Dave Rochlen was instrumental in organizing the Makaha skateboard team and later leading the Hobie team. As such, he was skateboarding’s first coach.
Author: So you began as a surfer in Malibu and as we all know, surfing is a gateway drug to other things. How did you get into skateboarding?
Dave Rochlon [DR]: I got close to skateboarding in the late 1940s and early 1950s when my brother and I got caught up in the orange-crate box scooter. You know, a 2×4 with nails that were too long securing the cut-in-half roller skate steel wheels. Add the box, and another piece of wood across the top of the box, and hit the road. And I mean hit the road. Went down hard every time we tried to turn the darn thing—never mastered that.
Author: So like a lot of others, you went from roller skates and/ or scooters to skateboards.
DR: Well, right at the beginning of me learning how to skateboard, I was totally blown away by how similar grinding a turn on a skateboard was like doing a bottom turn in surfing. So, when it was the wrong swell direction, or too windy, you could always do a lot of bottom turns and still get that feeling. You can really do a lot of bottom turns on a nice hill.
The first skateboards I saw were in the early 1960s, and they were short, painted red, and had steel wheels. They didn’t work either.
Author: That sounds like a Roller Derby model
DR: One day, when we were in town, a friend of mine suggested we go to a local school where he said kids were skateboarding and that they were hot. We went to Bellagio Elementary and, sure enough, there were a bunch of kids skating and they were hot. Along the fence line was a hill, just like a four- to five-foot wave. The gremlins were “surfing” this asphalt wave doing the latest hot-dog moves. At the end of the run they had placed a bench, which they jumped over and landed on their boards on the other side.
On this occasion I saw future legends Torger Johnson, George Trafton, John Freis, and Scotty Archer. I think Danny Schaefer was in the mix, also. These guys would skate different schools just like surfers surfed different spots.
We had nothing like this in Malibu. I learned that some of these guys actually surfed, but being so young they had to deal with a serious lack of transportation. So, they went surfing every day on their skateboards. They all had clay wheels and mostly homemade boards shaped like a surfboard. Roller Derby wheels were king. A couple of the guys were riding Makaha skateboards. We asked some of the kids if we could try their boards. Some of the grems recognized us and they said, “Sure!” We were not very good, fell a lot, much to the glee of the troops.
This led to visits to Pacific Palisades High School, [which] had a huge hill from the road down to the campus. This was a large venue in 1964, 1965. Many of our surfing buddies often showed up, as did an increasing number of young skaters. The surfers wanted to see these hot-rod skaters, and the skaters liked meeting some of the current surf heroes. I believe this is where the Hilton brothers— Davey and Steve—showed up, along with Danny Bearer. The Hilton brothers were already pretty good surfers, they lived at Sorrento Beach in Santa Monica—so no transportation problem. Really, the Hilton boys were great. They were well mannered, polite, and very nice guys. I was very impressed with this, and understood that this was a result of super parenting by Barron and his wife. My uncle Dave also knew the Hiltons, as he sort of gave them surfing lessons back in the day. Getting to know the Hilton Family, knowing what quality people they all were, was a primary factor in my switching from Makaha to Hobie.
As you must know, Barron Hilton also owned Vita-Pakt Orange Juice, the company that bought the Hobie Skateboard brand. My first skateboard was a Makaha. Larry Stevenson owned Makaha Skateboards, and he also owned Surf Guide magazine. Larry was just a super-great guy. And he still is. He wanted these hot-rod kids to ride his Makaha skateboards just like surfboard companies wanted hot riders to ride their surfboards. He wanted these kids totally equipped at all times. He even gave them some of his glass Makaha prototypes to ride. This board was way ahead of the curve, thought by some to be one of the best skateboards ever made. I learned how to do some kickturns and other simple maneuvers. Author: George Trafton said he went for a tryout for the Makaha team and you were the team captain. How did that come about? DR: Well, the Makaha time period is sort of a blur, it went by pretty fast. Larry, editor Bill Cleary, and staff wanted to promote the skateboards. They wanted some hot riders to do this. We couldn’t get going right away because of skateboard production problems—they just weren’t ready to go at that time. So, I pretty much spent time cruising around the magazine offices until we had the equipment for the team guys and the resulting sales. I knew who the hot riders were and where they were riding. We just went there, said we were having tryouts, and picked these hot rods. Of course, I felt it was important that the boys also knew how to be Emily Post’s sons when they had to be.
