© Patrick O’Dell

“We’re a bunch of stubborn fuckers that can’t quit.”

Sam Batterson aka Sloppy Sam

February 2024

Can you tell us something about Rhode Island no one knows?
Tons of stuff got innovated here. The first urethane wheel was out of Cranston from a medical supply place. The plywood skateboard was invented by Pat Kirwin who I work on boats with. Solid dude. Plus Stevie D’s contribution to snowboarding and the number one selling surf shape designed by Peter Pan. I love that creative energy about this place, even if you have to really crawl into the nooks and crannies to find it.

How would you describe the Rhode Island skateboard scene and its community?
I was watching an old contest video at Sid’s and couldn’t believe how it was 90% the same crew as now. We’re a bunch of stubborn fuckers that can’t quit.

‘Sam is either a certified retard or pure genius.’ I took this quote from your interview with Juice in the year 2000. Which one of the two are you now and why?
Hey, I’m not the first person to use stupidity as a coping mechanism.

Any local heroes you looked up to when you started skating mid 80ies?
Steve Maisch, who built the Mansion Ramp was insane. He ollied three feet every time. He could do rails at the very beginning of that. He ripped vert with huge lien airs and inverts, too. He and Matt McGrath got me so hyped. They were out there traveling, skating the spots in the mags and hanging out with the guys in the mag, too. Dragging around rickshaws to get bread. I was crawling out of my skin to want to experience the world like they were.

What are the skaters in Rhode Island most proud of?
Hosting the girls skate jam 20 years ago.

‘I know Juice ain’t exactly sitting on a pile of cash, but they probably coulda sent me a shirt or something.’

Sam Batterson • Skatopia • 1999   © Patrick O’Dell

You are named a legend in the RI skate scene (and surely beyond too). What is your take on it and what does it take for you to call someone a legend?
Prolly just stick around. Lotta guys ripped and then disappeared. I guess those types become myths. I kind of stuck around even if my on board time diminished.

I interviewed another legend in the Boston issue (vol15), Kevin Day. You guys skated the C-Pool together. Any anecdotes you are able to share?
The story I heard was that he took acid on a plane and was peaking as he flew over the C-Bowl and then got to the session and flew up the face wall and the blue of the sky matched the blue of the bowl and he thought the C – Bowl vert went to infinity and he broke his leg and had to stay there overnight tripping balls thinking about how he always charged the younger kids to skate the bowl. Turns out this was an amalgamation of five stories!

When I speak to people about Sloppy Sam, they immediately refer to the most iconic Juice cover ever with you grinding this half-finished bowl in 2000. Do you get royalties for all the merchandise the sell with this picture on it?
Ha! Amateur status is still intact! I know Juice ain’t exactly sitting on a pile of cash, but they probably coulda sent me a shirt or something. Maybe they can hook me up with one of their Juice models or something.

In 2005, you started a skatepark building company called BREAKING GROUND SKATEPARKS. Is it fair to say that without Burnside, you would not have been involved in building concrete skateparks at all?
Those guys were a huge inspiration for sure. I was pretty dedicated to concrete though. I would just yearn for the days when skateparks were everywhere. I used to have Crete Day where we would only skate concrete. I also love to dream stuff up and then build it. I was always drawing up stuff to skate and trying to figure out how to build it. There was a lot pushing me towards building parks, but seeing Burnside was 100% confirmation that it could be done.

‘The gnarliest skate photo I ever shot.’

Patrick O’Dell
Epicly Laterd

Kick flip footplant - Singapore   © Soerfi

Can you please tell the story about your first Providence skatepark?
We’re working on Providence Skatepark. Here’s the story. They had a skatepark on the plans. My girlfriend’s friend drew up the trees on the plan for the city. I made the calls and skated down to town hall and picked up the plans. The bid was closing the next morning, so I opened up the plans, and it’s a bunch of quarter pipes sitting on a large asphalt slab. I was like, “Oh man. We’re finally getting a skatepark in Providence and this is what we’re getting?” I fretted about it for two weeks. Then I called the city. They called me back and agreed to meet with me. I drew up a sample park and made a presentation for the sample cost, and the bid was $85,000 with prevailing wage. It had a little bowl on one end and a quarter pipe on the other end. It was a good little park for really cheap. They told me they were really impressed with my work. We met with the council people and they all agreed. I was in. Then after a few meetings, they said, “You drew up this plan in one day. Why don’t you take a week and draw up the best park you can imagine?”. It all worked out. Definitely saved that one. It was gonna be a big semi circle of asphalt with three randomly placed quarter pipes.

What made you sell the company 10 years later?
A lot of factors were at play. I kind of had the chance to get a lot bigger but I just wanted to keep it hands on. Breaking Ground was struggling to survive at the size I wanted. When I got an offer, I really hoped I would just get to do the things I wanted, design and build the parks and not have to worry about running a business. It didn’t work out and my parkbuilding days unsettled. In retrospect, I always felt I was going to build all these parks and never get around to riding them.

“Oh man. We’re finally getting a skatepark in Providence and this is what we’re getting?”

‘Smith Grind over the stairs at my back yard bowl’

College degree in English, landscaper, skatepark builder. What are you up to now?
I went into boat building. Still love those beautiful curves. Got to build a ton of cool shit. I was making surfboards for myself, figuring out how to do some real tech shit like balsa rails and using high end boat foam in key spots. One of our steady clients who is obsessed with carbon fibre wanted a paddle board built like an Americas cup boat. I envisioned this hollow board with an internal parabolic stringer. 15 thousand dollars later, I built him this board with every little trick I learned building surfboards, but it had a bow like a modern racing boat. I sort of laughed as I sent it out thinking he could’ve gotten something just as good for a grand or two from West Marine.

Well, he fucking loved it. Of course, he did. He wouldn’t admit that he spent all that money for nothing. But I was pleased to hear that his nephew, who was a big paddle board racer said it was the fastest most stable board he’s ever been on. Said it cut through boat wakes like nothing where usually he’d be struggling to not fall down. He said that most boards you end up spending all your energy on those calf muscles keeping the board stable. He said this board you just find the sweet spot and go. I don’t know shit about paddle boards, but I was able to design a good one. I’m either good or lucky. Right now I took time off to build my house. Built my first floor yesterday.

Is there anything left on your wish list?
Design and build my own boat, sail around the world. Write a travelogue that is able to synthesize all of the world’s differing viewpoint ushering in an era of peace and prosperity for all humans. Too much? Also I still want to build a snake run winding through the woods where my house is.

Last question. If you could interview a person, who would it be and why?
It wouldn’t be someone I liked or admired. It would probably be someone that disgusts or perplexed me. The question would just be “why the fuck are you doing this?” Over and over again.

Sam Batterson • Skatopia • 1999   © Patrick O’Dell