Kevin DeMello • FS 5-0 grind • 5.9 Crew Halloween Party, Attleboro/MA   © Fraser Thomson

‘Later Wee Man actually showed up, and when I met him, he told me he wasn’t cool with me impersonating him.’

Kevin DeMello

Rhode Island

May 2024

Can you tell us something about Rhode Island no one knows?
Our coastline is covered in beaches, which most people know, but what most people do not know is that there are some secret beaches hidden around the state. I live on Aquidneck Island, and we have some hidden beach spots around here that only locals know to go to every summer.

You are one of the few in this issue that actually lives on an island in Rhode Island. Any creepy urban myths stories about Aquidneck Island?
Oh yeah there is plenty. There is a whole walking tour called the Haunted Ghost Tours that goes through downtown Newport, which is a part of Aquidneck Island. We have a restaurant called the White Horse Tavern, it’s the oldest tavern in America. It opened in 1673, and they say that it’s haunted. Ghost sightings, hearing footsteps, people being tapped on the shoulder.

How would you describe the Rhode Island skateboard scene and its community?
So when you ask to describe the Rhode Island skate scene the first thing that comes to mind is ‘damn I’m getting old’. I’ve been skateboarding for 25 or so years now, that’s a few different decades. The skateboarding scene has definitely had its highs and lows with the opening of Skater Island, a skate park on Aquidneck Island, and then it’s closing just a few years later, which forced a ot of people to focus more on street skating. There’s been multiple openings and then closings of skate shops, there are a few smaller skate shops around the state and one skate shop in Providence now that is keeping the scene alive.

Kevin DeMello • Noseslide • Providence, RI   © Darwin Lam

When did you start skateboarding and why did you get into it in first place?
I started skateboarding in the late 90’s when I was about 10 years old. I went to the X Games when they were in Newport where I saw skateboarding for the first time. There was also a local skate spot called Perrotti Park, where I would hang out and watch local skaters and pros. I loved to watch and listen to the white noise of the wheels rolling across the ground and the popping of the boards. It was like we were in our own world. My neighbors at the time would set up skate ramps and skate out in the street in front of our house. My first skateboard was a shitty no name board. I wanted to buy a board from WaterBrothers, our local skate shop. My parents wouldn’t let me get a new one unless mine was broken so I eventually broke it on purpose. I finally got my first real skateboard, and it was a Donny Barley Element board. I would go to Skater Island every week to skate. Skater Island became like a second home. This is where I met some of my closest friends who I still skate with today. There is nothing like the feeling and sound of a board under your feet, and the feeling of landing a trick for the first time or even the hundredth time.

Any local heroes you looked up to at the time?
Skaters I looked up to at the time were Donny Barley, Sid Abruzzi, Davey Rodgers, Ian Sheffield, JTB, Crazy Horse and the 5.9 crew. These guys were all skating at Skater Island. You could say I looked up to everyone because I’m short, that is how I got the nickname ‘Midge’.

I was told that you are neighbors with Donny. Ever thought about putting a ramp across both backyards?
This is funny. So, we actually aren’t back-to-back neighbors, we just live in the same neighborhood. It would have to be more of a snake run down the hill from his house a few blocks to mine. That would be awesome, not that we would ever be able to do it. We set up some rails out front of my house every now and then for a quick session. It usually includes our kids cruising around.

‘Skater Island became like a second home.’

Kevin DeMello • Ollie • DIY Portsmouth, RI   © Eric Full

Proudest moment in your skateboard career?
I’ve been skateboarding for 25 years, so I’ve had a lot of proud moments. I would say my proudest moment in my skateboarding career would have to be when my friend, Justin Kelley, a local Providence skater, asked me to do a ‘bro-model’ skateboard for his new company Hayride Skateboards.

Most embarrassing?
So this one time when I was a teenager Wee Man, and a crew were coming to Rhode Island to visit Skater Island. They were running way late and there was a big crowd of kids waiting around for hours. A few guys and I thought it would be funny for me to pretend to be Wee Man. I’m not the tallest, so it worked. I tied a hoodie tight around my face and skated around doing some tricks while the other guys pointed and yelled that it was Wee Man. I went around and fake signed autographs as ‘Wee Men’. The owner of Skater Island’s mom came up to me and thanked me for being there. Later Wee Man actually showed up, and when I met him, he told me he wasn’t cool with me impersonating him.

Pretty uncool of Wee Man. Did you tell be on time otherwise you will do it again?
(Laughing). No. I just laughed. Some of the kids made a comment that I was a better skateboarder than him. I was just a kid, I would never be able to impersonate him again now that I’m a solid 5’3.5”. (laughing).

Kevin DeMello • Feeble up and crossed • Skaters Edge, Taunton/RI   © Ryan Kirtland

Also, someone told me that you feeble grind on anything. Where would you like to feeble grind if you had to make choice right now?
If I could feeble grind anywhere right now, I would want to be able to go five minutes down the road from my house to the new Newport Skate Park. This park has been in the process for a while now, we are in the fundraising stage. Friends of Newport Skate Park, or FONS, is the group running the project. We are more than halfway to our goal, once that goal is hit, they can begin the building stage. This park is set to be built just five minutes from my house. I look forward to being able to take my daughters there.

You are sheet metal worker and dad to four girls. Which job is harder?
I would definitely have to say being a dad because there is way too many unknowns. With sheet-metal work you already know what’s coming next.

Last question. If you could interview a person, who would it be and why?
If I could interview anyone, it would be PJ Ladd. I grew up skating around him, he is an amazing skateboarder. He is also a man of few words, I know nothing about him and I would love to sit down and have a conversation with him one day.