San Diego Arena triple set ollie. November 1999. Photo courtesy of Jeremy Wray
The Chrome Ball Incident for ABD #1: Jeremy Wray.
“I don’t fear anything … ”
It’s kinda corny but there’s really no other way to explain it: Jeremy Wray is a superhero.
Time and time again, no other skateboarder has consistently blown our minds by rewriting what was previously thought of as impossible … just ask that kid from the Color video. Be it soaring from tower to tower, flipping over cars or manhandling monstrous gaps into submission, Wray’s unassuming Clark Kent exterior has always remained understated, as he’s let his superhuman abilities speak for themselves.
So I gotta ask… where have you been, man? Are you still on Element? You’ve been underground for a minute now.
Yeah, I still ride for Element. Still skate and still love it. It’s been a struggle finding people to skate with lately … everybody’s either working full-time or doesn’t skate anymore. I need to link up with other skaters that are still out there on the regular.
How did the Wray brothers get introduced to skating?
Jonas and I started skating after our older brother Jaz got a board. We all three used to take turns bombing hills on his board. Then Jonas bought one and about a month or two later, I got my own for my eighth birthday. Jonas and I have been skating ever since …
So how did your style evolve? When did you start attacking the really huge stuff like the gaps that most pros couldn’t even handle at the time? And not just with ollies either but doing actual tricks … frontside 360 ollieing eight stairs as an unknown with a mullet in Blockhead’s Recycled Rubbish vid back in ‘91!
Whoa, easy on the mullet talk … believe it or not, those were actually my bangs coming out the back of my hat. I had bangs down to my nipples in high school. I wore a hat everyday so I just let it grow.
As far as gaps and tricks went, it really just came from avoiding boredom. How many times can you ollie the same gap without wondering what it would be like to kickflip it? You gotta entertain yourself to keep skating fresh and new. Pushing the limits of what was considered possible really just came straight from that.
Jeremy Wray Pro Files. 411VM Issue #1.
You were the first pro interviewed for the premiere issue of 411. How did you and your shirt collection get involved with the project? Since the video magazine format had never really been done before, did you have any idea what you were actually filming for?
I heard that Mark Gonzales was supposed to have the first interview but it fell through at the last minute and I guess that’s how I ended up getting it. I was filming with Chris Ortiz a lot at the time so we just kept going until the deadline came. It was around the same time as the Color video so I was on a mission already.
Color ad, 1993
Color was Markovich’s vehicle. Was there a sense of competition between you guys? You definitely came along and stole some of his thunder. How come you chose to go to Plan B after Color’s demise instead of following the rest of the team to Prime?
Markovich was one of my all-time favorite skaters, so when he called me up and asked me to join a new company he was starting I was stoked! We all started skating and filming together … working hard to put out a video for Color and get the name out there. I never tried to compete with Markovich … or anybody, for that matter. I just always pushed myself as far as humanly possible. I was young and gung ho.
After the video was done, there were disagreements with Rich Metiver about the products being put out with the Color name on them. We didn’t want to cut any corners on quality to save a few cents, so it all fell apart in the end. I got a call that everyone was quitting and moving on. Mark Oblow worked out a deal with Rocco to start up Prime over at World Industries. I didn’t want to start trying to build another brand all over again … I just wanted to ride for the best company in skateboarding and stay there until the end. That company was Plan B.
You were part of the post-Girl Plan B recovery effort. Joining such an elite team was definitely an honor … but were you a little bummed that you weren’t part of it just a little earlier?
When I was getting on Plan B, I didn’t know that those guys were all quitting. When I found out I was shocked! The cool thing was that all the guys that stayed were brought closer together because of it and all became a family. I would still do anything for those guys.
The earth-shattering opening line in Second Hand Smoke. How long did that take to film? And who was the goof pogo-dancing right before you took the first left turn?
That “goof” was Rodney Mullen! How dare you! (Laughs)
Oh man! Whoops!
Yeah, we were all skating Carlsbad High and filming lines from the stairs to the corner ledge and Danny Way said, “Hey, you should do a line to the big gap.” So I did.
It took about four or five tries actually down the gap. I had a few where I tried to fit in more flatground tricks, but it was tough with all the cracks. So I simplified it and got it done. You can see Colin McKay come down the grass hill in the background after I landed it.
Dukes ad, November 1996
Dukes: the ads were amazing; the shoes looked great … what happened?
I had the chance to create Dukes from scratch. I came up with the name, the logo, the designs, everything. It was supposed to be a shoe company owned by Plan B, but when Mike Ternasky died, Rocco gained ownership. The first shoes I designed sold really good but the later models didn’t hit the mark as well and Rocco decided to sell Dukes to some Canadian investors. I never saw a dime.
