Interview: Rob Thorpe
Rob Thorpe has been skating and documenting Calgary skateboarding on video for longer than anyone else in this city. He is the man behind, without a doubt, the best videos to ever come out of Calgary. It’s not a stretch to say that he helped put Calgary skateboarding on the map while tirelessly filming, editing, producing, and most importantly, skating in high-quality videos. We asked him a few questions and he gave some answers. He was even kind enough to include a fresh clip of Devin Morrison. Read on to learn a bit about the recent history of Calgary skateboarding.
Name, date/place of birth
Robert Allan Thorpe…R.A.T. …skate rat for life, literally. April 21, 1977. Toronto, Onterrible.
How long have you been skating for?
It’ll be 25 years any day now. Thank you to my cousin Patrick for letting me try his yellow banana board at about 8 or 9 years old. Hooked from day 1.
You’re well-known in Calgary for a long-running series of videos. Tell us about how those came to be.
Around 1999/2000 I was skating/filming with the homies for a Skaters video. Living downtown, ramp in garage, 3 blocks from Millz as it opened, just skating all the time. By late 2001 I started to feel that there were a lot of guys in Calgz that weren’t getting any recognition for how hard they were killing it. Dwight Pineau, first and foremost. Devin [Morrison] arrived that spring. Reuben [Bullock] and [Ryan] Curry were the new kids on Skaters, and were makin’ me feel old! [Ryan] Oughton, [Brett] Rehman, [Dave] Lambert, [Ian] Twa, [Jason] Cooper. So much talent, and I was skating with these guys anyway! I kinda took it upon myself to start filming “properly”, and got into a lease for the VX, Death Lens, Lowepro bag, tapes, light, extra battery, the works. Late 2002 the footage was stackin’ up pretty deep, and STAY DOWN was born. Pete Boulis helped edit it a bit, and Frenchie sold the hell out of it. 500 copies on VHS, sold nearly 400, actually made back the production costs! STAY DOWN came together really easily and worked out well. A year later, October 2003, stillDOWN premiered. Worked on it all year super hard, starting to actually develop an editing style. Did VHS and DVD, which was a mistake. The death of VHS was very quick! Unable to recoup production costs, but not a major hit. 12 months later, Collective was completed. I spent 2004 as dedicated as ever. Filmed as much as possible, whenever possible, and tried to involve other filmers…maybe tried too hard for Collective. 2005 was 4 Down. It’s my favorite outta the four vids…or at least the one I’m most proud of. Good flow, I still watch it every once in awhile!
Do you still make videos?
Haven’t produced anything since 2005, but I continued to film. 2006-09 I actually filmed quite a bit. A lot of stuff with Reuben for Skaters’ Another Local Video in 2006. Mostly just filming with the homies again. Last year I edited a montage for The Berrics’ Younited Nations Contest. Making the finals was a huge surprise and a great honor. CALGZ LOCZ was and is seen by more people than anything I’d ever edited. 6 or 7 months ago the ol’ VX gave out. I must admit the urge to get a HD camera has been growing lately. Kinda been bummin’ on the lack of Calgary videos too! I can’t really afford it, but hey, that’s what leases are for!!!
What do you do for work? What about other hobbies?
HVAC Mechanic. Or as we’re known in the trades; “tin bashers”. We’re getting pretty deep with skaters these days; [Derek] Timoshenko, [Jon] Baylis, [Dustin] Crowder. I play quite a bit of poker. Hoping to one day finance Skateopia North and not have to work. Or just the not working part would be fine too!
What’s your favourite current Calgary spot? Favourite former Calgary spot?
I really liked skating the curb/ledge up the bank at the City’s wave lookin’ building…quite fun, but not really gnarly. If Big 4 is still skateable, it’s my favorite “gnarly” spot…so classic Calgz! Gotta be a few NBD’s left!?! Favorite former spot would have to be Eau Claire in it’s prime. 1995-1999. So much stuff to skate, running from the cops, Mendi’s…salad days!
I know it’s hard to pick one “best skater” in the city, so who would your “Calgary all-star team” be?
There are too many guys to mention that are currently killing it, so I’m gonna go with the All-Time All-stars:
Tell us more about Stand Alone Media and the website that went along with it. Why did you take it down?
Stand Alone Media was a website, created for me by my good friend Aaron Glenn, to showcase Calgary skateboarding. Ian Snow contributed photos and I did video clips. Random cryptic updates on Calgary skating from me…not trying to spoil too much for the ever-upcoming video! And then there was the message board. It got a little outta control at times, but it also brought Calgary skaters together and kept them informed, if not opinionated! Stand Alone shut down mostly because I needed a break. Somebody called me Calgary’s “skate boss”, and I just felt like it was too much…like it was all business and I was apparently the boss. All I ever tried to do was showcase Calgary skaters. I did my best and have no regrets. Hell, might do it again.
Where do you skate in the winter?
I’m fortunate enough to be able to skate the Hart ramp fairly regularly in the winter. Over the last few years it’s been a godsend! Done parkades in the last couple years as well. Vertical Edge in Red Deer is always an option.
What can you tell us about the many indoor skateparks that have come and gone in Calgary?
Powderstick Skateworld: only skated it once, super intimated as a 12 year old. I don’t really know anything about the ownership, or what caused it’s demise.
Skate Jungle: skated this place so much. It was the shit if you wanted to skate a half-pipe. 8 half pipes from 2′ to 12′(iirc). From what I remember the City and the ownership ended up in some sort of dispute causing the closure. Prime real estate.
Allskool: small but sick. Way more “street” than it’s predecessors. I believe it may have even been profitable for a period, got sold, go run into the ground…again, this is only from what I remember.
403: heart and soul poured into skateboarding on this one. Big, cheap, no pads, eventually no helmets for anyone decent and of age, so many great memories!!! More or less put outta business by…
The Source Park: this place ruled. I hate that I pretty much abandoned 403 once it opened. I think a lot of people probably feel this way, or they should. Everything you could wanna skate, absolutely huge. Great while it lasted! I gotta assume massive financial losses caused the eventual closure on this one. Gotta sell a lot of hoodies for 50,000 sq.ft. of commercial real estate in Calgary!
If I ever have the kinda money that losing 100K a year wasn’t a big deal, I’d open a park. It’s only a million after ten years!
How do you feel about Millennium Park? Do you skate there? Do you think it serves a purpose?
For me Millennium had it’s time and place. I really don’t skate there much anymore. When they installed those metal benches I went back a few times. Honestly though I kinda hate it. It’s just so Calgary; forget long term, forget functionality, let’s just build the biggest park ever! Then we won’t have to build anymore for years. Okay, well it’s been 10 years, we needed more than one park ten years ago, and we sure as hell do now. The GEA(Greater Edmonton Area…I know, can you believe you’d ever hear Edmonton referred to like Toronto or Vancouver?) now has 9 parks. Airdrie, Langdon, Taber, Canmore, Strathmore, Cochrane, Olds. Step up already, Calgary; 2 parks, 250K each, one north, one south, done. Does Millennium serve a purpose? Yes. It just no longer serves that purpose for me personally…and I’m not the only one.
Shout outs and thanks?
Jerry, Bernie and Mike Kozan. Anyone that has ever checked out my vids. Anyone that can honestly say that they’ve skateboarded in the last 10 days.