Paul - Sean Penn- YIKES!
I’ve known Paul for quite some time. I remember him from various east coast ramps and contests that I attended over the years. We ride together when we can and Paul comes out once in awhile to ride the coveted backyard plaster. He always goes home thanking me and saying, “Man that was fun. I really needed that!” Sometimes we just need to get out of our comfort zone. Paul ripped in last years Protec and I thought I would ask him a few questions.
We met up in San Marcos. It was early morning and I had been in San Diego riding the DC ramp all weekend. I was hunched over my laptop in a coffee shop when Paul came in. He looked tired! “Damn dude… you sleep this weekend?!” I asked. He smiled and mumbled, “Baby.” I understood. His newborn had been keeping irregular hours… We bought coffee and sat down. I started in on the basics. Years riding. Sponsorships. First contests. Wrapped up in a GreenIssue hooded sweatshirt, Paul went over the details and facts that led him directly to here.
“I started skating in 1975. I was eight and its been in my blood ever since. I’m proud to say that I’ve never had a comeback… because I never quit! Thinking back, my first contests were bowl contests in Ocean City, Maryland at the Ocean Bowl when I was really young. I progressed to local half pipe contests in my teens. My first Pro contest was at the Hangar bowl in South Carolina. I ended up in eighth place. I’ve had a hand full of sponsorships over the years. My first sponsor was Independent in 1985, then Billabong, Speedwheels, Alva and finally Santa Cruz. Now, I ride GreenIssue boards, get flowed Bones Wheels and Bearings, 187 Pads and I buy my own Indy’s, Puma’s and coffee.”
I nodded and recalled Paul riding a vert ramp back in the early 1990’s. He had dreadlocks and was ruling. He was a definite standout even back then. I talked to him about the upcoming Protec and what I thought people were going to throw down on contest day. I asked him about his own expectations. Paul sat back thoughtfully and reflected, “I’m beat up this year. I’ve had several hard slams this month but most of all we have a three month old baby at home, so I am three months short of sleep!” Paul laughed and then continued… ”It’s all good though. I wouldn’t change a thing. To be quite honest, I don’t expect anything from this contest. The Protec is always a good time and I just want to make the most of it by staying on my board and keeping my shit together. If I can walk away feeling like I rode well –which I feel like I did last year – I’ll be content.”
Even though I was at the Protec Qualifiers and the contest, I had Paul go over the whole thing so I could have his recollections of those two days. Paul rubbed his eyes and sat back. “Well, I entered the qualifier last year and got third. I ended up thirteenth over- all, so my goal to qualify and skate in the event was met last year. In my mind, I feel like I skated my absolute best. I stayed on and did what I set out to do. It was a trip for this kid from Baltimore to be standing there in the same heat, riding right after the Birdman! It was surreal to say the least.”
We discussed influences. I – as always – spoke of Buster Halterman and how unbelievably great he is. Paul nodded in agreement and told me of his influences. “I must say that Blaze Blouin was probably my biggest influence. I wish I rode with a tenth of his speed and style. He rode similarly to Chris Miller… with that perfect combination of flow and velocity. I sadly was not blessed with the style and grace that Blaze and Chris have. I’m always looking at my lines and trying to keep the flow and speed going. I also must point out that Bucky and Pete Hewitt have an influence on me as well. They have such different perspectives on lines and tricks. Both Pete and Bucky have amazing confidence which allows them to make some of the most difficult combinations in spots that other people can’t even get to. You won’t see them do six 5-0’s and three 540’s in the same line. Bucky’s bag of tricks is so deep that he almost never repeats a trick. I try –as much as I can – to ride that way and not wind up in the half pipe of the square doing three versions of the same trick in a line. I’ll have my lines and if I stay on we’ll see how the judges feel about my theory of flow, speed, style and placement of tricks. That’s how it works, right?”
I chuckled and mumbled something about judging but Paul graciously let it pass. He looked at me as if to say, “Don’t go there!” He smiled. In closing, Paul told me how he usually skates on a day to day basis. “Ninety-five percent of the time I ride at Bucky’s. Between the bowl and the sessions with Bucky, Owen, Elise, Cookie, Mancha, Hewitt, Navs, Tom, Div, Zach & Chris, Fick, Mimi, Conway, Mike Owen, Scott Taylor, Mag, Christiano, Sparagna and little Zach, the energy level is alway super high, the laughs are non -stop, plus the surround sound and view don’t hurt either.”
Thanks to Paul Wisniewski for taking the time with us & thank you to MRZ for the image. Skate- Ozzie
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