Billy Bones tells us about his early days of skating, travelling around the world and some very funny shenanigans.Hey buddy, how are you?
I’m doing well. You?
Great thanks! Where are you from?
I was born in South Carolina but grew up in Texas.
Does anyone call you Weiner?
Do you have a favourite nickname?
Billy Bones has kind of become the standard but I’m getting stoked on William Skeleton.
One step away from Skeletor!
Ha! I don’t think I can use the name Skeletor. I’ve got a homie in Portland (Danny Tumia) who goes by Skeletor. Don’t want to step on his toes.
When did you start skating?
Long time ago. Not sure when but I’ve got a lot of vague memories of riding some crappy plastic skateboard in my driveway as a kid. Pretty sure my first skateboard had Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on it.
Have you taken any breaks from when you were Billy the kid till now?
I skated on and off for quite a while. Mainly because I didn’t have lots of people to skate with or good terrain. Once I moved to Portland 8 years ago, I started back up and have been at it ever since.
What were you riding back then?
I mostly skated mini ramps and jumped down stairs.
When did you find other people to skate with?
Hmm… I guess that would have been when I was going to school at University of Portland and my friends got longboards that we’d goof around on.
What was the skate community in college like?
I wouldn’t say there was a community really. At least then there wasn’t. We would just cruise around on bike paths and occasionally I could convince one of them to go to Burnside with me.
What is Burnside?
Burnside is a skatepark that was built (illegally) by skateboarders underneath the Burnside bridge. It started over 20 years ago and eventually the city realized it was a good thing to have, so they allowed it. Today it is still one of the best/gnarliest skateparks out there.
How did getting a longer board change skating for you?
I had a longboard that I got when I was in Junior High and I would bomb a couple hills in Texas and some hills in Montana. I didn’t know what I was doing but it felt pretty cool to go fast.
How is skating in Texas different from Portland?
When I lived in Texas, skating was not cool (and probably still isn’t). Portland is one of the most skate-friendly cities in the US. So it was like night and day moving to Portland.
What does the city of Portland do to make skaters happy?
The city itself legalised skateboarding on the streets, so it is legal for me to skate around town. And they also were cool with the guys building a DIY skatepark under the Burnside bridge.
Is the governor a skater?
I don’t believe so. But I did see a photo of Portland’s new mayor on a skateboard.
What do skaters have to do to keep up their side of the bargain?
Not act like a shit head. It still happens, but there are a lot of responsible skaters in Portland that keep things on good terms.
What kind of skating were you doing in your college years?
Since I’m still in college that covers a lot. When I first moved to Portland I was hitting skateparks all the time and just starting to figure out how to bomb hills properly.
When did you figure it out?
I still am not sure if I’ve figured it out.
Who was your gang then?
Right when I started figuring out how to bomb hills I began to kick it with the Zoobomb crew. That’s when I think I really started to progress as a downhill skater.
What is the Zoobomb crew?
The Zoobomb crew is a group of people that meet up on the top of the West Hills and bomb down on little kids bikes every Sunday night. They’ve been doing it for over 10 years and have a handful of gnarly runs they go down. It started out a bike event but now lots of skaters are into it.
What do you enjoy about skating down hills?
It’s pretty fun to go really fast on a skateboard. Not many things beat that feeling. You forget about all the other bullshit that is going on during your day and enjoy the ride.
Are there many fun runs in the city?
There are tons of fun hills to bomb around the city. Some are a little more sketchy than others.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learnt about downhill skating?
It hurts to fall.
Have you had any gnarly crashes?
A few here or there but nothing too major. I took a spill in Colorado while doing 76+mph. Max Dubler was right behind me and I was worried I was going to take him out in the process. I managed to walk away from that crash with a stubbed toe.
When did you first skate outside Portland?
I went to lots of skateparks outside the city, but going to Maryhill for the first time was a big deal for me. I think that was 2006?
What were you riding back in ‘06?
I was riding an Eastside longboard, Randal DHs and 83mm flywheels. Looking back on it, that seems like a foolish setup for that hill, but at the time that was a standard downhill skateboard.
How did you prepare for Maryhill?
Not sure if I did any preparation. I didn’t realize what I was getting into until I actually hiked up the hill and saw what I was skating down.
What was the experience like?
First run was amazing. I had no idea what was coming up next and didn’t know if the road was ever going to end. Once I got to the bottom I thought, “I can go faster.”
And did you?
Hell yeah. Funny thing is, I still feel like I can go faster.
What do you need to do to go faster?
More weight or a jetpack.
Why is Maryhill so special?
Maryhill is probably special to people for a variety of reasons. I’ve skated that hill so many times it is almost like being reunited with an old friend. It can be intense skating that hill but also relaxing at the same time.
What was the highlight of your first Maryhill weekend?
How did Maryhill change skating for you?
The first time I went to Maryhill was when I met the Coastlongboarding crew. I didn’t know there was a community of skaters like that. It made me want to visit Canada and see what they were all about.
