Ducky Kovacs Am Scramble Interview
"How about we just play the quiet game for a little while,” I asked Zachary “Ducky” Kovacs as gently as possible one night. The days were long and action packed, but that didn’t stop Ducky from carrying on a non-stop monologue of provocative chatter during every lull. At some point he had to get tired, right? The Duck is a one-of-a-kind skater: brash, reckless and a little bit nutty, but also brave, hilarious and tough as titanium. He filmed a whole video part on this trip, 90-percent enders, with a trip to the emergency room in the middle. Totally quackery.
How did you get the nickname Ducky?
I was about ten years old at the skatepark and I had braces at the time. I had those weird rubber band things and they pushed my lips out. So the way my friend described it is this other kid was, like, “Hey, that kid over there looks like a duck.” I had pushed-out lips and I talked a lot so it just kind of stuck.
Was there ever a time when you tried to break out and you didn’t want to be Ducky anymore?
Not really. It kind of just always stuck. There were other nicknames. I had Lips for a while from when I went to camp one time and I had chapped lips. That one luckily didn’t stick but I was always pretty much Ducky or something like that. It was like Ducky, Fucky, just variations of Ducky.
How old are you and where are you from?
I’m 22 and I’m from Modesto, California.
What’s Modesto like?
It’s like some kind of like farm town in Central California. Kind of a weird mix of meth, Gallo wine and really good skateparks.
What’s your home park?
I’d say it has to be Ceres skatepark. It’s got this huge three block. And then Riverbank for a little bit. It’s got that weird triple set with the blue fence.
Four days out of the emergency room, Ducky gets back in the game with one of the sketchiest boardslides of all time—and he made it!
And is that where you honed your skills?
Yeah, I guess there and Ripon park as well. I had a summer where I would always skate Ripon park.
You ran a helmet for a long time as a child, right?
I was wearing a helmet pretty long. It was a big deal to my parents ‘til I was 14, I think.
What was the breaking point where you finally took off the lid?
Me and my friends were filming and I had bigspin front boards for pretty long, so I wanted to do it at this pretty popular seven-stair rail. I went there and I did the trick with a helmet on and then I did it without it on. Then I fuckin’ left the helmet at the school on accident and my parents were pissed.
But then you never had to get it again?
Yeah, but then I had this time where I would hit my head ’cause I needed to learn how to hold my head up.
’Cause you were used to just headsliding out of tricks?
Yeah, I would just take the head smack pretty hard when I had the helmet on.
Rad. I talked to some of the Pizza guys and they kind of explained how you got on the team. When you were a kid your mom would take you around to a lot of contests, right?
Yeah, my mom was kind of the mom who drove all the kids in the neighborhood around to the skateparks and to different contests and stuff. And then there weren’t any contests really going on in the Central Valley so she ran contests for, like, four years. She actually ran a pretty good contest. She got Tum Yeto to sponsor it for a few years and had pretty good prizes and that’s how Miles Silvas got discovered. My mom had Karl Watson judging one of the contests and that’s where he met Miles.
Was it ever weird? I know Tony Hawk’s dad used to run the contests and then any time Tony Hawk would win they’d always go, “Yeah, ’cause your dad runs it!” Did you ever run into stuff like that?
When I was younger I went into it, like, “This is so cool. I’m gonna win all the contests.” ’Cause I’m just this cocky kid, like, “I’m the best!” and stuff like that. And then when the contests actually started I won maybe one of them a year. I didn’t really win them so I didn’t really run into that.
So it sorted itself out naturally?
Yeah. Miles Silvas would win all of them.
Yeah, he’s badass, right?
Yeah, he’s so good. It’s crazy.
Was there ever a time where you wished your mom wasn’t involved in your skating?