Author: How influential were you in organizing the skateboard team and promoting Makaha skateboards?
DR: I had the scene totally scoped out. I got the guys together, interfaced with the parents, and had the boys ready to go. I made certain that there was an overwhelming amount of skateboards and skateboard products available to the team at all times. I didn’t have any responsibilities regarding lining up exhibitions or shows. Larry Stevenson and his staff took care of all of that. I was very good at following orders, having the guys ready to go and being there on time.
Hobie super surfer Author: How did you pick the Makaha team members, and what were their duties?
DR: First of all the candidate had to be one of the best skaters. Equally important, they had to be able to represent Makaha and the other Stevenson businesses in a positive fashion. Those two things were “their duties”: Represent the product, be gentlemen, and be willing to share their abilities with the interested kids who came to watch them perform.
If they pulled this off correctly, I would make certain that they were well rewarded. The AAU was a very big deal at this time, and the parents didn’t want to jeopardize any participation in other sports their kids might want to pursue in the future. So we couldn’t pay them any money. The team knew how much I understood what a sacrifice it was to give up a weekend day to go out to the Valley in 100-degree weather and skateboard in a department store parking lot. My plan was to utilize any and all days when they were off to do things they wanted to do. Mostly it was going surfing somewhere, and that is what they did.
Unlimited skate equipment and surfing safaris to anywhere they wanted to go, lunch on me (the company). Their duty was to have a good, fun time.
Author: Were you surprised by how popular skateboarding became?
DR: No, I was not surprised. I mean, I couldn’t believe how many kids would show up at the demos to watch the Makaha guys do their thing. And, at this time, “their thing” was really simple stuff: kickturning, doing the coffin, doing wheelies, some nose wheelies, walking the board and jumping over a limbo-stick type of prop. The crowds went nuts for this stuff.
Author: How old were you when you were the chaperone for the team?
DR: I was about 20 years old.
Author: George Trafton says he was one of a rowdy bunch of kids who drove you crazy. How rowdy where they?
DR: You know, looking back on it all, they were just being kids. Oh yes, they could be rowdy. I think what they enjoyed most was learning what my buttons were and pushing them when they thought they could get away with it. Which kid do you know that doesn’t try and push the limits to being a rascal sometimes? Especially when there is a group of them all trying to out-do each other. I only “got serious” with them when we were driving and our safety might be put at risk. Also, no swearing, no pottymouths. And don’t think you are going to have a food fight and not clean it all up afterwards.
Author: Any good stories from traveling with the Makaha team?
DR: I don’t know if they are good stories, but I can reflect on a few occasions. Mostly it was dealing with the lack of challenge—like what they were grading a contest on—or a sponsor at a demo location expecting the guys to do their thing on gravel or a surface [that] could only result in mutable disasters. I quickly learned to always bring a broom with us, and sometimes we just refused to a show unless a better surface area was provided. Contest grading criteria was a problem all through the early days of skateboarding. Some times the guys just didn’t want to do such waste-time things. Like, let’s have a slalom race for time on the polished concrete floor of the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, with steel or clay wheels. Make ass or what? Crash and burn no matter how good you really were. There was never any rivalry between the Makaha team and the Hobie team. The guys who made up the initial Hobie team were all from the Makaha team except the guys who didn’t want to make the switch for one reason or another. Then we added Steve and Davey Hilton, and a lad of Mexican descent whose name I cannot remember at this time. The guys who came on over to the “other side” were George Trafton, Torger Johnson, John Freis, and Danny Bearer. Danny’s sister, Wendy I think, often went with us on local trips and skated in some competitions.
Author: How did Hobie lure you away from Makaha?
DR: Here’s how it was. I am the new captain of the Hobie skateboard team. However, I am on the Dewey Weber surf team: the Red Coats. Hobie was so cool, he insisted that all of the team members have any kind of Hobie board they wanted. Then, at this time of transition, Hobie wanted to open a surf shop in Santa Monica. His partner Dick Metz—the sub rosa, behind-the-scenes guy of all time for all things retail—set the shop up and gave me my first real job in the surfing world: manager of the Hobie Surfboard Shop in Santa Monica.
