It is early here, on this blog. I never anticipated I would receive DMs thanking me for re-living my experiences. I have been all over the world serving as a photographer to some of the greatest teams of skaters ever amassed. In 1995 Tod Swank —ex Pro Skater and owner of Tum Yeto (Foundation, Toy Machine)— brainstormed a tour across America, picking winners that would receive a personal visit from his riders to their home town, personal spaces, and spots. The stops —or rather, the spots— were highly questionable, but the impact on the winners and locals left a lasting impression.
One of those locals on the Kansas stop was Dallis Willard. Not exactly a local but close enough, Dallis messaged me on Instagram after reading a post about Steve Olson on that tour. He sent a batch of photos from one of those questionable spots. I thought, what a great opportunity to speak to someone that was on the ground at one of the demos.
photoBALLARD: That was rad, to get that DM from you about the Tum Yeto tour.
photoBALLARD: That was a crazy tour. How did you hear about it?
Dallis: Dude, I try to think back then how it would have happened. We had a skate shop in Wichita. I lived in Hutchinson, which is like smack in the middle of Kansas, and we didn't have a shop in my town. But we had a shop in Wichita, that was about half an hour away. So maybe we heard about it there. Honestly, I don't even remember how we heard about it, or anything, back then.
photoBALLARD: Looking through those photos, that basketball court set up looks raw.
Dallis: There were about 20 people there. Do you even remember that at all?
photoBALLARD: It was the tour where we were going to people's houses. It was '95.
Dallis: That's when it was.
photoBALLARD: I remember we ran ads in Thrasher calling out kids to show us their spots, girls, etc., etc. And then we just hit the road and went with it. It was so crazy. The guys skated some of the worst spots, but it was one of the most memorable tours ever.
Dallis: So cool, man. I remember the ad, a Foundation ad, like "show us your spots, send us photos". And I think the ad said, "we're going to pick the worst ones as winners". I remember not knowing the kid who won. The demo was three or four hours from my town. I think the winners parents put the spot together, there were only two obstacles with a quarter pipe at one end and a wooden kicker at the other. It was like pyramid, or wedge ramp box; no grind, no ledge or anything on the side, and it was hot as hell.
photoBALLARD: How old were you at the time?
Dallis: I would have been just turning 17.
photoBALLARD: Who did you go up there with?
Dallis: I went with my best friend Keith. Actually this girl Kelsey drove us up there, in typical skate fashion. She drove all day up there and back. I don't know how I talked her into it, but she hung out. I think her only takeaway was that Heath Kirchart was really cute.
photoBALLARD: Was she the girl with the video camera?
Dallis: No, I actually thought that girl came with you. She must've been one of the locals. I assumed that was Kendra from Poot.
photoBALLARD: Good Lord, there's no way we could have taken a girl on that tour. It would've been out of control. Oh my God. That was when Heath was 15, his parents made me sign a release to take him on that trip.
Dallis: Oh really?
photoBALLARD: Can't remember if it was that tour or the one the year before.
Dallis: That's funny. Well, he'd already done Barbarians at the Gate by that time, which would have been a couple of years before that.
photoBALLARD: Yeah, man, it's a blur.
Dallis: Oh, I'm sure.
photoBALLARD: We met a lot of really cool people on that trip, it was just amazing. That tour really left an impact on people.
Dallis: Dude, that was the first time I ever saw pros skate in person I'd already been skating for seven or eight years, had consumed a ton of videos and magazine content. I just didn't understand board control or pop before I saw them in person, like Paul Sharp. He was just blasting off of the fun box, it was insane. Just the way they would catch tricks and stuff... There were good skaters in Kansas at the time, but I just never seen anybody that could skateboard at that level. It just blew our minds. I mean, we were so enamored.
photoBALLARD: Do you remember who we brought?
