If the recent New Deal reboot has you wondering what happened to Ron Knigge, Chrome Ball Incident released an interview with him this afternoon that contains the answers that you’re looking for. It boils down to isolation in New Jersey during the era before social media when out of sight meant out of mind, and ultimately out of skateboarding. But what’s crazy Knigge’s retirement is that he let his board make the decision for him in what boils down to a flip of the coin scenario. What would have happened if things had gone differently that day? The world will never know.
So I gotta ask what everyone is wondering… what happened, Ron? Why’d you just disappear like that?
Yeah, I just kinda walked away, which is weird because I was probably doing some of my best skating in ’95. I was healthy and on my own little hellride… getting back to what I always felt was pure skating. Going fast and hitting things hard. Wheels were getting bigger and it was fun to pop things high and clean.
But this is back when skate fashion was still baggy and saggy, but starting to get a little more designer, too. Shoes were becoming more athletic… trying to look “fresh”. I was on the total opposite end of the spectrum at that point, wearing low-top dirty Vans with no socks, a bent brimmed hat with salt stains and Dickies. Just a totally different place. And I honestly felt so detached from the skate community as a whole.Because I just didn’t know what to do with it, you know? I wasn’t sure where I fit in, or if I even did fit in. Not quite being in alignment with the current trends left me feeling alienated and separate from something I always felt so connected to… I was going through something that I can’t quite explain. Some kind of conflict in my head. Spending a lot of time alone and just trying to get back to center. It’s not that I was feeling old or in the way with it, I just wasn’t feeling all the way there with skateboarding anymore.
At the time, I was hitting up this street that was under construction. It had all of these metal grates and large plastics, so I basically set up a little course. I told Steve about it and promised him some footage, because I was excited to share all the new stuff I was working on. The problem was that all of my old skate friends were no longer skating. I only had one guy that I could ask to film, but after being stood up multiple times, I just stopped asking. I was simultaneously motivated and frustrated. And honestly, a little embarrassed that I didn’t have any of the footage I promised Steve, not that it was my fault.
I kept on getting brushed off by this guy who was supposed to be filming me, so I’d just skate around on my own, you know? I ended up hitting the line of my life at that spot, the one that I was hoping to film the whole time. And the only person who saw it was this homeless guy… and he clapped. I still remember that dude, so awesome. (laughs)
I got home around 1 in the morning or so. I was happy but I’d also been thinking about things. I ended up making the decision to leave my board outside of my apartment building in a dark corner. If it was there in the morning, I was all in and probably going to move out of New Jersey. If it’s not there, I’m out. I’ll quit. A total flip of the coin. Either way, I knew that I just needed a change. No more bullshit.
I woke up around 7:30 in the morning and looked outside, the board was gone. I called Steve Douglas up that afternoon and quit.
In many respects, I broke my own heart. Because it was really hard for me to leave like that, but it was my decision. I cried after that phone call, because I didn’t know if I was doing the right thing. I felt like I had more to share but I’d also changed so much as well.
It’s wild to think back on all this stuff now… because I was only 22 at the time.
For more on Knigge and his career in skateboarding, head over to Chrome Ball to read the entire piece.