I first met Chris in 2008 when we both briefly attended Rowan University. We actually found each other looking for local people to ride with on The Come Up Message Board. The first time we were supposed to meet up Boon said it would have to be later in the evening, after football practice was over. Greatttt, I thought, this dude’s probably some weird jock who just kind of rides or something. I couldn’t have been more wrong. We became friends fast and about ten minutes later I watched him jump the furthest flat-to-flat street gap I’ve ever seen someone jump, no camera, no run ups, nothing. I actually thought he was kidding when he said he was about to do it. Fast forward twelve years and Boon and I have had some truly wild times on and off the bike, and I’m happy to be able to help him share the crazy lifestyle he lives with all of you today, the man is a true ape in every sense of the word.
So you’re probably a little less known than most of the other people I’ve interviewed on here, why don’t we start with the basics. Tell us your name, age, and a little about what you do.
[Big laugh] that may be a bit of an understatement, appreciate this though. If we’re trying to be official, my name is Chris Volkwine, but for all intents and purposes, I’m Boon or Baboon, 30 years old and I work for a company called Pivot Customs. We are a custom, design/build concrete skatepark builder.
We’re gonna get into building skateparks in a bit but first, let’s talk street riding. You wake up in the morning, planning to go out for a day of riding, what are you doing to get ready?
The last few years it’s kinda always different because I’m always in a different town and situation. If I’m trying to go on a mission I try to make it simple as possible; wake up, grab tools and water, and go wander. Most of the time though, I don’t really plan to ride street as much as I make the time to do it when my body and brain need it, and when that’s the case I just have to go. I usually have my bike in the truck, a lot of the time its driving home from work and just feel like I need to be on my bike or I happen to see a setup and end up just pedaling around aimlessly in my work gear, dirty as all hell, looking crazy.
Do you like to watch videos before you ride? If so do you have one in particular that always gets you siked?
Nah, not before riding, I’ve never really done that. I love videos but if I’m getting ready to ride, and then I sit on the couch for 40 minutes there’s no way I’m going anywhere. Even when I was young, me and homie would link up first thing in the morning/straight after school, ride all day, then go watch videos at his house. His pops worked for Frito-Lay so they were always geeked out on snacks.
You get to the first spot, out of the car what are you doing? Stretching? Trying to find a little warm up spot? Sending it right off the jump?
Usually nothing [laughs], I’m definitely a chiller until something sticks out at me. If it’s a session and we go a warmup kinda spot or something out of my wheelhouse I’ll probably drink some beers and wait till something comes my way. On the off chance something does get in my head though, especially something bigger or that I’m uncertain of, that’s kinda all I can pay attention to, that’s true throughout everything in my life for better or worse. If I see something I want to do I gotta just do it, cause the manual pad around the corner doesn’t exist until it’s done or I bow out. I might take a couple quick stretches/cracks to give myself a second to wrap my head around it but it’s pretty much just go.
If I’m solo I will have probably been pedaling for a while so I’m usually pretty ready to go when I stumble on something.
What is your preferred size crew to hit the streets with? Some people prefer riding alone, some people like every session to be like a jam, where do you fall on that spectrum?
I think they both have their time and place. I ride alone a lot. Sometimes it’s just that I’m trying to explore whatever new town I’m in and all my friends I work with skate so it’s a lot less likely for them to want to push in circles all day for probably no reason. We’ll do car sessions for sure, but pedaling is way more thorough for searching. We’re not ducking behind every building in town six deep in a big ass work truck just to look. Sometimes though, I kinda need to work through some shit. Whatever that is, I’m going to pedal around alone. Best I can describe it is, wherever I am in the world, if I’m on my bike by myself, I’m home and things are good. Pedaling around the streets alone, wherever it is, is just different than going to a park or set of trails. It’s just so simple. Nothing has any reason behind it, just doing for the sake of doing. On the other end I feed off peoples energy 100% so having a few homies around bullshitting, drinking beers will definitely have me at my best, riding wise.
Are you conscious of what you eat before/during/after riding?
