The snow fell and covered New Hampshire in a cold wet blanket. Trees stood stark and barren. The earth slept. It was winter and 1987 was rapidly coming to a close. People huddled inside. Blankets. Brandy. Comforts of home. The two friends laughed and drank coffee. The weather had put their skating plans on hold... at least for now. Every once in awhile, they'd put on coats and go outside to shovel the accumulating snow from the platforms and riding surface of the ramp. The sixteen foot wide plywood ramp was all they had and it was special. The streets in their town were so rough and pockmarked from the winter weather and snowplows, that it wasn't really even worth trying to ride. There was an old concrete ditch nearby called the beer bottle basin, but it was full of snow melt and run off most of the year. They nudged each other and started back outside to shovel the ramp again. It made it easier once the weather passed. A knock at the door halted them. The young man who lived there answered the door. UPS. "Oh dude... it's here!" He exclaimed. He grabbed the box from the delivery person and the two friends scrambled upstairs again. They discarded their coats and gloves and tore open the package. "I didn't think it would get here so soon."
The young man held it up. Powell Peralta 'The Search for Animal Chin' They both were super stoked. The 'Bones Brigade Video Show' and its follow up 'Future Primitive' were unbelievably good. They skated as much as they could in the winter season but when they couldn't, these videos that they watched helped them feel connected to skateboarding in a way that the magazines never really could. Video was much more intimate. They felt that Stacy Peralta and George Powell understood this. The sounds, the language, the aesthetic. This is what was needed. They watched the video several times that night. They laughed and caught themselves smiling. The Animal Chin ramp amazed them. It was as if it was built by a skateboard God. As they watched, the snow outside seemed to disappear. The cold became warmth, the sun shone around them... and they were there. On the Animal Chin ramp with them. Tony Hawk, Tommy Guerrero, Lance Mountain, Steve Caballero, Mike McGill. While the people in these small New Hampshire towns had God, guns and guts, they had skateboarding. It was their own private thing. Even though the Powell Peralta videos were filmed --virtually--in another world, they somehow felt like they belonged.
This story was to be repeated all across the world. Isolated pockets of skateboarders around the globe, with splintered plywood ramps and makeshift quarter pipes. In barns, alleys, yards and side streets. Small groups of skaters were united by their devotion to skateboarding. The Powell Peralta video 'Search for Animal Chin' represented a clear demarcation line. I recall seeing it immediately after it came out. It didn't seem corny or odd in any way. The skating was clearly innovative and beyond anything I'd seen before. The dialogue was entertaining and infectious and the message was absolutely clear: fun is where you find it. It was a call to action and it was answered. The Animal Chin ramp was built and destroyed during a three week period in 1986. Mythical. A Mecca of sorts. Yet one you could never reach... the endless search? Maybe not. Tony Hawk, the Bones Brigade and Woodward have recently done something unprecedented. They recreated the Animal Chin ramp at Woodward West. The story of its evolution from the beginning, to myth, and once again into modern reality is all here. 'The Search for Animal Chin' video means a great deal to so many people. Skaters that grew up in New Hampshire and places like it, caught themselves quoting Tommy Guerrero and the others in their everyday talks. It became a 'secret language'. "Have you seen him?" "Wake up and smell the concrete." "Yapple dapple." "Bunson over the Junson." "Maps to the skaters... Holmes." The list goes on... Sometimes, a strange form of Chin-quistics overcomes these older skaters. Some say the dialogue is silly. Yet aren't silly and fun basically coloring your life with the same crayon? I think so. The Bones Brigade showed us that we can have fun finding stoke. If you're looking for stoke, then you're having fun. Fun is where you find it. Thus endeth the lesson.
When we began making the video, I recall saying to the team, "What do you want to do? What do you really want to build and ride?" We had a meeting and just started throwing ideas around. A sketch developed. I mean, ramp on ramp? That had never really been done. Some of it worked and some didn't. Like the tunnel. It didn't really work. It was a gimmick. The craziest thing, is that once the guys drew up the initial plans, we had to find a place to build it. The Chin ramp was massive. It wouldn't fit in a yard or a parking lot. One day Mike McGill called and said, "I think I found some land. It was in the Oceanside area between some junk yards. The lumber company delivered the wood without any proof that we had permission. We didn't. How's that? Crazy. We basically had only four whole days to film. We covered it from every single angle. We didn't have multiple cameras. Just one. I'd set up an angle, bang, bang, bang... four days straight. Everyone put out maximum effort. I still get asked thirty years later, "Have you found Chin?" Here we are thirty years later and we built it again. Remarkable."
Looking back on the Animal Chin ramp from 1986... it makes me think. Stacy is very intuitive about skateboarding. He was recently asking us about the stuff they build now to promote skateboarding, compared to the things we had back then. The general answer was that it is mostly generic. Cookie cutter. Same sizes. Stacy said, "Are they still trying to standardize skateboarding?" Our answer was "Yes" across the board. Maybe they think that if they make it understandable or judgeable by the general public, it can become bigger. Stacy then answered, "They didn't get what we were trying to do at all, did they?" What I got out of the whole thing was this: We built the Animal Chin ramp back then to say, "Keep trying new things. Keep it creative. Keep evolving." The ideas and creative thought behind it is far more important in drawing kids to the act itself.
