If you were a teenager in the late 1990's or the early 2000's, chances are you picked up a skateboard. If you weren't brave enough, or skilled enough, to pick up a board, you most definitely played some iteration of the Tony Hawk's Pro Skater video game series.
Skateboarding enjoyed its largest boon to date during this time period. Skateboarding was everywhere — it penetrated mainstream television, film, and music. Companies like Vans, Hurley, and Quicksilver began to take off thanks in part to the popularity of their sponsored skaters. Thrasher Magazine was enjoying its heyday, and skateboard shops were popping up across the country, selling decks, trucks, wheels, and, of course, skate videos.
One of the skaters heavily featured in Tony Hawk's video game franchise was a man named Andrew Reynolds. Reynolds had gained a fair bit of notoriety for being one of the gnarliest skaters on Birdhouse's roster at the time. He would fly effortlessly down insanely huge flights of stairs, grind on the sickest rails, and flip his board with such precision that it eventually earned himself the nickname "The Godfather."
If you were to do a little big more digging on Reynolds, you would know that Reynolds was a member of one of the most infamous skate crews in history — The Piss Drunx
The Piss Drunx were a ragtag group of skaters known for their extreme and unorthodox skate style, as well as their excessive drinking and drug abuse, as the name implies. The group consisted of Reynolds, Erik Ellington, Ali Boulala, Aaron Pearcy, Jim Greco, and Dustin Dollin. The group dominated skateboarding in the early 2000's, and their impact on the skate community as a whole was undeniable.
And their success was unquestionable. Shortly after leaving Birdhouse, Reynolds created his own company, the aptly-named Baker Skateboards. Many of the members of Piss Drunx were subsequently signed to Baker, enjoying a surge in popularity due to Baker's promotional material, fantastic videos, and the reputation for being some of the best skaters in the industry.
Each member enjoyed resounding success. Boulala's part in Flip Skateboard's video Sorry was lauded as one of the best video parts of all time, Baker was thriving with their series of balls-to-the-walls skate action, and even the Piss Drunx brand, if you could call it that, was taking over the skate world.
Everything was riding high for the sextet. Their fanbase kept growing at a rapid pace, they were making money doing what they loved, and their drunken antics were celebrated and glorified amongst those around them, and their fans.
The crew was inseparable, they did everything together. They share parts in each other's videos, they were constantly skating together, and many of the members got matching tattoos of their logo, drawn up by Aaron Pearcy.
Their fans were so loyal and fervent, it was common to see their notorious "PD" tattoo pop up outside of their circle. They were the punk rock, dangerous superstars skateboarding needed.
This PD logo became so ingrained in skate culture, it began popping up everywhere. The logo wasn't just a mark for the group of friends who started it, it became synonymous with anyone remotely related to skate culture who liked to party. It was on shirts, skate decks, shoes, the Piss Drunx were a global phenomenon.
Not only did it allow someone to represent the lifestyle that came along with being a Piss Drunx member, it represented a brotherhood of skater hooligans. It was a calling card for those who took their lifestyle to the extreme.
Ellington explained to BitchSlap Magazine, "I mean, I still go to like other countries and stuff and I'll see like Brazil's got a Piss Drunx crew out there, Sweden I'm sure's got them from Ali...you see it everywhere, it's really crazy...I see a lot of Piss Drunx tattoos...a lot of kids have them. It's pretty amazing to see something that you've helped create and people are that inspired by it to want to actually get it tattooed on their body forever, it's a pretty cool thing."
Masters of their craft, the Piss Drunx, unfortunately, could only come crashing down. Their extravagant lifestyle of drug use and drinking would lead to an event that likely changed the lives of everyone in the group.
On March 7, 2007, Ali Boulala was driving a motorcycle with his fellow Flip Skateboards team member, Shane Cross. Neither rider were wearing safety helmets, and were both under the influence of alcohol during the ride. According to reports, Boulala and Cross were enjoying a night of drinking and debauchery at The Cherry Bar in Melbourne, Australia, when they decided to get on the bike, ride around their hotel two or three times, before crashing into a wall at around 30 km/h.
The crash killed Cross and sent Boulala into a coma for 4 months. After miraculously waking from the coma, Boulala was charged and found guilty of culpable driving, and was sentenced to 4 years in prison.
Following the experience, many of the Piss Drunx had their eyes opened in a way that had never occurred before. It shattered their reality that there were no consequences for their actions, it changed their views on their actions, and it made them realize they didn't need the life of excess and overindulgence anymore.
Once Boulala was released from prison, he struggled with the guilt of the death of Shane Cross. He turned to drugs once again, but it wasn't for the good time or party experience that it once was for. It was to forget. It was to help cope with the fact that he was responsible for the death of one of skateboarding's brightest futures.
His fellow comrades in the Piss Drunx recognized his problem. They knew that he needed to get sober, as many of them had already gotten sober while Boulala was in prison. Shortly after, Boulala entered himself into rehab after visiting a psychiatrist.
One of the most devastating losses for Boulala is his inability to skate. Since being released from prison and waking from his coma, he has had a difficult time relearning how to perform tricks and ride due to an injury to his hip from the accident.
In an interview with Vica, Boulala describes the experience as, "In my head, I know exactly how everything is done, I can do it in my head, but when I go to actually do it, it just doesn't really communicate."
In what is perhaps an ironic twist of fate, many of them have sobered up. Reynolds, Greco, Boulala, and Ellington have all gotten sober, and Dollin has toned down his lifestyle as well. While they no longer refer to themselves as Piss Drunx, the group still remain friends and titans of the skateboarding industry.
Reynolds is co-owner of Baker Skateboards and is a partner in Bakerboys Distribution. Erik Ellington co-founded skate shoe company Supra as well as co-founding Death Wish Skateboards with Jim Greco. Dustin Dollin still skates for Baker and has additional sponsorship from Vans and Spitfire wheels. Boulala has now been sober for over 2 years, and hopes to relearn how to skate once again.
The legacy of the Piss Drunx is one mired in controversy, tragedy, and at times, some of the best skateboarding in the world.
Reynolds and other members have expressed concern over the impact the actions of The Piss Drunx have had on young viewers of their work. Many of them have voiced regret over their actions, but they are looking to right the ship.
When Reynolds was interviewed by Ian Michna for Jenkem, he stated, "I feel like Baker, Piss Drunx and our whole crowd, might have done some damage, and I’d like to try and repair that as much as I possibly can. As much as I can do to steer a kid away from drinking and drugs and that whole lifestyle. I feel like that’s a good job for me."
Let's hope it's a job well done.