I have all the time in the world for people who are passionate about what they do, people who make things happen. I came across Jason’s Instagram a while back having noticed his amazing pictures of New Jersey beaches, sunrises, sunsets and cute pups. I distinctly remember an exchange between us about the (not so) new Carhartt WIP store opening in NYC whereupon I wrote, at length, about how the store and brand would be perceived by a new consumer. It was one of those moments where I realised how much I enjoy critical writing which is super weird because I hated it at university. Anyway, we digress… Over the last year or so, Jason has been working on building a new skate park in his home town of Atlantic City, New Jersey. I’ve been following the progress and had him on my list of Top Ten People To Interview for TripAtTheBrain and sent him a few questions. Here’s what the homie had to say:
Name: Jason Forslund
Occupation: Counter guy at Hotrod Tattoo, ACNJ
Tell me about Skate AC. SKATE/AC is a community of advocates based in Atlantic City New Jersey, working to build the first Skatepark in Atlantic City. We support art and recreation in and around the AC Area. We began in the spring of 2011 with a simple idea – Why doesn’t Atlantic City NJ have a skatepark? We are a seaside resort town build on the moniker that we are “Americas Playground” yet the skate and surf community live unnoticed here. The tourism in AC is based on the casinos, not on the recreation.
What Inspired you? Growing up in South Jersey all I ever heard was “I can’t wait to leave here. I hate NJ. Atlantic City fucking sucks.” Although I can’t argue with someone else’s reasoning, I didn’t want to be one of those people. I figured if I’m going to set my roots here, I want to play an active role in my community… try and make it NOT suck. When I first moved off the mainland to the Island that Atlantic City is on (about 5 years ago) I started to form a relationship with the ocean and the people who live here… the tattoo shop I work at has deep roots in surfing/skating and the island lifestyle. Our owner has been spending her winters in Hawaii for the last 7 years. Baker (one of our tattooists) has been surfing his entire life and doesn’t miss a day when there are waves, winter included.
You’ve received a lot of support from the local community & received some press, has skateboarding always been big in Atlantic City? I grew up skating with my older brothers and the older kids in my community, but I fell off hard in high school. I was more into going to hardcore shows, rocking Nikes and the newest gear I could find. I always knew of kids who were putting in work skating but I don’t think the scene was ever bigger than a few dudes who were out there keeping it real. Since the Casinos took over AC in the late 70’s, its been really corporate around here. The boardwalk, and all the casino properties are patrolled hard and kept strictly off-limits to skateboarding/BMXing etc. You can find spots in the cut, but as you’ve probably heard, once you leave the main strip it starts to get pretty gnarly. After we introduced the concrete skatepark idea to the City, the amount of kids cruising the streets has exploded and those dudes who were out there putting in work took a lot of the younger kids under their wings through this Non-Profit called, R.A.D. When we started going hard with the skatepark idea, everyone was on board – from the kids who skate hard all day to the people who just cruise to the corner store on the long board. We have all gotten together and our community is as strong as it ever has been. We have started something that people really care about, something that serves the youth of our community. Skating promotes so many things, art, athleticism, creativity, community, pride in your town etc. We currently have nothing like that here now.
How did you get your ideas out there? I started out by writing emails to the CRDA (Casino Reinvestment Development Authority) – a state-run agency that was constructed to revitalize Atlantic City using tax money that the Casinos pay. For decades that money has been leaving AC to projects all over New Jersey. In 2008 Governor Chris Christy promised to bring back AC to its heyday since the recession really hit us hard, that’s when the CRDA took over all tourism and zoning. They were putting feelers out in all the local papers asking for locals to give suggestions on projects they should undertake. My first thought was “a skatepark”. The first couple emails I sent went unnoticed and I never heard anything back. Unfamiliar with the public process, I was just like “ok well maybe I’ll make a Facebook account and see if people will get behind it”. In the first week I got over 1,000 likes and people were hyped. The Press of Atlantic City (our local paper) reached out to our Facebook page and wanted to do a story on what we were trying to accomplish. Once that story came out it got crazy. The support started flooding in and the media was eating it up. I starting attending the CRDA’s monthly board meetings. At first I was just going to see what was up and get a feel for how they operate and what they wanted to see and hear in potential projects. After a few meetings, I wrote up a small business plan and presented it to the board at the public comment session of their meeting. A couple of months went by and they called me into their office to discuss taking the idea to the next step. I’ve been working with them as a civilian for a year this past February.
