It's well past noon on an overcast Monday morning as Dathan "Dee" Ostrander drifts barefoot down the stairs of his mother's Antioch home. Settling into the couch, he idly glances at a soap opera playing on the flat-screen television. Hula Hoop, their dog, spins in circles, his exuberance at odds with the lissome 20-year-old's nonchalance.
"I was just waking up," he says.
Dee's cascading hair, tie-dye T-shirt and loose-fitting jeans don't exactly scream "elite athlete," nor does his slacker's sleep schedule. But don't let his appearance or circadian rhythms fool you.
Dee Ostrander is Tennessee's only nationally known skateboarding star.
Ostrander's mom Tammy — a former model from Cookeville, dressed in jean shorts and stylish sandals — brings out a bevy of magazines featuring her son.
"I've got every magazine that he's done," she says with a laugh. "Here is the latest Skateboard Mag that he was in. ... That's about six pages. ... I've got a Thrasher lying around here somewhere."
So how did Ostrander make it to the exalted pages of Thrasher, the global skateboarding bible?
As Ostrander begins to recount his odyssey, he doesn't sit on the sofa so much as melt languidly into it. He's a latter-day Huckleberry Finn, happily adrift on a raft.
Not that long ago, Ostrander was just another skater — one of an estimated 10 million in America. You might have seen him hurling himself down the "18-stair" at Legislative Plaza or palling around with a bunch of local skaters who call themselves The F.U. Crüe.
"There's actually a lot of cool skate spots in Antioch," he says.
But Ostrander was destined for bigger things. He was plucked from obscurity in 2009 at age 16 when his older brother Shane sent a video of Dee's skating to Sole Technology Inc., a major player in the skate industry. (The hallowed "sponsor me video" is the equivalent of the demo tape.) The footage fell into the hands of illustrious professional skateboarder Andrew "The Boss" Reynolds, who presides over a small skateboarding empire that includes the brands Baker, Altamont and Deathwish. (Reynolds was once featured in a lengthy Rolling Stone profile titled "Skateboarding's Punk Kings.") Struck by the 16-year-old's skating, Reynolds picked up the phone.
"Holy shit, Andrew Reynolds," Shane says, recalling the momentous call. "He talked to Dee and my mom."
"He said he thought there was incredible talent there, and he wanted to fly Dee to California," Tammy says. "So of course I was a little apprehensive at first. But he assured me that Dee would be in the best care. And he was. ... He assured me he would not be involved in any activities that I would not approve of. And he kept his promise."
Six months later, Ostrander's first ad appeared in Thrasher. The photo: Dee in Pennsylvania surrounded by the Baker team, sacramental beverage being poured on his head. The tagline: "Going Nowhere Fast!!!"
"I had so much fun on that tour," Ostrander says.
"The aha moment was that first ad," Tammy says. "Two pages. That was a turning point for me in terms of having invested all this time and buying decks [the wood portion of the skateboard]. In the beginning, before he got sponsored, it was $60 for a deck, and sometimes they break two a day. It wasn't easy. ... He was the youngest in the group of all the kids, but he picked it up faster than them. They all told me very early on that if anybody was going to make it, he was. ... It makes me so proud as a mom and so happy that I did support his dream." "
"I was hyped," says Ostrander.
His teammates now include the talented "ripper" Riley Hawk (son of the legendary Tony Hawk). Ostrander has skated at the elder Hawk's private skate park in California on a number of occasions.
Transworld SKATEboarding magazine recently flew Ostrander and Hawk to Portland, Ore.
"Portland was rad," Ostrander says. "You take this train up the hill. When you get to the top you get to bomb all the way back down. Five miles. Super fun."
Not bad for someone who dropped out of Antioch High, though Tammy is quick to point out that she successfully homeschooled him and he did get his diploma.
As for the hours Ostrander spent skating the streets of Nashville with The F.U. Crüe?
"We counted it as P.E.," Tammy says.
The kind of hardcore skateboarding Ostrander practices does not generally involve formal contests as such. But competition is fierce. Assessments are made using hardcore street footage — in Dee's case, a well-regarded part in the high-profile video "Bake and Destroy," which included plenty of Nashville clips, notably Ostrander's lofty heelflip over a handrail in Riverfront Park. For his grand finale, he ollies over a fence into a treacherous embankment near a Kroger off Charlotte Pike.
"That's probably the gnarliest thing I've done," says Ostrander.
Yet in skateboarding, it's not about athletics as much as a set of intangible, know-it-when-I-see-it qualities: like the Rolling Stones-in-the-South-of-France way Ostrander sits on the couch, or his genuinely sweet temperament. (After Tammy told me he loves steamed crab legs, I picked some up at Publix. "Thanks for the crab legs, dude! I'm going to cook these up right now," he said.)
"He's just like a homie to everybody," Shane says. "That's why people are psyched on him."
Though his girlfriend still lives here, Ostrander now spends about eight months out of the year in Los Angeles.
"I stay in Studio City, where they do all the filming and shit," he says. "I got a little creeper picture of the black dude from Scrubs. He was standing next to me in line. One night I saw Amy Poehler."
Still, despite the aura of manifest destiny he now exudes, he'd like to remain closer to his dog Hula, home-cooked crab legs and the Crüe.
"California is super sick," he says. "But Nashville — I swear the air smells better out here. Like, as soon as I got off the plane I could tell. I just smelt the air and was like, 'That's nice.' It smells all sweet and amazing."
And lying about people is still okay, too. Moderate that. "fedup is donna" Wrong. Maybe…
The old method of making money in urban life (establish a business then talking/railing/lobbying government…
I have given $25 to make a Knoxville Mercury happen.
Thanks, Betsy. Fort Gillem makes sense. I imagine every fireplace in those buildings was going…
Give up $10 for the cause!