Bob Burnquist, who is now 36 years old, has already cemented himself as one of the greatest skateboarders of all time. If there were an X Games Hall of Fame, he would be an instant inductee (He has won X Games Big Air five years in a row). Yet, even after 20-plus years of professional competitive skating, he's still not satisfied, proven by yesterday's release of the first episode of a new web show called "The Dreamland Series." The episode is longer than eight minutes and is Bob's first full video part in about four years, all shot in his enormously impressive skatepark in his backyard.
His schedule requires a quick shift, though, as he goes from play time to serious competition today, with the start of X Games Los Angeles. We had the great pleasure of talking to Bob for about 20 minutes yesterday, discussing how the new series came to be, what he's been up to with his pilot's license, and how the entire X Games season has been going. Catch up with Mr. Big Air below.
Interview by Tony Markovich (@T_Marko)
How did this video develop?
I’m always skating and filming whether I’m home or traveling. It’s part of a skateboarder life to try and learn new tricks and film as much as possible. When I’m not skating during contests or demos, I’m trying to film and learn something new. I didn’t really have a specific home for all of this stuff up until about eight months ago. I was just filming after I launched the Flip video in 2010. I kept filming after that and all of a sudden I had an opportunity to put this project together. Oakley came with and all my sponsors. We said, “Hey, let’s try to put this together and launch it as a standalone.” It’s all filmed in my backyard. I have a lot of stuff I film everywhere but this is a park that’s featured. It’s my backyard. It’s Dreamland. It ended up being more than just a video part because we’re launching a web series. Every week from now for about eight weeks there will be a new episode. This is a full-length part. All the other stuff is more reality based. This first video is to try and showcase the technical progression of my skateboarding and the MegaRamp.
So when is all this footage from?
It’s all after 2010. That’s usually the case for something like this, to try and put out something strong. My last video part was also strong. So I didn’t want to just come out with just anything. I had to try and make it better than the last, or at least up to par with people’s expectations and my expectations. I usually have a hard time with putting it out. I don’t feel like I’m ever ready. I always feel like I can do more. It’s a combination of three years of filming.
So eight months ago you started having an idea of what you wanted the project to be?
Yeah, about eight months ago we starting asking how are we going to wrap this project; what is it going to be; where is it going to go? Then the series came along. I had some meetings. Oakley was really stoked on being behind it and helping with production: all the cameras, the big production days out here, and giving it the life and quality that it is now. The skateboarding is there and you try and get the best that you can. It’s really about the tricks and the moves but when you match it with top quality cameras and editing, it takes it to that next level. Oakley was cool about that. It was really neat.
How do you think this stacks up against your other videos?
Oh man, it’s the latest one. It has the latest and greatest. I’m really stoked about it. My last video was done in conjunction with Flip Skateboards, which is a whole team. So we put out a video and all of us together put a bunch of parts into one feature. This is just my part. So I was able to have more freedom with more length, play a little bit more with slow-mo and double angles. Usually if you have a full-length video you can’t do that. The MegaRamp is so extended. One slow-motion trick takes up a lot of time. This is up there. I’m stoked to be able to put this out. I was more nervous than skating competitions, making sure everything’s right, that people will like it, and all the right tricks are in there. I’m really excited about it.
How did all the stuff with the helicopter come to be?
I’ve had my pilot license for quite some time now. Then I got my helicopter license about two-and-a-half years ago. I’ve just been flying a bunch, everywhere. It’s been part of my life. I have a really good pilot friend. The guy that helped me out with the skate stuff, this guy John Purrell, he was really cool. We were doing all that. My other friend Matt is a big-time safety pilot with Robinson Helicopters. He’s an awesome pilot all around. He’s kind of young, and surfs and skates like us. We started talking and we were like, “Let’s try and grind the rail. Can you do this? We’ll try and do a 720. I just did a 720. Think you can pull it off?” We were laughing because he’s riding down the ramp and taking off and trying to land on the ramp. It was just insane. I land here at home. Everyday we’re taking off and looking at the ramp. He would just always take off and feel the ramp a little bit. When it came down to the filming day, we just told him, “Hey, we’re going to try and pull of this thing. Go out there and practice a few tricks. See if you can pull something off and then we’re going to go film.” There’s a lot more coming. One of the episodes is the story on that. For the first part I wanted to sprinkle a few wild things in.
That’s just me hanging around helicopters, aviation, and pilots. I skate, too. So it’s natural to bring it all together—even some skydiving, base jumping, and all the ideas that mingle and fuse.
Obviously you've got the good ending.
