Archive for the Propaganda Category
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
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!
Vert, pool riding and park riding were definitely in vogue as the 1980s began. No doubt, the previously mentioned Alva, Jay, Ollie and many more rippers were inventing new maneuvers on any walls that could be found. Pools were getting gnarlier and larger, but unfortunately, these parks were disappearing almost as quickly as they came about. The park I rode in Florida had two fairly decent pools, one round and one peanut-shaped. We even had a waterslide to attract more customers. Then, out of the blue, and with very little fanfare, a very strange looking, never-before-seen Giant Capsule appeared in the parking lot. I don’t know if I can put into words just how incredible this monolith of skateboarding appeared to me at the time. One thing is certain, no-one had ever seen anything like it. The following is my conversation with the inventor of possibly the greatest skateboard ramp ever made: “The Turningpoint Ramp”. His name is Scotty Senatore. He was not only a very good skater, he was also somewhat of a “skateboarding shaman” who played an integral part in pushing skateboarding to the next level.
In 1979, I was getting the feeling that the skate park boom was losing steam. What is your feeling about that time, and about skate parks in general?
They weren’t designed by skaters. Back then, you had to pay to get in to all the parks, good or bad. They were poorly run and no-one knew what they were doing. The owners were only in it to make money, and to most of them it was a get-rich-quick scheme. The owners were greedy!
What was the inspiration for the building of the Turningpoint Ramp?
A few ramps already existed, and I rode for Vans who had a plexiglass ramp. Firestone had one too. One day, I was approached by a major basketball team to build a ramp that could be moved in and out during halftime of the games for entertainment.
Why the capsule shape?
The capsule idea was so that a person could ride the ramp like it was a long pool with a dome at the end. It would then have a variety of applications including a half pipe, full pipe, or oval for going over vert or doing loops.
But no-one had ever done loops before?
In my mind, it seemed like it was inevitable that someone was going to go upside down. I was going for something no-one had ever done before, but I knew it had to be possible.
How was the TP Ramp funded?
My mom’s boyfriend was the President of the team and I was the VP. He had to launder money that he was making from dealing drugs, so that’s where the money came from. He was part of a group of smugglers from back East that worked in South Florida. They were also involved in a skate movie called “Skateboard Madness”, and they wanted to include the Turningpoint Ramp in the movie. The movie originally was going to be a documentary on skateboarding, but ended up being fictional and the ramp was only in the final scene. It was spectacular, so they saved it for last. Unfortunately I got sucked into all of this.
Can you tell me more about the construction of the ramp?
My mom’s boyfriend went overboard on everything. I wanted it to be made of plexiglass and steel so that it wouldn’t be too expensive, and easy to take apart. Instead, he made it out of lexan and aluminum. It ended up being very expensive and hard to make repairs or get replacement parts. I got into arguments about the construction, and really they made it too good. I wanted it to be less expensive, so that it could be mass produced. They made it bullet-proof and it didn’t have to be. But it worked! Even the hydraulics worked, but not the way I wanted. The ramp was designed so you could go beyond vertical, creating weightlessness. I didn’t want there to be any limits to what you could do. It definitely did all of that, but financially, it just wasn’t feasible.
How did the TP Ramp ever get to Solid Surf Skatepark in Ft. Lauderdale?
My mom lived in Ft. Lauderdale, and her boyfriend who funded it also lived there. Bob Spence’s Solid Surf was the logical place to park the ramp because it was the best skate park in Lauderdale. Also, the filming of Skateboard Madness was going to be done around there.
That was a really fun time, and also a time of change in society. I remember you getting me in to The Police and punk rock.
It definitely was. Kent (my brother) and Jerry Valdez brought punk rock music to me from England. They got turned on to it when they were over there riding for Arrow Skateboards with Tony, Jay, Hackett, Paul Constatineau. That was before Turningpoint got real.
Who did the first full loop on the ramp? Who else stood out in your mind?
Kent Senatore, my brother, was the first to do it. Kent and Jerry would do doubles in the ramp. Jerry had it down really soon after Kent. Other guys who ripped the ramp were Brad Bowman, Steve Lippman, Jim “Graystoke” Gray, Steve Caballero and, of course, Tony Hawk.
What happened to the Turningpoint Ramp after that?
We went on tour with it up the east coast of the U.S. doing demos from Florida to New Jersey. Then it ended up in the Marina Del Rey skate park in southern California for a while. Not long after that, my mom’s boyfriend was indicted for drug trafficking and they had to sell everything, including the ramp, piece by piece. I heard the capsule end is now a greenhouse in Washington state.
What was the greatest compliment you ever received regarding the TP Ramp?
That would definitely be Shaggy from Grindline. I was contacted by the people building the skate park in Maui where I live now. They had contracted Grindline to build the park there, and introduced me to them. Shaggy told me that the cradles that they implemented into their designs were all inspired by my Turningpoint Ramp. I thought he was bullshitting me, but he certainly paid me a compliment. He said they wanted to make a cradle here in Maui, and he wanted me to check out the design on Facebook. I didn’t know that cradles were being designed into parks because I have been isolated over here in Hawaii for 20 years. Shaggy said that my Turningpoint ramp was the inspiration for all of them.
A few things have happened to my visionary friend Scott Senatore. No doubt his incredible creation was the first ramp of its type ever built, and was far ahead of its time. It ushered in the building of many ramps in the 1980s and is a part of skateboard history. Neither Turningpoint or Scott got any credit in the movie “Skateboard Madness.” Scott drifted away from skateboarding for quite a while after severely cutting his wrist in an accident. Now, he rips on a regular basis over in Hawaii and is one of the over 50 year-old skaters who do.
Photos by Craig Snyder (unless otherwise noted) From A Secret History of the Ollie by Craig B. Snyder (Black Salt Press, March 2015). Copyright © 2015 by Craig Snyder. All rights reserved.
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