Hangup – Skeittaus, elämä, viihde ja kulttuuri

Pat Duffy (In English)

01.03.2019 / Toimitus

Pat Duffy's interview from issue 3/18 in english. Words by Joonas Pulkkinen, Photos by Keke Leppälä

It was the post-millennium ”hammer” period. Skateboarding went “big” – it was nothing spectacular by today’s standards, but anything done on a ten-stair with homies or on a 16-to-20-stair on pro level was the attraction standard in skateboarding. Many were aiming at this and tackling stairs more than half-seriously, wearing egg timer necklaces and sporting “PD” tag on their jeans to signify Piss Drunx. Yours truly, too, was skating wearing black jeans, a Misfits shirt and a leather jacket every now and then, inspired by Esa Hytönen and Harri Lagström.

Text: Joonas Pulkkinen Photos: Keke Leppälä 

I must have been skating for two years when I saw a documentary on Pat Duffy by On Video Magazine that was run by 411VM. For some reason I had seen Video Days but I was totally unaware of other skate videos of the 90s. It was incomprehensible to me that somebody had skated handrails so big and done stunts so big that they still held up. Bs smith on a kink rail, bs triple flip, and switch fs 360 down some stairs.
I tried my luck in a writing contest and wrote an essay about authenticity. It was never published, but I recall writing in a glorious tone about skaters of the early 90s and their contribution to the culture. Gonz, Danny Way, Pat Duffy, Jeremy Klein. I never would’ve believed that 18 years later I’d meet one of them in real life and admire how his family seems to be the most important thing to this pro skater – or that this person lives in Finland, close to Fiskars.

Somebody said about Pat Duffy in an interview that he’s a very nice and genuine person. I must agree. You can tell he, at the age of 40+, still truly enjoys skating, is a loving father, and is always ready for any light-hearted challenge.

From Marine Country to H-Street and to Plan B

Duffy was born in Marine County, Bay Area. “Northern California, Bay Area. It is on the other side of Golden Gate, coming from San Fransisco.” Marine County is actually Frisco’s suburb surrounded by nature. Duffy describes it as a place that hippies inhabited once they didn’t want to live in SF anymore. “After the sixties. They moved there because it’s so close to Frisco. Just 10 miles away. You get there in half an hour, and it’s got lakes, beaches, and beautiful nature.” Pat was born in 1974 and he’s 44. He got hooked on skating in 1988. “That’s when I learned to do ollies. But I have a picture of me when I was two, wearing diapers, and I’m skating. I’ve had a board close to me all my life. When I was six or seven, I saved up some money and bought a plastic Variflex board. My first real board was a Caballero pro model in 1985 with all the possible pads. Once I learned how to ollie up a curb in 1998, I realized that was what I wanted to do.” Ray Barbee’s part in Public Domain had a big impact. “I grew up watching it. I also loved Frankie Hill a lot. And the part in Ban This where there’s Guy Mariano, Barbee, Gabriel Rodriquez and Chet Thomas skating the street together. My all-time favorite movies, though, are H-Street movies alongside Public Domain and Ban This. But Shackle Me Not was a bible to me. I watched it daily.”

If Duffy learned to ollie in 1988, his progress must have been speedy, considering his maneuvers in Questionable, Plan B’s first movie. “Once I immersed myself in skating, my progress was really fast. I became a pro in 1993, but we were already shooting Questionable in 1991. I was skating daily, as much as possible, after I learned to ollie. It was the only thing I wanted to do. And once you get obsessively interested in something, you usually get pretty good at it fast.” The first pros that Duffy skated with in Frisco were Danny Sargent, a former pro for New Deal. Pat started skating in Frisco and at the legendary EMB in late 80s. “Sargent was so sick back then. He had some drug issues later on but got clean later on. He lives in North County these days and has a daughter. He’s doing very well. I was a huge fan of Carroll brothers. I hung out with them at EMB. Kelch, Henry Sanchez, and some other locals.” Kelch was the regulator there and had a whimsical mood. He was always nice to Pat, but some other locals often got a less-than-nice treatment. “He might say, ‘Duffy, you’re cool, and you can stay, but your homie’s gotta go’. And I replied, ‘Well, there goes my ride, so I gotta go too!’ But I respect you, Kelch.” 

