Allow me to introduce you to Mike Kays, the man behind the Hickam Skate Hanger, avid skateboard collector, VW aficionado and proud father of one of Hawaii’s professional skateboarders Chris Kays. ‘BDK’, as he is known to his friends, has been the driving force in transforming the Hickam Skate Hanger. What was once a place where misfit skateboarders and latch key kids of the late 80′s would skate unsupervised on self made ramps and unusual obstacles is now a world class wooden skate park complete with it’s own pro shop. His passion for skateboarding is to be admired, logging in long hours designing and constructing the bowls and ramps himself. Not for monetary gain, but simply to see the joy it brings other skateboarders.
1. What year did you come on as the official hanger guy and how did that come about?
I had to spruce up the ramp before the event and afterwards, HYP offered a part-time job just to do that… ramp maintenance. I was currently active duty military, stationed at Hickam. That pretty much lasted until 2005, when HYP offered the Hangar under a concessionaire agreement in 2006, which is when I then re-vamped the street course, spruced up the bowls, and established a pro-shop. We opened the first weekend in Dec 2006.
2. So the Air Force funds the project; is there a annual budget and how dedicated is the military to skateboarding?
You’re correct. Air Force funded, myself and volunteer built. There was always a “supposed” budget; we usually got funding when projects were approved (keyhole & mini-bowl). Since spring 2009, we’ve gotten a quarterly budget that goes to the park. It’s not 100%, but so far, so good!
3. Being that the hanger is located on an Air Force base, what is the process for non-military people to get on base and enjoy the facility, and what are the operating hours?
Yes, it’s not as hard as you might think to gain access to the Hickam Skate Hangar (HSH). A simple call or email a day in advance is all that’s required. After that, an option to become a member of the park which would get you (or your parents if under 16) on the skate league list, which provides a 30-day pass each month your membership is current. $20 is the fee for the membership, you get a skatepark ID, HSH T-shirt and reduced $3 day rate ($5 is the non-member rate). Hours of operation: Mon-closed, Tue-Thur 3-8pm, Fri 3-10pm, Sat 2-10pm, Sun 12-5pm.
4. Chris Kays is your son and one of the most talented skateboarders to come out of the islands, what age was he when you realized that he was such a natural?
Two years old. He could push and skate down the sidewalk by himself. Also, I guess dropping in a mini-ramp just before age 4 cemented the deal. [Laughs]
5. Please tell us little about your skateboard collection, how many and which ones hold the most meaning to yourself?
[Pauses] Well I’ve always kept a little something from the past. My starting era was in the mid-late 70′s, so prime time was late 70′s – mid 80′s. I really started the collecting when I got out of active duty service in 2000. Ebay really opened the door to things like skate collecting to those who live far away. From there, communication with other collectors lead to many trades as well. I’m not too sure of the actual count, somewhere around the 200 mark, maybe more in skateboards, quite a bit if trucks, wheels, equipment, accessories and stickers as well. Late 70′s – late 80′s are my fav’s, but for me personally, it was trying to find the boards I used to have, ones I first started (Sims Woodkick, G&S Teamrider, Sims BB (brad bowman), Powell Ray Bones (skull & sword), Sims Folmer, Schmitt Stix Monty Nolder) and the list goes on [laughs] The BB is really my fav, due to it being my first “pig.” Hmmm, pig means wide, when the boards went from skinny to 9 – 10in wide.
6. I noticed a couple of unfinished ramps in the hanger, could you tell us what to expect when construction is complete?
[Chuckles] The old joke is 2007, and here we are at the end of 2009. Anyway, the vert ramp is almost complete (90%). The 3/4 pipe that attaches is about the same (90%) and the cradle is still “in the works,” but lumber is on it’s way. It also depends upon the help; come on out! Almost every Thursday is build night!! (Call first)
7. You also have passion for VW’s, do you have favorite year or model?
Well, I do like the VW buses. Early ones are the best (pre-1968), although I’ve had a number of 70′s, 80′s, and even a Vanagon in the past. For the last 6 years, my daily driver is a 1961 Kombi Bus. It’s set up to drive, not be a garage queen. It’s lowered, upgrades in the engine and suspension, did my own thing inside and out; it’s fun! I do like “baby window” bugs too. I think those are from ’57 and earlier, somewhere around that time frame, but never have I owned one. Early Porsche 914′s and 911 are favs. I think because it’s another German car and has VW roots. I’ve got a ’71 914-6 that’s just coming back to life. Hopefully by February next year (or sooner) it’ll be my alternate daily driver. See the best of both worlds behind the wheel (evil grin).