Part of my job requirement was to set up a Hobie surf team made up of the hot local guys in the area. Needless to say, I think we ended up with the hottest guys in the area. The deal closer for a number of new team members was that they could order any kind of Hobie surfboard with any kind of design in the finished glass job. I learned years later that all profits made in our first year of operation were cancelled out by the outrageous costs involved in providing exactly what Hobie had offered. The boards just about busted us! There was also the fact that I got to meet Hobie and his wife Sharon when I was a young gremmie. My mom let me cut school whenever my uncle, Big Dave Rochlen, came over to visit from the Islands. He would always take me with him down to San Onofre. Two stops we always made on the way down was to Joe and Aggie Quigg, who [were] living, shaping, and body surfing at the Newport Wedge—and the Hobie family in the Dana Point area. So when Hobie and Dick Metz came to visit me, they told me how they thought it should be: the Hobie Shop manager, the Hobie surf team member and the Hobie skateboard team manager should be riding a Hobie board, and I have ever since.
Author: Were the Stevensons disappointed, or was it one big happy, fighting family?
DR: I am sure that Larry was disappointed, but Larry Stevenson, being the total gentleman that he is, understood all of these factors better than I did. He understood exactly why it was best for me to move totally and completely into my new situation. I left with his blessings. And then the fun began. I was especially stoked to learn that I had the complete support and understanding from Hobie, Dick Metz, and Vita-Pakt [of] why it was so important to take complete care of the Hobie skateboard team members. I tried to supply nothing but the absolute best. They were in need of nothing.
Author: How well did you know the Hilton family?
DR: I really didn’t get to know the Hilton family until after Davey and Steve got on the Hobie team. I had known their big brother, Barry, but we didn’t “hang” together. After we got the team complete, I visited the Hilton’s at their Sorrento Beach home. Marilyn and Barron couldn’t be a nicer couple, and great parents. Mr. Hilton expressed his satisfaction with having acquired the Hobie Super Surfer skateboard and the team. He assured me that anything and everything we needed would be taken care of. I was there a few times other than to pick up the boys for a surf trip or to go to a show. To my knowledge, the Hilton’s didn’t have anything to do with my being chosen to be the manager of the Hobie team. It was totally a Hobie [and] Uncle Dick Metz decision. However, I know there was positive Rochlen name recognition because of the fact that Hobie was recommending me, the Hilton association with my uncle, Dave Rochlen, and I am pretty sure that Barry, Davey, and Steve gave me good reports.
Author: Why did Vita-Pakt make the deal with Hobie.
DR: Here was the deal, and it all made sense: At the time, Vita-Pakt operated the second largest orange company in the world, behind SunKist. Vita-Pakt was owned by Barron Hilton. Part of the promotional and marketing plan was to offer “rewards” or “prizes” to kids who sent in a certain amount of proof-of-purchase labels. Among the ten or so items offered were a pair of roller skates. They were totally plastic, but seemed to be popular. The powers that be could see the possibilities of selling more orange juice should they offer the latest and greatest toy the kids were beginning to clamor for.
Author: Did Hobie and the Hiltons spend more money on the team than Makaha did?
Hobie trophy DR: It was night and day. Everything improved or got better for the guys on the team. How could it go any other way? Now the team is backed by the number one surfboard manufacturer in the world and the number two orange juice company in the world. The number one, way ahead of the curve, marketing surfing retail operation. Endless supply of any and all kinds of Hobie equipment— skateboards, wheels, trucks, models, surfboards, team apparel.
I had a team vehicle. My company car was a 1964 Ford Galaxy 500 four-door cruiser that had a giant trunk to hold vast amounts of skateboards and repair parts. Promotions and sales were being done at a national level. Like, Montgomery Ward across the nation was putting in a buy for skateboards. And it didn’t hurt that the team members were really super-neat kids that were the hottest at the time at what they did. Hobie got to know them and really made sure that they were in need of nothing. The National Tour involved a lot of flying, because the massive Winnebago we got for the trip kept breaking down and we had to keep on schedule.
Author: Do you remember how long the National Tour lasted, and where you went?
