Skate Spot Pod

S2 E10 - Lake Tahoe Floating Ramp / The Brooklyn Banks - Skateboarding Podcast

September 04, 2023 The Skateboarding Crucible Season 2 Episode 10
Skate Spot Pod
S2 E10 - Lake Tahoe Floating Ramp / The Brooklyn Banks - Skateboarding Podcast
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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

During 2014 the Lake Tahoe floating ramp, was created as part of The Dream 365 project, working with Visit California and Bob Burnquist to showcase different stories to boost tourism in California. What ended up being created was a 8ft tall wooden bank ramp, accompanied by a smaller 5ft secondary half-pipe. Both wooden ramps rested on top of a 35 ft long floating platform.

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The Brooklyn Banks . Starting in the late 1980’s this spot provided one of the only skateable banked areas in the city. The Brooklyn Banks is the unofficial name for the area under the Manhattan side of the Brooklyn Bridge. Now this place for decades has been an extremely popular spot for skateboarders and is one of the more famous skate spots in the world.

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Save The Brooklyn Banks
Gotham Park

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Hi guys, welcome back to episode 10 of skate spot pod in our second series. Just the regular formalities before we start, please drop us a 5 star review, it’s a simple gesture that helps our podcast out more that you know. We have another 2 great skate spots to run through in today's episode. We will be kicking off with the story of Bob Burnquist’s floating ramp, just another crazy skate stunt to add to his collection. 

So for those of you who are not familiar with Bob Burnquist, he was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to an American father of Swedish descent and a Brazilian mother. He began skateboarding in his hometown of Sao Paulo at 11 years old. Impressively he turned pro when he was just 14. In 1995 he first competed at the Slam City Jam in Vancouver against the majority of the top skateboarders in the world. Being pretty much unknown at the time, he was to shock the professional skateboarding world with his technical style and switch stance abilities. He ended up taking first place at this competition and the rest was history after that point. Bob’s specialties are his switch stance style and creating vert tricks. He has a signature trick called the “Wee Willy Grind”. 

Burnquist has had enormous success over the past few decades, taking countless Gold Medals and X Games competitions. One of his most famous X Games runs was in 2001 with a showdown against Bucky Lasek, he countered with an almost perfect run, after Bucky’s flawless attempt. This has been described as one of the best vert runs in the history of skateboarding. He is also not shy about performing insane skateboarding stunts. During 2006 he completed a BASE jump attempting a 50-50 into the Grand Canyon. His first attempt nearly cost him his life after he missed the rail and fell out of control. His second attempt however was successful. He also has his own private skate park called “Dreamland”, one of the most famous parts of this skatepark is his megaramp, the ramp is made up of a 50-70 foot gap jump, followed by a 30 foot quarterpipe. He also opens this park up to other professional skateboarders, enabling them to train for mega ramp competitions. If you are wanting to see just how skilled a skater Bob is, you need to check out the video that we have added to our article in the link below of him skating Dreamland. It’s so insane, even to this day. The fact that he can pull these moves off on a ramp of this size is incredible. It’s like the guy can just stretch any which way, and that his deck is permanently stuck to his feet, huge respect for the skill that it takes to do what is in this clip. I have never seen anything this good when it comes to vert in my opinion. 

So during 2013 when Visit California approached Bob to be part of its Dream Big Campaign, to boost tourism in the state, it was natural that he was going to pull out something radical. The Dream 365 project, was a digital initiative that showcased sharable video and image content that would be used as a medium for inspiration and celebration, with a focus on dreams and making them a reality. Bob’s video was just one of many stories from different celebrities that were featured during a 24 hour period. They showcased 24 dreams in 24 hours over a variety of digital platforms. So Bob and team, in their usual fashion, came up with the idea to create a floating ramp and place it in Lake Tahoe. His team, including master ramp designers Jeff King and Jerry Blohm, spent over 300 man hours, spanning over 4 days along with 1,250 screws to create this almost 3.5 ton floating ramp. Now before you start thinking how can they work 300 hours in 4 days, these are man hours, which by definition is multiplying the number of people assigned to a task by the total time it takes to complete it. When we originally posted this on Facebook several months back, we got so many comments asking how you can fit 300 hours into 4 days as there are only 24 hours in a day, no offence but people are just stupid. I am pretty sure man hours are a straightforward thing that the majority of people understand, but based on the facebook post, some people clearly have no idea.

