Th e L e g acy o f
The Legacy of WARREN BOLSTER Master of Skateboard Photography Volume One
Editor Daniel Gesmer Published by
© 2004 Concrete Wave Editions/Warren Bolster ISBN 0-9735286-0-5 (hardcover) ISBN 0-9735286-1-3 (softcover) ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. NO PART OF THIS BOOK MAY BE REPRODUCED IN ANY FROM WITHOUT WRITTEN PERMISSION FROM THE PUBLISHER Printed in Canada by Solisco. Concrete Wave Editions 1054 Center Street, Suite 293, Thornhill, Ontario L4J 8E5 concretewavemagazine.com • tailtap.com
Th e L e g acy o f
WARREN BOLSTER MASTER OF SKATEBOARD PHOTOGRAPHY VOLUME
In November of 1976 I was able to purchase my first issue of SkateBoarder Magazine. I had read about the magazine a year before, but to see it on the newsstand at our local convenience store was an incredible surprise. I quickly plunked down my $1.25 and was transfixed. The photos and stories were just magical. The “magician” responsible for SkateBoarder was a man by the name of Warren Bolster. It was his vision and drive that created “the bible” of skateboarding. His commitment to document all types of skateboarding and skaters has stayed with me for close to thirty years. It is a vision that I try and capture as publisher and editor of Concrete Wave Magazine. Warren’s devotion to building and documenting skateboarding almost consumed him. By 1978, the editorial reigns were passed. However, the legacy of Warren’s work within skateboarding has not been forgotten. Warren Bolster didn’t just capture the rebirth of skateboarding, he captured its true soul. My deepest thanks go to Kevin Harris of Ultimate Skateboard Distributors. His financial support and dedication to this project is overwhelming. We simply could not have done it without Kevin. Daniel Gesmer has done a tremendous job as editor and I’m grateful for all his efforts. My thanks also go to Blair Watson for assisting with editing duties. My designer, Mark Tzerelshtein aka Markintosh, has done a wonderful job of laying out the book. A thank you to Laura Thornhill-Caswell who first put in me contact with Warren. Finally, a huge amount of gratitude and respect to Warren Bolster, the man who created so much magic within the world of skateboarding. Thank you for inspiring me along with millions of other skateboarders worldwide. This book is a celebration of your incredible legacy. Michael Brooke Publisher email@example.com
Contents 1975 1976
As with everything I do, I have to give credit to my mother and father, Elizabeth and Edward Bolster. From an early age, they gave me hand-me-down cameras and screened slide shows of our family travels. They always encouraged and supported me in pursuing what inspired my love and dedication, even if they preferred I do something completely different that they could more easily understand. When I wrote my parents in 1972 to ask for a new camera, they followed through. Almost immediately, I began getting published in surf magazines and became a staff photographer and contributing editor. In Arlington, Virginia, where I grew up, surfing and skateboarding were almost entirely unheard of. My father was a Foreign Service Officer, First Class, and traveled extensively as a diplomat. Eventually he became Consul General at a luxury post in Sydney, Australia, where in 1963 we settled into an $8,000,000 government estate. That’s where I rode a skateboard for the very first time, in 1965. My father, who passed away this year, always wanted me to write more — a book perhaps. He remained wise and cogent to the end, despite a lifetime of serious asthma and many strokes. I wish he were alive to see this. My parents — like yours, I hope — set me on course to be dedicated to what I love. This book — along with the collection of my surfing photos and the articles in Concrete Wave magazine — shows, I think, that I’ve stood the test. And now I have to give credit to my own children. I’m literally living FOR them, and genuinely enjoying the time we have together. Edward, named after my father, is almost 16, and Warren, Jr, is 10. Both ride skateboards, and Little Warren surfs, too. Tony Hawk is their favorite pro. For over twenty years, my little sister Janet has been personal secretary to Chief Justice William Rehnquist of the U.S. Supreme Court. I’m very proud of her, and happy to be uncle to her daughter Beth and great-uncle to Beth’s children.
r e t s l o B n e r r a W
To my family, I dedicate everything. I love you all so much.
Skitch Hitchcock at the Concrete Wave Skatepark
SkateBoarder Magazine was the only skate publication worth reading when I started skating. I used to check the local liquor store every week to see if they had the newest issue, and it was almost always sold out before I had the chance to claim one. My parents finally got me a subscription after I incessantly begged, whined, and demanded that they fill this missing link in my life to the best skating in the world. I would read it cover-to-cover and stare in amazement at the gravity-defying feats of the era's infamous professionals. The pictures were always dreamy and left me full of disbelief, admiration, and inspiration. If it weren't for SkateBoarder, I would have never realized what was really possible on my four-wheeled plank. — Tony Hawk
In the mid-1970s, as an adolescent living in Rockford, Illinois, magical images of a mysterious, progressive movement form monopolized my imagination and laid out the entire course of my life. They led to a career as an eclectic artistic innovator in flatland freestyle and to a business developing advanced equipment for carving-oriented skateboard riding. That magazine was called SkateBoarder, and its editor and chief photographer was Warren Bolster. There was no way for me to know, at age thirteen, that nearly thirty years later I would help the world recall and appreciate this man's gifts. SkateBoarder had a brief stint as a quarterly publication in the mid-1960s, but it was Warren Bolster who resuscitated it in 1975 and, during his three years as Editor, carved the sport's place as a primary kinetic art form of modern Western counter-culture.
Though WB showcased all disciplines and all performers, his lens was uniquely sensitive to the graceful, gliding-oriented approaches that characterized most of skateboarding in the mid-70s. Since his departure as SkateBoarder's editor, aggressive technical skating has firmly established its rightful place, while disciplines that were previously considered mainstream have gone out of focus and been redefined as alternative or peripheral. In recent years, those approaches — including flatland freestyle, longboarding, slalom, downhill and expression-oriented cruising — have undergone a remarkable renaissance, despite the reluctance of mainstream skateboard media to pay adequate attention. Among other things, we hope that this reflection on Warren Bolster's inspired lens will reinvigorate — one might even say “bolster” — the world's appreciation for skateboarding aesthetics that, though currently out of the mainstream spotlight, are far from out of date. It was my dear friend Laura Thornhill-Caswell, whom I call the “female Tony Hawk of the 1970s,” who first had the idea for this book and put Warren in touch with Michael Brooke of Concrete Wave Editions. Nearly thirty years after his tenure at SkateBoarder, many of WB's best-known photos are missing-in-action, at least for now. The 150-odd images in this overview of his opus were culled from the 1,000 slides that Warren had personally saved and stored at his home in Hawaii. Fact-checking the captions to these decades-old photos also proved challenging, and we extend our sincere apologies to all whose names and contributions are not perfectly represented. In the future, with further research, more of Bolster's best work may surface in original film and be organized for publication in additional volumes. — Daniel Gesmer, Editor 9
If you wanted to be a pro skater in the early years, you had to take advantage of every opportunity to skate when Warren was shooting. If Warren liked your style and look, you were going to get coverage and be on your way to stardom! — Curt Kimbel Warren Bolster took it to the world. When skateboarding entered its second fervor in Southern California in the 1970s, Warren spread the energy internationally. We were inventing new trucks and wheels, building the first skatepark, competing weekly, creating the Pacific Skateboard Association (the first association of skateboard manufacturers), and publishing The National Skateboard Review (a grassroots national newspaper). Meanwhile, Warren was everywhere to encourage, photograph, and promote our sport. His SkateBoarder magazine showed us to the world. His phenomenally-riveting action photography told the story, and the world was ready. — Di Dootson Rose
My first encounter with Warren was at La Costa, right after I was invited to join the Logan Earth Ski Team. I was 14 years old, and we were there to shoot photos for my “Who’s Hot,” which happened to be the first that was ever done on a female skater. I had no idea at the time that my friendship with Warren would change the course of my life. Some of my most prized memories of those treasured days in the ‘70s are of times spent with Warren at various photo shoots, skate spots and contests.
