Author: Lauren Paul

Photo: Katie Panzer

For the last 15 years, Cameron Wood has been perusing the back alleys and grungy side-streets of Salt Lake on his BMX bike. Throughout his many years of riding, he has cultivated an impressive amount of talent and respect in the sport. You’ve most likely seen him riding with other local pros, seen his face in other magazine snapshots or heard whispers of his name—he’s been in the biz for a while. Instead of focusing on giving the public more contests or being a poster child for his sponsors, Wood is taking a more unique approach with his involvement in the sport. The Wood Shop, recently opened by Wood, is not just the sole BMX-only shop in Salt Lake, but it is also home to his unique, crafty carpentry designs. I was able to catch him one afternoon and learned how Wood is marking the BMX scene with his own fingerprint.

SLUG:
What inspired the birth of The Wood Shop?
Wood: I decided to open my own shop because I wanted to distribute good bikes to kids in the west. Around April/May of last year, I started collecting wood pieces off the streets and began scrapping out—the grand opening was August 5.

SLUG: How have BMX-ers in the area responded to your shop?
Wood: A lot of people are showing me love. I’m the only BMX-exclusive shop in Salt Lake. Other shops have all kinds of bikes, like road or mountain, but I am specific to the BMX community. Some people have come in thinking it’s just a wood shop, so I’ve been able to get a few carpentry jobs from that. The name of my shop comes from my last name, of course, but it also represents my skill.

SLUG: What’s your carpentry collection like?
Wood: It’s super freestyle, with a lot of wood-burning pieces and some Pepsi and sprocket tables. I’m also trying to do a lot of BMX combined furniture that looks like bike products. I’m going for a grungy, motorcycle, BMX-club-type style.

SLUG: What is unique about your store that we should know about?
Wood: All of my displays are handmade. The shovels used to hang tires and frames are the actual shovels I used to build jumps at Tanner Park. I’ve probably spent a good 100 hours digging with each shovel before it snapped. Most of the time, shops just use slat walls with hooks to display product, but everything in my shop is custom. Having original designs adds a good touch.

SLUG: What is it like trying to run a business and be a pro rider?
Wood: I don’t know if I would consider myself a pro—I’m sponsored. And those aren’t even all the things I’m into. I build jumps for contests, too. I don’t even have time for myself anymore—some bike rider took over my body, and I’m just going with
the flow.

SLUG: If you don’t consider yourself a pro, what do you consider yourself to be?
Wood: A BMX Hell’s Angel. It’s about having fun, really. Being pro is like a J.O.B., but this is a lifestyle. There are people so hungry to get paychecks and it changes the riding. The contests aren’t judged right. Every dude does the same trick. I don’t like the foam pit because I feel like it’s cheating. Style and your own look is what you’re trying
to achieve.

SLUG: Is that thought unique to Cam Wood, or would you say other BMX riders are thinking the same thing?
Wood: Yeah, you’re either a contest rider, and you go to Woodward to train and win, or you just go have fun riding down the road with your friends. Contests were real cool back in the day, but now they’re just different.

SLUG: What advice would you give to riders?
Wood: Just ride. You see something and say, “I bet I could do that.” That mentality didn’t come for years, though. As time moved on, progression moved on, and suddenly, lots of things were possible. It was time spent on my bike that got me to be creative.

SLUG: Where’s your head at when you ride? Any mental games?
Wood: Usually, I’m fired up and things come naturally. When I’m doing something scary and it’s a mind screw, I usually go into it with, “I’m going to land this.” Keeping positive vibes and staying on my bike and not on the couch helps keep my head where it needs to be.

SLUG: Are you a renaissance man, a businessman or a BMX rider?
Wood: I don’t know what time I’m stuck in. I think I have about three or four split personalities inside of me. It just depends on the day, I guess.
Pop into The Wood Shop on 2212 S. West Temple in Salt Lake to check out this newest addition to the BMX community, and say hi to Cam Wood himself. Make sure to look ‘em up on Facebook and at thewoodshopbmx.com as well.

