The search for Ty Dickey
If you are from the Minneapolis area, you have seen this handrail in videos forever. Chances are you have actually skated it. Even if you are not from Minneapolis, you have more than likely seen this rail in a video or a photo at some point in time. It is a Minneapolis staple.
As far back as I can remember, I have always called the 4 stair out rail at the Bell Museum in the Univeristy of Minnesota ‘Ty Dickey’. When I was much younger, one of the older kids told me a guy named Ty Dickey was the first person to grind it. I never really wondered who Ty Dickey was, and why I never had heard of him or seen footage of the dude. No one I have talked to actually knew who he was. All anyone seemed to know was he had a spot named after him, a damn good, very well known spot. I decided to try to find out more.
I wanted to get a feel for whether or not younger kids knew less, as much, or more than I knew about the spot and its namesake. I had heard kids calling it ‘Ty Dinky' (the spot is located near the Dinkytown neighborhood) so it seemed like a long shot anyone below 30 could help me find an answer, but why not try, it might even be funny. I sent a text to young St. Paul ripper Jack Dawkins;
VP: Yo Jack, I was wondering if you knew why Ty Dickey rail is called Ty Dickey
Jack: LOL, no idea what that rail is.
Ok, yes you do Jack, you just don’t know it. Dan Rusin is a full on skate nerd like myself, so I figured he may know a little more than Jack, maybe even more than myself.
"I've heard two different things: First, that it's the name of the building where the rail is located (but isn't it at the Bell Museum?). Second, the first person to hit it was a guy named Ty Dickey. I cant remember who told me that, but nobody I have ever talked to has heard of him. I might have to try to track him down and see if he actually exists or if he's just a reincarnation of Animal Chin. I've always known it as the U of M out rail. I had never called it 'Ty Dickey' until I moved to Minneapolis for school. I think Ryan Yost or Dana Ross was the first person to mention that name to me, so those stories might have come from them."
Dan knew more than Jack, but still nothing new or insightful. I started contacting anyone I knew who was either A. a Minneapolis OG, or B. a skate nerd. Tabari Cook had nothing more to say than ‘ask Chad (Benson)’. Davis Torgerson said almost the same thing, “That might be a question for (Chad) Benson or someone older, but I'm pretty sure that's the name of the first guy to skate it.”
After two people directed me to Chad, I was curious to see what he had to say. "He (Ty Dickey) was the first guy to skate it. It was in the first Fobia video. It was back in like 96 or 97, before I rode for Fobia. I believe it was a 50-50."
Rob Sissi, one of the truest at heart skate rats I have met, would have to have some answers, “Supposedly he (Ty Dickey) hit the rail first. Dude was kind of a buster, though. I think he grinded it around 95/96. That rail sucked. Let me know when you're going to do a piece on the Government Center.” While this was probably my favorite answer to what was seemingly a relatively easy question, it didn’t get me much in the way of information.
Minnesota blogger and style guy Mike Munzenrider probably should have been my first stop for an answer, but for some reason I had neglected this abundant skate knowledge as a resource.
“The spot is named after this dude who rode for Fobia and had a part in the first full length Fobia vid. His name was Ty Dickey. He was the first person to do something on it. He frontside 50'd it in a super long line that was way too long. It was long. The line: kickflip some small stairs that may or may not be near the spot, push for about 20 seconds, 50-50 the rail. Later on, Dickey sold DVS shoes from under the vert ramp at 3rd Lair. I think he moved to Colorado. On the Fobia message board I once saw a kid spell the spots name as "Thai Diki" or something awesome like that. ”
At this point this is what I know: A man named Ty Dickey, who rode for Fobia in the mid 90s was the first person to 50-50 the rail in what sounds like a lackluster line, and he may have been a buster.
Just for shits I decided to send Clint Peterson a text about it to see if he knew anything, seeing as he rode for Fobia around the same time. 4-6 hours after I sent the text, I got a response: “Call me tomorrow”. I didn’t think Clint would have told me to call him if he hadn’t felt like he would be able to shed some light on my quest, I was feeling confident.
Clint: Nesser and I hung out with him when he moved to SF around '98. We didn't know too many people out there, so basically we skated with him. He had some weird mannish girlfriend that Nesser would always make fun of. Nesser would impersonate her like (deep mannish voice) 'TY, WHEN ARE YOU GONNA GET HOME FROM SKATING?' I didn't really vibe with the guy to be honest, I don't know how to explain it. He was an alright guy, he wasn't like a huge dickhead or anything, just kind of… a little bit of a neurotic weirdo. I'm not sure if he was going to California to do the skate dream. He always complained about his ankles, he was 'that dude'. He was on Fobia but he was kinda not cool, I think he was just super persistent and went in the shop a lot and talked himself into being sponsored. He had a really stiff white guy style. He really wasn't like a legendary dude and it's not really a legendary story. He had like twenty minutes of footage that was so mediocre. We were all just like 'Dude, we are better than this guy.' He just talked the talk, when you're young you just go along with it. He was a couple years older than us, so there was a seniority thing going on. Wait, I just remembered the rail. It's that 3 stair out rail? What did he do? Grind it or something?
VP: Yeah, I talked to Mike Munzenrider and he said he did this line where he kick flipped a 2 stair, pushed for 20 seconds and then did the rail.
Clint: That was like all of his footage, and we were all like this is not gonna fly dude. He was somehow getting DVS rep flow, we were all thinking "How is this dude getting hooked up?". He skated kind of safe, you know? There was no lawlessness to it. It's funny, because if you watch that original Fobia video, I don't know who has that, but he has a part. He moved and I'm pretty sure we were just like, 'Yeah. this dudes out."
Familia Skateshop manager Dennis Burdick had told me that the dude ran with on and off Minneapolis skate local Mike Ohman. After abandoning my hopes of a Facebook message response from Mike, who I hadn't seen for a few years now, I got this from him:
"In my opinion, the rail should have been named after Dave Stahnke, Clint Peterson and Emeric Pratt, as individually they have performed a handful of tricks on it more than Ty Dickey. However, I have seen Ty do a few slides and grinds on this rail; although one could argue disqualification due to his extremely poor style. Not saying my style is great, but that dude was an eyesore. I may be biased due to my personal dislike of this man, I must note that it is rare for me to have such disdain for a fellow skater. But that dude was a turd! Anyway, sorry for the rant. Tricks done by Ty: boardslide, feeble grind and 50-50 grind. Time: 1997. There is quite a bit more I could tell you about Ty, but I will leave at this. Hope this helps."
A Facebook search for Ty himself yielded no success, but after these last two responses, I felt like I had found enough of an answer. Nevertheless, it will always confound me how a city with such a rich skate history has no Steve Nesser gap or Jamiel Nowparvar manual pad in Minneapolis, yet manages to have a Ty Dickey rail.
Thanks to everyone involved in this post!