During the three years that he was Editor and Head Photographer at SkateBoarder magazine, he never failed to capture the true essence of his subjects. He truly immortalized so many of us with his unforgettable images. Warren’s talent for capturing the moment and making an indelible impression upon the culture of the day will live forever. I am eternally grateful for the vision that he shared with the world, and I will forever be proud to have been one of his favorite photo subjects. — Laura Thornhill-Caswell
WB was as innovative behind the lens as we were on our boards. He pioneered the use of fisheye lenses, motor drives and strobes to capture the moment on film. These techniques were instrumental in manifesting his vision of how to show skateboarding to the masses. I worked very closely with WB. He always put his body in harm’s way to get the shot. He suffered cuts on his forehead, and skateboards often flew into his back, ankles and arms. But once I did a lip-slide right into a brand-new $2,500 fish-eye lens the day after he got it! Warren also broke new ground in surf photography. — Tom “Wally” Inouye 10
It’s impossible to ever know just how and when contemporary skateboarding would have evolved without Warren Bolster. Warren’s contribution to the sport is singular and absolutely essential. In between shooting surf photos in the early 1970s, Warren began to document skateboarding’s new groundswell in southern California. It was Warren’s dazzling images, his enthusiasm and understanding of the sport that resurrected SkateBoarder magazine and landed him there as editor and head photographer. Go back and read the first three issues of SkateBoarder magazine. They are scripture and verse, complete in their scope and understanding. You could stop there, confident that you’d absorbed 90% of what contemporary skateboarding is about. And really, little has changed since then except the kids have gotten so much better. It was the power of Warren’s images — always presented within the context and dignity of surf culture — that seduced the general media and launched the sport to the international audience. I sometimes shudder when I think how it might have been otherwise. If some clueless conglomerate had churned out the first magazine, it’s easy to imagine a kandy-kolored fanzine with pictures of 8- year-olds doing kick turns on Grentechs and the Dogtown guys in reform school. Above all, Warren had an uncanny inner radar for true contribution that was objective and inclusive. He presented the great and the small of the sport, and he straight-armed the guys just trying to buy their way in. It’s important for us to acknowledge that in the beginning, SkateBoarder magazine was the sport. And Warren was the magazine. His husbandry of the entire scene makes Warren Bolster, more than anyone else, the father of contemporary skateboarding. — John O’Malley
My first experience with Warren was around 1974, when he competed at the Katin Surf Contest in Huntington Beach as a member of the Bing Surfboard Team. After that event, I went back to work for G&S, and Bing was a licensed brand under my sales direction. Warren was a great photographer and writer for both skate and surf, which earned him a top management position at Surfer and SkateBoarder magazines in San Clemente. This meant that I traveled with him a lot, since I was also in charge of the G&S Skateboard Team. Warren’s passion and enthusiasm, broadcast to the world via his photography and writing, are part of the reason why our Southern California sport took off. I remember a trip with Stacy Peralta “out to the desert pipes” near Phoenix, Arizona. WB was kind enough to give me some shooting pointers — I thought that a high-speed camera-was all you needed to capture great photos. I wonder if WB recalls me singing Beach Boy tunes on our return flight! I also remember WB going through the cones at our Sunday slalom events at La Costa (near his home in Carlsbad) and dropping in at probably the first skate park adjacent to the Carlsbad drag strip. Warren was also a mentor to Gregg Weaver of the Hobie Team. It was great to see some of his old photos, as well as new ones, in Concrete Wave, which has some of the energies of the 1970s SkateBoarder magazines — without the negative aspects that took root after WB left their management team. — Dave “FibreFats” McIntyre 11
“I wish I didn’t know now, what I didn’t know then,” sang Bob Seger. Life can be a long, long road, and life’s experiences, good and bad, are a constant learning process. Previously, I never quite understood how people can say that they wouldn’t change anything even if they could. There have always been lots of things that I’ve wished to change, but I recently learned why I, too, would choose not to: If you change one thing, you change it all! It’s true that “you should be careful what you wish for — you just might get it!” I’ve been genuinely blessed with a life spent doing what I love. Skateboarding, surfing and surf/skate photography have been a dream come true. Whenever I wasn’t surfing, I put time into skateboarding, which gave me a chance to practice on dry land what surfers were doing in the ocean. I rented a small house on Point Loma Avenue, and the wild outdoors was right outside. The young Gregg Weaver’s graceful, low-driving turns (seen in early 1970s Cadillac Wheel ads and occasional articles in Surfer and other magazines) were so perfect that Cadillac Wheelman Frank Nasworthy printed photo credits as, “Extraordinary photo by Art Brewer”! These images inspired and encompassed everything I was into, both then and now: grace and radicalism, and perfect color contrasting with the ultra-black asphalt riding surface. Steve Pezman, Publisher and Editor of Surfer magazine, brought me aboard as Associate Editor right after I quit as staff photographer at another magazine. Surfer had published four quarterly issues of SkateBoarder in the 1960s, before the first craze subsided. I was fully into it early in the 1970s, particularly after I was turned on to the La Costa scene. After one extraordinary photo/skate session there, I went into the Surfer offices and described the sights and sounds to Pezman and Associate Publisher Don Thomas. I didn’t know what was on their minds; I was just completely “stoked” on what I was experiencing and witnessing. Every day was an ever-increasing revelation. Later Steve called me into his office and proposed that I re-fire SkateBoarder. He gave me about six months to do it. The other associate editor at Surfer, Kurt “Mellow Catnip” Ledterman, was brought in to help me with the job. In Chris Maxwell, I had a great secretary who was able to correct my terrible punctuation. She was Surfer Publications’ most long-standing employee, and Kurt Ledterman liked to call her Max Chriswell. With Pezman’s help, we set out to title, lay-out and shape the first issues. To cement the contents, I worked to expand my still-limited knowledge of the sport/lifestyle by attending competitions, which drew talented skaters from a wide area, and by joining the regular gatherings at La Costa, ditches and pools. I depended greatly on the amazing skaters all around me. I plunged into recording all I could on film, soaking up information, and assigning profiles and interviews. As compeition, there was only an occasional upstart magazine publishing on a sporadic basis. Surfer’s outstanding reputation, and the experience of producing four quarterly issues of SkateBoarder in the 1960s, were tremendous aids. As word of our new publication spread, we also benefited from 1960s skateboard stars like Torger Johnson, the Logans and many others. So much new talent was developing and gaining attention that it became a real challenge to identify those who were contributing the most to the sport’s development. A single interview per issue was not enough. The old Surf Guide magazine printed profiles of young surfing talents in a section called “Pick of the Hot Young Crop,” and this inspired me to
Warren Junior surfing, Hawaii. 2002
create a section called “Who’s Hot” to help the public learn about the era’s rapidlydeveloping skateboard stars. It became a favorite with the public. Pezman wanted one article per issue from Dogtown chronicler C.R. Stecyk, an eccentric but talented artist who, I soon realized, was a major influence on the lifestyle. His work, mostly black-and-white in contrast to my own, gave the magazine a broader forum for influences ranging from the earthy urban to the suburban and laid-back. I wanted to shoot Gregg “the Cadillac Kid” Weaver from the very beginning, since his style and grace transferred to film with a casual elegance that perfectly telegraphed the free abandon of the skateboard “dance”. I first encountered Denis Shufeldt in the early days of La Costa, when a car was timing him as he bombed the main access road at 40mph, wearing only shoes and Levis. It was very impressive if not downright illegal. One of his best friends had set the world speed skiing record in Chile, and Denis adapted his friend’s speed-faring technique as well as elements from his own background in skiing, which in those days was another vast area of influence. Not just Stecyk, but the full range of Dogtown denizens made trips to La Costa and other San Diego skate spots to explore and shoot. That’s how I first met Tony Alva, Jay Adams, Stacy Peralta, Bob Biniack and others. I met the Zephyr Team Captain, Skip Engblom, at the early contests. I first met Henry Hester, Bob Skoldberg and other slalom greats through Larry Gordon, whose Gordon & Smith brand put out the FibreFlex slalom boards. Many surfers from my old Pt. Loma stomping grounds showed up to race at La Costa and other slalom contests. Experienced surfers like Tommy Ryan and Bobby Piercy easily adapted to the slalom circuit with their respective surf and ski styles. Dave “FibreFats” McIntyre, manager of the G&S Team, was instrumental in transporting new team skaters and other photo subjects to various locales, especially the Arizona Pipes. Tom Sims started his manufacturing business with longboards, then moved to racing and finally all-around boards. He introduced me to Tom “Wally” Inouye, 13
The love of Warren’s life his Thai girlfriend, Koonj.
who became one of my photo mainstays. I could take him to any terrain, especially banks, pipes, parks and pools where he was always a standout. Early Dogtown inspirations such as Larry Bertleman and Buttons became friends through surfing and subsequently joined us on skateboard excursions, where they continued their dryland surf schooling. Later they took us to Hawaiian locales, along with Vince “Cyborg” Klyn of Hollywood fame. Roy Jamison, Rory Russell, Bunker Spreckles and many others visited us during their world tours to add a further surf influence to our escapades. I saw Laura Thornhill (now Laura Caswell) and other female skaters at competitions and invited them to add their graceful talents to our photo sessions in San Diego. From the moment I first saw Laura at the Steve’s South Bay contest, I knew she had the “Right Stuff”. Incredibly smooth and coordinated, she was an instant revelation for me. Laura immediately became a photo mainstay at parks, banks and pipes. She earned a World Champion title and was the first female subject of a “Who’s Hot” profile and a SkateBoarder interview. Di Dootson (now Di Rose) and Curtis Hesselgrave labored behind the scenes to help the sport in countless ways. Di was an extremely talented organizer who published her own newspaper, The National Skateboard Review. Curtis, a martial artist, organized and wrote the SkateBoarder safety columns. Jeff Divine, Steve Wilkings, James Cassimus and Glen E. Friedman came onboard and spread their photographic talents across the country and around the world. After my departure, James and Glen continued honing their photo mastery and documenting the skateboard lifestyle. When I quit SkateBoarder, I moved to Hawaii, where Duncan Campbell and his wife Jacqui gave me refuge above their surf-influenced Café Haliewa. The North Shore Christian Fellowship supported me as I struggled to overcome the inner torments I had brought upon myself. In his Surfers Journal review of my first book, Masters of Surf Photography, Vol.3, the writer Gregg Ambrose, a good friend, aptly visualized my life as “the precipitous highs and
Little Warren, Warren and Edward. Photo: Ryan Nakamitsu
lows of a heart attack captured on an EKG printout.” The “high” was my tenure as Editor of SkateBoarder. The “low” came at the end of that journey. Other magazines began to rip off my photos, and one editor taunted me by writing, ‘You were “God” once, that must make me “God” now.’ Peaks and valleys have been the inevitable consequence of my intense personal nature and unconditional love for surfing, skateboarding and other gravity sports. Participating in and photographing these activities have, over the last 41 years, resulted in twelve surgeries, numerous broken bones, and too many stitches, sprains and bruises to count. I’ve thrown everything into my love for these lifestyles, rarely pausing to consider what I was inflicting on my mind and body. As a result, at 57 years of age I’m completely racked by advanced arthritis and am almost totally handicapped. I still shoot action sports, but only as rehabilitation allows. This has become a great source of heartache for me. My mind wants to play, but now my body won’t allow it. I say “play” because what I do isn’t work — I enjoy it too much. So many people have helped and inspired me in my work and my life, that one of my greatest concerns is remembering them all at any given time. I want to whole-heartedly thank Michael Brooke, Editor/Publisher of Concrete Wave magazine. He put me in touch with Kevin Harris of Ultimate Skateboard Distributors, who is publishing this book. Without Michael and Kevin, this book would never have seen the light of day. Stacy Peralta helped retrieve photos from SkateBoarder. Through the decades I’ve continued to shoot photos — from Tahiti to Australia to Hawaii. It still very much stokes me, and now that my kids — Edward and Warren Jr. — skate, it’s even more satisfying. Michael, Kevin and my kids all have their hearts in it, and that matters a lot to me. In his early ‘70s film, Going Surfin’, filmmaker Bud Browne showcased snowboarding, which soon became a hugely-popular sport with a strong affinity to skateboarding. Bud was one of my early inspirations and expressed an interest in skateboarding. I kept him posted on what was going on so he could come down to film what was happening. (I turned a lot of my surfing contacts onto skateboarding.) When he couldn’t make it, other filmmakers attended the sessions. I knew their work would help relate the amazing action and spread it around the world. I’m proud of doing this behind the scenes to help nurture skateboarding’s development. Throughout the years, filmmakers have been my primary inspiration — I tried to put the “motion” of films into my “stills”. It was to become an unbroken circle.
