I’ve been skateboarding frequently over the past year, with a new park opening nearby that finally gives me access to a small halfpipe. I skated a lot as a young teenager, and built a fun launch ramp that was popular at our local playground, but at that point, all local communities were terrified of the liability a proper local skatepark might produce. The only one in the Bay Area that I knew of was the old Benicia skatepark, which was amazing to go to but overall really wasn’t all that great.
Later in high school, through college, and into my working years, I kept my skateboard around mostly for transportation, but never for tricks. Torn-up ankles from skating and basketball left me pretty uneasy, especially with anything that takes me off the ground including simple ollies.
About three years ago, just before my son was born, I decided to buy a new skateboard. I don’t know why — I’d been surfing for the past few years, and skating wasn’t on my mind at all. Perhaps I felt I needed something to make sure my son would know I was a pretty cool dude. I bought a board, but didn’t use it much. Then, about two years after that, I started going to Eric Kirkwood’s evening skate sessions at the awesome Prooflab ramp in Mill Valley. He’s a phenomenal instructor, and I began building back my confidence and learning to ride on transition. And, loving it.
This led me to explore the new park near my house, which has since become a weekend ritual for me. It’s not a big park, and the miniramp is decidedly “mini” — only about 3′ tall, but still dauntingly tall for my level of experience. Not to mention the concrete surface seems so solid and unforgiving.
Soon, I was getting comfortable dropping in, and not long after that, getting up the other side and turning onto my axles. But from there, I was stuck, unsure of how to get back into the ramp without catching my wheels on the coping and sending me face first to the bottom. I practiced the first part of this for a few months. Finally, one morning I resolved to learn to turn and drop in from axle, and managed to land two while remaining upright. But my other three attempts ended with pretty good spills, and one where a landed so hard on my heel that I ended up with crutches for a few weeks.
Eventually I decided I needed something even smaller to practice the 50/50 axle drop-in motion from. I found the micro quarter pipe ramp plans on DIYSkate.com, bought the materials from the local hardware shop (including a nice clean piece of plywood that cost me less than $30), and knocked the ramp together from their plans in an afternoon.
Their instructions are solid, but I did have trouble getting the first layer of plywood to bend to the curvature of the ramp (I layered three pieces of masonite on it instead). Also, metal pipe for coping is more expensive than what I set to spend on this ramp, so I settled for PVC. If it breaks, I’ll replace it, but with the objective of this ramp, I don’t expect it to endure much abuse. And, I’ve yet to find the metal threshold sheet at the bottom of the ramp surface.
Regular drop ins are easy on this — it’s so short, but not uselessly small. From there, it took a few weeks of casual use to build up some courage to practice my 50/50 axle drop-ins. I started by deliberately doing them with only a 45º turn, then jumping forward and stepping down the ramp. After doing that a couple times, I pushed for a full turn, and nailed it. Did three more to be sure it wasn’t a fluke, then a few days later I went to the park with this move in mind, and got it on the second try — and since then, I’ve been pretty solid with it.
One surprise about the micro ramp is that it’s still quite big; I have it stored standing up on its end in the garage most of the time and it stretches pretty high in the air — maybe 7′ — and overall takes up a decent amount of space. I’m brainstorming ways to make it collapsable for really compact storage. I’ll post an update if that materializes.