Photo: Justin Kosman
Past and present, BMX is full of creative and interesting characters. In this day and age, few riders fit that bill better than San Diego’s Dirt Ron Pitcher. I first became aware of Ron’s unique style in the Give D web videos back in 2008. Since then I’ve always been stoked to see any coverage of him pop up. He invariably seems to have found a fun, new spot to ride or an unusual way of riding a basic obstacle. No doubt about it, Ron has freestyle in his blood. That, along with his fun outlook on riding and life remind me of the reasons I started pedaling in the first place. I bumped into Ron recently during a morning session at Memorial Skatepark and asked if he’d be down to answer a few questions for Snakebite. The following conversation took place a couple of days later at a hidden diner near Balboa Golf Course and at Ron and Tom Perry’s shared apartment in South Park.
Photo: Travis Eden
Where were you born?
Honolulu, Hawaii. My dad was a Navy man for 17 years, so that was one of the many spots that we lived in.
What year were you born?
That’s a good year! It was a good year! Unfortunately, I was too young to recognize all the cool stuff going on around me.
Did you grow up in Hawaii?
No, I didn’t get to grow up there, but we had family living on the island. So we visited multiple summers when I was a kid. We’d alternate between my grandparents in Grand Junction, Colorado and Hawaii. My family was really cool about traveling to cool places during our summers. We got to spend time in a lot of different environments. Tropical locations, the mountains and snow. It’s something that a lot of people don’t get to experience growing up.
What was your first exposure to BMX?
The first thing I remember was in elementary school. You know those fundraisers where you had to sell candy bars? It was one of those where if you sold enough of candy bars, you’d get to watch all the GT dudes put on a show. I’m pretty sure it was a GT Air Show. They came to our school and just shredded. But, I didn’t sell enough. So I didn’t get to see the actual show. (Laughter) But, from where I was sitting, outside my classroom window, I saw them roll up. I saw Dave Voelker bunny-hop up and manual a butt-load of picnic tables out in front of the school. It was just total street, Voelker steeze. Just hauling! It was crazy! I wasn’t even into bikes at that time, but later on, after I had seen the magazines and stuff, I saw them ride in another show at a bike shop and was just blown away. It was just the sickest thing ever.
When did you actually start riding?
I didn’t get into riding until I was 12. I got a RIDEBMX magazine from my Aunt Gwen, and I read it front to back. I was just like, “I wanna do this!”
Do you remember which issue?
It was the one with Rooftop was on the cover double-pegging the fence. (see pic) I started trying to convince my parents to help me get a bike at that point.
Mike “Rooftop” Escamilla // Ride BMX Issue #37 December 1998/January 1999
What was your first bike?
My first bike was a complete Robinson. It was more of a race bike. It was tri-moly, Pitbull brakes front and rear. I bought screw on pegs for it. I was into flatland back then, but I would try to grind with them too. They were knurled so they would un-screw and loosen up when you would grind. (Laughter)
Yep. I remember those days. Do you remember the first ramp you ever rode?
It was probably Oceanside Skatepark, by the beach. It was five miles from my house. I was skating and riding. Whenever I would get flat tires, I would skate. Changing out tubes seemed like such an ordeal back then. Some of my friends skated and we watched a lot of skate videos too.
Did you ever have a bashguard bike?
No, I wish! Those things are sweet! (Laughter)
What was your local bike shop?
Alan’s Family Bike Shop right off the highway near the coast. I actually ended up working there for a while. It was cool. I had to egg them on to carry more BMX stuff, since they mostly had beach cruisers and mountain bikes. I trained a few of the employees….a lot of them, actually. After that, they came under new ownership. I thought, “You know, maybe I could ask the new boss for a raise?” Then, they laid me off the next day. (Laughter)
Because you trained all the people to replace you?
Ya, they were like, “We don’t need to give this guy more money. We’ve got all these other dudes.” (Laughter) The day I got laid off I rode….I rode to work every day…and the day I got laid off, I rode my bike through a swarm of bees. It was like the worst day of my life. (Laughter)
Nosepick to Fakie at Home Ave // Photo by Lee Hopkins
So wait, the same day you got laid off, you rode your bike through a swarm of bees?
