Dennis Busenitz
Pro Spotlight

Words by Mackenzie Eisenhour
Photography by Gabe Morford

Fast and furious, Dennis Busenitz has a hunger for the streets like a Rick James freebase addiction. You can see it in his video parts, and you can see it in real time if you’re lucky enough to witness him roll in person. He attacks obstacles in his path with a burning passion and the eye of the tiger, even if he’s stuck between crowd-control barriers and skating your annually hyped ASR challenge.
Dennis always puts in that extra push, just to go a little faster than he should, to play with the thin line between control and chaos. Speed is a cheap thrill for many skateboarders. It’s an aspect of our pastime that a lot of us never fully experience. But for a few of us, like Busenitz, once you taste the sweet adrenaline rush of losing yourself within its uncontrollable grip, you will never skate the same again. The following is Dennis Busenitz’s Pro Spotlight. And, in accordance with the trite wording I find hard to ignore, he’s a long way from Kansas, Toto.

What are your memories of being a kid in Germany?
Well, I was born in Kansas, and then when I was five or six months old, my parents moved us all to Germany. I grew up there ’til I was fifteen-that’s where I started skating. My dad’s job pretty much took us to Germany and at the same time, he also wanted to live over there. My mom raised seven kids over there. They were just back in the States on vacation for a year when I was born.

What was your first language?
German was my first language. But it started to change since I’ve been over here (in the States) for so long. I really never get the chance to speak German anymore, so I’m getting a little rusty. The only time I speak it is with my brothers and my parents. I still dream in German though. And whenever I talk in my sleep, it’s in German (laughs). Other than that, I’m pretty Americanized these days.

Where does the name Busenitz originate from?
Originally, they were from Prussia-which back in the day was Germany, Poland, and parts of Russia. Basically, three Busenitzes from there decided to pack up and move to America about 150 years ago. They went for the American dream, and I guess they made it ’cause there’s like over a thousand Busenitzes in Kansas now-farmers and whatever else kickin’ it here in freedom land.

How did you get started skating out there?
I started skating with my brothers. I have five of them and I’m the youngest. We lived in Munich, which is where they make the BMWs and all that and also where I think they started Oktoberfest. My two older brothers started skating around the streets in our neighborhood, and we all had boards ’cause it seemed like everybody had a board back then. Eventually, my oldest brother got really psyched on it and I just followed him. I ended up sticking with it while they eventually got into other things.

So how did moving back to the States come about?
Well, I was almost sixteen, and we were going to move to San Antonio. My parents didn’t want me to miss school and it was right when classes were starting back up, so they shipped me ahead and I stayed out there for two months. Eventually, my parents came out and decided San Antonio wasn’t the place-my grandma was having health problems in Kansas and my dad is from there, so we ended up moving back. It’s pretty funny, because when we were in Germany, we had a family meeting about moving to America and my only stipulation was that I didn’t want to move to Kansas. But that’s where I ended up.

How did you get from Kansas out to living in S.F. and riding for Real?
That was just Deluxe, basically. I had been skating the local park a whole bunch in Kansas, and the shop owner, Lauren, around the same time decided to move to San Francisco. He knew Jasin Phares, who worked at Deluxe at that point, and Phares was from the same town where I lived in Kansas. Anyway, Laureended up bringing my sponsor-me tape out and showing it to Phares. I guess he liked it, so he ended up flowing me some product. Eventually, they got me out to Tampa in the spring of 2000, and Mic-E (Reyes) decided to put me on the team at that point.

I heard you thought you weren’t good enough when they asked you to get on.
Well, it just felt kind of weird. I’d only skated in Tampa for a day and Mic-E was ready to put me on. I didn’t know anyone on the team. This was when Gonz and Cairo and all those dudes were still on. All I really skated in Kansas was the park and I felt like I wasn’t much of a street skater. I guess you could call it insecurity. I wasn’t gonna say no, but at the same time it felt really crazy. I was intimidated. I really didn’t know what “getting on the team” really implied. After that, they flew me out to S.F. for two weeks and things just worked out from there.

