16 Sep Ramp Check: Slade Scherer’s Adventureland
Slade Scherer is a mad scientist. His laboratory equipment consists of power tools, screws, 2×4’s, and plywood sheets. The experiments Slade can conduct with those materials are seemingly limitless. His most recent experiment, a backyard ramp in Kelowna, British Columbia is the culmination of a year and a half of hard work. Kostya Chimkovitch and I asked Slade to answer some questions about this plywood death trap and how it came to be. Read on to hear the story behind Adventureland.
Kostya: As long as I’ve known you, you’ve been dedicated to the “build your own fun” mantra. What was the first spot you built?
I have been spoiled my entire life and had the support and backing of some rad parents. As soon as I got into skateparks and away from the racetrack, my dad would help me construct kickers, grind ledges, and quarters. I grew up on a cul-de-sac and at one point I had an 8′ wide 4′ tall box jump sitting on the road for a whole summer. I was very lucky to have the space for a mini skate park in the front driveway and road.
Aside from that, my first renegade DIY attempt was a jersey barrier at the end of a road backing onto a cherry field. There happened to be some construction going on and Chris Conn, Richard Gregory, and I paid the excavator operator with a 24-pack of Budweiser to lift the barrier onto some cinder blocks. We quick-creted a transition which turned out more like a bank. It was a good start to my freelance DIY ways.
Kostya: Tell the readers about our first stop work order.
Well I have a stupid drive to build shit and the Lower Mainland has very little for unoccupied land. Through the grapevine, I heard about this abandoned tennis court in North Vancouver. So we gathered cinder blocks, bricks, and bags of cement to start building there. It was going great. We put our own lock on the chain so we could park out of site and work in peace. Once we had enough supplies to do some serious building, I called in a few extra sets of hands. We built a curved wall out of cinder blocks all cemented together. When we came back the following week, everything was gone: Tools, bricks, cinder blocks, etc. All that was left were some pieces of paper from the city. That is why I wanted my own land to build on.
Kostya: Tell the readers about our supply zipline to the river spot in North Vancouver.
Well after our bust at the tennis courts, we went home to lick our wounds and discussed what to do better in the future. The best that we could come up with was a more private location. That’s where Josh Zylstra’s knowledge of the North Shore came in. There is an abandoned fish hatchery near a river. It’s down a pretty steep hill with a gnarly goat trail to get down there. As soon as I saw it, I knew that would be a great location to build some stuff to ride. The biggest deterrent was the path. So we came up with a pretty ingenious solution. We scoped the area and found two old growth trees: One at the top and the other at the bottom. With a clear line of sight between the two, we strung up a ⅛” air craft cable between them and built a 2′ x 2′ platform with a tag line that could be loaded up with building materials. In the early mornings we would unload our vehicles, stash stuff in the bush at the top, and then slowly lower it to the bottom. It worked pretty well. There was a hump about halfway down that would catch the basket if it was too heavy. So we embedded branches in the dirt for it to slide along and not dig in. If you’re ever in that situation, it’s a great way to save labour and move a lot of stuff.
Justin: Let’s start at the beginning with your ramp in Kelowna. The first step to having a backyard ramp is owning property with a backyard. What requirements did you have when you were house hunting?
As BMXers, we are always being told no. “No, you can’t ride here. No, you shouldn’t be doing that. No, no, no.” Well I figured the best way to do what I love with no one telling me how to do it was to buy my own property. Over the past 10 years, I busted my ass working 10 to 12 hour days to be able to make my dream a reality. I had a pretty big life change in the summer of 2019. I could no longer live in the Lower Mainland and moved back to my home city of Kelowna. That move afforded me the ability to start looking for property with a suitable layout for my strange and specific needs. I wanted a house that was “run down but still had good bones.” I also wanted a place that I could convert into a basement suite. My friend, Justina Lee-Stolz from high school has become a successful real estate agent. She hunted down the perfect house with a great yard layout: Privacy in one area so neighbors wouldn’t be too pissed with the ramp, a nice front yard for the dog, and a decent driveway for projects. I was honestly stressed we wouldn’t find a place that met the criteria. But dammit if she didn’t come through with the best lay out I could have asked for: A classic bi-level BC box. We closed the deal in November of 2019 and that’s when renovations started. I gutted the basement and erected some walls and now I have a nicely renovated two-bedroom basement suite.