Dallis: Yeah, definitely. For that part of the tour, it was Heath Kirchart, Josh Beagle, Paul Sharpe, Satva Leung, and Steve Berra. Berra didn't skate that day, we were bummed on him for that, he was waiting for friends from Nebraska to meet him. But yeah, that's who was there. Steve Olson wasn't there at that point, or Chad Muska. I don't know who else you might've had along the way before or after that.
photoBALLARD: Yeah, we were rotating people in and out.
photoBALLARD: I can't remember if Kansas was on our way to the east coast or if we were heading back, we started in San Diego, drove to New York, then down to Florida, back over to Seattle and then back down to San Diego.
Dallis: Like an hourglass?
photoBALLARD: Yeah, we criss-crossed the US.
Dallis: Yeah. It was a huge day for me, I couldn't tell you how we heard about it. We must have seen a tour schedule on an ad or something. Word just got down to the skate shop and we were pumped. Throughout all of the nineties, Tum Yeto was the best about coming to Kansas in the summer and touring the Midwest. Nobody else came. We craved any sort of entertainment in Kansas, and people always forgot about us. But Tum Yeto always came through.
photoBALLARD: Do you remember what happened that day? Did we just go to that one spot?
Dallis: A little bit of it's blurry, but mostly it took place at that spot and right in the middle of the day, it was super hot. And then I feel like there was some talk about trying to find some street spots or something after that. And I can't remember if we all rode with you guys or not. I know on the way out of town, when you guys were driving, we were driving alongside you on the highway and like making stupid "show us your boobs" signs and stuff, and flashing them at the van because, of course, we couldn't get enough. It felt like it was going to be another two years until anything exciting happened for us again. We were milking it for all it's worth. So I remember we must've stuck with you guys for a while. I don't remember, but we definitely followed you out of town.
photoBALLARD: I noticed I had just had a video camera in my hand, in the photos, so I doubt I have any pictures, but maybe I can go through my archive and take a look.
Dallis: Oh, awesome.
photoBALLARD: I can't remember. I know we wound up filming somewhere right around there that day.
photoBALLARD: We filmed a whole section for 411 Video Magazine on that trip.
Dallis: I've watched that one recently a couple times. And there's a couple clips from the demo that make it into that 411. I think Satva does like a Nollie 180 kickflip off the side of the quarter pipe. There's some other stuff. I can't remember if there was ever an article that came out about it.
photoBALLARD: I believe there was.
Dallis: The Big Brother article. I should totally find that. I was so like out of my mind, I kissed Josh Beagle on the butt crack and there's a clip of that somewhere. I don't even know why I did it. I couldn't even tell you, but he was skating around there, shirtless or whatever, and he was bent over getting a water at some point and his butt crack was sticking out, and I was like "check this out", and reached over and kissed him on the butt. He jumped up and ran away and was like, "Ooh". And I swear —maybe it's just in my mind's eye, but I swear— I've seen a clip of it somewhere, but it wasn't in that 411 section. The clip is not of me kissing him, but of him jumping up and like running away and into something. I don't know if that was in a tour section in the Foundation video or something, but I feel like I saw that happen on video somewhere.
photoBALLARD: That's super funny.
Dallis: We were seriously out of our minds. I mean, it was like movie stars came down to hang out with us or something. The beauty of skateboarding is it's a great equalizer. Like you can show up at a spot and you never know who's going to be there. It's not like a professional sport where you're never going to play baseball with the best baseball players in the world. In skateboarding you can hang with the best skateboarders in the world and it's not a thing, it just happens.
photoBALLARD: Yeah. That was an amazing tour man. Even 25 years later, we're still talking about.
Dallis: Yeah, it's one of my favorite skate memories. Because I had never seen pros in person, and witnessed a level of skateboarding that I hadn't realized in front of me before, but also just the fact that it was so small and hangout-able, it was just super cool. It was a great day. I'm seriously grateful that you guys did that.
View the entire days shoot at https://dalliswillard.zenfolio.com/p963951096