newsHIT: Torey Pudwill & The Red Bull Skate Space

Words by Blair Alley

Red Bull and Torey Pudwill are coming together on a big project this fall. The Red Bull Skate Space will be a permanent skateable art sculpture placed in one of Seattle, Washington’s public parks. The team tapped veteran sculptor CJ Rench for the project, so we got both Torey and CJ on the phone to get the scoop on what could be a groundbreaking precedent in public art and skateboarding’s perception to a major city.

Torey Pudwill:

Kickflip backside lipslide. Photos: O’MEALLY

What's your personal history with Seattle, have you skated there a lot?
I went to Seattle once back in 2005 on the DVS Skate More tour. We skated there for a couple days but it was kind of gloomy. So I really didn't have too much experience being in Seattle until I just went back recently and it’s great. That city definitely has potential. It has a lot of art around the city so it’s great just to hang out there. There are awesome local skaters and a ton of amazing skateparks. Good coffee shops, a bunch of weird crazy people, you know it’s cool.

Do you know what the sculpture is going to look like?
I have a rough look of it in my mind from the last time [CJ Rench and I] met. We made a little prototype of it, like a miniature version out of wood. From there he's going to get to work. I know what it’s going to look like, but at the same time I don't because it’s going to be so gigantic and so mind-blowing to be possible to skate, it’s just going to be so sick.

How much input did you have on the design?
I had 100-percent input on it. CJ is the artist so he's the guy that came up with the main idea, I'm the skater so I’m the guy that came up with how this is going to be skateable, so from there we kind of worked it out. We made it so it’s a skateable art piece and working with CJ on that is easy because we can relate. He's been an extreme snowboarder so back in the day he’s just gotten to ride. Anything I was saying, he was listening to and anything he was saying, I was learning about and from there the only way this was going to get done was if we worked together, so between the two of us, we got our final idea. It wouldn’t have been possible without my input.

When is the shoot going down, late October?
Yeah I think October 26 is supposed to be the actual release date, but we're just going to pray for the best weather and all that. Late October this thing is going to be ready to go and ready to skate.

“I know what it’s going to look like, but at the same time I don't because it’s going to be so gigantic and so mind-blowing to be possible to skate, it’s just going to be so sick.”—Torey Pudwill

Backside tailslide kickflip out. Photos: O’MEALLY

What's the shoot going to be all about? Are you inviting other skaters to come skate it with you or are you going to film a whole video part on it or what's the plan?
I’m going to have a full day to skate this thing by myself so I got first dibs you know (laughs). Make sure I can do all the tricks I can do on it first before everyone else comes in to kill it. It’s not going to be easy to skate, it’s not going to be something you’re going to go and say “Oh this is perfect to skate, let’s film the hardest trick in the world on it.” This is going to be something you really have to put in work on. This is something that's going to be there for years and years so you can't have everything go down on it the first weekend of its release. Over years people will be coming out to film on this thing. After I get my time to shine, a bunch of people from Redbull, a bunch of homies I skate with, we're going to invite them to come out and we're going to have a big session, you know make a whole montage out of it. Then we’ll let the town just have it and it's a done deal.

Do you think this will change the way normal people look at skateboarding when they see this art sculpture being skated in a public space?
I would hope it would bring the norms and skaters together so they can see what we do and relate to skateboarding as an artform and not just as an athletic extreme sport. It’s just the way you put your mind to it, but at the same time I don't want them to be bummed on skateboarding because it’s going to be such a nice sculpture. A lot of people are going to be attracted to it and come to hang out on the bench, or just have their kids run around and play on it like a jungle gym. I don't want them to fight with the skateboarders on whose turn it is to use the art. It’s not a skatepark, so a lot of people might be confused like, “What are these kids doing skating this thing?” But the purpose of it is that it’s legal to skate and its designed to skate.

I gotta ask, when is the Plan B video coming out?
We were ready this year, but with everyone being busy and all the contests going on and just a lot of other things coming up, it really threw a wrench in our program. Just pushing it back a couple more months will give us what we need and the video will be out 2014, first thing.

