information or “HAVE SOMETHING ON PEOPLE?”
BR- Ha...I’d say I have learned quite a bit about how to do the same job many different ways. That is beneficial when I attempt to impart some wisdom to up- and- coming companies that don’t want to make all the mistakes of predecessors. For the most part, I’m just living within a live Case Study at all times. Whether or not I HAVE SOMETHING ON SOMEONE is irrelevant, I’m disciplined enough not to be a vindictive person.
CB- Did you ever think that you’d be working for a skateboard company like Tracker Trucks?
Bryan Ridgeway at the "How We Roll" exhibit.
BR- No, I was just one of those skate rats that used to request stickers and info like most kids that liked a particular company and couldn’t get equipment locally. Little did I know that once I became a “PEN PAL” to the company…. they were using information I was giving as feedback. They really didn’t know that there were other pockets of good skaters elsewhere because they hadn’t traveled much to see. They would get word only through board companies to send someone some trucks and then they’d wait to get pictures every now and then. There wasn’t much of a connection to riders other than the ones in California that they had relationships with because they could see them at contests. When the “Skate Zine” movement occurred our scene was in the mix and they could then see we had abilities. Larry’s office manager would keep in touch the most and sent product. I thought they were married since she was called TRACKER PEGGY. They weren’t, as I would find out later after ending up living with both. Hahahaha. Anyway they sent me trucks and I was basically a sponsored am for them. I would give them info on whom they should sponsor from the Midwest and mid-Atlantic regions beyond what skate deck companies told them they should. Once they got on my tips, a lot of skaters started getting sponsored in those regions from all truck companies and subsequently deck brands. Of course we never realized we had that impact at the time.
CB- What happened to Tracker? They were first on so many fronts! They used to sponsor me back in the day, Bryan I should give you thanks right about now. You know I still ride them today, but what is their status man, I heard they got sold, bought and boxed up?
BR – Hmmm, I’m not sure how to answer that one. It’s pretty subjective and a bit of a loaded question. There’s what my version would be and there are about three other people that you should ask to gain the clearest of pictures. All I would say at this point is that when Tracker was at the forefront,; it was into innovations and adapting to the changing environments associated with skating. Without sounding a bit arrogant, I want to say that when a team manager (for any team) pours his life and soul into trying to develop the best products and maintaining and sincerely caring about a team, those two factors are what enables someone with a little vision to build a brand that appeals to core skateboarders. If you lose that, you basically only have a product and some history to continue equity in the brand name for as long as it lasts. There were battles being formed within the industry and I loved that part. Tracker vs. INDY, and the Thunder, Venture, and Gullwing battles. Everyone was getting their run in the cycle, but it was always Tracker vs. Indy that kept a fun rivalry of image going. It pushed both brands and forced people to choose one they could identify with the most, based on the product, ads, and riders. Fun times.
CB – Can you be a bit more specific for our readers with details that are already known within the industry, or can you share a bit more?