DR: During the National Tour there were many adventures, including witnessing crime pulling into Chicago, the World’s Fair, problems with the police at the World’s Fair, skipping demos in the South due to race riots, police escorts in Texas and not staying in our regular Holiday Inn, but taking over the Shamrock Hilton (thank you Uncle Mike Hilton). And George Trafton being the smartest team member by passing on the tour and staying home and surfing all summer long.
Author: At what point did you and the people you were involved with realize that skateboarding had become a major craze?
DR: I first realized the direction that the sport was taking when I did some math. Montgomery Ward had about eighteen hundred to two thousand stores at the time, and each one of them was going to order six dozen boards to have on hand when the team showed up to do demos. Also, the fact that Mr. Hilton and Hobie were charting the course let me know that all systems were go.
Author: Do you think Barron Hilton got involved to make money, or just because his kids were involved?
DR: Both. Talk about a win-win situation to be involved with: use your existing business model to grow a fun function for kids (including your own), increase sales of your orange juice product, and put a good face on a questionable new sport (at the time)
Author: The Hobie team did very well at the 1965 Anaheim skateboard contest. Were you behind the scenes for that success?
DR: I was there, trying to chum up the troops to do their best in awkward situations. I have enjoyed viewing some of the footage available. I enjoy watching the kids perform. And now, at this older age, I really enjoy checking out the background scans, trying to recognize various people who were involved at the beginning.
Author: Do you think Hobie and Vita-Pak lost money when skateboarding collapsed?
DR: Knowing what I know now, I would have to think that money was lost. If you are buying resources to build thousands of skateboards for national distribution and all of a sudden those orders are canceled—that calls for a total regroup.
From the book The Good The Rad and The Gnarly by Ben Marcus, Photos by Lucia Griggi. Tony Hawk’s first skateboard was a blue Bahne, a gift from his brother Steve: “It’s true that Tony’s first board was a blue Bahne,” big brother Steve said in an email.
“It was a hand-me-down. I gave it to him when I visited home from college one weekend. That was probably 1977. He would’ve been eight or nine. I was 21 or 22. He and my folks lived in San Diego, I was just finishing up school at UCSB. Don’t remember where I got it in the first place. I either bought it myself or got it as a present from my parents.Tony Hawks first Skateboard And He still has it.
Tony still has that board. The wheels are fused with rust. I’ve heard it might end up in the Smithsonian.” Tony Hawk was not alone.
Tony Hawk hasn’t kept all his thousands of boards, but he kept his first one, a blue Bahne that was a gift from his brother Steve. Bahne helped launch Tony Hawk, but Bahne were also one of the first skateboard companies to go big in the Urethane Era – learning lessons and establishing margins and doing good things and bad things that helped the skateboard market evolve.
Story by Ben Marcus
Photos by Lucia Griggi
From The Good, The Rad, and the Gnarly by Ben Marcus. Of all the skateboard truck companies that bubbled up in the 1970s, the three that are still going are Tracker, Independent and Gull Wing. Those companies, their founders and the products get their own sections of this book.
Below is an alphabetical list of some of the many truck companies that flamed up in the 1970s, and then flamed out. There were a lot, but we didn’t get them all. Aficionados will notice there are no Blazer, Megatron, Pittsburgh, Randal, Santana, Track Force, XL-700 trucks or Z-Roller, and there are probably a dozen other companies left out – some of them legit for a time, some of them Mickey Mouse: but we only photographed the trucks on the 70s-era boards photographed by Lucia Griggi.
ACS In Skateboard Industry News for Dec/Jan 1977, an ad for ACS explained that American Cycle Systems were “the country’s largest producer of aluminum hubs for bicycles” and they had used their experience in precision-machined casting to deliver 356 aluminum-magnesium alloy heat treated to the T-6 condition. “Against all competition, ACS has became of the world’s largest manufacturer of premium skate-board trucks.” A bold statement, that may or may not have been true, but ACS was (and still is?) a player in a market that would become dominated – in the long run – by Tracker and Independent.
APEX Just as in the 1960s, some of the companies jumping into the skateboard market in the 1970s took the hot car route, instead of the surf route. Apex Sports Products from La Mirada, California, made a line of Super Sport mag wheels for skateboards: “The 100% pure urethane tire gives a smoother, faster, quieter ride and more grip.”