8. Tell us about the your shop boards (BDK model) and where you got the inspiration for the graphic.
It’s something I wanted to do for a while. Just got them out this year. The first graphic definitely had to be military related; after all, what’s more fitting? HSH is on an AFB, I was in aviation in the service as well as now as a civilian, so I’m into WWI and WWII planes. The P-40 Warhawk was the basis for the design. It’s an aircraft that was here during the Pearl Harbor attack. The “Flying Tigers” was in the company inspiration. I doodle quite a bit in graphics on the side, so I drew up the design and did some magic with Photoshop & Illustrator to help me manipulate what I wanted. So far, I think it was a success, plus I really don’t go for the “selling blanks,” even our shop board compares close to price, we just include griptape.
9. Who are your favorite pros to watch besides your son?
Back in my day: Tom Inouye, Tony Alva, Brad Bowman, Duane Peters, Allen Losi, Neil Blender, “Gator” Rogowski, Lance Mountain, & John Gibson. MESS crew ’83-85 (Mid-Eastern Skateboard Series): Tom Groholski, Jeff Kendall, Bill Danforth, Ray Underhill, & Britt Parrott who inspired my to this day. Now-a-days: Sandro Dias, Danny Mayer on vert caught my eye recently. Props to vert / pool icons Tony Hawk, Christian Hosoi, Steve Caballero, Steve Alba, Chris Miller. Way too many dudes in street over the years, but recently, Greg Lutzka impressed me (for what that’s worth), and of course you have to give props to some of the icons who started and / or still skating street: Mark Gonzales, Rodney Mullen, Frankie Hill, Eric Koston, & Jamie Thomas to name a few.
10. Knowing that you also have a day job on top of all your responsibilities to the hanger, to the shop, to your family, what keeps you going?
You know, that’s a good question! Life in general. Everything about it, family, work, hobbies, friends, take it all in. The good and the bad, experience it, and it’s not really a bad deal (although it’s what you make of it). Skateboarding has definitely been an influence to me personally since I was 13. I lived through the pages of Thrasher, TWS during the beginnings (my era) and filled my passion with the reality of skateboarding, ramp building, park designing, meeting skaters from abroad, meeting pros from “back in the day” and seeing the new breed of kids everyday enjoy what I’ve always enjoyed…… skateboarding.
Releasing Saturday, August 7th
Saturday’s release is a salute of sorts to the world renowned skateboarding company known as Santa Cruz Skateboards, taking elements from their legendary icon and adding our esteemed slogan and Hawaiian flavor to it. Releasing alongside the Freewheelin’ tee is a custom Pride fitted saturated in red and gold, drawing back to the colors featured on the shirt.
Releasing Tuesday, March 9th.
This Support Local Skateboarding pack features 35 limited edition skateboard decks sold exclusively at APB, 100 custom trucker caps sold at both FITTED and APB, and 40 custom tees sold exclusively at FITTED.
Please support FITTED family member Kenneth Brimer and his fight against leukemia. Kenny is currently in the process of receiving a bone marrow transplant and all proceeds from this pack will help with his rapidly growing medical expenses.
We had the chance to ask Kenny a few questions about his situation and what his plans are for the future. Enjoy. Aloha.
Words and interview by: Rene Matthyssen
1. So brother Kenny, you and I go way back, but for those who don’t know, please let everyone know how you first got involved in skateboarding.
I moved to Hawai’i in 1987 from Louisiana and I noticed that everyone either surfed or skated. Being that I can’t swim that good, I started skating.
2. You are one of the original members of the infamous A’ala Park Bastards. What does it mean to you to be part of such a tight knit group of friends?
It means everything to me. I was lucky to have met the crew a long time ago, so that made it possible for me to become friends with everyone on a personal level.
3. Alright, let’s get down to business. How did you find out you had Leukemia?
I had a little skateboarding accident that resulted in a fractured skull. I had blood tests done at the ER, and from those tests is how the doctors found out I had leukemia (CLL).
