The Chrome Ball Incident for ABD #4: Rick McCrank

By Chops

Rick McCrank is one mellow type of fellow. Always humble and not one to jam his pursuits down your throat—be it acting, photography or skateboarding. He can afford the luxury of playing it low key, as odds are you’re gonna want to check out what he’s doing anyway. That’s called talent. But it’s not as if Crankers is yearning to please you. This is only a lucky byproduct of the natural curiosity he seems to approach all his endeavors with. Quite simply, Rick’s doing all this for himself; he’s just nice enough to let us watch.

So Rick, is it true you and Manzoori are bringing back Sheep shoes?
Well, sort of. We’re doing a Sheep remake model on éS. After that, Mike and I are gonna film a little something for it and see if any of the old Sheep dudes want to come along with us on some trips.

It seems like a lot of people have fond memories of Sheep even though it didn’t last for very long. Everyone kept wanting us to make a shoe like Sheeps for a long time so we said, “Well, why don’t we just remake one?” and it went from there.

Now the first time I remember seeing you was for that “Who is Rick McCrank?” NFA clothing ad in TransWorld, back in ‘96. Did you have a board sponsor at this time? Had you moved to Vancouver yet?
I was living in Whistler, which is a little ski town two hours north of Vancouver. When that ad came out, I was sponsored by a small company based out of Whistler called Cherry Bombs. It was started by this lady who’s house I lived in and who’s roommate I was dating. One day, she was just like, “You can ride for us” and I said, “Okay.” I wasn’t actively looking to get sponsored or anything but the offer came up so I took it.

Didn’t you have a pro model out on Cherry Bombs? My man Keith swears you had a graphic with a dude puking on it or something.
Yup, that was the first board they did. It was this drunk guy puking into a toilet which was kind of weird for me cause I’ve never drank.

Kenny Reed also rode for Cherry Bombs but he didn’t have a board. He was a little more versed in how skateboarding worked at the time and probably told them he didn’t want one.

Is it fairly common to turn pro for a smaller company then revert back to am status when a more legit company comes around?
I don’t really know. It happens, for sure. There will be a local thing where you know the people and it goes from there. It’s not like I asked for a board or anything. I was just ignorant of the whole skate world. I didn’t know that’s not what you’re supposed to do. Luckily the company was really small so everyone just kinda pretended it didn’t happen.

So from there, you got on Plan B as an amateur. Quite a leap. How’d you end up getting hooked up with such an elite squad so early on? Were you intimidated? I know you’ve said Questionable was a big influence.
Yeah, it was a huge deal. I knew Colin McKay a little and I knew his friend Jody Morris, the photographer. I didn’t know this at the time but Jody and I were both from the same town and people had been talking to him about me. Later on, Jody came with Colin to Whistler to shoot photos and he ended up shooting one of me just because I happened to be there. My photo ended up going in TransWorld.

Colin ended up talking to me about things and I told him that I was looking for a new sponsor. He said that he would help and try to get me on Plan B. I just remember tripping and not fully believing him, kinda like, “Yeah, sure.” But I made a trip down to San Diego to skate with Jeremy Wray and Pat Channita and they put me on the team.

I remember going backpacking through Costa Rica with my then-girlfriend right after I got back from that San Diego trip and being really distracted the whole time. I was actually bummed out about being on Plan B and didn’t know what I was going to do. I remember thinking to myself, “I’ve gotta learn how to skate now.”

Things started rolling for you pretty quickly from there. You had a few video parts and a good amount of magazine coverage and boom, you were pro again. But it all came unfortunately as Plan B was dying. Were you bummed at all when the company ended? And was it kind of scary having just turned pro and having the company whisked away like that?
I was really bummed ‘cause I was happy over there. It was a good family vibe that I had come up in and that sort of thing was all I really knew. I have a drawing of the graphic we were gonna do for Plan B. I never got a board for them but I still have a little printout of what it was gonna be.

