Thursday, December 22, 2011

Ray Underhill #4.


This is the intro to Ray's Pro Spotlight in Transworld. It was written by Stacy Peralta.

Ray Underhill was thirteen years old when he was infected with an obsession for playing the banjo. Shortly after his fourteenth birthday he entered a banjo and fiddle contest at the local mall, competing against musicians his own age as well as his music teacher. He walked away with first place. Says Ray, "I won something like $150 or $200, I quickly cashed the check and went to the local skateboard shop just outside of Nashville and sunk it into Rector gloves and a Santa Cruz seven-ply. That was pretty much the end of my banjo playing and the start of my skateboarding obsession."

Skating soon became the predominant component in Ray's lifestyle. At the age of nineteen he was running a clubhouse-style skate shop in the basement of his home. "It was real small-time, but it helped local skaters get equipment during the early 80s when all the shops were closing."

Around the same time, Ray, along with infamous Midwestern-Eastern skate-lifers, Britt Parrott, Bryn Ridgeway, Mike Hill, Jeff Kendall, Rob Roskopp, and Bob Pribble found the M.E.S.S. (Mid-Eastern Skateboard Series). The M.E.S.S. was an interstate contest series run by skaters for skaters, with natives of Tennessee, Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Virginia, and the Carolinas participating.

Says Underhill, "I believe it was the first, or one of the first, of its kind." The contests took place five to six times per year on homemade backyard ramps, each state providing an opportunity for its best skaters to compete. Ray was one of the organizing hands as well as one of its finest competitors.

Nowadays, Ray resides in North San Diego County, California. "I think the further west you go in this country, the more open-minded people are likely to be."

His close friends and skate confidants include Joe Johnson, Tony Hawk, Adrian Demain, Chris Miller, Sean Mortimer, and Buster Halterman. He supplements each day with a large dosage of skating at Hawk's Skateland, as well as an occasional session at Mike McGill's park or other local skate spots.

People close to Ray speak of his quick wit and good-natured attitude under any and all circumstances. "He's the greatest to tour with," says Ken Park.

The photos are by the late Sin Egelja.

For the quote: Transworld - July 1991 Volume 9 Number 7

Thrasher - May 1990 Volume 10 Number 5

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