Through this book, I hope to come to grips with all I’ve lost, and to bring some truth to my era. Much of the photography stands the test of time, and showcases the beginnings of what has become contemporary skateboarding. I almost destroyed myself to give a larger life to the sport. The relatively few people who know this are my friends. To those who appreciate my work, I genuinely thank you. For better or worse, it remains something I can take pride in before any higher power. Not total pride; but despite my faults, it is something I wouldn’t change — since that would change everything. Warren Bolster Honolulu, Hawaii 2004
Bob Neishi skating above San Clemente for an Infinity ad. This was before safety gear became mandatory and before the 1970s re-birth of SkateBoarder, when Surfer magazine (in the same office) was picking up on the various moods of the gravity/downhill games. Wanting to keep Surfer for surfers, the magazine would introduce a new sport for one or two issues, until the publishers and owners decided whether it warranted a magazine of its own. SailBoarder and Powder started this way. The Cadillac Wheel ads with Gregg Weaver definitely had a strong stylistic influence on skateboarding and fuled my own desire to shoot the basics with the best possible color values. It took some time to discourage people from showing up in Levi’s and black t-shirts. And they wondered why they weren’t getting into the magazine! I really admired Craig Stecyk’s use of black-and-white film. It gave the magazine contrast, and it gave Craig the freedom to shoot in poor lighting or poor color conditions. Many magazines use way too much color. They think to themselves, “It’s a page designated for color, so we’re going to use it!” — without reflecting on the opportunity for variety they’re missing. 16
“What do pain, money and power mean when all you want to do is be in the dance?” I started skating in Virginia to keep the surfing blues away, but in the early 1970s I moved to Point Loma Avenue along Sunset Cliffs in San Diego. There I purloined old laminated water skis and put the new Cadillac Wheels on them to provide a cheap, surfboard-like alternative for the very few days lacking surf. Soon Gordon & Smith came out with their famous FibreFlex slalom decks. As this picture by Ralph Starkweather shows, I adapted to it quickly in the days before SkateBoarder magazine, riding in front of my house along the ultra-wide street, which grew ever-steeper as it ran over the top of Point Loma. I hadn’t yet been exposed to the full spectrum of skateboarding, and I just used the FibreFlex to do long Giant Slalom-style turns on the steep hills, well before the advent of organized races. Ralph probably took this in ’72 or ’73, despite mild traffic and long before proper safety gear was available. Later on, I broke at least one wrist and had to wear a medical brace and then a fiberglass cast so I could surf. My heydays as a skateboarder were just before the start of the magazine. A rapid succession of additional injuries soon confined me to the sidelines. La Costa had probably just been discovered at this time. The 30-minute trip there and the 75-minute commute to Surfer magazine (where I worked as Associate Editor and Staff Photographer) became too much, so I moved to Cardiff and eventually La Costa itself.
I often entered the office all buzzed about what I was witnessing. One particular day in late 1974, I rushed in and breathlessly described the sights and sounds at La Costa. In an hour, Publisher/Editor Steve Pezman and Associate Editor Don Thomas called me into their office and offered me the job of Editor. I guess it was my stoke on the atmosphere that sealed the deal.
The King of the Nose Wheelie, Bruce Logan, does his thing at the first Del Mar contest — about five or six months before the magazine’s debut. No one knew what the judges were looking for, and it was a really screwed thing for a lot of very hot freestyle/freeform skaters, such as the Zephyr Team from Dogtown (who blew everyone away in spite of it all). It ended up being a bit precious, and the ’60s legends got a raw deal, too. Bruce did well but didn’t get the first-place title I thought he’d won. But you know what opinions are like — and everybody has one. 19
During the first two weeks of pool skating, Gregg Weaver — aka The Cadillac Kid — does a bird-like, barefoot dance in perfect light at the San Marcos pool, showing the easy-going flow from the nowfamous ads. The pool was about ten miles inland, so the summer fog didn’t have to burn off. Although backlit, the brightness of the hot summer day cast a perfect light on Weaver’s natural grace as he negotiated the vertical re-entry point. It was no pose — Gregg’s style went everywhere he did. The angle and lighting didn’t matter. SkateBoarder hadn’t come out yet. The sponsors, possibly jealous of the Weaver images, were looking for fault, pressuring the publication for coverage, and soon demanding safety gear.
In those days, many kids just skated as they lived — barefoot and unprotected. By the second issue, safety gear was foisted on the magazine. The sport really did need such restraints to survive and grow, but we had to leave a lot of great photos unused to get to that point. Ultimately it made little visual difference and even created another market within the sport. Nonetheless, famous surfers Larry Bertleman and Glen “Buttons” Kaluhiokalani were later on allowed to skate the El Cajon Park barefoot, because they never wore shoes in Hawaii! The Kid appeared in the first ads for Cadillac Wheels, which Frank Nasworthy introduced. Art Brewer’s ad photos had me thinking that Weaver might already be too big to deal with. But he was the most down-to-earth human being. Having him around was not only mellow, but fun and a guarantee of good shots. Gregg was also one of the only people I’d let inside my car. I’d take him everywhere, and if people didn’t like it, well, too bad. He and my son, Little Warren, are so much alike that I call both of them my traveling buddies. The Kid didn’t have to trumpet himself — he could do it all. The number of fan letters — not just from girls — topped even Alva most weeks! And he was no poser — that was his natural style. To my surprise, he was also a hot surfer — he once got a two-page spread in Surfer magazine.
Randy Davila trips the light fantastic, with a view to the shallows. The San Marcos pool, eight feet deep, became the perfect lab for the daily spectrum of experimentation. Longboards, roller skates, motorbikes — all were tried. The incredible heat of inner San Diego guaranteed that everyone got their turn. If any other pool sessions were happening, they weren’t being documented. Randy Davila was one of the main players — his skill and sureness of line made for creative photo-perspectives from nearly every angle of the pool’s perfect kidney shape. Practitioners of all manner of gravity games would follow these lines and add ones of their own. I still managed to balance all the excitement with my duties as a surf photographer. But with its many variations and guaranteed riding conditions (apart from occasional rain), skateboarding virtually took over daily activity within the year. It seemed that surfers were skating more than surfing. Everyone was racing to get a grip on this new, related sport, and the various industries took notice of the rapidly expanding marketplace. Our debut magazine had just come out, and it sold an unprecedented 100%. So it quickly went from a one-shot to a quarterly to a bi-monthly. I took this photo in August of 1975, only two months after the first issue. Not only were skaters reaching the pool light (which therefore had to be covered), by then they were often going beyond it. The tiles and coping succumbed too quickly for the magazine to keep up with.
I was interested in long skateboards made from old, laminated water skis, and I carried that interest into the photography arena — especially after seeing what a skilled longboarder like Tom Sims could do at the Del Mar Contest in 1975! Personally, I only switched to shorter FibreFlex boards because of my interest in giant slalom; they would torque to stick to the road better. I can’t identify this skater because it was so long ago. He’s decelerating on the flat bottom of Black Hill. You can see the houses on the other side of La Costa Blvd. that were then closest to the hill; this is the neighborhood that I eventually moved to. I’m sure I was shooting something else at the bottom of the hill when this guy skated by. Longboards were so uncommon at the time, I just shot it because I liked the contrast. I never bothered to take the fins off my water-ski-boards, but he obviously did. 23
Steve Cathey La Costa, July 1975
My surferâ€™s-eye-view of The Cadillac Kid sliding Pipeline in La Jolla . The banks were very skateable, though the pipe was not. I shot this near the famous Blackâ€™s Beach surf cliffs and hang-gliding area. Gregg helped me appreciate the aesthetics of the setting, but we never went back.
Gregg Weaver La Costa, October 1975
Stacy Peralta was a Dogtown Z-Boy who made the transition to a larger manufacturer when financial incentives sent the Zephyr Shop Team scattering. He had long, perfectly-cut blonde hair and what I’d call, for lack of a better name, a “praying style” when doing 360s. It sent his hair flying around him like a twirling fan, perfectly accentuating the move. I often shot this from above, with insane results. Jealous skaters teased him about his hair and his style, but Stacy was another guy who could tackle it all with class — bowls, pools, banks and freestyle. He also had the brains and acumen to succeed in business, first with Powell-Peralta and then with his film documentary, “Dogtown and Z-Boys,” which won two awards at the Sundance Film Festival. I predict we’ll see a lot more magic from him as years go by. I’m very proud to know him. A few years ago, he even told me that vintage issues of SkateBoarder are selling on Ebay for $75 each!
Denis Shufeldt October 1975
November 1975 Mike Weed peaks out in the San Juan Capistrano pool (near our offices). It was a deep, clean, pool — but with gnarly coping. Mike turned me on to the spot and naturally got great coverage for himself, his sponsor Hobie, and the sport. Today, these guys would be jumping or bouldering, but in the ‘70s we took everything about as far as possible, aerials not excepted. I brought a group of folks from our office, including Publisher Steve Pezman, to check this out, and I knew they were impressed. I was actually more impressed with the great cinematographer Jim Freeman of MacGillivray/Freeman Films. He passed away long ago, but back then he got on his knees where the guys descended to the flats and took a skateboard to the kneecap. He hardly moved, but you just knew that had to hurt! Spyder Wills and partner Greg Weaver also shot photographs from inside the bowl. All these guys would call to find out where it was happening for me on a particular day. After watching for a while, they would either imitate my approach or use a variation more appropriate to movies. I didn’t mind — I knew it was great for the sport! Jim Freeman crashed while scouting a commercial in Bishop, California. Out of respect, it’s still MacGillivray/Freeman Films. Great guy, and even greater with the movie camera. It was outstanding to watch him work — and pretend his kneecap didn’t hurt! 31
Denis Shufeldt in full race faring at Black Hill. He genuinely loved going fast and was among many who shot hills privately on his home turf. In standup runs, depending on the angle of the hill, Denis often went faster than 40mph. At those velocities, even the best could get speed wobbles. I was lucky to get to know Denis. His class and maturity really benefited the sport. Maybe somewhere heâ€™s still bombing hills for the thrill alone. The rush of the glide, along with speed: what skateboarding is all about.
Skateboardingâ€™s version of a close shave: road AND razor rash! Skitch Hitchcock, La Costa.