Noseblunt / Aikalava

Plan B & Mike Ternasky

It’s public knowledge that Duffy ended up skating for Plan B through a sponsor-me tape. However, contrary to the common belief, the tape did not end up in Mike Ternasky’s hands at first. Ternasky founded Plan B. Before that, he was co-running the legendary H-Street with Tony Magnusson. “The person who got the tape was Jeff Pettit. He was also my idol alongside Ray Simmonds. They both rode for H-Street. Simmonds was a handrail guy that loved doing ollies off roofs and do other sick stuff. But Pettit got the tape first and gave it to Ternasky.” 

Pettit had called Ternasky and said there’s a tape coming that he should check out and mentioned Duffy’s name. “Eventually, Dave Andrecht actually got the tape and showed it to Ternasky. That way I kind of rode for H-Street for three months before Mike founded Plan B.” 
Duffy actually met Ternasky for the first before Plan B was founded. “Right before Mike started Plan B, he flew somewhere to shoot some stuff. I met him at EMB, and I had spoken to him on the phone before.” Duffy met many of the Plan B riders for the first time when he and Ternasky traveled to San Diego on a shooting trip. ”I met Danny [Way] and stayed at his place. Then I met [Sean] Sheffey for the first time. And all this happened a month ago after I had met Mike T. He had the idea of Plan B back then, but we still were on H-Street in a way on that trip.” That trip was remarkable in the sense that many of Duffy’s Questionable hammers were shot on that trip. “Yeah, many of them. First day, we were shooting at San Pasqual High School where I did a 50-50 on a handrail, and a 50-50 on a flat rail off the bank and back to the bank. All that was shot on one day. A 360 off the bank over a picnic table.” 
The legendary bs lipslide on a handrail was shot back home at Marine County. Duffy had already got a photo of it with Tobin Yelland. Once Ternasky saw the shot, he drove eight hours from San Diego just to shoot it on film. “He came to visit me overnight just to shoot it. And then it started raining.”
In some interviews, Duffy has mentioned that he’s not really a skater who puts a lot of emphasis on shooting for videos. In this sense, Ternasky was a special filmer who made Duffy discover new things just by suggesting them. “He had a special skill to know what each skater could do even when the skaters themselves didn’t know it. Like, ‘I know you just did a grind on that gnarly handrail, but I know you can do a smith on it’.” He could bring out every skater’s potential and make them leave their comfort zone. Duffy mentions Jamie Thomas as another filmer that can bring out similar things in skaters.

From the depression years to party times

In the early 90s, Plan B was under the Dwindle umbrella as a part of Steve Rocco’s product family. Companies like Blind, World Industries and 101 offered, in a way, a new and anarchistic angle to skateboarding. Graphic artists did know how to shock, and the economy of skateboarding and the related culture were presented in a self-ironic fashion. “Dwindle was a big part of Plan B’s identity at first. Those were really crazy times. Rocco put up a middle finger in the middle of the industry. ‘I’ll be staying here, so fuck you all.’ His goal probably was to piss everyone off, except if you were cool to him, but no-one was when he started.”
Skateboarding was going through its deepest slump. There was no money. “The art was sick. Because skating wasn’t mainstream, you didn’t really have to care. Big Brother had an article called How to kill yourself. It actually got some bigger attention,” Duffy laughs. 
During the Plan B times, Duffy had a chance to be a part of a community that Matt Hensley was a part of too. “He still is. I’m really happy to have met him and hung out with him.”
In the late 90s, Rocco sold Dwindle to Hill brothers from Australia who did not keep up Rocco’s “ideology”. Duffy was skating for Plan B till 1997. He switched to Think from SF a little after Plan B’s fourth movie, Revolution, had come out. “What happened to Plan B after Mike died in a car accident…Mary, Mike Ternasky’s wife, tried to run it as long as she could. But she wasn’t a skater and didn’t really know how to do it. Then, Danny, Colin [McKay], I, and Jeremy Wray ran it for a while. We got all the rights with Tommy Caudill who had been runnin XYZ Clothing. Pappas brothers were riding for Platinum, which was Danny’s company. That way, Armageddon Distribution was born, and under it, there were XYZ, Platinum, and Plan B. That lasted for maybe two years. Bill Pappas, Ben and Tas’s father, handled our bookkeeping, and all of a sudden it turned out he didn’t know how to do it. And one day I received a call saying that was it.” Duffy was persuaded to join Think by Greg Carroll, Wade Speyer, and Pancho Moler. “Jesse Paez and Keith Cochrane were calling me too. Everyone was assuring me I should ride for Think. And I did. Those were really good times.”
The late 90s years, real party years for Duffy, took their toll. Some of those years are portrayed by Jeff Minton’s shots of Duffy: no shirt, bleached hair, drinking Lite beer. “Phew. They really were party years for me. I was living in SF in Jake Phelps’s warehouse. There was a Helter Skelter ramp in there, and we did some really crazy parties there. We had to buy wood for all kinds of building work there. We skated all evenings and then “closed” the ramp and made a dancefloor on its flat. MDMA was fuel for partying so you could go on till the morning. I don’t even know what music was played.” 
Those years seemed to be times of heavy drinking and partying for many pros. “I did skate and go on tours. Usually I spent a month or two on tours in the summer. But I didn’t really concentrate on trying to film a video part. I did put out two Think video parts, though. They’re OK. I’m absolutely sure that I would’ve filmed sicker footage if I had concentrated on it, but I was too busy just having fun and macking on chicks.” 