Photos:

Art Delapaz, crooked grind at Rose Park comp. Photo: dnaz

Summer temperatures are reaching over 100 degrees, but that’s no reason to retire your skate shoes and deck. Salty Peaks has been keeping the skate community alive every summer with jam sessions and contests since they opened their doors in 1987, and melting asphalt and raging forest fires aren’t going to stop ‘em. This year’s summer-long venture––Salty’s Summer Skate Series––is approaching the final dates with a contest at Fairmont on Aug. 12 and the championship in Kearns on Sept. 9. Rose Park was the kickoff spot on June 10, followed by SoJo on July 8, but the rest of the series is still wide open for fresh-blooded skaters and the chance to win a week at Camp Woodward. If you don’t have big enough cajones to enter, or you’re whining to your brofriend (‘cause God knows you don’t have a girlfriend) with an injury excuse, all I can tell you is: Shut up already. We caught up with Salty Peaks owner Dennis Nazari for an interview that will get you there.

SLUG: How is this competition different from others?
Nazari: This one is points cumulative and the winner gets a week at Woodward skate camp in Tahoe [worth $2,000]. Funny thing is, after the first two contests, not one winner has shown up again. So, at this point, the Woodward prize is wide open to anyone for the taking.

SLUG: What motivated you to organize a summer-long series like this?
Nazari: Skateboarding is in a slump and needs a shot in the arm to stoke kids out. We also won the Dew Tour’s Unlock Your Spot team contest last September, and they gave us $1,000 to promote the shop and local skateboarding. What better way to do both than to put on a skate series? While it costs more than $1,000 to put on a skate series like this, it goes a long way to helping out. The Salty Peaks team guys that won the team contest were Kendall Johnson, Jason Gianchetta, Isaiah Beh and Oliver Buchanan, who also won 500 bucks. So next time you see one of those cats, thank them for their help in contributing back to the skate community.

SLUG: Who’s involved in running it?
Nazari: Salty Peaks is running it, so we do it all with our crew’s time and effort. We have help from outside the shop with judges to keep it fair and unbiased, and it’s been a lot of fun so far.

SLUG:
What’s the format and judging of the contests?
Nazari: Skaters get two one-minute runs in which tricks are judged based on difficulty, style, completion and overall impression. There can be bonus points added for creativity and just flat-out going big.

SLUG: Any benefit to hosting the series at different skate parks?
Nazari: We reach more skaters in areas that don’t normally get exposed to Salty Peaks. In some cases, we picked lower-income areas to help out that kid who’s mowing lawns to buy skate decks.
 
SLUG: What specific tricks will impress the judges this year?
Nazari: I’m not one of the judges, but the guys that went big, or got the crowd cheering, seemed to get better scores. Personally, I think the bowl riders have a bit of an advantage, especially if they’re boosting airs.

SLUG:
How would you describe a skater with good style?
Nazari: Smooth, fluid motion in whatever trick they are doing. The guy flailing his hands, rolling down the windows like he just barely made it won’t score as high as the guy that sticks it and made it look simple. That’s standard with most contest standards of style: “Did it look good?”

SLUG: Is there a certain age group that typically delivers skaters with skill?
Nazari: The bigger, more experienced skaters usually have the spotlight. We had an 8-year-old named Hayden that went toe-to-toe with kids as old as 13, and while he didn’t win, he had a good showing, and you could tell he had the potential to be a skater for life, just ‘cause he was having fun and had the support of his family. Skylar Ordean is one to keep an eye on ‘cause he’s got skills in both skate and snow. He won showing off skills in both street and bowl, and did it with style. Then you had the old guys like Jed Fuller aka Rad Dad doing it for the love of skating.
 
SLUG: Why do you think it’s important for local shops to get involved in the skate scene and host events like this?
Nazari: Where would skating be without us? Salty Peaks is one of three shops that have been around for more than 10 years. When we started Salty Peaks, we did a lot of firsts in Utah skateboarding. I remember when we built Utah’s biggest half pipe for the Ramp and Roll contest. Today, there’s more corporate money flowing into big contests, but they are driven by a return on that investment, not the love of skateboarding.
 
SLUG: Would you say that going to Woodward is a sure-fire way to get professionally sponsored?
Nazari: Nothing is “sure-fire” these days, but it’s an excellent chance to learn and skate with other motivated kids. Getting a sponsor only gets the door open. It’s up to the skater’s skills and, just as important, his attitude, that usually gets him on the pro roster. I can’t tell you how many good skaters with pro skills I’ve seen blow it because of drugs and alcohol, or a bad attitude.
 
SLUG:
Does the overall winner have any obligations to Salty Peaks throughout the rest of the year?
Nazari: HELLS YEAH! WE OWN THAT BIAAATCH! Just kidding. No further obligations other than to listen to your mom and do something productive with your life (that’s productive, not reproductive).

