Dan Pensyl is a skateboarder’s skateboarder. He charges through life with the gusto of a drunken pirate who pillages the streets in search of unskated terrain. He can skate anything put in front of him, which is funny because he does just that with his drinking. I asked his friend Justin Barnes to tell me a little about Dan and he emailed me this about him, “Pensyl is the kind of guy who will be losing money all night at dice and getting so pissed that he will just rip up all the money on the table. On the next hand Pensyl would come up big and everyone would just give him all the ripped up money. A few minutes later you would find him at the bar trying to convince the bartender to sell him some shots with shredded twenties.” That was it, I had to talk to him.
I heard that Dan Pensyl’s greatest vice is gambling?
Dan Pensyl: Yeah but I haven’t been gambling much because I don’t have any income lately. I’ve just been hanging out with my girl. I would say that my biggest vice is drinking. That is the way I deal with everything. No matter what, it always seems like a good time to crack a beer.
Can you think of a time when one of your vices got the better of you?
Dan Pensyl: There have definitely been a handful of those times.
Give us an example.
Dan Pensyl: It had to be the weekend of my going pro Party, 5boro threw me this huge party at KCDC in Brooklyn. Me and Aaron Suski went like 8 or 9 days waking up in the morning and starting to drink. It was complete debauchery. Suski could have kept going. I pulled him out and I was like, “We’ve got to go skate”.
Why don’t you tell us who you are besides a grog-swilling pirate? There’s another side to Dan
Pensyl isn’t there?
Dan Pensyl: I’m just a kid from the middle of Pennsylvania who’s been living in New York for the last 5 years.
So what makes you so rad?
Dan Pensyl:I don’t know about rad but I definitely have a fucked up attitude when it comes to skateboarding. If the board is anywhere underneath me I will try to make it. I’ll either make it or slam hard as shit.
Justin Barnes told me that you don’t know that you can’t make a trick. You just go for it and hope for the best.
Dan Pensyl:That’s pretty much it.
So what kind of injuries have you gotten for yourself? Have you broken yourself or are you pretty lucky?
Dan Pensyl: No I have definitely broken myself. I have had probably about a dozen broken wrists, a few broken ribs, ankles, legs. I broke my tibia and fibula in my left leg and I was on crutches 10 months, I couldn’t skate for 16 months. I broke it smith grinding this handrail down where the World Trade Center was. I was leaning too far back and shot out. That broke my leg completely in half. Now I have a 5 inch and 8 inch plate with 20 something screws in there. It feels really shitty when the weather changes. That is one of the downsides to living on the East Coast. You’ve got the seasons so you can feel it.
How did you wind up on 5boro?
Dan Pensyl: I was 18 years old and I was skating at this really shitty skate park in New Jersey. Steve Rodriguez who owns 5boro was there and he looks like Conan [the Barbarian]. He’s really big and kind of loud dude, I was trying a trick over the pyramid and he skates by me and he yells at me, “Do it, you fucking pussy”. I had never met the guy before so I was like, “who the fuck is this asshole?” When I finally landed it he rolls up and we start shooting the shit and he tells me he is starting a board company. This was before he could even tell me the name. Me and Bud Walla were the first team riders on 5boro. I’ve been around with 5boro since we had 12 people in one hotel room and had to pay for it ourselves to travel all over the world on their dime.
From my experience New York is an easy place to fall prey to your vices.
Dan Pensyl: Yeah New York is definitely a place, that, if you’re not careful you can definitely get trapped.
How is the scene in New York different from the scene here in California?
Dan Pensyl: The best thing about New York is that you can find stuff that nobody has ever skated. Nobody wants to see the same spots in every video. I think that is fucking bullshit. In New York you can take a train to any stop within a half mile in any direction and you’ll find something that has probably never been skated. If you are lucky enough to have a car you can drive around anywhere. I had a pickup truck and me and Pat Smith and Aaron Suski used to drive around the industrial parks looking for spots.
The cops have bigger and better things to deal with than busting skateboarders so they don’t hassle you too much huh?
Dan Pensyl: Yeah most spots you don’t have any trouble with but if you go to Midtown Manhattan they’ll just ask you to leave. The spots we usually skate are in industrial areas that are pieces of shit areas and no one really cares.
I find that a lot of our readers are soft little bitches who like to complain. Do you think that people in Southern California are spoiled?
Dan Pensyl: I don’t know about spoiled but when they are out traveling it makes them realize that it is harder to skate everywhere else. There are people that are pussies everywhere. Some people need perfect spots, bondo-ed up, swept out, and nice spots to land on. Then there are guys like Pat Smith who skate everything regardless. He’ll skate shit that doesn’t grind but make it grind.
So in that respect do you think that heads who grow up skating the East Coast may have a little better ability to adapt to harder spots to skate?
Dan Pensyl: Yeah that would be the best way to say it. They go to a spot that like me and my friends skate and the ground is super rough and there’s broken bottles everywhere. “How did they ollie over this gap off this little tiny metal thing”. It’s just different. People have no clue how hard it is to skate the weird shit until they skate with Bobby Puleo and Pat Smith.
What is your favorite type of terrain to skate?
Dan Pensyl: Any spot that normal people wouldn’t skate. I’ve been skating Graham and Grand bump, it’s on Graham Ave. And Grand Street in Brooklyn, it’s a bank to bank. That is pretty much the only spot that I can think of that I keep going back to. Oh, and the Con Edison banks up in Queens.
Tell me what happened in Portland when you got banned from every cab company.
Dan Pensyl: I was drinking with my buddy Tim O’Brian and it started raining and we couldn’t skate so we started drinking all day, everyday. One day we got kicked out of a bar at 1 in the afternoon or something. We got kicked out of a couple cabs so we were walking down the street and we decided that it would be a good idea to jump in the back of a Pepsi truck. We thought that it would be like jumping on a freight train. We were like, “Yeah maybe we’ll end up in Chicago or something”. For a couple hours we rode around. It stopped, the door opened, we jumped out and scared the shit out of this guy. We were in the middle of a Pepsi warehouse in Portland. The guy jumped like three feet back. We wound up just three miles away from where we started. On that trip to Portland I was supposed to be gone for six days I wound up being gone for six months. I missed my flight back home, I showed up to the airport a day late.
Go ahead and tell us who your sponsors are now.
Dan Pensyl: 5boro skateboards, Spitfire, Thunder, I’m getting some shoes from Nike flow, and True Blue Tattoo. I want to thank my family for all the support; we’ve all been going through some hard times right now. They are definitely the most important thing to me.