Steve Caballero was never chosen by the other kids when it came to team sports, but he never let that get in his way. Regardless of his size, he was a giant when it came to heart and competitiveness. It was this drive that pushed this icon of skating, and puts him at the top of most lists of all-time favorite skateboarders. I sat down with Steve and talked about the 1980s, the ramp revolution, Punk Rock, and his perspective on skateboarding today including the downhill and longboard genres.
KH: When you were younger, what were you into?
SC: I definitely was just a really little kid, and nobody ever picked me for anything. I was heavily influenced by Bruce Lee and Evel Knievel. I spent a lot of time reading comic books, and I was into superheroes. I really wanted to be a BMX racer, and was always trying to jump things on my bike or roller skates. Our family didn’t have much, and I definitely didn’t know what a skate shop was. The only stores we shopped at were the local department stores.
What happened in your life that led you to skateboarding?
I had a skateboard – it was a Hang Ten with steel wheels. My first pro board was a Ty Page Free Former that we got at some local store. I remember my family went to Disneyland, and that was when I learned about The Concrete Wave skate park in Anaheim. I skated it, and remember that it was really hard for me.
Is that what pushed you to start skating more?
Yes, I started to go to Campbell skate park because it was pretty cheap to skate there compared to Winchester. Campbell was about community, and they always had contests there; I think I liked it better because of that. Winchester was a good park, but they didn’t have as many events. It seemed like they didn’t care as much about them and had about one event a year. I was very competitive, so going to as many contests as I could really helped me progress. I started winning contests and getting Ice Cream credits. Then I started winning free passes to skate, and after a while I moved up into more competitive events and started winning products. I fit into the competitions fairly well, and Campbell Skate Park gave me that opportunity.
How did you meet Stacy Peralta from Powell/Peralta?
I went down to Escondido for the year end National Amateur Competition. I was skating for the Campbell park team. I placed fifth in my division, and Stacy and Steve Cathey were the judges. This was 1979, and afterwards Stacy asked me to ride for Powell/Peralta.
What did you think the skateboarding world?
I had no idea what it was, but to me it was something new and exciting. In retrospect, I think the late 70s were the hay days of skateboarding. There were parks being built everywhere and magazines were coming out. It was an exciting time.
But not long after that, all the parks would disappear almost as fast as they were built. How did that affect you?
We started to search for backyard pools, ditches and even red painted curbs because we knew that the painted ones would be slippery. I think that’s when we were doing the first slappys. I remember when they bulldozed the Winchester key hole pool. I still wanted to skate vert, so I asked my mom if I could build a ramp in my back yard. My friend Naman Poon’s dad funded us, and me, Gavin and Corey O’Brien built it.
Had you ever built ramps before?
Yes – we got the ideas for our ramp from the magazines articles that were coming out. It seemed like all the mags had “how to build” ramp plans. The parks closing wasn’t going to discourage me.
What was your favorite ramp?
The Chin Ramp. I wish they would rebuild it and have a onetime Legends and Pro event. It would be amazing! The Chin Ramp was only up for four days and we were the only skaters that got to ride it. There were a few more that were lucky enough to experience it, but it was pretty much just the Bones Brigade.
“People always say that their era is better, but I say that right now is the best era because there is so much to skate! “
Back in the 1980s, how did you know what places to skate?
Word of mouth, and what we saw in the mags: Thrasher Spot Check, Action Now and Skateboarder Magazine. Also, zines that would acknowledge spots. We wouldn’t say exactly where they were, or give the real names though.
How did you get into Punk Rock?
Before I got into skateboarding I didn’t care about rock and roll. I was into soul, R&B and disco. When I went to skate parks, that was all I heard. Because I was an impressionable little kid, I said that I wanted to be like these guys. After that, I asked my mom to take me to a music store and I got AC/DC’s High Voltage album.
I thought listening to that music would make me a skateboarder. Eventually I moved on to Gary Newman and The Police, and then Stacy turned me on to The Cars. A dude named Rat’s Ass got us into the Buzzcocks, 999, TSOL, Adolescents and The Dead Kennedys. After that, I just threw away the whole New Wave and Rock ‘n Roll thing. From then on it, was all about hard core Punk Rock.
How did “The Faction” come together?
The Faction was me, Gavin, and Corey O’Brien. We started the band because we were going to so many punk shows. We also created the first Skate Zines covering the whole downtown (San Jose) Punk scene.
What years were The Faction active?
Me, Gavin and Corey went from 1982-1985. Then we performed with Jeff Kendall in the band around 1989. We had another stint from 2001 to 2004. Since 2012, we have been doing some shows from time to time.
What do you think about it downhilling?
I don’t really think about it much. It’s not that interesting to me, but it does looks fun though. I wasn’t that interested in it then, and I’m not now. That’s not to say that they aren’t challenging themselves or that they aren’t ripping. I like Vert, street skating and parks. It’s not like we didn’t do that stuff. We did! When the parks all closed, we did skate everything and anything we could find. I used to do it in downtown San Jose. There’s actually a shot of me and Lance Mountain bombing downtown and flipping off the photographer.
What do you think about how some skaters talk bad about longboarders?
People are selfish regarding what they’re into. As soon as something blows up, then they say it sucks. I believe in choices, and our choices dictate how our lives go. People always say that their era is better, but I say that right now is the best era
because there is so much to skate!
Who is your greatest influence?
The most important person in my life today would be Jesus Christ! Because of what he brought into this world, we can barely understand through just common sense that which was meant to be understood on a spiritual level. An understanding of life and love that no man can comprehend without full surrendering of one’s pride, ego and limited intellect
April Fools Day 2004 and Stacy Peralta is down. He is down and outside, in the harsh sunlight of a hazy, hot Santa Monica spring afternoon, pacing nervously around the parking lot of Big Time Studios in Santa Monica, his second home for the last nine months during the production of Riding Giants. Stacy is on his cell phone, talking urgently to someone about something, polishing up detail #124,768,804 to bring his vision of a big-wave surfing documentary to the big screen.
It is April Fool’s Day and Riding Giants is freshly in the can. Two thousand years of surfing history, thousands of hours of surfing footage, hundreds of still photos and hours of interviews have been carefully whittled down to a 90 minute montage of sound and fury which gives a Three Act history of surfing as told through the escalating pursuit of big waves. Riding Giants is grounded in history but thoroughly modern, an ambitious, well-financed project made possible by the success of Dogtown and Z Boys.· And on April Fool’s Day 2004, Peralta was done, a zillion details all laid down and finalized into 95 minutes of what could be the best big-screen surfing project since The Endless Summer. And with all that, Peralta is not looking good. As he comes in from the parking lot and takes a seat in the lunch room, his eyes are veiled. He still has the “one yard stare” that all filmmakers wear after months of gazing into computer screens.
Peralta has a hit on his hands. He should be up, but he ‘s down.
What did the bartender say to the horse?
I don’t know. “Whoa! That’s enough, buddy?”
No. He said, “Why the long face?”
You seem down.
Depressed? You’re on top o’ the world, Ma! You rocked the Sundance Film Festival. Premiere movie! Standing O! You hob-nobbed with Robert Redford. Riding Giants is going to make bank. You’re going to get nominated for an Oscar. You da man. The King of All Action Sports X· Media.
An Oscar? You think?
You heard it here first. Nominated. You won’t win, because the Academy is too PC to give an Oscar to a surf movie. The statue for Best Documentary will go to something about war-torn Lebanon or microbiology. But aside from the subject matter, in terms of structure and story telling and technique and technology and impact, Riding Giants is Oscar quality. And the accent is on quality. With apologies to Dana Brown, no big-screen surfing project has been done this well.
Well that’s nice of you to say. I’ll hold you to that. And Dana Brown’s project was a completely different deal. More power to him. Anyone who can pull off a film…
And yet here you are, looking like your dog left you and your pickup truck died and your wife blew up. I sentence you to be hung by the neck until you cheer up.
Oh I always go through this after a project. Every time. Three years ago I was in the exact same place at the same time after Dogtown.
Post production depression?
Something like that
Well Reader’s Digest is right about one thing: Laughter is the best medicine. These two Jewish Hollywood executives are swimming in the surf in Honolulu. One of them gets caught in a rip and is sucked out to sea. He is struggling and the second Jewish Hollywood executive says, ‘Maurie! Can you float alone?’ The first one says: ‘Sid! Is this any time to talk business?
Wow you are depressed, that was my best stuff.
I need to go surfing.
You need to do a lot of surfing. You need to go to Kelly Slater’s celebrity surf contest in May.
I need that and more.
Did you entirely stop surfing during the making of Riding Giants? That’s not healthy.
No, I surfed when I could, but this has been the worst winter. I surfed a ton before Sundance and got some of the best waves since high school. I surfed Bay Street a lot, which is usually the world’s worst beachbreak, but this winter was great. But that was before Sundance. Since then…
You have been surfing Santa Monica since high school?
This is where I grew up. This is where I learned to surf.
Surfing first, or skateboarding?
Well I was a skateboarder first because I began skateboarding when I was five years old and I started surfing when I was 11 at a place called Toes. It’s just south of Marina del Rey, a wave that used to break up a little creek. The break was called Toes on the Nose and I got my first surfboard and said, “This is it.”
You grew up as a freckle-faced, long, blonde haired surfer and skateboarder during the Roaring 70s? Do you feel lucky, punk?
I wouldn’t trade that for anything. You know, I feel really fortunate to have been a skateboarder at a time when, quote, it didn’t exist. When we did it simply for the pure joy of it. I’ve had some really great years in my life, I’ve accomplished a lot but maybe the purest moment in my life was when I was surfing between the 11th grade and the 12th grade, in the summer, when I was 17. I was surfing better than I ever had. I was getting to the point where I could pretty much do what I wanted to do on a surfboard. I could get up on a wave and position myself wherever I wanted to be.· And the life I was living at that time was probably the purest me I have ever been.