After we met and came up with the Animal Chin ramp drawing, I was pretty blown away to arrive at the ramp and see it sitting there... all the possibilities and lines that could be discovered. Ramps at that time, were not too diverse. We just thought up the most interesting thing we could come up with. Opposing ramps, vert spine, mini ramp on the deck... no one had ever thought of the vert spine. We were all pretty intimidated by the vert spine. It excites me to see what's in store for the future. I like the ramp being here at Woodward for a younger generation to ride. This ramp brings a great deal of excitement to vert skating. When we did the Animal Chin ramp section of the video, it was very organic. We were like, "Hey let's try doubles" and then it sort of went from there. There was nothing really planned. Once the camera started rolling, we all just went for it. Regarding the new Chin ramp, I'd been sitting with Grant Brittain in his office and the four invert photo was hanging there. I said, "Wouldn't it be great to shoot that again. I mean, we are all still skating." We talked to Tony and one day he phoned and said that Woodward was going to let us build it there. We are all very stoked. Once we all converged at Woodward and saw the new Chin ramp, we started joking around. "I can't believe some of the stuff we did on this thing thirty years ago!" So many emotions were going through my head. Do I come here and try things I'd never done the first time around? Do I try to do the tricks I did in the video or do I just do tricks I can do. I just told myself to practice my invert. Once we nailed the four invert shot... we were good.
I'm in awe of the boys. All of them. I mean, we originally started riding the Animal Chin ramp in 1986, it came together pretty directly. One person said, "Let's do backside airs on the spine opposite each other. We did it and it all escalated from there. The same thing happened here at Woodward on the new Chin ramp. We made the four inverts and then Tony said, "Let's try four frontside inverts." I thought it was crazy, but we ended up doing that as well. That has never been done and here we are thirty years later doing it. Another first. I did a backside ollie rock-n-roll slide over the channel and I'd never done that before. Could I have done it back then? Maybe. I just never thought of it.
This is really only the beginning.The Chin ramp is a permanent structure at Woodward West. Anyone that comes to Woodward West can ride it. People will do tricks but this is where they'll be measured. "Oh you did that trick? But did you do it on the Chin ramp?" I do find it hard to compare this Chin ramp to the original because ramps have changed so much over the last thirty years. I'm accustomed to having a larger landing zone on my ramps, where this Chin ramp is smaller. If you don't hit things right, you'll hang up or wash out. The new Chin ramp is ten foot transitions with a foot of vert. I guess we've gotten spoiled... and older.
The Animal Chin ramp is a myth. A lie. We weren't allowed to say what it was. We had to keep it secret. Lance and I worked out the transitions because he had liked a couple of the ramps I had built at the time. We lied to everyone. We told them it was nine and a half foot transitions with a foot and a half of vert, but really we were making elliptical transitions. It was really a larger transition but it wasn't as high. It was friendlier to ride. That was the big mystery. I think it took eight days. After we had cleared the land for it. Stacy said, go ahead and build it. He didn't even have permission. We just did it. Lance and Mike helped. Stacy helped a bit. Lance was there everyday like one of the crew. The Brigade trickled in to look at it. I recall that the first day it was done, Lance was so tired, he took a day off and went with his family to Anaheim. I believe that was the day that Tony and Cab crashed into each other.
Tony was doing a big air and Cab was coming off the other wall and coming up underneath him. As Cab was coming up the wall, Tony was coming down. Cab crouched up in a ball but caught Tony's shins. It flipped him over and Tony got completely taken out. We thought he'd be out of the filming. Pretty bad. He rested for a day and was ok after. When they came to ride the Chin ramp, they were in disbelief. It was pretty unreal. The last day of filming, we popped the tunnel open. Only Lance and I knew we had actually built it. It didn't really work but it was cool for filming. Tommy Kay came up with the mini ramp idea on top of the vert ramp. It was his design. We used it on the Chin ramp. Once filming was over, it was torn down by some local people and that was that. With the Chin rebuild, I was called in and we decided to put it in at Woodward West permanently. We made the original Chin ramp four feet smaller. We made the new Chin spine sixteen feet wide rather than twelve. It makes it a bit more functional. The whole ramp is four feet wider. PVC coping was on the original due to time constraints. We put steel coping on this one. Otherwise, its the same ramp. Hush. Hush.
When we were taken out to where the Animal Chin ramp was in Oceanside, I was shocked at how large it was. It was the biggest skateboarding ramp built... at least up to that time. It had a spine, ramps on the deck. I knew what these guys were going to do on that thing. It was no surprise. Once we started filming, I think Stacy wanted to include me a bit more in this section and he had me open the tunnel of the ramp. In the film, Lance and I always joked around quite a bit. Stacy would egg us on. I still get people coming up to me and quoting me in that film. A friend of mine and I always had a touch of Tourette's I think. We never knew what would come out of our mouths. Silliness. Just fun. The whole thing just came together. We never had any idea that we'd be sitting here in thirty years living this dream once more.
I was skating with Tony one day and he mentioned the idea about shooting the four invert photograph again from the Animal Chin ramp. He said they had talked about just building the spine section and shooting it but he wondered if Woodward West would be interested in building it. I went back to the people at Woodward West and we discussed it. They have a long standing respect for -- not only Tony Hawk -- but the other skaters of the Bones Brigade as well. We ran the numbers and realized that the cost was super high. We crunched things down a bit and a marketing strategy was put in place to do some social media things with regard to the Animal Chin ramp being at Woodward West. We scaled back the cost, utilized some Woodward West building staff to offset the labor costs and the ramp was built. Tony Hawk and Woodward West felt that the Animal Chin ramp should be ridden by a whole other generation of skateboarders. I am proud of the fact that it is permanently on the facility at Woodward West and I've already seen a whole new group of young skateboarders ripping on it. Its an exciting thing to see.
Thank you to George Powell and Stacy Peralta. Thank you Michael Furukawa. Thank you to the Tony Hawk Foundation and the RIDE Channel. Thank you to Deville Nunes, Miki Vuchovich, Grant Brittain and Chris Ortiz for the images. Special thanks to Neal Hendrix and Woodward West for coming through with flying colors. EPIC. Thank you to the Bones Brigade. I am grateful and consider it an honor to be doing this. Skate- Ozzie Ausband