Could your skate scene use a Justin Bohl? The 39-year-old Detroit skater and filmer, whose most recent video is called Minted, says he improved 88 spots while filming the video, and no, a simple bondo job doesn’t count. Bohl’s total only includes spots that required an hour or more to fix – his most involved jobs, like, replacing dirt with brand-new sidewalk squares, could take upwards of 40 hours. Some 41 spots he fixed for the video had never been skated; he says he spent $3,500-plus to make it all happen.
Minted is Bohl’s third video. He made a Detroit flick called Sidewalk Funk in 2004 and then says he took a 17-year hiatus from filming, during which he skated, was an eighth grade history teacher, went back to school to become an occupational therapist and was given a pro model by the defunct Toronto-area brand Love Skateboards (he rips.) The pandemic and persistent Achilles tendonitis put Bohl back behind the camera to make 2021’s Something Old, Something New – momentum from that one carried into making Minted.
Bohl’s friends say he’s one of the kindest people you’ll ever meet. A Detroit skateboarding booster through and through, we called Bohl to talk about Minted and what goes into scene building, both literally and figuratively.
Minted really feels like a classic local video, I really enjoyed it. It’s that mix of showcasing Detroit, but then showcasing the skaters, but then the third thing is that you’re making it for the group of skaters. So you’re making it for the outside and for the scene. What would you say was your end goal?
My end goal was to help give some shine to different skaters in Detroit and the Detroit skate scene in general. And to also display the variety of spots here – I try not to film too much at any particular spot, and I made a lot of new spots while filming Minted. Also, the skaters in Minted, they aren’t skaters that typically skate together and several of them hadn’t met each other until I started filming this project.
That’s interesting, I don’t usually think of a disparate group of skaters in a video and then you as the filmer as the connective tissue. Is that something you did with previous videos or were you making a point of doing that this time around?
It kind of happened with Something Old, Something New, but really it was pretty natural, just from being a skater in Detroit and active in the skate scene for two and a half decades now, making friends with different groups of skaters around the area over that time period. I’ve been friends with most of the guys featured in Minted for more than 10 years.
There’s quite a big age range in people who have parts in the video – the oldest guy in Minted who had a part – he’s 46 years old. Then the youngest guy in Minted was Tristan [Phillips], and he’s 22 years old. And the 46-year-old, his name is Jamie Jeffrey, he’s over twice the age of Tristan.
Adam Mueller • 📷 by Daniel Stelly
That’s rad. Was Jamie – if I remember correctly, did he have the switch frontside noseslide on the ledge off stairs as his ender?
He did, yeah! I always get hyped when a skater comes back to a spot where they previously filmed a memorable or recognizable trick 15 or 20 years in the past. In Jamie’s case, he was the first person I ever saw skate that ledge. That was 20 years ago in 2003 when he did a switch backside noseslide. While we were filming [Minted] he put the idea out there of doing the switch frontside noseslide, but that ledge is no joke; it’s taken out a lot of people. We waited until just a few days before the premiere to try it and he did it. He’s such a legend – that was the last trick anyone filmed for Minted.
Where does Detroit fit into American skateboarding? It’s technically Midwest, but I always trip on the fact that you guys are in the Eastern Time Zone. Where do you place it?
Yeah, we definitely claim the Midwest. Sometimes people visit here and refer to Detroit as East Coast, so I guess people from other places do perceive it that way. In the skateboard world, it’s never really been on the proverbial map, like Detroit doesn’t get the attention or recognition that East Coast skate cities get. So in that way, I’d also say it’s grouped in with the Midwest skate cities. Detroit gets some attention here and there, but like most Midwest cities, it’s pretty sparse. It’s only been in recent years that Detroit skateboarding has been getting more recognition and things have begun to shift in our direction.
Max Garson • 📷 by Justin Bohl
Is there a Detroit style of skating?
I would say our terrain and city definitely influences the way people skate here. Detroit has a lot of abandoned places and… we make use of a lot of these abandoned buildings and places all around the city, and are able to make spots at these abandoned areas that normally wouldn’t be possible. Also, Detroit is a very flat city, there’s no hills in Detroit — the GX1000 crew probably would never come here because they wouldn’t have anything to skate. Both of those things influence the type of skating here. There’s a lot of ledge skating. The ground here is very rough and crusty from the winter. Spots can get ruined in a couple winters if those winters are bad enough. It can mess up the ground and make it so rough and uneven that the spot becomes unskateable.
A lot of people told me that you are very enthusiastic about fixing up spots. Is that just a necessity of skating in Detroit? Is it just fun to do? Is it making stuff happen?
I would say it’s all of the above. Really, my main motivation is that spots are an essential element of a growing skate scene and a skate scene that’s staying alive. I feel like spots bring energy and excitement to skate scenes. It’s what keeps a skate scene thriving and keeps things fun and exciting for everyone.