This was however, not the first time this had been done, during the same year, Volcom built a floating ramp which was featured in the film “True to This”, skated by Grant Taylor and David Gonzalez. This ramp is nowhere near the same size or looks as impressive as the Lake Tahoe ramp, but interesting that the video of this clip that is on the Volcom YT channel, the headline states “The Original Floating Ramp”. So not sure if Volcom is a little bitter on what was done on the Lake Tahoe floating ramp. At any rate, both super cool ideas and we have provided the links to both these videos on the article that is up on the 

What ended up being created was a 8ft tall wooden bank ramp, accompanied by a smaller 5ft secondary half-pipe. Both wooden ramps rest on top of a 35 ft long floating platform. You also have a rail that is on the opposite side of the 8ft bank. It runs off a smaller ramp that goes straight into the water. The wood on the ramp is stained in a range of different colours, it almost looks like a designer piece of furniture that you would see in a really exclusive ski chalet. The design team's main concerns were around weight distribution to avoid leakage and making sure that this thing would actually float and not just end up at the bottom on the late. 

So they end up towing this thing out onto Lake Tahoe, the weather is totally pristine with the water being aqua blue and floats perfectly. They have drones that are flying around overhead, Bob drops into the half-pipe and starts skating it. It’s a very cool short film that must have been quite a hit for the tourism campaign. He does some ramp tricks and airs, which is finished off with doing a 50-50 grind on the rail straight into the water of Lake Tahoe. You can check out the film in our article from the link in the podcast description, we have also included some photos taken from the film. 

So what happened to this ramp after it was used in this campaign is a bit of a mystery. We can’t find any documentation of it being used for skateboarding after the promotional shoot or how long this thing was actually in the water for.  However, we did do a post on our Facebook page several months back of this place which did blow up and we had a guy contact us saying that he now has the ramp. Basically he managed to get his hands on it and used the ramp in building an off grid cabin in the woods. He sent over photos, so this looks pretty legit. Cool that it was able to be reused in this way and also that fact that our post actually reached this guy. 

So even though this ramp does not exist anymore, it was a very cool spot that we wanted to feature on the podcast. Don’t forget to check the links in the podcast description for the images and videos from the Lake Tahoe Floating Ramp. 

Part 2, we are looking at the Brooklyn Banks. Now believe it or not, there was a time that even in NYC there were no skateparks. Starting in the late 1980’s this spot provided one of the only skateable banked areas in the city. The Brooklyn Banks is the unofficial name for the area under the Manhattan side of the Brooklyn Bridge. Now this place for decades has been an extremely popular spot for not only skateboarders, but BMX, roller bladers and scooters. It has even been cemented in history, featuring in a number of video games, including Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and Skate 3. We have a cool video in our article, showing the evolution of the Brooklyn Banks in video games over the past few decades. At any rate this spot is regarded as one of the most famous skate spots in the world and it is easy to see why.

It’s made up of a number of smooth banked surfaces. All the banks are made of red bricks, which gives this spot an iconic look that is easily distinguishable. On either side of the Bridge, these banks vary in size. One side (between Park Row and Rose Street) there were  small, more mellow banks that kind of back onto more of a plaza setting, on the other side (between Rose and Pearl Streets) there are larger banks that are accompanied by these huge pillars that act as the foundation to the Brooklyn Bridge. Not only are the big banks used, but the pillars also act as a skate obstacle for many tricks. Over the years ledges have also been added to the top of the banks, giving this spot a pure DIY feel. 