Hear hear. The rest of life kind of doesn’t compare, does it?
When you have an experience like that in your life it rings forever. There have been times in my life where I wanted to shed surfing out of my life because I couldn’t stand missing swells and this and that and I just got fed up with it and I said, “That’s it, I am stopping this. I can’t deal with this obsession.” The early 80s were one of those times, but right when I did that my next door neighbor-D. David Morin-returned from Australia and he said, “Hey, I just bought one of Simon Anderson’s boards and it’s this new board called a Thruster. This is his personal board and I don’t want it do you want it? I’ll sell it to you for a hundred and fifty bucks.” So I bought it and rode it and flipped out and I actually said to myself, “God this thing thrusts when it turns.”
Skateboarding’s the same way. You see an empty pool: this belongs to you. You use it as long as you can and then you leave. We never thought we were doing anything that was interesting, except to ourselves. It’s hard to think it’s going to turn into something else when everyone is telling you that what you’re doing is wrong — “This is wrong. Leave.” Our parents didn’t understand it because there was no context to understand it. They looked at us and thought, “You’ll outgrow this.” It had the respectability of a yo-yo. Or a hula-hoop. They didn’t realize that what we were doing was physically demanding, took a lot of pre-thought. And they didn’t see the beauty in it. It was developed very clandestinely.
– From an interview with Cynthia Fuchs on www.morphizm.com in 2002.
If you had to chose between the two…. No that is a stupid, Trans World question.
Surfing. The answer to the question you didn’t ask is surfing, if I had to choose between the two. There was a time when I was on my way to becoming a competitive surfer. Think of guys like Chris Barela and Mike Benavidez.· The Levy Brothers. Semi-professional surfers for the time.
That was my peer group and that is the direction I was going with Nathan Pratt, Tony Alva and Jay Adams, but we chased the opportunities in skateboarding instead.
Please excuse my ignorance. I was pretty involved in skateboarding way back when, but my knowledge of skateboarding ends around 1981 and starts up again a few years ago. In 10,000 words or less, where does Peralta fit into all that.
In the skateboarding world? You want that from me?
Well your honor, this line of questioning leads to the rumor that you were the first person to produce an action sports video. skateboard video, which I have heard was the first sports video of any kind.
(He sighs) The years from late 1979 to early 1983 were skateboarding’s dark ages.
It dipped. It cycled down. All the skateparks from the 70s closed. If you look at the 70s for skateboarding it’s analogous to the shortboard revolution of the 1960s. In three years there were all these design revolutions going on and no one really knew what a surfboard was going to become. And there were all these experiments done and a lot of really bad boards were made. Terrible boards.· The years from 1975 to 1979 were similar in skateboarding. Decks were changing dramatically all the time, every month they were getting bigger, wider and longer. Wheels, same thing. Ball bearings and trucks. There were a lot of casualties and a lot of people lost a lot of money, especially people who invested in skateboard parks. There were dead skateboard parks all over the country and all over the world because they were so poorly designed and no one really knew what a skateboard park should be. When skateboarding cycled down it hit pretty hard but we kept at it and kept at it and finally in 1983 my next door neighbor-the same guy who sold me the Simon Anderson Thruster said, “I’d like to make a skateboard video for your company and I will charge you $5000.” This was just when the VCR revolution was starting to come on. Now I had made a skateboard video two years prior to that offer. It was a teeny little thing called Skateboarding in the 80s. I think we sold 7 of them. But D. David had bigger ideas and it was going to cost us $5000, and I said okay.
This was D. David Morin?
Yes. He was a very successful TV commercial actor at the time and did videos as a side project.· The first day we were set to shoot, he couldn’t make it because he had a TV commercial to do. So he sent someone in his place to Lance Mountain’s ramp to shoot Lance, Caballero and McGill. I didn’t get along with the guys shooting the film and I fired them after the first day. So from that day forward I got a three-quarter inch camera and a recorder.
One of those shoulder-mounted beasts?
One of those big ones, with a separate recorder that connected to the camera with a big pipe cable.
How far we have come.
I also got a little teeny 58/50 tape-to-tape editing system installed in my Hollywood apartment. I started shooting and shooting and I shot about a hundred hours of material. Eight months later we had our first hour-long skateboard video: The Bones Brigade Video Show, which I am told was the first Action Sports Video.
Well it was the first skateboard project not made to go into an auditorium. It was made for living rooms.
This was 1983?
I finished it in 1983 and it premiered in the spring of 1984 in the living room of Tony Hawk’s parents.
You shot the whole thing.
I shot the whole thing and edited the whole thing.
It took a while.
I didn’t know what I was doing. Now the difference between an Action Sports Video in my opinion and what was called a traditional surf movie, is traditional surf movies were usually made by film-makers, on film, to project in auditoriums and four-wall up and down the coast. I was not a filmmaker, I was shooting on three-quarter inch video and it wasn’t made for theaters it was made for home living rooms.
You think you’re the first one? Nothing before you?
Not that I’m aware of, but please find out. I’ve always been credited with it but right after me Don Hoffman made another one for Vision Skateboards. But basically George Powell and I owned that market until the late 80s when Santa Cruz started making their skateboard videos.
Did they make money?
Yes they did. Not a ton. We originally made them as a promotional item but we sold like 30,000 a pop. Our distributors worldwide were telling us that we were lifting the tide of skateboarding because one kid would buy one and a hundred kids would see it.
So you’re claiming to be the Godfather of all Action Sports Videos. The face that launched a thousand projects. In some ways that is cool and in other ways that is like claiming Reality TV.
Totally. I have to say this in a way that doesn’t make me look like I am blowing my own horn. And don’t quote me on this, but from what people tell me two of the 10 videos I’ve made-The Search for Animal Chin and Future Primitive-are on everybody’s Top 10 lists of all-time videos. Even Spike Jonez. There was a website that said Animal Chin was his favorite. But having said that don’t blame me for all the guys who followed who have put no context into their videos. I have tried to put some context.
So you were trying from the word go to….
…to show some of the subversive nature of skateboarding and put a little mind into it and not just show action all the time. Stecyk and I played with this a lot. He was involved in this as well and we wanted to have fun making these things.
So all through the 80s you were with Powell-Peralta and selling skate stuff and making videos. What were you doing in the 90s?
You sold your skateboard company?
I didn’t sell it, but it’s a long story. A long long story.
Another Action Sports Story. So you got out of Powell-Peralta and did what?
I started producing and directing television.
What did you do?
A mixed bag of stuff for all the networks, but I really did not like doing it. You’re just making product to hit a certain demographic. A certain audience. A certain number. And it’s not pleasing. It’s creatively unsatisfying. You are dealing with a management system that doesn’t reward creativity but rewards delivering eyeballs. It doesn’t matter if it’s good or bad but if it delivers eyeballs… So I found out about three years later that it wasn’t what I wanted to do and I had to figure out how to get out of doing it and figure out something else that I felt strong about.
Dogtown was it?
Well I wanted to learn how to write screenplays so I spent four years writing five of them in between jobs and I didn’t get any action on any of them. Dogtown was the first project I did that was made exactly the way I was hoping it would be made.
How did Dogtown come about?
I went into Dogtown at the lowest point of my life creatively and career-wise. I wouldn’t call it do or die, but if it wouldn’t have worked I don’t know where I would have been today. And I wasn’t going back to television.
Dogtown was huge and is huge. Everyone knows Dogtown. It got huge kudos at Sundance and it’s playing in bars and clubs around the world. It’s a phenomenon.
No kidding. It has sold over a million DVDs and more than 700,000 VHS.
Good lord. Did you know that would happen?
I had no idea. Dogtown was done on the cheap and when I was making it everyone though it was cool that I was memorializing that period. And then when it became such a success…
Money changes everything.
I didn’t make any money on Dogtown. Everyone thinks I did, but I didn’t.· I didn’t have any ownership in the Dogtown film. I was paid terribly. What Dogtown did is open doors for me to get Riding Giants made.
A little sidebar here. What month and year were you where you are now on Dogtown? When were you suffering Postproduction Depression after your first documentary?
Almost the exact same time in 2001. In fact it was the exact same time: Spring of 2001.
I sentence you to be hung by the neck until you cheer up. I think you are going to get nominated for an Oscar. I think forget about subject matter, the detail and craftsmanship and technology.
I don’t know if they’ll see that but I appreciate your saying that.
What’s next for Stacy Peralta? You’ve got a screenplay in production.
Lords of Dogtown. They start shooting in a week.
Brock Little is down in Imperial Beach, crashing into piers as we speak.
And beyond that, two projects. Radar Pictures is talking to me about adapting Captain Zero.
You like that book?
Yeah I love it. And Art Linson and Stu Linson who are producing Lords of Dogtown,· have asked me to write a coming of age 50s surf film. Kind of like a Greg Noll crew, California to Hawaii experience. So we are talking about that. Those are the things we are talking about.
All that, and you are depressed.
I need to go surfing.
What about going right now? It’s a lovely spring day and there is surf in the South Bay.
I can’t right now. Things to do.
People who collect old skateboards do so for the same reasons people collect comic books or old toys — they still feel a connection to it, said Miki Vuckovich, noted skateboarding photographer and executive director of the Tony Hawk Foundation. “It’s a natural nostalgia for what you had a kid, so it’s the same reason somebody wants to collect all the old G.I. Joes.”
He continued, “They skated a certain type of board back in the day, and it was the perfect board. Everything today looks so different. They went to a skateshop and all of the boards are made for a 5 foot 3 inch, 14-year-old kid! They don’t see today what they experienced as a young skater, so they want a piece of that past. They want to reconnect in some way.”
“One thing about skateboard collectors,” he cautioned, “even though they understand what a rare board is and what a collectible board is and the importance of condition, their holy grail is that board they owned themselves as a kid, whether that’s a production board that’s easy to find or a one of a kind.” When asked, Vuckovich readily admitted to reacquiring his old board.
