Dennis Busenitz Interview
Okay, Dennis, we’re looking on the precipice of the new adidas video. Are you excited?
What have you been doing?
Wherever I’m at.
Pretty much. They’ve been sending us all over the place. Going to Japan on Monday. Gonna skateboard there hopefully. Here in the city, LA.
Been a long strange trip?
I mean, you started out in 1999. You got your first cover of the mag here at Alameda, correct?
That’s correct. Yeah, I think it was, like, spring 2000. I got sponsored in ‘99.
They just happened to be cruising through your town in the middle of podunk nowhere and they said, “Hey, this kids got talent!” What happened?
No, that didn’t go down like that.
Explain to me how it went down.
Consolidated came through with Scott Bourne and I skated with those guys. Scott was asking me who I wanted to ride for and I told him Emerica. He knew Justin Regan and I don’t remember if he gave him my tape or if he just told him about me and then Justin started sending me shoes. Then that dude Lorne Magil—he lived out in Kansas and I knew him—he moved out here and started working for Deluxe and he gave Jason Phares and Tommy my tape and they started sending me gear. That’s how that happened.
You had an old hockey rink and you had some ramps set up there and shit? Is that right?
Yeah, the place I skated the most was, like, an old indoor basketball court converted to a skatepark. It had the wood floors and everything.
It’s always been hard to capture Dennis in photos. You gotta imagine what came before and after. Rail ollie, bank carve, 50-50, drop Photo: Rubio
Yeah, I saw pictures. It had jump ramps and quarter pipes and shit.
Yeah, in the town where I lived which was a small town—
Kansas? What town?
You actually weld flat bars and shit, right? You actually fabricate your own stuff?
Yeah, I went to welding school and we got to do projects and I built some stuff to skate. Other dudes built trailers and stuff and I built flat bars. It’s more fun.
That’s sick. Did you actually find the stuff or did you have to go out and purchase it and then fabricate it yourself? I mean, how’d you do it?
They just had scraps at the school that we were allowed to use, so I just made do with whatever was there. Because metal is kind of expensive and whatever—it gets more interesting when you use scraps anyway.
Kids, they weld rails onto stairs and shit. You wouldn’t do anything like that, right?
No, but that would be pretty cool. You’d make it with some clamps or something and you can just clamp it under a skate-stopped rail or something like that.
Right. And make it so you can fabricate it.
Dyrdek did that with that one crazy rail that he did with the crowd chasing him and stuff. That was totally fabricated.
It was also a round bar. It was round and he made it square.
Round is dangerous.
Round is hella dangerous: you get on that and you’d better watch out. So you came out to California in the end of ‘99, you started 2000 here in the City by the Bay and it’s been, like, you’ve gotten married, you have kids, you’re pretty much Nor Cal existence now, right?
Yeah, it’s been a long time. Sixteen years, I guess. I just thought it was gonna be, like, a summer trip. Get out to California and whatever, get stuck here. It’s a good thing, though. I’ve been having fun.
Well, it shows by the way you’re skating. People around the world, they’re really down for it. Does that trip you out when you go to places and you still find yourself as just a skate rat?
Yeah, all the time. Especially when I’m sitting on an airplane flying to the other side of the world and tripping on whatever, going there to skate. It’s pretty weird.
Power wheelies, always. One-eighty fakie manual to nose manual straight up Photo: Brook
That was pretty crazy; you won Tampa Pro back in 2005 right after we flipped the car. That was the life changer for you. That’s pretty much the mark of a pro, right? Winning a pro contest was pretty much, like, a jubilation of your existence. I mean, not you per se, but it validates being a pro, correct?
I guess. I mean, mark of a pro? I don’t know. I was stoked. I don’t know what it means but I was definitely happy about it.
When you look back on all of the video parts that you’ve done, which is your favorite?
I like the Volcom Chicagof video because I didn’t really try to film for it. It just came together like that. I don’t think that I was even supposed to have a full part. I just ended up having a bunch of footage and they put it in the video and so that came out nice, I thought.
That’s sick. Volcom’s taken me around the world. They’ve been doing this shit a long time. When you think back on all the trips you’ve been on, what are some of your favorites?