What struck you about the Coast crew?
Rad skaters, super positive, and they know how to have a good time.
What did you learn from them?
I think I learned what a real community was like. Not sure if I experienced anything like that before. They also taught me how to drink.
When did you get to skate Canada?
My first time was Danger Bay 6 in 2007.
What other events did you attend in 2006?
My first race was the Timeship Race at Maryhill that year. Other than that I just went to small local events.
Why did you decide to compete?
Going to races seemed like the natural progression for somebody getting into downhill skating.
How did you do in the race?
I didn’t do that great at Maryhill. But I did pass Jim Z in one of my heats (mainly due to the fact that he went off the road while looking back at me). That was rad.
Who is Jim Z?
Jim Z is an OG downhill skater. He made some of the first precision trucks and has won the Sullivan Challenge more than anybody else. Super rad guy.
What did it feel like to skate in Canada?
Cold and wet but fun.
How is a Canadian race different from those on your side of the border?
Canadian races usually aren’t IGSA (or at least they weren’t back then) so they were more fun and less serious.
What do you enjoy about non-sanctioned races?
Once you put a sanctioning body over a race it comes along with a certain set of rules/protocols you must follow. Depending on the race that can work out in its favor or be detrimental. In my experience it seems to get in the way of skating. Although I will say there are some organizers out there that have done a great job of providing a sanctioned race that gives you plenty of time to skate (mainly John Ozman).
What’s your ideal race setup?
Skateboard wise? Depends on the course.
Course wise? Depends on my mood.
Do you have a favourite race?
What makes it special?
It’s a fun/challenging course, 8 man heats, starts at noon, no bullshit to deal with. You show up and skate.
Do you organise any events?
I am the organizer of the Mt. Tabor Downhill Challenge, and I also help with the Cathlamet Downhill Corral and the Switchback Series.
What is Cathlamet?
Cathlamet is a three day skateboard festival in SW Washington that happens the last weekend of August. All kinds of fun skateboard events that cater to every type of skater.
When did you first organise Mt. Tabor?
The first MTDHC was in 2011.
What do you enjoy about organising events?
Seeing other people enjoy something that I love.
Are there any challenges?
There are lots of challenges to putting on a downhill race but the City of Portland is pretty easy to work with. They see the merit in the skateboard events we (myself and Jp Rowan) organize and they do their best to help us out.
What was the highlight of 2007 for you?
Realizing how much potential there was for downhill skateboarding.
Who is JP?
Jp is my good friend and business partner. We run Pdxdownhill which is the event organizing group in Portland and he is also the manager of Rip City Skate. Both of us are stoked to grow and develop a community of skateboarders in Portland and provide events that cater to them.
When did you first skate together?
I think we first met at Burnside or Mt. Tabor. Started skating together shortly after.
What made you start pdxdownhill?
We saw what Bricin had done in Canada and wanted to replicate that in Portland.
How has the community benefited?
Jp and I have managed to provide events for skaters over the last few years and we’ve seen the community grow a lot. At first it was a few kids dinking around on skateboards and now there are tons of people shredding hard.
What else do you do for the community?
I’ve gotten involved in skateboard advocacy. Over the last year or so there have been issues that have come up in the city that have jeopardized our right to ride a skateboard in the city. I started attending meetings at city hall and began working with various city officials to work on a positive outcome. I was very surprised by how awesome it was to work with the City of Portland. I feel like if I lived anywhere else things would have not worked out well.
How do you pass on the message to the skaters?
Most of the Portland crew knows that we’ve got things pretty good here and they respect that. There are a few kids that act like little shits and I have to get real with them.
Grom sacrificial pit?
That’s a great idea!
What’s your race mentality?
Have fun and don’t fuck up.
What did you get up to in ‘08?
I went to as many Canadian races as I could. Got 2nd at Danger Bay and 1st at Sully that year. I was pretty stoked.
What has been your favourite year of competing?
2012 was a great year. Landyachtz helped me travel all over the place and check out events I would never be able to get to on my own. I didn’t do the best as far as placings go but I had a blast.
When did you hook up with Landy?
I guess it’s been 2-3 years now? It was right around the same time Kyle joined up.
Was that your first sponsor?
No. I’ve had a few sponsors actually. First was Eastside, then Subsonic, then Rayne and now Landyachtz. As far as shops go, Rip City Skate has been hooking me up since they opened their doors.
What is Rip City Skate?
Rip City Skate is one of the premier skateboard shops in Portland, Oregon. It has been open for a few years now and shows no signs of slowing down. It’s done a lot for the community by providing a central hub for all the skaters. They sponsor lots of events, local riders and really help keep us rolling.
What is the importance of having a good local shop?
A good local shop provides support for the community and Rip City Skate has been about that since day one.
What led to your first sponsorship?
The guy who owns Eastside (Robin McGuirk) was stoked on my skating and started hooking me up with boards.
How did you become part of the Landy family?
Ryan Theobald called me up and asked me if I wanted to be on the team. I thought about it, called him back and it was on. For the record, Theobald is rad.