Apex apparently thought their wheels were too hot for all other trucks, so they made their own out of A356-T6 aluminum sand castings.
BAHNE Bahne skateboards used basic trucks at first to connect their pultruded decks with Cadillac Wheels. But as the market heated up, Bahne manufactured their own custom-designed trucks at a foundry in Los Angeles.
CAL GX Another mystery marque, that doesn’t show up in Skateboarder or Skateboard Industry News or anywhere else for that matter.
D-BEAM Some time in the 1970s, a truck innovator took the “Plastics, Benjamin” thing too far and made skateboard trucks out of nylon. The D-Beam, by all accounts, was not such a great idea. One contemporary skateboard truck exec harrumphed: “Those trucks were ridiculous. Dogtown D-Beam. At that point I lost all of the respect. Strike that. I never actually respected the Dogtown guys, so…. the trucks didn’t work and I felt that if you are going to put your name on something that didn’t work, at least have the guts to call them experimental or funky or something other than a decent replacement for a conventional truck.· Besides that, they broke. I always wondered who in the world was responsible for the design and manufacturing of the D-Beam.”
However, Nathan Pratt wasn’t sure about the Dogtown connection: “I haven’t ever seen these before. If they have a ‘Dogtown’ brand on them you would need to contact Jim Muir to find out their history. I seem to remember a ‘Dogtown roller’ brand that was some sort of rip off. It had nothing to do with us.”
Larry Balma, co-founder of Tracker and 70s skateboard truck aficionado said: “They look like the second version of the Mattel truck.· The first one had no post under the beam and when you stood on it they compressed right down to the underside of the deck and the wheels could not even roll.· Can you imagine someone designing and producing a skateboard truck that they never even stood on, not even rode?· They installed the post to hold the axle away from the board after they got our phone calls and the truck would then turn…It was a cheap toy.”
DYNO FIBER-FLEXI Like Bahne and Makaha and other 1970s skateboard deck manufacturers, Dyno Skateboards of Santa Ana, California found it more economical to manufacture their own “Dyno Flier” trucks. Dyne made a line of Flexi boards from 24 to27” and the complete boards came with Roller Sports Stoker wheels.
GREN TEC According to their ad in Skateboard Industry News from February/March 1978, GT was short for Grentec, and GT stood for Good Times!!!! GT may or may not have stood for Great Trucks as well, but GT boards were another brand of not-entirely-on-the-cool-bus that did well during the Urethane Revolution.
HOBIE SUNDANCER What the @#%@%%? Hobie Skateboards were no longer affiliated with the Hiltons or Vita-Pakt· in the 1970s but Hobie had a thriving team and business that lead to experiments like the Sundancer. Possibly good for applying paint on smooth road surface, but the double-wheel innovation didn’t catch on for some reason.
LAZER How hot? Lazer hot! Another player making a serious play in the world of 70s skateboard trucks, Lazers could be found under the decks of beginners and pros.
MAKAHA Out of the 1960s and into the 1970s, Makaha Skateboards were still haggling with some elements of the skateboard industry over the patent rights to the kicktail. As this ad claims, in 1973 Makaha patented the first adjustable truck base. Makaha sold a lot of skateboards in the 1970s, and they found it better to manufacture their own trucks then rely on other companies.
NAGEMA The Germans love an engineering and machining challenge, and in the 1970s, the Nagema company came up with their ideas of how a skateboard should be built.
Note that rubber stopper is on the nose of the board, not the tail. Or maybe that is the tail.
Since it was hard to make heads or tails of this board, it was necessary to contact Konstantin Butz, a German chap who had spent time in California in the spring of 2010, doing research on Skater Punk for his PhD. Dissertation.
We got a good response: You found my favorite board there. It really is odd! Funny, I just saw one of these in a VANS store in Berlin this weekend. I saw it for the first time at SKATELAB in Simi Valley…
The board is from the German GDR – the German Democratic Republic, aka East Germany. NAGEMA is an acronym that stands for: Nahrungsmittel, Genussmittel, Maschinenbau. That means: Food, Luxury Food, Mechanical Engineering. Now, line by line:
VEB Schokoladen-Verarbeitungsmachinen Werningerode:
VEB is short for “Volkseigener Betrieb” meaning something like “People’s Enterprise” because, apparently, companies were “owned” by the people in the GDR.
