Lodge LEGEND, Paul Zitzer
Current: job / school?
SPoT Events Operations Manager and more loosely, anything and everything related to Skatepark of Tampa contests and the Damn Am Series.
Where are you from ?
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA
Where do you currently live ?
Louisville, Kentucky, USA
Kids / family status
Married for 14 years. Two kids, 11 and 8.
Technically? None. I rep SPoT pretty hard though.
What are you doing right now/ this month?
I’ve been working non-stop on preparing for the first couple Damn Am contests. Making sure we have flyers out, video teasers, hitting up all the ams who’ve skated our contests before, reaching out to TMs, sponsors, the magazines etc. Then there’s hiring the crew, planning travel, flights, hotels, rental cars, making sure we’re getting skaters signed up to skate, invoicing, working out the plan for our SPoT Life edits on RIDE Channel, shipping all of our gear to the stop, double checking that we have all the right banners, stickers, social tags, etc. So yeah, all day every day. We’re going to Atlanta first, then down to Brazil where about 500 kids tried to sign up to skate in the first two days. Tell me how you’re supposed to say no to 300 of them when you don’t speak Portuguese? Haha. Oh, I’ve been skating some too, we have a 13 foot deep bowl in Louisville that’s incredible. How deep is that in meters?
How come you got into skateboarding?
Initially it was because my older brother had a board so I got one too. I was four, I’m not kidding. So I skated my whole life because it was fun. This was in the late 1970s, and I had no idea that there was anything more to it than riding around, I didn’t know people did tricks. It wasn’t utnil I was 12 or 13 did I see skate magazines and skate videos for the first time. And that was it, I already knew that riding a board was amazing, so then seeing all the tricks you could learn? Vert was popular at that time so the idea of flying through the air was all it took for me to decide that’s what I was going to do with myself.
How many years were you a professional skateboarder?
It really kind of depends, 10 probably where I lived 100% off of skateboarding. There might have been a few more years of getting paid from it but I was also starting to do other things. I should use this chance to point out my theory of pro skateboarding levels, I was never too comfortable claiming pro status, I like to say I was a blue collar pro, working for it.
Looking back, what was the best about being a professional skateboarder?
It’s cliché to say this but getting to travel the world. In what other profession would you get to go pretty much everywhere with no real responsibility besides doing what you’d want to be doing anway? I’ve been to Australia, Japan, China, South America, all over Europe, and so many times. Outside of skating I might have made it to Canada if I was lucky. Stoked to say I’ve been to Copenhagen too, and it’s one of the best cities ever, you’re stoked.
Looking back, what was the worst about being a professional skateboarder ?
I can answer this without even thinking about it for one second, skating contests was the worst thing by far. I hated it. I skated hundreds of contests probably, and through each and every one of them I failed over and over to so what I thought I should be capable of doing. I couldn’t figure out how to relax and enjoy the opportunity, or see it as some kind of challenge, I couldn’t deal with it. You know, I still have friends who are going to the Rumble, or going to Vert Attack, or whatever it is and they all say, “you should come out for it, it’ll be fun.” And even something like that, that doesn’t matter, I can’t do it, I’ve tried, you’re not going to see me at those, I promise you I would not have fun.
Was it really your vertramp in the Skatepark of tampa ? What is the story of the vert ramp ? Did you give it to skatepark of tampa. Rumours of drama was in the air back in the day. Do you wanna set the facts straight here ?( we love storys about vertramps, because it is a farkery every time)
Hah! Yes, it was my vert ramp. I’ll try to make it as brief as I can. I was going to school in Florida, and my parents were incredibly supportive of my skating. They could see it was my life. My brother had a shop there, and when the last vert ramp got torn down around 1991 we started looking for a fix. In ’92 we found a warehouse just big enough for a vert ramp, and the rent was $1000 a month. My parents gave me like $5000 and we hired Tim Payne who lived only an hour or so away to come build it. There were like 20 of us working on it, I remember it took 17 hours from start to finish. Tim is a maniac. The sessions were amazing, Frazier, Leonard Trubia, Schaefer and a bunch of crazy Florida vert dudes just skating our faces off. The plan was to have people pay $50 a month to skate. 20 people, $50 each, $1000 a month total, easy. Well, in 1992 that was like asking people for their arms and legs, I came up short every month and after a year of constantly asking my parents for more money to keep it going, I was over it. We were going to ask for reduced rent, but then there was also the side story of some bums in the neighborhood trying to burn the warehouse down due to some accusations. Honestly one of their friends was murdered right down the street from the ramp and somehow the cops got the idea that I’d done it. Or they acted like that. But whatever, in the end the owner of the building said we had to move out of the space. Tearing that ramp down after a year was definitely a low point in my life up until then. I didn’t think we’d ever get it put back up and I though, “Well, I guess I’ll just be a street skater from now on?” And then a few months later I get the call from Schaefer, he’d found a warehouse and we were putting the ramp back up. I was there the day we walked into the empty space, January 1st, 1993. Here we are 23 years later. It went fast.
