Sponsors: Square One, Etnies, Fox, Demolition, THEM, Team Blowin’ It
Nate Wessel scares me. Not because he’s got big old dreads that look like something he dug out of the ground, but because he’s got four CD cases full of angry, screaming music in his truck. Aside from that, he’s a pretty fun guy to travel with. He’s down with throwing Fart Bags in people’s hotel rooms and pulling other fun pranks on his teammates, so he’s cool with me. Here’s a little interview we did while touring the Northeast with the Square One team…
1. What have you been up to these days?
Healing up and finishing up rehab on my leg and riding a bunch again. I feel about 85 percent, but that’s a good thing for me because this is the best my ankle’s felt in two years. It just seems like I’m always hurt or always riding hurt. But other than that, I’m traveling a lot again, I’ve been building ramps again, and I have a lot of stuff like that in the works. Lately I’ve been at Woodward East building some new ramps, making some new lines—should be fun.
2. What do you get out of building downhill tracks and being a part of the whole downhill BMX scene?
I love every little part of it. I love being a part of it from the beginning—a history making BMX event. I love riding motocross, and this is motocross but on little, tiny BMX bikes. It’s not very often you get to watch eight dudes jumping 45-foot jumps side-by-side and getting run over in a turn, and overall, having chills just running through your body throughout the whole race ’cause you had something to do with the track and making it work. Just riding the tracks is nuts. I’ve ridden them and they’re nuts, and I would never get on a gate with eight dudes—it’s suicide.
3. How did you get into building ramps?
I built my first park in Bay Village, where I grew up, when I was 16. We didn’t have anything to ride and the skaters and bikers raised some money to build some stuff, but with no one to build it. I always just had the drive to make things happen—I’m a contributor—I always have been, I always will be. After that, I guess I just started learning from other people; Jay Miron, Mark Podguski, Tim Payne… I had to figure out some way that I could keep riding my bike, but be able to put food on my plate. I always knew I didn’t want to wear a suit. It’s weird looking back on it now, but I thought I would never have a picture in a magazine, I figured being a pro rider was out of the question, so it wasn’t even a thought in my mind. So building ramps is what I wanted to do; make the things that my friends and I wanted to ride—make some money and be able to ride, what else could I ask for?
4. Can you list all the parks and ramps that you’ve built for people?
Probably not; there’s a lot, but here are some: Chenga 1 and 2 , Section 8, Studio 334, two different shows for Motocross International in Japan, Bike 2000 for the Seventies guys, the Little Devil warehouse, the Volume warehouse, a bunch of stuff at Woodward, the old skatepark in Austin, part of the T-1 mini, some stuff in Buffalo, some stuff in New York, a box and quarter for the David Letterman show for Dave Mirra, some stuff at Mission Skatepark for Chad DeGroot, Gaithersburg, Maryland for the Parks and Rec., The Thunder Dome—which never opened due to an earthquake… There are so many more little things that I’ve helped out with, it’s hard to list them all.
5. Out of all of them, which has been the most satisfying, and which is your favorite?
I don’t know; it’s hard to say. Everything I’ve built is pretty different, and they’re all fun to ride. But if I d to say, my favorite park would be Chenga 1. But if I look at it aesthetics-wise and how things are built, I would say Chenga 2. My building style has changed a lot since I started building; it’s a lot more like concrete parks where everything blends and flows together—not as many edges of ramps, no dead ends. I don’t know, it’s funny if you think about it, there’s always riding progression going on, but forever there just seemed to be no ramp progression going on—just simple, straight-gauge ramps. Sometimes the simplest is the best, but it’s got to be placed right to make it work. Now I go to parks and I really see builders using their heads and making weird shit. That’s where things need to go—in that direction, ’cause a lot more crazy stuff is going to happen in the future, plus it’s going to keep things fresh and fun.
6. How are things between you and the T-1 guys since parting ways? There’s been a lot of people wondering about that whole thing, is there anything you’d like to say about it?
Things are good, we’re all friends, but I’m still wondering also…maybe I ate too much meat or something. No seriously, things are going to work out for the better, I just wish I had some answers to tell you.
7. You’ve had some really gnarly injuries over the years. What was the worst, and what did you learn from it?
There are two that come to mind. Number one was probably when I almost lost my eye from building ramps. A piece chipped off of my hammer and went through my eye like a gun shot. I had emergency surgery done that night and came out with three stitches in my eye, minus most of the jelly in the middle of my eye. Two months later all I could see was a white foggy cloud, but didn’t want to take three weeks off of my bike to get it fixed. So I waited to get hurt again, and finally I had to get surgery on my ankle, so I had my eye done at the same time. I got cataract surgery, and now I have 20/20 in my right eye, but there are a lot of things that bother it. It pretty much sucks, but after something like that happens you have to take it. I’m just lucky that I didn’t lose my eye. The other one was when I tried some gap-to-manual, and when I was riding away I hit a brick wall and broke my face. I had reconstructive surgery. The thing the sucked the worst about that one is that I don’t remember it at all. I just remember riding up to it twice—I didn’t even know that I pulled it ’til four days after when Losey called me after developing his pictures. The after affects lasted about 9-1/2 weeks after the crash with me being dizzy and messed up in the head. It makes you think before doing stuff…or maybe it doesn’t. But all in all, I don’t pick up anything involving metal-on-metal without safety glasses—it’s just not worth it. I never really thought about it much until I almost lost one of the most valuable things that you have. Being able to see the world and everything it has to offer wouldn’t be the same without your eyes.
8. What have you been working on riding-wise lately?
Just getting back to trying things without being scared of hurting myself again. A lot of the stuff I try is weird spinning stuff, and that’s the way my leg broke, so it’s scary to put the foot down, but I just try to ride how I always have—it seems to have worked before.
9. What are some things that are important to you and your life? What do you value most?
I would say my friends, family, and most importantly, my girlfriend. If I didn’t have those I don’t know what I would do—probably nothing. What do I value the most? I don’t know. Material things don’t matter—they are replaceable, but your life isn’t. I’ve learned a lot of stuff about myself since I started riding my bike. My bike is what has saved my life, with a lot of help from friends and family. I guess love and passion is the most valuable thing that I have and I hope never to lose that.
10. What lies ahead in the near future for you?
I’m not too sure. Day by day things change for me, and there are a lot of things that could happen, but at the same time might not. I just try not to get my hopes up about anything too much. I’m just happy that I’m back on my bike, building ramps, traveling, and hanging out with my friends again. I’m sure whatever lies ahead it will make me very busy and I’ll be traveling all over the place, but what’s changed?n’t matter—they are replaceable, but your life isn’t. I’ve learned a lot of stuff about myself since I started riding my bike. My bike is what has saved my life, with a lot of help from friends and family. I guess love and passion is the most valuable thing that I have and I hope never to lose that.
10. What lies ahead in the near future for you?
I’m not too sure. Day by day things change for me, and there are a lot of things that could happen, but at the same time might not. I just try not to get my hopes up about anything too much. I’m just happy that I’m back on my bike, building ramps, traveling, and hanging out with my friends again. I’m sure whatever lies ahead it will make me very busy and I’ll be traveling all over the place, but what’s changed?