Pat Duffy was arguably the first real “rail pro,” though Frankie Hill predated him as more of a “go big” pro. It must have been pretty cool, until you realize the only way you can progress is to go longer and further and every kid is going to flex on you at every demo. Not to mention constantly getting hurt, as both Duffy and Hill experienced career ending-ish injuries.
Luckily for Duffy, he had tranny skills and he was able to grind out a full part for Plab B’s True — something his peers Danny Way and Colin McKay didn’t deliver, albeit for marketing or mysterious reasons. He also describes himself as a “rager” in his Twitter bio and had a string of beer based graphics for about a decade, making him the real “Duff Man.”
You see, unlike many rail dudes or skaters in general, Duffy is openly himself. He jokingly says he’s a functioning alcoholic and isn’t afraid to engage you on social media if you accuse him of being a Truther. Of course he can’t grind shit like he used to, that’s another truth and it would be easier for him to clam up in an interview as to not offend potential purchasers of his board. But in an era where everyone is worried about their personal brand and coming off a video with a lot of questions, Pat Duffy certainly is “true.”
So from fluoride to finances, here’s the Pat Duffy Interview.
You practically invented “big rail skating” but never got much financial reward. Does it bum you out that you were a pioneer but you’re not reaping the financial benefits like big rail skaters that came after you?
[Laughs] Well, you have to remember when I came on in the ’90s, it was a really low point in skating. The late ’80s were a good time, there was a lot of money in it. I remember hearing Matt Hensley was making like $100,000 a month on H-Street just off his board! But in the early ’90s, it just tanked. My first pro contest I won, and I think I got like $300, you know? Another I won in New Jersey, first prize was like $600! It just wasn’t that time. I made a little bit here and there as time went on. I did what I did throughout my career, made some good decisions and some of them weren’t so good, but I don’t regret anything. But what can I say? I loved having a career in skating. I’m not able to buy a mansion or have a fleet of cars but I’m fine with that. It’s all good.
Does it bother you that everyone still asks the same questions about your Plan B Questionable part, 20+ years later?
To be forever known as that guy who did those tricks in that part?
[Laughs] No way man, are you kidding me? I’m psyched. It’s awesome that the homies still remember. I’ll always find time to hang out with people and talk about and answer questions they have. The most frequent question is like, “How long did it take you to 50-50 the double kink rail.” I don’t know, like 30, 45 minutes? [laughs]
So you don’t feel like a band that had a hit in the ’80s, like a one hit wonder?
I don’t know [laughs], I don’t really feel like that because I still have a job in skateboarding, I guess [laughs].
How much money were you making after these legendary parts dropped?
Not much, I can’t even remember really… It couldn’t have been much more than $2,000 a month or something… I was always selling boards and stuff like that too. We hustled, I might have been making a little more, like $2,500. It was never like, I can’t make rent. You always had enough to get by, but there wasn’t a lot extra.
After your Questionable part dropped, would people try and test you or fuck with you because you did giant handrails?
After Questionable? Test my toughness? I mean, not really a test but you know, any skater who goes that route in their career, doing big stuff, it can happen to. I’ve heard David Gravette be like, “Man, every time I go to a new town they take me to an 18-stair handrail,” you know? The kids will always think because you did a giant handrail in your part, you obviously want to do it every day. So you travel somewhere and kids will be like, “Pat, we have the best 22 stair right over here for you!” And that would happen all the time. “Come check out our handrail!” And of course you don’t always feel like jumping on a 20 stair but kids just think that that’s what you do. That’s your thing! [Laughs]
Has anything strange, unexplainable or supernatural ever happened to you?
Well… I always go back to this one experience I had alone in a hotel out in Switzerland around like 1993. It was just Kelly Bird and me, and I think it was our first trip to Europe. We decided to stay an extra month, just Bird and me. We thought fuck it, we’re here, we don’t know if we are gonna be able to come back, lets just stay longer.
I can’t remember exactly what happened, but I remember being alone in the hotel. Kelly was out somewhere, and I was reading a book Steve Berra had lent me about serial killers. I was reading and getting this overwhelming feeling, feeling really strange. I remember feeling like there was some crazy thing passing by the window… Then I don’t know if I fell asleep or what, but I blacked out. I just thought I was somewhere else, almost like a spaceship, like being abducted or something, but it sounds so dumb to say like, “Oh, I was in a spaceship!” But that always sticks out in my mind, just this crazy mental episode I can’t explain. Maybe I fell asleep really quick and then had this vivid dream or something, I don’t know. I’ve never had that happen again and it sticks out in my mind still. I was super scared, like, what the fuck just happened to me! Was that real? Was I somewhere else? It felt like it was really quick, but it also felt like it was hours at the same time.