February 1976 Torger Johnson’s name was very familiar to me. As a young kid in the 1960s, he toured widely with the old Makaha Skate Team, doing demonstrations at department stores and other venues. He was also a musician, and he moved to Kauai after his skateboarding heydays. Torger had a bag of moves that no one else could perform with quite the same class. He invented the space-walk — where you’d kickturn back-and-forth without letting the front wheels touch down. He had amazing control. From a dead stop, he could space-walk for longer than anyone I’ve ever seen. Having some of the ’60s crew around really helped things develop during the ’70s, and it always added a touch of magic to whatever was going on. Bruce Logan was another ’60s star who’d basically been dormant. Like Torger, in the ’70s he helped bring the classic moves to the new generations. Both guys had their own signature deck models with Logan Earth Ski, too, which meant Torger could come down from LA and stay with the Logan family for as long as he liked. I was the person, I think, who coined the nickname “Mr. Incredible” for Ty Page. From the South Bay, Ty really was incredible. He invented a wealth of maneuvers, could ride any terrain, and always added some freestyle stuff to the banks and verticals. Ty’s sponsor was a huge manufacturer that sold his stuff everywhere. Guys like him, and kids only 14 years old, were earning way more than me — some of them as much as $4,000 — $10,000 per month! It was really getting wild. Here Ty blasts down a very fast La Costa hill near my house. It was a dangerous one, too, since it ended at the main highway. Ty went through some hard times years after I left the magazine; a lot of us did. It must be hard to be as famous as he was and then have the bottom fall out from underneath you through no fault of your own. 35
Brian Beardsley on the last vacant hill before La Costa home construction resumed. How often can you find terrain like this, with superb pavement and no cars except those of the skaters? And how’s the parking job — years before his time for films, videos and commercials? Check out the crew on the upper left — that’s a long, flat space where the slalom hill started at a right angle. How’s the width of the street?! This was a fast hill, too, with a long flat run-off before you hit the main road and the houses. I lived about a half-mile away. 37
From the second week of pool shooting, this image shows Murray Estes. He may have been the one who put the whole San Marcos pool thing together, then ripped it apart. From skating below the unprotected light during the first few days, to touching the taped-over light, to carving over the light, to hitting the tiles and then the coping — it all happened so fast with Frank Nasworthy’s new urethane wheels. We were all like little kids in a free candy store! When the magazine’s ad content reached 55%, I heard that we were turning new advertisers away. But the readers said they found the ads almost as interesting as the editorial — exciting stuff! 38
Robin Alaway of Downey, California, displays her grace under the spotlight at the World Championships at the Los Angeles Sports Arena. The leading ladies of skateboarding really had it going on with their beauty and finesse. By this time, celebrities such as Steven Stills (of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young) had taken an interest in the new-found counterculture phenomenon and often attended major events. One memory from this competition remains somewhat humorous, although at the time it was also somewhat tragic. Brad Logan, in the running for his brotherâ€™s world title, unwittingly took a sip from a spectatorâ€™s LSD-spiked Coke. A little later, all the photographers gathered in a corner to shoot Brad, sitting against the wall, completely out of it, smiling but freaked-out. When the lights came on, the freestylists stole the show, the spotlight accenting their grace and beauty, particularly that of the women. That spotlight, combined with the black background and my strobe, helped me create some of the best freestyle shots I ever got. 39
By the time I shot this photo, Black Hill was close to home and lined up well with the sunset. So Iâ€™d often jam a couple of miles back to catch the late action. The high-jump is another discipline retrieved from the 1960s. Iâ€™m certain it helped skaters evolve other means of getting aloft over the years. This could be a dangerous undertaking, though. A bad landing could cause a broken ankle or compression fracture. Unbeknownst to the general public, Bruce Logan labored for years with an ankle fracture while performing high-speed runs, aerial pirouettes and more.. 40
Everyone came to ride Carlsbad, the world’s first skateboard park, in its early years. Here freestyle legend Skitch Hitchcock shows off his seemingly perpetual broken wrist. (He continued doing handstands on it for years.) I didn’t know Skitch very well, and I rarely saw him outside of contests. But he seemed like a great guy, and he pioneered many difficult maneuvers. He wasn’t pushy about getting published, and we didn’t run many photos of him, but Skitch was still nice enough to give me one of his beautifully-crafted hand-shaped decks, with my initials in the griptape. He still didn’t get published much! I never saw a double-kicked deck before the ones Skitch made. It was obviously great for freestyle, and nowadays almost everybody rides one! 41
Dana Point’s Mike Weed had friends who constructed a “wave” out of fiberglass. The ramp could be thrown in back of a truck and driven anywhere that had little traffic, such as a beachside parking lot. When I was around, the police were always very cool with skateboarders and surfers. I think they knew it was a positive alternative to many other things we could’ve been doing. Here we see former Surfer magazine editor Drew Kampion, a well-known and truly creative writer, observing the movable feast. Drew and I had both been “contributing editors” at Surfing before I was hired off the street by Steve Pezman, then editor of Surfer. I labored without the benefit of formal journalism training, but it was a real thrill to be on the masthead with one of the best writers in the sport.
March 1976 Here Kim Cespedes shows her bank and flatland style, which was far ahead of most of the other women. Remarkably, she could even hang with the best of the men. Skateboarding has some of the most athletic and stylish females in the whole realm of gravity sports. 44
Eddie Katz skates the Big Bowl at Carlsbad. Eddie was an early standout and “Who’s Hot” profile. We started SkateBoarder magazine with a basic knowledge of who was good. But the short “Who’s Hot” profiles gave all the fresh, upcoming talents a chance to enter the mix and truly helped the sport grow and evolve. The cream usually rises to the top regardless, but it’s often that first bit of acceptance that puts the wind in a skater’s sail, encouraging them to go on to accomplish a lot for both themselves and the sport.
I have no recollection whatsoever of this shot — a full-on action portrait of Tony Alva, the best skater I’ve ever seen, at the San Juan Capistrano pool. But I absolutely love it. The color, the cloudless blue sky, the curving line of the pool, and the major talent of Alva lined up for a four-point landing — all these elements combine to make this a natural twopage spread or full-size poster. The shot was taken only two miles from the old Surfer magazine office in Dana Point, and I can’t believe it was never published. It’s a testament to how fast things were moving in those days. I’ve probably never had another photo this good slip through the cracks. Maybe it was because Craig Stecyk usually included his own shots of Tony in his monthly articles. But seeing this in color just blows my mind. In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Bob Dylan quoted a Rabbi who told him, “The greatest gift is inspiration. What more can you do for someone than inspire them?” For me, that sums it up on the subject of Tony. 47
May 1976 Bob “The Bullet” Biniak was a real charger — a very powerful skater to whom I gave a biggerthan-usual berth on this longboard shot. He and Stacy Peralta were the two Dogtown skaters we chose to bring with us to the Desert Pipes. He later became a touring golf pro.
Doug “Pineapple” Saladino shows off his pro style in the early days of La Costa. I didn’t know him very well, but Pineapple was a popular and talented freestylist who made a successful transition to vert. He was on one of the top three teams in the early years: Gordon & Smith, best known for their FiberFlex slalom boards. 49
Another adventure with Jay Adams and Tony Alva, shown here at the Soul Bowl on the campus of San Diego State University. It was chain-linked for a reason, but not because it was unsafe or unskateable! A security guard kicked us out pretty quickly, but we managed to sneak in variety and illegal laughs. Jay and Tony were a riot when you got them alone together, I think because they respected each other. Jay sometimes came off the coping right between Tonyâ€™s legs as he sat on the edge â€” they trusted each other that much! 50
The Beach Boys concert at Anaheim Stadium was a phenomenal opportunity to present the world’s best freestyle skaters to an audience of 55,000. Bill Bahne’s advice — to shoot for the crowd effect — was perfect. I wish I’d done more — there’s so much power in an audience of that size! Here Bruce Logan carves an elbow stand. There was nothing else to watch while people were getting seated. The variety of moves that can be practiced on any clear, flat surface is astounding. You could probably do a whole book on that subject.
Jay Adams and Tony Alva were among the first standouts from the “Dogtown” section of Santa Monica. I gave space in the magazine to the rivalry between skaters from Dogtown and those from “Down South” (San Diego County). It was basically friendly and very interesting for the sport. No one got hurt. Via eavesdropping or second-hand reports, I knew that Tony and Jay would occasionally talk trash about freestyle or “Down Southers” such as Weaver. I could understand that, and they were entitled to their opinions. But it was just an attitude thing. When Weaver (or another Down Souther) would appear by chance, the ZBoys would introduce their rival as a good friend. And when the Z-Boys traveled south to La Costa in San Diego’s laid-back North County, they were not only friendly. They also showed they could do the moves in both styles. Here at Black Hill, Jay does a cross between a “Bert” and a “Christie”. The publishers of SkateBoarder tapped me to be editor because I had indepth knowledge of the sport and was already shooting every discipline. I’ve never
considered myself a great writer or editor, and after the first issue the publishers thought about replacing me with a seasoned professional. I remember softly breaking into tears in the office. I had worked for half a year at $500 per month to launch SkateBoarder, and it sold 100%. How could they let me go? I’m an emotional person, and I work from the heart more often than from the head. That’s my strength, and occasionally my pitfall. When I was a teenager, one of the cool expressions was, “I don’t care.” I once said that to a junior high school teacher, and it was disastrous. He kept me after class and told me very firmly, “You DO care.” He was right, and it left me in tears. I cared from deep in my heart about skateboarding, and I worked my butt off to do the very best I could. To their credit, the publishers placed the future of SkateBoarder in my hands. They had a photographer who was good enough, an editor who was — well, for a young magazine — good enough, and someone who genuinely cared. I had an eye for talent and could cover it or assign someone else to do so. I could photograph, write copy and captions, and work with the art director to steward my concepts from start to finish. Sales proved the point. I did not, but the magazine made a lot of money. A lot. But it was impossible for me to be everywhere at once. I could have delegated resposibility, but no one with the right skills cared enough to see things all the way through. I was overworked, with no time for recreation (surfing, my truest love) or vacations (in Hawaii). So I quit — walked out carrying a cardboard box. No one really wanted my job — not even Dogtown chronicler C.R. Stecyk, an artist who chose to shoot mostly in black-and-white and occasionally in color, and the only other photographer at the time who gave more than a token effort to skateboarding. The publishers hired two people to replace me. They had their own opinions, but even four people couldn’t have done the job without a commitment to watering the roots of the sport. The magazine folded one-and-a-half years later! I went back to work at Surfer, but the parent corporation (whose owner had been a famous economist) saw a recession coming and fired all the photographers. My income went from $40,000 per year (not bad in the 1970’s) to almost nothing. When I quit the publishers of SkateBoarder apologized, and maybe I should have taken my old job back. That would have saved the careers of many star skaters who got the cold shoulder after I left. But at some point, I just had to take care of me. The skateboard photographers who followed us took a middle path between Stecyk’s style and mine. As aggressive skating in pools and on the street began dominating the scene, Craig’s approach became more influential. Freestyle, slalom and stand-up speed skating were a huge part of the sport but got lost for a long time. 53
July 1976 The Bahne Team goes through its high jump routine at a Beach Boys Concert at Anaheim. There were over 55,000 people in attendance that day! Below, World Champion Freestylist, Russ Howell performs one of his signature strength moves.
