Skateboarding and engineering. Two passions. One career.
September 29, 2016
September 29, 2016
Twists and turns are a part of every skateboarder’s life. Andy Stone shares his journey from skateboard pro to skate park design professional.
When I was 12, on a family trip to the beach, I kept going back to the same surf shop along the boardwalk in Ocean City, Maryland, eyeing the “big” skateboard that was embellished with a skull/vulture-type graphic. Ever since the day I finally bought it—my first skateboard—I’ve had an innate passion for the sport of skateboarding. Throughout my adolescence, I spent my free time learning the ropes of skateboarding, riding around my neighborhood, skating in school yards, and meeting other like-minded people.
In the late 1980s, skateboarding was counter-culture. It wasn’t popular and it wasn’t big business like it is today. You had to really WANT to be a skater. I think that’s the main reason why the friendships I made riding skateboards are the strongest friendships I have to this day.
One of the skateboarders I met in my early years of corporate sponsorship was Kanten Russell, who was a leader in Stantec’s Action Sports team and a skate park designer. At the time, we were both just teenagers on opposite sides of the country. Later, we ended up being sponsored by the same company and appeared our first printed ad together, eventually turning pro about the same time in the early 1990s.
Before I knew it, I was traveling the world as a professional skateboarder. Between 1993 and 1999, I crisscrossed the United States and taught skate camps and performed demonstrations in Japan, Holland, Hungary, Germany, Austria, France, and Columbia. By the late ’90s, skateboarding was gaining some national media attention through ESPN’s X Games, and I was gaining in years. Unless your career goes absolutely perfect, by your late 20s you can already be on the downward slide.
And my skateboarding career didn’t go perfectly.
Professional skateboarding came to a halt before I was 30 and I returned to school to study civil engineering at George Mason University (GMU) in Virginia. Computer Aided Design (CAD) was gaining in popularity and accessibility. I really took a liking to my AutoCAD courses while learning multiple aspects of civil, environmental, and land development engineering. It was time to start my second career.
While attending GMU, I worked full time with a local engineering firm, gaining invaluable experience in drainage and site development. In my limited spare time, I prepared construction drawings for a local skate park design company that sent out plans for DIY skateboard ramps. This was my first experience combining my skateboard passion with my newfound love of site design. By the time I graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in civil, environmental, and infrastructure engineering, I had a number of land development projects under my belt, including multiple residential and municipal site plans, a premier 27-hole golf course design, and a $10 million Asian animal exhibit at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. My senior year, I was actually designing a research building site plan for the same university I was attending.
As the land development software packages improved along with my site design experience, I began consulting for a skate park design firm performing fine grading, drainage, and earthwork calculations along with 3D modeling, control files, and other tasks necessary to prepare a set of construction documents for skate park projects. I’ve been fortunate enough to have worked on over 50 skate park and action sports design projects.
We can prepare a skate park model in three dimensions and manipulate its position on the site to balance earthwork, generate export for or import dirt from a different project. I love the flexibility to give our clients what they need in addition the visual element of 3D models and rendering.
And the future is exciting. Now we’re looking at truly integrating skate parks into their surroundings. How can we capture storm water so that it’s more environmentally friendly? How can we make these huge slabs of concrete sustainable?
Those questions inspire me as an engineer. (And even the counter-culture skateboarder in me thinks they’re cool too.)
When I joined Stantec in 2014, I never expected that my background as a professional skateboarder and civil engineer would serve our Action Sports clients so well. And the fact that I am not the only skateboarding design professional here at Stantec truly shows that we design with community in mind. Who better to design skate parks than skateboarders?
Now when I call Kanten to discuss an action sports project, it feels that I’ve come full-circle. Sure, I feel a little nostalgic. I flash back to the VHS video of us skateboarding as teenagers, looking for our big break, and then I think about how we’re designing skate parks for the next generation. To have a career that blends two of my passions makes it easy to come to work.