Living on the ledge

Nick Gies Nick Gies

Skaters get a push from a local filmmaker

By Benjamin Dale

Nick Gies

Nick Gies

Architecture is the art of controlling where people walk. In the design of buildings, roads and bridges, function is primary while form is secondary. Most of us are content to politely stay in our lane, keep off the grass and otherwise remain within the boundaries of architecture — to think inside the box.

Some people refuse to be contained.

A skateboarder finds his freedom of expression in the exploitation of architectural surfaces. A skateboarder sees a ledge, rail or staircase as an artist sees a blank canvas — as something that can be improved and made beautiful and exciting from the accent of his effort and talent.

While it can be said that skateboarding is a sport, even an extreme sport because of the sheer athleticism and endurance its participants require to weather the broken bones and run-ins with the law that are a virtual assurance, straightforward sports find their raison d’être in the acts of cooperation and competition. Skateboarding is more individualistic.
Skating is all about tricks. It’s about aesthetics. It’s about nailing that backside tail-slide with finesse and style. In this way, skating is more akin to an art — much like dance or acting — where the human form is utilized for creative expression. Like dance and acting, skateboarding can be immortalized via the technology of motion pictures. So it seems only natural that along with skating comes the skate video.

Making skate videos is a full-time job for Nick Gies, who also co-owns his own business, One Love Skate Shop on the corner of Stroop Road and Wilmington Pike in Kettering. He was a part of the original crew that had sprung up in the ‘90s to put Dayton on the national skateboarding radar — skating with such greats as Mark Heintzman, John Buchanan, Mike Hayes and the now legendary skater celebrity Rob Dyrdek.

Gies is set to release Fumunda Forever on July 16, his 12th skate video since he began to dabble in the medium in 1991. He’s spent the past year editing, staying up late into the night to get the sounds, music and timing just right. For Gies, the skate video isn’t only about capturing the ephemeral kick-flips and grinds.

“I’m a perfectionist,” said Gies. “I want the video to be a piece of art. I don’t want to look at it later and say ‘I could have done better.’”

I meet up with him at his shop on a weekday at 3 p.m. Gies has just woken up, having spent the entire night in his studio putting the finishing touches on Fumunda Forever. He’s wearing grey sunglasses to conceal the bags under his eyes.

The time-consuming part of making the perfect skate video lies in what Gies refers to as “spicing it up.”

“Editing it so the wheels hit when the beat drops, getting as much of a skater’s personality, their body language and style, is what makes the difference,” Gies said.

Two younger-looking skaters arrive at the shop  —  they are Gies’ friends and part of the One Love Skate Shop Team. They’re going downtown. I ask if I might tag along. Gies accepts.

The four of us — Scott, Little Cory, Gies and myself — pack it up and form a three-car caravan to Nick’s house in Walnut Hills. On the way the gang stops to refuel at a gas station — skater fuel — cigarettes and Vita-Coco, the only drink with more potassium than a banana. It’s great for hangovers.

Gies’ house is a dream bachelor pad — framed movie posters plaster the walls and the whole place is Asian-inspired and has a very Zen feel. It reminds me of Chevy Chase’s house from Caddyshack. There’s even a hot tub. Gies has three cats; Jasmine, LBK (little black kitty) and Jack Burton — named after Kurt Russell’s character in Big Trouble in Little China, Gies’ favorite movie. The skaters all refer to Gies by his nickname, another Big Trouble reference — Lo Pan.

Nick collects his skateboard and camera, changes his shoes, and we depart for Stiver’s School for the Arts. Stiver’s has a sprawling parking lot with rails, ledges and curbs. It’s a veritable skater’s paradise except for one thing — the school is one step ahead of them.

They’ve installed skate-stoppers — little pieces of metal bolted into the architecture with cement screws to destroy the smooth surface in hopes of discouraging skaters from grinding on it. No matter. The skaters just find another ledge without the stoppers, wax it and proceed. The skate-stoppers are more of an eyesore than the wax anyway.

The nearby Bomberger Teen Center has gone a step further — they’ve installed rails on their rails creating a grotesque staircase that almost looks like modern art. I wondered if it was a Stiver’s school project.

Nothing can stop the skaters. Here they are free. Here they sketch their sinewy patterns on their canvas of cement.

But the fun suckers interrupt — someone from the school, out to enforce law and order, tells us to scram. It’s now illegal to skateboard in downtown Dayton. We’re all silent, awaiting threats that never come.

The skaters pack it up, but not for the day. We head for the warehouses on Front Street, hoping to find conditions more favorable to the endeavor.

Within five minutes a cop drives up and spikes all of our blood pressures. He doesn’t even glance at us. He’s just passing by. Bigger fish to fry.

Reach DCP freelance writer and
editorial intern Benjamin Dale

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