Florida and Vert Skating have a long history together. In case you didn’t know, the modern flat bottom vert ramp was invented at Kona in the 1970’s. To catch a glimpse into contemporary Florida vert skating, we sit down with professional vert skateboarder Bob Umbel to talk about the Florida Vert Series and some Florida Vert History.
LS :Hi Bob, thank you for doing this interview. How are you doing?
BU: Hey Lawrence, my pleasure and thanks for reaching out to give me a chance to talk about skateboarding. This year is just like last year for me very busy but everything is great.
LS: For our readers would you mind introducing yourself?
BU: Well Lawrence if your readers don’t know my affiliations with skateboarding they should get off the couch and go skateboarding…Joking aside, here are the cliff notes. I am 51 years old and have been skateboarding for over 40 of those years. I love to skate I am from Maryland but have lived in Melbourne Beach, Florida since 1988. Fast forward to 2017 and you will find me running the Florida Vert Series.
LS: To start things off can we What is the Florida Vert Series? How long have you been organizing it?
BU: To answer your question. Last year was our inaugural year for the FVS. The FVS is a team effort. Although I organize and pull the series together I need assistance with logistics at the various event locations. I do not use social media such as Facebook or Instagram so I partnered with my good friend Adam Effertz. Adam and I work together on marketing the series and securing the sponsors for each stop. Beyond that it’s the support from so many other skaters that make it all possible. As for my vision for the FVS please allow me to provide you with my perception on vert contests of today as seen on TV. I DO NOT LIKE THEM! I believe the public and skaters in general feel disconnected. Vert contests truly do not exist in the states outside of X-Games or Dew tour….so something needed to change. I believe spectators should be right on top of the action only a few feet away from the skaters on the deck and ramp….NO barricades, NO security, NO VIP’s.
It must have a very personal feel that everyone feels a part of. I believe regardless of the “who’s who” the FVS would have success if I accomplish that. In short the FVS is BY SKATERS FOR SKATERS! All I wanted to do was give back anyway I could….The path I felt would allow this to happen, was if I recreate the experienced I enjoyed in the early 80’s “backyard jam/ contest”. Vert skaters coming together for the love of it because that is how I see vert skating today….all ages, all skill levels. The FVS is a mix of “Skating & Live Bands” with a focus on participation not the competition!
LS: Skateboarding is being pulled in so man directions. What do you think the relevance of Vert Skating is in todays skateboard climate?
BU: I do not see skaters being defined or grouped together in a box any longer. Basically everything is on the table and explored with open minds of what is possible when it comes right down to it, skate everything and anything. Trust me when I say adding Vert to your diet can only help you become an all-around better skater in general.
Photos: Tom Orlando
LS: Before we switch gears, what is the schedule for this upcoming series of tournament?
BU: The complete 2017 schedule is on the FVS website:
- Stop 1 on April 29th at Merritt Island Skatepark Vert Ramp
- Stop 2 on September 2nd at Drakes backyard Vert Ramp in Wilmington N.C.
- Stop 3 on October 21st at Kona Skatepark Vert ramp
Photo: Tom Orlando
LS: Awesome! I can’t wait to make it out to some of these. Do you mind if I ask you about some Florida Skateboarding history?
BU: Great, I hope we see you on deck. Sure feel free….I will share anything I know
LS: I read in some interview that you were competing in the Kona NSA competitions back in the 1980’s. What were those contest like?
BU: Yes I competed in the N.S.A as an Amateur and Pro. I don’t want to explain the finer details of the National Skateboard Association, however it was a platform for the best skaters in the world to showcase their talent. The N.S.A. allowed me to travel the country skating, competing and enjoy life. I was able to make friends from all over that I would have never been able to do otherwise. The N.S.A. gave way to the rise and rock star status of skaters such as “Tony Hawk, Jeff Phillips, Neil Blender, Steve Caballero, Mark “Gator” Rogowski, Christian Hosoi, Lance Mountain, Chris Miller, Alan Losi” to name a few. With that said, the NSA and the FVS are similar because the FVS is a platform for skaters to showcase their talent. When I think back on my days traveling and competing during the 80’s I wouldn’t change a thing! I am not comfortable sharing them in this public forum.
LS: What have been some of your favorite ramps to skate over the years?
BU: My favorite ramps that are around today would be “Vert Jungle, Phishlips, Kona, Merritt Island, Drake’s and Ramona” However the list is larger of the ramps I want skate!
LS: Who are some of Florida’s greatest Vert Skaters?
BU: That is a tough one…Florida’s Greatest Vert Skaters? I can name a few on my list that stand out as Florida’s Greatest: Mike McGill, Monty Nolder, Buck Smith and Mike Frazier…
LS: Any up and comers that we should keep an eye out for?
BU: From what I have seen, I would have to say the Florida youth brigade consists of Jake Yanko, Christian Frazier and Reef Orlando…
LS: Thank you for spending some time to answer these questions! Do you have anything you would like to say before we end the interview?
BU: My pleasure! Sure, I would like to personally invite anyone regardless of their skill level to come out and participate in the Florida Vert Series you will have fun. A BIG THANK YOU to my sponsors Demon Seed Skateboards, Bones Wheels, S-One Helmets, Pro-Designed Pads for keeping me laced up and rolling! Thanks to my brothers on the deck Wade, Brett, Steve, Rich, Rodney, Christian, Tom, Pat, Howard and Isaac for Keeping Vert Dead!!!