Photo Credit: Shawn H.
Justin: What was your vision for the backyard ramp and how did you come up with the design?
I had a bunch of time to ponder what the ramp design could be. From November 2019 to February 2020 I was focused on getting the house renovations done, but in the evenings I’d sit outside and think about what I could do in the space provided. I sketched some thoughts on paper. Then the pandemic hit and they shut down/fenced the local skatepark. I was going stir crazy and decided to build a tight pool style transitioned mini on the existing deck in the backyard.
Slade Scherer. Photo Credit: Justin Schwanke.
Justin: You’ve had different iterations of the ramp as you built it. When did construction first begin and when was the final version of the ramp completed? Who helped you along the way?
Construction started in March 2020 and concluded September 2021. When I first started building and gathering materials, my friend, Jesse Baraniuk was living out of his RV in my driveway. Jesse was always down to go hunt for wood, build, or ride. I miss that dude. He moved to Atlantic Canada. I also have to give a huge thanks to Trevor Smith who came out for 3 straight days of carpentry abuse to build the waterfall into the 6 foot quarter and the vert wall against the house. He killed it that weekend. I couldn’t have gotten that done on my own. I’ve had steady help from Shawn H., Brandon Van Dulken, and Andrew Lazaruk throughout the whole process. Those guys have great work ethic! Phil Evans also donated tons of wood and used ramps to fill in some holes. I’ve gotta say that the BMX community is super supportive of building ramps and helping out anyway they can.
Justin: The bulk of your building was during the lumber boom. Prices for wood were sky high. How did you source materials? What was the best deal you found?
I can’t say where it all came from, but a lot of it was from scouring Facebook Marketplace. When everyone is looking for a deal, you have to pounce quick. The best score was a guy upgrading his exterior deck. I got at least three times as many 2×4’s from him as I would have if I bought them new at the store. The unfortunate part of having to settle for used wood is the amount of work to take nails out. When I got to the guy’s house, the entire deck was dismantled but all the 2×4’s were attached by slices of ⅜” ply. So I manually separated all the sticks. It took two weeks to get all that wood clean of nails and screws. Another notable mention would be a demolition company. I befriended the boss. He was feeding me plywood that he would rip up from subfloors and 2x’s for quite sometime. He was stoked to see the different use for the materials and was always happy to see the progress pics.
Kostya: What is your sketchiest transportation story?
I mean they’re all pretty sketchy when I’m involved, but the one that comes to mind is the first time I met the demolition guy. He had way more lumber than what was described and had to get it off the site that day. He said I could take as much I could fit in my truck. Unfortunately, I had a canopy on. I stuffed as much as I could through the window into the cab of the truck. And the rest that didn’t fit into the box, I strapped to the roof of the canopy/truck cab. It was a short drive home and luckily nothing fell off.
Justin: You’ve been renting out your basement from the early days of ramp construction up until now. What’s the conversation like with potential renters when you tell them there’s a ramp in the backyard?
I’ve had three different sets of tenants since the basement has become operational. I’ve been very upfront about the ramp with all of them. You can only see the ramp from one window in the suite. During the tour of the suite, I bring it up when I get to that one room. I have yet to meet a potential tenant who didn’t say it was cool. They’ve all been pumped which I wouldn’t have suspected. The ramp sits empty a majority of the time so it doesn’t disrupt a person’s life day to day.
Justin: What do your neighbours think of the ramp?