Bryan Ridgeway and Mike McGill Coping Block Skateboarding Magazine
BR - In my mind, there are five events that are only known to two or three people when it happened, and that began the slow downward direction. It’s been years and years now, and the core of that company no longer exists, so I can talk about it. First, I believe that Larry, unknowingly, hired a corrupt business consultant as Tracker’s GM. This individual was a motivational speaker on business practices. Larry believed in him because the company’s personal business manager mentioned that this General Manager person was good and well known in the Mormon Community. For some reason, whenever someone attaches religion to their resume it seems to give a sense of relief or feeling of trust. To me, it doesn’t matter if a person is Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, or Muslim, I still think people prove who they are by how they treat others and by their deeds. Hard to have seen it coming, but this guy came in and saw me as his threat based on my relationship with Larry. He had been on a mission to minimize my responsibilities and seal off communication between Larry and myself. Next on his list…replace me. This was odd to me because I wasn’t anti-management teams or anything like that. I’m not insecure by nature. I was called into the accounting department and doors were shut. The Accounting Manager told me she feared for her job and needed my help. She explained to me there were many discrepancies with checks being cashed and credit card charges that Larry may or may not have known about. She needed me to find out since she knew there was no chance I would be fired for asking. I went to the Main Corp. office with Beau Brown and we had a little talk with Larry. The entire time we were there, the secretary kept interrupting us saying THIS GUY wanted to speak with Larry. He had found out who was meeting with Larry and he was worried. We took off for the beach and sat on a rock and laid things out for Larry to check on. We had to remain quiet until the investigation was completed. Turns out dude had embezzled close to 1.2 Million dollars, which was our entire padding for a rainy day (which came only six months later in the form of a recession). No further innovations or development could be done for two to three years because of that. That’s number one. Second, we had just begun working with the new Street skaters and had the second most popular one at that time MIKE V., Gonz was still the man. The GM Larry had hired got involved with marketing and forced me to change the pay structure based on “HIS” perception of how skaters should be paid. Dude didn’t know @*$^. Of course, when the new structure came out it was ridiculed. Freestylers were making more than top vert and street skaters like Tony Hawk and Mike V; because they had more eyeballs seeing a Tracker logo at Sea World skate shows???? Nothing against them of course, they weren’t requesting this kind of thing or comparing anything. It was all "THE DUDE" and I should have thought it through enough to gather support and stop all of this. I wish I had today’s mind then. Mike V. quit as he was being introduced to skate masses. I still have the letter today. It might have been a good run with him. Whether it was Mike V. or anyone else, I wish I had stood up against this even though I was young in the business realm. Lesson learned and it never happened again! Three, there was a day that Ron Chatman, Jeremy Klein, and Mark Gonzales rolled down from LA and said they wanted to be down with Tracker and I. I just laughed as we had a sandwich and took them into the back to get some trucks. Everyone at the company thought they were joking….everyone except me! It was pretty funny though because I wanted to let them do some fun stuff with Tracker and they did. It was about two to three months before Gonz gave me some drawings of some truck ideas that were on point. I showed them to Larry and he tossed the napkin back at me and said the ideas could never work. My heart sank. The idea that a kid could come up with a functioning truck for the type of skating that would be prominent for next 10 years was a shock to Larry (in my opinion). To this day I don’t think he has any ideal just how impactful that was. Maybe he did though…who knows. I knew it was a bad thing as soon as it happened. Loved the Balma, but at that moment we were finally at odds. Instead of reviewing the drawing and extracting the main points and then working with his engineering background to create the product that could be functional, he tossed the drawing back. Basically, Gonz had innovated the first LOW truck with new whole pattern that would enable all nose and tail sliding. Every truck today has the features he had on that napkin. Gonz quit after I told him Larry said it wouldn’t work. I did tell him I thought it would work though, but what good was that. He was devastated. So was I. My relationship with Larry was NEVER the same after that. How many company owners discount the ideas of kids as stupid ideas. There’s a fine line of working with input and not fearing you are giving the skaters TOO MUCH POWER. That’s why you have someone in the middle that understands the skater’s’ needs and aspirations and the business side as well. We had that, but it was not utilized obviously. Four, ORION- I always felt that when I developed Orion and wanted to cut team riders in on how a company does financially, Larry may have thought that was against business principles. I’m sure it was difficult to see Tracker suffering in its recovery attempt to take second seat to ORION in popularity. I couldn’t understand why it mattered since the main investor (Larry) owned both. Maybe the company he started with had to always be number one in his mind. I’m sure that’s common with a lot of owners to have an affinity for their first child. I felt while Tracker was in re-launch phase, Orion could fill the gap and keep the entire camp strong until all was back to normal. Five, had to be focus-Tracker basically funded Trans World, Skate Rags, and all brands at the distribution center. Those entities all needed attention so Larry being spread thin had to contribute to a lack of focus on Tracker. As employees we had some say, but could only do so much as well with the above mentioned things happening. Over a million dollar loss of cash hurts any company though, especially approaching a recession and within skateboarding. Like I said.... there should be two to three versions of what has led to the demise, but yes…this once leader in the industry, has been relegated to being acquired by a few Canadians that try to seek market share in specific market segments. Good luck to them. I have not had any affiliation with Tracker since 1997. Larry works as a supporter for the Surf Museum. Giving back is admirable and he’s cemented his legacy within skateboarding, but I don’t think he has much to do within the industry besides participating in supporting functions like Hall of Fame Awards and individual art shows. He’s done a lot for a lot of people as well. Peggy too!