“Schokoladen-Verarbeitungsmachine” means “chocolate manufacturing machines” and Werningerode is the town. So I guess there was a factory that built machines for chocolate production while throwing in a couple of skateboards in between. Hilarious! Socialism rules!
Let’s go on:
“BEACHTE” means “beware!” or “attention!”
“Befahren öffentlicher Verkehrsflächen verboten” = “Do not use in public traffic.”
“Üben nur auf ebenem Gelände” = “Only practice on flat ground.”
“Unebenheiten und Rollsplitt meiden” = “Avoid surface irregularities and loose gravel.”
“Kopf. Hände. Ellenbogen und Knie schützen” = “Protect head, hands, elbows and knees.”
“Festen sitz von Rädern und Muttern prüfen” = “Check wheels and screws.” “Abspringen nur nach vorne” = “Only jump off to the front.” (I love that one!) “Fallen und Abrollen üben” = “Practice falling and rolling.” “Kugellager reinigen/kontrollieren” – “Check/clean bearings”
That’s it. They give you all these ridiculous instructions, making this poor thing the “uncoolest” skateboard ever and then they put this “brake” to the front, which will just kill you…
Great! I really love this board. Wish I would own one. I really think it’s a perfect example for how it must have been like to be a teenager in the GDR. Rules, rules, rules…
NASH A stalwart board-maker in the 1960s, Nash was still very much in the game when skateboarding fired back up in the 1970s. They experimented with plastics and other materials, and also fired their own trucks, down there in Texas.
PRO CLASS Pro Class was a company out of Orange, California who rode their equipment hard. In May of 1978, the Pro Class team went to Lion Country Safari in Irvine and rode “a standard Pro Class production line board for 24 hours non-stop, with absolutely no mechanical problems, top that.” We can only assume that board was equipped with Pro Class trucks, similar to this board from the collection of Terry Campion.
ROLLBREIT More fine German engineering from the Rollbreit people. It took six screws to hold these babies in place, as opposed to four for most skateboard trucks beyond the Continent.
X-CALIBER Wasn’t sure about these trucks, at first. There was a skateboard company in the 1970s called Valtee who proudly considered themselves the “Brand X” of skateboarding, and thought this might be them. But few people on earth know 70s skateboard trucks better than Larry Balma who confirmed: “The first X-Calibers in 1974 were a Sure Grip roller skate truck knock off with an X on the top of the hanger.· Much later they made skateboard trucks with their name on top of the hanger.”
In 1978, Skateboard Industry News published a series of Product Primer articles “aimed at giving the retailer a thumb-nail familiarity with skateboard engineering.” S.I.N covered decks in their April/May 1978 issue, then wheels in June/July and then in Aug/Sept they covered “the dreaded truck – and find they aren’t so difficult to understand at all.”
Rather than reprint the entire Product Primer, this Glossary of Truck Terms condenses all that knowledge.
Aluminum: A metal used in the hanger and other parts of the truck. “All of the quality, top of the line truck manufacturers use what is termed ‘356’ aluminum’ in most cases ‘heat treated to T6.”
Angle: The angle between the kingpin and the axle pivot point. If the kingpin intersects the vertical plane of the axle above the axle, it will tend to be less responsive – or squirrelly – whereas a truck with a lower angle will be more flexible.
Axle: A metal rod – usually steel – that runs through the hangar and provides a threaded mount for bearings and wheels. Most axles are made of steel.
Axle nut: A threaded nut that screws onto each end of the axle to hold the wheels in place.
Base plate: A usually metal plate that is fastened to the bottom of the deck with four or six holes. The baseplate has a pivot cup and a socket for the kingpin.
Bearing: Round metal balls that allow the wheels to turn on the end of the axle. Skateboards in the 50s, 60s and into the 70s used loose bearings. Sealed bearings were another innovation of the 1970s that followed closely after the introduction of urethane wheels.
Bushing: Doughnut-shaped pieces of rubber or urethane that surround the kingpin. Each truck has two bushings, one above where the hanger fits onto the kingpin and one below.
