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editor's note:
Powell's Animal Chin Ramp

This ramp doesn't exist anymore. The footage below is from Powell Skateboards' "Search for Animal Chin" skate video. Now on with the show...

Working together with Powell Skateboards [805.964.1330] and Team Pain [407.695.8215], we bring you this special Animal Chin retrospective. While we typically feature skateparks that you can actually ride yourself, this humble tribute showcases some creative thinking in vert skating that still makes good sense today.

For those of you that don't know this infamous skate flick, "The Search for Animal Chin" is a classic skate video produced in 1987. The film stars skate legends like Mike McGill, Tommy Guerrero, Lance Mountain, Steve Caballero and Tony Hawk. In addition to street skating, various skits, etc., Animal Chin features a lot of big-vert skating, including a session on a very interesting big vert ramp that was supposedly built in Mexico, just for the movie. As old schooler Marc Hollander would say, that footage alone is "worth the price of admission."

In collaboration w/ Tim Payne [skater and owner of present day skatepark design/construction firm "Team Pain"], Powell assembled one of the most interesting vert ramps ever built. As the pics below will indicate, this ramp was way ahead of its time. Instead of the standard back-n-forth competition style vert scene, this ramp had a huge spine, and a mini-ramp built into the deck. Combined w/ the tremendous talents and imagination of Powell's pro team, this ramp inspired innumerous creative lines that transcended what we know as vert today.

While a vert ramp has its own natural "flow," connecting big vert opportunities [anything over 9 ft] to additional sub-vert features, not only creates more original lines, but it also gives non-vert skaters a means of approaching vert and using that terrain as they hone their skills. Let's face it, most skaters can't ride a 9+ ft vert ramp and never will. But when you dig deeper in the design process, there are solutions that give vert skaters a place to go off, without having to dedicate a lot of time and resources to a 12 footer that less than 5% of the skaters can ride!

We get reports all the time from skateparks that have recently ditched their big vert for other options. Central skatepark in FL tore down their 12 ft vert ramp, converting it into a vert wall to kicker combo. We talked to them for this review and they said they would have liked to have kept it, but it was "only ridden by about four dudes a week." At that rate, skateparks can't opt to support the vert scene, and that leads to fewer and fewer opportunities for big vert.

Tying this back into the Animal Chin ramp, we think the solution lies in the creative use of vert terrain, and not necessarily traditional big vert ramps. Take SkateLab in CA, for instance. No big vert, but they do have a 6 1/2 to 8 1/2 ft bowl set up that offers some "vert lines", without alienating the majority of that parks' non-vert riders. Then you have Skater Island in RI. They *do* have a 12 ft vert ramp, but they also have an extremely creative snake run w/ vert sections complete w/ pool coping. For an outdoor concrete example, witness the glory of the big bowls at Vancouver's Hastings skatepark. Just like the Animal Chin ramp, these structures combine vert elements w/ spines and other features that make sense in a world where most skaters look at vert and fail to make a connection.

While the sheer size of the Animal Chin ramp makes it a slightly imperfect example of a way to "bring vert to the people," it's those creative lines that the ramp facilitates that illustrate what vert skating could be doing today. To their credit, Powell and Tim Payne's creation had the right idea and showed amazing progression for a 1987 feature! Perhaps with more thought to creative use of vert, vert skating will find a way to stay accessible in today's increasingly tech-tech world of wood-pushing.

If vert skating is going to survive, you know it's gonna have to happen in skateparks. We salute vert riders and the grand tradition of vert skating, with a recommendation to skatepark owners and designers to find creative solutions to incorporate vert lines into tomorrow's parks, even if that under-utilized big vert monster isn't an option.

...scroll down for pics

[ click pix to enlarge ]

^ Cover art from
"The Search for
Animal Chin
." This
video is still
available in stores

^ Tim Payne himself
[Photo: Grant Brittain]

^ Mike McGill
munching miles
of sky [Photo:
Grant Brittain]

^ Another look at
Tim mid-session
[Photo: Grant Brittain]

^ You're looking at just
1/2 of this beauty...
[Photo: Dan Bourqui]

Master with an animated
look at some serious
flow that traditional vert
ignores - 660k [Footage
used w/ permission
from Powell Skateboards]

^ANIMATED: Doubles
session on the spine
- 332k [Footage used
w/ permission from
Powell Skateboards]

^ANIMATED: Spine's-eye
view of a 5050
transfer by Caballero
- 204k [Footage used w/
permission from Powell

^ Seen here in skeletal form,
the Animal Chin ramp during
the construction phase
[Photo: Dan Bourqui]

^ Here's a screen shot from
Tony Hawk's PRO SKATER 2 - taken
from a secret area on the "Heaven"
level. This is the same angle
as one of the animated clips
above... The game refers to this
ramp as the "Enema Chen" ramp.
[Submitted by "The Leader of the

^ Another PRO SKATER 2 image - this
time looking down the length of the
ramp. True to the original, the "channel"
thru the ramp [left] will appear if you've got
the right moves. [Submitted by "The Leader
of the Honks"

[ click pix to enlarge ]

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