It’s no secret that the cultural divide between urban and rural areas is a very real thing in 2019, but how many of us actually venture to the other side to see what life is like? We don’t have any hard numbers, but our guess is that regardless of where we live, we’re all pretty set in our ways.
Minneapolis-based skate filmer Dan Rusin and his crew are among the few who are regularly crossing this geographic and cultural divide (for fun!), searching for skate spots in small towns around the state of Minnesota and recording their findings Dan’s upcoming video entitled Outpost.
We caught up with Dan to talk about his process, and we’re stoked to premier VP favorite Ben Narloch’s part from the video.
So Dan, let’s start off with a basic question. What’s the furthest you’ve driven to get to a spot?
In terms of miles, the farthest spot we went to was in Moorhead (231 miles from the Twin Cities), but there’s a few places like Bemidji that are closer but take the same amount of time to drive to (4 hours). I know of spots that are 6 hours away, but at that point it’s barely worth the trip unless you’re on a serious mission.
How did the idea for Outpost come about?
The idea of skating new spots goes back to when I first started skating with Travis Wood. He’d always look behind every building and got me turned on to the idea of skating a spot that nobody will ever find.
Fast forward a couple years, and I met Ike Sarac in a meteorology class and we started sharing spots. He knew about all these random towns near where he lived in Owatonna and showed me spots I’d never seen before. It was then that I realized that there’s more to skateboarding in Minnesota than just the Twin Cities, Duluth, St Cloud, and Rochester. There’s so many places to skate in between and beyond those cities, it’s really unbelievable.
We started filming in 2017 and we knew we wanted it to be (focused on) spots outside of the Twin Cities. We were sick of seeing the same spots in all the videos. We did a trip to Fargo, ND and when we got back I realized that the coolest spots we skated were actually in Moorhead, MN.
The video definitely has a specific look & feel – how do the places you’re filming in contribute to that vibe?
Small towns have a unique aesthetic that we fell in love with. There are more brick buildings, things are less polished, the spots are simultaneously more simple and unique, and the rougher ground makes skateboarding look and sound more appealing. The spots are often far from perfect but that only adds to the challenge and really makes you appreciate good ground when you find it.
As for the Voyageur theme of the video, we developed that as we realized the scope of the task we’d taken on. We are a crew of guys in a wheeled metal canoe exploring new territory and discovering little outposts of skate civilization. At these outposts we’d make connections with locals and trade spots, tricks, and stories.
How do you find spots in these towns?
I’ve been using Google Streetview to find spots for as long as I can remember. When I met Ike and started scouring small towns I recall finding over 300 spots in a single day.. Once we had a destination and got there we’d pick a spot to hit and get there in the weirdest way possible, usually through alleys. Always look in the alleys. Never hurts to go to the skatepark and ask a local if there’s anything good, but that never proved to be too fruitful for us; a lot of kids don’t realize the potential in their spots.
I also did a lot of spot research on Instagram by visiting every random profile I could find and poaching spots off their feed. Because of this, we called ourselves “The Surveillance Society of Minnesota.” Big Brother is always watching...
I bet a lot of these towns don’t really have skaters...do you run into local skaters often?
I feel like we ran into exactly as many skaters as you’d expect. Sometimes we’d hit people up beforehand to tell them we were coming to skate, other times we’d just run into somebody at the park or drive by a kid pushing home from school. Half the time we wouldn’t see any other skaters.
Are people in these towns weird about you guys skating?
We didn’t experience many super memorable kickouts. Most of the time we’d leave without confrontation but occasionally somebody would ask us to leave. They always seemed a bit scared, as if they’d heard or seen some web clip of skaters getting violent. We’d always just leave or maybe ask for a few more tries, which worked sometimes.
We learned that if somebody wasn’t too happy with us, you could explain how you’re from someplace far away like the Twin Cities. Then we’d just ask where the skatepark was, and they’d get super nice and tell you where it is. Their attitudes would change completely and everybody would walk away with a smile. I always knew where the skateparks were.
Have you learned much about life in these outstate towns over the course of filming?
It’s hard to say what, if anything, we learned. Life definitely moves more slowly in small towns. I enjoyed taking small moments to soak in the scenery of someplace like Bluff Country (not all of Minnesota is flat!) and we even trekked out to Lake Itasca to see the source of the Mississippi River. When we got there, there was a guy playing a bagpipe there, and it just felt like everything was right in the world. Ultimately I think there’s something to be said for finding beauty in the simple things. Hot coffee on a cool morning while hitting the road with your friends? That’s my idea of a good time.
Copies of Dan’s new video available here.