What’s the craziest part of seeing yourself in EA’s SKATE video game now?
It just sort of evolved. I trip out on all those video games, on how realistic they are. I’m not really one to play them that often, but I can see how you could get into it. Seeing yourself in there is definitely trippy.

Did they just call you up?
I don’t know who did the selection, but one day I just got this call from Danny Way and he was like, “You want to be in this video game?” I guess he has a big part in the whole thing, so I was like, “F-k it. I have a chance to be in a video game. Why not?” I didn’t really have to do anything. I just flew up (to EA) and had some pictures taken of my face and my feet and that was pretty much it.

You didn’t have to get kitted out in the suit with the balls on and all that?
No. I got out of that stuff somehow. I think Haslam did all the dirty work for them on that front.

You seem comfortable on streets, in parks, in contests, on hills, on flatground-is there anything you feel like you can’t skate?
I pretty much can’t skate handrails. I don’t know if it’s so much that I can’t skate them or that I just can’t get myself to jump up onto them. I just don’t really want to. I don’t know. It used to bother me a lot, but now I realize I can have fun other ways and there’s a million other things you can do on a skateboard without it. So why stress over it?

Craziest hill you’ve bombed in S.F.?
I don’t really skate hills that way-like go to the top and get all serious about it. It’s more just skating around town, and if there’s a hill, I’ll skate it but nothing as serious as having specific ones to conquer.

Any near-death experiences?
Nothing too bad. I’m pretty careful when it comes to cars. That’s the one thing that really scares me. I mean, slamming sucks, but a car will f-king kill you. We usually time the lights and all that. I’ve had a couple close calls but nothing too sketchy. I’m still alive.

How did it feel to win TransWorld’s Street Skater Of The Year award last year?
Yeah. It was crazy for sure. Deluxe and TransWorld told me I had to go down (to L.A.), so I figured something was in the works. But it was trippy to get that. I’m psyched that other people would be psyched like that. It’s an honor, I guess. I don’t know what to say about it.

Is the trophy up on the mantelpiece?
No. No way. I sent it home to my mom. I don’t have any trophies or anything at home. I don’t want to be that guy like, “Dude, check out my trophies!” (Laughs) My mom’s way more psyched on them anyway.

Coming up, were you looking up to German dudes or American pros?
Well, a little of both. When we started, we had Ban This (’89) and we just thought that was the sickest thing ever. Frankie Hill seemed like a maniac-jump ramping over fences and down huge sets of stairs. Cab was sick in there. Then they had that whole section with Mariano, Diaz, Rudy Johnson, and all of them just jammin’ through the streets. Then on the local level, there was a mini ramp just a few blocks from our house that these five German skaters had got going, and we would just go watch them and trip out on them doing rock ‘n’ rolls and stuff like that.

Did you ever skate with that dude Sami Hirithi who was in Celebrity Tropical Fish (’91)?
I saw him once at a contest. He was from Berlin, so we didn’t really know each other. But he was pretty insane at the contest I saw him at. He was doing some crazy sh-t for back then. He definitely could have pulled off something out here in the States, but I don’t know what happened to him.

I’m pretty sure he was on Flip right before they left for the States. I don’t know what happened after that. He’s still around on the European scene.
Really, he was on Flip? Yeah, ’cause he was seriously the German prodigy.

Is it true that the Booze is out of the “Booze ‘N’ Tits”?
(Laughs) Yeah. I’ve been sober for about two and a half months. Just taking a breather. My girlfriend doubted me, I guess-didn’t think I could do it. She thought I had, like, a serious problem, so whatever. I’ve been on the straight and narrow. If nothing else, you get to see all the stupid sh-t people do when they’re drunk. It actually makes you kind of happy not to be drunk yourself. It’s pretty rad not to have hangovers anymore-waking up in the morning and actually wanting to do something new.

