Skateboarding 

Here’s How Walker Ryan Conceived His Novel ‘Top Of Mason’

WORDS: Stu Gomez

Old Friends’ Walker Ryan debuted his first novel—Top Of Mason—last month, and we sold out of all of our signed copies in The Canteen pretty much immediately. We were lucky enough to read an early release of the book last year and were floored by the honest portrayal of the skate lifestyle: the grind, the hustle, the failures, the recovery… and how skaters cope when things don’t go according to plan.

Top Of Mason takes the reader on all sorts of twists and turns, and introduces you to characters (from pros at the top of their game to down-and-out ex-Ams) that ring true if you’ve been skating for any length of time. After letting his idea for the book marinate for about a year, Ryan spent another three or four years writing it—then he reworked it more and more for another few years. The result covers nearly all the bases, and gives an unflinching look at one skater’s journey.

 

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A post shared by Walker Ryan (@walkerryan)

When we asked him why he chose to set the book in SF, Ryan says, “I just love San Francisco and there are so many things about The City that I wanted to capture, that I thought would be unique to read about from a skateboarder’s perspective.” Some of SF’s many historic skatespots are peppered throughout the story of Henry Phillip, a skater who was sponsored but never turned pro, and a bit of history is included for context. From Hunter’s Point to the TL, Ryan’s love for The City is evident.

“The story is completely fictional,” Ryan says, “but there are a few moments and scenes that are similar to life experiences I’ve had, or life experiences that friends of mine have had.  I’ve known a lot of guys like [Henry] over the years… Each character is a composite of different people I’ve known over the years.”

 

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And, like a once-in-a-lifetime clip that unexpectedly becomes a classic, much of the book turned out much different than what Ryan had initially pictured. “Most of the A-to-B aspects remained the same, but how the characters got there changed pretty drastically. That’s what made the process of writing it so fun!” The sections of the book that deal with the physical act of skating are incredibly descriptive, proving that there are still unique ways to describe the indescribable feeling of skating, and you can definitely tell that Ryan was enjoying himself when he wrote those passages.

If you’re a budding writer, or have an idea for writing something, Ryan shares some advice: “Just read and write as much as possible. Give yourself an excuse to write something every day. Start a blog, make a journal, pick away at a story whenever you have time. It’s a lot of fun!”

 

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A post shared by Walker Ryan (@walkerryan)

Ryan has another book up his sleeve, also set in the skate world. You can expect that, like anything this renaissance man does, his next novel will also be creative and fresh. “This next one is a little more international, which consumed so much of my personal skate career,” Ryan says. “We’ll see what happens with it.”

(Ryan’s book is available at the Old Friends site, and $1 from every book sale will be donated to Glide in SF which offers meals and shelter services to people in need.)

Check out some of work we’ve done with Ryan over the years, below:

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