Ya! It was nuts. Like a legit, cloud of bees. It was f@#*ing terrifying! That’s actually happened to me multiple times. Riding through swarms of bees. (Laughter) Most of those memories are pretty vivid. I’ve pedaled my bike, just stupid distances. You encounter crazy things like that when you are out riding all over. As kids, we would pedal all over the place. One day we rode to 3 different parks, we also hit up a school, and then we ended up riding back to the Oceanside Park. That was seriously over thirty miles. I don’t even think we ate anything at all that day. I was so stupid about it back then too. I remember just drinking more water to make the hunger go away. (Laughter) Good memories.
So how did you get the name “Dirt Ron?”
It’s kind of funny. It’s eerily similar to how the Dirt Bros got their name. We would go on road trips to San Francisco a lot, me, and Hoang (Tran), and Kyle (Hart) and some of our other buddies who don’t ride anymore, and I was just filthy. I’d go without shoes, cut-off shorts, slimy shirts…I was just a dirty kid.
Speaking of Dirt Bros – did you know about Dirt Bros, growing up in San Diego?
Totally! Gary Young, Ryan Fudger, Mike Grosse, Vic Murphy of course. I’d go on SanDiegoBMX.com all the time so I knew about all the dudes through that. And then I grew up watching Dead Sailor and Nowhere Fast. That was a lot of the San Diego local scene. I remember seeing Gary Young ride at the Vista Park. Seeing Gary ride was my introduction to that skill level. (Laughter)
Was Dead Sailor the first video you saw?
Nah, the first video I actually saw was Road Fools Best of 1-5. That was super-good. I remember Road Fools 10 with all those gnarly dudes on the trip and Vic Murphy shredding Talent and all those other concrete parks. 540 lawn-mowers, just sick style. It made that video so good.
Would you say that influenced your riding style?
Ya, kind of, but as far as influences, I literally read every RideBMX magazine I could get my hands on front to back. I’d try to emulate everyone in there that I could. You know, you go through phases, and I tried to ride like everybody. (Laughter)
You’re super-fun to ride with and to watch ride. You have “freestyle” kind of style. As far as riders go, who would you say your influences were?
That’s a good question. It’s crazy, people always want to pin-point one or two riders. But, I literally looked at so many dudes in the magazines, and thought so many of them had something cool or interesting about their riding. The front brakes, and the “freestyle” side of it didn’t come until later for me. I just got more into it when I found out about it and the history of the cool tricks that we had. Now I’m just more into freestyle and old school style, going out and getting aggro and having fun. You know, I enjoy watching riders like that. It’s unpredictable and kind of sloppy so it’s fun to watch. You don’t know if they are gonna land it or not. I ride like how I would like to watch somebody else ride. A way that is exciting to me. Something that is a little bit different each time.
What riders did you think were the coolest to watch back when you were younger?
Dudes like The Gonz, RatBoy, Vic Murphy, “Crazy Action” Ken Hale, and Dave Young. There was a point where I was really into doing handrails. When you’ve ridden as long as we have, you’ve probably gone through a few different phases in styles of riding. Also, there were local dudes like Ryan Fudger, Chris Hervan, and Hoang. Because I lived in North County, those were the riders that were around, and I was just like “these dudes are sick!”
Photo: Steve Kennedy
Was there ever a dream bike that you wanted when you were younger?
There were so many. I liked a lot of riders and I liked a lot of the complete bikes in the catalogues. I was super psyched on Hoffman Bikes. I didn’t have Head First or Aggroman or any of those crazy videos, but I had Testimony. Mat’s riding in there and in Props was just insane. His team was way rad and the catalogues they had were super-nice. At the time, they put a lot into showing off their products. GT did as well. I went to mountain bike stores and got all the catalogues they would let me take. Even Specialized. A lot of the silly, gross bikes from back then like the Fatboy. (Laughter) I was into the Haros for sure. This local, Matt Williams lived in Vista and he was sponsored by Haro. There are a lot of Haros up there because their headquarters is located near there.
Who did you ride with? Dudes from middle-school.
Ricky Sanders. He still rides mountain bikes and is rad. Ryan Farner, Chris Gilbert he’s still gnarly and still rides. We all learned bunny-hop barspins the same day in different locations. Ya, those dudes plus my two skater homies: Eric Dirk and Nick May.
What was Give D all about?
It was just our crew: Hoang Tran, Kyle Hart, myself, Albert Mercado, Chris Hervan, Tammy, Steve Kerr, Alex Bermudes aka “The lord of D.” Hoang already filmed a lot and we just started putting out videos under that heading. Alex made some shirts and we continued to film a lot of web edits.
When did you your riding first start getting noticed?