Toys or skateboards or comics, collectors are now affirming that their passion is not a second childhood but a reconnection with an important part of their personality. Miki Vuckovich agrees. “When I was younger, adults generally looked at skateboarding as this renegade thing that you did when you were a kid, then you got over it and moved on. From my perspective, it was just something I really loved to do. It defined my whole life. Now people from my generation are parents ourselves.”
He shared a comment made by legendary Z-Boy team member and skateboarding film director Stacy Peralta: “It’s an interesting thing. My generation is into our mid- to late forties. We were the first pro skateboarders to make it big in the 1970s. We’re really the oldest generation of the pro skateboarders – and a lot of us are still skating. So it’s really hard to say how old you could be and still skate.”
The dawn of skateboarding came about in the very late 1950s and early 1960s as an outgrowth of surfing, which means there are baby boomers in their fifties who remember riding old wooden “sidewalk surfers” with metal or clay wheels. Peralta’s award-winning Dogtown and Z-Boys documentary has precious film footage from these early days. The most interesting clip may be one of young Dave and Steve Hilton, super skaters of the Sixties and, yes, Paris’s uncles.
The focus of the Dogtown film, however, the second big wave of skateboarding popularity in the late 1970s which was made possible by the introduction of smooth-riding urethane wheels and a new kind of adjustable metal truck which is used to attach the wheels to the skateboard or deck.
The maneuvers possible with these technical innovations gave rise to both vertical skating – which launches the skater up a ramp into the air – and street skating, the art of tricks involving street obstacles like railings and stairways. The ESPN X-Games televised Aug. 2-5 include skateboarding competitions in both specialties.
Todd Huber, founder of the Simi Valley Skatelab and the manic collector responsible for the associated museum (see sidebar), has a good reason for focusing on the early days: “I grew up in California, I was born in 1965, so I got in when clay wheels were going out and urethane was coming in. In kindergarten, I took a skateboard to school for show-and-tell and my teacher said, never bring that back in again. That settled it, it became a rebellious thing. I developed with the sport – it was kind of my sport – that’s how I looked at it.”
A self-confessed hyper guy, Huber went on the hunt around 1990: ”I went out to swap meets, garage sales, thrift stores. I actually worked at the time for a guy who was a surfboard accessory dealer. I asked my accounts on the phone, hey, do you have any old skateboards? Some had old stock in their stores they were just dying to get rid of. They couldn’t believe that I wanted it, so they were practically giving it away to me.”
Huber began advertising in toy magazines: “‘Wanted Old Skateboards, Top Dollar Paid’ and my phone number. I started getting calls from all over the country. When I first started collecting, nobody else was doing it – they were a dollar or two each. Now the boards, I paid $2 for are worth $500 or even thousands.”
Skateboard collecting has moved fast, so 15 years ago was the good old days. Huber scoffs at this era of people paying four-figure prices for production boards from the 1980s or 1990s: “I don’t pay high dollar. Everything I bought was under a hundred dollars.” But he admits, “I think I paid $400 for that Daniel Boone skateboard.”
When asked about rarities, he says, “I love boards from 1960s with the metal and clay wheels, but they are the easiest to find because they were hardest to skate, so they survived. To me the ones that are the most valuable and collectible are the ones called ‘pigs’ – they were 10 inches wide, and they were the first boards that were truly skateable. They didn’t survive because of that; they got handed down to younger brothers. When you find a pig board, made from around 1979 to 1983, especially in great condition, that is the rarest find.”
“I LOVE THE ‘80s” – MUSIC, HAIR, AND SKATEBOARDS
Remember how much skateboarding Michael J. Fox does in the 1985 hit Back to the Future? The big prices for vintage skateboards have been paid out not by baby boomers but by prosperous Gen-X collectors, looking back to their formative years in the 1980s. In addition to the technical innovations mentioned above, two media-related factors changed skateboarding from a coastally based fad to a nationwide action sport bristling with attitude.
Specialist magazines like Skateboarder, Transworld Skateboarding, and Thrasher, made stars out of skaters and popularized their moves and favorite equipment, a practice that continues today. The second boost came from home video players, so kids could watch not only Back to the Future but pure skateboarding movies – put out by product manufacturers – over and over after school.
After a successful pro career, the still-young Stacy Peralta joined forces in 1978 with engineer/designer George Powell to form the Powell-Peralta company. They not only made skateboards and T-shirts, they also produced videos starring the Bones Brigade, a company team of young skateboarders carefully selected and nurtured by Peralta. The best known member of the team was a gangly phenom named Tony Hawk, now one of the most recognizable athletes in America.
Skateboards from the 1960s and 1970s were marked only with logos and generic pictures of the beach. Powell-Peralta pioneered skateboard art, bold in-your-face graphics which appear – heaven help the collector – on the vulnerable bottom of the deck. (Adhesive grip tape covers the upper surface of the skateboard, to allow the rider to control the rolling deck with his feet.)
Each Bones Brigade team member had a distinctive skateboard design worked out with Powell artist Court Johnson, which also usually appeared as a T-shirt design. Skaters to the present day always pose with their decks art-side-out or execute tricks that allow the skateboard to be photographed from below. The punk-to-looney graphics of skateboards are what make them so attractive to nostalgic collectors.
As the Bones name implies, art for the Powell-Peralta team played on the skeleton theme, scary enough to appeal to kids and frighten parents. Tony Hawk’s deck design appropriately featured a hawk skull. In Disposable: A History of Skateboard Art by Sean Cliver, Hawk explains, “They let Court come up with something truly unique – what I refer to as the ‘Screaming Chicken Skull’ – and I loved it. I had that graphic for nearly 10 years, and we ended up re-releasing it as a Birdhouse (Hawk’s present company) deck.”
A quick search online will reveal hundreds of skateboards for sale from the 1980s, but before beginners try to navigate this minefield mixture of genuine models, reissues, and the outright suspicious, get some help from a seasoned collector.Chris Solomon, a k a Amorone, runs the website ArtOfSkateboarding.com which includes news, collector links, and great advice on how to value a skateboard.
In a telephone interview, Solomon said, “The most popular decks in general seem to all come from the 1980s. That was a time when deck shapes and graphics really took off and changed in weird and wild ways, much like the progression of skateboarding itself. Skateboard art has always pushed the edges and/or been a reflection of the times.”
He cites the highlight of the decade as the release of the third Bones Brigade video, The Search for Animal Chin, a 1987 action/comedy quest saga filled with memorable skating, clothes, and haircuts: “Although earlier members existed, it was during the time of the team of Lance Mountain, Steve Caballero, Tommy Guerrero, Mike McGill, and, of course, Tony Hawk, that the Bones Brigade is most remembered. The release of Animal Chin, which featured that team, was the catalyst that got a lot of people involved in skateboarding to begin with.”
Animal Chin has recently been released in a special edition DVD with lots of extras, a lucky break if Mom threw out the videos. George Powell comments in the “making of” documentary, “It’s become almost a cult video … The whole industry was changing from being driven by advertising in magazines to being driven by videos.” The now-historic film records old- school skating style and provides a catalog of decks.
Additional price information appears on the Solomon’s Web site every day, and he is careful to correct the misinformation about values that appears even in skateboarding publications. He says in his price guide, “As it has been said many times, an item is only worth what the market will bear. Someone might be holding on to a deck they think is worth thousands, but if it sells on eBay for $66, then that owner is a bit off the mark.” A record $6,000 was paid recently for Tony Hawk’s 1982 first pro model.
Solomon’s site has over 22,000 registered users, so who collects? “It’s across the board – no pun intended. Old skaters that have since quit but still love skateboarding, old skaters that have kept going through the years, new skaters, folks that don’t skate but love the art and/or skateboarding. They can be any age from three years old – yes, parents start collections for their kids – and up. The oldest I heard of is 73.”
Miki Vuckovich was a young skate mag photographer on the set of the video The Search for Animal Chin, and still gets to work with one of its stars, Tony Hawk, at the foundation the pro created to help young skaters. ”Through special events, grants, and technical assistance, the foundation supports recreational programs with a focus on the creation of public skateboard parks in low-income communities,” said Vuckovich.
“The main thing is information – which is the most valuable thing we can offer,” Vuckovich continued. “At this point, there are still a lot of cities that want to build skate parks but don’t really know what it entails. There are a lot of important things to consider, such as screening contractors and designers.’
“We also have our grant program. We do fund-raising throughout the year, (whose proceeds) we can allocate to communities that demonstrate the greatest need.”
Miki concluded with this thought:? “It’s one thing to preserve the past but there’s a lot to be said for laying the foundation for the future. Create parks that people can learn to skate in. It’s a constantly evolving lifestyle. People today are doing things that I couldn’t even imagine.”
Referenced from Toy Collector Magazine: Karla Klein Albertson
Clay to Urethane: Skateboard Transitions 1965-1975 and Book Release The Skateboard: The Good, The Rad, and The Gnarly
Author Ben Marcus is all those things mothers fear. He grew up in Santa Cruz a surfer and skateboarder from childhood. After high school he traveled the globe in search of the perfect ave. He later became SURFER magazine editor and is the author of the classic history The Surfboard: Art, Style, Stoke, as well as numerous other cool books.
Free and open to the public. Come hang with skateboard stars and legends and meet CSM’s exhibit curator, Larry Balma. Get the hottest skateboard history book on the market autographed by author Ben Marcus and photographer Lucia Griggi.
Ben spent 2-1/2 years of research and interview sessions with skateboard legends and manufacturers. This book is chock full of more than 750 images and packed with interviews with skaters from Jeff Ho to Tony Hawk, Stacy Peralta, Lance Mountain, Steve Caballero and many more. This book welcomes you to the skateboard hall of fame — and infamy.
