‘For such a small state, it blows me away to think about how much we had, and still have, going on.’
Words & Photo
Rhode Island. Up until 2020, the official state name was “The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations”. I actually just learned that (the part about it being shortened) when I tried to google an interesting fact to start off this introduction. Not sure if that’s interesting, but it’s a fact. Rhode Island, not to be confused with Long Island, or an island at all even. The smallest state in America, it sits right between Boston and NYC and has about 50 miles of beaches. You can drive the length of the entire state in an hour, and if you go that far, your packing a lunch for the ride. We call it “leaving town”. Aside from shitty winters and shitty roads, I’ve got no complaints though. Oh yeah, shitty drivers too. Even though it’s so small, it has a superpower that allows it to defy any small town stereotype you might be thinking. Landed here in ’81, been skating here since ’89. Been trying to write this intro since Tuesday- here it goes. I cant really talk about Rhode Island without talking about all the non-skate parts too, because that’s how it all happens. Get an iced coffee (invented here in RI, I shit you not), mix in a few hours annoying Peter Pan at the Watershed (RIP), you’ve got Jason Maxwell blasting the first big spin you’ve ever seen over an orange traffic barrel off the Cap’n Jacks bump in 1993.
Also, this will work best if no one fact checks me, hopefully you don’t even read this far. It’s a skateboard magazine. It’s like a nudie mag, your just here for the stories, right?
Exactly, already this makes no sense. But you still know what I mean. That was a reference for the older kids by the way. Do nudie mags exist anymore?
In all seriousness, RI has had a healthy scene since before I showed up. For such a small state, it blows me away to think about how much we had, and still have, going on. Not sure I felt that way about it when I was younger, but I had no idea really. I would always hear about kids growing up in Midwest towns run by high school football, rednecks and only had one paved parking lot that they got chased out of by locals who also had nothing else to do. If that’s where you live now, you should leave. We also have high schools, football and rednecks, but here’s what I think makes RI so unique – Dels lemonade. No, just kidding…but if you’ve never had one, you should come to RI and try one, I’ve never heard anyone say they don’t like Del’s.
‘Basically how far some people have to drive to get to their mailbo, that’s how far we have to go to experience diversity and new influences.’
What makes RI so unique is it size and location (refer to paragraph 1 sentence 5.5). Think about it, if you live most other places, your town is the size of our entire state, right? You’ve got this large town called Rhode Island, where
if you happen to be from the southern part (South Kingstown son!) your growing right by da beach boy! University of Rhode Island campus, driveway jump ramps, surfing, the Oceanmist, reggae music, summer tourists and the Watershed (local skate/surf shop).
Drive 15 minutes north to the central part of the state, you got a whole different scene happening, and a whole new set of characters and influences. Just the way growing up in rural America has a different set of characteristics from a big city, we had all of that every 15 minutes up route 95. Basically how far some people have to drive to get to their mailbox, that’s how far we have to go to experience diversity and new influences.
Another 15 minutes up 95, you were in the city. Providence RI, home of the New York system Weiner (don’t ask, but its true), Fred Smith’s Skate Hut, RISD, Eric Pupecki, Thayer street, Brown University, LunaSea skateshop and the birthplace of Sheppard Fairey’s OBEY.
It was fascinating to a kid from the southern most part of the state, living by the beach and summer tourists to see the city. Not sure I would have experienced RI from this perspective it hadn’t been for skateboarding, same way I would have probably never traveled to all the far away spots as I got older if it weren’t for skating.
But it’s all right here, Rhode Island spans the spectrum.
‘I was scared to go back to Newport for a while after that, that’s how much fun we had.’
25 minutes in a car and I could hear people speak Portuguese. I didn’t even know where Portugal was. Travel a few minutes to the east, you were in Newport RI. Home of the Newport Jazz Festival, Tennis Hall of Fame and Water Brothers. Saw a Bones Brigade demo in the Water Brother’s parking lot in’ 89, might be the first demo I ever saw. I still remember it to this day. Not just the skating, but seeing that many skateboarders in one place at the same time, hearing skaters from the west coast speak, seeing how they dressed, all 15-20 minutes from my front door. *Sidenote: Years later, I went to one of the wildest parties in my life at Sid’s. The first XGames after party at Sid Abruzzis’ house. I was scared to go back to Newport for a while after that, that’s how much fun we had. For the younger generation, we got Donny Barley living in Newport. His kids go to school with mine, saw him today at pick up, it’s a trip. I am pretty sure Donny lives right up the road from Fred Smith as in Alva skateboards, the loud one, Fred Smith. Rhode Island.
We’re just caught in the crossfire. One of the worlds cultural hotspots right up the road, feeding everyone in its proximity with new ideas, cultures, lifestyles, art, skating, creativity and education.