Backyard Bliss

BW photos by Adam Dorobiala
Color photos by Chris Swainston

First things first––crack a beer. When skating a mini ramp, having a frosty beverage in hand is almost as essential as a board. The session doesn’t feel right without one, it keeps you loose and smooth. Just sip it and rip it, then grab another.

Salt Lake City has always been riddled with mini ramps. They’re just as much a part of the skate scene as street skating. You have to search them out just the same as any street spot, it isn’t always your best friend who builds one. Sometimes there is security to deal with. However, you won’t need to plead and bribe the guy for one more try. A simple 12 pack will keep you skating all night. Equitable to a good street spot, once word of a proper mini gets out, everyone wants to skate it. The owner becomes the skate world’s best friend. Everyone around them turns into a slobbery doeeyed- puppy begging for a turn on the ramp. I’ve been daydreaming of having a backyard mini ramp since grade school, when all I did was hide TWS behind my biology book and play Tech-Deck skate in English class. It’s the ultimate in limitless fun sitting right outside your door.

The best part about a mini is that no two ramps are ever the same. Some have kinks in the tranny, extensions, channel gaps, wall rides or little sections of pool coping. Each ramp offers a unique ride. Andrew Wilson used to have a three-foot mini sitting in his front room (now that’s what I call a home entertainment center) and nestled into a small Sandy garage there was another three-foot mini with barely enough room to crouch from hitting your head. I think Jason Gianchetta has had three mini ramps in his skate lifetime, one of which was actually an eight-foot half pipe covered in plywood only, no masonite. Needless to say, that ramp didn’t see much shralping from me. JP Walker has a precious five-foot gem sitting in his backyard. I’ve been fortunate enough to shralp it, but I’ve never even met the guy. That’s some serious generosity, letting people unknowingly skate your ramp when you’re probably not even in the country. One of the all-time best mini ramps the Salt Lake Valley has ever had was the Binary ramp. Even though the ramp was a part of a skate park, for many of us (especially for those living down south) it was like a backyard mini where the doors were always open for a skate session. If they weren’t, we just unlocked them ourselves and threw a party. Some damn fine after hours sessions went down at that place by leaving the back door ajar. Brock Harris is a good man for putting up with all of our breaking and entering just to get a couple extra hours of shredding in. Enjoy it while you got it because nothing lasts forever. Ramps come and go as often as spots around the city get capped. Utah’s fierce weather conditions are murder to any ramp. Brutal desert sun bakes the wood all summer long. When winter comes around snow, sleet, ice and rain will penetrate deep into the skeletal structure, warping and rotting the wood. Resurfacing a ramp and patching holes costs a pretty penny and takes precious time. A large tarp will help protect the ramp through the harsh winter season and surfacing a ramp with Skatelite rather than masonite, is probably the best protection for an outdoor ramp. But at around $150 a sheet, Skatelite isn’t exactly the most cost effective option. The cheapest way around repairs is to just skate the ramp as is. If there is a blow out in the tranny you can crack front-side ollies over it, you might as well turn the hole into a bonus feature right? A friend of mine once had the sketchiest mini of all time crammed into his backyard. Coming in at about 12 feet wide, three feet tall and 10 feet across, it was more like two Jersey barriers sitting face-to-face than a mini ramp. There where huge holes in the transition and half the deck never got finished, so it was nice and treacherous when you slipped out and fell inside the ramp. Nevertheless, we always skated the thing and had a damn fun time doing it.

When it comes down to it, having a mini ramp is the ultimate pipe dream. From the very beginning when you can barely tic-tac and kick turn you start dreaming about having your own mini ramp. Every time you step foot into a new backyard that imagination skate brain takes over. Staring blankly at a wide open space only results in visions of building a mini from the ground up … put it next to the garage and roll in off the roof, nose pick the fence, wall ride the tree, fuck it turn the entire yard into a mini ramp snake run. Everyone fantasizes about building one, but few ever make that fantasy a reality. For those determined few their backyard sessions are what dreams are made of. If you haven’t had the chance to drop in on one of Salt Lake City’s many exceptional mini ramps, maybe its time to start building your own.

Very few have the skills to make back rocks look this good. Dave gets tricky on the extension of this black pearl.

Caleb Orton gets a bean plant at 2a.m. after 10 hours of skating the trash pit and enough beer to drown an elephant.

King of the castle Tully Flynn, aka Ramp Monster, sits atop his throne awainting his next victim.

Kordel Black splashing in from the high dive