Launch to mistrail

Launch to mistrail

When it comes to blading been-there-done-that credits, there aren’t too many skaters that have racked up more than Miguel Ramos. He witnessed the blading boom in the ’90s, turned ASA pro during the peak of the sport’s mainstream popularity and followed his dream to America, where he rubbed shoulders with some of the sport’s first generation of stars. Ramos helped create a strong scene in his native Puerto Rico and made friends with the cast and crew of Hoax 4 when they visited his homeland to film for the now legendary and highly influential video series. Most people know him as the hairy heavy metal dude who works at Woodward West and has a close association with SSM, but not many people are aware that he is also responsible for organising competitions and the construction of a public skatepark for his fellow islanders in Puerto Rico and unwittingly arranging an all-star tour to his home country last year that has been documented in Erick Rodriguez’s Blader Gang Worldwide VOD and will form part of the media from Ivan Narez and Brandon Smith’s forthcoming Los Hermanos project.

Ramos has witnessed the development of our culture through various generations and worked tirelessly the entire time, in various aspects, to contribute to the steady growth of our still relatively young sport. These days he can be found doing anything and everything at Woodward West in California, assisting with the construction of ramps every year at Blading Cup, lending a hand with judging at various competitions and acting as a designated driver for various filming missions as part of SSM’s recent 666 Series. He is currently trying to resolve a longstanding back problem that is threatening to jeopardise his physical ability to do what he loves most – shred on his blades – so it seemed like the perfect time to arrange a little chat. When we spoke to Ramos, he was hanging out in one of the various hangers at Woodward West and, with the satisfying low rumble of wheels on wood serving as background music, we rambled away like a pair of old, drunk sailors.

Fishbrain

Fishbrain

Wheel Scene: I see you have been blading recently, but I thought you were hurt.
Miguel Ramos: I’m back on this shit, full on. I’m still in pain, but… I just got an MRI, I’m waiting on the results and I’ve been doing a lot of core exercises. I have about four disks on my back that have deteriorated, so I have muscle spasms and I feel paralysed. I’ve been learning how to use other muscles when I skate because, apparently, I have been using a lot of my lower back. For the past 23 years, I have been using the wrong muscles to skate and now my body is reacting like that. I’ve been learning how to compress my abs more when I jump and stuff like that – it’s pretty weird. I’m just trying to stay healthy.

I think a lot of people that have been skating as long as we have experience lower back pain because you regularly take the impact there instead of bending your knees.
We are retards! We just throw ourselves at shit without learning how to use our fucking bodies. That’s the thing with blading, you strap them on and then day one you are already jumping shit. You think you can do anything. You don’t teach yourself… It’s just weird. We’ve got to learn how to be able to use our bodies so we can skate forever. I think I’m learning the hard way, but it’s never too late. The core is so important.

Did the injury build up over time or did you have a fall that triggered it?
I’ve been having lower back pains since forever. The past five or six years, I’ll just be skating, just relaxing, not even falling, and i do something wrong and everything just shuts down. I can’t move, I can’t get my skates off, breathing hurts. It’s a bitch. But I’ve been doing my stretches and battling on with it. You’ve just got to stay strong.

Exactly! Okay, the reason I wanted to talk to you is because Lewis Bowden comes back from SSM Week at Woodward West every year and tells me all about these crazy stories you have.
Lewis is the homie!

How long have you worked at Woodward?
It’s been a back and forth thing, sometimes for six months at a time, but for about the past seven years maybe. However, I have been living here all year round for the past three years I think. I stopped counting years a while ago.

Ha! Okay.
Time is bullshit. Who the fuck created time? He blew it for everybody!

How did you end up getting a job there?
I worked once at Woodward East on an exchange. Chris Edwards got me an unpaid job there. I went back a few times and then I came to California because Richie (Velasquez) has been a really good friend of mine since about 1996. We met first in New York while he was filming for Hoax 3 or Hoax 4. We met again in Puerto Rico and we have known each other since then. He invited me to Woodward West, so I came over, skated, started helping around. He found out that i was leaving and he was like, “Dude, come over. We can start something here and see how it goes.” The next thing I know, I started working here. I like to work, build shit and help wherever I can with blading. I don’t see myself doing anything else.

What exactly do you do at Woodward West – build ramps, teach kids, what?
Both. I work up at the lodge, too. I work at the hotel. We have a bar – I work over there, too. I work at the office, I fix ramps, build ramps, anything. You name it, I do it. I live here so I jump on everything. It’s crazy. Maybe that’s one of the reasons why they keep me!

Did you say you were in New York while Hoax 3 was being filmed?
No… When i met Richie? That was 1996 and I was skating over there, but I was in Puerto Rico while they were filming for Hoax 4. Richie’s family was over there and Christian Rodriguez, rest in peace, the one we owe so much to in Puerto Rico for blading.