So when I think about fixing spots, that’s my main motivation – just to keep things new and exciting for everyone in our skate scene. Due to many people’s contributions in making these new spots, I would say the Detroit skate scene is bigger than it ever has been right now. But also, I do just really enjoy challenging myself to fix spots and as time has gone on, I’ve ramped up the type of spots that I fix and the amount of work I’ll put into a spot. There were a few spots in Minted where I put in 30 or 40 hours fixing.
Can you fix a spot too much where you get into the realm of “cheating?”
For sure, yeah, that’s definitely something that I keep in mind and I try and keep it as close to what [the spot] would naturally be. More of what I do is repair where there would be a missing sidewalk block – I’ll just chip out the remaining [concrete] and put a new block in there just like it originally was.
You fixed up one spot and you were calling it “The Final Boss.” I have my guess as to which spot it was in Minted, but what spot was it?
That would be the spot in the very last clip of the video, where Adam [Mueller] kickflips down the 12 stair. It’s a 12 stair with a handrail that comes out of the forest and lands into a busy street. That spot was extremely challenging to fix for a variety of reasons. When I found that spot, there was no run-up. It was buried under five inches of dirt and there were roots from all the adjacent trees laying over the pathway. At first, I didn’t even know if there was a run-up to that spot because it was completely hidden. So to clear that run-up of about 30 feet was a really big challenge. It was basically a spot where I initially thought to myself, “Oh, this will probably be a 10-hour fix,” and then new challenges kept arising until I ended up investing almost 40 hours there. During the process, I wasn’t sure if I’d ever successfully finish making that spot skateable and felt like I had been defeated. It was the most challenging spot I’ve fixed to date, and that’s why it became known as “The Final Boss.”
Eric Clark • 📷 by Daniel Stelly
One thing that strikes me about that Adam clip is that there’s still just 30 feet of run up.
Yeah, yeah, I never imagined anyone would skate the stairs like he did instead of the rail. It was pretty mind blowing. It was spontaneous. He basically had to run through the woods and throw down with his feet perfectly set up in kickflip position. And the spot is far from perfect: it’s an extremely challenging run-up and roll-away.
I think it’s noted in the YouTube caption that nearly everything’s in Detroit proper, there’s some suburb clips. It’s a personal pet peeve — especially with these Midwest videos — where one guy has his random Cali clip or he’s got the NYC hot spot clip. Why’s it important to keep it strictly Detroit?
I’ve always really liked skate videos that are centered around a specific area or a specific skate scene. I feel like it gives the viewer a more in-depth feeling of what the skate scene is about. Also, for a skate scene that’s unfamiliar to a lot of people, like Detroit, I think it’s cool when there’s a video that’s all the Detroit area. So, when someone’s watching it, they’re not wondering like, “Oh, is this somewhere else in the Midwest or the U.S?” They know every spot they’re seeing is in Detroit and I feel like that really helps bring more focus to Detroit skateboarding.
I’d also argue that guys like Adam or Jamie, they look best skating where they’re from.
Yes, that’s a big thing too. An example I always think of is PJ Ladd in PJ Ladd’s Wonderful Horrible Life where he’s mainly skating Boston – that era of PJ Ladd is my favorite. I feel like your home terrain and your environment really shapes your type of skating. When you’re skating in your home environment, it complements it the best.
Shane Rogers • 📷 by Daniel Stelly
You’re known for showing people around Detroit. In my own experience and hearing from others it can be both really cool showing pros around your town or it can sometimes be a thankless job. I think a couple people said you’re Detroit’s skate ambassador; why are you so enthusiastic about showing people around?
That is a good question. Like you said, sometimes it’s the most fun experience, and then other times it is not fun at all. There’s basically a couple components of why I’m so excited to show people around and one of them is that I just think back to the late-90s, early-2000s, when no one was coming to Detroit at all. Back then, if someone came to visit, it was just to do a demo at a park and maybe hit one street spot and then they’re gone to the next city.
Whenever I saw the rare photo in a magazine, or clip in a 411 of Detroit, it was such a huge deal. It was something me and my friends would always talk about – it’d be the first thing we’d talk about! Levi Brown had a couple Detroit tricks in one of his Element parts in 2007 and that just blew our minds that he skated and filmed here. Basically, I kind of fell into the position of being a representative of the Detroit skate scene to outsiders and I just want to show everyone the best time possible and how awesome Detroit is. Because people visiting brings energy and excitement to our skate scene, but more importantly, it brings opportunity to the local skate scene – for local skaters to get hooked up, for companies to get interested in investing in our D.I.Ys or to host events here. My motivation is that it benefits our local skate scene.
Adam said that what gets you really stoked is showing people a good time — you kind of already said that — but is that what’s up?
Totally. I kind of realized I’m not that passionate about the act of filming or the act of video-making, but I am really passionate about the Detroit skate scene and I just really love skateboarding. So that passion I have for our local skate scene is what motivates me to film and to make videos. There’s absolutely nothing in this world that gets me more stoked than being able to help my friends and others in the community succeed and have a good time. It’s a beautiful thing to see those around you accomplish their goals and have fun.