Cushion: Plastic bushings around the kingpin. Formerly known as “rubbers” from the roller skate days, these bushings were made of urethane and other plastics in the 1970s. In general, a rule of thumb: the softer the cushions, be they urethane or rubber, the more responsive the truck will be. Hard cushions will result in a more rigid, but stable, ride.
Die casting: One of two methods for molding trucks parts. Molten metal is poured into a machine where, under pressure, the metal then forms the part. The mold opens up, and the completed part drops out. According to Dave Dominy of Tracker: The gasses that build up during die casting are trapped inside, whereas with sand casting, the gasses are allowed to escape. This weakens a die-cast truck, and makes a sand-cast truck stronger.” But Stephen’s of ACS claimed, “We’ve developed a process that allows us to use 356 aluminum, which is aircraft quality. We are also able to heat treat our hangers with the die cast process, which no other die caster can do.”
Hanger: The piece that holds the axle and fasten to the base plate. Most hangers have a socket which allows the kingpin to pass through and be fastened/adjusted. The hanger also has a pivot point which is toward the center of the board. Hangers are usually made of aluminum alloys, with traces of other metals, such as magnesium. Some of the “price point” trucks had hangers made of zinc. Many truck manufacturers stamped their company name on the hanger – but alas, not all.
Heat treated: Die cast metals tend to be porous. Air bubbles inside the part come to the surface during the heat treatment process. Heat treated alloys have a greater strength and ductility (or ability to withstand flexing forces) than non heat-treated alloys.
Kingpin: Paraphrasing Steve Cave at about.com: “The name ‘kingpin’ gets used a lot for a lot of things, but usually carries the same meaning – a piece that holds the whole thing together. For skateboard trucks, the kingpin is the threaded bolt that runs through the center of skateboard trucks, and holds the trucks together. The kingpin runs through the hangar and two bushings, and then directly into the baseplate. Most kingpins are a fat hex-headed bolt, but there are many kinds of kingpins out there.
You can loosen your kingpin to loosen up your trucks, or tighten your kingpin to stiffen up the trucks. I recommend starting out with tight trucks when you are a new skater, and loosening them us as you get more comfortable skating.”
Kingpin nut: A nut on the top of the hanger, which keeps the hanger and bushings in place and can be adjusted to make trucks more stable, or looser, as you wish.
Pivot cup: A plastic-lined socket on the baseplate of a truck which supports the hanger at the pivot point and allows a truck to be turned right or left.
Profile: Also known as “geometry,” the concept refers to the design relationship between the various components. The profile is the shape of the truck. In general, a narrower, taller truck will be more responsive in maneuvering – desirable for a freestyle rider. A low profile truck will be more rigid and stable for bowl or slalom.
Sand cast: One method of molding truck parts. The molten metal is poured into a sand cavity, allowed to cool and then the sand falls away. Richard List of Lazer sand casts his hangers and base plates: “The problem with die casting is that the higher grades of aluminum that we use don’t work with die casting.” Sand casting is also slower than die casting.
T6: ‘Heat treated to T6’ simply refers to the fact that heat is applies to the casted part, enough to the point where the part has a tensile strength equal to a standard unit of measurement, in this case known as T6.
In the beginning, there was Sure Grip and Chicago and Roller Derby and other trucks made for roller skating, that skateboarders adapted in the 1960s. As steel wheels became clay wheels, the trucks also improved, but those trucks were still made for roller skating.
In the 1960s, there were attempts to customize trucks for skateboarding. According to Old Was Out and New Was In – It Was Time to Turn from Independent Trucks book Built to Grind, C.R. Stecyk III freely admits “Certainly there were trucks before Independent.”
Petitbled patented the first inline roller skate in 1819. James Plimpton brought out the quad roller skate in 1863. Chicago and Sure Grip shoe skates were fixtures in the market from the 1930s on. Sidewalk surfers used to find those clunkers, cut them down, and separate the trucks. Mark Richards was a skater from North Hollywood, California who had the hubris to call up the Chicago Roller Skate Company and suggest that they sell him separate trucks on mounting plates. It took the Midwestern roller rink businessmen months to understand what he was getting at, but they finally relented, and the first designated skateboard truck came to the bazaar. This brilliantly simple move in 1963 helped permanently establish Richards’ fledgling Val Surf as an industry leader.
