Originally published in Heckler
by Andrew Hutchison
“It’s a good idea to bring food, water, and anything else needed to sustain life.”
I could give you a map with directions, but you will still get lost. I will do my best to describe it in words, but you won’t fully comprehend. I will even show you the photos, but they won’t do it any justice. What I’m trying to say is Skatopia is a place like no other. It is on the complete opposite end of the skatepark spectrum as any park in a warehouse or mall. Unlike those parks measured in square feet, Skatopia is measured in acres, 40 to be exact. I heard through the skateboard grapevine that Brewce Martin, the man behind Skatopia, was having his annual rager party the first weekend in June. Immediately a trip was planned. I decided to experience Skatopia for the first time at it’s fullest.
Only knowing that it was located somewhere near Rutland, Ohio, I set out on a drive that took half of a day. A lonely two-lane, State Road 124 brought me to Rutland. Rutland is about as small as a small town can be. It has no stoplights, just a one way stop sign at the main intersection. At a pizza joint I asked for directions. The lady working just happened to know the place where all the skaters go. Five minutes later I’m spinning up the gravel driveway that leads to Skatopia.
Past the entrance sign is a dismantled fiberglass 70’s halfpipe, and Brewce’s house is the center of Skatopia: a huge 40 foot barn. On the hills surrounding the barn, campsites have already been set up for the weekend. Almost as in a ritual, people have come from all over the Midwest, East Coast, and as far as Arizona and California. Throughout the year, anyone can camp out and skate at Skatopia. It’s a good idea to bring food, water, and anything else needed to sustain life in Southern Ohio. The only thing they ask is that you pitch in and help with anything that may need to be done around the place.
Inside the barn is the main attraction, a 13 foot wooden kidney bowl with a 6 foot shallow end and pool coping around the whole thing. Outside the barn is the nearly completed King Dong Ramp. Just as burly as the neighboring bowl, the K.D.R. has four parts. The first is a third generation vert ramp with an extension lined with pool coping. It elbows into a 6 foot ramp which is bowled in and has an over vert section. Under construction is a 6 foot bowl that will spine into the other 6 foot part. About 70% of the whole ramp is covered in sheet metal. When I asked Brewce how much longer it would be until it was done, he responded, “Hell, it would have been finished this weekend, but everyone started partying early.” Apparently not too concerned about its incompleteness, he rolled in and proceeded to grind off a protruding piece of plywood from one of the decks.
It was Friday night and a heated session was in progress. A couple of bands played in a room added on next to the bowl. Right before my eyes I was witnessing lines and tricks that were truly insane. Then someone put it in perspective and told me this was just a warm-up for Saturday. Late that night I fell asleep in my tent to the sounds of AC/DC, roman candles, and locusts.
I woke up really early to a tent that felt like an oven. Somehow I had managed to pitch my tent in direct sunlight. I stumbled down to the barn. At 8:30 in the morning, people were already skating. One skater appropriately nicknamed Hummingbird was already killing it as he would continue to do throughout the day and into the night. The muggy Midwest heat made the day almost too hot for skating. Fortunately, there are plenty of other things to do besides skate. When you have that much land at your disposal, you can pretty much do whatever you want: shoot guns, trampoline, ride motocross, run around naked, drive as fast as you want on all the dirt roads, drink, smoke, or ingest whatever you wish.
By late afternoon,more people had shown up. Finished and unfinished parts of the K.D.R. were being grinded and transferred. At times it was hard to know whether the session was on the ramp or in the bowl. As the sun set and the dew made the ramp wet, it was obvious that the focus was going to be in the barn. The first bands were beginning to play. The bands ranged from the all-girl Secret Cervex to the metal riffs of Intoxicated. The bowl was being destroyed by Greg Hiler, Benji Galloway, Jimmy Moore, Jodi McDonald, David “Shaggy” Palmer, Jim Murphy, Rick Charnowski, as well as countless others including Brewce himself. At 33 he doesn’t hold back one bit; skating faster than anyone else. A frontside 50/50 around the entire deep end made the whole place go crazy. Glancing outside I noticed a bright orange glow. The bonfire behind the K.D.R. was lit and shooting flames in the air as high as the barn roof.
A few minutes later the infamous and totally nude Science Fair emerges from the crowd. In the middle of one of his runs, he completes a beer transfer, a trick that involves a person standing at the edge of the coping holding a can of beer and in the middle of a frontside grind (in the deep-end) Science Fair grabs the beer and takes a drink. He finished off the run by throwing back another drink at the peak of a waist high frontside air.
Sunday morning I woke up with what appeared to be pink eye. I decided to start driving before my eye was completely matted shut. Nevertheless, I had accomplished what I had set out to do. I know someday I will return to Skatopia. Chances are it won’t be the same place as I remember. Brewce has lots of plans for the future of Skatopia; he wants to construct a separate building for his skateboard museum, a pit is already dug for an outdoor concrete bowl, and after he gets a city water hook up he can put in showers, bathrooms, and a kitchen.
Next time you are on a road trip, get out your atlas and look up Rutland, Ohio. Find the best route that takes you there, and even go out of your way if need be. Skatopia is a place that every skateboarder needs to visit.
Published with permission Heckler