Best part in the first Real video (’93)?
I’ve got to go with TG. He de-virginized the three up three down in that one-180 up, half-Cab down. Plus it’s TG, man.

What’s up with that spot? Are they taking it out?
No. It got bought by some crazy porn company. Like this S&M porn company bought it and they’re seriously building a dungeon in there and all kinds of weird sh-t. I don’t know if it’s gonna get Skatestopped or anything, but so far they haven’t done anything with it.

What tipped the scale for you with adidas?
Bryce (Kanights) just called up one day and told me what adidas was trying to get going-that he was their new team manager and that they wanted to build this legit thing-and explained all the projects to me. It just sounded like a good opportunity to get into something small that was just starting out.

Where you psyched on the German heritage?
(Laughs) Yeah. I mean they make quality shoes-good German craftsmanship. I was just psyched that they wanted me in from the beginning. I talked to a bunch of people whose opinion I respect about it and they all thought it was a good idea, so I just decided to go for it.

You’re really into German craftsmanship though, right?
Well. It’s kind of more of a running joke at this point. But yeah, I believe that they make a lot of quality goods. They’ve been known to build some good shit-the Bimmers, the Mercedes, they do it proper. Although they might be lacking slightly on the sense-of-humor front.

You have a welding license or something, right?
Yeah, I took that in Kansas. After high school, my dad offered to pay for it, so I did like a year of welding school. I was interested in it at the time, and it was pretty fun-built a couple flatbars, a couple boxes, and stuff like that. I don’t really ever use it anymore.

How did your parents react to you deciding on a career in skateboarding?
Well, I never really told them that I wanted to skate for a living. I just had the opportunity to go out to California when Deluxe invited me out and told them I had to give it a shot. My dad took it kind of weird. He had his doubts, which is fair. I mean, he was like, “How many kids do you think really make it out there?” And he’s right. How many kids do come out to California and don’t make it? A lot. I mean, it’s by no means a safe bet. My mom was always supportive of anything I wanted to do so she was down, and, in retrospect, everything turned out all right.

Are they psyched on it now?
Well, they’re glad that everything is going well for me and I’m making a living, but I don’t know if they afrom our house that these five German skaters had got going, and we would just go watch them and trip out on them doing rock ‘n’ rolls and stuff like that.

Did you ever skate with that dude Sami Hirithi who was in Celebrity Tropical Fish (’91)?
I saw him once at a contest. He was from Berlin, so we didn’t really know each other. But he was pretty insane at the contest I saw him at. He was doing some crazy sh-t for back then. He definitely could have pulled off something out here in the States, but I don’t know what happened to him.

I’m pretty sure he was on Flip right before they left for the States. I don’t know what happened after that. He’s still around on the European scene.
Really, he was on Flip? Yeah, ’cause he was seriously the German prodigy.

Is it true that the Booze is out of the “Booze ‘N’ Tits”?
(Laughs) Yeah. I’ve been sober for about two and a half months. Just taking a breather. My girlfriend doubted me, I guess-didn’t think I could do it. She thought I had, like, a serious problem, so whatever. I’ve been on the straight and narrow. If nothing else, you get to see all the stupid sh-t people do when they’re drunk. It actually makes you kind of happy not to be drunk yourself. It’s pretty rad not to have hangovers anymore-waking up in the morning and actually wanting to do something new.

Best part in the first Real video (’93)?
I’ve got to go with TG. He de-virginized the three up three down in that one-180 up, half-Cab down. Plus it’s TG, man.

What’s up with that spot? Are they taking it out?
No. It got bought by some crazy porn company. Like this S&M porn company bought it and they’re seriously building a dungeon in there and all kinds of weird sh-t. I don’t know if it’s gonna get Skatestopped or anything, but so far they haven’t done anything with it.