Stevie Caballero, Adrian Demain and Bryan Ridgeway
CB- What was it like in the early days working on the ground floor of a company?
BR- It was the absolute best! I have to be one of the most fortunate individuals alive to have seen all the progress and participated in an industry that virtually was on shoestring budgets. Not one person was in it for money. It was competitive, the vibe was just pure and having fun was the prerequisite. There were so many characters and so much creativity going on. It was like a family reunion every time there was an event. Even though competition of brands was huge, when everyone was in the same spot, all that dropped out. Company owners had beers with each other and skaters all pretty much had a blast with each other. For me, the creating of positions within the company and being able to do that job kept me going strong. I loved waking up and catching first bus to work. I still get up at 5am to head in. Back then it was wake up…skate, lunch….skate…after work….skate. Eat in there someplace. Work was fun….not a chore. We were also paid like it was fun too! Hahahaha.
CB- There has got to be a lot of egos in the industry, I’m sure you ran into a few in the business, how did you manage those contacts and keep relationships smooth?
Coping Block Skateboarding Magazine
BR- Yes…for sure. There’s a fine line between arrogance and confidence. Those who never want to admit they may be wrong about something are the arrogant ones. Egos can work for the benefit or to the detriment of individuals. I generally look at a person for who they are, no right…no wrong…just consequences of their actions. I have freedom to choose to be around them or not. Not trying to change anyone. That’s how smoothness is maintained.
CB- For our readers who think everything is smooth sailing in the Skate industry, can you site any examples of how you’ve learned certain lessons and taught yourself how not to react in a negative way? That’s what you are basically saying right?
BR- There are too many that I have in back of my head. Here’s a quick few: Stolen Deck- I was at a M.E.S.S. Contest at Rob Roskopp’s house in Cincinnati, OH. We had skaters from six states there and we all were familiar with one another and all staying at the house. We wrote one another, called one another and were building our own scene together in the DYI days. Sunday morning after the contest I couldn’t find my semi-new Cab deck with Magnesium trucks. It became a 4 hour ordeal searching the cornfield and in the woods. I thought it was a joke, until everyone started getting in their cars and driving back to their home states. I searched hours with Chris Carter (my ride). It never entered my mind that anyone I considered a skate friend could steal it. That was the case. I didn’t skate for two months ‘cause I had to save money again to get a new setup. Tracker and Stacy gave this one to me. Even though I was the only black guy there and mine was the only one taken, I still didn’t see it as anything racial. My trust in the skate brotherhood was broken and it hurt me deeply....forget about the deck...I had lost trust in those that were going through the same exact obstacles. two years later on a beach in Del Mar at a bonfire an individual with knowledge of the theft slipped up after having a few beers. He gave me the explanation that it was stolen because during my own event held three weeks earlier in WV,. I had a brand new setup, but didn’t have the same for contest prizes from those two companies. They thought I stole the prizes, so they took my deck. I’m sure that stuff happens from time to time, but I’m an honest dude and would never bust that move. I was conflicted at that moment. Not only had I had my property stolen, but I was also looked at as a thief. There was a hot second I wanted to lash out, but I spent my time keeping Carter from doing the same:) It took me 30 seconds to reflect and say; “Why didn’t someone just call the companies to see what prizes were sent?” LESSON: Don’t become something you aren’t. I was now getting free stuff for life and I simply didn’t have to trust anyone in that group at the same level. Never got an apology and that’s not on me to live with...that’s on them. I supported the same guys in many situations over the years after that occurred and I had the power to deny them and tarnish their reputations with their sponsors. But I didn’t. I was happy with the person I was.
