Like most flyover states, Oklahoma is seldom penciled into people’s travel itineraries, and, with exception of an occasional tragedy or weather event, rarely receives national attention.
Thankfully, Oklahoma-grown professional skateboarders Peter Ramondetta (Guthrie), Ernie Torres (Broken Arrow), Don Nguyen (OKC), Clint Walker (Altus), and Kyle Walker (Moore) have helped “The Sooner State” become a tiny blip on the skateboarding radar, created a sense of stereotype-breaking pride for their home state within the global skate community, and help keep the dream alive for other Midwest skateboarders dreaming of paving their own way from local green pastures to palm trees in California.
Each of these five pros share an unexpected luxury only truly experienced by skateboarders who grew up secluded from the traditionally coveted skate meccas: Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York City, and Barcelona.
Any “middle of nowhere” skateboarders who grew up in a town with a goofy or hard to pronounce name can relate to fielding ill-informed questions about their hometown. The lack of knowledge among outsiders helps instill the sense of pride small town inhabitants traditionally carry in their bloodstream. This small town pride can at times be defensive, but it normally serves as motivation and drive for the local skateboarders to promote the positive aspects of their skate community.
Being multiple states away from the skateboard industry can be an obstacle for those wishing to establish a career as a pro skater, but it can also develop one’s gratitude for what they already have. Ernie believes learning to skate in Broken Arrow taught him how to be grateful. “I appreciated everything I had with my skate life, as far as I never complained about my setup, no matter how bad it was. I had the tightest homies, so I just had so much love for skateboarding as a whole.”
Each of these five Oklahoma pros also endured the grueling and ever-changing weather Oklahoma offers. Despite what East Coast skateboarders may argue, Oklahoma ground is just as rough, and sometimes rougher, than the weathered streets out East. Similar to the East Coast, the ground in Oklahoma takes heavy beatings from Mother Nature.
An average summer day in Oklahoma can be 70 degrees but then skyrocket to over 100 degrees the following day, without warning. The winters follow an erratic schedule too. One week in winter can be filled with ice storms, hail, and tornado warnings all in consecutive days. The unpredictable weather patterns teach skaters how to adapt to their surroundings and successfully skate the sketchiest of spots. Think about all of the gnarly tricks Ramondetta has managed to do in the crusty streets of SF and all over the world. In the Midwest, a perfect ledge, handrail, gap, etc. is hard to find. Bondo, sheets of plywood, and metal signs are essential to keep on hand.
Outside of the two major cities, Tulsa and Oklahoma City, spots can become harder to find. For Ernie, his childhood consisted of “lots of flat bars and loading docks and funboxes really, but then occasionally some handrails and gaps.”
There may not be the same abundance of spots in California, but Oklahoma does offer some gems that are not blown out or busts. The non-bust factor combined with Midwest politeness bodes well for skateboarders. Ernie recalls skating mostly being a non-issue. “We never really got messed with by cops; lots of people were hyped to see us skate. I had a couple of teachers in my middle school watch me skate the spots at our school after school was out!”
Meanwhile in the smaller towns, such as Clint’s Altus, spots are definitely scarcer. But this is not technically a bad thing. The lack of spots forced Clint to be more creative and adventurous by exploring what Oklahoma had to offer outside of the two major cities. “I definitely think it made you look harder and think a little different about skateboarding. I used to/still do go to all the little towns around the area and drive up and down streets looking for spots.”
Clint’s comments echo one of the major perks of being from Oklahoma and the Midwest in general. In comparison to the skate meccas of the world, Oklahoma has significantly fewer spots and skateparks. But this only forces its skaters to hunt for hidden gems in nearby towns. Watch any of Clint’s or Kyle Walker’s parts and you are bound to see some never before seen spots, most likely located in the more rural towns of Oklahoma and the Midwest.
The excitement of finding undiscovered spots keeps the stoke and passion alive for a lot of skateboarders. For Clint, spot searching is part of what makes skateboarding so fun. “It’s crazy you can find spots in these tiny towns that no one has ever even thought about skating. No one there even owns a skateboard, or if they do they haven’t’ actually tried to learn how to skate, so it’s really easy to find never been skated spots that look so rad. Spot searching is one of my favorite things to do when I’m hurt.”
The amount of pleasure and pride from seeing hometown spots in videos and magazines is immeasurable. Oklahomans will always tear out a photo from a magazine and frame the damn thing if it features an Oklahoma spot. Clint is well aware of the photogenic spots Oklahoma and the Midwest offers. “I think a rad Southern or Midwestern spot is easily noticeable and memorable in a part, versus just the normal ledge stair and rail combo in California. I prefer Oklahoma spots for sure.”
Oklahoma has provided skateboarding with some gnarly skateboarders over the past ten years. Plan a trip and experience firsthand what makes Oklahoma unique, frustrating, and lovable all at the same time. Or you could just listen to Clint’s advice. “Yeah, don’t come to Oklahoma. There are little towns and rad spots everywhere. Find your own shit!”