Do you think Steve Berra put a spell on the book?
I don’t know man… well, it was a book about serial killers…
Were you drinking or on drugs while this happened?
No! I didn’t drink anything, nothing.
Speaking of drinking, a lot of pro skaters have sobered up recently, has that crossed your mind at all?
Oh yeah, for sure. I just haven’t made the decision yet I guess [laughs]. I still like to have a couple of IPAs. I’ve gone a year, 3 months here and there. I’ll go a week here and there without drinking. I guess you could say I’ve been drinking so long that I’m pretty much an alcoholic, but I keep it functional.
I like IPAs, you know? I don’t really drink shit beer anymore… Bud, Coors, PBR, Bud Light… that’s shit beer because you have to drink so many and then it gives you a hangover, and I don’t think they are good for you… I mean no beer is really good for you, but a nice IPA – a couple of them, I don’t think that’s too bad. I just like the different tastes and different brews. Shit beer all tastes the same no matter what, but an IPA is like different wines. And in order to get a smile on your face, you don’t have to drink 15 of them. You drink 3 and you are good. It saves your body and your liver.
Has anyone tried to stage an intervention on you for drinking?
Yeah, way back when. When I was in LA, I was partying a lot. One of my buddies went into rehab for drinking and I went with my girlfriend at the time and a couple of friends to visit him. When we got there, he was like dude you should come in too!! and I was like, ehhh, yeah, no. I don’t think so.
Then they kind of had a little mini intervention with me. And I’m like, man, I got a trip to South Africa, I’m not gonna just skip that to go to rehab. But I agreed to go when I got back, and I did do rehab for a month in Laguna Beach in like 2002. It was like a little vacation on the beach. It worked. For like a year, I didn’t drink afterwards. But then… I got bored, and started drinking again. I try to keep it under control, but eventually I should probably quit all together. I like to think these days I keep it under control.
Do you have any alcohol detox secrets?
Milk Thistle. It’s really good if you take it on a daily basis to clean your liver. That’s a good natural alcohol detox right there.
You’ve been pro for 20+ years but only recently did you get your first shoe, for Vox, correct?
With such a deep career I would have expected you to have a pro model years ago already.. What happened?
I never really made good shoe decisions over the years. [Laughs] I’ve been on with some crazy companies, you know? I think my first bad move was getting on Airwalk instead of Vans. I should have taken Vans. And then when Duffs started, I was on Duffs right when it started, but then when Plan B really wanted me to ride for Dukes, you know? So I got on Dukes and then that didn’t really take off. Then I got back on Duffs again when that didn’t really work out. Duffs was kind of working on my shoe back in like ’97 or ’98, but then Bill Weiss came along and offered me a pretty good salary to ride for Recs footwear… So I quit Duffs, and that was kind of a stupid move when I was already in the works to have a pro shoe, but I didn’t really think about it.
Then I rode for this crazy German company called Pyro, this German shoe brand distributed by Street Corner Distribution. I didn’t really wanna ride for them, but I finally just gave in and said fuck it, I’ll ride for Pyro for you guys! And that was another pretty bad decision. But you know, it’s all good. If I was smart about it, I could have just stuck with Duffs and stayed there and had a career there. But I just kept jumping around from one crazy shoe venture to another.
”It’s hard to stay core for free”
But right after your pro shoe with Vox came out over the summer, you left to Airspeed Footwear the next month. Why?
The thing with Vox is, I love the brand, and team and everything is sick, but they stopped paying us a few years ago. I would have loved to stay with that brand and of course I gave them the chance to match or come close to what Airspeed was gonna give me. With a wife and two kids, I would have loved staying riding for Vox for free or minimal, but it’s hard to stay core for free. I had to make that decision and I stuck with it. I’m stoked, it was an offer I couldn’t pass up. There was no saying no, it was too good. It was a little heart wrenching, but I got a family, it’s tough out there. If I could have stayed riding for Vox for free I would have, but there’s no way I could have. Airspeed is a low end Walmart brand, but the thing is, if they’re gonna support me this way, then I’m gonna support them.
Are there any investments you have made we might not know about?
No, not really, just a little chunk of Plan B, that’s about it. Danny and Colin own most of it, and then Sheckler and I have a little bit. We all have a little bit. That was agreed upon right when they restarted it. Most skate companies don’t do that, so it was cool of them to throw that on the table.
Looking back now, do you wish you had some sort of higher education?