Ben chronicles this evolution through the eyes of the participants, all colorful characters, from humble beginnings to present day stars. Come and get your book signed by skateboard legends such as the Logans, Steve Cathey, the Bahnes, Denis Shufeldt, Frank Nasworthy, Gregg Weaver — with more confirming each day.Don’t miss this historic event. “The Skateboard: The Good, The Rad, and The Gnarly” are $35 each on Amazon.
Skateboard Transitions 1965-1975
It started with metal roller skate wheels until the mid-60s, then the ride was clay, which was heaven. After years of raw elbows and knees, in the 70s Cadillac urethane wheels brought a smooth ride to skateboarding. Then came Bahne, Bennett and Tracker Trucks, and stability was added to the skateboard. In 1975, the skateboard built with urethane wheels and high quality skateboarding trucks became a quality sporting good item, not just a toy.
I worked with Dale Smith on the skateboard exhibit “Clay to Urethane: Skateboard Transitions 1965-1975.” It focuses on the companies that bridged that gap. There are photos of Skitch, Logan, Torger, Tommy Ryan, Turners, Nasworthy, Bahnes, the Z-Boys, Shufly, Skoldberg, Lance Smith, Yandall, Dominy and more — and even some video. The skate exhibit mirrors the feature surfboard exhibit, “Transitional Thinking: A Short Story 1966-1972” which chronicles the transition from long to short surfboards. Come, hang out, and support the California Surf Museum! Maybe I will see you there! — Larry Balma
Mr. Powell Explains the Evolution That Lead to Bones. Lucia Griggi took a couple of great portraits of George Powell as this book was getting started, and then I didn’t bother him again until early September. I was fiending to turn in Chapter Five of this book – which had grown to 100,000+ words – but it would not be a complete book without talking to George Powell about the rise of Powell Corporation, the Powell-Peralta partnership and the first products he produced. George Powell is an engineer and he interviews like one: Technical, knowledgeable, informative. Very good spelling and punctuation.
Hollywood, California: 1943
Where did you grow up?
Mostly in West Hollywood, near Santa Monica and La Cienega until I was nine, then moved to Burlingame for three years, then back to Hollywood.
Were your parents/ancestors involved in engineering/manufacturing in any way?
No history of technical interest from my mom, grandparents, or step dad, but my genetic father studied engineering and eventually became a contractor, building some of Ventura and Oxnard’s marina complexes.
Did you surf before you skateboarded?
Actually, no. I skateboarded when I was about 12 to 13 on a home made 2×4 with my metal clamp-on roller skates on it.· I still remember throwing away my skate “key.”· I bought my first surf board ( a Dave Sweet foam and fiberglass model) in about 1959.
What was you first skateboard?
Made it myself out of a found 2×4, some screws and my old metal wheel clamp-on roller skates.· I rode it all by myself for about a year until I wore the wheels off it and gave up.
What was your evolution in skateboards, through the 60s/70s?
When skateboarding became popular in the 1960s, my wife and I saved up our Blue Chip stamp books to acquire two Hobie Super Surfers, which we rode around the inner quadrangle at Stanford during the evening hours when no one was there to complain.
I went to Hollywood High.
What kind of engineering were you studying at Stanford?
Mechanical Engineering and Product Design.
Did you compete or were you involved with skateboard organizations at all?
No, I didn’t even know if any existed in the 60’s.· I thought skateboarding was perceived as a mass market product for kids at the time and there was no real industry or culture that had spread to Palo Alto as far as I knew.· I just remembered how much fun I had had on my home-made board and really wanted to try a “factory made” board.
What jobs did you have after graduation and leading up to your involvement with skateboarding?
After getting my masters degree in Product Design, I went to work for Hewlett Packard in Palo Alto.· Then worked for FMC, DTL which was a defense contractor.· It was here that I first used urethane in a product design.· Next I worked for a small electronic company to develop a new kind of instrument housing that could be put into an electronic rack and also be portable.· Lastly, I worked for Raychem, as an area manager (sales engineer) trying to apply Raychem’s technology to various high tech projects being worked on in the aerospace industry in LA.· I pissed off my boss and got laid off from this last job, and this was what prompted me to “go for it” by starting a company to produce the skateboards I had been playing with in my garage for about two years.
Did you like working for companies, or did you yearn to have your own deal going?
I have always been very entrepreneurial.· A fellow student and I started a company while we were at Stanford, making custom, artsy candle holders, lamps, lighting fixtures, and room dividers.· We bought welding torches and steel sheet, rod, and tube and had a lot of fun with that.· It was called Studio West.· That taught me many practical lessons.
What wheels were on the market prior to Bones? It would be good to list the origins of wheels in order if that is possible: Cadillac, Stoker, Road Rider, Oj, Park Rider and then what?
The main things that got me back into skateboarding in my 30’s were my son Abe – who wanted to skate – the urethane wheel – which had just come out – and the primitive nature of skate equipment in the mid 70’s, which encouraged me to see if I could do any better. Urethane wheels were an instant success everywhere they were introduced, because they gripped so well.· Every skater who saw and tried a urethane wheel, including myself, took about 10 seconds to know that they were riding a completely new vehicle, which could do things a clay-wheeled skateboard could never do.· It was one of those paradigm changers that happen only seldom in the history of any sports or technology.· An analogy might be the shift from steam power to electricity at the turn of the 20th century.· I’ve always paralleled the composition to urethane jump to the Aztecs seeing horses for the first time, or the Vikings deciding that sail power wasn’t for wussies.
The urethane wheel was a single component, so good, that it changed the entire performance envelope of the skateboard – changed skateboarding forever – and it was the single invention that enabled our entire industry and sport to develop. In 1975, my son Abe and I were riding together in the Pacific Palisades, and I noticed, as I would return to the Palisades Hobby store for new wheels or components, that skateboarding must be exploding, because every few weeks there would be a new brand of wheels, trucks, and decks on the shelves.· I think skaters must be natural entrepreneurs, because everyone seems to want to get into the act, somewhere in the industry, I guess because we are more independent, and risk takers.
Frank Nasworthy’s Cadillac wheels from Virginia were soon challenged by wheels made in west coast urethane shops, offering different shapes and colors.· Then Santa Cruz introduced a wheel which used precision bearings instead of the “loose ball bearings” we all enjoyed chasing around the floor, or searching in the grass for, as we cleaned them.· Next, Tom Sims introduced larger diameter, thin-lipped red wheels that challenged Santa Cruz’s new Road Rider wheels, and the exploding industry quickly changed to precision bearing wheels.· It was at this point in 1975 that I started to develop wheel and deck designs of my own in my garage and kitchen.· As I progressed, I took my designs and formulas to urethane processors to pour formulas I could not pour in my kitchen.
By the fall of that year, I had analyzed existing wheel designs and decided that they were not optimum for skating outside, and that skate wheels should have stiff edges and large radiuses on both edges of the wheel to help them roll over cracks, twigs, and transitions.· I made a few molds, poured some wheels and tested them.· I thought they had promise, so I applied for a patent on this new design for skateboard wheels, and received a patent on the Double Radial wheel as I called them.· Skate wheels are no longer called Double Radials, but in fact they are the natural evolution of the wheels I developed in 1975.
During 1975 I was also developing deck designs and experimenting with materials and shapes I thought might be better.· I met Tom Sims one day at Palisades High, as I was testing new designs, and he was doing a photo shoot for the Heinz Annual Report.· They asked Tom to skate down the parking lot flying an American flag, so you can see that skateboarding was already being recognized by corporate America as an up-and –coming, cool thing to do.
Tom and I eventually agreed to jointly market a new slalom deck if I developed one better than the G&S Fiberflex.· Just about the time I finished this project, working part time on weekends and evenings, the company I was working for laid me off, freeing me up to focus full time on my new skateboard designs. Tom and I jointly marketed my first commercial deck design, the Quicksilver.· This was a very modest success, but I needed more products to keep my baby business alive.· So I took some prototypes of my double radial wheels to Tom, in the hopes that he would want to co-market my wheel design too.
When I first showed Tom my first double radial wheels, he gave them to his team to test.· They said that they could not see any big difference, and they thought his Comps were just as good or better than my new wheels.
This initial failure lead me search for ways to
improve my wheel performance.· I had found an interesting new formulation by researching urethane company catalogs, but had found no one who could pour it yet, because of its different urethane to curative ratio, and the difficulty of mixing the two components properly. Thus, I had to use the same urethane everyone else was using for my first prototypes.· Now I set out to find a processor that could pour this very different chemistry.· I looked on the west coast, but since I was not having any luck, the CPR Upjohn sales office in LA was willing to pour me a few test sets in my double radial molds, so I could evaluate the material.· When I got them, they were translucent white, as that was this material’s natural color – instead of the clear, natural amber color of the urethane in use at the time.
When I rode this new formulation, I was super stoked, because they were a huge improvement.· The new white, MDI chemistry was much faster and more responsive because of its higher resilience.· When I took the wheels to the Tea Bowl in Santa Barbara to have other skaters ride them, they generated a lot of excitement and I knew I was on the right track.
My next problem was to find someone who could process this new material properly, because virtually no one I knew of had equipment that was accurate enough to produce good results with a 1,4 BD cured MDI.· Ironically, I ended up at Creative Urethanes, the processor who had produced the Cadillac wheel several years earlier, but lost his business to west coast processors, because the skateboard business was centered in SoCal and Frank Nasworthy had not shifted to precision bearing wheels when his competitors did.· Vern Heitfield, the owner of Creative Urethanes, swore he could process this material with his self-constructed pouring equipment, “no problem.”
This turned out to be not true in the end, and cost both of us a lot of time and money.· I eventually despaired after a couple of years, and started looking for another processor, that had purchased the kind of equipment I thought would process this material.· The only one available was Rogers Manufacturing, and they turned out to be located in Huntington Beach.
