Some of you remember Tamara Jones (nee Drybrough). Maybe you’ve seen her recently skating at one of our local parks or seen her clips online. I definitely remember when she showed up at Millz one day and switch frontside flipped into Millz Mountain. Or backside flipped a decent-sized trash can at one of the mobile skateparks. She was this “random ripper” from somewhere in BC. Then it seemed like all of a sudden she vanished. No one saw her skating and a lot of people wondered, “What happened?”. Turns out she got married and became a mom, twice over. Tamara is back and ripping harder than ever. Her goal is to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics and skate for Team Canada in 2020. She’s on her way to Montreal for Am Getting Paid (an Olympic qualifying event) this weekend so cheer her on. Follow her progress through her Facebook page: Tamara’s Road to the Olympics. This is a quick conversation I had with her.
–Zev Klymochko, CASE Co-chair
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Port Coquitlam but moved around between BC and Alberta.
How did you get into skating?
Some kids on my street were skating and I decided to give it a shot. I found my first board at a garage sale– it was a plastic banana board.
How long have you been skating for? Eight years total. I skated from 13-20 then started again at 27.
I’m pretty sure you aren’t from Calgary, so what brought you here?
A change of scenery, the Vancouver rain got depressing. I also had family out here and met my husband so it was hard to leave.
Did you have any sponsors?
Yes, I did as a teenager. Etnies, Momentum wheels, Underworld Skateshop, and Red Bull.
Did you stop skating for a while? How long?
I stopped for about eight years. I got married to the love of my life and we have two awesome boys!
What brought you back into skating?
My homie, Rose. She made me realize how much i was missing out with skateboarding. My kids were getting a bit older so I felt it was time to focus on myself as well.
Do you have sponsors now?
i ride for Vans – Thanks Dan!!
When did you decide you wanted to go to the 2020 Olympics
After a few conversations with Rose and a few sessions back on my board, I fell in love with skateboarding again and I’ve always wanted to compete in the biggest and the best contests out there. Nothing’s changed– the drive is still in me.
Who do you skate with?
Local Calgary homies , my husband, my brother, and my kids.
Where are your favourite places to skate?
Memorial banks downtown Calgary, Southwood Skatepark, and Encinitas Skatepark in California.
What’s next for you?
I’m headed to Montreal on September 27th for a contest called Am Getting Paid. This is the first Olympic qualifier for womens street.
Any shout outs?
Shout out to all my supports. My mom for being the biggest help with my kids. My husband and the rest of my family for the continuous support. For people like Zev, for believing in me and giving me the opportunity to get my name out in the skate world again. My old skate homies who constantly check in on me and continue to support me. My mom’s friends, the Town of Strathmore, and Daniel Kneeshaw at Vans for having my back!
Where did you grow up? I was born and raised in Calgary. I grew up in the NW.
How long have you been skating?
I’ve been skating since about grade 8. Roughly 14 years.
Who do you skate with? I’ll skate with whoever is willing. Brian Heinrich, Ian Lemke, Jeff Raimondi, Sam Stuart, Kevin and Vlad Correa are my usual homies to go skate with.
Where are your favourite places to skate (spots/parks, etc)? If I’m not out filming, usually I skate parks. My go-tos are: CKE, Southwood, and Millz. Spots I’ve skated regularly are the Fonda slab, downtown planters, the manny pad by Millz, the bridge DIY, and wherever someone wants to go film.
What do you do for work? I’m currently a full-time student at ACAD studying graphic design, and I also work part time with The City of Calgary at a Recreation Centre.
How did you get into art? I’ve been creating art for as long as I can remember. I was fortunate enough to go to Sunnyside elementary school which focused on the arts and promoted creative environments. A lot of my friends at the time were doodling in sketchbooks and it was a great way to spend time. I just caught the bug, similar to skating, and can’t stop.
What’s your favourite medium? Throughout my childhood I would always play with clay and plastacine creating stop motion animation scenes. I was really influenced by Aardman animations (creators of Wallace and Gromit). Currently I enjoy pen and ink drawing, and in the past few years I’ve primarily used a tablet to create my art digitally.
