Marc, tells us about his early days skateboarding on the East Coast, his new European skating adventures and the I <3 DH Grand Prix he organised this past summer. Also featuring photos from the event by Jessica Basil
Hi Marc, where are you from?
I am from Morristown, New Jersey, USA. I currently live in Basel Switzerland.
When did you start skating?
My dad had an old Hobie with clay wheels in the garage, but I got my first ‘real’ board when I was 11 or 12.
What was it like skating then?
It was the boom of the mid 80’s Tony Hawk and Christian Hosoi battled at each event. Us East Coast kids just wanted to be a part of it. When any pros would tour the east coast, we would beg our parents to drive a few hours just to watch the demo. No YouTube – you just met in town and skated. We had no ramps, no parks, but we had a blast.
Did you make it to any demos?
I saw the Bones Brigade and saw Lance Mountain doing huge airs off kickers. Natas Kapus from Santa Monica Airlines came to Ridgewood, NJ and he was the ollie master at the time. He could clear 5 or 6 stacked boards. Mark Gonzales was either hungover or something else – he sat on a curb and did not skate.
Do you still skate with any of the old gang?
No, I ran into one old skater – Chris Collins, and he had somewhat of a successful skate career. I was 15, and some people went to Uni and moved on.
Have you taken any breaks since you first started?
Yes, hand rails became the thing to do – and everyone had a broken wrist. I was 16 and had a group of friends with cars, and a group of friends who skated at the mall. I was pretty bad, so I quit for a about 8 years. I still rode – I lived in walking distance to my high school and downhilled every day.
About 10 years ago I got back into it. Eric Bramer, he posts on some boards as ”Pre School Rider” – gave me my first run on luge and also taught me to slalom skate. This was in the mid 90’s when no one was doing it. Sector 9 hooked me up with a board since I was a snowboard instructor, and I started riding again.
You’ve been riding longboards since the 90s?
My first longboard was actually in about ’88. Since I’m over 6 feet tall, I bought a vision longboard – 36”. My 5’4” friends were all riding the same size board as me. But I had an original cosmic rider from S9 in 97 or 98.
Do you still have your first board?
Sadly, no. It was this fun flexy board – and I stiffened it with carbon fiber, but it still did not ride like I wanted. I had old Randal 160mm 35 deg. dh plates on it. It was great for it’s time.
How did you get it?
Internet! Sector 9 and ncdsa.com were online. I called S9 and told them that I was the head coach for snowboarding at Windham Mountian, which was true, and they gave me a deal on a board. No one had one. I used to live in Hoboken, NJ and I used to ride it to the train and to bars.
Do you still coach snowboarding?
Yes, I still teach on the weekends. That is how I had the ”in” with Windham. My 9 year old son has been riding for 2 years.
Does it help with your longboarding?
If you can pump a slalom board, you can snowboard. If you can do standup slides, you can snowboard. DH skating is so much more technical. Brian Davenport of push culture came out with me last winter and had not snowboarded in 10 years. He was killing it by the end of his first day!
Do you still manage to keep in touch with the East Coast family while you’re in Switzerland?
I am not good enough to do standup – so I luge. Our community is very small and we are all good friends. Chris Hicks is like a brother to me and he helped me run I love DH. We talk all the time. Chris McBride and I have been racing together for about 15 years. I have known him longer than I have known my wife! The Push Culture Crew helped me out so much with the race. If it was not for the internet, I could not have pulled it off.
What is I love DH?
I love DH was born on a car ride back from Soldiers of Downhil with Chris Hicks. We took the ”I love NY” idea and turned it to I love DH (down hill). I have worked for Windham Mountain for about 15 years. I proposed the first race over 10 years ago and got a NO. There was a change in management, and now we have a race!
Why did it take so long for it to come to fruition?
I gave up for a few years, the east coast still had the Madison County Gravity Festival and I had some kids and moved to Switzerland for a while. When I went back – the Events Coordinators Eric and Troy, were Downhill Mountain bikers – they get it. The ski areas need more summer events, and they took a big chance on me. It still took a year.
What is the track like?
The track was fun – it looked really easy in the video, but it was more technical than racers thought. 2 braking zones – some of the skaters broke 47 and lugers hit 53 mp/h. It was great for the east coast.
What was the most difficult thing about organising the race?
Getting everyone to agree to do the race. I had to work with the Mountain, the Town, the County and a home owners association.
Then you have the actual event. 180 racers, sponsors, volunteers, staff, and fans. It was crazy! So much fun, and so wild.
Was this the first event you had organised?
Yes, I went big on the first event. Madison County had been canceled for a few years, and I was tired of complaining about the lack of races. So I did something about it.
What was the highlight of the weekend for you?
For me, it was the Junior 1’s – kids 11 and under. My boys are 7 and 9 – and seeing these kids, who ride so well, inspire me and my kids. One Dad came from Puerto Rico with his son to race – how cool is that? we are now a generational sport!
Do your kids skate?
Yes, Jake (9) did the kids race at Adrelinia on Govenor’s Island year and got 2nd in the kids. He was on the cover of silverfish! Luke (7) skate too. He is getting into easy hills and likes to steal my Bustin.
Where do you ride while you’re in Europe?
I try to do events. Switzerland is very centrally located. I raced Bo-Peep in the UK, since easy jet is cheap and did the Marchaux freeride. There is a great 5km hill about 20 min. from my house. My none skating friends think I am nuts.
Is there a community in Basel?
No. I am starting to find a few people, but I will be going to ride with the Layback Shop in Freibug Germany and some people in Zurich.
Have you skated in Germany before?
No, I have raced Are, Sweeden, France, Austira, Switaerland, USA, Canada, but not in Germany yet.