4. When you first called me on November 11th 2009 to tell me that they had found a match for your bone marrow transfer, I was stunned. I told myself ‘Kenny has gotta be the luckiest damn Irish man on the planet.’ And then you said there were over 300 potential matches, good things happen to good people. Tell us how you felt when you got the good news.
When they called me it was about 3 weeks into the search. People search for years for a match, and I was aware of this, so I had already come to terms with the possibility that it might take a long time. When I answered the phone and the bone marrow transplant coordinator said ‘You’re a very lucky man,’ all the doubts I had were gone. It was the first time I thought everything was going to be alright.
5. You are currently in California getting ready for your transplant. What is the process and when can we expect to see you rolling around on your skateboard again?
I’ll be in Cali until May or June as far as when I can skate or even go back to a normal life. That all depends on how my body takes the transplant. I could be fine in May or it could take 2 years for things to be back to normal. I’m shooting for May.
6. Personally, I have gained a few things from your experience. The first is a new found admiration for your amazingly positive spirit that has kept us all going and the second is to savor every moment that life has to offer. What is one thing you have personally gained from your experience?
When I was first diagnosed, the first person that I talked to was my friend Yong Ki and he said ‘Remember that the leukemia is in your body and not in your mind, stay positive and you’ll be alright.’ What I’m saying is the power of positive thinking is amazing and I didn’t realize that until this happened to me. Through faith, anything is possible.
7. Alright Mr. Kenneth Brimer. I’m gonna end on that note, as for you, please feel free to give thanks to any and all.
I just want to thank everybody who put their lives on hold even for just one second to help me and my cause. I have a new found love for the human race because of you. A special thanks to all my family and friends, I love you all!
Kenneth is also a budding videographer; peep out the short he put together showcasing the board and shirt.
[flashvideo file=video/kenny_short.flv /]
“I’m so excited! This is what I live for right here.” Those were the words from Tim Jackson right before he jumped on his skateboard for a photo shoot amidst the Downtown traffic. He had the biggest smile on his face and was determined to throw shit down. Jackson is one of the best skateboarders in Hawai‘i. He’s been through a lot in his young adult life and is now skating full throttle more than ever. Tim’s had opportunities to take his skateboarding to the next level in the States, but hanging with the wrong crowd and making a few bad decisions when he was younger held him back from exploring them. Now at 27 years old, Jackson wants to be a positive influence on the new kids coming up and help them raise the level of skateboarding in Hawai‘i.
Contrast: Can you give me a quick bio about yourself?
Tim Jackson: I was born in Hawai‘i, 1982. I’m 27 years old. I’ve been skating for 11 of those years. I grew up in Aiea and graduated from Aiea High School. I was part of a small group of skaters there. We had a little website called candybandits.com. It was me, “Silent” John Oliveira, and my friend Ben would do most of the filming. We would influence each other to get better.
How did you guys start skateboarding?
I learned to ollie a year before I started skating with Ben. I would see John bodyboarding out at Ala Moana—ripping dropknee—so when I saw him at school I was like, “Yo, you’re that ripping dropknee guy.” He was the same as now, silent but maybe with a little higher pitched voice. [Laughs] He had a board so I told him, “Let’s go skate.”
Where did you skate back then? A‘ala Park?
Nah. We would skate lots of Aiea spots like the high school. Ben would build all kinds of ramps at his house and we would always test them out. Then eventually we started going Downtown and slowly, we would cruise by the park [A‘ala] to check it out and watch guys like Chad Hiyakumoto, Darin Lee, Aree Lamont and Rob Carlyon. All those guys were killing it at the park.
How do you like skating in Hawai‘i?
I like it out here. Obviously there are not as many opportunities out here as a skateboarder, compared to being in LA or something, you know? I kind of didn’t have a choice. I got arrested when I was 20 and was on probation for seven years. That put a hold on me traveling anywhere to go skate. I had some opportunities. I met guys like Jack Curtin and went to an AM contest up there and ran into some people that wanted to hook me up. But probation wise, it was hard for me to do anything. I’m free now, but kind of feel broke off. So now I want to push the skating here in Hawai‘i and encourage the kids to skate better out here.