Team Rider switching- Mid to late 80’s at a Vert contest in Reno, there was an aggressive attempt to fill spots on new truck companies coming out. Team managers generally take things a bit personally when they give up their own personal time to forge relationships between sponsored skater and company. It’s probably the most under- appreciated position in all of skateboarding. They live and breathe relationships and this day I took things a bit too personally when Venture’s Greg Carroll was pursuing some of the Tracker riders. We nearly squared off over it and it became a sobering moment for me. I stepped back and took a hard look at myself and it hit me like a ton of bricks that no one OWNS anyone else.
LESSON: Let people do what they are going to do and do your best for them while they are with you. I apologized to Greg years later, but promised we’d have a beer over that one. If he’s reading this...I’m buying Greg! The Mentor and me -So not many know how close Tony Hawk came to creating a deck brand with Tracker while negotiating with Powell-Peralta. The team was going to start out with Tony, Lester Kasai, and Staab and they had 2 two others to add a few years later. Stacy was furious with Larry for interfering while Powell-Peralta was trying to get Tony sorted for the decade to come. I was caught in the middle of both mentors, but I had spent more time with Larry at that point so what he said made sense at the time. That was that if Tony were to leave it would be better if he went to someone like Larry vs. someone else. At the time that made great sense to me, but I wasn’t that experienced with scenarios of that nature in my early twenties, as I would become later. Basically, it’s just not true! If a guy is trying to work something out with his girlfriend and his best friend is enticing her to come over to his camp, it’s highly unlikely the guy will say...well yeah...I’d rather someone I know have her if I can’t! IT DON’T WORK LIKE THAT!!! There was a great relationship between Tracker and Powell-Peralta at that time and it got seriously strained. We were on the set of “GLEAMING THE CUBE ” and during one of the breaks Stacy started telling me how lame Larry was and I got a bit protective and got into a serious exchange. I couldn’t believe we were yelling at each other. What he was saying was correct, but the approach was wrong so nothing really got heard other than negative comments. I Left and didn’t have any communication with Stacy for a long time! That is until the shoe was on the other foot. Omar Hassan was running hot in late 80’s/early 90’s for Blockhead, a brand in our building. Word had it that he was considering going to Brad Dorfman of Vision/Sims and was on conference call between Larry and Brad and it went as follows: “What are you doing Brad? We’ve done great business all these years with you and now you trying to stab us in the back and steal one of the hottest riders we have?” Brad stated, “I’m not stealing anyone, he wants to leave and we just told him we’re an option for him.” The next statement from Brad made things hit home! Brad said:, “Wouldn’t you rather him go to someone you know vs. someone else?” Larry said, “F#@% no!”
As soon as he said that I knew that I needed to call Stacy and tell him I understood how he felt about the Tony incident. He just said, “THANKS MAN”, even though that chapter was long behind us all. The very next week Stacy called me to share his plans to work with Tracker again in a serious way with some riders he had been cultivating. You can only learn certain lessons if you are open to thinking from a few perspectives. Have never lost touch with Stacy.
