Finding skateboarding in the late 80’s, without a clue, before I came across shops, magazines and videos in the mid 90’s, ramps of all kinds were always obvious, just a part of skating. The launch ramp, slanted sidewalk curb from a tree root, curb cuts, ramping walkways, halfpipes, it was all known. No matter how little I knew about skateboarding, ramps were common knowledge.
My first taste of vert, outside of Nintendo’s Skate or Die, was the first, of a few, summer camp weeks that I had at (OG)Woodward. It was ’96 the first time I went, the second year that they had expanded(to the depth they are) from gymnastics.
I had seen a bit of vert in videos and during the(at the time) new ESPN contest, The X Games, and ESPN’s coverage of the Vans Triple Crown and other random skate contests. I was always drawn to the guys who didn’t do a lot of grabs and were heavy on the lip tricks, Matt Dove, Mike Frazier, Colin McKay, Brian Howard, Burnquist, Mike Crum, Chad Vogt and a bunch of others I know I’m forgetting, but at the time, those were who I mainly saw and to this day, stand out as the tech legends of vert, for obvious reasons to come.
Watching a clip or looking through a sequence of any of these guys doing tech grinds or some styled out buck-wild trick without a grab, or one of the more awkward grabs, would always throw me, always get me a little dazed.
So the first year I landed at Woodward, I saw skating I couldn’t believe, Kenny Hughes, Steve Hernandez, Danny Gonzales, Mike Crum, Burnquist, Brian Howard, Matt Dove, so many others. My local skatepark, East of Maui, in Silver Spring Maryland, had a vert ramp(90’s style, eleven foot), but no one really hit it with more than some pumps and maybe a carve grind. My sister’s boyfriend did the most I ever saw at the time, dropping in and doing legit stand-up grinds and slides, some frontside airs, frontside and backside disasters, short lines. Other than that, I knew nothing.
So from television, what I had seen in videos, came my first camp week at Woodward, at the end of the day, when I was too wasted from skating, I would head to the vert ramp deck and sit back to watch. It’s not like I had the social skills or confidence to talk to the gymnast girls like some of the older skaters, nor the ability to socialize, care or appreciate people I’d never see again, so I watched vert for the last hour or ninety minutes before I had to be back at my cabin for bed.
Seeing anything above the lip was epic to watch on hand. But seeing Matt Dove pull a kickflip indy four-feet above the deck, that I was sitting on, like it was nothing, so mind blowing. When whoever was taking a run landed everything they wanted and were getting winded, they’d pop up onto the deck, I’d watch their wheels spin, counting off the seconds before they came to a stop, if at all before their next drop in.
Matt Dove. I had only seen late shove-its in video by street skaters, but here he was/is, handling late backside bigspins, knocking out wild lip tricks and airs, then in the middle of a line, “Oh hey. Here’s a, no big deal, late backside bigspin on a fucking vert ramp.”
In person, his wheels spun the fastest on deck in my eyes, while he held the tail down rambling to other skaters sessioning the ramp. I never listened to any of them, just stared at their product. From the power of vert their wheels spun so much longer than can be replicated on street or with your hand when checking your aging bearing strength. I’m sure the experience of seeing what true vert skating is, what is actually possible of this world, only made those wheels seem to spin that much longer.
But Matt Dove always stood out. That Volcom stone sticker slapped on his helmet, the tricks he tried, the way he skated. Just watching him throwing kickflip melons, japans, in lines with 540’s. Watching guys like Howard and Dove laugh as they mess up a 540 with slight nuisance in their tone. Watching Matt Dove and Mike Frazier chuckling their way through wild fakie and alley-oop lip grinds and slides, whipping shove-its out cause they can.
I had no idea Dove was living in the Baltimore area. I saw him at my local vert ramp, other times when my one other skate friend or I could convince our parents to drive us an hour away to check out a skate park on a Saturday(it was the mid-late 90’s and the east coast, skate parks were few and far between). More than half the time, Dove was there. “Oh hey! It’s you!” he would say, or some derivative of the statement. We never exchanged names, just noticed each other and I would (I’m sure from his perspective and my silence) uncomfortably and awkwardly watch, maybe after awhile he just understood my weirdness, or was used to it and had the confidence to skate in front of lurking silent eyes like mine.
I just was constantly blown away. For years. At Woodward. At any park that had a vert ramp. Even watching the way he would randomly throw out a four foot frontside boardslide to fakie, let alone the cabs, the back threes, the back three late-shoves. The way he skated, the way he approached skating, and I’m sure, still does, is inspiring. The things that Matt Dove has done on a skateboard will make you question yourself, make you look at the way you see skating and completely reevaluate everything you do on a board.
Matt Dove will forever be one of the most inspirational and innovative/creative skaters of all time. What he has accomplished on a skateboard can only be an example of the type of being he is, awe-inspiring. The following is a clip from the first video I ever owned, an independent video before there were independent videos, “High Rollers” Matt Dove and Derek Krasauskus. I watched this video everyday for years. Beyond this, do your own research and be blown away. Matt Dove is a skate god.