Frank Gerwer: People I've Known
Gerwer is one of skateboarding’s most colorful characters and he sure as hell doesn’t disappoint while dishing on the homies who have crossed his path over the years—from the Aug 2020 issue of the mag.
Peter and I have sat in the van together for so long, we have developed our own language. Like I’ll point and go, “Ip ip ip ip ip sturg!” which means, “Can you grab my backpack?” And he might reply, “Erp erp shworp,” which means, “I got it.” So, Peter, if you read this “Ag ag larg gimbal bippkin shworp.”
I was sitting next to him in the van on a Firm trip. He looked over at me and started scream-speaking with candy in his mouth. “WOULD YOU LIKE SOME FINNISH CANDIES?!” he barked, bits of candy hitting me in the face like shrapnel. Lance was driving. I saw him turn his head back and grin. At that point Jani handed me a small, puck-like candy. As soon as it hit my tongue my face felt like it was going to turn inside out. I spit it on the floor and looked at him with intense disgust. He burst out laughing, “EVERYBODY HATES THESE CANDIES. I GAVE ONE TO LANCE, TOO!”
I was at Tampa in the back parking lot sitting by myself next to a cooler of beer. Nate Sherwood walked up. He flashed me his ID and said, “I’m 21. Can I get a beer?” So like a proper doorman I took his ID, gave it a proper check, looked him up and down, handed it back and was like, “Sure.” I’d never ID’d anybody in a parking lot before, but I’m glad the first time was Nate Sherwood.
He gave the greatest speech at the last dinner of Beauty and the Beast. In general, he gives a great dinner speech—one of skateboarding’s finest orators. He’s also responsible for the noseslide to crooked grind, a ledge-dancing staple. And my apartment building where I am now? He got me in there, so thanks for that, too, Sammy.
Dave came home from the bar with a football and a black eye, both of which he got from a gentleman with the nickname Vietnam Tom.
Every child’s dream is to jump a car, and at Red’s house in Oregon my dream came true. In addition to a gigantic bowl and acres of trails, Red’s place also feature a massive dirt jump which his ’86 Ford Ranger had been known to sail over. “As soon as you hit the ground, stomp on the brakes hard because there’s a cliff just past the landing,” Red explained calmly. This was the only training I received. Next thing you know I’m barreling down the driveway, into the dirt, off the jump and into the heavens. The front wheels left the ground, then silence, then the stark realization—This is gonna suck. The impact of the landing shook my teeth. Oh yeah—cliff! Both feet on the brake and I miraculously slid to a halt. The truck and I are still not right from that.
We were roommates for about a year. He was always very annoying. Once, after annoying me all day with his antics, I went to sleep only to have him annoying me in my dreams. But this time I thought, Oh, wait a sec. I stopped, turned and punched his lights out. I woke up immediately feeling so good. But like I said, only in my dreams.
To say he was a quiet dude is an understatement. On his first trip we accidentally left him at the gas station. This was before cell phones. It took us about 40 minutes to get back to him and when we did he didn’t say a word. He just opened the van and got back in. We drove eight or nine more hours to some park, which he got out and instantly annihilated. That was my introduction to Pete.
She’s the reason I play the drums. We were sitting in the living room. Elissa had her guitar, looked at me and announced, “Okay, you’re the drummer.” I called up Trixie and got a pedal, and that’s how I became a drummer.
We went on a road trip to Montana with him. At the end he left his board in the van. I grabbed it. Randy, if you need your board back I have it. You’re going to have to pay shipping, though. In addition to being the last mongo pro street skater, he’s one of the funniest people on the planet.
I got to cut his dreads off. He was so bummed. I sure wasn’t. I wore them like trophies—as a mustache, putting them on my eyebrows, even jamming them into my own hair—totally irie. I miss skating with Nate. He had great 360 flips. I do not miss those dreads, however.
We got out of the van on a trip to swim in a river. Gabe found a little rapids section—it wasn’t too crazy but at the end it sucked you under and then spit you out like ten feet downstream. We all had a go and then it was Robbie’s turn. He took the rapids fine but then at the end, nothing but a shoe popped up. Seconds later he was in the middle of the river, panicking, struggling to swim to the other side. He barely made it. Now it was time to leave but Robbie didn’t want to swim back over. “Can’t I just walk around?” he yelled. We looked at each other. “It’s a river!” Pete and I yelled back. “Nah, I’ll walk around,” he repeated, not getting it. “Robbie, it’s a river!” we yelled again. After a short debate, Pete swam over and helped him back. Robbie may be great in empty pools, but definitely don’t add water. Not the strongest swimmer.
He called me one day and asked if I wanted to ride for Forties. Fuck yeah. He then told me I’d even get a paycheck, but that I could only spend it on beer. And I sure did! Thanks, Tommy.