College education, who the fuck cares about college education, really? You can go out and just learn and make it just fine if you have the drive. I don’t regret not going to college. If there’s something out there you want to learn, you can go read about it, learn it, sign up for classes. Just go do it.
I know you read a lot, any books you can recommend to us?
Yeah. I read a lot about like, people say “conspiracy” but I like to call it Truth Movement. I was really interested in real economics for a while. There’s a good book about the origin of the Federal Reserve by G. Edward Griffin called Creature From Jekyll Island. I completely recommend that one. Rule by Secrecy: The Hidden History That Connects the Trilateral Commission, the Freemasons, and the Great Pyramids is a good one, The Rise of the Fourth Reich, Ron Paul’s End The Fed, I’m reading The Death Of Money now. I just read a lot about that kind of stuff.
I had to step back and settle down from it recently, because it can get a little overwhelming and start taking over your life, and you can’t stop thinking and reading about it once you find it. After getting into it, you aren’t so blind and you look at things differently, and it’s hard to talk to people about it because you can’t get everything out at once, and they are like yeah yeah yeah, whatever, you’re paranoid dude. They really don’t wanna hear it. Everyone just wants to stay in their comfort zone, just comfortably blind.
”I don’t regret not going to college. If there’s something out there you want to learn, just go do it.”
I read something you wrote about how we have fluoride in our water, which I assumed was a good, thing..
But you mentioned the dangers of it. Can you tell me a bit more about that?
Yeah, there’s a couple of documentaries about it. There’s natural fluoride in the ground, and there’s some fruits and vegetables that have fluoride naturally, and the natural one is actually good for you. But hydrochloric acid, the synthetic stuff, what it is, it’s a byproduct of the fertilizer industry and it’s kind of marketed the same as natural fluoride – but it’s this toxic product that you actually have to have a hazmat suit on to handle.
Somebody’s great idea was to dilute it in our water, and it can pass through the human body – it’s a way to dump it into the environment without the companies having to pay to properly dispose of it. You can just put it in the water and tell people it’s good for their teeth, but when you drink water, the fluoride never really hits your teeth. If you look at it, fluoride is actually bad for your teeth. It kind of rots them. Everyone has their own opinion. It’s like drugging the population without them knowing. It’s so weird. I think the Nazis first figured out that hydrochloric acid is like a calming agent, they used to give it to prisoners to make them complaisant, you know?
So you drink only bottled water then?
We use Carlsbad Alkaline Water, it just comes straight from the ground.
What about showers? Do you shower in regular water?
Yeah but we have a fluoride filter on the shower. You can buy them that fit on the shower. You can install a fluoride filter for your whole house, but it’s expensive. But it’s good, I would recommend it.
As a street skateboarder since the early 90s, do you think cops are bigger dicks now than they were back in the day?
Oh yeah, they are far more aggressive these days than when I was a kid. If a cop comes up to me now, I just get out of those situations immediately, I don’t wanna talk to them. I’m just too old – I have kids. If I have to deal with a cop, I’m on my best behavior, and I don’t get argumentative. Cops these days, they are like militarizing the police, teaching them to be the worst people ever. If they are around I just don’t say anything and stay as far away as I can. I mean look at them, little tiny towns in middle america have tanks. Why? What do you need a tank for? They are totally militarizing the police for some sort of uprise in the future probably.
Do you think it’s a result of 9/11 and terrorist threats that made everyone permanently more paranoid?
I mean, this whole terrorist thing is bullshit, man. I don’t know if I really wanna get into this political shit, but I have a pretty strong views on why FEMA is building these camps, and why police are being militarized and they are wearing bullet proof vests on the streets. Something is going down, thats why I’m planning on moving to Europe in a couple of months.
My wife is from Finland, and it just so happens that Finland is ranked #1 in school systems like, on the globe, while the US is way down like #120 or something. I’ll be flying back and forth, because the winter is pretty harsh there. We’re going really for the kids and their education, and we can get much more property over there for cheaper. It’s also cleaner, there’s not as much crime, my wife feels safer there… I’m gonna build a skatepark out there, maybe a skate shop or venue or something. We got another year to figure it out.
So with 9/11, you think there’s a little more than meets the eye then?
Oh yeah, for sure! I just read something on Instagram that said it’s strange that the US knew that the planes were hijacked, but they let them continue to fly for an hour and 40 minutes… Why wouldn’t the Air Force be on them? You think they would act in minutes… there’s so many details. And Dick Cheney’s company was the one that provided security for the World Trade… it’s all just a bunch of shit. There’s definitely something fishy about the whole thing.