Coping Block Skateboarding Magazine
Getting the Boot and DA BOOT! - I was such a proponent of getting people outside of California their due that I ended up pushing a little too hard and too fast. I was so impatient ‘cause I knew what people were going through trying to gain get noticed. Reflecting back, there are times where an owner has to weigh the benefit vs. cost of behaviors. Marty Jimenez and I were both fired from Tracker and TWS the same day. This was double trouble since we worked and lived on the floor at the building. There was a new art director hired at the magazine and I think we were a little bummed that we weren’t getting much of anything, yet all of a sudden there was pay for this Design outsider guy. He was hard to relate to and we were used to doing everything our own way from Skate zines to beginning issues of TWS. Why did we need this dude and why did Stacy recommend him? . Jinx went on to work at Vision/Sims and Stecyk convinced Larry and Peggy they better get me back in the camp. I had cooled off by then and developed a new strategy for achieving things over time. Looking back, I still think there should have been a bit more sensitivity shown towards the staff that worked a year for nothing other than love for doing the magazine. Our passion was taken advantage of and that type of thing still happens in skateboarding. If it is explained that the INVESTMENT in a leading graphic designer like David Carson would help the magazine visually and that would attract more quality advertisers, then maybe there would be some way for the SKATERS at the skate magazine to benefit as well. Instead, sometimes it just happens where you are expected to have no say and not have any animosity. I try to live by explaining these days and am happy I understand where someone else might have insecurities well before they can surface. I’m glad that stuff happened to me back then, so I could see and understand all sides later. Stacy was correct to get Larry to hire Carson. Larry never explained the plan to the staff. It eventually didn’t work out. He’s world-renowned these days. Seriously, we used to count how many times Carson would use the phrase “Hodge Podge” per week. Like to have a beer with him too nowadays. We were such skaters...he never had a chance. Haha. I don’t think I could have worked with as many companies as I have if I didn’t realize from the David Carson TWS days that I needed to be open to new ways of doing things and didn’t need everyone to come with a background I could relate to. It was far more interesting to decipher what people say and do than to think it should be one way or another. Let them be themselves.
Bryan Ridgeway big Skatetistan supporter
The Godfather- Purely out of respect a small group called Craig Stecyk III THE GODFATHER. It seemed like he was just sprinkling knowledge seeds and a variety of outlooks on many of us in an effort to see what would happen. I’m sure he has his own introspection going on about what, why, when, how etc., but I personally feel like he’s the most influential person I’m I’ve come across since setting foot on Californian soil 30 years ago. I hear people all the time say they wish they could find him to talk to or would be honored just to meet the dude. He basically would meet anyone at any time, but he’s a moving target to some I’m sure. I was fortunate to have been able to work with him for many years in a way most never will come to be able to. We are at Disneyland once in the massive crowd moving around us in all directions and he asks me what I see. I said, “A bunch of people waiting in lines and walking around in the heat”. He then said he saw different skate t-shirts, surf t-shirts on a diverse group of patrons and by the colors they were purchased in a particular season or recently. He then showed me what part of the world they might be from and how skating and surf is influencing globally. He used Disney as a melting pot for marketing research. These days, it’s never a problem for me to worry about the hassle of tons of people. You can learn something even in miserable surroundings. Imagine ten straight years of thought provoking speak from persons like Craig Stecyk III, and that’s the direct education I cherish the most.
Coping Block Skateboarding Magazine
CB- Is there any one thing that you’d like to say or advice you’d care to share with all those start- up companies out there today?
BR- Sure whatever you want to do, if you are passionate about it, it will be more rewarding. Try and understand if you have any two of the three or all three…you can make it work (Time / Money / Resources). Maybe a basic understanding of business should accompany any future endeavor. Learn to manage yourself and others, including people that manage YOU! Keep in mind that a planned course is directed and re-directed as necessary, it’s like a ship on the high seas enduring weather, currents and mechanical issues. ● Learn how to learn then seek employment. The ability affords more opportunities. ● Be willing to do things no one else will do. This ability builds esteem moving forward. ● Do what needs to be done, don’t only do what you wWant to do. Unless you can afford to. ● Mentors help tremendously in employment, management, and ownership. ● Most importantly find and follow your passion. It doesn’t always mean cash aligns with happiness! Try to start the business when you don’t have to depend on it for your income for first few years and I think the pressure being eased will enable quicker growth. Control the growth. Go for it!
Coping Block Skateboarding Magazine
CB- Bryan, what would make an ideal working environment if you ran a skate company?
BR- I’ve run many skate companies so I speak from experience. The idea-working environment is a company that people WANT to come to work at every day. I think this is culminated from a sense of respect, opportunity, and recognition. If the company’s objectives mirror their own personal objectives then I think they generally are more apt to create a team than individuals on the goal front. I’m partial to opportunities from within vs. outside whenever possible. Diverse background’s good and NO SUITS!
Bryan's skate reunion with his old skate crew.