Some of my favorite ones are when Real and Antihero used to go on trips—we did a couple northwest trips and just Trujillo, Cardiel and everything—Ramondetta.
Heavy memories right there.
Looking back, those were pretty rad.
Who were your favorite skaters when you were growing up?
Guy, Koston—I loved the Mouse video.
How long is your part in this Away Days video?
I don’t know how many minutes long it is or whatever. I try not to think about it. I’m just trying to skate ‘til the deadline and be done with it.
When’s the deadline? It’s coming up, right?
Yeah, like mid-April, I think. And then it comes out in May. I don’t know if I’m supposed to be saying this—but whatever. It’s top secret.
Who do you room with when you’re on adidas trips? Who do you go out with? Lucas Puig is pretty good, right? He’s an older cat like you.
I think he’s a couple years younger but—
Serious snaps over something he coulda welded himself Photo: Mehring
Well, a couple years here and there but I mean, he’s been in the game for a long fuckin’ time.
Yeah, he has. I just hang out with everybody, though.
Do you go on the road with Mark?
Does Mark travel with you guys?
No, he pops in for a couple days here and there.
Showtime, I guess. He shows up, goes nuts and goes home. I think the longest trip I’ve been on with Mark is a Real trip where we were filming for Real to Reel and that was probably, like, a week or something like that.
Where’d you go?
That was in Atlanta.
And did he do anything that sticks out in your mind?
Yeah, he boardslid a double-kink rail holding on to Morford. I think that was in the video—the one that, like, curves. That sticks out. And then he did a different line where he front boarded a kinked rail.
He’s got a good front board.
Yeah. All his tricks are good except for maybe his kickflip and even that’s good in its own way.
Because he trademarked his way.
Yeah, he did. He donkey flipped the Gonz gap. That’s his gap.
If you look at that sequence of the kickflip, he lands exactly the same way that he does the ollie: he goes sideways and then stomps it.
Yeah, it’s a miracle he can do that.
Whose part are you looking forward to seeing? Silas is in there, right?
Yeah, Silas. He’s got a good part.
This one’s called “Around the Barn” Photo: Mehring
Oh, you’ve seen the parts already?
I’ve seen a few things but it’s still happening so who knows.
What are your favorite countries to go to when you go around the world? My favorite is Japan because it’s always—I never feel threatened. Everybody’s so happy and shit.
Where do you feel threatened?
Well, I mean, I’ve felt threatened in a lot of places; believe me.
You should stop asking for it.
I’m begging for it, I guess. That’s a better way of looking at it.
I always like Spain. Spain’s cool.
Oh, Spain rules. You’re right. They can party all night, drink all day and skate. It’s just fucking ridiculous.
Yeah, everybody’s really relaxed and—
And everybody’s really good.
Yeah. There’s good stuff to skate.
Who’s your pick for Skater of the Year right now?
Shit. I hadn’t really thought about it.
Say it: “Jake, that’s your problem.”
Yeah it is.
I know it is. Isn’t that a bitch?
The only vote that counts.
Learn it on wood, bust it over boulders Photo: Mehring
Well I’m not giving the trophy to anybody that I ain’t backing. That’s for damn sure.
Have you ever?
No way. It’s, like, “Why would you give it to Cardiel?” Like, you weren’t there.
People have asked you why—
People have asked me why did I give it to Bob and I was, like, “Are you out of your fucking mind?” Him? Bob? He’s probably one of the first people that’s going to skateboard on Mars. That dude’s, like, way out there. Do you smoke weed?
You don’t drink but you smoke ciggys and weed?
What is this? I don’t know. I drink. Just ‘cause I’m not drunk all the time doesn’t mean I don’t drink.
Yeah, I know. That’s the hardest part: staying focused. You’re in good shape? No injuries?
No injuries. Just normal wear and tear.
Yeah, gravity. It doesn’t get any easier.
It definitely doesn’t get any easier. Your van got stolen that had all of your stuff in it? Is that correct?
Yeah, it got stolen.
How’d that happen?
A fuckin’ bonehead move.
It got stolen from in front of your house, right?
We gotta go into this? I guess.
Strube-a-dube on another endless Euro mission Photo: Rubio
I’m asking the question. You know what? You can pull your right to reserve anything you want.