My place is on a corner lot. One fence is shared with a school. They haven’t said anything about the ramp so I think they’re okay with it. Or perhaps they don’t know it exists. The other fence is shared with a nice elderly couple who are gone during the winters. Their grandson happened to be outside one day when we were riding and asked to come check out the ramp. He apparently skated and said he was super jealous of the set-up. When I queried about what his grandparents thought of the monstrosity next door, he told me they love it. They like watching us fly around and pop up over the hedges.
But of course, not everyone in the hood appreciates the labour of love. I received a stop work order when the ramp was nearly done. I had a nosey neighbor with no balls run to the city like a snotty nosed preschooler runs to the teacher. They’ve never talked to me directly. Luckily at the time, I was renting my suite to a junior city planner who knew all the ins and outs of bylaws. I am within all the building codes so the neighbours have no grounds to stand on. I am still in the process of getting the paperwork side of things sorted out.
Justin: What are some highlights or memorable moments since you’ve had the ramp?
Anytime Brandon Van Dulken takes a lap is a highlight. That guys perceives physics different than the rest of us. He goes higher and farther than what should be doable. Seeing Amos Franke icepick the top of the vert wall is up there as well. It’s 10′ with 4′ of vert. He’s the man! I also really enjoy watching anyone ride who hasn’t been here before. With the lack of space and amount of obstacles to maneuver, it takes finesse to get flowing around. Someone else that took me completely by surprise was Zach Szymaniak. He was on a trip this fall from Ontario and happened to be in town for a Timeless jam. We had an afterparty ride at my place. Most people need 2+ visits to figure out a line or two. Not Zach though. He watched for a couple minutes and then started blasting. Zach is a very well-rounded rider with a load of bike control.
Brandon Van Dulken. Photo Credit: Josh Zylstra.
Amos Franke. Photo Credit: Josh Zylstra.
Justin: I can attest that riding your ramp is no easy task. The transitions are tight, the flat bottom is minimal, and the lines can be complex.
Hahaha. That is definitely by design. I only had so much space to work with and I wanted something that would challenge my skills. I love to ride tight strange pools. Why build another mellow mini with a spine? We have enough of that shit. Let’s build some weird technical nonsense that fucks with some of the best bike riders on the west coast.
Justin: Pretend you could assemble an all-star crew of riders to come ride your ramp for the first time. Who would you pick?
Oh boy. Now you’re getting to the heavy hitters, eh? I think that Hango, Walsh, Enarson, Watts, and Jones would be a very entertaining spectacle.
Left to right: Brandon Van Dulken, Trevor Angelucci, Amos Franke. Photo Credit: Josh Zylstra.
Justin: Shawn from Timeless BMX is going to become the unofficial caretaker of the ramp. How did this come about? And what’s your plan moving forward?
That’s right. Shawn has been down since day one with helping build this thing. I myself don’t need a 3-bedroom living area, but Shawn has two boys and could definitely use all the space the house allows for. Renting to Shawn also means the ramp can continue to exist without me there full-time.
I’m really not sure what I want to do as of right now. I may move back to the coast or I may stay in Kelowna and try to enjoy what the valley has to offer. My new goal is to buy an acreage and start this whole process over. Instead of wood, I’d really like to build some concrete transitions in the middle of nowhere.
[Editor’s Note: Slade has since moved to the Lower Mainland and is renting a house. He has plans to build a small backyard set-up there. Shawn has become caretaker of the Kelowna ramp.]
Justin: Any final words, thanks, or shout outs?
Do what you love, no matter how many people tell you it’s not possible. BMX is a joke; let it make you laugh. Don’t take it too seriously. After all, we are riding kids bikes.
I’d like to thank my parents for having my back and taking me all over BC to sit at a dirt track on their weekends. Without that, I might have a boring white-collar job. Thank you to Kostya for always being down with my silly ideas. Thank you to all my Vancouver friends for pushing me to get to where I am. Thank you to all my Kelowna homies for being rad and helping to get this project completed. And most of all, thank you to BMX for all that it’s done for me over the years.
Slade Scherer. Photo Credit: Josh Zylstra.