An Interview with Park Builder Simon Smith

When I was interviewing the entire crew to update the website, some conversations became lengthier than needed for a bio. I wanted to share my conversation with Simon, and his unique perspective on this Hunger journey.  ~Christy Weezer

Simon Smith, Age 19, Skatepark Builder/Student

Son of Bart Smith and Christy Wiesenhahn- Owners of Hunger Skateparks.

When did you start skateboarding? (Long pause….) You know I honestly don’t know how to answer that question. As long as I can remember, I was skating with Dad.

What is your first park building memory? It was at Homewoods. I was 5 years old and a wheel barrow full of concrete fell on me and I was covered from my neck down. I remember yelling “I’m ok! I’m fine, keep going!” Dad threw me into the pond so I could wash off and come back to the pour.

 

Quick Fact: Simon was the first person to carve the steps at Homewoods.

How long have you been building parks? I guess Leadville, Colorado because that was the first time I was paid. I was in the 7th grade. I was Dad and Greg’s (Mize) helper. I remember the soil was all rock, so it was my job to make the pilot holes for the stakes. I was also the runner; I ran from the site to the container all day long getting tools and putting tools away. I learned some basic things at that job, like how to throw a handful of screws so they stay in a bundle and are easy to catch. I learned that the hard way.

You have a unique perspective. You were right with us on our journey, and learned from Dad but also with Dad. But it makes me wonder- what is this like for you? Was it hard? I’ve grown up around it and was nurtured by Dad to build skateparks. I learned the term Determined Fate in school, it’s like when a farmer’s kid becomes a farmer. Sometimes it doesn’t work out so well, and people aren’t happy with their life and work. But I happen to be really happy building skateparks. I like the building because it’s everything I like. I like business, talking to people and solving problems and running machines- I just like it all. It’s what I know.

 

What was your favorite feature you ever built or your favorite park build? The hole in New Castle. It’s like a full pipe and it turned out so good. It’s circular and beautiful. New Castle was my favorite park to build because of the Mayor and the community. Most of the community really liked us and were really happy to have us there, except the hardware store lady.

I needed stitches and the Mayor put me in his car and took me straight to a doctor he knew. I got stitched up fast, the Mayor paid the bill, and then I went back to work to do shotcrete. I love New Castle.

What is your favorite part of building skateparks? I love the dirt phase. It’s liking playing with Tonka trucks, but I get to drive the machines. Usually dirt work is just making things level, but in skatepark-building its different levels and organic shapes.

What aspect of the build do you want to get better at? I want to get better with reading plans and laying out a park on my own. And I want to learn more about shaping concrete. I like watching Dad shape what looks like a blob of concrete into beautiful concrete shapes. It surprises me every time. The sky is the limit.

What is it like to be the youngest on the crew? It’s at the point now that I am an adult like everyone else, so it doesn’t effect anything. Even in the past, I was at the same level as most on the site, so even though I was the youngest I was treated the same. It was no big deal. I was mostly sticking by Dad and helping him all day long.

I always felt at home building a skatepark. It never crossed my mind that I was young and didn’t belong.

What is it like working for your Dad or me, and in the family business? Working for you is definitely easier than Dad. Dad expects so much of me, so I always have to keep up which is good because it pushes me to learn more, do more, and get better. But it is nice because if I have to ask him a question I just go and ask and he takes the time to explain and show me. He has higher expectations for me than for everyone else on the crew because I am his son. I’m not complaining of course; it’s just not a boss-worker relationship. There is a different dynamic in a father-son relationship. It doesn’t change the dynamic on the worksite. He trusts me to work hard, and treats me with respect.

I don’t think I could work for another skatepark building company. I just love Hunger. I definitely get some special treatment. Dad shares his smoked salmon with me and no one else.

What do you think of working with a team, and the crew? We’ve only had one sour dude on the crew ever, and he left. You guys only hire people you like, so everyone that works for Hunger are good people. Everyone gets along and it’s always been like that.

The only time I had a beef with someone, it still makes me mad to think about it but it’s kinda funny now, is with Ben (Bradford).

When I was 17 Dad bought me a brand new Makita tool kit with a drill, impact driver and a couple batteries. It was only 2 weeks old and hardly been used. Ben was working on pool coping, and he could have picked any old Hunger drill but he used my brand new drill to mix mortar. His gloves were just covered in mortar, and it got into all the crevasses and it was covered. I couldn’t just clean it off; the mortar got everywhere and never came off. I didn’t talk to Ben for 2 days. He knew I was mad and sarcastically said sorry eventually. I still think it was a stupid move, but it seems funny now because I like Ben so much.

 

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