I ended up getting on Birdhouse because I wanted to ride for somebody stable. That was right around the time my daughter was born so I knew I had to pay for diapers.

You definitely made an immediate impression on your new team. Did you really film your entire The End part in five days?
I did except for three tricks. There was a switch tailslide on a rail, a lipslide down a rail, and a gap to 5-0 that I already had. I had those three tricks and flew to California to film the rest.

Was it uncomfortable waltzing onto such a huge production at its trail end like that? How long had they been filming at that point?
They had been filming for a while. Everyone was really entrenched and doing their thing with that skit stuff going on.

I remember getting picked up at the airport by Jeremy Klein and Heath Kirchart and the whole drive back, they were telling me what my skit should be. Jeremy had this idea where I was “the waster.” That I would be really wasteful … just wasting everything, like just constantly littering and throwing stuff out of the car window. He thought that was funny but I had to tell him that I couldn’t film that. That I’m not that way and I don’t litter. After that, I could tell he was kinda like, “Aw man, this guy’s a geek.”

Those guys really helped me get that stuff done though. Heath and Jeremy would pick me up and take me to spots everyday. It was really fun. They were crashing their van and driving it through all these different things just like in the videos.

Did you know when you got on Birdhouse that you were gonna have to film a part like that?
Filming was talked about but I didn’t realize I’d only have one week.

At that point, I was bummed with what I had previously filmed and wanted to really step it up and get some big tricks. The stuff I had put out prior to The End was just like everyday skating, which made me realize that I didn’t know what I was doing with these videos. I felt like I could do better and Heath being like a “hammer” guy was good training for me.

Where did you pick up that habit of mad-dogging rails as you’re rolling away? Just staring them down …
[Laughter] Like looking backwards at the rails? Doing that in the Birdhouse video, I was just having fun. The guy who filmed it was Mouse and his co-filmer was a pro snowboarder I knew from Whistler. I was really just goofing off.

And then it was forever immortalized in celluloid.
Yeah, and then it’s in the video! I didn’t think those tricks, like a front board fakie, would make it into the video. But it happened. I think at one point I ended up pointing at Mouse or something too, just joking around, and that’s in there as well. I’m sure people thought it was lame. I didn’t have a lot of foresight at that time with such things.

After a brief tenure at Birdhouse, you joined Girl. That’s like the dream call right there. How did that end up going down?
I’ve been extremely lucky getting on both Plan B and then Girl and both times were because of Colin McKay. After Birdhouse, I wanted to get back to that old Plan B family vibe which Birdhouse just didn’t have at the time. I think the Birdhouse team had a lot of resentment towards each other due to the video pressure of The End and it just didn’t feel comfortable. Everybody seemed so burned out from that video.

I was spending a lot of time with Eric Koston and he gave me a vote, which definitely had some sway over there. Colin helped, out too. Rick actually thought I was a bit of a kook before hanging out with me. He was really nervous but he took a chance on me and it worked out.

Was it difficult being the new guy on Girl? I think you were the first of the non-O. G. riders.
It was actually a lot harder on Birdhouse. I felt like I was the new guy there but everything seemed to click right away with Girl. I’ve gotten along with everybody since day one.

I know there was a bit of uncertainty during the time between Birdhouse and when you finally got in Girl. You had to have gotten offers from other teams, right?
Element. And I was talking with Flip because I was skating with Arto a lot with éS. I don’t know if that would’ve worked out but it was option D.

That’s kinda weird to think about. Now for a long time you were known for pulling down those big oversized contest checks, but we’ve hardly seen you at those events in recent years. Are you kind of over all that stuff now?
I just physically can’t do it anymore. They changed the format to the jam style and you either have to be 15-years-old or have a couple trainers to keep up with that. I don’t have the stamina anymore. I still go to Tampa and some other ones but the jam style just isn’t fun.

It doesn’t feel like it used to. I used to have a lot of fun going to contests, a lot of people did. We used to go to Europe every year and I remember those days being really good. I’ve actually talked to Koston about this a lot because we did it together. Why it was so awesome then but we’re just not as interested in it now. We don’t really have an answer.