What’s your role in the family?
Put simply, I’m a skater. But that also includes helping out with a lot of other things like product designs, videos, travel and promotions.
Do you work behind the lens?
Nope. I leave that up to Guff.
What products have you helped design?
The most input I’ve had on a specific product was the Loco Series. Kyle and I teamed up and designed the 33’, 35’ and 37’ Loco. Since I live in a different country it’s hard to work directly with the guys at the shop, so I try and make trips up there every once in a while.
Where did your travels take you in 2012?
Damn… I was all over the place. Let’s see. I went to Puerto Rico, California (Catalina and Laguna Seca), Canada a few times, Mexico, Orcas Island, Colorado, Ohio, a bunch of places on the Midwest Tour and probably a few other spots that I’ve forgotten.
What was your favourite stop?
They were all pretty rad. It’s hard to pick a favorite because each trip introduced me to a new group of people that were all incredibly friendly and down to have fun. It seems like everybody was very different but we all got along really well because we love skateboarding.
One of the biggest highlights was going to Orcas Island. For years I wanted to go to the skatepark there but never got around to it. And one day, out of the blue, I got a call from Landyachtz telling me they were planning a trip there. I heard who else was going and instantly knew it would be a great trip.
What was the biggest culture shock?
Mexico. For sure. I thought I could manage without knowing Spanish but I was very wrong. I was definitely “that gringo.”
What was the midwest tour?
The Midwest Tour was a promotional trip where we went to various shops and campuses throughout the heartland of America. I wasn’t sure what it’d be like but all we did was skate and party with rad people. Many shenanigans were had.
When will you come to Europe?
I definitely want to check out what’s going on in Europe, but the races over there seem too serious for my liking. I’ve met lots of rad Euros at races in the US and I’ve been meaning to pay them a visit (Kula, Clément, Thib, Erik, Fredrik, Pete etc…)
Where did you meet giant Barbie?
Ha! He came to the Tabor race right before Maryhill (got 2nd too!). Really rad guys and great all around skater. I was pretty stoked to give that guy a handful of cash during the awards ceremony.
Kozakov is definitely a serious party!
That’s what I’ve heard. I’m not saying the parties aren’t rad, but I don’t know if I would want to follow a circuit of races around for a month. I’d get too distracted by the skateparks.
There are some sick freerides in Spain as well!
Honestly, there’s probably tons of rad events in Europe that I have no clue about. Maybe I should convince Landyachtz to send me on an exploratory trip.
Where else would you like to visit this year?
It’s hard to say. Australia would be pretty sweet. Asia too. There are so many places I want to go but it’s tough to manage a lot of travelling when I’m in school. Definitely gonna have to pick and choose.
What do you ride?
Depends what I’m riding.
Skatepark: Loco 33
Cruising around town: Loco 35
Racing: New Landy topmount (soon to be released).
Going to the coffee shop: Dinghy
What do you do when you’re not skating?
Study for nursing school, go rock climbing and sing karaoke (shout out to Boiler Room!).
Karaoke conjures up an image I would rather forget from Mexico!
You’re probably thinking of the short-shorts contest. I wasn’t singing then. But yeah, that was probably gross.
What’s the funniest thing that’s happened at an event party?
A lot of this stuff I don’t think I can write without somebody getting pissed, but one story does come to mind.
I think it was Maryhill 2008/2009. Not sure which year exactly but the Daggers were in full force. The ZooCrew was also out that year for the g-bike race and things got crazy. Half of the campsite was covered in flour from an epic battle that had been waged between Team Green, the Daggers and Zoobombers. Rob McKendry and I had our pockets stuffed with water balloons and were pelting people left and right while trying to avoid getting antiqued with flour. We decided to hide behind the stage and throw water balloons up and into the crowd. We waited until the organizer (John Ozman) said, “Who wants a free t-shirt!?!” and we began hucking water balloons as fast as we could. Throwing a water balloon never felt so good. We could even hear people in the crowd getting hit. It was wonderful.
When I finally decided to go to bed that night I found out that somebody had dumped a bucket of water in my sleeping bag. That was no bueno.
Who are your usual partners in crime?
Depends. My buddy Garai is usually down to instigate some shit. Or any of the Landyachtz guys really.
What are you looking forward to most this year?
Either Sully or Ride the Giant. Both are rad events and have an awesome skatepark too.
Choose 3 numbers between 1-40!
8 1 7
8 – Best board you’ve ever ridden?
That’s a tough one. I’ve gotten lots of joy out of all my skateboards.
1 – What do you take with you when you go for a skate?
Keys, cell phone, wallet, knife.
7 – What is your favourite meal?
Chili and cornbread
It’s been really really fun chatting to you tonight bro! See you somewhere, sometime!
Lots of fun indeed! Try and make it over to the States sometime and we’ll skate it up.
Any thank yous?
Mom and Dad, Landyachtz, PP Squad, Portland homies and Gbemi for doing this interview.