Whoa! Christian Rodriguez is dead?!
Yeah, dude, out of nowhere. He was a next level musician and was doing a lot of music. He played every single instrument you can think of. He was living in the old San Juan and it was raining a lot, and I think the house was leaking and there was a lot of water on the floor. All his equipment was on the first floor and apparently he grabbed an extension cord or something and he electrocuted himself. He’s like the Godfather of Puerto Rico blading. We all miss him so much. He was obsessed with making everyone learn their tricks switch and landing perfect, so we all grew up with that mentality. Anyway, they were filming Hoax 4 and Christian brought the homies to Puerto Rico, and when I saw Richie I was like, “Shit, I met you in ’96.” That was it. Then we became homies.

When did you move to the United States?
I don’t know. I still feel like I haven’t left Puerto Rico. I have always been back and forth. I care about my country so much. I am only here because i can get a job. I remember I qualified for the ASA Pro Tour back in the day, so I saved some money, moved to New York and then I bought a ticket to England – that was maybe ten years ago or something – and then I came back to New York. All I know is I’ve had a year-round job here for about four years!

Haha! Fair enough.
In the early ‘90s, I was just like, “I’m moving to America.” I was just all about blading, but there was something in my heart saying, “Don’t leave. Take care of your blading roots here.” I did contests around the island, doing little things for blading, and we built a big skatepark. When blading was big over here, I just couldn’t leave because I didn’t want to see my scene die in Puerto Rico. After I did all that, I was like, “Now I can leave.” I left with about $35 in my pocket.

That’s crazy. What was it like, growing up in Puerto Rico?
It’s a very interesting… We are the only colony left. We are part of America, but we’re not part of America. We are not a US state but we are US citizens. We became US citizens a couple of months before the First World War. It’s epic. Blading has been going on there since ’92. The food is amazing, the music is awesome, but the vibe… it’s so amazing how, on a small island, it is really hard to get a job but, somehow, everybody is happy. Everybody is dancing and doing their thing… Dancing salsa and fucking around – it’s beautiful. You have to experience it. We did a tour last year, just camping, skating, and enjoying the tropical vibes. It’s a cool place to visit.

I was going to ask you about the tour with Ivan Narez, Erick Rodriguez, Franky Morales, David Sizemore and all of those guys. Whose idea was that?
I go every year and, for years, I had been telling everyone to come. I visit my mum, my grandma, and just blade and chill for a couple of weeks. Last year, Ivan Narez and Brandon Smith, they had this project going on and they said, “Fuck it, let’s do it.” It was just five of us at first. Next thing I know, I arrive in Puerto Rico and pick up four of the dudes, then four more dudes show up, then Ivan shows up, then three more guys show up. The next day, we picked up two more! We had a van and it was full with about 14 people…or 18 or something! We had no agendas, we just went with the flow, and the tour was really amazing. There were so many different styles. Franky Morales was there and David Sizemore, and Dave Lang and Kruise Sapstein… We bought some tents and just went with the flow. Ten days of amazing skating.

It looks like an organised tour because there were loads of guys there and it wasn’t just random bladers. Some of the best-known bladers in the world were on that tour. Any interesting stories you can share with us from that experience?
(Laughs) I don’t know. You can check E Rod’s Bladergang video. Hopefully, really soon, Ivan and B Smith’s film and pictures, the most amazing shit, but that’s still top secret, so… Really soon you will see that project. Los Hermanos, I think it’s called. I saw the raw footage of it and I was like, “Whoa!”

I have heard some things about it. I have heard Ivan is thinking of releasing videos and books…or something like that.
There were so many talented people on that tour, filming and doing stuff, so it was amazing. It was epic. Those two guys are going to bring out something amazing and I don’t know if the blading world is ready. It’s so beautiful. They visited Mexico too. Blading is dead, but people are still so passionate and they’ve got so much talent and cool shit coming out.

Topside mistrail

Topside mistrail

After working at Woodward for several years, what have you noticed about blading? How many bladers visit every summer for the camps?
Every year, at least in America, the bladers just get older and you don’t see that next generation coming. The campers that used to visit six years ago are now over 18 and mum and dad don’t buy shit any more. Blading is never going to die, but we don’t have that next generation. Those 11-16-year-old bladers, at least in America, we don’t have that. The kids, the people that buy shit, the people that support blading… The adults, they buy stuff, but… Every year, you just see the kids getting older, but you don’t see that next generation. It’s so interesting and sad. We don’t really have many campers now, just a few kids. In California, if you are a blader and you go to a skatepark, you instantly feel that vibe of, “Who the fuck are you?” I can imagine being a kid in America, showing up to a park with your blades, and instantly being the cultural joke. Everybody is trying to be cool, so no-one is blading. It’s so important to get the few kids that are blading stoked. It’s up to us to get them addicted to this shit and show them the way. We grew up with a solid scene and a big group of friends who blade, but this generation doesn’t have a solid scene. They show up to the skatepark with blades and they end of grabbing a scooter.

Europe does seem to have a stronger scene than the United States at the moment. It seems to be more accepted, but it’s still not popular. The UK once had one of the biggest blading markets in the world, but now you can visit a skatepark and be the only person there with blades.
Everybody’s trying to make sure the bladers are making money and the industry doesn’t die, but first of all we’ve got to make sure we’ve got the next generation. Don’t get me wrong, I like alcohol and drugs and skating hard and saying “fuck you”, but I don’t want to show that to some kid at a skatepark. You have to take it back to basics and show them that love. We need to stop trying to be so cool.