CB- You have witnessed many great things in skateboarding because of your direct involvement in the sport, what sticks out in your mind, as the biggest thing to date that impressed you in skateboarding?
BR- There are Tricks, Skaters, Artwork, Music; Brands….this is a tough question.
Wow! There are hundreds. I have to say for sure: Steve Caballero doing a Caballerial , The Gonz doing the first rail slide in the back of the Long Beach Trade Show back when, and Tony finally nailing that 900 up in San Francisco at the X-games. McGill’s 540 McTwist was a moment too though. Danny Way’s Mega Ramp to rail, and Bob Burnquist’s mega to rail to skydiving into Grand Canyon! Danny Way’s helicopter drop into a half-pipe, and Danny’s Hard Rock bomb drop….ha-ha. One of the biggest things to date is the coming of age of skaters owning skate companies. I’m very proud of that one and even more proud to have assisted some reach certain levels of success, from Rick Howard and the Girl camp killing it, to working to pull the trigger on Andrew Reynolds to do Baker. I really believe in these guys.
Coping Block Skateboarding Magazine
CB- You were at the Brigade Documentary Release, what are your thoughts after digesting it?
BR- Great accurate and an insane introspection of each individual associated. I’ve known all these guys for decades and still didn’t know certain things until after seeing this documentary. I always knew I had an affinity for that program as a youngster, but until I saw this…I truly didn’t understand how deep it was. No matter what crew you were down with, everyone will be able to relate to a SKATEBOARDER even more after viewing this.
CB- What is missing from skateboarding today that was more appealing to you in the early days?
BR- I think skateboarding changes and goes it’s own way. I think that’s one of the most appealing things and it thoroughly entertains me to listen to people guess at what it is supposed to be or will be in the future. They actually have group meetings about this at some skate companies. To me the characters are missing a bit. When I say this I just think people bonding all over the globe is a bit on the low end, but there are soooo many skaters now, so it may be the exact same volume of domestic and international comradery, but it’s cloaked by sheer volume of skaters now. Skaters had interests other than just skating so it made them more interesting as people in my opinion. I still see these things today, but maybe it was just more fun when I was more relevant with the group I was coming up with.
Rob and Ridge
CB- Bryan, I must ramble through tons of old skate footage both film and stills from early skate contests, and I’m thinking I’ve spotted you in 50% of the stuff! You were everywhere! Was there a skate contest that you missed back in the day that you are still bummed about today?
BR- Actually, I wished I had seen the Palmdale contest. What’s funny is I finally saw some footage of it in the Bones Brigade documentary. Just insane to see video of it…I didn‘t know that existed. The events I actually missed due to family illnesses etc. were the Ant Ramp Jam in Texas, The Midwest Melee in Lincoln, Nebraska, and Terror at Tahoe NSA events. I may have only missed a few others by choice back then so that another team manager had opportunities to see some events and travel instead of me. It was like a traveling family back then and the reunion was just cool.
Yeah, this guy skates too!
CB- Industry insiders say you have one of the largest music collections to date, is that true?
BR - I’m not afraid to have music in my life. (Laughing)
CB- What kind of music would one find in your collection? Any favorites?
BR- I listen to pretty much anything, whatever mood I’m diggin’ at the time. Right now I’m nostalgia for some seventies stylish tunes such as Isaac Hayes " Hot Buttered Soul". Tomorrow might be Jneiro Jarel, who knows. Del the Funky is always in the mix.
CB- Bryan, let’s say you’re given two million dollars to do whatever you want in the skate industry, what would you do?
BR- First thing I’d do is say, “Well, that was stupid!” (Laughing) I’d do some of the projects / brands I’ve always wanted to. Surround myself with people who might gain the most from it by being associated and let the good times roll. Definitely would attempt to turn two million into twenty million and see some other visions through in both personal and business life. I’d do some giving back in various ways for sure. Whatever would bring the joy of skating to people that might not have ever had the chance is primarily what I find rewarding these days. Skateistan is a good model for that!
Coping Block Skateboarding Magazine
CB- You were involved in the California African America Museums six-month exhibit on African American’s contributions to surfing, skateboarding, and roller-skating. Did you ever think that there would be an exhibit like that?