How crazy was it filming for Menikmati? I remember that video really being the first to have that weird Fully Flared level of anticipation we’re seeing nowadays.
That was at a time when a lot of that stuff was coming pretty easy to me so I didn’t find it stressful. I was young and skating tons and progressing a lot. I actually thought it was really cool. I was skating new places with the top skaters like Koston and Arto … all those super bros. Fred was filming it all and he’s still one of my closest friends. It was a lot of good times.

An incredible part, but were you pleased with it? Do you think Menikmati ultimately lived up to the hype?
I think the video definitely did. It’s still a really good video today. I wasn’t as pleased with my part back then but looking back on it now, I’m very proud of it. My problem with it back then had to do with how I tend to work my way up to tricks. Every time I go somewhere with a trick in mind, I’ll do a couple of tricks on my way to something way harder. Well, a few of those warm-up tricks ended up being in the video. They’re still good tricks but I had bigger aspirations.

Understandable. Who picked out your music for that one anyway? Kind of an odd choice.
Yeah, that would be me [laughs].

I’m a huge music fan. I like everything. This was back when Napster existed and I happen to listen to a ton of weird, world music. I remember searching for some sitar music and I found this one that was like electro-sitar. I played it for Fred and he thought it was cool and sourced it out. That was just what we were into at the time.

Was it hard filming for Yeah Right! after finishing Menikmati? I imagine both projects being pretty high pressure. Was it hard keeping skateboarding fun for you during this time?
The only time skateboarding hasn’t been fun for me is these past few years because I’ve been hurt. I’ve had some bad ankle problems. There were a few times where I was feeling kind of burned out but Yeah Right! was definitely a lot of fun. The invisible board stuff and all those side things were super fun and new.

Filming with Ty was super motivating. A lot of the tricks I landed because Ty would look me in the eyes and say, “Right here.” So I’d have to say “Right here” back to him. It would really get me focused. I’ve heard people not really liking Ty’s style cause they find him too much of a motivator but that’s exactly what I needed at the time.

How were you approached for Machotaildrop? Have you always wanted to act?
No, I’ve never wanted to act. I’ve had only one piece of acting before—on that TV show, SK8. They made me play myself. It was pathetic and terrible.

Anyway, my friend Corey Adams has always made skate videos and other little fun home movies. He and his friend Alex Craig decided to pitch something to Fuel for this short film contest they were having. They asked me to be in it because they thought it would be cool to have a pro skater attached to it. We made the original short, Harvey Spannos, which ended up winning the Fuel contest and from that, we made the longer version that’s Machotaildrop.

What did your daughter think of seeing you on the big screen?
She liked Harvey Spannos. It’s funny with Machotaildrop because we had a premiere here in Vancouver that she went to but I couldn’t go. I had to get an MRI on my ankle that night and couldn’t change the scheduling so she went with my fiancée. She liked the movie but it kinda freaked her out because I die in it. I remember her saying, “Its not cool seeing your Dad die.”

Are you going to have a full part in the new Chocolate video? Please say yes.
I’m planning on trying my damn hardest. I definitely want them to keep pushing back the deadline. I only have three tricks for it right now. I had ankle surgery about a year ago and I’m just now getting back into the swing of things. It’s been a long recovery but all I think about is wanting to be in this video.

You’re over a decade deep now on the squad. What’s the best thing about riding for Girl?
How much I still love Girl. I’m always just a fan. And being in Vancouver, I don’t get to go there very often so when I do, its like I’m going to Wonka World. It’s so fun.

I always look forward to their trips the most because they never feel like tours. Other tours are like “Okay, we have these in-stores lined up and these demos” and that’s all you end up thinking about are these events. But on Girl, it’s just a road trip with your friends. Never any drama, just good times. That’s very rare.