We were thinking about if we should show opening the parachute. Well I didn’t die, so people know it did open. I thought it was neat to end that way. The helicopter and skateboarding thing is an inspiration and progression from what I saw Danny Way do in 1997. Danny Way dropped off a helicopter a while ago down onto a ramp. It was always ingrained into my brain, Danny being such an amazing guy and such an inspiration. I obviously gave it a long time. You don’t want to do it in ‘98. Finally with enough time gone by it was more honoring that idea and taking it further more than it is one-upping him.
So that was a tip of the hat to Danny Way?
For sure, man. That whole part is a hat off to Danny. Danny’s been skateboarding inspiration since I was a kid, and still is to this day. He’s still inspiring and progressing. I can’t wait to see what he has going on.
This was your first video all on your own and on your own ramps. What was that like?
it’s interesting because I have a lot of stuff. When I put video parts out I’ve always tried to have an overall skill in there. I like to have street tricks. I like to have cool tricks: backyard, vert, everything. There’s an all-terrain situation going on. This time it was hard for me because this isn’t all I skate. It just felt right because I was trying to put something together called “A Dreamland” because this is all in my backyard. It’s kind of like a dream factory situation going on here. I felt like, “Ok, let me just try and progress as much as I can, and I’ll make it a dreamland. I’ll call it that and just skate here.” In one way it’s a little bit of a challenge. I was hoping people weren’t going to hate on it because it’s so unique. It was something that I felt like it was time for me to do. I’ve done all the other things for so long. It was an opportunity to really get free out here. It’s my backyard. I can do whatever I want: build stuff and fly helicopters. I can’t really pull that off somewhere else. It just felt right to do it that way.
Do you have any other pieces you’re working on?
Yeah. When you build one thing it gives you ideas for others. I built that and I’m like, “Oh, I know how I can do that much better,” or “What can I do to possibly add to that?” There are lots of ideas. You kind of have to start somewhere. This is definitely a start. I can research and design it here, and maybe take it to a different stage, make it bigger. Right now I’m just enjoying the time and trying to put this out. I’m trying to relax my body and brain. It’s funny because right as I’m starting to relax and am stoked to put this out, I got to jump into a big stage and compete. It’s good. It keeps you moving. I’m alive. There’s so much to do in so little time.
Are you building any ramps right now?
The last thing I added was that rail. First I did the hip thing. Then I thought, “Maybe I can put a rail here.” I put that up. Now we got to fine tune that. I have some other ideas to accessorize that. I would love to have a backyard pool. That’s one thing I don’t have here. I have my swimming pool. I can drain that and skate in it. I’ve done that. If I were to build anything else I would maybe add some obstacles to the MegaRamp. But I’d love to get some concrete out here. It’s all phases. It’s all one thing at a time. At this moment I’m not building anything. I just did and I’m going to have fun with that. There’s so much to learn on that.
What have you thought of the new format for the X-Games?
It’s great. I definitely helped create that format. We’ve had that contest in Brazil for four years now. We have a bit more freedom there since I was producing there and part of Mega, we were able to experiment with formats. I’ve experimented with a similar format in Brazil. We had that best trick on the gap, best on the big jump, best on the rail, and then the combo: all of that combined was a truer overall skill winner than the Mega. We had success down there and it was working well. The X-Games saw that and we figured maybe this would be a good opportunity to change the format and inspire some tricks. Obviously format dictates what you get to do in your run and how you strategize. If you have a best trick in there then people are obligated to learn something new, bring something new, and try to progress. I like the way it’s going now. It really is more about overall skill. If you can only go big, that’s one thing. And if you can only go tech, that’s another thing. But if you are able to do both that’s a more realistic score. It’s in a good place. Just look at the tricks that happened this year. It had a lot to do with that format.
How have you been preparing yourself for X Games Los Angeles?
I haven’t even thought about it, really, up until—I was thinking, “It’s soon. Let’s launch this video part.” In a way it just took my mind completely away from the X-Games and the pressures of that. What I love doing is just this video here in my backyard. That’s skateboarding to me and where the magic lives. As long as I’m having a good time, I’m happy. When it comes to the X-Games I’m just going to do what I’ve always done and try to put something together and hope it comes through. I kind of rolled my ankle three weeks ago in Brazil after Munich. I took some time off and then I had to film the rail stuff, and the hip stuff. It was all done last week. I didn’t skate anything close to what I’ll be doing at X-Games. I was hurt, then I was filming. Yesterday and the day before were the first days I was skating the MegaRamp in that way. My foot’s starting to feel better. Now my mine’s there. Today will be the first session where I think, “The video’s out. I don’t have to deal with edits. Now I can focus on that.” Today it starts for me, kind of.