Vert sessions from Zithers Ramp 1992 !! ( this is DOPE)
Is vert back now in 2015-2016 ? are you putting your money on this ?
I can’t believe it but yes, it’s totally back and It’s so cool to see. Did you watch Sam Beckett’s Blind part? Dude! Jimmy Wilkins, Alex Perelson, all of those guys are ruling it. Vert has finally sort of broken out of the rut it’s been in for the past 20 years, I think seeing it flourish outside the big TV contests has been its saving grace. I don’t think it’s much easier to make money doing it these days but fortunately that doesn’t have any affect on me anymore. Haha. Sorry guys, but keep killing it. I’ve been watching non stop Insta videos from Vert Attack 10 and it’s been amazing. Glad I’m not actually there though sorry.
We know you have a LOT of funny true storys about skateboarders. Do you wanna share your own personal most funny story?
Thanks. But no, what I want to point out are the characters. I love all of these dudes but the fact that someone is willing to dedicate their life to learning tricks on a skateboard shows that there’s something wrong with all of us. There are so many stories that telling just one feels wrong. Tas Pappas was the best for material, he was always doing something that seemed insane. Like showing up to skate the ramp with a backpack filled with 80 pounds of sand. He thought he could build up his legs to the point where he could go 15 feet high. He dropped in and slammed his brains out. You watch All This Mayhem? That was such a small part of it really.
Best top 5 skateboarders ever lived ?
That’s impossible! Haha. There’s actually like seven or eight that have to be mentioned or it wouldn’t be fair to humanity. Tas Pappas as crazy as he was is an all time great, Tony Hawk, Mike Frazier, Colin McKay, Danny Way, Georgio Zattoni and I think Chris Miller should be on the list too for what he’d done past the age of 30 or even 40.
Please tell us short the difference of skateboarding in the 90, 00 and then now ?
At least if we’re talking about halfpipes, the 90s were all about trying to figure out how to do street tricks on vert, but forgetting to do vert tricks on vert. No one was doing handplants, no madonnas, no bonelesses. It was supposedly getting refined into something cool but instead it got gross and sloppy and inconsistent. I did like the outfits though, light jeans, white t shirts, tan Airwaks.
The 2000s was like a lost decade for vert. It could be defined by two tricks: 540s and kickflip indys. It just got insanely predictable and boring. The state of affairs on the pipe these days is much improved. New tricks, new people…a lot of it has to do with the growth of parks though and the boom in cement skating. Honestly I find what the dudes are doing on concrete to be completely impossible to comprehend. I don’t know how they do it. Chris Russell? He’s mental! Pedro, Raven Tershy, Ronnie Sandovol. I love seeing it all. Random dudes everywhere are doing the stuff vert skaters forgot about.
Is skateboarding going into the right direction ?
Yes, 100%. There’s something for everyone happening all the time and you can see it all whenever you want. It couldn’t be better. Sure there’s still stuff to hate on and complain about but I’m just as much of a fan of that than I am a fan of the good stuff. Bring it on.
What is your job and what do you do today ( daily) in 2016 ?
I manage the Damn Am series like I said through SPoT Events. I help plan the webcast for Tampa Am and Tampa pro and I announce those contests. I commentate Street League contests. I do a weekly blog for SPoTTampa.com called Zaturdays where I hype things up or complain about other things. If we’re actually out at a Damn Am I’m trying to make sure that everyone is stoked and having a good time and the whole thing is running smooth.
Are you living the ( your) dream ?
Good question! I don’t know. Yes and no. Part of me says I work too much to be living a dream, but the rest of me says, “what else would I be doing?” I feel blessed to be able to work in skateboarding and have kept it going all these years. I’ve done just about every job imaginable, except maybe TM, but doing what I’m doing now is without a doubt the most rewarding and I couldn’t be happier unless I just got to skate for a living without actually having to do hard tricks.
What would be your ( next ) dream project ?
Honestly we’re in the middle of it. The Damn Am contests have been around for 15 years, I’d always judged them or announced them on occasion, and last year was the first year I worked on it full time, and we’re right in the thick of it again, and it’s super rad how the series now leads to Tampa Am and is a qualifier into Street League. Outside of work though, I’d like to film one more video part. You know any filmers?
What are your future plans?
I’m so old I feel like I’m already living in that far distant future everyone thinks of when they’re in their 20s. Like, “What are you going to do in your 40s?”! So who knows but all I can say is, I think I missed out on my chance for becoming an architect or an engineer, skateboarding is all I know so my plan is to just keep it going and going and going, doing more and better and different. I look at guys like Cab and Hawk as inspiration. They could retire and buy their own private islands, but they don’t.
Any thing else, thanks and send love ? ?
Dude, thank you Thomas Kring for coming to Tampa back in the day! You were really going for it dude, this was before the internet, when you didn’t know how you were even going to get from the airport to anywhere. How do you use the phone? Will my credit card work? Thanks for the opportunity to do this interview. Thanks to anyone that has been rad over the years. Thanks to anyone that just read this. I love you all!
Some older dope footage of Paul below !
Thank you Paul Zitzer, this was very rad.
Check Paul’s blog