Spots with Brian Wenning
The spots a skater skates and films at can end up being as much a part of their story as the tricks that they do. Today we're launching a new series called 'Spots' in which we talk to skaters about the spots that have been instrumental to their skating. To kick things off, we sat down with Brian Wenning and got some stories about the spots we think of when we think of him.
Tell us about your first time going to the Banks. Was it pretty sketchy back then?
Yeah, but luckily I met all the right people immediately. The first day I was there was the day I met Ian Reid.
I was just dirty as a motherfucker. My board was worse than the people’s boards who were trying to take them (other people’s boards), you know what I mean? You could see certain people preying on the out-of-towners. That dude Kyle James from Ian Reid’s Video with the Timberlands, he used to hustle all the kids and take kids boards. I kinda became a local because I was just there so much, you know.
The wall was still skateable. I got a couple tricks over it, a Benihana and a switch heelflip. I heard it got shut down cause some kid was skating it, flew over the wall into Giuliani’s limo and he was like ‘Fuck this, shut it down!’ and a fence came up. Giuliani came in and cleaned the place up.
I finally had a place full of people that loved to skate. When I grew up skating was taboo, you got made fun of for it and I would just skate alone in Jersey.
Did you ever skate the rail?
I did a switch frontside 180 in a line, and that line started with what was actually one of my best nollie back heels. I also backside flipped it but never rolled away.
The steps at the far end though, that was my spot. The 9 stair.
When you switch 360 flipped those stairs, were other people skating it with you?
No, it was me alone. The Photosynthesis deadline was a week away and I wanted it for my last trick.
I was ready for the filming, that got me psyched. Some people get weird in front of the cameras, but that brought out my best skating. Especially when you’re filming with someone you have chemistry with, it just works for me.
I had my whole part at home edited on a VHS tape and it was just missing that. I had been trying it for a while. I was in high school so it was like 6 weeks of stressing in the lunchroom, ‘This weekend is gonna be the one, this weekend is gonna be the one’. That day I did it down a four stair five times in a row, and then we went to The Banks. I committed, landed, stuck and just rode away. One of them ones where you’re riding away and you’re like ‘I can’t believe this just happened’. That and the LOVE gap are probably the best feeling tricks of all time for me.
When was the last time you were there?
I went back recently with my buddy Rasta Lou, did a little switch tre on the bank. Just to feel it out. People will be like ‘Dude, maybe you shouldn’t be skating at the park so much’, and I am like ‘Alright I’ll just go do a switch tre at The Banks’. I can still skate shitty ground. I think that place probably has the worst ground ever. But you know, you’re there, so you get psyched.
How did you start skating Seaport?
We stopped going to The Banks as much when this place popped up. That was right when we started filming for Photosynthesis. We would try to skate it early morning before the foot traffic, you got a lot of tourists down there during the day.
Your board would shoot out under the rail into the East River. I used to be more of a character back in the day and just dive into the river, swimming for the board and making people laugh. I remember Jaime Reyes gagging because I was in there doing backstrokes. They say swimming in that shit helps your immune system.
That was our biggest problem there, the board shooting under the rail into the river. With the foot traffic, your board going into the river and the fact that the ledges were wood, it may not sound like the best, but that spot was perfect.
Were there always people skating it?
It would get so crowded with skaters, but back then kids had etiquette. It’s funny because if any of these kids with their headphones came to The Banks or LOVE back in the day, they would have been brought to the ATM with a knife. Skating with headphones, man, it is crazy. Alone at 8am at the park is a different story though.
I actually met Joe Castrucci at Seaport. Fred Gall gave him my sponsor me tape, and Joe wanted to meet me in person. I showed up on time in the morning, Freddy was hungover and didn’t show up till like 5pm. I was just skating my ass off with Joe that day. After that he was like ‘I’m gonna send you some shit’, I thought ‘Okay, I’ve heard this before’. Two days later a big ass Alien box shows up. I couldn’t believe it.
What were your first times at LOVE like?