There was a Local Exposure Tour stop here and the article in the magazine mentioned my name. I think that was the first time I had any “coverage.” (Laughter)
What is your sponsorship history?
A year or two after that Local Exposure Tour, I got asked to be on Subrosa and The Take at the same time. Hoang shot a lot of photos of all of us…
Key Hole Bowl // Memorial Skatepark // Photo: Francis Delepena
He’s a rad photographer!
He’s super-good! Amazing, really. Through him I got a little coverage in the Give D videos. And my buddy Alex, who was the Give D dude, had just become the team manager for The Take. So, I decided to go with them instead of Subrosa. That was when Subrosa had first started, when it was just Ryan Sher, Eli Platt, Rich Hirsch, and Hoang. “The Four” you know….before the Skeleton Crew even existed. Going with Subrosa would probably have been smarter for me at the time, I might have had a few more opportunities, but back then I didn’t know anything about that kind of stuff. So I went with The Take, and it actually ended up being a super-awesome experience.
So what happened with The Take?
I think I rode for them for a year or two maybe. But through that, and through Alex, we all ended up getting flow through Odyssey. And that’s still going to this day. We all knew a lot of the same people, we were all filming together, and it was just natural. Then, at some point, I wasn’t as psyched on riding for a little bit. With the Take, the team had changed, and the company changed. At the same time, I wasn’t really trying to produce for them in the same way. I wasn’t riding as much, and when I was, it was just for myself. I wasn’t really trying to produce content or anything like that. And then, just over time, I started to get more coverage again. At one point I got offered a spot with FBM, but I just wasn’t into it. I wasn’t into trying to produce like that. For a while I just wasn’t into the industry at all. And then when I came back into it, that’s when I put my brakes on. It kinda changed my style and made riding fresh for me. I may have had brakes when I was on The Take, but I was brakeless for a long time before that.
How did you get hooked up with Bone Deth?
It was actually Ferbert (Shajn Raines), who is no longer with the company, who got in touch with me. But, he and Sean Burns came out to San Diego to hang out and ride. They stayed with us for a little bit, we got to show them around and go shred a bunch of spots. Maybe like a year or so after that they asked me if I wanted to be on the team. I was like “YES!” It was sick. If I was going to ride for anyone, I would want to ride for Bone Deth. I always looked up to Sean Burns, Albie Bennet….the whole team is sick. So that was a dream for me. Kyle and I had homie clips in Surfin’ for the Ugly Broads. They had the footage from when they were out here. So ya, it’s Bone Deth, Odyssey, and Us Versus Them, a clothing company from here in San Diego, that help me out a lot. Through Us Versus Them, we get flow through Vision Street Wear. It’s really cool for me because I work a lot and go to school too. It’s low stress. They don’t put any pressure on me.
Are you close with the guys on the teams you are a part of?
Ya for sure. I’ve been on 2 trips to the East Coast and they come out here too. Lee Hopkins and Dean Dickinson come out and ride. Those dudes are super amazing and hard workers. Lee takes incredible photos and Dean pumps out super-cool stuff all the time. He’s great at organizing events and bringing people together. He’s my transition brother. He’s the real skatepark and pool shredder on the team, so he gets us motivated to go ride different spots. You see Burns riding pools all the time now and Dean is partly why. It’s cool to have a good mix on the team like that. I’m mostly a transition rider, but the Bone Deth Crew gets me out riding street and wanting to try scary stuff.
Where all have you traveled?
All over the West Coast states, Colorado, the Southwest, Texas, Vancouver, Canada, the North East. Everywhere but the Deep South. We used to go to San Francisco a lot. Like every month almost. Hoang had a girlfriend up there and we would always drive up. I haven’t been overseas yet. I’ve got a passport that needs stamps. Gotta get to work on that.
Photo: Tom Perry
What’s your favorite place to visit?
I like Austin a lot because the scene there is so rad. Good food, fun skateparks, lots of street spots, cool people. It’s kinda hard to ignore. Texas Toast Jam is there. Odyssey dudes are there, Nuno and Jim Bauer. Oregon is really amazing too. Concrete skateparks are my favorite so that’s the Mecca right there. Good food, coffee, and a bunch of weirdos like myself.
What’s the best trip you’ve been on?