The new coming and Megaramp injury

Duffy had a comeback of a sort on Transworld’s Subtleties. “Jason Hernandez, who works for Nike these days, made it possible. He said that my name had come up and they were working on the movie, so he asked if I wanted to join. I totally did and loved making that movie. It took a few years; it was a long process. The sessions I had were really good. There were Kyle Leeper, Richard Angelides, and [Brandon] Biebel. We had some really good trips with that crew. Most of my footage is from LA, but we also shot in Miami, Sacramento, and Frisco.” In 2006, Duffy hurt his knee badly on the Megaramp while filming an ad for the Plan B that had returned. “I and Jody Morris had an idea, and I had always wanted to skate the Megaramp. We were supposed to do a Plan B ad with me on the ramp. I went to Burnquist’s ramp one day; Bob wasn’t even there. Danny was. I couldn’t land it. Five hours of climbing and going back and forth. Then, one day in November, it was Thanksgiving and I was at my mom’s. Jody called and said we needed to get it done. The half-ramp* was the scariest part there. I had flown over the gap, and that felt natural. I have been snowboarding, so it wasn’t a problem going fast on a big board. Then again, it didn’t feel good doing a 10-foot backside air on the quarter pipe. Because I’m just not a vert guy. I can do Indys on a vert, but not high ones. Maybe three feet above the coping. But I had done them higher, too.” 
Duffy was pondering whether he’d just land in the middle and fall or if he should try and land on the half-ramp. “I don’t know if any street skater had landed it by then. It was before Heath [Kirchart] had landed a 360. I was definitely driven by the thought of being the first one. But I didn’t practice on the half-ramp enough. I knew I didn’t want to fall, but as I finally landed the middle part and rode on to the quarter pipe, I completely flew off and landed directly on the flat. The bone was sticking out of the leg. I spent nine days in the hospital and was operated on four times.” Recovery did take some time. It took one and a half years before Duffy could get on the board again. “I was lucky, as it was just the bone and nothing else. They were able to put it back in its place really well, and I feel that my knee has actually been better since.” Duffy thinks that physically he’s in a good condition. “There’s small things, but my knees are good and ankles almost, too. But hey, I’m fucking 44, I’m done. My body sucks”, Duffy says laughing and adds that his body does actually work. “I have some aching before and after, but during skating I’m fully OK.”

