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Pat Wachter - Skate Biz
by Pat Wachter

disclaimer: this interview was conducted for a book titled, "a period of skating" by eric felts which never made it to the printing stage. this effort was about eric's experiences in skating from 1968 until the 1990's. he knew patrick had been involved with getaway and flying wheels skateparks and often relied on him as a resource.

I consider myself a very lucky person. There were plenty of skaters in Alabama back in '77 with better riding skills than I, it just so happened that I possessed the business skills to make a living from riding a skateboard. Pro skater!? Big deal. It was just a way to have fun while getting paid.

I started skating on my little sisters board as something to do after school. I liked it. The surfing feeling. My dad started making boards in his workshop for me and my friends. I remember the nice beveled edges he put on them. I worked at the local skateshop and rode one of my dad's boards. The owner wasn't real thrilled about it so that's when I started getting free equipment.

In '76 I started working for Southeastern Distributors. Warehouse man, shipping and reveiving, janitor, whatever had to be done, but my favorite part was the product testing. Every new board, wheels, trucks, etc… even all of those crazy devices that were coming out then had to be tested. They even had one of those motorized boards for the employees. It was a cool place to work I learned the skateboard business there.

In '77 Wheel-A-Wave Skatepark was getting ready to open when the owners approached me to be there resident pro. I took the job and moved to Birmingham. It was a pretty lame park, no vertical. It was all Alabama had at the time but I was having fun and meeting new friends. I hung out with Mark Eddings and we are still close friends to this day. We got busted so many times by the owner for skating and drinking after the park was closed that I eventually had to turn my keys in. A model employee I wasn't.

Dave Norton, from Gadsden, was building Flying Wheels park. It was designed by Mike Williams, the Gullwing guy. I wanted that job and was lucky enough to get it. Now this was a park, plenty of vertical and a halfpipe that was the best at the time. It was perfect.

I was riding for RMI, one of those bandwagon companies just in it for the money, at the time. They had a good park board and they were nice people to be associated with. We sold a lot of those boards and of course I gave one to all of my friends. My friends always rode whatever company I was sponsored by. Go figure?

Dave Norton was the best guy to work for. He did crazy things like building a pyramid over the pool. He organized great contests. He let me do my thing. I could not ask for more.

Around this time I got sponsored by Sabre. Tim Marting had just invented the rock and roll move on a Sabre. (or the pics in the mags came out with him on one). It was all falling together. Sabre was a damn good board and they treated me very well.

The big news going around was the new park in Huntsville to be designed by Bill Underwood. Naturally, I applied along with a few guys that were more qualified for the job (name, recognition, big sponsors, etc…). I hated to leave Dave but I had to give it a try. Suprisingly enough, this movie company from New York hired me to be the resident pro at GAW. I was to come on immediately before the cement was poured to assist Bill and contractor Bob Mead.

The opportunity to work with Bill who I respected very much was exciting since I knew he would be bringing his Progressive team over from Atlanta for test riding. Of all the teams I've met, these guys were the friendliest but most of all they were goddamn FUN!

Bill designed one of the best parks ever. I was fortunate to learn from him and be part of it all. Bob Mead put it all together and he turned out to be one of the most humorous individuals I've ever met. He always had something going. Duane Bigelow did the cement. He's the best, ie Cherry Hill, Upland Combi Pool, etc… So, then, we had a park.

The owners of the park were not your typical skatepark owners. They were rigid. The day Tony Alva came to skate, the park was closed. Rain or something, I don't know. They didn't let him skate. I couldn't believe when I heard. The situation between management and their resident pro deteriorated and to make a long story short, I eventually got fired. I was too wild for them was the description I received sitting in the office of the movie producer on the day of my termination. And to make sure they didn't see my wild ass again, I was permanently banned from the park.

I got caught a couple of times and was told I would be arrested the next time I snuck in. I would not give up that easy

Back to Flying Wheels in Gadsden. Dave being the superguy he is hired me back. This time I got the bunk room at the back of the pro shop. Skate anytime and drink beer (after hours of course) while your doing it. It was a great place to work.

The new manager of GAW didn't know me so I went by a different name and skated the park. The skaters covered for me, always calling me by my alias and watching for the owner. It worked and I was riding the park again.

The crunch hit the skateboard industry next and I went down with the ship like many others in my position. And that's a quickie of my involvement with skating business in Alabama.

The skate adventures are a whole 'nother story. Maybe next time…