I don’t know. She always kind of pushed my skating at certain points. It wasn’t like she was forceful with anything. I used to race BMX bikes when I was younger and both of my parents were pretty serious about that. But I got over it ’cause I would do jumps and all the other kids would, like, take it really seriously and want to win. Then when I started doing skateboarding contests and stuff it was way more mellow compared to BMX racing, so I enjoyed it a lot more. When that show New Pollution was popular there were these twins on it that had a skateboard trainer and my mom was, like, “Do you ever think you’d need that?” And I’m, like, “No, that’s fuckin’ weird. Why would I need that?”
So it sounds like they were 100 percent behind you making a big go of this, right?
Yeah, they’re definitely supportive but it’s always been school first. Like, “As long as you get all of you homework done we’ll support your skateboarding.” I guess that’s kind of how it still is.
After juggling skating and school work, adding a front board to his feeble is no big deal for the Duck
Yeah, I was about to say you’re the only guy on the Am Scramble that had college homework to do while we were on the trip.
Yeah. It’s kind of been like that these past few years of me skating more and going on trips.
What are you studying?
I go to Cal State Fullerton and it’s a business school. So I’m doing business with a concentration in marketing.
The Pizza guys said you threatened to take over the company when you get your degree.
Yeah, my degree is on learning to exploit other people’s talents so I’m gonna take all of their creative stuff and just really take it over.
Dangerous lines on campus, Bam style
You’re gonna take their rip-off Domino’s pizza logo and make it your own!
Yeah, I’m just gonna be there and make sure we don’t get sued.
They also told me that you kind of forced your way onto the team, that you wouldn’t take no for an answer.
Yeah, kind of. I was getting Expedition flow for awhile and trying to really put a lot of effort in that. My friend Jordan Falk was filming a full length so I was putting it on for Expedition pretty hard but I just wasn’t getting that love back. So then I was, like, “Okay, I’m over this whole Expedition thing,” and whenever I would break Expedition boards I would buy Pizza stuff. Then I started getting photos wearing Pizza stuff. I ended up at the warehouse during a Sacramento trip and I was, like, “Gino said I could get a board,” and Dustin’s, like, “I don’t remember him saying that.” And I’m, like, “Yeah, he said I could get a board however long ago.” It’s funny ’cause the board I got at the warehouse is actually the one I tried Opera House on. You can fully see a brand-new Pizza board in the first mag it got ran in.
So you stole your way onto the team?
Yeah. I don’t even know if I’m still on.
Last day! Ducky gaps to Smith on an untouched ATL fantasy spot
Well, I didn’t know much about you but I got a lot of good recommendations. We were all really happy you came on the trip. Man, you took some beatings on this thing, though. Is that typical for you to eat that much shit?
Yep. But normally I don’t end up with as many tricks, I guess. I usually just kind of eat shit and walk away from it. On that first Pizza Southwest trip I remember each day it was something. Whatever hurt the day before was less than what I got that day. So by the end of the trip I was pretty fucked up.
What happened on that kinker rail that you were skating with Zion?
I don’t know. Me and him were just hopping on it; we were getting pretty lucky grinding all the way to the bottom and then one try it was, like, “Okay, this one’s it!” and then it wasn’t. Then I came to looking at the other side of the rail after I hit my face on the ground. Then I’m walking towards you guys and I just see the blood dripping and I’m, like, “Oh, we’re gonna go to the hospital. Cool.”
It was good until it wasn’t. Duck diving an 11-kink and then straight to Urgent Care
But you didn’t leave the trip. You stayed on the trip suffering and then by the end of the trip you’re jumping on giant rails again!
Yeah, I guess I got pretty lucky with recovering kind of fast.
The craziest thing was when you skated that wooden rail made out of shitty two by fours and nails and stuff. Tyson said he had to go and walk around the corner ’cause he couldn’t bear to watch. Did you think you were gonna die on that?
I don’t know. I figured I’d just put it all out there. It’s kind of like things could go either way: you can either land it and get away clean or—I don’t know. I just think of the worst-case scenario and try to avoid that.
What do you think your success rate is?
I don’t really know. Sometimes I just feel like Matt Schlager, like that kid skating in the rain. Just, like, “Oh, he’ll go for it.”