Robin Alaway was just one of the thousands who came down to sample Carlsbad Skate Park in the ‘70s. A good, clean kickturn was still in vogue, even in the park’s smaller bowls for those just getting used to the banks. Robin was known for her graceful freestyle and good looks, but in the year to come all the girls not only began adjusting to the banks but would quickly approach the verticals. As the first editor to take a surf or skate magazine monthly, we still couldn’t keep up with the sport’s amazingly rapid growth. Often enough, photos like this wouldn’t get used unless there was a “Who’s Hot” coming up and no one else could shoot it. Besides Stecyk and myself, most of the early photographers were only interested in the more radical stuff. Then as now, that leaves a lot of the sport and lifestyle uncovered.
July 1976 The always perfectly-poised Torger Johnson dances by in the last minutes of a lovely California sunset at Black Hill. It was always easier to just tell people I’d be shooting at Black Hill. There we had the best asphalt and didn’t need to re-locate when shadows blocked the late afternoon light and the following sunset. When Torger came down, I’d always try to make the most of his visit and shoot as many hours as possible. A crooked horizon in the image tells me I was probably getting tired at the end of another long day.
Jay and the Dogtown crew often put down the San Diego guys for doing freestyle. But here at Black Hill, Jay shows how rounded his skills were â€” either because he wanted to demonstrate that he could do freestyle, too, or maybe just to get himself in the magazine. Jay was a good surfer. As for Tony, on one trip to Hawaii he just went right out to the Pipeline and surfed it like any veteran local. 60
Mike Weed was the top skater from his area, always up to something fun and creative. The Mt. Baldy locals turned me on to my first large pipe. Mike was one of the few who would jump the transition from the pipe to the wall and then down. What you donâ€™t see from this angle is the sharp drop-off into a deep pit about 10 feet away. You had to know how to stop quickly in a short, tight area, like a ski jumper. The Pipeline was near the base of a ski slope; people there still ski or snowboard in the a.m. and surf or skate later in the day.
The Fruit Bowl was at a deserted sanatorium — hence the name. I drove Tony Alva and Jay Adams to this shoot, and through my car windows they insulted every girl they saw along the way! Before long, beautiful young women were flipping them off while I pretended to be invisible behind the steering wheel. Tony skated so fast that he needed extensions to stay in the arena. A similar photo of Alva ran in SkateBoarder, with a guy using his hip to stabilize the board. This set up my favorite short caption: “The thigh’s the limit!” Craig Chaquico, lead guitarist for the Jefferson Airplane (later known as the Jefferson Starship), was fully skate-stoked; there was even a skate rack on their tour plane. The group’s promoter often called me, and once Craig invited me to the Hyatt Riot House hotel on Sunset Strip and asked me to bring Alva. Tony and I had an appointment with surfer/skater Bunker Spreckels at the house of his mother (a former wife of Clark Gable), who lived across the street from the Hyatt. So we dropped by to meet guitar prince Craig Chaquico and some of the band. Craig was so excited to meet his hero, Tony Alva! We went street skating in the Hollywood Hills, and Craig was so stoked to do catamarans and other maneuvers with Tony that he lost his footing and fell on his wrist. He went back to the hotel to see if he could still play guitar. With us was my associate editor, Kurt “Mellow Cat” Ledterman, who was a good guitar player. After the very first riff, Mellow Cat pointed his guitar-pick fingernails at Craig’s axe and cooly said, “that was niiiice!” Paul Kantner cruised through the adjoining room to check on Craig and meet Tony, too — I guess that makes Alva a rock star’s rock star! Craig’s a soloist nowadays and his CDs aren’t just good, they’re insane. I’m sure he still skates, too. I hear Alva is still the same and skates amazingly well after all these years.
I’m sure people have been shooting hills since the skateboard was invented. But as I drove into La Costa for the first time in 1974, I witnessed my first full-on speed run. I couldn’t believe it, and I’ll never forget it. On a hill with substantial traffic and wild turns with blind spots, Denis Shufeldt was gunning for as much speed as possible — wearing only gummy-style shoes and Levis with no shirt or protective gear (none existed at the time). A yoga instructor and bonafide speed monster, Denis had a car trailing him and clocked 40mph that day. One of his best friends had set the world speed skiing record in Chile, and Denis adapted his friend’s speed-faring technique. From that point on, the downhill speed competition really heated up. Racers experimented with many styles — from standing a la Shufeldt, to kneeling a la Tommy Ryan, to lying like Guy Grundy, who held the record for some time. They gradually began wearing motocross leathers, and luge-like vehicles began evolving. This photo, on one of the faster La Costa hills, shows most of the serious speed pioneers and the full spectrum of vehicles then in use. Left to right: Tommy Ryan, John Hughes, Mike Williams, Dave Dilberg, Mitch and Jeff of the Rhino Racing Team, Bob “Chuy” Madrigal, Guy Grundy. But every area had its local legends, and some, like San Diego’s Tourmaline Canyon crew, had no real means of stopping save for the curb and the beach. It is often said that speed is the essence in sports. In those early days of skateboarding, it was also the occasional call for disaster. Speed wobbles were always a terrifying thrill to watch, and road rash became the stuff of legend.
August 1976 When I first saw Denis Shufeldt, he was bombing the main drive into La Costa’s hills wearing only shoes and shorts. He was a skier and yoga devotee with a smooth, controlled style. If I’d never shot him, he wouldn’t have missed the publicity and might still be bombing hills, the bigger the better. Pictured is “Shu-fly” decelerating near the bottom.
August 1976 Surfer Tommy Ryan takes a speed run in a kneeling position on yet another La Costa hill. The slalom runs were eventually moved here because it was steeper, narrower and even more out of the way. Here Tommy shows the fish riding technique we both used when surfing at Newbreak — whose takeoff was so steep that we often had to take the initial drop on our knees. Adapted to downhill skateboarding, the approach made for a good style shot, but we have no record of his speed. Tommy also raced slalom for Turner — one of the two biggest teams, alongside Gordon and Smith. Both brands offered flexible decks that let you to increase speed by pumping. We had a lot of friendly weekend races where everybody raced on whatever they wanted. It was on this street that Henry Hester and Bob Skoldberg liked to set up impossibly offset cones, then sit on the curb and laugh as we all slid out trying to make them. But it was great learning, and the guys who practiced here dominated the competitions — unless Tony Alva and his crew came down. Then it was close, because they could ride their wooden boards so well. At other times, guys like Tommy would do speed runs here, and others like Bruce Logan would try long, fast nose-wheelies all the way down the hill. One day the Santa Cruz guys showed up, and one of their crew made a nose-wheelie all the way down like Bruce. But he didn’t do too well at stopping — huge road rashes for him! Sometimes we’d go to other hills in the development; there were too many to name and ride. Black hill was probably the best because of its incredibly smooth asphalt. Heroin Hill was the fastest but had a rougher surface. Losing control there was much more common, and the hill got its unglamorous name because of all the road rash crashes at the bottom. 67
August 1976 A skateboarding version of a drive-by shooting at — where else — La Costa. On most weekends, the level of activity was incredible, with different hills delivering different types of action. Here we see Tommy Ryan and Mike Williams hanging on to the back of a car being driven by Bobby and Peggy Turner, with John Hughes on the driver's side and Jeff of the Rhino Racing catamaran team on the passenger side. An air-conditioned car waiting to caddy you from the bottom of the very hot black hills — that was a bonus. The walk back up could be over a mile long! The only real road hazard was in front of the Customs Checkpoint at Camp Pendleton, where the illegal immigrants would stop and run, often leaving their car doors wide open. When I first learned of La Costa, I was living in Point Loma, about 45 minutes away. Next I moved to Cardiff (about 15 minutes from La Costa), which made for a shorter commute to Surfer magazine’s office in Dana Point. About two years later, I finally moved into my La Costa dream house, courtesy of my first wife, who was in real estate. 68
Bob “Chuy” Madrigal was an early longboarder from the Huntington Beach area. Like Tom Sims, he was a leader in his region and would make the pilgrimage to La Costa or Signal Hill or wherever it was “happening”. After Guy Grundy, he was one of the first to get full leathers for racing. Here he employs Grundy’s faring technique as he runs out the end of a speed session.
August 1976 Brad Logan edges around the Big Bowl at Carlsbad Skate Park in the waning light of another day. Thanks to the proximity of Jon O’Malley’s park, I could drive home for rest, and if something developed during the day or night, just jam down there and shoot it. His park was built at Carlsbad Raceway, where I was already accustomed to shooting international dirt moto-cross — it was a major stop on their circuit as well.
Many skateboarders today are too young to have heard of Brandon Cruz. As a boy, he was a major TV star, appearing with Bill Bixby on the long-running show “The Courtship of Eddie’s Father”. He also starred in the hit film “The Bad News Bears”. Brandon is an avid surfer and skateboarder and an allaround cool guy. I first met him at a friend’s house, and later at Carlsbad Skate Park. I’ve also seen him on the North Shore of Oahu — not a travel destination for those seeking safe waves to surf! I used to get lots of phone calls from public relations people whose celebrity clients were into skateboarding. I loved it! It gave the sport added credibility. Farrah Fawcett rode a skateboard, as did many TV and movie stars. Fred Astaire — the legendary dancer and film star, whom at least your grandfather has heard of — actually broke his wrist while riding his grandson’s skateboard. After that accident, I saw Astaire appear on both The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and Merv Griffin. He could have mocked or bashed skateboarding, but instead he smiled and drew favorable public attention to the sport. Class.