Along with Mark Richards and Val Surf, there were other attempts to make custom trucks for skateboarding during the clay wheels era – see Leesure Line – but the foundries of industry didn’t really get bubbling until the urethane revolution of the 1970s demanded more!As 70s skateboarders pushed urethane wheels higher, faster, steeper, deeper and more vertical, they demanded more from their trucks. And we all know what necessity inspires.
An ad for Leesure Line from Quarterly Skateboarder in the 1960s breaks down the basic components of a skateboard truck. Leesure Line did not make it to the urethane revolution of the 1970s. But many other companies reputable and fly-by-night rushed in to fill the void. Image courtesy Surfer Publishing Group.
Craig Stecyk synopsized the truck evolution in Built to Grind
By the 1970s, trucks were beginning to be made with other specific skateboard-centric design attributes. Mr. Bennett sold trucks out of his Rolls Royce. The Bahne brothers made a truck. Dave Dominy created a wider truck for slalom called Tracker. Gull Wing die-cast their lot and used cooling fins that were highly reminiscent of 1930s Elgin bicycle hubs. These were the leading brands in a rapidly growing market. Others include Lazer, Excalibur, California Slalom and ACS. The circus of skateboarding was well populated by a thousand other fly-by-night jokers, toy makers and opportunists.
Mr. Bennett was the first in the 70s to make trucks for skateboards and the new performance demands of urethane. Board courtesy Santa Cruz or Terry Campion or Bill’s Wheels.
Ask just about any question in the skateboard industry about “Who was on it first” and it will start arguments/fist fights/lawsuits But there is almost no debate that Mr. Ron Bennett was first to make a skateboard truck designed specifically for 70s skateboarding.
According to an interview with Mr. Bennett in Concrete Wave Magazine in the Fall of 2006, the story went like this: Mr. Bennett’s son Brian got a skateboard for Christmas, 1974. He didn’t like the way it turned. Mr. Bennett found the problem was “simply a short wheelbase steering system on a long wheelbase vehicle.” He wondered why no one had made a truck specifically for skateboards.
With a background in architectural engineering and an interest in machining, he researched steel alloys, rubber compounds, thermoplastics, aluminum alloys and foundry casting – pulling information and talent from the ailing, early-70s aerospace industry.
He called his product “truks” as opposed to “trucks” to be different and save keystrokes. His goal was to make a “truk” that was lightweight and heavy duty, and also “unbreakable.” The base plates broke, but he replaced them every time.
Mr. Bennett named a long list of famous skateboarders who rode his truks: “Tony Alva and that crowd, Stacy, Jay Adams… Steve Cathay, Ellen O’Neil, Tom Sims, the Logans, Skoldberg, Hutson, Hester, Guy Grundy,· Russ Howell… and Chris Chaput who won the ’76 World’s Championships on Bennetts. It sounds funny today, but nearly ever single Pro was riding
Bennetts, so I never formally sponsored any skaters—although I tried to make sure the Team captains flowed the stuff to their guys.”
NHS distributed Bennett truks at first, and Mr. Bennett suggested that the Stage I Independent was a sort of tribute to Bennett’s products: “I felt betrayed at the time, but I am not bitter.”
Mr. Bennett also began producing Alligator and Super Alligator urethane wheels. Bennett got out of the skateboard industry in the 1980s, when the Hobie licensee – one of his biggest accounts – filed for bankruptcy and NHS began distributing only Independent trucks.
In the book Concrete Wave, Michael Brooke described the first product made for skateboarding
In 1975 Bennett produced the Bennett Hijacker. It was truly different from traditional trucks. The kingpin was placed well below the axle. This meant that skaters would not have to worry about the kingpin dragging on the ground. The parts were of high quality: Bennett used aircraft-quality locknuts and a special compound for his “rubbers” (the part that fits between the kingpin and the axle). The only area where Bennett’s trucks seemed to have a problem were the baseplates – they tended to break. Fortunately, the baseplates came with a guarantee – you could mail them back to Mr. Bennett and he would replace them for free.