Stars aligned for Lake Tahoe floating ramp project
Ryan Summerlin May 25, 2014
One day last summer professional skateboarder Bob Burnquist set out on a mission to skate Lake Tahoe.
He wasn’t taking a tour of area skate parks or cruising its bike paths. He was literally going to skate the lake.
A beautifully designed floating mini ramp had been set up in a small bay near D.L. Bliss State Park. Burnquist flew in, shredded the floating ramp in front of astonished onlookers and flew out, much like the dream the project was inspired by.
The floating ramp was part of Visit California’s “Dreamers” commercial, which has aired nationally over the past year and showcased how the Golden State appeals to dreamers. The commercial also included snowboarding at Squaw Valley among its clips.
A video of the ramp’s construction and Burnquist’s skating has notched almost 800,000 views on YouTube since going up in February. The 7,300-pound ramp was built at Obexer’s Boat Company on the West Shore and took 300 man hours to complete.
But; with the Rim Fire pumping smoke into the Lake Tahoe Basin, uncertainties about the ramp’s seaworthiness and a short timeline; it’s a testament to those involved in the project that the dream ever happened at all.
“We were cutting it so close, and then it was time to take it out to the water to see if it would even float,” said Jeff King, a professional ramp builder and a consultant on the project. “So that just added a whole other element, like, ‘yeah this thing is super rad but who knows if it is going to float or not.’”
Designing the ramp’s flotation system to prevent it from rocking too much to skate was critical, said Jerry Blohm, the production designer on the project. The construction team used a ballast system to allow the ramp to sit right in the water. If the wind picked up, it could have saturated the deck and prevented any real skating, King said.
Although conditions in the Lake Tahoe Basin caused by the Rim Fire could have also canceled the shoot, the weather cooperated and the daylong shoot went off as planned, with Burnquist able to grind, ollie and fastplant the ramp surrounded by Lake Tahoe’s crystal clear water.
Lake Tahoe itself was an inspiration in the design of the ramp, Blohm said.
“One of the good things they let me do was they let me drive around the lake a little bit and get a feel of the lake and I said, you know, it just feels very naturish here, very rich — the environment is so rich there — I said that we really need to reflect something like that,” Blohm said. “As I started to draw I started to carve it out and make it a little more romantic — just some nicer curves than your standard deal.”
Although not a particularly difficult ramp, skating the creation was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, King said.
“The whole experience was rad to be able to hang out up there in amazing weather and just jump in the lake, you know,” King said.
“Just being out in the middle of nowhere on something that doesn’t happen everyday is a real cool feature, a real cool thing to be a part of.”
He couldn’t pass up the opportunity to grind the ramp’s rail straight into Lake Tahoe.
“You get into something like that, that is that unique, and it’s like, ‘alright I’ll go get wet,’” King said.
Blohm said the concept , execution and environment all came together to make the project work.
“The uniqueness was the environment — the lake. You can’t find a prettier lake, I think, so it was absolutely stunning,” Blohm said.
He estimated he’s done 1,500 projects during his career, from music videos for Pit Bull to foaming downtown Miami.
Blohm put his involvement in the floating ramp at Lake Tahoe in his top five.
“I’ve never done anything like it before, and I’ll probably never do anything like it again,” Blohm said.