When I first sent my photos to Michael Brooke, it was for articles in his Concrete Wave magazine. Later, when we agreed to do this book, Michael returned the photos so I could choose from them. I’m stoked that we agreed on this series showing freestylist Ellen Berryman. Good images ought to run regardless of allegiances, politics, cronyism or class. I don’t think the Berryman family was wealthy, but Ellen had as much genuine class as any debutante. I hardly knew Ellen; she was very shy, quiet and humble. She lived near La Costa and would show up with her older sister Cindy, at what was becoming practically a national incident of the positive kind! Cindy was a real looker, but Ellen, while very young and cute, had more finesse. I noticed Ellen’s fast-developing grace and realized what it could contribute to women’s skateboarding. I was determined to showcase all of the sport’s dimensions and talents — from the class of Ellen to the classic-ness of Alva. Along with Laura Thornhill, Ellen was the most graceful skater around. The difference was that Laura took on the vertical and slalom realms, while Ellen was the closest thing skateboarding had to a female gymnast. Ellen didn’t rely on any of the “Look at me” techniques that others generally employed. Her grace and flexibility let her perform moves that nobody else could. She incorporated the most beautiful, photogenic and artistic techniques into her floor (or road) routines. A shot of her at the Los Angeles Sports Arena World Championships is truly one of my favorites. Silky-smooth transitions between creative moves, like those revealed here at Black Hill, showed the general public that skateboarding wasn’t just for play or transportation. It could also rise to the level of fine art. 74
Tony Alva could do it all, as demonstrated here for the large crowd at the Los Angeles Sports Arena’s World Championships. This was long after the Del Mar Fairgrounds contest, where the judges had no idea what to expect. The famous Zephyr Team had already gone their separate ways — Zephyr wasn’t able to pay as much as larger companies, and you can’t eat loyalty — but I think the Z-Boys’ hearts remained with Zephyr. Here Tony is in cruise mode — either performing in freestyle or, as at Del Mar, zipping through the crowd while practicing and greeting the rock stars and celebrities. 75
Long before I had my own kids, I sensed the value of capturing skateboarders of all ages. This image is from the first World Championships held at Carlsbad. By then they had moved a lot of earth to expand the spaces for slalom and ramps. We needed to validate skateboarders of every age, especially the youngest who were to become the next generation. To my mind, there was nothing so charming as a really young kid, fully-protected, doing his best to learn what his heroes and the magazines were demonstrating.
“Baby” Paul Cullen lets a bunny hop take him to the 21st century! The pure charm and competitive power of youth is amazing. At my present age, nothing appeals to me more than watching my own kids get into skateboarding and surfing. At the Mililani Skate Park near my home, I love watching the youngest ride the rails and various-sized bowls. Just the other day I was driving by and Warren Jr., my youngest son, wanted to try it out because it wasn’t so crowded. He was just blown away! He started calling me all the time after school. But I notice that there’s virtually no supervision here in Hawaii. The smallest kids get trampled, and the occasional bicyclist (not permitted) sneaks in and rides until the police come by. We have an abundance of lifeguards at the beaches, and we need something similar at the skate parks. I know this puts my age on the page, but I’d rather suffer the punishment than see needless accident and injury. Kids need to learn that the world looks the same to older generations as it does to them. Just like music (or photography), they can interpret it any way they like. 77
Gregg Weaver was no freestyle specialist, but his participation in the World Championships in Long Beach gave the fans a chance to see the original. He had been appearing in Cadillac Wheel ads since 1973 or 1974, long before the magazine’s introduction. The beautiful Art Brewer photo used in those ads — showing Gregg doing a low, graceful, natural turn — definitely had a lot to do with the sport’s initial success. 78
Steve Shipp, the morning of the World Championships at the Los Angeles Sports Arena. The venue managers let photographers roam freely up until the start of the event, so I checked out the various hot spots to pre-visualize the best photo angles. Dennis Martinez and some of the other guys were getting so much height off the ramp, I figured I could lie underneath them, shoot up with the strobe and maybe get an extra effect from the roof lights. I figured that if anyone lost control, the worst that could happen would be a board falling on me from about three feet above. I knew I could block that with my arm — which anyway probably had a cast or brace on it! The skaters were so good that, of course, nothing happened. At its most painful, skateboard photography never caused me to shed much blood. However, on at least one occasion, getting hit between the eyes with a heavy Logan Earth Ski did briefly knock me out! On the other hand, I get really scared when swimming among a crowd of windsurfers — with heavy rigs landing between the waves all around me, and not knowing when it’s safe to surface. 79
Tom Sims powerfully dissects a run at The Concrete Wave. Tom sponsored one of the first and most dominant teams in Southern California. His own consistency as a skater was evident from the beginning to the very end of my time at the magazine, and long after as he ventured into wheel manufacturing and then snowboarding. It was, especially for him, a natural direction.
SkateBoarder’s “Who’s Hot” section showcased everyone who had something to offer. The sport encompasses a tremendous variety of disciplines, styles and techniques, including some maneuvers that very few have ever mastered. 82
October 1976 83
The first skateboarders I ever saw were AfricanAmerican kids in Washington, DC, in the early 1950s. Theyâ€™d turn broken clay and metal rollerskates into scooters and skateboards. In the 1970s, we tried variations on anything that seemed to work. For example, I took inspiration from others in the Point Loma area and turned old laminated water skis into longboards. It was a time of fun, experimentation and rapid development. The skate parks not only kept kids off the streets by offering a safe, controlled arena of banks and bowls in all sizes and shapes. They also provided a true testing ground for those with the right stuff. Here Lonnie Toft gets seven wheels out carving a bowl.
Along with Bob Jarvis, Santa Barbaraâ€™s Tom Sims was among the most notable longboard devotees of the day. He also manufactured first-rate equipment and sponsored a first-class team. I never had enough time to visit all of the spots in Santa Barbara. Anyway the locals like to keep their spots (for surfing as well as skating) secret. Tom and I struck up a working relationship when he came down for the first Del Mar event. We met up again in Hawaii in 1976, when he and friend Jeannie Martinson took me on my first-ever helicopter flight from what is now the Turtle Bay Hilton.
In the 1970s, Ellen Oâ€™Neal was one of the most outstanding exponents of the art of freestyle. She invented her own variations on many manuevers and added grace, style and composure to the circuit. Kim Cespedes could handle all the vertical domains. Ellen Berryman added elegance and balletic moves. Laura Thornhill did everything and, like Ellen Oâ€™Neal, was always a welcome presence at any session. Photographed in everyday outdoor attire, the women added a natural grace that broadened and enhanced the overall look of the sport. They helped skateboarding grow by leaps and bounds. And letâ€™s not forget that guys tend to perform and, well, behave a lot better when young, attractive, talented women are around! Nowadays, most magazines seem to overlook the value of feminine grace in action sports, focusing on radical rather than rounded skills. 86
As the editor of SkateBoarder, in regular need of photos for the magazine’s “Skate Park” section, we always had free access to all the parks — before they opened, or anytime we liked. This is Gregg Weaver enjoying his first-ever run at a new park — the Concrete Wave in Anaheim.
December 1976 In 1976, I joined Tony Alva for skate sessions at Hawaiian hotspot Wallos. At the time, this was among the few skating locations of true renown. Also present at these sessions were local surf stars such as Buttons, Larry Bertleman (inventor of the Bertleman Turn or “Bert”), Bunker Spreckels (step-son of Clark Gable and heir to Spreckels’ Sugar), and famed Pipeline tube surfer Rory Russell. Wallos had a terribly rough surface and abrupt transitions. But for Alva, it was “no big thing.” I was equally unprepared for how well he surfed at Pipeline.
Like most others in the know, I have no doubt whatsoever that Tony Alva was the best all-around skateboarder in the world. Mad Dog was “the man” and proved it repeatedly. At the last World Championships I attended, he used equipment illsuited for some events but still beat almost everybody at almost everything — even freestyle. Wearing a unique jumpsuit designed, in his words, “by some fag in Hollywood,” Alva also out-raced Bob Skoldberg and Henry Hester, who trained exclusively for slalom and must have outweighed him by 100 pounds (a distinct advantage for them). Carlsbad skate park had spent huge sums renovating its facilities for the event and might just as well just given the money straight to Tony! But Alva’s real strength was in pools, where extensions usually had to be added to accommodate his speed and height. Here Mad Dog tries to go more vertical (more “Bertical”) than the Fruit Bowl would allow — no doubt trying to relieve the photographer of his only camera! Along with the rest of the Zephyr Team (skateboarding’s version of the Rat Pack), Alva was an urban legend. Street skating in a style all his own, he was the Tony Hawk of his day. He was the first skater to get two interviews in the magazine. (Stacy Peralta was the only other.) More leather than milk, he turned in interviews that he knew we couldn’t use without editing out all the “good” stuff. Alva could be difficult to be around, but the sport owes a lot to his attitude. As journalist C.R. Stecyk III documented so brilliantly, he was punk rock before punk rock was born. I shot this photo the day that Alva and Jay Adams, riding in my car, insulted every girl we passed en route to the pool. Sometimes they were a little wilder than usual, so on this occasion I gave them extra room in the bowl. Surf and skate photographers have to be as knowledgable as possible on their subjects and instinctive about the athletes’ moods on any given day. I had quick reflexes, and I needed them. I got hit a lot in the ‘70s, and those heavy Logan Earth Ski skateboards hurt — a lot! But Alva’s reflexes were way faster than mine, and I was never sure exactly how close I could get with him. I don’t think Alva ever hit me, but he liked to scare me by getting close! Here I probably gave him three or four feet with the fisheye, but I was also trying to capture the sky and the pool’s unique curves. 92
Multi-hued cloud patterns and a fading blue sky offset a kick-flip performed by Dennis Martinez in the “big bowl” at Carlsbad. I’m grateful that skateboarding gave me such a rich photographic canvas to explore, while the skaters charted the kinetic landscapes. 94
In apparently perfect solitude, an unidentified skater performs a pirouette. It bears repeating that La Costa was special, not just for the many and varied empty streets, but for the quality of the pavement. It was absolutely, perfectly smooth. The board and wheels made the loveliest of sounds that a photograph can never record. Many of the roads offered beautiful evening lighting, too. 95
February 1977 At Carlsbad Skate Park, the famous surfer Larry Bertleman performs his surfing-inspired “Bertleman Turn,” which the Dogtown crew abbreviated to “Bert”. Carlsbad had strict policies on safety gear, so here Larry is wearing shoes, though like most of the Hawaiian skaters he ordinarily disdained shoes in favor of a barefoot style. Bertleman had such strong, flexible feet that he could easily lift fullsize metal trash can lids with his toes and place them smartly on top of the can.
