Creating the Vert Scene in St. Augustine

Brennan Gagnon uses the help of Clint McQuarry, as they begin to start sheeting the vert ramp.

The Datil Pepper Vert Ramp brings the skateboarding community together

By Maiya Mahoney 

A math teacher at Murray Middle School and youth minister with Young Life, Brennan Gagnon is hoping to create a positive vert skate scene with The Datil Pepper Vert Ramp.

“For me, all the places that I work at with kids, whether it be at my school or the local church, people seem very interested in the ideas of forming communities for kids around skateboarding. I think for me, it’s having a positive area where that can happen in a way that many kids might not get to experience,” Gagnon said. 

Brennan Gagnon works on the vert ramp in his backyard on Saturday, March 13.

Vert skateboarding involves skating on a ramp or other incline where the skateboarder transitions from the horizontal plane to the vertical plane to perform skateboarding tricks.

With the help of his friend Zeke Floyd, they began to plan in Gagnon’s backyard what would become known as The Datil Pepper Vert Ramp. With his house just around the corner from the middle school, many kids will have access to the ramp.  

“Brennan told me he wanted to start doing the ramp and I knew it would be a big project that would take awhile, but I said, ‘Hey, let’s get started on it,’” Floyd said. “The first time we went out there, it was super thick trees and palmetto bushes. We just started going at it with a machete and an ax and tearing everything down. Once we got the footers, foundation, and everything level, it seemed to move a lot faster.”

Since Gagnon was younger, he dreamed of having a ramp in his backyard. Throughout his years at Flagler College, Gagnon would skate ramps in the backyards of different houses. During this time, Gagnon learned to skate vertically, “falling in love” with that sort of skateboarding. 

“I’ve skateboarded my whole life. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t skateboard,” Gagnon said. “It’s kind of the dream for everyone to have a backyard spot. I figured one day when I buy a house, that’s the dream, to build a ramp.”

Gagnon and Floyd have been able to rally the skate community together. The Datil Pepper Vert Ramp will be the only vert ramp in St. Augustine.    

“Vertical skating offers unique thrills, discipline, and skillset. I think it would be really special to get kids excited about that, especially since many kids do not have a ramp that big near them,” Gagnon said. “Our town hasn’t had anything happen for the skate community, in terms of places to skate, in awhile. I figured we could get a lot of momentum behind this thing.”

With the hope of facilitating this sense of community through skateboarding, Gagnon and Floyd have already seen the community come together to help with the project. 

“The farther along we got, the more people got stoked on it and wanted to come help. Everyone wants to see the ramp come up and see something different to skate in St. Augustine. Everyone has been very willing to help and donate money towards the ramp,” Floyd said.

Reaching the final stretch, the vert ramp is in the last stages of completion.

Longterm, Gagnon and Floyd would like to see more of a vert scene in St. Augustine. 

“I feel most at home skating vert. My hope isn’t that we build the vert scene and that’s it. My hope is that building the ramp will give some of the local street skaters and all of us the momentum to say hey, the only skate shops we have in town are extensions of surf shops,” Gagnon said. “I’m hoping this will encourage kids to push for a skate shop because skating is something totally different in of itself. So, that would be rad to start thinking about that long term.”

With a love for skateboarding history, Gagnon decided to pay homage to the 80s and St. Augustine with the name, The Datil Pepper Vert Ramp.

“St. Augustine is really known for its datil peppers,” Gagnon said. “In the 80s, one thing skateboarders used to say if you’re doing something really cool is ‘You’re getting hot!’ It just felt right.”

With projections to have the vert ramp completed in March 2021, Gagnon and Floyd are reaching the final stretch. 

“I just want to express my extreme gratitude for everybody who’s been involved,” Gagnon continued. “I bought the home and day number three we are back there. Because of everybody involved, we are probably going to be skating mid-March.”

To donate to The Datil Pepper Vert Ramp:

Instagram: @datilpeppervertramp

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