You’ve mentioned before that you surf all year round. Even during the winter? That shit cray! I come from a family of skiers and snowboarders so they started me young. Watching Baker put on the full suit and hit the ocean even in the dead of winter had an appeal to me similar to snowboarding. When you hit the snow you dress for it, same with winter surfing. You wear the full suit, booties, gloves and your warm even in the coldest conditions. The winter of 2010 was my first introduction to winter surfing and after months of getting my ass kicked, I fell in love with it. I started to see my area differently because my perspective changed. All of a sudden the ocean I would only enjoy in the summer became apart of my daily life and everything else just seemed to fall into place. The more I was surfing, the more I would choose to ride my skateboard down the boardwalk to work, the more I started to skate and surf the closer I felt to being really alive. I started taking surfing seriously 3 years ago and I haven’t missed a day. Skating and surfing are apart of my daily routine.
What Made You Start? The guys I worked with at the tattoo shop surfed year round. Everyone who got tattooed at the shop surfed and took it seriously. One day I was just like…. man I am missing out. I got a hand me down wet suit, some shitty torn up booties and gloves and the biggest goofiest board ever and paddled out with them. They didn’t teach me anything, it was a “sink or swim” mentality. As I started to figure it out the community here was so welcoming and cool that it felt like I had done it my whole life.
Name some of your favourite skaters and surfers. Skaters: Daewon Song, Jamie Thomas. Surfers: Joel Tudor, Harrison Roach, Dane Reynolds.
How has Super Storm Sandy affected your project? Contrary to the mainstream media reports, AC was basically spared from the massive devastation that Sandy caused to most of the Jersey Shore. So it hasn’t really affected this project at all.
You posted pics of the aftermath, describe those. All residents of the barrier islands were ordered to evacuate. My friends who live on the island (also avid surfers) all had the same mindset as me – “Hell no, I’m stayin!” I live for these kind of things. I also live on the second floor of a building so I wasn’t worried about flooding. We were all following the storm pretty closely – looking at the surf reports, looking at the wind charts, keeping a close eye on the buoys. I personally didn’t think it was going to be bad enough to leave my home. We stayed through the storm. We were without power for 7 days and without heat or hot water for 10. Needless to say it was pretty intense. Sounds shitty but I loved that week. No one was around, no work, no cell phones, no TV, no computeR. It felt very surreal. A lot of people had their lives changed forever so I don’t want to play it down but like I said, we got lucky.
You rescued a dog! Sandy!!! 8 days after the storm had pushed through I was walking up a jetty near the inlet of Atlantic City. It was raining, the seas were still very angry and there weren’t many people on the island. As I got closer to the water I saw this little lump of fur wedged between a couple of rocks on the jetty. I said “HEY” and she sprung up and ran toward me and literally jumped into my arms. I brought her back to the car where my other pit bull, Luna, was sitting waiting for me to come back. Driving her home I was like “well…guess I just got another dog!” We took her to the local humane society because she was covered with large bruises and open sores. It took about 5 months but she is back to being totally healthy and she fits perfectly in our family.
What’s next for Skate AC? Last month, a year after the idea for a skatepark was introduced, we received approval. As of now we are just looking for the best location so we can award the contract for design/build then we can get started. We hope to be up and running by fall of 2013.
What would you say to the youngin’s out there trying to do their thing/something constructive but don’t know where to start? I’d say pay attention. If you want to do something, don’t wait for someone else to make a move for you. I know so many people who just wait for things to fall in their lap but that’s the rule not the exception… if you want something, find out how someone else did it and make it work for you.
Favourite snack? Ice Cream.
Favourite song to dance to in the shower? Something from the Mo-town era or something I can headband to.
what do you do when you’re not building skate parks, skating, surfing or looking after puppies? I collect tattoos.
Anything else that you’d like to add? Thanks for giving me the chance to speak with you Niesh, you’re a fly ass bad bitch.
Ah, ice cream. I back that.
If you’re interested in following Jason’s insanely cool project, clickety click right cheeeya and support your Local 13!
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Skate-AC/162787490480558