In about 1980, Roger agreed to take over my production.· From there, we finally began to gain serious market share because of our Bones’ wheel’s quality and performance.· Powerflex had actually beat me to market with a quality MDI wheel, poured by Rogers, in multiple colors, because I had wasted two years trying to get good product from Creative Urethanes, and now I had lost my lead to another company.· I was not stoked, but I had developed new formulas that were unusual, and proved to have better wear, rebound and hardness control, so I eventually regained leadership.
Can you get technical for the layman about the differences between TDI and MDI. I think TDI was the chemical that caused Grubby Clark so much trouble at Clark Foam. The Orange County Hazmat people were afraid he was going to spill a load of the stuff and kill everyone in Laguna Niguel.
It is the isocyanate by itself that is a major problem with TDI.· If you breathe the fumes or have it touch your skin too much, you may become “sensitized” and develop rashes, lung disease or whatever… none of it good, and so great care must be taken in processing urethanes in general, but certain types like TDIs especially.· MDI is said to be inherently less toxic, but when you make wheels, you don’t have to work with the raw isocyanate, unless you choose to, and your material is reacted with other materials into an inert state very quickly, but TDI and the MOCA it is cured with are still very controlled substances.
It is not helpful to go into the differences in the urethane chemistry or molecular structure unless you are a polymer chemist, and I am not.· Perhaps it is useful to say that TDI was an earlier chemistry, and had found good use in products like fork lift tires, pallet jack wheels, industrial casters, and industrial items.· I believe roller skate rental wheels, and subsequently skateboard wheels, were among the first sports to use polyurethane.· The newer MDI materials had a slightly different structure, which allowed them to be cured with Diol curatives, which were not as dangerous to work with as the amine curatives used with TDI at that time. You might not want to print all of that…
What was different about the Bones formula. Design, manufacturing, marketing?
The Bones Double Radial shape was new, superior, and patented.· Our white MDI based formulas were the first and best on the market, and far superior to the 90-95A TDI wheels competing with us.· If we had been able to produce quality wheels from the beginning, we would have succeeded in the wheel market immediately, but instead, we tempted the market with higher performance samples, but had uneven production quality for the first two years, most of which I refused to ship.
The name I chose for the wheels, BONES®, was based on the natural bone white color of the MDI materials I was using, and lead to the use of skeletons and bones in our marketing.· This turned out to be popular with skaters, and added to our reputation, if not our sales.· As the years went on, we continually improved the rebound, abrasion resistance and hardness range of the wheels, always leading in urethane technology, never following.
Powell-Peralta came into the market just as it was booming, but on the verge of an even faster collapse. How did Powell-Peralta weather that boom and bust as the 1970s got closer to 1980?
The start up of “The Powell Corporation” in 1976 was a very small, naive endeavor.· I had one product, a small factory of 1100 square feet that my family and I lived in for the first few months as we moved from the Palisades to Santa Barbara.· My brother-in-law, Vernon Courtlandt Johnson (VCJ) was my first employee other than my wife Christie, who did the books in her spare time.· Court and I built all the equipment and fixtures we needed to start producing Quicksilvers, and he ran the production shop.
A good friend of mine, Michael Burridge, designed the original triple P logo, the Powell logo, Quicksilver logo, and Bones logo.· Michael also did our first ads that featured studio shots of my products and Tom Sims skating.· For marketing, I tried to sell them directly to skaters because they were more expensive than other skateboards and I didn’t think skaters would pay as much as a normal distribution mark up would add to the cost.· Ultimately, my direct sales, pyramid marketing scheme did not work, and Tom Sims encouraged me to just sell decks to his distributors and allow them to mark the boards up, telling me convincingly that they could sell 10 times as many decks this way, even at the higher price.· He was right, and we switched to what was considered normal distribution at that time and raising the price from $30 to $40.
By 1977, slalom decks like the Quicksilver and G&S’s Fiberflex were at the end of their popularity.· Rigid decks that were better for skating banks, pools, and ditches were the best sellers, so I developed Quicktail, a thicker version of the Quicksilver with a small kicktail.
I formed a small team of skaters to promote my decks and Bones Wheels, with Ray Rodriguez as my top skater.· Ray became so associated with Bones wheels that he is still known to this day as Ray “Bones” Rodriguez.
Okay that answers that mystery. I thought Bones were named for Ray Rodriguez. Thanks.
In 1978, Stacy Peralta left G&S and eventually joined me to create a completely new team and to help me build the company.
Stacy’s efforts were so successful in attracting the best young skaters of the day that he soon had all the up and coming young guns riding for us.· When I realized how helpful and important Stacy was in marketing and promoting our products, I agreed to begin marketing all our products under a new name, Powell•Peralta.
Stacy also convinced me that decks with flex were going out and suggested we switch to laminated wooden decks, so I started working to optimize a new wooden construction and developed crazy, fluorescent-dyed decks with a combination of hard and soft maple I called Brite-Lites.· Stacy also recommended a deck laminator in Michigan that he had met, and who had developed a new construction we ended up marketing as the Beamer.· This was the only deck we did not develop ourselves, and while it had important advantages and was very popular, it was very difficult to produce and eventually developed an additional Achilles Heel: When pool coping grinds became popular in the late 70’s, the grinds would soon wear through the fiberglass reinforcing beams and then the deck became a 3/8” thick 5 ply…which was no longer strong enough.
About this time skateboarding just died, and everyone was having problems shrinking fast enough to stay alive.· As Stacy points out, skateboarding collapsed in mid-1979, and just got worse and worse until the fall of 1983.· In reality, the fact that we were small, and doing less than two million dollars per year by the end of the 70’s probably made it easier for us to survive, than if we had been as big as Sims or G&S at that time.
We were forced to go from small and growing to smaller and clinging on by our fingernails.· I am often doggedly determined, and in this case it proved a valuable trait.· I had committed to skateboarding, and loved it.· I just couldn’t imagine not being in the skateboard business, so my family and I just toughed it out.· We missed many payrolls, defaulted on bank loans, relied on family loans and personal savings to make the rent.· Stacy left to work in Hollywood, so he could make a decent salary, and ran the team virtually for free.· During those years our sales dropped 50% to about one million per year, and getting everything done to keep our company going was sort of a magic act…or at least sleight of hand.
One slight of hand was the ironic conversion of indoor roller skate wheels from their original amber TDI formulas to Bones MDI wheels.· Roller skaters discovered our superior skateboard wheels and wanted to use them – just like skateboarders had borrowed TDI wheels from roller skaters ten years earlier.· Ever since, we have maintained a good relationship with roller skaters, through our urethane formulas.· It was this relationship that probably saved our company from 79 to 83, when skateboarding was experiencing its Dark Ages, and there were only enough skaters to ‘sort of’ support five companies.
Well I consider the late 1970s/early 1980s the Second Dark Ages. The first was the late 1960s, up until urethane. Then, just when we thought things were never going to improve and we were pondering how to continue on, the market suddenly began to improve dramatically, at back to school time in 1983.· A whole new generation of skateboarders “discovered” skateboarding, and we were off again.· Suddenly, we went from making perhaps 500 boards per month to as many as we could possibly produce for the next four years, never meeting demand.· This was when we brought laminating into our production area so we could better control the quality of our decks, and increase production. We never really caught up with deck production until about the time of the Animal Chin video in 1987.
Since we were subcontracting our wheels at that time, however, we were able to meet our wheel orders for Bones wheels, and this helped us to grow. A couple of years later, we purchased Rogers Manufacturing, and integrated the complete wheel process into our production facility in Santa Barbara, where it still exists today.
You went from zero in 1975 to $2 million in sales in a few short years, which is not bad. At what point did you realize that skateboarding could be a significant business?
Boy, when I first started my little company I figured I would be successful financially very soon, like all young inventors and entrepreneurs.· But after struggling for four years, until the industry crashed, and never making a penny more than grocery money, I began to think I might never succeed in creating a viable skateboard company.· After another four years, the industry rebounded, and things started to look up a little.· We were able to repay our loans and start to grow.· So the first eight years were a bust financially.· The next 10 were a wild crazy ride that probably only happens once in a lifetime if you are lucky.· Stacy and I thought we were going to become reasonably wealthy, own homes, cars, send our kids to good schools, all that stuff, and we had a lot of fun.· Then in 1993, we crashed and burned completely, losing all our gains.
Can you give a verbal graph of how your sales increased?
We went from making 50 decks and 0 wheels per month in 1976 to 1,000 decks and perhaps 10,000 wheels per month in 1979, and then back down to about 500 decks and 2000 wheels per month during the first few years of the 1980s.
How many buildings did you lease/buy from 1975 and how many employees did you have at your peak?
We had only one building at a time, but moved three times, each time to a slightly larger building.· The maximum number of· employees during this period was about 20.
Do you have any regrets from this first five years, or were you smart and lucky and all good things.
I was dumb, and incredibly lucky during the first eight years, just to survive.· It was an intense learning period with no financial reward, only loss.
From : The Skateboard , The Good The Rad, And The Gnarly By Ben Marcus
George Powell, (Powell Peralta) Jim Goodrich (Skateboarder Magazine Photographer) and Rick Tetz (CalStreets Founder & Longboarder Labs Owner) at the World Freestyle Roundup in Cloverdale May 2012
SoCal rules!! So we went down to Long Beach California Jan 5 for the launch of AXS Longboard Retailer Magazine (oh yea and to go to Agenda 2012) and had a blast, 28 degrees Celsius and sunny in January! We hung out with Michael Brooke and Rick Tetz for the weekend, drank some Don Julio Tequila (Thanks to Pablo and Don from Loaded) and chilled at the Hilton Long beach! Famous Dave’s BBQ did a great job hosting our launch party, great ribs, wings and nice cold beer!