No more than I am normally, maybe less so during or after even. I eat decently healthy usually despite the gut; generally no meat, maybe seafood if I’m somewhere its local/sustainable, dairy/bread/junk food mostly only if I’m eating out or on occasions. Even off the beer at the moment, whiskey and water almost exclusively. But if I’m riding with a crew and we stop at a pizza spot or go to the bar afterwards I’ll be first in line for the opportunity to break my healthy(ish) habits. I still love all the food I don’t really eat, I just can’t let myself go unchecked. I was up in the 340s before I left Jersey, I’d be back there in a few months if I ate everything all the time.
How long have you been off meat? Any particular reason for that?
On and off like 4 years, it’s really variable though. After a job ended in Oklahoma City I got jammed up and ended up living there for four months with barely any money. I figured out I could stretch money way further with vegetables rather than buying meat all the time. People always want to act like veggie/vegan is expensive but that’s ‘cause they’re eating fake chicken nuggets from whole foods and other bullshit processed foods. I ended up losing a bunch of weight and figured I’d keep it going. Was real tight on it for a while but now ehhh. I typically say I don’t usually eat meat, not that I’m vegetarian or whatever. I definitely feel better eating veggie or even vegan, but its more preference than convictions. If I wanted to eat something and told myself I can’t because I’m vegan, I’m just lying to myself.
In your opinion, what is the best temperature for outside sessions?
Hot but not oppressive, I’ll usually cut my one pair of jeans into shorts the first time it hits 80 for the year. That’s right about the perfect time. Right when shorts and hoodie seasons start to overlap is prime time too, but there’s is definitely something to be said for like mid 80s in the woods.
Hell yeah, shorts and hoodie season is tight. Say it’s freezing, like ice cold, are you heading to the indoor park or bundling up and hitting the streets regardless?
I used to be die hard growing up, like straight ride till you have to slide your hands off the ends of your bars cause you can’t open your hand type shit. Been a long time since I had that kinda dedication. Luckily I don’t really deal with that very much now cause in winter we’re usually working somewhere slightly above freezing, or I’m home in Salt Lake, skiing or riding downhill in the desert.
Do you prefer to pedal or drive from spot to spot? Which do you end up doing more often?
I miss the days of walking out the front door and pedaling all day, that’s the best shit. We’re usually not staying in town wherever we are so I’ll drive until I find the first thing I can almost classify as a spot and pedal from there.
What’s in your bag when you go out riding? Do you carry tools? Tubes? Wax?
Usually I have a tool wrap, pump, and a water jug in the car but I don’t carry a bag unless I’m in a city where I’m putting in miles… also beer if I’m with people.
Your bike setup has been pretty consistent for the last ten plus years, pegless, brakes, and hard gearing. What’s it like right now? Do you still rock a 22 inch top tube?
It’s funny, I actually put pegs on in January and they’re still there, it’s the longest I’ve ever had pegs on by far, usually they only last one session. It’s mostly cause they’re chrome [laughs], also I realized after I got them that I’d been riding like 20 years and never double pegged a quarter pipe. l think I might keep them on till I try a proper rail and then take ‘em off again. I snapped my cable in Abu Dhabi last month and by the time I got back I couldn’t go to the bike shop so I’m brakeless right now. But yeah, generally the setup has always been no pegs, brakes, super long frame, and tall gear ratio. Yeah, 22tt 14.85cs slammed, gearings 33-9 right now. Gotta get a new frame built soon, the current FBM is on its last leg after a few years.
In regards to your bike setup: 22 inch top tube and 14.85 back end is literally a limousine compared to most modern frames, why so long?
Well I’m a good bit bigger than your average BMX dude for sure, like 6’1 300 pounds. I know that’s not really that tall, you got probably 3 inches on me and don’t ride that long a frame. [Editors note: I’m 6’4 275lbs and ride a 21”] I’m all torso though, my legs are stupid short [laughs]. The way I think about it is your hips kinda center over your bottom bracket, so the distance from hip to shoulder relates to toptube length more than overall height? I feel like my weight is way far over the bars on anything shorter. And the longer back end has always just felt better. I don’t really do spins or anything, I feel like I have more control with that longer leverage point. I love watching people ride my bike, instant dive on the first hop, always. And the taller ratio…I just feel like I can push the pedals harder than I can spin them quickly if that makes sense.