How do you develop a concept? And is most of your work skate-related? My concept development depends on the project. With my personal work, I create things that I’m inspired by, and what I love. Skateboarding is something I value, and naturally much of my art revolves around that. The stuff I post on Instagram (@fartrock) is somewhat centered around the theme of the legendary Sony VX1000 video camera. Since I started skating, I always enjoyed documenting my friends and making videos. I eventually got my own VX and I love the way that camera looks, so I make art of it. With my posts, I just think of things that rhyme or relate to the camera and culture.
What do you do with your pieces? A lot of my work is done digitally so they just collect dust on a hard drive. Works I’ve done in physical form also collect dust in my closet.
Have you had any shows/any coming up? I’ve never really had a show before, but I’m open to the idea. It was really outside of my comfort zone to start posting my work online, and the whole process has inspired me to create more and to also continue pushing myself. I enjoy seeing how my work is received and connecting with the skate community through illustration. If a show comes up, I’ll spread the word.
What piece are you most proud of? It was a goal of mine to create a skateboard graphic at some point in my life. Through my VX related social media, I was approached by some people in the US to make some board graphics. I’d say, to date, that is probably what I’m most proud of. I’m hoping to do more.
What’s next for your life? Graduate. Get a creative job. Skate. Make art.
Liam Glass’ video, BeerStorm 3, is online for your viewing pleasure. Click below to watch.
Also, Liam and Rob Thorpe answered some questions about the video below.
What is Beerstorm? [Liam] I don’t really know I probably won’t hit the mark on any of these questions. I never know what to write for this sort of stuff there’s always so much too say haha. BeerStorm is the best group of friends I could ever ask for just trying to skate everyday, drinking beers in random parking lots, losing your mind and getting super hyped when anyone lands a trick. BeerStorm is just the homies having fun and not taking things too seriously.
[Rob] Liam would have to explain the origin of the term but these days it’s a crew, a video series, a lifestyle really. Maybe an apparel brand one day? Who knows? Sky’s the limit right?
Tell me about the guys in the video. [Liam] They’re all my best friends that I pretty much do everything with. This Steve Graham, Ryan Spate, Chad Baker, Riley Sykes were all on a mission and super motivated not to say anyone else wasn’t. We fixed a lot of spots and tried to get out filming everyday possible.
There was a lot of people I wish I could’ve filmed with more (Derrick Timoshenko, Dillz).
Rob Thorpe is the man! He will usually film and I shoot photos. I was super stoked when he started filming with us. The first skate video I ever bought was four down.
[Rob] An extremely tight knit crew. Maybe a little intimidating sometimes to the outsider, usually due to the large posse and constant beverage consumption. But no attitudes or egos, just a bunch of bozos out trying to have fun.
What’s the Calgary skateboard scene like right now? [Liam] I think it’s super good right now and getting better with all the new parks we are getting. There’s been a lot of new young kids who kill popping up like crazy. We’ve also have the 403 east side project which basically a little skatetopia. Everyone is friendly and gets along for the most part.
[Rob] It seems like the new batch of skateparks has just fired it up. Not that it ever slowed down but there’s a whole new crop of young kids absolutely killing it. Old guys coming out of the woodwork. Lots of local videos coming out all the time. DIY spots poping up. New street spots keep getting built. We got a vert ramp. I’d say it’s as strong as ever.
Who took the worst slam while filming? [Liam] Oh man, there were a few. Steve Graham’s slams on 28 were fucked. That’s the gnarliest thing I’ve ever seen. He got going so fast on it that you could smell the metal of his trucks melting.
Chad Baker probably took the most slams and Ryan had that sack at the start of his part.
No serious injuries that took anyone out for too long though thankfully!
[Rob] Spate straight to the nuts. Or Chad, also to the nuts. Or Adrian, again, to the nuts. Or Steve by sheer volume, don’t think he sacked this year though.