Nah, fuck it. I’ll be open about it. I bought a van. A Mercedes. And it comes with fuckin’ a shit load of spare keys, you know. And I fuckin’ just drive it home and I just left the spare keys in the glove compartment, not even thinking about it. And then within the first week somebody just busted the window. Just, like, city shit, you know, no big deal really, but they found the keys. And they just had a party, hopefully. They had it for, like, two or three months.
Wait, in the city around here? You didn’t have GPS on it or nothing?
The police are useless. Yeah, so there’s your lesson, kids: if you have a spare key don’t put it in the car.
Stash spot. They’re gonna look right there.
It’s cool, though. It all worked out in the end.
When you think of Real skateboards, who do you think embodies it the most?
Not Tommy chicken?
I don’t know. I mean, obviously, but it doesn’t pop in my head, I guess.
It was a big deal when he quit Powell to start his own deal. People were tripping out, like, Tommy was big guns.
Yeah, that was way before—
Way before you even came on the radar. When did you start skating? 1988? What?
Eighty-nine. Ban This was my first big video.
Steve Saiz has his first 540.
Oh yeah. Yeah, that’s right. I just remember those two little kids, like, the 12 year old and the 11 year old and the kid like spun a 540 and didn’t quite make it, but he got really close and we were, like, “What?! You can do a 540 at 12?”
Delicately heavy. Dennis drives a tré flip to manual down the slab and then kickflips the stack. For street style purists, it don’t get much better than Busenitz. Photo: Muller
You can’t do a 540, right?
No. I want to do one, though. I’ve like thrown them out there. They’re pretty shitty, though. Actually putting them down is the trick, I guess.
Bob said it best. He goes, “Learn it on wood but make it on concrete.”
What’s wrong with making it on wood?
Well, I mean, you gotta learn it. Like, you take the steps. You can overcompensate for it.
Shit, I’ll take a 540 on wood. I don’t care.
You know who skates vert really well now is Ishod. He does seven-foot frontside airs and shit.
What doesn’t he skate well?
I know. It’s pretty amazing, right? That’s a whole different generation of skateboard people.
Yeah, it’s cool. Well rounded.
Well that’s important too. Don’t you believe it?
Very important. There’s no reason why you should limit yourself.
We’re looking forward to the video, Dennis. Are you psyched? You should be psyched.
I am psyched, yeah. It’s cool to be part of it.
Who’s skating do you like now?
What skaters do you like that are really doing it for you?
Shit, well we just talked about Ishod.
He’s definitely up there. Evan Smith is pretty epic. Saw him in Tampa. I don’t know, that dude Carlos Ribeiro—switch flip backside noseblunt on a picnic table.
His front foot is hella good. He’s got the really good front foot.
His front foot is good? His back foot is slacking?
His front foot, it really looks good, you know. It’s not, like, sissy style. That’s important. Marc Johnson has the best feet in skateboarding, to me, ‘cause he’s always right on his feet. He’s got good feet. Sorry.
Why are you sorry?
I’m just saying, the way you look at me you’re, like, “Do you actually believe it?” I do believe it.
I just never thought about the best feet in skateboarding.
Tony Hawk’s a heeler. You ever seen the way he skates?
You can see his toes are always coming off the front of the board. Some people are just the other way around.
Is that bad footing?
No, he’s Tony fuckin’ Hawk, dude. He invented the game.
I guess so, yeah. Jeremy Wray is a heeler. He flips with his toes dangling off the board. Frontside flips Carlsbad like that.
If you were to go back in time forty years ago—
No, this is true. Knowing what you know now, how long would it take you to fabricate a skateboard that you could do the tricks you can do on? How’s that? That is a good question. Fuck you.
How long would it take me?
Yes, to build a skateboard that would take you to the level that you know best.
Have you ever made your own skateboard? Just the wood. Because we tried as kids because skateboards are expensive. We got a press and everything and glued some laminates together and it worked for like a day. I don’t know if it could take me to the level of skateboarding or whatever, but I’d say give me a good month. The wheels would be hard. Polyurethane wasn’t really around forty years ago.
That’s right, 1976.
That was just the beginning of the polyurethane, right?
So yeah, I’d say a month tops.
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