I’ve been on a lot. Like I was saying, we used to go to San Francisco all the time. Those trips were great…staying in dorm rooms, dudes getting shady and hanging out with college chicks, just roughing it with very little money and almost no food, maybe a couple of cans of ravioli in my backpack. (Laughter) Just scraping by, having the best time ever. We did that a lot for a while. We would ride all the parks. The Berkeley skatepark. SF street of course was just epic. Those were my first trips, the dudes I was with: Hoang, Kyle, Tom Perry, Bob, and Mundo were all rad. Alex was there also. They were all fun to travel with. The Bone Deth trips have been pretty awesome too. I could talk about those all day.
Pocket Air // Front Brake Fiesta // Photo: Paul Covey
Who do you hang out with most these days?
Mostly my roommate, Tom. I still hang out and ride with Kyle and Hoang. Whoever is around at the park.
How would you describe the San Diego Scene? The scene here is really big. There are a lot of clicks. Different groups of riders all over the place. The Fiend dudes moved here, so they are their own little crew. They ride a lot at night. So when we clock out to party, they clock in to go ride. (Laughter) Then there are the Market Dudes, who are just wizards. They ride all the time, everywhere. Then there are all the locals. San Diego has a ton of super-good locals. There are lots of young kids coming up. Clairemont YMCA Park has a huge scene. Kyle Hart works there, and that’s just a breeding ground for gnarly kids. Then there’s our crew. Fudger just moved back here so that’s awesome. I heard Nathan Williams just moved here. The weather is incredible. It’s a good change of scenery for people from the Midwest or wherever. I go on road trips, but I always end up coming back here.
What is your favorite edit that you’ve been a part of?
My split part in Anthem 2 with Brian Foster for sure. But the Bone Deth DVD we are working on now will be my first full section.
What is your favorite picture that you’ve gotten?
My first picture in Ride that Fudger took. It was pool carve with me doing a 1-foot tire-grab. (see pic) That pool was near Mt. Helix. It was spray painted all these crazy colors, and the owner let us ride it. He was going to sell the house and destroy the pool anyway, so we got to have a blast in it first.
Dirt Ron’s First Photo in Ride BMX // Photo by Ryan Fudger
What was it like to get the cover that Keith Mulligan shot?
The cover was a gnarly surprise. Dean Dickinson was in town and we were riding a bunch of pools; like we usually do when he’s in town. He told me that Keith Mulligan was going to be around to shoot and I was like, “cool”….I was just into riding those pools. I was trying something that I’d never done in a pool, and the picture he took came out awesome!
Did Mulligan tell you that you were going to get the cover?
No. Not at all. I really was surprised. I never expected to get a cover of a magazine. I especially didn’t expect to get that one. It was awesome. My parents and friends, everyone was super-psyched for me. It’s weird. It’s almost like it didn’t happen. It’s very surreal because, that’s the magazine that got me into bike riding. So being on the cover was incredibly surreal and hard to believe. I think it may have been Mulligan’s last cover photo for Ride, so it’ was like the end of an era.
Who are some of your favorite photographers or filmers?
Fudger and Zielinsk of course. They are so talented, their timing is awesome, and they are both so good at what they do. Justin Kosman. I’ve had a lot of fun with him. I’ve done assistant work with him for a long time on multiple projects. Working with Kosman is great. He does stuff for Redbull and Vans, all these big, gnarly companies. He is incredibly professional, works well under pressure, and like Fudger and Jeff Z, he’s really good at what he does. Then Hoang and Tom are both really awesome photographers and videographers. They’re my best friends so it’s convenient to hook up and make something. There’s more. There’s a lot…
Who else comes to mind?
Doeby Huynh, who we are filming the Likewise video with, is really good, and it is fun to watch him progress. Josh Hayes used to shoot photos of everyone. He doesn’t live around here anymore, but he was really good. Filming with Stew Johnson was awesome too. That was when I was younger and had the biggest shred boner. (Laughter) I was so amped all the time to ride. It was low-stress filming with Stew. I just did my thing. Before then, I wasn’t used to filming a lot. It was really cool. Those trips were all super fun. We went out and filmed with Vic Murphy that one day and it was rad and a total surprise. We rode street in Alpine, and hit up his show ramps next to these custom hot-rods he was painting. Vic still shreds. I didn’t have any expectations of being in that video (Anthem 2) either. I just thought we were out and about filming stuff. I guess I thought maybe my clips would end up in the friends section. Then at one point he told me Eli Platt and I were going to have a split section. And later, Stew was like, “I switched it up. It’s you and Brian Foster now!” I was like: “P’HUH! Ok, UHH YA! YES! Let’s Do That!” Nothing on Eli Platt, he is also an amazing rider. But BF? Me, being stoked on the old school, you know I was so psyched!