Any strange encounters with non-skaters while filming? [Liam] We were at this wall ride spot in the industrial area and this dude who could’ve been straight off Hastings showed up. He was super high on something, wearing a winter jacket and it was plus thirty, he could barely talked because he was so dehydrated. Lane gave him some water which seemed to semi bring him back to life. The dude was mumble rapping to himself and you couldn’t understand any of the words he was saying. He kept walking in front of the camera all hunchbacked and taking stuff out his pockets and leaving it on the back of our cars. He kept trying to touch my fisheye while talking gibberish. After like two hours of that he eventually stumbled off to who knows where. I don’t know how he could’ve gotten there on foot in the first place. Probably should’ve called 911 for him in hindsight.
[Rob] Nothing too dramatic but my favourite had to be old Jim at Masters Academy. Homie got so bent out of shape from the boys hitting the rail he called the cops. They show up and wonder what tricks we’ve gotten that day and who’s trying what.
“Oh, Chad needs a few more tries for his popshuv? No problem! Let’s see it!”
Jim looked like he was gonna blow his top!
We’re fortunate to have a Skateboard Amenities Strategy that has been guiding our development of a skatepark network. Since 2015 we’ve had six outdoor concrete skateparks built in Calgary. One of the most common questions we get is, “How do I get a skatepark in my neighbourhood?” The simple answer is this: get a lot of people in your community interested in getting a skatepark built and then go to city staff with a plan. That’s what the Thorncliffe Greenview Community Association (TGCA) did. They were one of the neighbourhoods selected for a new concrete skatepark in 2014. They had a supportive community. We spoke with Marvin Quashnick from TGCA about their Huntington Hills skatepark.
Who are you & what do you do?:
Marvin Quashnick, VP for Public Service for Thorncliffe Greenview Community Association (TGCA). This is a volunteer position that relates to planning development, transportation, and parks within the community and advocates to government for community issues & its residents.
Photo by Robert Bishop
Were you involved with Huntington Hills Skatepark?:
Yes. The TGCA board had been discussing/debating the possibility of a skatepark for Thorncliffe for as long as I can remember. Nothing ever went further than casual talk until 2012. We were encouraged by a letter sent to then Councillor Gael Mcleod by a 12 year old Thorncliffe resident about the need for a skatepark in Thorncliffe. This coincided with a tragic skateboarding incident in the city, highlighting the need for safer places. Finally compelled into action, we pursued parks about a possible location for a skatepark near the TGCA facility. Again coincidentally the city’s skatepark strategy had just been released and parks indicated that they were considering a site in Huntington Hills. They asked if we would consider supporting this location instead. Even though this was outside of our community boundaries it was obviously the right choice to make as ironically the Huntington Hills was closer to more Thorncliffe residents than the site we were initially interested in. Furthermore it satisfied more criteria to create a larger more regional skatepark. The Huntington Hills Community Association were gracious enough to allow us to continue our advocacy in their community and were subsequently very supportive of the project. TGCA continued to be part of the process until the grand opening last year and we hope we can continue to support it into the future.
Why was there a need for a skatepark in Huntington Hills?
There was a need in Huntington Hills because there was (and continues to be) a tremendous need for skateparks in the entire city. The lack of this type of infrastructure in this city has until recently been appalling. Although Millennium Park was something to be celebrated, it was one facility in a city of a million plus. The shortest of excursions to the smallest of towns would demonstrate clearly how far behind this city was. The location of the Huntington Hills park serves a region, not only a community. Its placement in that community, however, is close to schools and other well-used recreational facilities and I’m very pleased the skatepark is the proverbial crown jewel amongst them.
Photo by John Rajic
What’s been the reaction from the community since the skatepark was built two years ago?
The key word in the question is community.
The reflexive answer is to describe resident response. That has been for the most part tolerant to supportive.
When we talk of community response it is also important to talk of the community that belongs to the facility but not necessarily resides within the area. This community’s reaction has been fabulous not only to use and enjoy the facility but to care for and maintain it as well.
This secondary community has consequently created a tertiary community which is the more amorphous essence of rejuvenation itself.
Photo by John Rajic – edited by Jaron Whelan
What would say about communities who are unsure about getting a skatepark in their area?