I went there a handful of times when I was like 15. After getting closer with Alien, me and Anthony (Pappalardo) went there to meet up with Joe Castrucci and Kalis and everybody, just get to know the team a little better. They wanted the two of us as a package deal. There was no ‘You guys wear this, you guys say this, act like this,’ none of that, it was just natural. Me and Anthony were tight back then.
You know what, I hit him up the other day. I sent him a direct message. I see him creeping around at like 3am every two weeks, liking my pictures. I know he's out there somewhere. I haven’t seen him in like 12, 13, 14 years. Me and Ian (Reid) talk about the goal being to just get him out one day. I don’t care if I just get him pushing, just get him out. It’s kinda funny, for so long I was the problem to get out. Now I'm trying to get him out (laughs). Guy Mariano said something about skating going in waves. It’s like one, two years this guy is back skating, then all of the sudden another dude disappears. You’re in a rut, you’re feeling hot, that is just how it goes.
Who were you first staying with out there?
I stayed with Ryan Gee all the time. I really looked up to him, so to have him shooting my photos at the time when he was that hot, it just exploded. He was a staff photographer for Transworld.
Can you tell us about the switch backside 180 cover?
It was Gee’s idea to shoot from above. I can’t even believe he got up there, he doesn’t exactly have the best coordination. He’s up there with a Hasselblad in his hand just looking down. Someone from Transworld told him they had an opening for a cover, so Gee took me aside and was like ‘You have the opportunity to get a cover’. So I was like ‘I am getting the fucking cover’. That was the first time I tried it, but it had been an idea for a while. I’ve never even ollied it.
I’d imagine that being there during that era you saw some iconic skating going down?
I was there the day Jeremy Wray did the front 3. That was gnarly. He took two pushes for that. I saw Kerry Getz kickflip it. And then Tim (O’Connor) kickflipped it (laughs) and Kerry felt some sort of way, ‘Why would you kickfl…’ If someone switch backside 180’d it and put it in the middle of their video part, I’d be like ‘Come on man, what is this?’.
Were dudes vibing out the out of towners then?
Some of these guys would get real heated, ‘Oh no, so and so is moving here from SF?!’. You didn’t see a lot of Philly footy from out of towners around then, because it (the vibing) worked. I never cared though. I’m just doing switch backside tricks off the 3 stair ledge, those dudes coming through from SF or whatever were not doing my types of tricks, so I wasn’t stressing it.
Did you make it back there before the ripped it down?
I went down there for the last day, but after The DC Video, that was kind of it for me. They put the fence up and I moved out of Philly two days later. I started going out to LA and Barcelona more. LOVE just felt like it was done done for us. We lived through it and it was time to move on.
What did you think the first time you went to MACBA?
The ledges were fucking perfect, it was the dream spot. All the lines I had at MACBA I had planned in my head before I got there. Every one of them. That’s always how I skate. I practice during the week – if the line I’m trying that weekend has a switch tre in it, I am doing switch tres all week. That’s fun for me, it’s like a drill. I like doing it. A jug of water and switch tre flips.
But man, you can get caught up in the nightlife there. Sometimes I could make it work and still be productive, sometimes you can pull it off. I used to get my own apartments when I would go there too, so no TM could have an eye on me and my friends. That’s honestly how I blew through all of my money. Bringing my buddies from back home, no one paying for anything but me.
Is MACBA as sketchy as its reputation?
I saw so much sketchy shit at MACBA. A soccer ball will fly at your head, you hear ‘Mi amigo, sorry about that!’, you turn around and there’s $40,000 of camera equipment gone. Joe Castrucci had his bag jacked there; it had a 16mm camera and two VXs in it. He was playing a game of SKATE, turned around and the stuff is just gone. It is like a gypsy trick, you don’t see anyone running with it. They are slick, man. We were out there with no cameras for over a week. I hate skating with anything on me, but when you’re at MACBA you keep your passport and wallet on you. MACBA is fucking sketchy.