SLUG: Is there a skater you can already foresee as the winner, or will it be a close call?
Nazari: It’s anyone’s race right now, wide open. Only 18 skaters with scores that count towards the finals, and only six with first-place scores.

SLUG: Any last words, skate-wise?
Nazari: Show some respect to skateboarding. Don’t act like a gossip drama queen. Be cool to your fellow skaters, take responsibility for your actions and words, pick up your garbage and keep the skate parks clean. And support your local shop, even if it’s not Salty Peaks.

This competition is dope, and it’s willing and waiting for friendly skaters. More great prizes will be given away from brands like Altamont, Baker, Skullcandy, Zero and Deathwish. Don’t forget, anyone can enter at Fairmont Park on Aug. 12 with a small, on-site entry fee of $10 ($5 at Salty Peaks for pre-registration), or at Kearns Skatepark on Sep. 9 for the championship. Go to saltypeaks.com for more details. Be there or skate square.

Photos:

Fritz Kollman, frontside rock under the bridge. Photo: cezaryna

Fritz Kollman is a sensitive creature. Not the type of sensitivity that happens when you rip a Band-Aid off a wound, or the kind that happens when you can’t take a joke. What I’m talking about is the sensitivity that controls the interaction between a person and their surroundings­—the kind that cultivates deliberate awareness about who and what you are in space and time, and how you can make a difference in the universe. This is Kollman’s modus operandi: He’s a sensitive being who approaches life with sincere interaction. When he shares his story, it’s not all pleasure, but it’s not all pain, either. It’s a genuine tale of human versus environment with success, defeat, plants and some skating in between. What sets Fritz apart is his levelheaded approach to his circumstance, which has given way to the cultivation of two passions that keep him sane: skateboarding and horticulture.  

I walk into Fritz’s house, pleasantly surprised to find the most miraculous cacti I’ve ever seen. We’re talking giant potted plants sitting in the corner of his living room with multiple, long arms that reach like they’re about to come alive and grab you. “I love your cactus plants,” I say. Fritz corrects me, saying, “They’re Agave. I got these from Red Butte. When they get too big, they pawn these off to the employees. Aren’t they beautiful?” 
 
Fritz is a horticulturalist at Red Butte Gardens, which I mistake for botany. “No, I don’t categorize plants—I garden,” Fritz says, and begins explaining his love affair with the species. His eyes light up and his hands start moving as he talks about what he does as one of the master gardeners at Red Butte, leading a small team of minions to help. 
 
Fritz admits getting into horticulture through his girlfriend’s mom. “Honestly, I was aimless and floating in life until I started learning about this other universe that exists beneath us. I am blown away at how a simple plant can nourish and heal you. They’re everywhere, too, right in front of us­—growing alongside quiet roads, in backyard gardens and in the middle of cities. I’m amazed how something so small can offer us so much,” he says. Our interview might have been initiated because of his skateboarding talents, but he gives so much value to the landscape that surrounds us, I can’t help but nurture the topic.
 
We talk more about how Fritz integrates his plant world into his human world. From where we are talking, I can see through his double glass doors to a couple of backyard garden boxes outside, littered with dried shrubs. The scenery looks pretty bleak from my perspective.  I shift my gaze to Fritz’s inner surroundings and stop on a stack of strategically piled rustic skateboards that sit atop his bookshelf, posing like art. Based on his authentic home decorating, I can tell what motivates him in life. There are decks hanging on his walls exposing artistic graphics, framed vintage prints and an ample vinyl collection. Regardless of the active surrounding décor, Fritz’s space is calm. He seems to catch on to my wonder, and from there, we start talking skateboarding.
 
Fritz began skating at 13. He said growing up at boarding school in rural Colorado gave him a different perspective than what was typically portrayed in common city skate scenes. “I was raised in Wisconsin and sent to boarding school. My dad had died, and I needed something to be stoked on,” he says. “I liked the feeling and freedom of movement it gave me.” Also, he’s an OG. When he took to skating in 1989, the game had reached a decent peak of mass culture popularity, but didn’t quite capture the corporate inertia to keep it alive through the ’90s. “I didn’t even notice that skating had died,” he says. “As far as I knew, skating had always been the same. From when I started as an early teen up to my 20s, I just kept skating. It’s what I did. It wasn’t until I came back to Utah in 2003 after graduating college in Wisconsin that I noticed skate parks everywhere. It was then I understood the change skating had gone through for almost a decade.”