How was Bo Peep?
It was so much fun! I got to ride will Will Stephenson, Ben, Len and Joel King. I had not raced with them for 2 years. Just like a family reunion. Liz and Norm put on a great event. The UK has a lot of young talent.
What did you enjoy most about your time in England?
It was such a warm and welcoming community. Liz Kinnish put me up and then I found out that she and her dad were coming to New York to see Nick, her brother, race. She did not know I was running that event. Norm and Liz taught me so much, that helped me run my event. I saw so many old friends and made so many new ones. It was also good that everyone spoke English!
What’s your relationship with the PC guys like?
Brian and Travis (and Jenica) are such great people. For all of us, it was a home town event. We had to show what the east coast can can do. Jenica worked the mic as our announcer for 2 days with Solomon Lang, and she was a natural. I met them a few years ago through Chris Hicks when one of them needed some leathers. Their event coverage of any event is so much fun to watch. Joe does such a great job of editing! Solomon was brilliant. I went to Bustin’s office on Wednesday before the race and he told me he was working the mic with Jenica. They were wonderful. They know our comunity and represented so well.
Joe Goodman is a beast!
They did all the Maryhill edits without internet access from their hotel last week! He is an artist.
Who is Chris Hicks?
Is an amazing luger, surfer, artist, skater and snowboarder. I taught him how to luge and I have never caught him since. Chris did all the artwork for the race and help me organize it. But, he can surf double overhead waves when hurricanes hit long island, NY! He just got 9th at Mary Hill!
Will the race be back on next year?
Windham say they want ‘bigger’. I don’t know what that means yet, they just had a world cup mountain bike race, but we will be talking. Push race? Slalom? I am taking a month off and then we start 2013.
When did you start competiting in Luge?
Late 90’s, right around the last few years luge on X-games. There was an east coast org, National Street Luge Assoc (NSAL) and I drove of 14 hours to some races. There were NO skater at my first few years of racing. At the fist Madison County – which was a gravity games qualifiers (EDI race). I saw standup in person for the first time. It was a 60mph hill! Biker Sherlock was fast. I hit 69.3 mph on a GPS. riding on indy 215s!
You never raced standup?
I do not have the testicular fortitude. I wish I could, but I am afraid of going over 40 mph. I think it’s so cool how skaters and lugers have such mutual respect for each other. But I wish I could be good enough to race standup.
What do you enjoy about luge?
It is hard to put into words, I love the speed, the corners, the competition. I love the sound of the wind and riding shoulder to shoulder with friends. You can clear your head and focus on the hill. Gravity is the purest form of competition. One thing our non skating friends don’t understand is the bond. We skaters and lugers race in groups and have to trust the people we race with. That trust is built on every race and it is why we keep going back. Our friendships are more than skin deep. It is a family bond that keeps us all together.
Where has been the furthest place you’ve found downhill family?
When I lived in New Jersey, I went to Åre, Sweden, then went to Norway, took a train from Hell (the name of the town) and found the IGSA’s Marcus at the nearest bar to the train.
What has been your best competitive season?
About 3 years ago in Europe – I made 2 top 10’s. I am not very good, but I love to ride!
Have you competed in slalom?
No just for fun.
What do you do when you’re not skating?
Snowboarding! It is a great excuse to get outside and see the world when the roads are not good to skate. I am also learning to kiteboard – big air with a kite is fun! And crashing on the water does not hurt.
What are your plans for the rest of the season?
I am already starting to work on events for 2013. I will be back in Europe in a few weeks and I plan on racing in Padova and Montreaux. There are also a few freerides that I will try to make in the fall. Any event within a six hour drive from Basel. The Layback crew in Freiburg, Germany has Wednesday night freerides – so I ride with William and his crew.
What do you ride?
My luge is a Rogers Bros with Surf-Rodz Trucks. My daily driver is a Bustin Ibach with Indeesz and Swift wheels. Kebbek just set me up with a Ben Dubriel- and Sector 9 gave me a Tiffany. And the Califorida guys hooked me up with their new race deck. It has a sweet huge w concave. They are all being shipped home and I can’t wait to test them out. Better than Christmas. My slalom board is a Comet O’Shea and I do have a 1978 Turner Summer Ski.
Are those your sponsors?
They are the biggest sponsors of my event and they do help me out. Wayne and Surf-Rods are so supportive of every event. Bustin and Surf-Rodz both consider ”I love DH” to be their home town event. But I love my toys and many of my sponsors gave me some toys to play with. My boys have already claimed their new boards.
Choose 3 numbers between 1-35!
4, 1 and 15
4 – Who is the best person you’ve seen skating?
Hmmm, I saw K-Rimes win at peregudes doing the first standups into a corner – but Martin Siegrist is such a smooth and amazing racer. He even showed up to a free ride in New Jersey once!
1 – What do you take with you when you go for a skate ?
Pads! I am getting old and music.
15 – What was the last book you read?
I just finished all the books from Geroge RR Martin – A dance with dragons – can’t wait for the next one to come out!
I had a good time catching up with you bro, hope to skate with you before Bo Peep next year!
The main thing is to encourage skaters to take their boards and travel. I hope more of the American kids find your site and go on the Euro Tour for a summer. The people who I have met are so great and it is a better education than any school. This was really fun!
Any thank yous?
Huge list, but I will keep it short. Thanks to Chris Hicks, Travis, Brian and the PC crew, Wayne from Surf-Rodz, the Bustin team and everyone else who helped get I love DH off the ground! There are 40 sponsors to thank, so just look on ilovedh.com. And to Liz Kinnish for letting me sleep on her couch.
Here is your excuse to go to NY next summer! I am hoping for a few more Brits to come.