What tipped the scale for you with adidas?
Bryce (Kanights) just called up one day and told me what adidas was trying to get going-that he was their new team manager and that they wanted to build this legit thing-and explained all the projects to me. It just sounded like a good opportunity to get into something small that was just starting out.

Where you psyched on the German heritage?
(Laughs) Yeah. I mean they make quality shoes-good German craftsmanship. I was just psyched that they wanted me in from the beginning. I talked to a bunch of people whose opinion I respect about it and they all thought it was a good idea, so I just decided to go for it.

You’re really into German craftsmanship though, right?
Well. It’s kind of more of a running joke at this point. But yeah, I believe that they make a lot of quality goods. They’ve been known to build some good shit-the Bimmers, the Mercedes, they do it proper. Although they might be lacking slightly on the sense-of-humor front.

You have a welding license or something, right?
Yeah, I took that in Kansas. After high school, my dad offered to pay for it, so I did like a year of welding school. I was interested in it at the time, and it was pretty fun-built a couple flatbars, a couple boxes, and stuff like that. I don’t really ever use it anymore.

How did your parents react to you deciding on a career in skateboarding?
Well, I never really told them that I wanted to skate for a living. I just had the opportunity to go out to California when Deluxe invited me out and told them I had to give it a shot. My dad took it kind of weird. He had his doubts, which is fair. I mean, he was like, “How many kids do you think really make it out there?” And he’s right. How many kids do come out to California and don’t make it? A lot. I mean, it’s by no means a safe bet. My mom was always supportive of anything I wanted to do so she was down, and, in retrospect, everything turned out all right.

Are they psyched on it now?
Well, they’re glad that everything is going well for me and I’m making a living, but I don’t know if they agree with a lot of the lifestyle side that goes along with it. That’s a whole other subject I guess.

Do you show them all the video parts and that?
Yeah. I gave my mom all the videos and me lying there passed out in my own puke. That doesn’t really go down so good. I don’t know why they have to put that in there, really.

They’ve got to sell an image.
Yeah, I guess. But I’m a little older now and don’t need to be doing all of that as much.

All-time favorite videos?
The Questionable (’92) video is in there. That’s for sure. I really like the second FTC video, Penal Code 100A (’96). Just the music and the skating in there-it seems to never get old as much as I’ve watched it. Trilogy (’96) is a pretty damn good video. Creager has some insane shit. Gino. Kareem. Those were the videos I was psyched on when I was younger and I’m still psyched on now.

Would you live in any other city aside from S.F.?
Yeah. I mean, S.F. is definitely my favorite, but I could probably live up in Portland maybe or somewhere like that. I like it up there. Even though people say it sucks with the weather and everything, I think I could handle it.

What about L.A.?
No, I don’t think so. I mean, I like L.A. The people are cool and everything, the spots are really good, but I just can’t spend that much of my life in a car.

Movies to live by?
Full Metal Jacket. People might think it’s pretty bleak or whatever, but I think it’s awesome. I mean, homeboy lives in the end, right? Gunnery Sgt. Hartman is just unbelievable. Anything he says is amazing.

Best quote?
“Your days of finger bangin’ old Mary Jane rotten crotch are over!” (Laughs) All the sh-t he yells at the soldiers is hilarious. From what I heard too, homeboy really was a drill sergeant at one point. None of that stuff was written for him and they basically just told him to improvise. Like he wasn’t even supposed to be in the movie-they just had a real drill sergeant there to help make it authentic or whatever, and then when they heard the guy talk, they decided they just had to have him in the film.

What kind of stuff do you get into off your board?
F-k. Ummm. Cruise around with my dog. Hang out with my girlfriend.

What’s the story behind your dog’s name?
Gary Headlock? (Laughs) Oh man. Well, the first trip I went on with Deluxe, Frank and Nate were telling me about this new skater who had like all the openers in the new 411. They were telling me he was doing switch 360 flips overcrooks down ten-stair handrails and stuff, and I was pretty gullible at the time, fully believed them, and was like, “No way, what’s his name?” They told me his name was Gary Headlock. So there you go. My dog’s named after a fictional ripper (laughs).

