15 Things You Didn't Know About
words: Kevin Craft
photos: Ben Colen
1. In 1996, skateboarder Brewce Martin's dream to create a skate haven where he could play loud music and build ramps materialized. He purchased 88 acres of southern Ohio backwoods for a mere $45,000, and Skatopia was born. Sandwiched between garage cells and churches, Skatopia is located in Meigs County, Ohio's second poorest county, where 60 percent of the county's population is on welfare.
2. Skatopia is home to a museum containing more than 15,000 skateboard-related items and two rather enormous indoor kidney pools. Like a baby monster, Skatopia's sprawling instillation continues to grow each year. "We are currently building an amphitheater, a loop and a long jump," says Martin.
3. Martin has aspirations to replicate many of the best bowls in history, such as Pipeline, Del Mar and Marina. These ambitions come not only from his longing to skate such venues but also his desire to turn Skatopia into the mecca of the skateboarding world. "With the museum and the replica pools, my dream is to build something as spectacular as The Great Wall of China," says Martin. "I want to build a skateboard monument that will be here for thousands of years."
4. Skatopia is a communal experience, and in any community one is expected to do one's part. All are welcome but expected to work. "Most first timers are required to offer one hour of work," says Martin. There is also a list of things one is expected to bring to Skatopia, including a tent, water, cooler, beer, Dr. Pepper, skateboard, dog food, music, Jgermeister, girls, fun and a donation for the museum. The only things not permitted? Rollerblades, hard drugs, needles and attitudes.
5. A seasonal deluge of moths and ladybugs plague Meigs County each year. Far from the ladybugs that land on you for good luck, these suckers bite. Their numbers are so incredible that their carcasses saturate the Skatopia compound each year, making it difficult to skate because of the slippery beetle juice.
6. People come from all over to visit Skatopia, which happens to be the No. 1 tourist attraction in southern Ohio. Having a virtually lawless compound owned and operated by skaters would seem like a haven for pro skaters everywhere. On the contrary, Martin explains, "Most pros who come here never even step on a skateboard, like Eric Koston for example." Ben Schroeder once kicked Bam, CKY and the guys from "Jackass" out of Skatopia, threatening to burn their van and equipment. Good friends now, they've since filmed an episode of "Jackass" on the property.
7. Skatopia is headquarters for the outlaw organization, the CIA, which stands for Corporation Instigating Anarchy. According to Martin, this group consists of "48 X-rated looney toons who broke the TV barrier and escaped to Skatopia." The CIA is the judge, jury and prosecution. For example, a guest once stole Dave Reul's sleeping bag. The next morning, after an entirely unrelated incident, the culprit's Jeep was found flipped over in the mud. "You can come camp and skate and party," says Martin. "Just don't steal 'cause the CIA curse will catch you and level the field."
9. One particularly notorious Skatopia CIA member, "Science Fair," has a penchant for exposing his privates in public. He can often be spotted slaying the pool wearing only his shoes. Science Fair once stripped, hopped the fence and streaked the X Games trials while screaming at spectators, "This is extreme! This is extreme!"
10. Many visitors to Skatopia have found the complex's shooting range a comfortable spot to sleep, and it's not uncommon to wake up in the morning with a girl waving a machine gun around your head, asking how to shoot and where the safety is. Guns have recently been outlawed at Skatopia, but fireworks are more than encouraged. As everyone at Skatopia knows, a firework in an exhaust pipe can create a mighty fine explosion.
11. Monikers are nothing new to Skatopia. At age 12, Martin's son Brandon renamed himself Hell-Skull.
12. The Skatopia main bowl is housed in a 100-year-old barn on top of a mud-bogged hill. The bowl is worth more than Martin's house. Despite its humble surroundings, Skatopia has become an expensive venture for Brewce, who admits, "We almost go bankrupt every month."
13. Skatopia has hosted many a raucous party, and Martin claims that more than 400 bands have sounded off on his property. Bands such as JFA and the Skatanic Rednecks have performed at Skatopia, and Slayer is scheduled to play an upcoming bash. Skatopia hosts a particular rager once a year for no apparent reason. After one such party, 369 pounds of beer cans were reportedly collected and no doubt countless gallons of urine saturated the perimeter. There's a stage next to the main bowl under which is a trap door that leads to a secret room equipped with a pool table. Only the most privileged get to see, or even know about, the secret spot—until now.
14. There's an endless parade of dilapidated cars at Skatopia. It's practically a used-car lot. You can purchase a decrepit vehicle for $150, rally it around performing maneuvers that would give its manufacturer nightmares, roll it, then blow it up. And do it all again the next day.
15. Contrary to its notoriety, Martin claims Skatopia is a pleasant place to visit, and the air of intimidation is based on false pretenses. "Half of what you see and none of what you hear is true," remarks Martin. "Nobody's car has ever been burned without consent."