Yeah, you were definitely jumping on everything in sight. Was that 14-flat-14 the biggest kinked rail you’ve ever skated?
Yeah, that was the biggest rail I’ve ever skated, period.
Ducky Kovacs “just puts it all out there.” Amen, brother!
Did it help to be on a trip with so many gnarly dudes?
Yeah, and I have a pretty good relationship with all those dudes, too. I probably started skating big rails pretty heavy when I would go out skating with Jamie Foy.
What was the vibe of the trip in general?
It was really mellow. It was really cool, no divas or anything. Everyone was there just skating and having a good time. Maybe even the people I didn’t know, like Erick, Mason or Axel and Jarne—it was really cool. Everyone made an effort to be really cool to each other and hang out a whole bunch.
It seemed like really good camaraderie. What went through your mind when you landed on that curb at Bust or Bail trying to go to the street?
I wanna say I just missed the mark. I was going pretty fast and I think I just popped at the wrong point.
Did you see that sequence I posted?
I gotta check it out.
Oh, man, it’s so funny. It’s, like, “Noooo!” You can see your face just going, “I’m hitting the curb!”
Yeah, I was, like, “Ow! My knees feel funky.”
At that point was your collarbone still broken?
I don’t know if I broke my collarbone. I wanna say I just stretched some ligaments in my shoulder.
How much do you love Gwen Stefani?
Honestly, it’s probably a new phase I’m going through right now since I’ve been living in Fullerton. It’s on the Orange County/Anaheim thing pretty hard, so I’ve been pretty into it.
That’s so funny. I’d never thought about somebody really absorbing that Anaheim culture.
Yeah, it’s kind of a weird mix of Disneyland and the ghetto. It’s kind of cool.
What’s your brother like?
My brother’s cool. People say we’re like the same person except he’s just really passionate about cars. But he’ll still go for it in skating all the time. We fall the same. I think he made it on the Thrasher Instagram one time. He was trying to boardslide this weird rail to weird orange barrier we set up and he ripped his pants and kept trying it.
What was the most shocking thing on the trip? What will you remember the most?
All the trip was crazy, but probably Eric Winkowski eating cold Beefaroni. That was insane to me.
Spot number two on the Day of the Duck. Front feeble a triple in two
He’s an animal.
And I didn’t see a can opener at all either so I’m not sure how he really opened it. He may have just barehanded it.
So you’re in college right now but you’re obviously really devoted to skating. Is being a pro skater a goal for you?
I think it was for a little bit. When you’re younger it’s a pretty big deal then you have a kind of level head on your shoulders and it’s not as make or break. You obviously think it’d be the best thing in the world, but you know what it takes and you’re, like, “Oh, this is kind of hard.” I don’t know. I think it’s not as make or break to me, but it would really be tight. But when you’re younger you’re, like, “I wanna be Bam; I wanna be Tony Hawk; I wanna be Rob Dyrdek,” but when you’re older pro skaters are more your peers and less like dudes on TV.
Who was your hero as a kid?
I can say I was a pretty big Bam kid. I had the pink griptape and I wanted those weird looking Heartagram shoes. Then I used to watch Yeah Right! a lot and I liked Jereme Rogers.
Oh yeah. He’s great.
Yeah, and then his ship kind of sailed. So growing up was kind of a mix of popular TV skaters just because that’s what was out there. That’s what I was into, I guess.
So on this trip we definitely bummed out old white dudes. When do you call it quits as far as bumming somebody out at a skate spot?
When I was younger I got pretty into it. I’d get into yelling matches and arguments but I think the older you get you’re kind of just, like, “I don’t really care that much.” I don’t want to offend these people. It’s their property and you’re honestly breaking it.
Sounds like you’re growing up, Duck.
I know; it sucks. It feels weird.
Ducky Kovacs gets crackin’ on the first annual Thrasher Am Scramble, planting fast and taking the dropdown a NC State double set. These ams are taking over!
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