All the movers and shakers of our industry were there to rep their company’s. From the guys at Abec 11 (thanks for the California hospitality) Rip Tide Sports, Oust, Sector 9, Xylan Longboards, Tsunami, Loaded, Surf Rodz, Carver, Eastern Skateboard Supply, Polestar Distribution, Griffin Skatebo300-AXS-Longboard-Retailer-AlleyIMG 2635ards, Mob Grip, Bucsu Boards, Gravity, Madrid, Gravity, Randal, Kebbek, Palisades, Smokin Mad Love, Santa Cruz, Seismic, Honey Skateboards, Black Ops Urethane and Road Shark, holy crap that’s a lot of companies, hope I didn’t miss anyone.
I had the opportunity to ride some pretty cool and unique boards. I rode a Road Shark which would make a great cruiser board but was a little narrow for me really pretty cool lines though.
I got to try the elusive Carver board thanks to Abraham Paskowitz and loved it so much we ended up picking a pair of the trucks to throw on a Bamboo Xylan Cruiser. These trucks give a super cool surf feeling to your ride, great for The elusive Carver Boards!LDP or just carving it up. Totally recommended.
I even got an opportunity to ride a Dissent board from Oust, it had carbon fiber core surrounded by exotic hard woods (thanks to Carl Rick-Tetz-Michael-575-Brooke-AXS-Magazine-Launch-Longbeach-Califfor letting me ride it I’m pretty sure it was still wet!). It was so flexy it hit the ground when I jumped! A nice ride for sure lots of foot space and just enough tail on either end to make it a lot of fun. If your in the market for a high end board you should totally check these guy s out, works of art for sure! It seemed like everyone had a great time and enjoyed the food and beer! It got pretty busy and loud, who needs Agenda right?
After the party ended we decided to go check out Agenda and actually had a lot of fun there as well. We saw a ton of cool clothes and accessories at the show and made a few connections that made it worth our while for sure.
Once we’d had enough of Agenda we headed Back to the Hotel with a bottle of Premium Tequila from Don and Pablo of LOADED that was given to Rick at the party. A few drinks in we get a call from Michael inviting us to head to a restaurant called Islands for some grub and drinks with reps from JimmyZ , Maui and Sons and the guys from S&J Distribution who grabbed the tab.
These bottles might look tempting for such a cheap price but it tastes like crap compared to the Tequila gifted from the guys at Loaded. It still has paper on it!
All in all this was the best trip I’ve had in a longtime, SoCal is the shit! Warm weather, nice people, great food and cheep booze! We will definitely be headed back to Long Beach as soon as possible. Thanks for your hospitality U.S.A.! Oh we f*%king love you too Agenda!
After Lords of Dogtown came out in 2005, I was curious about a whole bunch of things. Allen Sarlo and I had been caught in the same massive traffic jam trying to get to the premiere of Lords of Dogtown at Mann’s Chinese Theater. I barely saw the movie, but I came out of there with a lot of questions. Sarlo lives in Malibu and surfs First Point as much as I do, and it wasn’t too hard to get him talking about the movie, and the documentary and the books, and the myths, legends, rumors and lies of· the Z Boys/Dogtown myths.
This is the long version of the interview, part of which appeared on www.surfermag.com in 2005. Sarlo has gotten his swimming pool very expensively fixed since then, and it’s a good place for a party –especially if you invite a harem of belly dancers to dance around it.
Ironically, Allen Sarlo is now the owner of an empty, skateable swimming pool. It is attached to his house, up in the Malibu hills, at his house overlooking the ocean. Doubly ironically, where the empty pools of Lords of Dogtown were from the drought, Sarlo’s pool was damaged and had to be emptied because of the monsoonal rains of the winter of 2004/2005, which turned his hillside to liquid mud and caved in half of his house.
Thirty years ago, Sarlo probably would have invited the whole team to his house for a pool party, blasting AC/DC and Ted Nugent until the neighbors complained. But that was then. Thirty years ago, Sarlo was a teenager at Venice High – in the same class as Nathan Pratt and Stacy Peralta – and a member of the Zephyr team, a young surfer sponsored by Skip Engblom and Jeff Ho. Where some of the Zephyr team were frustrated surf stars who turned to skating, Sarlo concentrated on the surf star bit and had a good run of it as a competitor, traveler and big-wave surfer.
Now, Sarlo is a hard-working, harder surfing father of two. He has a successful real estate business in that golden strip from Marina del Rey to Malibu, and he surfs more than humanly possible – flying to Tahiti or Indo or Hawaii or Mexico at the slightest wisp of swell. During the week of May 22, Sarlo took a limo with his daughter Sophie and Skip Engblom to see the Hollywood premiere of Lords of Dogtown and then the next night, he took his son Colton to the cast and crew showing of the movie in Westwood.
Sarlo is never short on words, and he had some stories to tell on how he saw Lords of Dogtown from someone who was there.
How is your pool?
We’re getting there. It’s coming.
Here is the million-dollar question: If a bunch of kids snuck up the road and tried to skate your pool, what would you do?
I’d chase them out. Vals go home!
Hey I don’t want to get sued. I got enough problems back there.
So you’ve seen the movie twice now. That’s your life up there, sort of. What did you think?
I thought it was really really good. I thought it was insane. I think my daughter Sophie summed it up best. What did you think of the movie, Sophie?
Sophie Sarlo: I thought the skateboarding stunts were incredible! I thought it was a lot better than Blue Crush! Hopefully all the people who got into surfing because of Blue Crush will get into skateboarding and this summer won’t be so crowded.
Allen Sarlo: That’s my girl.
Nathan Pratt was at the cast and crew show. He came out teary-eyed, but at some point I heard him say he thought the skateboarding was a little weak.
You’ve got to remember that the skateboarders that were skating were actors and you can’t compare them to Tony Alva and Jay Adams and Stacy. Those guys were magic.
Those were the actors going over the light in some of the pool scenes.
Yeah, they learned how to do it so that was pretty good, but they’re not Jay and Tony and Stacy.
You knew these guys very very well, so was that actor like Stacy and where those actors like Jay and Tony?
Yeah, I thought the actor did a really good job with Jay.
Because in the movie Jay kind of goes through a Darth Vader transformation from Anakin Skywalker to the dark side. Is that pretty accurate?
Yeah Jay got heavy into punk rock and going to Hollywood and partying but he was a hardcore surfer. We used to get up every morning and go over to his house and Philaine would take us to the beach or we would ride our bikes to the beach or we would walk to the beach.
Philaine is Jay’s mom…
Yeah, Philaine would drive us to Topanga…
So was Jay’s mom as whacked out as Rebecca de Mornay portrayed her to be?
Jay’s mom was the sweetest lady in the world. She wasn’t high like that all the time. She took us to the beach and fed us and laughed and she was like part of the boys.
Were they really that poor?
Yeah they rented the house for like 250 bucks and Jay’s stepdad Kent, he glassed for Dave Sweet and he had a big background in surfboard making and that’s how he came up with the fiberglass Zephyr skateboards you know – out of the mold.
Did Tony Alva really have a hot sister?
Yeah. She was definitely hot.
What about the actor who portrayed Tony Alva?
Tony… that is how Tony was. It was all about him all the time and he had a huge ego. It was fun being around him because you were on the Tony show.· Stacy was quiet and responsible and a nice guy.
What about Stacy’s family?
Stacy’s dad was a hard-working guy and his mom was a housewife. They lived in Venice – Mar Vista.
They owned the house?
Stacy’s mom still lives in the house and I believe Stacy’s dad passed away.
Did Stacy ever get in fights?
No he avoided that whole…
Was Stacy that good of a skateboarder?
In the beginning you know Stacy wasn’t that good but Nathan and I told Stacy he should be doing 360s. He was always practicing his 360s at lunchtime and after school he’d go, “Allen! Nathan! Come here! Let me how you how many 60s I can do!” Like he did like five 360s with his hair spinning around. And then we go, “Hey man we gotta get you in front of Skipper to do that,” and that is how he got on the skateboard team.
Did you all go to the same high school?
To Venice High School.
Same year in high school?
Stacy and Jay and Tony.
No, Stacy, me and Nathan were the same age. Tony was a year younger and I think Jay was like three or four years younger.
Alva’s dad wasn’t around much and they lived in sort of Santa Monica like on 26th Street and we all hung out at Jay’s house or we hung out at the shop. Jay lived in Ocean Park and it was all about surfing and skating and… having fun.
The Sid character was for real?
Sid was somebody that wanted to hang out with the Zephyr team and he had cancer so his dad let him drain the pool so the Zephyr team could come skate. In the movie Sid is the shop guy but back in the day I think the shop guy was Nathan. I think Sid was two characters, Nathan and the shop guy.
Was Sid that good friends with everyone?
I think he was friends with the pool skaters.
Sid is the rich kid in the movie, with a nice house and maids and a big pool. Where were they from?
They were north of Montana, in Santa Monica.
Do you see those guys often?
I see Jay all the time on the North Shore. I surf with him all the time. He just got married to a 24-year-old, beautiful girl who is a hot skateboarder.
So he’s still there and he still surfs?
He surfs so good. Still super-stoked.
So he is that good of a surfer?
He is a really good surfer. Always has been. Back then we would walk or ride our bikes to Santa Monica or Venice Jetty. Jay was always the inspirational surfer… we used to laugh because when he surfed he looked like BK and Larry Bertlemann, you know. He had the BK takeoff and bottom turn and then he would go right into the Larry Bertlemann cutback. And then he went to Hawaii with his mom, after the whole Dogtown thing and became really good on the North Shore.
Did Jay make that much money?
No, because you see his step-father Kent made the Zephyr skateboards. He made the molds and he was popping them out. So when Tony went to Sims first and Stacy went to G& S, Jay felt a lot of pressure to stay with Kent. Jay could have made a lot more money if he had left Zephyr, but his step-father was really cool. He helped Jay out when he was growing up, so he felt loyal and didn’t want to leave the whole stepfather, Zephyr thing.
