Back To Blading

Lawrence Ingraham is a 41-year-old aggressive inline skater living in Durham, North Carolina. Back in the 1990s and early 2000s Lawrence was heavily involved in the aggressive inline skating industry. He founded the online magazine Sequence and was part owner of 50-50 Frames. Lawrence stepped away from skating for over decade but then rediscovered his passion for it and has been documenting his return journey with his project, Back to Blading.

The Early Years

What year did you start skating? What kind of skating did you begin with?

My brother and I started skating in 1992. I remember having some Rollerblades to cross train for ice hockey. I grew up skating on the ice in Berkeley and wanted a way to skate without paying for ice time. We played a lot of roller hockey in 92’ with Nick Strang.

Much of Lawrence’s youth was spent on the ice playing hockey.

What is your history in aggressive skating?

When 1993 rolled around we witnessed a launch ramp show and that was the beginning of aggressive for me. I also met Jason Marshall that year when he moved into the area. There were a bunch of great skaters who we hung out with, but Nick, Jason, my brother and I were the original crew.

Not long after our crew grew to around ten skaters in Alameda with the addition of Kell Mckenzie, Andrew, Charles, Emery, and a few others I can’t remember the last names of. We would skate all around Alameda, then take the tube to Oakland and skate all over there. We’d head out to San Francisco to skate Embarcadero plaza most Friday nights with the other crews from around the bay. There were a ton of skaters back then.

What was your first involvement in the skating industry?

My first involvement with skating other that being a skater was with an online magazine I started. There weren’t many places to find content online back then. We all relied on magazines like Daily Bread or Box for news and pictures and videos like Hoax or Bottom Line for videos. I wanted to show people what the Bay Area skating scene was like, so I started Sequence.

Lawrence lacing some grinds back in the 90s.

How long did you do Sequence for?

Sequence ran from 1995 until 2000, releasing new issues every month for the first year or so. The Sequence message board was launched in 1996 and was probably the biggest online community for aggressive skating in those days. This was before Reddit, Be-Mag and Facebook were around. I made some great friends through the message board, and people remember it fondly even today.

Once 2001 rolled around I was heavily involved with 50/50 and working with Daily Bread Magazine, that I became too busy to keep producing monthly issues of Sequence. The message board started getting hit with spam and hacking attempts so I just shut it down. By then there were other media outlets, so it really was time to pass the torch.

What are your fondest memories from those days?

I think the craziest memory around Sequence was when we were at an industry meeting in Chicago. This must have been 1998 or so, right after the industry left the NSGA Trade Show for ASR. There was discussion around creating a calendar for competitions and events and Arlo Eisenberg suggested Sequence being the place to host it. I didn’t know Arlo at the time, he was just a blade-god to me, so having him know about Sequence and call it out by name was a huge deal.

Through Sequence I was fortunate to have met so many cool people in the early days of skating. I was shocked when I got back into it that people remembered me more for Sequence than my work with 50/50. I had basically forgotten about Sequence, so it was really heartwarming to hear how much joy it brought people.

Lawrence, Jess Dyrenforth and Arlo Eisenberg

The 50/50 Era

What was your involvement with 50/50?

I started working with 50/50 back in 1996 after I got to know Ted Simpson, one of the original owners, pretty well. I initially worked part time as a designer for the website and original grind plate labels that came on the packaging. Then eventually went full time as the operations manager making sure things got produced and shipped.

In 1997 50/50 relocated from San Jose to Orange County and Jess Dyrenforth (the other owner) and Ted asked if I wanted to move down with them. As a huge t-dog, I had always dreamed of skating in Orange County. So I jumped at the opportunity.

Ted left the company a year after we moved, so it became just Jess and I running 50/50. The two of us worked really well together. We both had a passion for skating and improving the equipment we were using. The industry was thriving at that time, so we had a lot of opportunity to create products we thought would make skating better.

Lawrence and Jess Dyrenforth

Why did 50/50 end?

I moved back to Alameda in 2002 after my Dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. My Mom was trying to take care of him by herself but it was clear she needed help. I tried to keep doing 50/50 from up there but back then it was really difficult to work remotely. I was able to help with the 50/50 team video Juice, and designed the Core System frames, but that was the last project I was involved with.

I got a job at a tech company in 2003 and officially left 50/50 a few years later. I wasn’t skating anymore and the distance made it difficult to help with the day to day operations. Jess kept the company running for a few years after that, but closed up shop in 2012 or so. I can only assume after 20 years of business he needed something new.

Why did you quit skating?

Moving back to Alameda was the beginning of the end of skating for me. I used to put these Salomon UFS FSK frames on my UFS Thrones and skate on the beach trail to clear my head, but I didn’t really have anyone to skate with. When I met my wife, I moved down to Sunnyvale and started playing ice hockey again. Then we had a kid and moved to North Carolina.