At Geoff’s Skater of the Year party I threw my arm around him and said, “Hey! I’m coming for your job!” I may have been drinking. Not long after that we were skating the Bernal Heights 16 rail, the one from the first Bust or Bail. By “we” I mean, Arto and Geoff were skating it. While I was goofing around, Geoff did a few flatground tricks and casually cruised towards the rail. Boom! He lipslid it first go, riding away as if nothing happened. He walked back up the stairs and said, “Nah, I’m not gonna skate it.” It was then that I realized his definition of “not skating” is very different from mine.
I live close to where the Skater of the Year party is thrown. I walked over to check out the scene when I ran into Raney, Rye and a few others of the crew. Long story short, Rye was not getting in—underage. So I was all, “I’ll take Rye back to my house and you guys can run amok.” Rye and I ate pasta and watched Sponsor Me on VHS. When he went home he forgot his jacket. I promptly ironed on a Spitfire patch over the existing logo… stole it basically. It fit so good it would’ve been a crime not to steal it.
The first time I met Corey was at the Alameda skatepark. He walked straight up to me and said, “Hey, Frank, people say I look like Dee Dee Ramone.” Then he just walked away. He was 13. I was probably 30.
He puked on a futon that was in my living room, folded it up and it notoriously became the Puke Taco. I was also there the day he became a US citizen, so some good history there.
When Dennis came into our lives he had led a sheltered existence, mostly skating in a barn in the Kansas countryside. He was also a German immigrant, and although he spoke English just fine, we liked to pretend that he couldn’t and would translate for him in ridiculous German accents. “Dennis! We are go for make EATING!” we’d tell him. Nate Jones and I used to tell him about these two skaters—Ducky Dunsworth and Gary Headlock. They were cousins. We’d tell Dennis all the amazing tricks Ducky and Gary had performed. We’d tell him Headlock did a back 360 to overcrook nosegrind down a nine-stair rail. You could see the wheels in his head spinning as he tried to picture it. “I need to see the footage!” he’d demand. “Not everybody films everything, Dennis,” we’d explain. Soon enough he realized we were lying. ‘Til this day he still doesn’t believe a word I say. I stopped lying to him years ago but he never believes me. “Bullshit!” he always replies.
We were in China for Skate Rock. One morning Omar and I went to a local park, like a regular park with people walking and doing Tai chi. Omar spotted this old man playing with a top—not a normal top, this thing was a foot high and made of steel. You had to whip it to keep it going. Omar’s face just lit up. He ran over to the dude and the next thing you know he’s getting a turn. His first try was insane—whipping at the ground, missing the top altogether, then flinging the thing into the air. There was a knack to it and soon enough he got that thing whizzing around at top speed. It was humming! The old guy was so stoked. They were both chasing it around the park like two little kids. It was hard to pry him away. “That’s what we need in the States,” he remarked as we walked back to the hotel, “Those things calm you down.” There was nothing calm about what I’d just witnessed. Then again, who knows what’s calming for Omar.
While on Skate Rock in Louisiana we started the day at the Daiquiri Factory, where we got 16 different flavors and doubled up on a few of our favorites. This was referred to as “riot juice.” There was a tattoo machine in the van. “Me first!” I yelled. I knew Richie was good with the machine having had prior experience in China so I asked him to do mine. I was comfortable with this. For his I asked Neck Face to write “Skate Rock and Destroy” which I would copy permanently onto his skin. Riot juice aside, I am dyslexic, so unfortunately he got “Skate Rock and Destory.” Sorry, Richie. End destory.
The first person I saw camo-net a van. It not only shaded us from the elements, it helped hide us from the cops. Greatest TM of all time.
I saw him jump through a plate-glass window. He also almost bit off my finger in a house fight. Shortly after he was thrown out of the house. Not the best roommate, but we shall never forget him.
Al and I were jamming around on dirt bikes at Red’s. The trail got a little hectic as it wrapped around the side of a mountain and then all of a sudden, Al’s nowhere in sight. First he’s there, then he’s gone. Holy shit, this ain’t good! I zipped back to where he’d disappeared and looked over the cliff to find him okay, but hanging from a tree. His bike was lodged on a lower branch. We got a rope around it and lowered it eight feet to the ground. Next we wrestled it down the side of the mountain back to the lower trail. It fired back up and we were off, like nothing happened. On the ride back we formed White Hot, a Billy Joel tribute band. It never got off the ground.
It was my first trip with Ray. We pulled up to his house and beeped the horn. Before he came out, Salman said, “I wonder if Ray still has that fluorescent-green G&S bag?” Right on cue, Ray walked out and threw it in the van. “Hey, where are we staying tonight?” he asked. Nobody answered. ”Oh, okay, it’s one of those trips,” Ray said with a grin. The whole tour we slept in or on the van and ate at Burger King. They had a 99-cent special called the “Big King” which we referred to as “the meatloaf sandwich.” Ray taught me two good travel lessons on that trip—make a journal and bring a camera. Well, three lessons—always ask where you’ll be sleeping.
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