Mic-E told me to ask you about the first time you drank J germeister.
Oh god. We were in Atlanta and I guess Mic-E just bought me a bottle of J ger. Gerwer and I pretty much polished off the whole thing in our room and he started showing off his knife to other people in the hotel. It didn’t go down so well with some of the guests, obviously, and Frank ended up getting arrested. That was the same night he cut my hand and I had that weird ad of him cutting me. Anyway, other people in the hotel saw him cut me, too, and I was pretty much right at the point in the night where everything started to suck. Next thing I knew, we were all getting kicked out of the hotel, we had to wake up the Gonz, and he just started yelling at me, telling me I suck at drinking and I shouldn’t drink anymore. Whatever, it was stupid but it was fun. We picked up Frank the next day from jail and went skating.

A lot of people look like they’re sort of going through the motions at contests. You look like you seriously are enjoying it. Is that true?
I guess a lot of the time I do actually enjoy it. Even if sometimes it’s lame. Whatever, I’m there so, f-k, might as well have fun with it, right?

Why go faster?
It just makes it more fun. I don’t know. It just feels better-landing a kickflip going fast versus just doing one going all slow. It’s just a cheap thrill basically. I just always thought that was the way it was supposed to be done. I was real psyched on Barley when I was a kid and he seemed to always go fast, so I figured that was how you did it.

If Barley does something a certain way, that’s the way it’s supposed to be done, right?
For real.

Do you still see Darrell around?
Yeah, I see him at random things. I just saw him at the trade show, and I see him at contests and stuff. We’re cool. There’s no weird beef or anything. It’s just high fives and then we do our own thing.

What is the greatest invention America has given the world?
Well, I got to go with the skateboard, man.

The worst?
The atom bomb. I’m a peace-loving hippie skater.

Greatest invention Germany has given the world?
They did invent the automobile.

Worst?
World War II.

Words to live by?
To the max.

All right, that’s all I got.
Don’t I get to do my shout outs?

Okay, do your shout outs.
Thanks to Matt Newton, Jasin Phares, my parents of course. That’s it.
e with a lot of the lifestyle side that goes along with it. That’s a whole other subject I guess.

Do you show them all the video parts and that?
Yeah. I gave my mom all the videos and me lying there passed out in my own puke. That doesn’t really go down so good. I don’t know why they have to put that in there, really.

They’ve got to sell an image.
Yeah, I guess. But I’m a little older now and don’t need to be doing all of that as much.

All-time favorite videos?
The Questionable (’92) video is in there. That’s for sure. I really like the second FTC video, Penal Code 100A (’96). Just the music and the skating in there-it seems to never get old as much as I’ve watched it. Trilogy (’96) is a pretty damn good video. Creager has some insane shit. Gino. Kareem. Those were the videos I was psyched on when I was younger and I’m still psyched on now.

Would you live in any other city aside from S.F.?
Yeah. I mean, S.F. is definitely my favorite, but I could probably live up in Portland maybe or somewhere like that. I like it up there. Even though people say it sucks with the weather and everything, I think I could handle it.

What about L.A.?
No, I don’t think so. I mean, I like L.A. The people are cool and everything, the spots are really good, but I just can’t spend that much of my life in a car.

Movies to live by?
Full Metal Jacket. People might think it’s pretty bleak or whatever, but I think it’s awesome. I mean, homeboy lives in the end, right? Gunnery Sgt. Hartman is just unbelievable. Anything he says is amazing.

Best quote?
“Your days of finger bangin’ old Mary Jane rotten crotch are over!” (Laughs) All the sh-t he yells at the soldiers is hilarious. From what I heard too, homeboy really was a drill sergeant at one point. None of that stuff was written for him and they basically just told him to improvise. Like he wasn’t even supposed to be in the movie-they just had a real drill sergeant there to help make it authentic or whatever, and then when they heard the guy talk, they decided they just had to have him in the film.