Nice, looking forward to that.
Yeah I’m stoked because everyone is working hard. Danny Way and Colin are doing their thing on the ramp. I haven't gotten to experience that yet so that's going to be shocking. It’s going to be a big thing for everybody. I’m filming my ass off for this because this is going to be the biggest video I’ll ever have the chance to be a part of.

CJ Rench:

Artist CJ Rench. Photo: Aaron Rogosin / Red Bull Content Pool

How did you get involved with this whole project with Redbull and Torey?
The whole thing was done in a typical public art rigmarole where they send out a request for qualifications and you send in your profile. For me, when I first got the phone call, I was super stoked on it because coming from an action sports background I really had a good idea what they wanted to do and sports and art together is just a dream.

When it came time to design it, what did you draw inspiration from?
I think I submitted about five or seven designs to Torey and Red Bull and was just trying to find something that flows, something that would be skateable that made sense. What makes it really cool is the whole park is all designed with flow in mind, circular elements on the sidewalk and everything. So when we went up to the site after we already talked about this piece, it was just amazing how well everything was put together.

Have you built any skateable sculptures before this?
No, you know everyone always asks me what we can do to make sure it’s not climbed on or tagged and everything else, and then you have Redbull (laughs) say let’s make it skateable, we want people climbing on it and skating on it. So it’s super cool in that aspect.

How is Seattle going to work as a host city? Is this one of the most open-minded cities out there to work with?
To put this in Seattle is just a perfect situation because they already embrace public art. They’re still having trouble in different pockets with the skateboarders or they think it's the skateboarders, and to break down those barriers, Seattle is perfect. The two things together is just going to start a whole new movement in public art. When we were up there talking to the people in the park, they weren’t too excited about bringing that type of person into the park that a lot of the problems stem from. When we started talking about the Redbull Skate Space and started telling them and showing them the pictures of the artwork we wanted to throw in there, those worries were gone. They were too stoked about the art and the potential there. If your kids don't skateboard then you’re not going to hang out at a skatepark, but you are going to want to check out the art, so it’s certainly more of a community skateable idea. They were all invested in the art in the park and having some kind of iconic work. I'm confident that it'll start a whole new movement for public art and open a ton of new windows for skateboarders and break down those silly stereotypical blames.

Were you pretty familiar with Torey's skateboarding before you got started in this project?
No, I've been focusing so much on my art lately that I haven't even been snowboarding much the last couple seasons. After finding out about the project I obviously went online and was watching all his videos. He and I just work really well together. It’s actually helped not to know that background because I didn't have any preconceived notion of what Torey Pudwill art should be. When he’s been here and we work together, it’s really helped because I’m throwing ideas from my side and he's changing ideas from his side and we'll come up in the middle and it’s just awesome.

Torey’s part in TWS’ Hallelujah

That was my next question, how much input does Torey have, but it sounds like he had quite a bit.
We had a basic concept and I had a bunch of laser cut wooden parts. We make our models out of wood and before he showed up I had a bunch of pieces cut and we just sat there. Torey was completely focused for six or seven hours putting this thing together; cutting, grinding, sanding, changing, and reorganizing it. When he left we were all just amazed on how much we got done in a day, it was rad.

As a skateboarding website, I gotta ask the obvious question, do you skate or have you ever skated?
Yeah, I used to skate a bunch as a kid but I haven't skated in like seven or eight years. As a kid I made my own half pipe at 15.

Well maybe you'll dust off your skateboard once the sculpture is up in Seattle.
Yeah it might happen, I wouldn't be surprised. I have a daughter and she's all fired up to get on a deck so you know you gotta go with your kid.

“I'm confident that it'll start a whole new movement for public art and open a ton of new windows for skateboarders and break down those silly stereotypical blames.”—CJ Rench

More info on the Red Bull Skate Space and artist CJ Rench.