The company went on to make a cheaper version of the first shoe and sold it to sporting goods stores. Then later, I saw some Dukes toy store completes with Dukes trucks and wheels on them. Crazy. I learned a lot about how not to do business from that whole deal.
The Water Tower Gap and the SD triple set … how long did you think about these two until inevitably trying and conquering them?
We’d been looking at the SD triple set since the Blockhead days. We’d go skate the double set and I used to look at the triple and think it was impossible. Every time, I would look at it … until one day, I knew that I could do it. I tried it but after two tries, it didn’t feel right, so we left.
Later when I was shooting an interview with Atiba, he suggested we go back and get it. I got it on like the fifth try. I remember going by the TransWorld offices to borrow a camera to film it and no one would lend us one. When we came back 45 minutes later and told them it went down and saw the same cameras sitting in the exact same spots, we just laughed. They couldn’t believe it had actually happened. They all thought it was impossible, too.
The Water Tower gap was over the hill from my house and we used to drive by it all the time. One day we had some extra time so we stopped to check it out. It was super gnarly to stand on the edge. It was windy and the surface was pretty rough, but possible. I called up Sturt and told him I had a spot to show him.
“Is the possibility of death involved?” he asked me.
“Actually, on this one, there is,” I said.
Water tower gap ollie. Thrasher, November 1997. Photo: Daniel Harold Sturt.
After the criminally-underrated Revolution video, the initial Plan B disbanded. How difficult was this decision? And how did Element enter the picture?
We tried our best to keep Plan B together. No one wanted it to break up. Danny and Colin did everything they could but it was out of their hands. We were forced to part ways and find new sponsors. I ended up on Element after I heard a rumor that I already rode for them. They called me cause they had heard the same rumor. We ended up meeting and making it official. I’ve ridden for them ever since.
What do you think of the new Plan B?
I was stoked to see Plan B come back with Duffy back in the mix. They recently teamed up with Element to form a new distribution company together, so maybe I’ll see all my old friends around again soon.
So how often on tour are you taken to some gigantic gap and expected to kickflip it first try?
They always take Pat Duffy to the gnarliest kinked rail and take me to the most ridiculous gap. We always get a good laugh out of it.
Seems like the gnarlier skaters have always had worse bouts with “madness” than your typical ledge guys and manny dudes. How are you faring?
I’m not a superstitious person. I don’t have a lucky number or favorite color. I just take things as they come and make new decisions every time. It helps block out any madness issues. If I feel like skating something, I will. If I don’t, there’s nothing that a filmer or photographer can say to change my mind. You’ll know what feels right if you pay enough attention.
I’ve always wondered if you’ve ever gone back to Love for that frontside 360 ollie into the fountain? You were so close …
I only skated it that one time. It rained the night before and the ground was still wet. Some kid actually took newspapers and dried up the landing for us so we could skate it. It is a really good gap. The take off is so solid. Everything pops super good but the landing was still on the slippery side and I kept sliding out. On the last one, my board broke and that was it. I haven’t been back to Philly since.
Backside flip. Color ad, October 1993
What do you think about the Wallenberg challenges and that recent Fast Times at Carlsbad High contest? Did you ever think that you’d see such a thing?
If it had happened 15 years ago, I’d probably have been stoked but now it seems like such a circus. So many logos plastered all over the spots. It makes the tricks look less appealing. I love to be there and watch it all. The energy is always great. The skating that goes down is amazing, but I’d still rather see footage of them skating the spot another day without all the hype … even if they got the same tricks. But that’s just me.
Back in the day, there were only a handful of dudes killing the big stuff … fast-forward 15 years and “jumping off a building” borders on cliché. There are actually lists of tricks written down at spots nowadays. What do you think of all these kids on ABD patrol out there?
It’s always been there, but it seems like it has gotten more out of control over the last 10 years. Salman always had a funny take on ABD’s. If someone would tell him that so-and-so already did something, he would answer, “Not in this body!”
Everybody skates different and just because some kid already did a switch frontside flip there, wouldn’t you still like to see Tom Penny do it anyway? I know I would.
Well put. Alright Jeremy, that’s all I have. What’s next for you?
Right now leaving the house and go to pool league. We’re playing some eight-ball tonight. Wish me luck!
Frontside 360 ollie. Blockhead ad, October 1992
Frontside half cab. Blockhead ad, May 1993
Backside heelflip. Element ad, February 1999
50-50. Plan B ad, August 1998
Kickflip. Spitfire ad, July 1994