An interview I did with Lawrence about 50/50 for Daily Bread Magazine back in 2000.

Back to Blading

What made you decide to get back into blading?

I was playing ice hockey in North Carolina and loving it, but the schedule was really tough on my body. Games were typically at 10pm on Wednesday nights, which was brutal for waking up at 6am to get the kids ready for school. I started only playing the weekend games, which were once every 2-3 weeks. After a few months of that schedule I became really out of shape, so I looked at inline skating as a way to get back in shape for hockey.

Did you have any influences or inspirations to get you back on blades?

I was always active on Facebook and had kept in touch with a lot of skaters from the old days. Cameron Card added me to the Blader Dads Facebook group, which is a great community. I asked for advice about new skates and got to know Ben Vanderhaeghen, my co-host for the Back to Blading podcast. He recommended going to see Long Tonthat at Oak City. I wrote about that experience on the Back to Blading blog, which was the catalyst for getting back into it.

Cameron Card and his family captured by Kazu Mori in 2016.

How long after starting to skate again did you launch the Back to Blading vlog?

I started the vlog my first day back, and have produced a video just about every time I’ve skated since. When I was playing hockey, I started bringing a GoPro to every game so we could watch what we were doing wrong and improve our play. I figured I’d do the same thing with my skating sessions.

What is your goal with Back to Blading?

The vlog started as a way to track my progress skating, and show the Blader Dad guys what I was up to. I didn’t have any idea what I wanted to do with it, and didn’t really find the Back to Blading voice until a few months into it. The response was great though so I stuck with it, and now it’s one of the more popular YouTube channels for skating.

Ben Vanderhaeghen, co-host of the Back to Blading podcast and his daughter.
What is it about the vlog that has made Back to Blading popular?

I get a lot of people thanking me for the videos and telling me that they’re inspired to get back into blading after watching. I’m not a great skater, and I’m fully aware of that fact. I think me being an average skater makes the videos more approachable. People see me having fun trying to learn tricks and they can see themselves doing the same thing.

Are you buying all these skates you review or are brands sending them to you?

The review series of videos has been the most fun part of Back to Blading. I buy most of the skates and hardware I review. I’ve been smart about finding discounts, and I’ve been lucky to have two pairs sent to me from a brand. I mostly fund my purchases by selling stuff on eBay; old tech in my closet, kids clothing and things like that.

Do your kids skate?

Yeah, my oldest daughter loves coming to the skatepark with me. She has some Roces kids skates and is learning the basics. My youngest has skates, but she’s not super interested in it. I’m trying to give them their distance, letting them bring their scooters if they want, but keep pushing skating on them whenever I can.

Lawrence skating with his daughter at the Durham skatepark.

How did you like the K2 r100 frames? How did they compare to the Trimax Frames?

The K2 r100 were a lot of fun to skate. I’ve been riding some Powerslide Imperials with 3x110mm for a year or so now, so the big wheel thing isn’t new. But having 4×100 on an aggressive boot was interesting. I loved the speed and the floating feeling I got, but the length of 4×100 made crossovers dangerous.

I just couldn’t get over the long wheel base and the feeling of skating in clown shoes. I’m now on some Trimax frames with 3×110 wheels. The feeling is very similar with the rocker in the Trimax, but without the long feeling and clipping my wheels on crossovers.

What is your favorite aggressive setup so far?

I love the Seba CJ boot with the stock souls and 50/50 Balance Frames with Juice Blocks. That’s the optimal aggressive setup for me. The boot is solid and responsive so I can skate transition with no squishy-ness, and the soul plate lines up perfectly with the Balance frames for grinding. I forgot how much fun it was to skate antirocker, especially with Juice Blocks. The main reason I brought 50/50 back is so I would have more frames to skate.

In this episode of Gear Talk, Lawrence discusses big wheels for aggressive skates.
What are you favorite skating vlogs?

I subscribe to a lot of channels on YouTube, mostly tech and photography stuff. Skating wise, I love when Joey McGarry posts a new video on Mushroom Blading, but I know they’re working on a VOD now. I watch Ricardo Lino’s stuff, and Pascal Briand is incredible at what he does. There are a few other skating channels that aren’t super busy. I wish there were more!

Who are your favorite skaters to watch?

I love to watch Nick Lomax on tri-skates. He blends the perfect balance of big wheel and aggressive in his skating. For distance, the content Pascal Briand puts on his YouTube channel is fascinating. When I watch his videos I peek into a world I will never know, but would love to step inside of. There are many aggressive skaters I love to watch such as Eugen Enin, Montre Livingston and Chris Farmer to name a few. I am a big fan of Chynna Weierstall, she is incredible! I especially enjoy watching skaters like Brent Trinidad and Kazu Mori who look at aggressive skating through a different lens.

What are your blading goals?