You get a flat, are you patching ‘er up or putting in a fresh tube?
Patches for life, just retired a tube I got like 2 years ago from Shredd Bike Shop in Korea with like 7 or 8 patches in it.
Do you ever ride with headphones?
Nah, I’m barely capable of riding a bicycle with headphones in. Not being able to hear everything feels like driving with a foggy windshield. I’m weird about anything like that, even at work like I can’t wear safety glasses or gloves throws off my perception of things and I can’t get past it.
So tell us a little about your job building skateparks, how’d you get into that, how long have you been at it now, and how many different countries has it taken you to?
It’s pretty rad man, kinda what I always wanted to do but never thought it was an option, then I just kinda fell into it. I’ve been building shit to jump my bike off pretty much since day one. Always built trails, one of the things I miss most living like this is building trails. Other than that, FDR has always been a massive influence. Riding wise, nothing in the world flows quite the way a good DIY spot does and FDR is unequivocally the pinnacle of that. And as far as building, just knowing from a young age that that it was built by the community that uses it and that they’re taking that initiative and building it for themselves definitely made me not only want to do the same but realize I could.
Aside from that my uncles ran a concrete/masonry business that I worked for on and off from like 14 to 26. Seems like an obvious step, but bike riders don’t build concrete parks. I was never even allowed to help mix mud at FDR, so it was kinda a forgone conclusion.
I had done a few little pump track side jobs with some friends, but I was still working for my uncles till the end of 2016. I was working way too much and taking on too much responsibility and it hit me at a point that if didn’t leave now I never would. So I decided I was done with construction and fucked off to Salt Lake to live with my brother and ski. Ended up working at a bar and being a caretaker for special needs kids for like 6 months. Then i got a call from some dude asking if I could drop everything and get on a flight to Oklahoma the next day to build an asphalt pump track. A homie I had worked with back East was supposed to go but got broke off right before and he dropped my name, then another friend separately suggested me and they flew me out. Thanks Dave and Ray.
That job went well, (extracurriculars not included, small incident after work turned into some legal trouble resulting being stuck in OKC for 4 months) and it turned out the dudes running it had ties to Arc, the company that now owns Pivot, and ended up getting a few more jobs subbed to them. Did both asphalt and concrete sporadically for a while, then broke ties with those dudes and our crew started dealing directly with Arc. That kinda just snowballed into Pivot. I think its been about 4 years since the first job in OKC and the last two years have been nearly non-stop.
As far as travel, we did a job in China two years ago and two separate jobs in Abu Dhabi more recently, the UAE is building a lot of parks right now, pretty crazy. Feel like Korea counts too, I went straight there from the job in China, it was amazing, so many wild spots and awesome dudes.
Talking about FDR, you mean you tried to help those guys build down there and they wouldn’t let you help at all because you were a BMXer?
Yeah I guess now it’s a little different, I see Derek [Adams] on IG down there helping out on pour days a bunch, so I guess its mellower. But yeah, back in the day there was no way they’d let us help. Like there were several times where I’d show up to dudes working, go try to help and get turned way, definitely the only times I’d ever have a skateboarder tell me to go ride the park [laughs]. I guess the idea being if BMX can help then we may feel some ownership and come more or something? I’ve run into the same shit at trails in the past too though to be honest.
Out of all the parks you’ve built, in your opinion, what’s the wildest one?
I just saw a clip of Lil Wayne skating a park we built in Miami so that’s gotta count for something [laughs]. That park, Lot 11, is definitely a favorite. Its massive, like 45,000 square feet, right in Downtown Miami under i-95. We got a ton of licenses to tweak things and make changes as we needed to and the reception has been incredible. Place is always packed, people traveling to skate it, got a shout-out on a Nine Club episode etc. Miami has always had a big skate scene with no park and it’s awesome to have been part of giving them something worthwhile. Kanab, Utah was the first concrete park I worked on, so that definitely holds a special place. It’s a smaller park but there’s an asphalt pump track around the outside so blending the park features into the pump track was really fun and made for a really unique park. Also maybe the best bank to jersey barrier setup ever. Fort Smith, Arkansas gets a mention too, it was Pivot’s first official park and it came out super fun. We got a ton of freedom there too and it all came out awesome.