Why did people leave Zephyr?
There weren’t that many skateboarders in LA. It was more of a San Diego, San Clemente thing and those were the… I mean, LA? Who was skateboarding in LA? Not that many people. There were way more surfers in Huntington and San Clemente and San Diego and that is where all the big skateboard companies were.
It was really weird. That summer… the summer of ’75 when all this went down I was really focused on surfing the WSA contests and winning the Malibu AAAA contest. I used to skateboard Bicknell but when those guys got into the pools they would come back hurt, with broken ankles and broken wrists… I was into surfing.
You didn’t want to get hurt.
I didn’t want to get hurt. It’s hard to surf after you have a big raspberry, you know? Your heat is starting and you’re trying to put on your Body Glove jacket with a broken wrist.
Those 70s wetsuits were hard enough to get on.
Did you win the Malibu AAAA?
I did. Youngest ever.
And that was pretty hotly contested, no?
Oh my god yeah. It was Mike Purpus, Kevin Reed, Mark Levy, Chris O’Rourke.
Tom Stone was the only Hawaiian who came over for it, but who was the guy on the G&S team? Tony Staples. They all showed up at Malibu and the waves were perfect, like four or five feet.
First or Third Point?
Third Point and it was really good. Nathan Pratt got a wave that was so long from Third to First, they stopped judging him while he was still going. I guess if they could have judged the wave they would have scored him higher. As it was Nathan and I were like… and Jay Adams and Tony was a really good surfer who dominated…
Was Stacy a good surfer?
Stacy was a really good surfer, he was a goofyfoot, he was really smooth. Like we had the surf contest against the ET Surf Team. Stacy was up against Derek Levy· and did some backside radical upside down off the lip on like a 7’ 4” Zephyr single fin and we were like “Oh my God!”
Is that movie pretty much one summer?
It was one summer. Everything happened in one summer. I mean the skateboard team was an idea of Jeff Ho’s and Skipper, because they were going to have the contest at Del Mar and so that is why we started the skateboard team. So they had the contest at Del Mar and everything just blew up because by the next summer the shop was gone.
Why did the shop only last a year?
They were really good at making surfboards and skateboards but they weren’t that good at business. And back then surfing wasn’t… there weren’t that many surfers so you couldn’t sell that many surfboards and there wasn’t that many skaters. We had the product and it was ahead of its time but there wasn’t a big market. Jeff was definitely ahead with the surfboards and Kent and Skipper and CR were ahead of the time with skateboards. We had a product that was light-years ahead… but it wasn’t really catching on. They could have paced themselves a little bit more but everyone wanted to do things right away.
That was the summer the urethane wheels came in?
Kids these days don’t realize what a big deal that was. Cadillac wheels. Gregg Weaver.
I know before that you were getting stubbed on every pebble. Your skateboard was doing big Brodie’s on every pebble, with clay wheels.
They were horrible. You know Herbie Fletcher has a photo of himself skating a pool on clay wheels.
I skated pools a little bit but I was so heavy into surfing and all the surf contests were in the summer and we had a summer drought. Everyone was skating pools but Malibu was going off and so I ended up surfing Malibu more than I skated, you know. It was like, are you going to surf Malibu or are you going to skate pools?
Couldn’t do both.
Were you working in the summer?
No but I also was playing football.
You didn’t want to get hurt so you played football?
Hey, I saw a lot more people get hurt skateboarding than playing football. This was before wrist guards and kneepads and all that. People were just learning how to fall.
What else grabbed you from the movie where you thought, “They got that right.”
Like skating down the streets in Dogtown – that brought back a lot of memories. The Zephyr parties, the parties we had. The greatest thing about those parties is that back in the 70s there was basically no cops. There was a handful of police officers on the force.
Your dad was one of them?
No my dad worked for the Culver City police force and we lived in Venice but the cops didn’t show up to the parties. They would show up at like 1:00 in the morning. They wouldn’t show up at 10:00 so the parties didn’t get busted like they do now.
In the movie the guy Topher Burke, he’s walking out of the party where Skip Engblom is up on the roof destroying surfboards and he says, “Zephyr has the best parties!” Was that a real guy, Topher Burke?
I didn’t really remember him. I think he’s the guy who owns Sims skateboards or something.
So it’s a play on that. Like Sims Skateboards or something.
Sophie Sarlo: I thought that was Kid Rock at first, but it was that Johnny Knoxville guy. And I thought Heath Ledger was Val Kilmer, at first. I thought Heath Ledger really nailed Skipper.
Yeah, he did a really really good job with Skip. He must have watched movies of him or something. Well he hung out with Skip before he made it, yeah But Skip now is not Skip then.
Well they had those pictures and stuff, because the way he talked and… Skipper ate more burritos back then. He liked Mexican food. He didn’t like hamburgers as much, like in the movie he is eating a hamburger in every scene. Back then it was more Mexican food.
Was Jeff Ho a part of Zephyr, or a different deal?
Jeff Ho and Skipper were Zephyr Surf Shop. It was Jeff Ho surfboards and Zephyr Surf Shop. It was really… there were two surfboards, there were Jeff Ho surfboards and Zephyr surfboards. Zephyr was like a B surfboard and a Jeff Ho as like an A surfboard but it was the same thing. It was two models, basically. It was Jeff Ho and Zephyr. Jeff Ho/Zephyr, Zephyr/Jeff Ho.
Did someone really punch Tony Alva in the eye at a contest?
I don’t think that was accurate. If anyone had punched Tony Alva the whole Zephyr team would have jumped on and gang-banged the guy, so no one punched… if anybody touched anybody on the Zephyr team the whole Zephyr team would have ganged up and beat them up.
Did that happen?
Well what would happen is those guys would get in a lot of trouble and then call me in and go “Sarlo! Come and straighten this situation out.” I was like the backup guy. I was on the football team and I was bigger than these guys so they’d call me and you know… If I was around everything went pretty smooth.
How often did they call you?
We got in more mischief than we got in fights. We’d throw rocks at the bus and pull people’s wigs off. Old lady’s wigs, we used to pull them off. And like Muir broke a window outside the Zephyr shop and almost got kicked off the Zephyr team.
That was in the movie, breaking a window.
So, we were just mischiefy.
Who was the enemy? Vato guys? Valley guys?
Oh definitely Vals and the north of Wilshire guys. I think they thought we were the enemy – the north of Wilshire guys. We used to go up and invade on Malibu and start taking over. Terry Lucoff was the owner of Natural Progression shop. Lucoff and Jay Riddle would go, “Oh my God! It’s the Zephyr team! And the Mad Chinaman!”
Jeff Ho was the mad Chinaman?
Of the people who aren’t really included in the movie – there is no Nathan Pratt, no Jeff Ho and no Allen Sarlo.
They just gave Peggy a little spot, right? Wentzle, Biniak got a little spot. Paul Constantineau, um…
But you aren’t even represented there, at all.
Nope. Lords of Dogtown is a movie about skateboarding. If they do another movie about surfing, and how radical the surf team was, I’ll be in that one.
Were you a skater at all?
I skated in the Del Mar contest and I got like sixth place or fourth place in the slalom. I beat Ty Page in the slalom. I actually ran over the cone. I was so determined to beat him and a he was a little bit ahead of me so like the last cone I had to run over like skiing.
It didn’t stop me and made it and everyone was laughing, “Sarlo ran the cone over.” But you know the great thing about the Del Mar contest is we all went down in my van, and the surf was six foot and perfect at Seaside Reef and… Cardiff by the Sea. It was six foot and perfect so we surfed that morning – the whole Zephyr Team – and then we showed up at the contest at like 9:30.
Think that made a difference?
Aw we were all so high – aw man the surf was so good – and then we ended up like surfing on the piece of plywood they had there.
Did Skip really punch someone out at the Del Mar Contest?
Aw, no, there was like a heated conversation because Jay wasn’t getting scored like he should have been getting scored and Tony… They never saw what we were doing before you know so it was obviously not getting scored.
Where did that kind of skateboarding coming from?
Well it came from surfing and… the summer before that, Larry Bertlemann was in the magazines and he and Ben Aipa came over to the Zephyr shop and a lot of the boards had a serious Ben Aipa influence: Stingers and swallowtails. We were like idolizing Larry Bertlemann, Terry Fitzgerald and Gerry Lopez. So the surf skate thing came from that along with the drought and the pools being available and skating down Bicknell Hill.
Would Tony Alva really shoot it like he did in the movie – time the light so it turned green just in time so he didn’t get squished.
Yeah there’s a lot of hills at Ocean Park area the Marina Hill and the Navy Hill. We skated all those hills and missed cars.
Anyone ever get killed?
Nope. Close though. Like here’s a great story. I had this old Chevy surfer van that we took to the Del Mar contest. You know the off ramps how they go around and they have ramps on it? We did an off the lip on the ramp with everybody in the car because everyone is in the car screaming “Do an off the lip! Do an off the lip!” So I did an off the lip in my van on the ramp and we kept driving and we got to the Del Mar contest and the wheel fell off. I had my dad’s credit card so I had it towed to the gas station.
You must have hit a pebble.
The wheel came off my van. They left that part out.
Story By Ben Marcus from The Good, The Rad, and The Gnarly
Photos by Lucia Griggi
THE BROTHERS LOGAN CLAN LOGAN WE ARE FAMILY Bruce, Brian and Brad on the Origins of Logan Earth Ski. For the full story on the Logan family – whose skateboard roots go back to the 1950s and are still going now – check out their website at www.loganearthski.com. There are five Logans, actually, the three brothers – Brian, Brad and Bruce – plus their sister Robin. But the fifth Logan is their mother, who was behind the scenes and on the sidelines all through the hey days of the Logans – which began in the late 1950s and hit a peak in the 1970s, when Logan Earth Ski was one of the leaders of the urethane revolution of the 1970s – as competitors, as manufacturers as marketers.
