The Rules of Skateboarding #6: Patlanta

Illustration by  Keat Teoh

Illustration by Keat Teoh

Our series on the 'rules' that exist in skateboarding continues with Ian Browning talking to Pat McClain AKA Patlanta about the rules around skating and contributing to DIY spots (or should we call them DIO spots?). All is explained below:

I wanted to start by offering my condolences over the Bridge Spot in Atlanta. Would you be able to estimate how much time and money you spent on that project?

Yeah, I appreciate the fucking shoutout. We spent nearly 10 years and I mean, in the end if you were including manpower and shit, it’s probably worth a couple hundred thousand dollars. It was a professional grade skate facility. So yeah, about a decade and I’d say it could have been a quarter million worth of labor and materials. Rebar, generators, things getting stolen. Over time it all adds up. It was all hand mixed; no trucks.

In square footage—they scanned it—it was almost 10,000 square of concrete. So that, four inches thick, I don’t know what that would be in exact concrete amount.

So yeah, thanks for your condolences, it’s a fucking heartbreaker.

How did you get involved with building spots like that?

Just basically out of necessity. Hanging out with your buddies and wanting to skate. We started with the foundation—that’s where the Old Fourth Ward skatepark sits now—that’s where we poured our first little shitty concrete. We were just acting on what we saw elsewhere: Oregon and California. And you’re just like “Alright, we gotta build some titties and humps and bumps and stuff.” But that was how I got introduced with it. Seeing fucking Burnside and all that stuff and you’re just like “We’re going to build our own spot."

This will never get old. Grant Taylor getting upward on the site of the current Old Fourth Ward skatepark.

This will never get old. Grant Taylor getting upward on the site of the current Old Fourth Ward skatepark.

I’ve seen a lot of footage of Grant Taylor ripping what looks like a pretty nice skatepark in Atlanta, which begs the question: Why build your own thing?

I guess it’s kind of like, for example, a guy builds his dream house and then he goes off and has a cabin in the woods elsewhere. You know, a lake house. When you can have that, obviously that’s a privilege. You don’t always want to be at the one place, and it’s overrun with children and remote control cars and rules.

You’re just like, “Fuck, this is played.” I built skateparks for a couple years as a profession. You get a paycheck for it, but it’s kind of like building skateparks as decoys so you can have a private place.

I know you’ve been involved in a lot of DIYs in Atlanta and elsewhere. Is there a code of ethics or rules that applies to these private places?

I wanted to say that I think “DIY spot” shouldn't be the terminology, because nobody does it by themselves. Did it ourselves. DIO. It should just be common knowledge if you hang out at a spot for long enough. If you helped build it, you already have that as your ground to be there.

A code of ethics though, if you show up? Yeah, sure, I guess. Today it’s so much different, you know? Just showing up with some beer and some weed, that’s standard. You’re just like “Hey, how’s it going? Mind if I help out or skate?”

I guess it depends on what state the place is in. If you roll up and a bunch of guys are working while you’re trying to skate, then you have issues. Of course there’s a code of conduct or whatever. Who has ethics?

The guy himself. Frontside ollie, tail tap.

The guy himself. Frontside ollie, tail tap.

If somebody finds a DIO spot like that off the street, are they allowed to skate it?

Shit yeah. If you find it and it’s just there for the taking. Nobody's there doing anything. That’s the beauty of it, you know what I mean? It’s not there for anybody privately, it’s there for everybody. Nobody’s trying to have a private training skate session. Nobody wants to skate by themselves either. Not typically. You skate by yourself to the store and shit.

People at Burnside and Lower Bobs and Washington Street. If anybody goes to Washington Street and skates alone they’re fucking gnarly. You’re (going) straight to the hospital. It’s just gnarly. Burnside is the sickest because it’s the original, but Washington Street is one of the gnarliest I’ve seen, size-wise.

If you come up on it and nobody is around, of course you want to get a rip in. If people show up, I guess be cool. Say "What’s up", don’t just split or whatever.

What about filming or shooting photos?

I think there’s some respect that should be shown there. Some people just get stoked and they don’t know any better, but obviously if somebody spends the time to build something they don’t want to see somebody immediately blowing out their shit. You come up on it, it’s good to step back and be like “Oh shit, these guys are risking it and throwing down.”

What you’re saying is to show respect for people doing that?

Yeah. If it’s to the capacity that you’re going to attempt to get a photo. If somebody built something that sick, they spent time and money. I just think that kind of goes overlooked: how much it really does cost and how much time it does take. Just to get the shit there, you gotta haul it there. It’s a lot of work. But it’s cool because you’re putting something there to be used by tons of motherfuckers.

Build it the way you want, skate it the way you want. Gap out to axel stall to decker.

Build it the way you want, skate it the way you want. Gap out to axel stall to decker.

For the skateboard community, to an extent.

Yeah, like I said, if you come blow it out nobody’s going to want you to come back. It’s tough—I could give so many examples but I don’t want to throw anybody under the bus.

So let’s say somebody finds a spot and starts pouring quarterpipes on a foundation. Would it be a bad look for someone else to come and build a ledge?

Not necessarily. It just depends on the layout. I don’t think there should be a confrontation between street and transition skateboarding. Or a separation. It’s just skating. But I mean, we were just in Ecuador skating these old parks at the beginning of this year. There’s a cinder block ledge built right in the bottom of this bowl. There’s like a 12 foot channel, and right where you’d want to go to to blast off or land there’s this box. It’s two cinder blocks high, two cinder blocks wide, and it’s so crusty. I guess you have to think about where you’re putting the ledge, I guess is the answer to that question.

Frontside rock in a pool that looks scary as fuck.

Frontside rock in a pool that looks scary as fuck.

This question kind of piggybacks off of the last one, but can different people build at the same spot? Or does one person get creative control?

We’re doing it right now. There’s a really big foundation slab beside a grocery store and it’s going to get torn down eventually, but it’s just somewhere we can just hang out now. We call it Pebble Beach. Some other guys that I don’t really know but I’ve met a couple times, they were pouring, no offense, Fisher Price-this-is-the-first-time-you’re-pouring-concrete. I think they were pouring in the freezing cold, but it’s all skateable. I just built a little titty over there with some of the homies and they were stoked on it. If you’ve got a spot, you want as much help as you can get usually. Once again, it’s situational.

When we were under the bridge, it wasn’t all me at all. A lot of the forming and shaping of what that was going to be, I had envisioned and drawn some sketches. It came into fruition, but that was just because I was probably there more than anybody. You can co-build for sure, especially if the spot is big enough. But if you have different things in mind for the place it’s kind of tough.

But yeah, the more help the better. The more money, the more concrete. Everybody has got ideas. You just have to make everybody realize that their ideas are cool, but it’s just going to be what it is in the end. Go ahead, let them be heard, but we’re all going to agree on whatever the best thing is. It should be obvious. Of course we’re not going to build a set of stairs at a DIO spot.

So yeah, co-building is occurring. It’s happening right now. This is our little bullshit spot that we’ll put a little bit into just to have some barbecues and some fun. Not get heckled. We took all the leftover materials from the bridge there. We fucking scrambled when they were tearing it down. Whatever we could throw in the trucks in like 15 minutes. It all would have been stolen if it hadn't been put into the ground, so it’s kind of hood, but it’s all good.


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