Are there any benefits to skating in Hawai‘i?
It’s always sunny. The weather is always skate-able. Nothing is really that far away. People say there are no spots out here, but they just don’t know. They just have to go search and open their eyes. There are mad spots out here. Don’t be picky.
I guess just the industry thing. I want to push it so guys can make it out here, you know? Have big contests out here and make it so we don’t have to fly out there [to the mainland] all the time. We just have to get together and make it happen. We can do it.
So the arrest thing, what happened?
It was stupid, young-kid shit. I broke up with my girlfriend. I got evicted from my place and didn’t have any money. So a friend came to me telling me he was robbing pizza guys and I could help them out. Just be on watch. Little did I know that the FBI was watching him. I just thought we’ll get some food and some money for a bag of weed or something. Next thing I know, it was like a movie. They had photos of my place…all kinds of shit! The FBI don’t fuck around. I just thought I was badass. You know, stupid “gang” shit. It was a heavy, seven years. It was a long time, but now I’m done and learned so much from everything. The worst thing was putting my life on pause and the opportunities I missed.
Do you think it’s too late to do the skate thing?
How I see it, there are lots of people skating at the highest level that are older than me, but starting at my age is difficult. But for me, I just do it because I love to skate and that’s all there is to it. I love to take photos and do all that stuff. I get so excited when I skate. I just love to go skate with all the boys.
Has skating changed as you got older?
Well before there was a lot of the, “Don’t skate my spot kind of thing,” really territorial. I used to hate that. I was never good at talking to people when I was younger so it was hard. Now that I feel like I’m one of the older guys at the park, I think I can change that. I want everyone to be comfortable at the park. I’m never like, “Don’t skate what I’m skating,” you know? I’ll be the first to say sorry to like a six-year-old kid if I got in their way. I want everyone to reach their max potential and get as good as they can get.
So who are your favorite skaters?
In Hawai‘i, definitely Danny Hamaguchi. Sean Payne is my favorite skater of all time. Yeah but I like to watch Danny and Matt [Chaffin]. Out of the pros, I like the consistent guys that have been doing it for a long time. I like watching guys like Mariano still killing it.
What drives you to skate?
It’s automatic. It’s pretty much all I think about all day even when I’m doing other things. It’s pretty crazy and sounds childish, but when you are into something that much… I just think it’s what I’m destined to do.
I’m sponsored by APB, Fitted and I get flowed from Lakai. Having sponsors helps out so much. I always use all my sponsor’s stuff. Some people don’t, but me, I appreciate everything I’m given and use everything that’s given to me. Usually my whole setup will be APB and my clothes will be Fitted. I know the owners really good. Chad, Rene and Ola guys are super cool.
Do you have any message for the next generation?
I want the kids to be looking to take us out, you know? I want them to make videos of themselves and have the attitude that they are better than me, you know? That’s how I was when I was young. I would want to be better than all the best guys. That’s progression. You see someone better than you and that’s how you push yourself. I want the kids to get good and put Hawai‘i more on the skate map.
Releasing tomorrow, August 29th.
Over 25 years of Skateboarding history is included in this collection of stickers. These stickers range from classic collectibles to island companies that supported the early skateboarding years here on the islands. Every one of these stickers were free, somehow acquired from a traveling pro at a demo, contest sticker toss, friends who were sponsored by various companies, raiding company warehouses, sponsorship packages, or stolen from skate shops. These are the real deal and the contemporary skate art will never compare. There aren’t many brands whose graphics haven’t been influenced or straight up bit completely from classic skateboard art. (Present company included) Take a close look and spot some of your favorites.
Although skateboarding had it’s humble beginnings in the ‘70s, it became a little more fashionable and picked up it’s mass appeal in the ‘80s. This is when it started picking up as a sort of lifestyle, and more skaters were inclined to hit certain street spots versus the slopes of backyard pools, concrete skateparks and banks. Flat ground became more prevalent with certain key revitalizations & innovations such as urethane wheels, different board sizes & shapes as well as truck sizes. This generation of skaters had a more care free, do-it-yourself outlook on things, which made an easier progression in street and vert tricks. Skaters such as Steve Caballero, The Gonz, Mike Vallely, Natas Kaupas and Tony Hawk kept reinventing the game in both street and vert skating.