Another skate park near San Diego proper offered still more creations to practice on. An overview was just the ticket for Brian Gillogly’s “Skate Parks” articles.
At the Reseda Skatercross skatepark, Jay Adams finds the perfect setting for a stellar â€œBertâ€?. The long, curved wall added an interesting graphic element to the background. The Dogtown Z-Boys were so dynamic and progressive that other skaters rarely objected to letting them steal the scene.
March 1977 A defunct amusement park in nearby Mission/Pacific Beach turned up some new terrain with a surf-like look and feel. This small pipe was probably a revolving ride, but we transformed it into a tunnel of love. My fisheye lens created a unique perspective of skater Bobby Fraas. Surfers took the first tube rides, and skateboarders launched the first aerials. Each sport has obviously influenced the other. In those days, many Californians considered contest surfing â€œun-cool,â€? but competitive skateboarding helped change that. There were 14-year-old skaters earning $4,000 a month and others not much older earning $10,000 a month! (That was a lot more than my salary. I got six raises during the magazineâ€™s first six months, but only after I quit did I hear that the publishers would have given me anything I asked for. When offered a leased car, I foolishly chose a Pinto!) I remember NSSA leaders Peter Townend (the 1976 World Surfing Champion) and Ian Cairns taking notes at skateboard parks and contests, and later judging surfing events on a freelance basis before starting their own association, the ASP.
March 1977 In the 1950s, teenagers hung out at drive-in restaurants. That was where to take dates and, if you were a greaser, show off your car. Built on the grounds of an old drive-in, the Skatercross Park in Reseda welcomed four-wheelers of a different kind — and still served food, too. The carport roof sections created shade for the skaters without ruining the light for photographers. In my mind I hear the old Joni Mitchell song with the lyrics changed to, “They paved paradise and put up a skateboard park.”
March 1977 Signal Hill in Long Beach was probably so named because radio waves broadcast from its high peak can reach all the surrounding canyons and hills. The road was long and straight, but the surface was rough. A few high-level races were held there, with speed traps to measure velocity and hay bales lining the hill for protection. The humps where other streets crossed made for some interesting calamities. The brave tried all manner of vehicles and positions. It was comparable to todayâ€™s Ultimate Fighting Challenge, where practitioners of diverse martial arts forms take each other on in full-contact, no-holds-barred combat. By now it seems clear that a feet-first luge approach is the fastest, but where skateboarding begins and ends is an open question. 103
April 1977 A teenager with the right stuff: That was the calm, talented World Champion Laura Thornhill, whose long, flowing hair highlighted motion without any strobes or blurs. Her philosophy was “don’t grumble, be humble.” The first time I saw her was at the Steve’s South Bay contest. She was unforgettably smooth, graceful, and flowing, with a remarkably casual nature. Laura skated at a level approaching the best of the men — she flowed on banks, spun with ease, and held her own without any discernible effort or stress. She was welcome everywhere and was even included in some of the earliest Arizona Pipe sessions. She was admittedly one of my favorites, and other girls may have been a bit jealous. In those days, people pumped each other up with the expression, “Show what you know,” and I shot anyone who could do that. As an unknown but successful East Coast surfer, I experienced firsthand how photographers often play it safe with established stars even when other gifted performers are right underfoot. Behind the lens, I was proud of drawing public attention to talented unknowns in both surfing and skating. Many skaters just needed a bit of initial coverage to gain respect and extra practice time at the park. It’s usually an anonymous editor sitting in a safe, secure office who pushes the photographers into a frantic tunnel vision focused on select performers. In this case, I was both paparazzi and groupie, and I determined who got published, too. I had a feel for talent, and with a bit of photographic acknowledgement, an unknown could recycle that positive attention to further propel the whole sport. Laura was just such a talent: She was profiled throughout the mainstream media and helped create an inviting space for both girls and women in the rapidly-growing sport. An avid cyclist, Laura now participates in an annual fundraiser for arthritis research, riding all the way from San Francisco through to Los Angeles, and this year she’s riding in honor of me. Laura and her husband Johnny Caswell are very active in the music business now. Their daughter Kylie looks so amazingly like her mother that at first I mistook her for Laura! 105
The Desert Pipes The Arizona Desert Pipe sessions were a singular period in skateboard history. They always come to mind when I hear the lines “…wearing out the things that nobody wears…” from Aerosmith’s song “Toys In The Attic”. When we first encountered the 22-foot pipes in 1977, it was like landing on the moon with some NASA-contrived space playground ready-made for the astronauts! Modern skaters owe a lot to the early pioneers of big-pipe riding. I suspect that California’s drinking water still has traces of urethane and rubber coursing through it. The Ameron Corporation, which constructed the Arizona pipes, has subsidiaries throughout the United States — even in Hawaii. A similar pipescape may await discovery in some secluded spot — perhaps in Alaska, perhaps near your home… We made three pilgrimages to the Arizona pipes, but no one got hurt. However, as the editor of SkateBoarder, I was the one whom all the newspapers called to ask about the “dangers” of skateboarding. Referring to Consumer Product Safety Commission publications, I was able to shut down the skeptics with the fact that skateboards are actually safer than bicycles or even bunk beds! This was true even before the use of safety gear became widespread. 107
April 1977 Our trips to the Arizona pipes were necessarily short, one-day adventures. Given the limited coloring of the desert setting, it was a challenge to create variety in the images. The orange filter that came with my 17mm Pentax fisheye lens offered an interesting color bounce and also suggested the high desert heat. Here a local practices in solitude as the sun sets. 111
Part of a three-shot cover sequence, this image shows Gregg Weaver performing a one-wheeler at a skatepark in Orange County called Skatopia. By this time he’s wearing safety gear, which had become mandatory at skate parks and within the magazine. However, it looks like Gregg didn’t have a shoe sponsor yet! Girls sent us tons of fan mail for Gregg — skateboarders had become rock stars.
The dramatic evolution of aerial maneuvers has been a primary impetus for advances in skateboard equipment design and the sport’s ever-growing popularity. This cover image shows Paul Hackett, who died tragically in 2001, launching one of the first recorded aerials. (Paul’s older brother David was better-known at the time but was injured on that beautiful California day.) Paul is shown using Velcro foot attachments called “Suspenders”. This was long before the Ollie revolutionized everything and a full six months before Tony Alva and others did the first hand-grab aerials. Thus the cover asked the obvious question, “Did he make it? Look inside!” Many thought the foot straps were a form of cheating, but this image shocked the skateboarding world and demonstrated what was possible. Notice the taped-over drain, the coping blocks broken from hard impacts, and the diving board set up as a take-off ramp in the shallow end. Just as in surfing, connecting the ever-growing book of tricks has meant a certain loss in style — by which I mean a surf-influenced casual body composure, not affected posturing.
May 1977 Here in North San Diego County (probably Encinitas), Bruce Logan performs another variation from his nose wheelie kingdom. He’s doing nose-wheelie slalom turns to avoid leaving my camera range too quickly. Bruce is decked out in full SkateBoarder attire; so many people thought the magazine logos would get them published that they wore SkateBoarder clothing without even being asked. It was nice to get some greenery into the shot, too, to contrast with all the images from La Costa. Not just Bruce, but all the Logans were so good that they had a permanent invitation to our photo sessions. I’m thankful to Bruce and the other regulars for making our work easier, but I also welcomed anyone who had something to offer. We were eager to discover good photographers, new subjects, and quality photo submissions from anywhere at all. But because of its weather and legacy as skateboarding’s birthplace (as an offshoot of surfing), California was virtually the only photo backdrop during the magazine’s first three years. I wouldn’t begrudge anyone outside the state for feeling bitter or left out, but we couldn’t run low-quality, amateur photos. The rapid evolution of both California skating and our camera skills made it even tougher for others to measure up.
Brian Beardsley goes through his high jump paces amid the blistering heat and blue skies of southern California. Like my hero at the time, Sports Illustrated photographer John Zimmerman, I sought esoteric photo perspectives. Instead of following tradition, I pushed the envelope with my equipment and learned what I needed to on the fly. In 1972, an elderly gentleman at Ocean Beach Camera told me that highly-trained photographers are sometimes “so smart that they’re stupid.” I later saw how right he was: One day, I left a gathering of art students and professional photographers and got three Surfer magazine cover shots while they went on debating. Time magazine once predicted that in the future, those without knowledge of photography would be considered illiterate. That day seems to be fast approaching. 117
June1977 Skatopia had a half-pipe that gradually increased in height along its 50-yard length. Laura Thornhill shifts to second gear near the start.
The Rampage was built in Encinitas, a town in North San Diego County known for its relaxed lifestyle and country-like atmosphere on the beach. For photo purposes, a replaceable Plexiglas window was eventually put behind where this skater is shown. As it turned out, Chris Strople and the boys got enough air to almost completely avoid the Plexiglas. I got all the shots I needed right away, and the window almost never got so scratched that it needed replacing. The heat in Encinitas was always a factor, limiting the length of the sessions. Nobody got a hard time if they didnâ€™t go all out, which was nice. Besides, not many had enough experience or energy to last long. Using the available blueprints, others were able to widen the Rampage design and tow similar ramps to future skateboard events.
Using an orange filter to highlight the sunset, here I catch Tom Stewart, the owner of the Rampage, playing in his front yard.
The Rampage later featured a Plexiglas window near the top to give photographers new perspectives. Crowds always gathered to watch the action, right in the middle of laid-back Encinitas. I shot many of my early photos in San Diego County, where I lived. But it was undeniably a hotbed for talent, stretching back to the birth of the urethane wheel. 120
The Pepsi Ramp could be rolled outdoors whenever the sun was shining, allowing every angle imaginable â€” much like the desert pipes. Here, Greg Ayres enjoys a session at high noon.