Short answer: Do it!
Long answer: Skateboarders still retain fragments of outlaw or laggard. This is demonstrably false. The activity is at its height the epitome of precise athleticism yet can be entered into economically by almost everyone. All the more so with the right infrastructure. What is often not as obvious is the tremendous “community building” potential a skatepark can bring.
On a visit to the Airdrie Skatepark when TGCA was still considering whether to advocate for the Huntington Hills park or not, I was struck by the utter vitality of the place. All the more obvious when juxtaposed to the totally vacant tennis/basketball courts adjacent. Not only were there a multitude of skaters & BMXers of a wide age range but families picnicking next to the bowl and elderly people enjoying the vibrancy. “This is the essence of community”, I thought. How could TGCA not advocate for this, for this is who we claim to be.
I met Marlene a few years ago while skating at Millennium. She was skating and shooting photos and I was impressed by how passionate she was for skateboarding. Some time later I witnessed Marlene speak publicly about her passion for skateboarding. It was a very traditional setting and she brought her skateboard up on stage to the podium. The theme was “joy” and Marlene talked about the joy skateboarding brings her. She said that after many years, she’d finally found her tribe. It was inspiring to hear someone tell a few hundred people how she’d gotten back into skateboarding after many years and felt like she fit in. That’s one of the great things about skateboarding.
–Zev Klymochko, CASE Co-Chair
Where are you from?
I was born in Toronto, but lived in Calgary as a kid and through school. I moved back to Toronto in 1986 to go to Ryerson University and then returned to Calgary in May 2000. Never thought I’d leave TO. But I’m staying here in Calgary now.
How and when did you start skating?
I started skating when I was 13 on one of those banana boards. It was so crappy and wobbly, but I had so much fun on that thing. I lived on a quiet cul de sac in Varsity, so I skated on the street. Our driveway had a good slope to it and it also attached to our neighbour’s driveway, so I went down ours and up theirs and kick turned at the top and did it over and over again for hours every day.
When I was 14 my family went to La Jolla, California for spring break, and that’s when I got a real skateboard. G&S Fibre Flex with Bennett Pro trucks and Road Rider 4 wheels. It cost $75 USD in 1977. That was a lot of money for a kid like me. I don’t think skateboards cost that much in today’s value. I had saved up $45 so my parents had to kick in the extra $30. I still have that setup.
I also built a couple of wooden ramps with scrap wood from some condos that were being built nearby. I stored the ramps on our neighbour’s driveway, as theirs had a flat parking spot at the top, and they were super cool people. One of them is still alive and still lives there! That’s when I fell in love with transition skating. To this day, I still love kick turning on the tranny, as you probably can tell from all the photos of me doing that. Or maybe that’s my only trick.
I understand you stopped skating for a while. What brought you back into it?
Ya, in high school I quit skating for some reason. Probably because I got in a bit of trouble now and again with my best friend (also a skater girl) in grades 8 and 9, so I went to a high school far away from my neighbourhood to break the cycle. I started over. I was pretty quiet and introverted in high school – more like uncomfortable. I should have kept skating as I know that would have helped me through those tough times.
Throughout the years, I occasionally pulled out that vintage Fibre Flex board and my skate sense always came right back.
But I really got back into it four years ago (when I was 50), when my 12 year-old neighbour kid got a longboard for her birthday. I pulled out the old Fibre Flex and hit the bike paths with her. This time the skate sense turned into a bigger stoke and within days I went out and bought a long board from Royal Board Shop — a classic shape with a kick tail, of course.
How did you get involved with 100% Skate Club?
A friend of mine saw the Metro newspaper article about Erica (Jacobs) when she started 100% Skate Club and thought I might be interested. I was at the club’s first session at Millennium Park in April 2015. The weather sucked and the skatepark was empty except for 8 of us girls. I took that neighbour girl along too. I was so pumped to be at a skate park, as it was new to me. We has so much fun cruising around Millz, that we didn’t even notice the cold and snow flurries that night.