This interview was recorded some time in the fall/winter of 2009, because there is a football game going on in the background.
I remember the Logans from the 1970s and might have even had an Earth Ski, but from doing this book I know Bruce goes as far back as the Anaheim contest in 1965. How far back do you go?
Brian: At least to where we were pulling roller skates apart in the mid-50s. That’s when me and Bruce started doing that: 56, 57, 58.
And where were you guys?
Brad: Hermosa Beach.
Hmm, Hermosa Beach has come up a lot in this book. Hermosa Beach is where Kemp Aaberg saw skateboarders in the late 1950s, and brought it up to Brentwood and Pacific Palisades. Hermosa Beach is where Greg Noll had his surf shop in the late 50s, and claims a guy named Jensen made the first commercial skateboards. Pier Avenue is where the first skateboard contest was.
Brian: Our ancestors in Hermosa Beach go back to the late 1800s.
Brian: One side of the family is originally from Missouri. Our grandparents are all from there, great grandparents. Hermosa Beach is where Bruce and I started skateboarding in 1959. I would have been nine years old
Where did you get the idea?
Brian: How did we officially start? We probably started out seeing kids on roller skates and then we got the idea: well let’s take these skates apart and nail them to a board.
Bruce: A group of our neighbors and friends from school all started skateboarding. We were taking our skateboards to school and all got together and started a skateboard team. We went to Bing Surfboards on PCH and 101 and asked him if he would sponsor us. And he did.
Were you surfing before you were skateboarding?
Bruce: Our first surfboard that my brothers split was a Velzy Jacobs. Balsawood.
Brian: I can’t remember that.
Bruce: I’ve got a picture of it.
Brian: Bruce has a memory like you wouldn’t believe. More than anybody in skateboarding.
That is what I hear. And what were your skateboards like?
Bruce: Basically a 2” x 4”. We would nail roller skates to a 2” x 4”. We started out at night.
Brian: Swooping turn on the 2” x 4” with steel wheels.
And not slide out.
Brad: That was up on 10th Street in Hermosa Beach.
Brian: And then in the early 60s, we started a skateboard club. I’m only 11 years old, but I was the President, and we’ve got a dozen kids in our little club. We’d go around doing demonstrations and practice at ??? Junior High every day. At first we were the South Bay Skateboard Club and then we got a sponsor – Bing Surfboards – so we switched our name over to the Bing Skateboard Team. And then from there we were some of the first to be on live television. Tony Hawk said it best: “Never underestimate the power of television.”
Brian: I don’t know if you’ve ever heard anyone talk about Surf’s Up with Stan Richards, but that was a big deal.
Bruce: Surf’s Up was 30 minutes of surf footage that they had on once a week, every week, and when they decided to have the skateboard demos on Surf’s Up, skateboarding came up first and then the surf footage. There were about 8 to 10 skateboard teams.
A few people have mentioned it but I can’t find hide nor hair of it online. Nothing on YouTube, unfortunately.
Brian: Check out the archives of KHJ TV Channel 9.
Bruce: Channel 9 on Sundays.
Brian: This was around 1964. There were about 8 to 10 skateboard teams, and it was done live.
What kind of boards?
Brian: Wood boards and Hobie flex
Bruce: Makaha TC Commanders were big.
Brian: Stan Richards show was pretty cool. It was about 8 to 10 teams that were on there and we skated in an alley. Stan was interviewing me because I was head of the team and I would tell him what all the guys were doing. They invited the three top teams back a second time – so we all came back.
Do you remember who the other two teams were?
Brian: Yep. It was Kip’s Skateboard Team, a bicycle shop and I think Bob Moore was on that team and I believe the third team was Hobie, wasn’t it?
Bruce: Not sure, a little hazy on that.
Did all of you compete at Anaheim in 1965?
Brian: Yeah, Bruce got second, behind Torger.
Second in… freestyle?
Brian: I got 11th, I think it was.
We’re hoping to shoot a portrait of the Hiltons next Saturday.
Brian: Tell them we said hi. We haven’t seen them since we were young. We’re all still alive. It’s unusual to get all of us together, because so many have died. Good skaters. We’ve lost a half dozen of our top skaters in the years past.
Brad: Torger Johnson. Baby Paul Cullen. Danny Bearer.
Brian: Most of those people weren’t there from the 60s to the 70s, like us. Torger, Danny Bearer, Bob Moore and one or two more who were there in the 1960s carried over into the 1970s. Not the Hiltons or John Freis or George Trafton.
You guys competed at Anaheim, and then skateboarding died. But you kept skating.
Brian: No competitions.
Bruce: The international surf festival they had from ’64 to ’68. They had Men’s Freestyle, Men’s Slalom and the Men’s Kick turn race.
Brad: They had Junior Boys in those three events also.
Where was this?
Bruce: That was at Pier Avenue Junior High school in Hermosa. The International Surf Festival.
So there were still some things going on.
Brian: Yeah but it just wasn’t the same after that Anaheim contest.
Brad: Between ’65 and ’67 Hobie/Vita-Pakt sent teams out to the schools just to try and keep it going, because I remember they came to our school – Valley Vista School – in ’66…
Bruce: Yeah and Brad won the First Place trophy.
Brian: But very few skateboarders made it from the 1960s to the 1970s.
Brad: Makaha had a team in 1969.
Your company Logan Earth Ski was a 70s company?
Brian: In the 70s.
Brad: That was a pre-planned, meditated move on our part
Brian: We started our skateboard company in the back yard. We went out to La Costa knowing this magazine was coming out and I was thinking: ‘Wait until they see Bruce. They’re going to blow their minds.’ Because he had been skating from ’65 on, and he was so far advanced from everybody in the early 70s. We went up to La Costa that first time and people just blew their minds when they saw him. Especially Warren Bolster.
What was going on at La Costa?
Brian: Everything: Downhill, slalom and freestyle.
Why La Costa?
Brian: La Costa was a big mecca for skateboarding back in the 70s because you had this community of beautiful hills with brand-new, paved black streets and sidewalks and no houses.
Bruce: No cars.
Larry Balma said it was built with Teamster money.
Brad: The asphalt was perfect.
Bruce: Black asphalt. Very smooth. You never fell off your board because it was so smooth, and the urethane went over any rock.
Brian: We were some of the first to go out there.
Brian: Right before, I think. Yeah it was before.
Bruce: It started with Sunset Skateboards.
Brian: It’s close to the same time but it was a little bit before… Bruce was calling them Sunset Skateboards. Remember?
Bruce: That was late ‘69/70 then 71 and 72. It was basically the 29” diamond board like the one over there.
Brad: No kick.
Bruce: No kick, flat deck. That was the same design in the 60s that went into the 70s.
Bruce: Wood boards.
Brian: Yeah, wood.
Why no kick, was that a patent thing?
Brian: No one was doing kicktails at that time. When the urethane came out we were right there on top of it with the wood boards, because no one was making the wood boards. It was mostly Bahne’s flexible fiberglass boards and a couple of other fiberglass models. That’s all there was, and then we threw ours into the mix, because we knew it worked better.
What kind of wood was it?
Brian: We were using oak for the most part but we started importing wood from South America… rosewood.
Bruce: Some were birch in the early days, too.
Brian: Yeah, some birch.
Brad: Rosewood, almond wood and what was the other wood… teak?
Bruce: They were so heavy that we had to do a bevel bottom on them. Shave off the bottom to make them light.
Brad: Logan Earth Ski and Gordon and Smith were the only companies in the beginning who were paying the royalty to Larry Stevenson for the kicktail.
Brian: But that didn’t last for long.
Bruce: No that didn’t last long at all.
Why didn’t the kicktail royalty last long?
Brian: Because Larry lost in court, eventually. I didn’t like those thick yellow boards with the kicktail. We called them “banana boards.”
Brad: I can’t believe they’re selling for five grand on the Internet. If you can even find them. Just think if Larry had them now.
Were you guys always wood? You never did plastics?
Brad and Bruce: No.
Brian: Because we thought wood boards worked better.
Bruce: And we were right.
Brad: Because that’s all they use now, anyway.
Bruce: Wood boards are more stable. They didn’t flex.
Is that Laura Thornhill?
Brad and Bruce: Yes.
Brian: She was one of our skaters. She had a model with us. Torger Johnson had a model with us.
Didn’t Alva have a model with you?
Brian: No he was with Z-Flex first, and then he was teamless, and then we took on him and Jay Adams.
Did Z-Flex just fall apart?
Brian: Yeah I don’t know why because skateboarding was really on the upswing at that time. I really don’t know why.
How did Logan Earth Ski survive the downturn at the end of the 1970s?
Brian: Why did skateboarding die in ’79? It died for a combination of a couple of reasons. One is there were a lot of injuries at the skateboard parks and the insurance companies were no longer willing to give the skateboard parks policies. And the other reason is there were too many manufacturers on the market, and you had some really big people involved in skateboards back then. GrenTec, Free Former. They had a lot of money and they put a lot of junk out there on the market.
How did it effect you guys in your business? How abrupt?
Brian: When it ended, it ended just like that for everybody. The phones just stopped ringing, all at the same time. When it ended we had to close our factory in Solana Beach and put all the equipment in the garage and in the next couple of years I didn’t know what to do with it all, so I started burning our old skateboards in the fire place. Little did I know, 35 or 40 years later, these boards that cost me $10 at the time are now worth a few hundred a piece now.
Did you lose a lot of money when the skateboard market collapsed?
Brian: Everything was paid for so theoretically we didn’t, but we lost our livelihood. The one thing we didn’t do – that we regret to this day – is I had the opportunity to sell the business. Back in those days, $1.5 million was a lot of money. I was the only one in my family who wanted to sell the business, and I owned most of it, but they didn’t because they didn’t know what they would do for their livelihood. So we didn’t sell it and a year or two years later… bam, that was it.
So you think you should have sold it?
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.