Pioneer: Bob Burquist, Full Interview—Antihero to the Mega

When did you first skate a Mega setup?
I skated all the early ones, like the super ramps that Danny (Way) had built for MTV, and then I skated all those long distance jumps they had for a while. Then finally, after 2002 when Danny built both of them together, I didn’t get to skate the first one but in 2004 after Danny’s video part I got to skate the one at Point X.

Was it just another direction to challenge yourself?
Yeah. It was almost like finding out about the switch thing. All of a sudden there was this whole new universe to learn and you knew there were so many options for new tricks. It opened up a whole new reality. I remember loving it from the first session while at the same time being so scared of it. Being terrified but hyped at the same time. You had so much more time in the air. The slams could be worse but the trade off was worth it. Everything was so big and you could spin slower. It was almost more forgiving with how long the landing was. It feels like slow motion when you do a trick but your actually moving twice as fast. It’s another reality.

Bob’s backyard Mega setup has become a Southern California landmark. Switch back Smith. Photo: SKIN

How much has Danny Way motivated you through the years?
I think I just relate to Danny a lot. If you’re going to keep learning and progressing—even the Grand Canyon thing was like that. At the time he had just jumped the Great Wall of China and I was planning a big jump of my own. It just made sense—both of us talking and being friends. It was just this whole thing like, “Let’s do things on this grand level.” Just incorporating the Great Wall or the Grand Canyon—it added this impact to everything. Individual progression can be technical but then that was another whole new angle to try and apply skateboarding to.

It was like PR for skateboarding too. Guaranteed to get mainstream coverage.
Yeah. But you’re a skateboarder—let’s say you’re cruising down the street in a car; you’re skating every building you drive by in your mind. I’m looking at stuff and thinking like, “I’ll backside tailslide the top of that building, then try and boardslide off that, then ‘Oh, I’ll jump off that then pull my parachute.’ That would be fun.” The Grand Canyon thing was basically something like that. Just kind of dreaming up something totally different. I’m inspired by different people too, inside and outside of skateboarding. There are people that are a part of my life that are outside the box. All that stuff that I’ve been interested in from the outside—from skydiving to flying to helicopters have opened up my eyes to other ways I can create things. To me, I think living your life to the fullest in every way helps your skateboarding. All those interests feed it for me. It helps me express myself.

How do you feel about some of the criticism people have at times for stuff like the Grand Canyon jump?
You know what matters to me—the amount of fun I had that day. And you have no idea, when you pigeonhole yourself like that, you’re just missing out. The limitations are on you. I’m just out there having a good time. People are always going to talk. To me it was one of the best days of my life. I didn’t want to just launch into the Grand Canyon either. Anyone could do that. That’s what made me build the rail out and make it a straight line as far as I could. I had to test it on the spot. I got on and slammed on the rail the first time. It wasn’t clean cut. It was a combination of skills I had wanted to use at that point. I just wanted to put them together. I understand that some people felt like it was done for the world to see. Instead of just skateboarder-to-skateboarder it was meant for everyone to understand it. But I guess I’m just more open-minded when it comes to stuff like that. My main thing is I’ll do everything mainstream and all these big events—as long as you continue to progress and put out video parts—I think that’s where you speak from skateboarder to skateboarder. That’s where people that might criticize you might give you praise the next time. Respect is earned through skateboarding. That was just one wild idea and it was a blast. I got plenty of other ones.

The notorious Grand Canyon fold out cover. Grind to free fall, August ’06. “I’m not afraid of dying.”

The core premise of skateboarding is to have fun—but then there are always these rules right after that regarding what types of fun are okay and what types aren’t.
Yeah. The paradigm has always been there.

I think from the corporate sponsorship side, the core has a better argument.
It’s a symptom of the world we live in. It’s bound to happen. As skateboarders we’re right in the middle of it. I have plenty of corporate sponsors that are amazing partners. They’ve helped me do all the things I do today. To have a Mega Ramp in my backyard and be able to skate and progress skateboarding in that direction. They’ve helped me do this, so I’m plenty thankful for companies that aren’t skateboard brands.

That dynamic is interesting because you started from arguably the most anti-corporate, corest of core companies (Antihero) and…
That’s what I mean. That’s why I felt like there were boundaries to it. I love Antihero. I love it. I think it’s awesome. Don’t get me wrong.

I think you can appreciate both too though. They’re not mutually exclusive.
Exactly. A brand is an identity. And once you outgrow that identity—even if you’re still in that same mindset. I’m still the same person. When I skate it still pours out of me, but it’s beyond the limitations of the identity. It was clear that I was outgrowing that identity, that I was ready to go a lot further than that identity might limit me to. And it was out of respect too. It was just better to move on. All the partners and all the things that I’ve done to this day—in hindsight you think it’s skateboarding and it’s core. But at the time it was about, like “Wait, the X Games events aren’t cool—you shouldn’t do that. Wait, this brand that wants to sponsor you—you can’t do that.” It was clashing, especially back then. Now, it’s more established. But at the time I think everybody looking back will feel it was the right decision.