Europe and love at Helsinki Hook Up

Duffy has been visiting Europe for all his career. “I visited for the first time in 1992 when we only went to the UK. In 1993 there was the Northampton contest at Radlands, Münster contest, and one at Antwerpen, Belgium. That was probably my best contest trip. I think I was third at Münster and fourth in Belgium. I was among the top 10 at Radlands.” 
One of the hardest contest slams ever happened at Lausanne Grand Prix of 1997 where Duffy and Gonz collided hard. “They had a Jaguar there, and skaters were going over it both ways. It was crazy, as there was a dead angle when you were going for it. You needed to have someone there to let you know when you could go. Some obstacle was probably slightly blocking the way, too. I was trying to a 360 flip it lengthwise and Gonz was going laterally. I don’t know who was controlling the traffic; maybe the guy was on a break. We just approached it the same time. Gonz was coming faster and I think he got hit worse. It was really bad.”
On his travels in Europe, Duffy found his partner. He met his wife, Chia, while visiting the Hook Up contest in Helsinki the same year. “I arrived with Melcher, Strubing, and Paul Shier. And big Kenny Hughes was here! We had a plan to go to Lithuania after the contest. I had met Chia here and we had hung out for a couple of days. As we were coming back from Lithuania, she asked me to stay for a while. I changed my flight ticket and stayed for a week. Then she came to LA, I came back here, and finally Chia moved to the US for good after a few months.” When Chia arrived in the US for the first time, Duffy realized he, all love-struck, had completely forgot to tell her about a month-long skate tour. “Haha! I think I just forgot. I was riding for Lost Clothing back then. When Chia arrived, I said, ‘Fuck, I forgot to tell you; we’re going on a roadtrip!’ And so we spent a month in a van together.” Chia moved permanently to the US in 2007; then Duffy packed his stuff in LA and they moved to San Diego. “We lived there for eight years. Both our children were born there. We both decided years ago that once our children are old enough to go to school, we want for them to go to school in Finland. Here schools are better, safer, and there’s more nature here. We both thought that Finland is just simply a better environment for children to grow up in.”

Plan B today. 

Duffy’s life in Raasepori.

Plan B returned to skateboarding in 2005. Duffy rode for Plan B for a while, and he still gets boards from the company occasionally and is still listed on the roster. He doesn’t have a role in running things, however. “My skateboarding career in terms of making money is pretty much over, because I moved out of California. I’m pretty sure I could’ve made it happen outside of California, too, but I had made my decisions as I moved to Finland.” According to Duffy, a pro career does require “being there” and intense skateboarding. Duffy still makes a part of his living through skating-related activities. “I work as a judge at World Cup contests. For one season, I was building concrete parks, too.” 
What’s more important than money, though, is being with the family. “I don’t really want to be away from my kids for a long time and only be home at weekends or such. Especially in the summer. I could make triple the money that way, but it’s not worth it.” 
Duffy’s still excited and proud of Plan B. “They returned stronger than ever. It’s still a unique team, just like the original one was. We have nutcases like Chris Joslin, we have Sheckler, and Chris Cole will always be one of the sickest. I’ll be in the All-Star Team, haha! The variety of the team is great.” As his all-time favorite skater, Duffy mentions Torey Pudwill after some serious thinking. “He’s so funny! And he can sleep wherever, even on the subway on the way to spots. He also says the funniest things. Trevor [McClung], Felipe [Gustavo]. P.J [Ladd] is a homie. He took me to a surgery twice when I didn’t have a car.” Out of Finnish skaters, Duffy likes Eniz and Jaakko Ojanen. “Ville [Natunen] is really sick, too. But Jaakko, phew, at X-Games in Oslo, for example…his skating is so cool to watch.”
Duffy lives with his family in Fiskars, Finland, in the town of Raasepori. 
“We live in a place called Bollsta. I work in a bakery where I help a family business with making bread, packing it, and delivering it. I drive to Stockholm once a week. And it’s very close to our house. I’m very happy that it also makes it possible for me to be with my family without me having to be on the road all the time.” 
Duffy speaks about the beauty of Fiskars and the village community. “There’s a really nice artist community here. Everyone’s really talented and there’s always some cool events happening. It’s an amazing place for tourists in the summer.” 
Speaking of artists, I can’t help asking if we’ll ever witness Patman & Robin, the guitar duo that is Duffy and Rob Welsh, in Finland. “Ah heck, yeah. Welsh is in SF or Portland. We have an unspoken agreement that every time we meet, we play music and make new songs, but we’ll see.” 
Duffy has enough guitars. 1974 (his birth year) Fender Stratocaster, 1991 Paul Reed Smith he got from Larry LaLonde of Primus, and a black acoustic Alvarez he got as a Christmas present from Danny Way and Mike Ternasky. 
From life, Duffy expects seeing his children grow up. “After that, I’ll go traveling with my wife and we’ll be traveling gypsies for a while”.

Fs 5-0 / Lasipalatsi


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