If the summer camps aren’t big at Woodward any more, what keeps the business going?
The numbers are low but they still keep it going. Gary Green, the owner of this place, said, “We’re not going to drop blading. It’s part of our market and made us what Woodward is today.” Back in the ‘90s, blading was huge and the X Games made every kid wanna be an athlete and where did they go? Woodward, to train. They won’t invest in blading, because it’s still a business at the end of the day, but they won’t drop us. Woodward is the only main corporate place that hasn’t dropped blading. X Games doesn’t want nothing to do with us but Woodward will never drop us.

Does Woodward have a scooter program in addition to the BMX and skateboard camps?
Oh, fuck yeah! Scooters are what blades were back in ’95.

Well, yeah! It’s the new sport that everyone hates but it’s really popular.
The sport isn’t even on TV, but somehow there are still hundreds of kids. It’s the online generation. They grew up with the internet, so they don’t need the TV and media bullshit. They are doing really well. We have scooter camps and there are so many kids on waiting lists because they are so busy. It’s pretty good. They are taking care of their shit. People hate it, but those guys are going big.

Scooters are the new rollerblades.
I hate when a blader says, “Fuck scooters.” Fuck you! Stop acting like a skateboarder!

Yeah, that was us back in the ‘90s. We were just dumbass kids, who didn’t know anything, and everyone hated us.
I can’t hate on scooters. They are doing really well. They don’t need no ESPN, they don’t need no TV. They are doing their own thing, creating an online thing, and they are taking care of their kids. They create goals within the sport so that kids keep doing it. We need to stop saying, “I wish we could go back to the X Games.” Fuck that. We need to make our own thing.

You nailed it. With scooters, kids have got goals within the sport to strive for, so they are going bigger and harder ever, but in blading, many of the top pros have stopped doing that because there is no reward. You’ve still got people like Dave Lang and Chris Haffey, but you’ve got other people who are rebelling against it, like the Kelsos or the Mushroom Blading guys.
Blading has become such an abstract, beautiful thing. You have guys going hard as fuck and you’ve got the Kelsos and Broskow doing their technical shit – that’s quality control. We didn’t used to have that back in the day. Those boys have got some control. There are now so many different aspects to blading and I think that’s beautiful because we used to be so structured – how we dress, what tricks we do, blah, blah, blah. Back in the day, it was Senate pants with the stripes and everybody had to do backslides. There’s now a freedom and different styles. Now people can feel part of different things that appeal to them – 100mm wheels or anti-rocker wheels. There are now so many options. People think we are slowing down, but I think we are growing up. I think we’re finally letting go of that teenage mentality.

It does seem like people are trying more than ever to carve their own identities within the sport.
Driving around with Bolino filming for his 666 part, that guy was going hard as hell and there was no reward. Look at Shima. What the fuck?! When has anyone ever broke both of his ankles going that metal? Ankles touching the ground. There are two kids in the skatepark right now busting 900s and things because they have the time to train. But bladers are working hard all week at their job, spending time with their girlfriend, and they still find time to get out and the weekend and film for a part. It’s amazing.

I know you have been on a lot of the SSM filming missions. Were you there when Shima got hurt?
Seba was there, some other dudes were there, but i wasn’t there. I have heard a lot of stories about it. That shit was intense. A little mistake…

Yeah, because he makes the gap the first two times and then…
I think Shima was just too juiced. When you do this kind of gap you always draw a line or something so you know where to aim. You put a shoe down or something. If you don’t see that bank, you don’t see where you’re going until you jump. Shima just jumped a little to the left and the bank was further away. That situation that Shima went through is fucking insane. He did that all for the respect. 33 and still going hard. He will be back.

Sweatstance

Sweatstance

Jumping off roofs on blades at 33 is pretty insane. What was it like while filming for Bolino’s section?
I was driving. He lives about two hours away and i’d go there, pick him up…

All the spots he skated in that section looked huge.
Yeah, and those were the warm-up spots. He works every day, has Saturday and Sunday off, he has a girlfriend, bills, you know. I would drive down on the Friday night, stay the night, wake up the next morning, at about 7:30 in the morning, and say, “Let’s go.” We’d get in the car, drink a cup of coffee, a couple of spliffs and just get metal. We would go straight to those spots. The fakIe to fishbrain to fakie roll, that was about eight in the morning, first spot. You only have this little amount of time because of work. When he shows up, he’s straight to business.

That soul drop off the roof looks like it was filmed in the middle of the night.
That was after a long day of blading. it was ultra dark and he could barely walk after skating so much that day. He got up there and just went for it. He took some bad falls too. He filmed an entire section in a couple of weekends. I don’t know if you can appreciate just how big that spot is.

I don’t know. It looks REALLY high.
When you go in person, you’re like, “No way.”

What are your plans for the rest of the year?
Trying to stay healthy, get my back better and skate. I just want to enjoy this shit until I die. I love how blading is right now, events like Pow Wow, Detroit and Blading Cup. I love seeing all these die hard bladers, we just need some more little kids.

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