I was hooked! Doing the weekly skate sessions with 100% Skate Club changed my life. I don’t think I missed one session that first year! I wasn’t very good at skating, but soon realized that it doesn’t matter how good you are. It still feels great.
As we all know, skaters celebrate your small successes with you. Skate Club was such a fun and supportive environment to be in. And really for the first time in my life, I felt I truly fit in somewhere. I found my tribe.
I soon realized that the whole skate community was my tribe. To this day my heart skips a beat when I see skaters, or hear the “clickity-clack” of a skateboard when I’m out and about.
During that first season I became close friends with Erica, Maggie, and Bryena. We ended up forming the core group of the club, because Erica couldn’t do it all by herself. Plus, I think we all wanted to give back, because Erica gives so much of her time and energy to women and girls skating in Calgary. It was natural for us to want to help out. Currently I manage the 100% Skate Club Facebook page and do the photography for the club.
Our membership exploded in season two of the club. That was probably due to a couple of media stories about us. Global TV did a story on us at Huntington Hills last April. And now it’s not uncommon to have 20 to 30 of us at each session. And a few of us gals with more flexible schedules skate together during the day when the kids are in school, and some of us skate on the weekends too. But we are all connected through the Wednesday night 100% sessions.
100% Skate Club
Where do you like to skate most?
Huntington Hills is my home park and I have to say, also my favourite in Calgary. I need a bit of gravity to keep me rolling and the drop in is high enough so that I maintain a good speed around the bowls, with enough in the tank to pop out at the end. I know the regular crowd at Huntington, most of them are dudes in junior or senior high school. I love their energy and I think they’re awesome! And they’re super encouraging to me, and they make me laugh a lot too. Who knew I’d be 54 years old and hanging out with teenaged guys every day.
Huntington Hills Skatepark
You travel to skate fairly often too. Where do you like to go?
I’m hooked on California skating. I go there 2 to 3 times a year just to skate. I’ve got a bunch of older skater girlfriends down in SoCal and it’s like being with family when we get together. When I got down to meet them we skate a couple times a day and tour a variety of parks. They were there cheering me on when I dropped in for the first time last May at the private backyard Iguana Bowl in Encinitas. I was high for days after that!
Most of the California parks are quite challenging for me. The drop ins I do there are huge compared to what I have the guts to do here at home. Strange but true. I think it’s because I get encouraged, and caught up in the stoke. Plus when you have highly experienced women skaters around, you naturally want to keep up with the fun, or at least try to. I have to give myself a break sometimes though, because a lot of those women are 10 to 20 years younger than me, and skate nearly every day of the year.
A park in California
You’re kind of like one of the caretakers are Huntington Hills skatepark. Do you think people respect the parks enough with regards to taking care of them?
I sure hope people respect the Calgary parks. It’s not always evident, but I think things are improving. We need to be stewards of our parks, and the rest of our city too. Have some pride! Most of the parks I skate in California, you have to pay to get into. Some are $10-15 a day! And they are open limited hours. So good luck skating before noon or after 10pm on a week day, like we do here.
City of Calgary skateparks are all free to skate, and they aren’t gated, so the least we can do is keep them nice in exchange. We, and our parents have paid taxes to build those parks. Let’s get the best value for those dollars. If we don’t, the new city council that’s getting elected this fall might not want to spend the money to build more skateparks in the future. Skater’s choice! p.s. Make sure you vote for skateboarding positive candidates too!
When I started skating I learned about taking care of the parks from the old boys crew I skated with at Millz. Before each sesh they went about sweeping rocks, and picking up garbage.
Very often when I start picking up trash at Huntington Hills, the other skaters will start picking it up with me. It takes 2 minutes for the whole place to be cleaned up. My hope is that people will do this when I’m not there too.
Same goes for shovelling in the winter. I had the best time getting to know the shovel crew this past winter. I’ve got a bum shoulder (from a bad slam last year) and don’t have the muscles to do as much snow hauling as the guys, but I helped organize the troops for Pat (Magnan) on a few occasions, because he was wearing out, and a bit shy to ask for help. I used my Instagram account to reach out, plus I know all the Huntington regulars, so I’d just show up with shovels and brooms and hand them to people. A couple 100% Skate Club members also came out to shovel too. You’re a professional photographer and instructor. How did you get into that?