I want to keep promoting skating, and have the skaters that see my videos and decide to come back keep skating. There’s never been a better time to skate, the community is small but strong.

Soul Grind on the quarter at the Homestead Skatepark in Chapel Hill, NC

The Rebirth of 50/50

What made you decide to bring 50/50 back from the grave?

The idea started last summer after skating the Oysi frames. They felt like how I remember skating 50/50 Balance Frames with Juice Blocks felt, but with more speed. I wanted to get a set of Juice Blocks to skate them again but I couldn’t find any. That’s when I started wondering if the old molds were still available and if I could start making frames again.

How did the whole process of restarting 50/50 happen? Did you have to get the rights and molds?

From the beginning we were very lucky. 50/50 never had any investors, and Jess and I were the only owners since we started making UFS frames. We owned all the molds and thankfully they were still in great shape at the original factory in China. I had a few long talks with Jess about my idea and he’s been super supportive. He helped me get in contact with the factory and has been the silent partner throughout this process.

The 50/50 Balance Frames with Juice Blocks

50/50 Juice Frames

How has the response been to the re-launch?

Extremely emotional. I initially just wanted to bring back a few frames so I could skate them again. I was planning on doing a Kickstarter to see if it was something other people would want to support. My initial announcement video blew up on Facebook and Instagram and I knew I had to do more than just a single run of frames. In the first weekend of pre-orders, we sold so many frames I had to increase my order.

What size wheels fit on the frames?

The Balance frames are designed for 58mm wheels flat. You can get away with 60mm flat with a little bit of modification, and probably even bigger if you wanted to ride antirocker, but we recommend 58mm flat.

What is the possibility of a new frame mold in the future?

Nothing to announce today, but I have some ideas. Skating has changed, and while the Balance frames are great for grinding, I personally want to explore different styles of skating. I’ve tried so many different frames now, I think I know what I want in a perfect frame, and I haven’t found it yet.

Lawrence skating the new production run of 50/50 Balance Frames with flat 58mm wheels

The Evolution of Blading

What changes in skating have you noticed since you quit and then started back up again?

I could talk for hours about the things I notice now that I’m back, but I’ll keep it short. I think aggressive skating specifically has changed a lot to be more inclusive of all styles. There’s a lot less rules now on what’s cool and what’s not cool. People just want to go skate and have fun.

The biggest change is in the community itself. There are less skaters, maybe 1/10th as many as when I left, but I feel more connected to the community now than I ever have. I think Instagram, Facebook and YouTube are really amazing tools for us to discover each other, turning small local communities into strong global communities. I encourage everyone to post clips of themselves skating, no matter how good you are. There are plenty of people out there who want to see you skate and cheer you on.

What are your feelings about the cross over of disciplines and the blending of styles?

I think it’s great. We used to define ourselves as the discipline we followed. So aggressive skaters were in one bucket and speed skaters were in another bucket. The sport is much more mature now that it’s ok to just enjoy skating, however you feel like skating. I look at some of the guys like Lee Barwick who is killing it at distance but then goes and skates miniramp better than I ever could. Or Brent Trinidad who skates aggressive but with more of a parkour style to it. There’s a level of acceptance now with skating that allows for us to explore all different styles.

Brent Trinidad mixing together aggressive with parkour.

How do you feel about the rise of big wheel aggressive skating?

I love skating big wheels. I was one of the first people to have Oysi frames and rode them with 72mm/60mm wheels. I loved my 72mm Aeons and the speed you get through transitions. I love skating, and the big wheel frames let me skate faster and smoother than any other aggressive setup.

I think there’s still a lot of discovery to be done around how big wheels fit into the aggressive style. I tried to learn royale tricks on my 72mm Aeons and realized quickly that I wasn’t good enough to do them consistently. I see people skating 110mm Trimax frames doing makios and it just doesn’t look right. The difference between can and should.

How often do you skate distance? How many miles do you skate on average?

I try to skate distance every Saturday morning. I’m typically going between 5 and 10 miles, depending on which trail I hit and how much time I have. My longest skate was 15 miles the length of the trail, but that took the better part of the day. I think I could skate longer if I had more time, but it’s hard to squeeze in the hours with family.

Skating the Tobacco Trail.

Would you ever skate a marathon?

I would love to skate a marathon someday, it looks like so much fun! I recently bought a pair of Powerslide Swells and hope they make a difference for my trail skating and make me feel more comfortable going longer distances.

Where do you see skating in the future?

I want skating to come back to a point where I start seeing more skaters out on the trails, at skateparks and just cruising around town. I don’t think aggressive will ever be as big as it was in 1998, but I don’t think it ever has to be. The skaters who are here now, and the skaters who stuck with it through the years are committed to skating as a lifestyle. It’s not going away.

Links
Bonus: Two hours of VHS clips of Lawrence and his friends skating the bay area in the early 1990s.

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Jan Welch

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