Do you enjoy riding parks that you’ve built (when you get to) or are you bothered by little imperfections and stuff?
I love it for sure, you spend the whole job planning out lines and looking at this and that, or sometimes you’re there long enough where you almost get removed from the fact you’re building a park and it’s just another job. Either way when you get a chance to ride it just pulls it all together and shits so cool honestly. It’s especially true if we kinda go out on a limb and riff on a designed feature, there is always that thought in the back of your to head that it could be a dud, so it’s always rad to be able to hit it and know it works right.
To the 2nd part of the question it’s usually kinda the opposite for me. I’m looking at everything under a microscope for so long that every little imperfection seems huge, then I ride it and it’s nothing.
I know you ride street and other parks while you’re out on jobs, out of all the places you’ve been, where has given you the most culture shock? China? Dubai?
China for sure, that place is wild. It’s absolutely another planet. UAE, Korea, and everywhere else I’ve been are different in their own way but, like, the kinds and amounts of different that you would expect. Both times in China have been fully surprising just how different things can be.
What’s it like riding street in places like that? Any crazy run ins with cops or security? I bet you get a lot of weird looks based on your size and appearance, let alone the fact that you’re flying over shit on your little bike.
Usually people are more curious than anything, BMX and just the way I look in general are really foreign to a lot of places. Not really anything too crazy with cops or security, (overseas at least) but I’ll never forget the look of confusion on this one officer at a train station in Seoul. He tried to stop me from getting on the train, (you’re supposed to only have a folding bike during certain hours) and I just kinda walked past him and got onto the train. As the doors closed I looked out and he was stood in the same spot, looking at me dumbfounded, like he never even considered the possibility that someone would just not stop.
Have you ever had to deal with any shady stuff building parks in foreign lands? I remember one time you mentioned in China they were filming you the whole time?
Ehh, like city streets wise everywhere has seemed really safe compared to a lot of the places we all grew up riding [Philly, Camden, etc]. I guess the first time I was in the UAE was a little sketch but in a different way. It was the height of the most recent Iran/US flare-up. It was pretty interesting to hear about from the other side. It was the whole thing of the US killing Iran’s like 2nd-in-command, then Iran attacked an American base and shot down a commercial plane. Donny said there were no casualties at the base and acted like the plane wasn’t shot down. So he, being the bigger man, backed off to de-escalate. However, everything I saw there reported 80+ american military dead, that the plane 100% was shot down (which is now agreed upon), and that if the US retaliated Iran would attack Dubai (this is the day before I’ supposed to fly out Dubai by the way), among other things. Over there, it seemed Iran made a statement and we listened. I wish I could say I knew, or even felt strongly about, who I believed to be lying, but honestly I really don’t know.
On a lighter note, yeah there is definitely a few hours of footage of me just existing on random Chinese people’s phones. Especially from the first time i was there, it was just a vacation planned around a friend’s wedding in a small mainland Chinese city. No bike, just wandering around the streets all day with my girlfriend at the time, lots of exposure to locals. It was hilarious, we’d be walking around and like groups of people, mainly girls in their early 20s, would push her out the way to take pictures with this big, bearded, curly-headed fuck. Then, every time, as homegirl was standing off to the side completely over it, one of them would break off, shove the camera in her face and take a picture like 8 inches from her nose. So funny. I also had a toddler run away from me back to his mom screaming mogwai, mogwai!!! Mogwai means monster….
I know you recently returned home from the UAE right in the middle of this Coronavirus crisis, what was it like traveling internationally during such strange times? Any extra hoops you had to jump through to get home?
Yeahhh, i got super lucky actually, my original flight went through London but European travel got shut down so that got canceled. Scrambled around and finally found one direct to JFK (NYC). I left a few hours before Abu Dhabi completely shut down. Then I had a 14 hour layover in JFK and my next flight had gotten canceled so I had to go out of the terminals to get all my bags and re-book. By then TSA shut down so I had to spend like 12 hours out in the entrance/check in area. I think four of my next flights got canceled after that. It ended up taking something like 45 hours to get home, only to be greeted by five thousand screaming Mormons gathered to greet returning missionaries…