Photo: Travis Eden
What has been a highlight of your time spent riding bikes?
Through the BMX community, you get to meet the most incredible people. Everyone who is into riding is super-passionate about it. Mid-School dudes like you and Shad. All the old school dudes who are still in it, and then all the younger dudes making moves. We get to see the whole spectrum of age and the passion involved in what each group and individual is doing. It’s so cool to get to meet new people, travel, go to contests, and work on projects. You get a lot of real life experience through road trips, going to events, talking to everyone and making connections. It just spider webs from there, and then the next thing you know, your life is going.
What’s an ideal day look like to you?
A good breakfast, coffee for sure. I’m a spazz already, so sometimes that doesn’t help, but whatever. Getting to ride my bike is always on the list. Maybe meeting up with some buddies at the park and get a good session in. Any chance I get to work on my motorcycle is good. My homework for school is design work, so it’s a chance to be creative. I really enjoy time spent designing something on the computer or getting to draw or paint. Getting to make something and to do something productive that I care about is really the goal. I try to make everyday like that. Some days are kind of a loss because of work and school. But even then, I try to be productive with my mornings. When I was younger, I lived on couches and did nothing a lot of time, and now, in my older age, I’ve gotten more restless and developed a hunger for productivity.
If you could give one piece of advice, what would it be?
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. You learn from those mistakes. Everything is a learning experience. There is always someone better than you at whatever it is, but you can’t stress about that. Make realistic goals for yourself, don’t stress too much, and have fun. Be open-minded and have empathy and understanding for other people.
You seem to keep a pretty positive attitude when a lot of other riders get salty. How do you maintain that outlook?
A lot of it has to do with my upbringing. Even though I didn’t grow up in Hawaii, I still try to take a lot of that “chilled out” mentality. Mostly my family though. They are pretty laid back people who try to not stress unnecessarily. You can apply that to all levels of your life.
What’s one hard lesson you’ve had to learn?
So many. I’ve had a pretty crazy life so far. The Subrosa thing, I regretted that for a while, because I saw my friends flying to Japan and getting paychecks. But now, where I am with Bone Deth, I’m so psyched! I can look back now and see how things worked out without regrets.
What do you love about BMX?
There is so much. The heart and soul of it. Just the freestyle aspect of it. You can do your own thing and just go for it. The high energy level involved in riding. Just being pumped. (Laughter) It’s a lively sport.
Would you change anything about BMX?
You know, I used to get bummed. Obviously you go on TheComeUp and stuff and you watch kids jibbin’, going slow. Of course, that’s not what I prefer to watch. I’d rather see some old school dudes going super-high, getting sketchy on a quarter-pipe. (Laughter) or doing some radical Miami-Hopper or a gut-lever or something. (Laughter) But, now I’m just like, let it be what it is. Don’t look for the stuff you don’t like. Just pay attention to the stuff that you do like. Embrace that. And even the stuff that you don’t like, those kids are having fun. They feel the same way I felt when I got on my bike when I was 12 years old. I’m not going to take that away from them. But, I still want to see them end up being super-sweet freestylers. Shred-Gnargoyles! (Laughter)
What does the next year look like for you?
We are working on filming for the Bone Deth video. With all the dudes involved, you know it’s going to be super-sick. Trying to squeeze classes and studying in with being a rider and also working a full time job. I’m going with Kosman to Baja at some point. He got this 12 passenger van, and he’s always coming up with crazy video projects for us to do. Those are always fun. Then I’m trying to do more design work. Just meet more people and potentially get into the industry and work on projects that I’m interested in.
How can people keep up with you?
Instagram for sure: @dirtron69, I use Snap Chat too.
Would you like to thank anyone here?
For sure, my Aunt Gwen who got me the magazine who got me into bike riding, my parents for dealing with me jumping off stuff, and taking me to the hospital when I smashed my head, my assorted girlfriends who also had to deal with it (Laughter), Hoang and Kyle, all my sponsors present and past, Bone Deth, The Take, Alex at Give D, all the Odyssey dudes, Nuno, Jim Bauer, Sean Burns, Ferbert even, Us Versus Them, James is awesome. All my friends, my family, everyone who’s supported me. Lots of people I can’t remember right now, because I smashed my head.
Interview by Paul Covey