What kind of stuff do you get into off your board?
F-k. Ummm. Cruise around with my dog. Hang out with my girlfriend.

What’s the story behind your dog’s name?
Gary Headlock? (Laughs) Oh man. Well, the first trip I went on with Deluxe, Frank and Nate were telling me about this new skater who had like all the openers in the new 411. They were telling me he was doing switch 360 flips overcrooks down ten-stair handrails and stuff, and I was pretty gullible at the time, fully believed them, and was like, “No way, what’s his name?” They told me his name was Gary Headlock. So there you go. My dog’s named after a fictional ripper (laughs).

Mic-E told me to ask you about the first time you drank J germeister.
Oh god. We were in Atlanta and I guess Mic-E just bought me a bottle of J ger. Gerwer and I pretty much polished off the whole thing in our room and he started showing off his knife to other people in the hotel. It didn’t go down so well with some of the guests, obviously, and Frank ended up getting arrested. That was the same night he cut my hand and I had that weird ad of him cutting me. Anyway, other people in the hotel saw him cut me, too, and I was pretty much right at the point in the night where everything started to suck. Next thing I knew, we were all getting kicked out of the hotel, we had to wake up the Gonz, and he just started yelling at me, telling me I suck at drinking and I shouldn’t drink anymore. Whatever, it was stupid but it was fun. We picked up Frank the next day from jail and went skating.

A lot of people look like they’re sort of going through the motions at contests. You look like you seriously are enjoying it. Is that true?
I guess a lot of the time I do actually enjoy it. Even if sometimes it’s lame. Whatever, I’m there so, f-k, might as well have fun with it, right?

Why go faster?
It just makes it more fun. I don’t know. It just feels better-landing a kickflip going fast versus just doing one going all slow. It’s just a cheap thrill basically. I just always thought that was the way it was supposed to be done. I was real psyched on Barley when I was a kid and he seemed to always go fast, so I figured that was how you did it.

If Barley does something a certain way, that’s the way it’s supposed to be done, right?
For real.

Do you still see Darrell around?
Yeah, I see him at random things. I just saw him at the trade show, and I see him at contests and stuff. We’re cool. There’s no weird beef or anything. It’s just high fives and then we do our own thing.

What is the greatest invention America has given the world?
Well, I got to go with the skateboard, man.

The worst?
The atom bomb. I’m a peace-loving hippie skater.

Greatest invention Germany has given the world?
They did invent the automobile.

Worst?
World War II.

Words to live by?
To the max.

All right, that’s all I got.
Don’t I get to do my shout outs?

Okay, do your shout outs.
Thanks to Matt Newton, Jasin Phares, my parents of course. That’s it.
>Why go faster?
It just makes it more fun. I don’t know. It just feels better-landing a kickflip going fast versus just doing one going all slow. It’s just a cheap thrill basically. I just always thought that was the way it was supposed to be done. I was real psyched on Barley when I was a kid and he seemed to always go fast, so I figured that was how you did it.

If Barley does something a certain way, that’s the way it’s supposed to be done, right?
For real.

Do you still see Darrell around?
Yeah, I see him at random things. I just saw him at the trade show, and I see him at contests and stuff. We’re cool. There’s no weird beef or anything. It’s just high fives and then we do our own thing.

What is the greatest invention America has given the world?
Well, I got to go with the skateboard, man.

The worst?
The atom bomb. I’m a peace-loving hippie skater.

Greatest invention Germany has given the world?
They did invent the automobile.

Worst?
World War II.

Words to live by?
To the max.

All right, that’s all I got.
Don’t I get to do my shout outs?

Okay, do your shout outs.
Thanks to Matt Newton, Jasin Phares, my parents of course. That’s it.