BR- It actually got extended to eight months and no I didn’t. Of course my inclination was to have only skateboarding as we have enough historical data and items to do a full show, but it was okay for the public to be exposed to those 3 categories. It was interesting and the more I was there watching the people come through, the more there seemed to be something for everyone. Skating was by far the most core of the entire exhibit, but it was interesting to see the history of black surfing etc. They had similar backgrounds and obstacles in pursuit of fun too. The roller-skating had a tie to skateboarding as well, so it worked out. Kids still didn’t know black skateboarders existed in magazines etc. so it was good exposure. It was good to segment out for a bit to appeal to new potential opportunities for up- and- coming youth that had considered skating but knew they might get bashed for doing it in their own communities by peer pressure. Main purpose of the Skateboard exhibit was to show some pioneers and to show you can try other things besides the traditional sports black folk generally participate in. It’s okay to try something else!!! There will be Latino and Asian and other ethnic group skate exhibits down the road and then there will be ONE BIG ALL INCLUSIVE Exhibit with all backgrounds. Going to be a good thing.
Coping Block Skateboarding Magazine
CB- There are a few projects out there right now with an African American focus, the movie “SPADES”, being produced by Ernest Brown, and “Black East” a production out of Florida. What’s your opinion of “All Black” focused skate productions?
BR- I’m all for it if done properly, (which is subjective I suppose). I’ll help with anything that helps any particular ethnic group tell more of an inside story. I’m going to help Hispanic skaters tell their story, Asian, Arab, Persian, Caucasian, and anyone else that has a perspective as to how we are all bonded. I’ve worked with lots of backgrounds and they all appear to have unique paths and obstacles to overcome to even just SKATE IN PEACE. I think telling these from their perspectives sheds light on what we all have in common. The museum exhibit drew some negativity for separating out blacks from the rest of skate participants, but if those who challenged the merits looked beyond race, they would have seen what it was truly about. I think it’s good to have heritages and it’s good to learn about them. I knew most of the black skaters of prominence back in the late 70’s, 80’s and 90’s and can say that they pretty much all had white, Asian, Hispanic skate buddies. There was more than skateboarding they shared; they shared similar life experiences too and bonded. Skating is known for its misfits and misfits seem to be a bit more tolerant at times and willing to learn about one another vs. casting someone out as this or that and shunning.
Bryan Ridgeway and his proud mother.
CB- Can you tell me what former pro- skater Dan Rogers means by this quote and comments about you?
“The thing about Ridge is that no one ever sees or hears him coming. He’s always got that PMA grin on his face that’s totally contagious. Make no mistake, if you’ve wronged him though he’s thinking about F’ing you up. I learned at an early age never mistake kindness for weakness and Ridge is a perfect example. Everyone who has ever had the pleasure of riding for him, working with him or has known him on a personal level has nothing but great things to say about him. But my favorite thing about him is how freaking tough he is. ” He plays full on tackle football post forty-five years of age with three generations of skate rats nipping at his heels trying to take him out every damn play. One time he knocked me out cold in one of our infamous skater football games and I was the one tackling HIM!!!!” -Dan Rogers
BR- That’s not a quote, that’s a book! (Laughter).
CB – Well, I may have extended things a bit, but he did say that.
BR- Hmmm, interesting take from the outside looking in though. Makes sense to me so not sure how to interpret it.
CB- When will the Ridge get married and settle down with a family?
BR - It’s the same as my website, still under construction.
CB – (Laughter) I see.
CB - Any last words, shout outs or expressions?
BR - I would like to thank my mom and dad for not melting down when I said I’m never going to live with them again. I told them they would be proud of me, and they told me over and over that they were. Pops passed away a few months ago and passed out skate stickers at his hospital to kids there until the end. He really learned to enjoy the reality I had chosen for myself. Always support your kid’s aspirations no matter how temporary or insane it may seem to be at the time. I would have a list of three thousand other shout outs at least. They know who they are!!!