Has your non-drinking ever become an issue in the past on tours, regardless of the company? And is it ever kind of a bummer for you on these Beauty and the Beast tours for example, with all this insane amount of raging going on?
It’s never been an issue for anyone else. Nobody’s ever been bummed that I’m not drinking. Beauty and the Beast was probably the only time where I was a little bummed that people were drinking so much just because I’m in a tent right next to it and I couldn’t avoid it. All I can think about is that we’re in a campground with a ton of families and these guys are going off. I know that my friends are really having the times of their lives and that’s cool. They love it so much but I feel bad for the other people. Like we had one guy threaten to burn our tents down one night. I think it was on Orcas Island and this guy just told us, “I’m going to comeback here and I’m gonna set your tents on fire while you sleep.”

I also get bummed when it affects people’s skating and they’re too hung over to skate, I wish that didn’t happen. But it’s not too bad. I know they’re having a great time and that’s just me being selfish about it.

Fondest Keenan Memory?
I think its hard for anybody to pick one Keenan memory that stands out because it was a steady stream of amazing. Just being around the dude made you feel good. I can’t really say one thing because that one thing was repeated all day.

Is it important for a professional skateboarder to be able to skate everything? You’re definitely one of those that can throw down on just about anything, Miller flip and all.
In my opinion, yes. I’m not saying to be great at everything but at least have fun and try everything. I don’t like it when people put boundaries on skateboarding because there shouldn’t be. If you set a boundary on it, you’re going to kill it. You have to keep it shooting off in every direction like the fucking universe. I think that’s important because these specialists that are only good at one thing in their field, that gets boring. It’s like, “Harold Hubba’s gonna skate the Hubba again.” You get tired of it.

Any parting words of wisdom?
Take care of your body, it’s the only one you have. I’ve neglected my body and skated through injuries for years and now I’ve definitely paid the price. It’s not fun.




10 Comments

  1. lame
    Posted March 9, 2011 at 2:45 am | Permalink

    Really good interview!

  2. Posted March 9, 2011 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    Chops, this interview is so sick!! McCrank is one of my all time favourites, thanks for the insight.

    Big up from South Africa. peace, Andrew

    africaskate.com

  3. ND
    Posted March 9, 2011 at 10:03 am | Permalink

    Love McCrank so great interview, but can you do some kind of spoiler alert on the MachoTailDrop question? Not many people have managed to see it yet (including me) so his answer was pretty annoying to read.

  4. seen in
    Posted March 9, 2011 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    “can you do some kind of spoiler alert on the MachoTailDrop question? Not many people have managed to see it yet (including me) so his answer was pretty annoying to read.”

    …it doesn’t wreak the movie at all, he’s not the main character.

  5. geoff
    Posted March 9, 2011 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    mc crank is the man !
    the most insane demo animal ever
    good interview, really

  6. Litton
    Posted March 10, 2011 at 6:47 am | Permalink

    Great interview, just which it could be longer.

    McCrank i definitely one of the most talented (in any terrain) skaters of all time!

    If he lived around SF or LA he would have so much coverege and so many more would understand.

    So McCrank, you got it all, give us a smile :D

    All the best from Sweden!

  7. Chip Van Ham
    Posted March 10, 2011 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    This dude=forever the king of switch benihanas :)

    I know once he steps back on his board and feels good about it, he’ll do anything and everything. Such a great dude.

  8. James
    Posted March 13, 2011 at 8:29 pm | Permalink

    Awesome interview.
    I really like these interviews because it shows you a side you didn’t really know of the person. I always thought McCrank was a cool dude and an amazing skater but I guess I didn’t think to much of him. This interview amongst others definitely make me respect him more than I already did.

    Go McCrank!

  9. Uncle Faruso
    Posted April 20, 2011 at 8:00 am | Permalink

    The best guy!

  10. Posted December 17, 2011 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    Thanx for the great interview :) What a nice person is Rick and a super good sk8er :) Hope he his ankle is alright now so he could enjoy sk8ing again and of course shoot something for us for the upcoming video ;) Iuuup Respect bro

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