The whole area however, is much more than just banks, there are multiple stair, ledges, rails and flats. The natural environment really is a perfect environment for skateboarding. So apart from the larger banks, there are a number of iconic sections that have been used by skateboarders over the past decades. One of those is on the side where the smaller banks are located, there is a transition from the bank over a ledge to one of the exit ramps of the bridge. There is some famous footage of Eric Koston doing a Nollie Backside Heel over the ledge in 1997 you can find the video in our article in the podcast description. This section also made the cover of Thrasher in Feb of 1993, with a shot of Jeff Pang, doing a backside shifty over it. Mike Vallely also ollie’s over this thing, after they installed a metal picket fence around it to stop people skateboarding it. This is probably one of the crazier things that we have seen from the Brooklyn Banks, the day before he completed it he almost impaled himself. This fence is so damn high, it’s insane that he manages to get over this and does it so confidently. There is also a 9 stair that is divided by a rail that features in majority of the footage that is out there. This also made the cover of Thrasher in October of 1995, featuring a 50-50 by Chad Muska. Another famous clip is the Jamie Thomas line, which starts with a grind down the 9 stair and ends with a 50-50 down the larger 13 stair set on the larger bank side of the bridge, also featured in our article. There are countless famous tricks and people that have skateboarded this place over the decades, yet these three are seen as some of the more famous tricks to come out of the Brooklyn Banks. 

Now, the skateboarding community has had to save the banks on multiple occasions. This has mainly been pushed by skateboarder and community organiser Steve Rodriguez. So for those of you who don’t know Steve is considered the mayor of NYC skateboarding, with over 3 decades of skateboarding the city. He is one of just a few skateboarders who were riding everyday throughout NYC during the 80’s and 90’s. During the 80’s he would skate throughout the city doing deliveries and other errands, which he was able to discover many spots.  Apart from saving the Brooklyn Banks, he has his own company called 5Boro skateboards and has been a part of organising many contests and designing skateparks. 

In 2005 New York City agreed to keep the larger banks after the city remodelled over half of the skate spot, yet the little banks were destroyed. It was during this same year that Steve Rodriguez started the annual “Bank to the Banks” competition to raise money for restoration for the area. Yet the fight was short lived. During 2010 New York City turned the space surrounding the larger banks into a storage facility for the Brooklyn Bridge restoration project and the entire area was closed off for well over a decade. During 2014 a petition was created to reopen the Banks, without avail. Fast forward until 2020 with the Banks still shut, the city began removing some of the red bricks from the area, this started off a panic within the skateboarding community, taking to social media with #ripbrooklynbanks. It was during this time that another online petition was set up called “Save the Brooklyn Banks” this initiative was created by collage student Jonathan Becker. With help from Steve Rodriguez, the petition has gained over 54,000 signatures. We have linked this in the podcast description below and in our article so please go and sign this. So this petition also caught the eye of The Skatepark Project, originally the Tony Hawk Foundation. Who agreed to help out with the planning and restoration of the area.

What is now being kicked off is Gotham Park, an initiative by Brooklyn Bridge Manhattan, a New York State not-for-profit co-founded in 2021 by Steve Rodriguez. Gotham Park is the development of a new public space that will act as a central junction for the greater Manhattan Suburbs. In this plan along with the help from The Skate Park Project, is for the smaller and larger banks to be rebuilt, and reopen this skateboarding mecca. During May of 2023, stage one was opened which included the 9 stair with rail. You can find some videos of this in our article. Stage two of this project is set to commence during 2024 once the bridge work is finally completed. Rebuilding the small and large banks along with the plaza are scheduled to take place during stage two. If you are interested in more information or updates on this project, please see the links in the podcast description. 

Lake Tahoe Floating Ramp
The Brooklyn Banks