I got my photo degree from Ryerson in 1990, and then went to grad school so I could teach at the college level, and in 2004 completed a Masters at U of C, in Communications. I did corporate and industrial photography in the oil and gas industry for a few years too. I loved that. Crawling around refineries, terminals, tank farms, lube and grease plants. My job was to make people and structures look beautiful.
I started teaching photography at ACAD in 2004, then at SAIT in 2008 and a few classes at Red Deer College a couple years back. My career has evolved over time, as they do. I don’t do any corporate photography anymore. I mainly shoot for fun now and only work with fun clients. I always loved teaching though, and have been teaching my own online photo courses since 2010 at www.imagemaven.com
Now at my age, I’m conciously trying to enjoy my life more. Life is short. You realize that when you know you’re past the half way point, or a couple of your friends get cancer, or your parents need your help more each passing year. I worked like a dog for many years when I was younger. I’m playing as much as I can now – living in the moment and enjoying every minute. Skating and the skate community keeps me happy and strong, both physically and emotionally.
How does photography tie into skateboarding for you?
Being creative is definitely part of the happiness equation for me. I get as much joy from shooting skaters as I do from skating. Skating and photography go together. It’s just as much of a challenge to get a really good photo as it is to do a really hard trick. But you need to learn what that peak moment in that trick is, and capture it in the best possible way.
I follow a lot of skate photographers on Instagram and I’m inspired by them as well as the skaters who I work with on the photos. I’m still working on my signature style. Not sure if I’ll ever get one, as I’m having too much fun experimenting.
I’m also happy to help anyone with their skatepark photos or take photos of anyone who asks me, so don’t be shy to hit me up when you see me.
Are you looking forward to What Flamingo?
Yes! It’s going to be awesome. For those who don’t know yet, What Flamingo is a 5-day women’s skate tour of the Calgary skate parks. It starts on Go Skate Day, June 21, and runs until Sunday June 25.
What Flamingo brings two of our favourite Canadian women skaters to Calgary to skate with 100% Skate Club babes for a week in June! Melanie Mercier is the co-founder of Chickflip in Vancouver and skates with Sillygirl Skateboards. Annie Guglia hails from Montreal and among many other sweet things, rides for Meow Skateboards.
There’s going to be lots of open skate sessions, a Go Skateboarding Day park take over, a trick clinic, the Calgary premiere of the all-women’s skate vid, “Quit your day job” featuring Annie, a 100% Skate Club fundraiser, and Melanie is gonna be launching Dame Skatezine Issue #2 here in Calgary!
What Flamingo was created by artists Eric & Mia with 100% Skate Club as part of The City of Calgary’s Public Art Program and Skateboard Amenities Strategy.
As part of What Flamingo, I’m teaching a skate photography workshop for women. I’m super stoked to be able to share my knowledge and launch a new crop of women skate photographers in Calgary.
So you will see a few more camera-wielding skater chicks around the skateparks of Calgary this summer. Smile and give them your best trick!
You might know him as “the old guy who rips” or the guy that does all the crazy hand flip tricks. Neal Unger is his name and he’s been skating since the 1960s.
He has worked all over the world and lives in California. But he has a Calgary connection– he went to high school here and lived in Bowness!
Neal tell us that he “cried for two years” after he moved from California to Calgary, until he realized he could ski at Paskapoo Slopes (now known as Winsport) right near his home. “I froze my fingers for two years!” he tells us. He also remembers going to a skatepark with a snake run but it was “pretty hairy and scary”.
Neal has filmed commercials in Central America, South America, Europe, and Africa. He’s also been in a few movies.
This video features Neal at Millennium Park, showing his stuff and skating with his grandson and some locals. Watch for the vintage footage of Neal surfing on the Bow River (2:20):
He says he hopes to visit Calgary again soon and is excited at the prospect of surfing on the Bow river again. Neal is a dual Canadian/American citizen and his parents still live in Calgary.