But MACBA was…it still is the best spot. Everyone loves that shit. I am gonna go back to MACBA, 100%, I just need get my passport back. One of my ex-girlfriends stole my passport while I was sleeping and sold it on eBay. $400 bucks to pay her rent. This happened a few years ago, and luckily it expired. Fucked up right? True story. At the time I had no traveling in my schedule so I was like whatever, keep it. I am gonna go back to MACBA someday, but at 6am (laughs).
What can you tell us about ABC ledges?
That spot must have been there for a while, but there wasn’t a ton going on on Staten Island so it took awhile for non-Staten Islanders to find. The background looked great with the VX. Spots (I'd been skating) in LA are pretty blown out, but at this spot I get my clips and it would stand out, it looked really unique. I filmed one of my best lines there - the one where I hit every ledge, you got to be on point for that one.
Who was skating it with you?
Steve Durante, Tim O’Connor, and the Wolf Pack Crew. One time someone yelled ‘Code Blue’ and my buddy Albie ripped all his clothes off – he did a naked tre flip, a back tail and then a crooked grind. All he had on were Adios. Now that you think about it, it is a school, which is super fucking sketchy. There’s hi8 footage of the naked line somewhere.
Who found it?
It’s funny, I think Freddy was the first one who took me there. He was always creeping around, doing graffiti or whatever, all types of weird stuff. That’s how he finds his shit. It had probably been there for years, but we started skating there non-stop once we found it. It’s funny, everyone in California would be like ‘We’ve got to get there!’, then they’d get there and be like ‘Damn, these things are kinda fucked up’. Freddy was always at the spot, but just kinda hanging there, drinking his beers a and doing a couple nollie noseslides to fakie.
It is still there, right?
That spot is still there. They are chunky, but still, you could get a little line there, people would be psyched. I’m gonna start going there again, it’s getting nice out again. I’ll film something there soon.
Seven Presidents Skatepark
What is up with the park you skate all the time?
I was the only skater in my town, so it is still weird to me that it exists here. I grew up with a white curb, some weird little manny pad, flat ground behind a building, and a wood ledge. It’s so crazy that we have this park now. I talked to my buddy Tony at Thrasher and he was like, ‘Dude this is fucking nuts you have this’. Going back and forth to Cali, you see that they don’t even have stuff this good. I try to tell the kids here ‘Just be happy you have this’.
When was it built?
They built it in ’04, but it wasn’t great. In 2015 they redid the park, and it’s weird how perfectly it worked out. I got out of this goddamned detox and rehab, then I went to this halfway house and I got out like three months ago. A year and a month total in there. Immediately when I got in I couldn’t stand being around those people. Eight people I didn’t know. That’s really when I started skating again. I got my board and that was it. There were no distractions, I just didn’t want to be around these dudes, and I wasn’t about to get kicked out of that fucking shithole, you know? I knew that if I fucked up I’d get kicked out, so I just focused on skateboarding.
This park is 110% is where I have been relearning how to skate. I watch my old video parts and just see if I can still do those tricks and film them. It’s like ‘Damn I haven’t done that one since ’01! ’02!’, that is a long time!’, you know? Without that place, how would I relearn switch back tail 360 shove its? It has been such an important place for me. Just to clear my head and skate.
Do you know all the kids at the park?
There are good skaters and good people at that park. I film them, they film me. Kids there will still recognize me, but it is different then it used to be. A lot of kids will DM me saying ‘I got your board and I’m coming to that park. Will you sign it?’ I never tell kids ‘No’. Never. Sometimes kids will come from out of town because they know I’m going to be there. I’m not saying that to be weird, but sometimes it happens. That’s why I go early sometimes if I just want to skate.
Are you skating mostly solo out there then?
I’ll call certain people, but everyone has jobs so I go out by myself. In California I’m skating with everyone. I’ll go to the Baker park or skate with Kelly Hart at the courthouse, I skate with lots of people.
At this point dude, I’m just staying sharp. It’s crazy man, I didn’t skate for so long, but I’m finding that if you slowly take baby steps back into it, you can relearn all your shit.