One of the first aerial specialists, Chris Strople was a very quiet person. But his skating left many literally screaming. The Plexiglas window on the Rampage gave us a “wheels-up” view on his vertical antics. At a cost of $3,000 (a lot of money at the time), the magazine bought me a Canon High-Speed Motor Drive camera. We needed to show sequential images or else no one would believe that the skaters were making it! Liability concerns led some parks to actually ban certain moves. My kids ask me, “Dad, do you know Tony Hawk?” I have to admit that I don’t. But Stacy Peralta once told me, “Warren, for sure he’s heard of you!” Today’s highly-paid professionals have based much of their success on the foundations laid by the 1970s generation. Sadly, my parents threw out all of my magazines (nearly 30 with my photos on the cover, and many in mint condition), along with all of my personalized skateboards — ranging from the laminated Gregg Weaver models to the hand-made, personalized Skitch Hitchcock decks. “What do you need them for? They’re only magazines!” 122
Photographer James Cassimus discovered Gregg Ayres, a very hot skater from northern LA. The first cover that I didn’t shoot myself was a photo by Cassimus of Ayres on the San Clemente Nuclear Power Plant pipes. The Traveling Pepsi Safe Skateboard Team once let us “borrow” their ramp outside their San Diego Office. As this photo testifies, Greg, Tom Inouye, Weaver and others were thoroughly pleased. Interestingly, the Top Guns air base (in Miramar) isn’t far away. Greg was definitely skateboarding’s version of a top gun! 123
Tom Inouye blasts out of the tunnel at Upland’s Pipeline skate park. This cover image made full use of the Canon High-Speed Motor Drive (10 shots per second) that SkateBoarder bought me. We spent extra money for a fifth color and framed the cover in silver. It was worth it. The cover “blurbs” teased, “Did he make it? Look inside!” and quoted from Tom’s candid interview in that issue: “Mostly I just look at the pictures.”
The sport was progressing at an incredibly rapid pace, and skaters everywhere were creating their own game plans. When a bowl or pool got too easy, they’d add extensions or take-off ramps to gain extra speed. Here’s another image showing a skater and place whose identity I now can’t recall. I wrote names on scrap paper but rarely had time to transfer information to the actual photo or slide. I was often encouraged to hire an assistant, but in the early years I had no one to delegate to. I’ve seen other photo editors, even those of talent and renown, do worse — such as women working at top New York magazines letting their long hair fall on transparencies while working with a loop over a light table. Even the cleanest hair has damaging oils. I’ve witnessed others ruin photos by over-stacking slide sheets. When asked in recent years what I would do differently as a photo editor today, my reply has been, “I’d quit!”
August 1977 As a surfer from the East Coast, I remembered all too well how the California media ignored us. I wanted to highlight as many local skaters as possible during our East Coast tour, but those outside of California still had a long way to go. Here we see Maryland standout Wilson Fair, jumping over everyone who wanted to be in the photo. It was my hope that our visit would inspire them to reach the skill levels seen on the West Coast. 126
Brian Beardsley specialized in unique jumps. Here at Heroin Hill, he shows a spinning aerial. The skaters were coming up with new moves literally every day, and often they couldnâ€™t coin names fast enough.This hill was so fast and dangerous, and there were so many bloody wipe-outs on it. Someone must have begun calling it Heroin because it was a street of pain. Sometimes a skaterâ€™s entire back would get scraped up, and I would never see them again! 128
I occasionally hooked up for photo shoots with Marty Schaub — a big, powerful guy with great style. This is Spring Valley Skatepark. For publicity purposes, the parks always opened their doors to me and my subjects — before or after normal hours. As Editor of SkateBoarder, I was able to visualize my ideas and steward them all the way through the organization — photography, text, captions and even layout. Modern magazines typically list 50 — 100 staffers on the masthead. The magazine saved a lot of money with me doing so much. At first, Kurt Ledterman and I shared an office that had previously belonged to a secretary, Chris Maxwell. The room divider gave me a workspace only 3 feet by 6 feet — the smallest in the whole building! But I knew this was the opportunity of a lifetime — better than any position editing a surf magazine, which was my original ambition. 129
September 1977 I’ve developed enormous respect for Stacy Peralta, one of the original Dogtown Z-Boys who went on to produce an awardwinning film documentary on that subject. He was super-talented in every discipline and an innovator in both the sport and the industry. Here we see Stacy at the Indian River skatepark in Florida. He was one of a group top of skaters I decided to take on a tour of Maryland and Florida skateparks. Lots of new parks were cropping up all the time. The talented crew, which also included Tom Inouye and Gregg Weaver, definitely helped spread the skateboarding phenomenon across the country. Florida’s summer heat is so intolerable that we mostly stuck to late afternoon and twilight sessions. At other hours we surfed, and I was invited to compete in the Florida Pro event on the IPS tour, which was then in its second season. I tied for ninth place, losing by only half a point to Rabbit Bartholomew, who became World Champion a year later. I had very little time to surf in those days, but on the strength of that finish I was ranked 45th in the World for the year! There is no doubt that skateboarding was a powerful influence on both surfing and youth counterculture in general.
An overview of San Diego’s Spring Valley Skate Park, circa 1978. I have to credit John O’Malley with starting the skate park trend. After he gave me a drawing of an ideal skateboarding environment, I assigned associate editor Brian Gillogly to create a series of articles on the potential of constructing specialized facilities. O’Malley and a partner then opened the world’s first skateboard park in Carlsbad, and the rest is history. Within a few years, roughly 30 — 50 skate parks had sprung up, I think largely due to the success of our article series. Another inspiration for surfing and, now, snowboarding. 131
Tom “Wally” Inouye speeds through Florida’s Indian River Skate Park at twilight. Developed by former Pipeline Master’s champion Jeff Crawford (whom I’ve known since he was a kid, and whose mom was in real estate), this park was yet another example of the back-and-forth inspiration between skateboarding and surfing.
This looks like the Pepsi Warehouse, and the shot is part of an entire sequence. But I have no memory of it whatsoever — an indication of how hard I was working at the time! 132
October 1977 A veteran surfer, here Henry Hester rounds the moguls at a skate park built in 1978, with a virtual sea of waves all to himself. At first glance, one might think that a surf-style stance would be slower than a ski-style stance, but slalom race results proved otherwise: Hester and Bob Skoldberg won nearly every event that came along. I love these moguls and the way theyâ€™re lit. Many commercial skate parks have gone out of business, but city governments are helping to fill the void by constructing public facilities. To them I say: Terrain like this would still be interesting to skate and shoot!
It was a huge honor when Sports Illustrated asked me for a collection of skateboard photos. As always, I slipped in some surfing shots, too. Their photo editor, Jerry Cooke, flew out to meet me and decided to run a surfing portfolio, which was also the subject of that issueâ€™s Publisherâ€™s Note. Sports Illustrated afterwards received so many positive letters that they started giving me various other assignments, ranging from the Moped Mamas in Redwood City to the Catalina Classic slalom race, shown in this photo of Bobby Piercy. I was never completely satisfied with my work for Sports Illustrated, but skateboarding was definitely on a roll in the public eye. 135
October 1977 Tight slalom and giant slalom racing were the most difficult skateboarding disciplines to highlight. I often surfed with Bobby Piercy, of Pt. Loma, but for skateboard slalom he favored a ski-style technique — like many on the Turner Summer Ski team. A lot of skiers were using skateboarding to stay in form during the off-season. It was exciting to watch the ski-style and surf-style approaches compete. For cover shots, we usually thought in terms of location or photo angle instead of discipline. But in this case, I called Bobby in hopes of shooting a slalom cover using what I called the “strobal effect”. This meant a photo sequence starting or finishing with a peak moment, which might be enlarged for accent. This image didn’t make the cover, but three others from the same session did. From the beginning, people constantly asked us how we were going to top ourselves. I usually didn’t know myself, but my only concern was getting everything covered. Things were moving so fast, there was never a shortage of improved action. Furthermore, the readers appreciated the 55% adto-editorial ratio, since the ads were often very informative. The general public was taking notice, and SkateBoarder was cited as the fastest-growing magazine on the newsstand. I can’t understand how that was possible, since People Magazine premiered at about the same time. I got home late one night just in time to watch Johnny Carson make jokes about all the new magazines on the newsstands. When he got to SkateBoarder, he gave it a seemingly-knowing, sincerely-approving head nod. We were only on our sixth issue, with Jay Adams on the cover doing a bunny hop out of the Carlsbad bowl.
An overhead view of the Catalina Classic. Catalina Island has long been a retreat for the rich and famous, as well as honeymooners. Movie actors and actresses would take the boat ride from Long Beach for a weekend getaway, and here were the skateboarders racing down Main Street! Skateboarding had arrived and was no longer considered any kind of fad. 137
A high-speed strobe of an airborne Chris Strople at the then-new Del Mar Skate Ranch. This shot still looks great after 25 years! The warmth of the California parks attracted other unique nocturnal creatures â€” tarantulas! Mostly harmless, it was still a rush to use them as slalom cones while speeding through the concrete moguls. The strobe technique captured the entire sequence of an experimental aerial in a single photo, and Chris Strople turned this park into a virtual Edwards Air Force Base! This Area 51 UFO landed the various aerials with outstanding consistency, just to do it all over again. The trick for me was to sight the action despite the rapidlyflashing strobe light.
One year it rained for an entire month in California. So Pepsi let us inside one of their warehouses to shoot ramp skating with my high-speed strobes (which aren’t even made anymore). Given the shooting distance, it was a real challenge to get enough light from the strobes. Trouble was, they’d often brighten the wrong frame, and the chronoscopes had to be hand-tripped. Shown here is Tom “Wally” Inouye undertaking a halfpipe assault. What you don’t see are the many wires leading to the AC sockets, the homemade tripods for the two chronoscopes, the main tripod holding the camera, and the slave unit used to simultaneously fire the chronoscope on the other side. Setting up was a nightmare, made worse by flying skateboards that occasionally knocked things down. It’s an understatement to say it was hectic! The chronoscopes didn’t have tripod screws, so everything was taped up and angled to keep shadows and strobe flare out of the fisheye view. (Any other lens would have mandated too much distance to capture the entire ramp with enough light.) What a mess! All for a different perspective for a new issue.
Steve Olson Hester Pro Bowl Contest March 1978
I love this image, not only because it’s photographically interesting, but because it shows Henry Hester — a hot surfer who used his weight, coordination and intelligence to be the best. I shot this outdoors with two chronoscopes using generators and custom-designed, low-output strobes. With all the electrical gear (and more than one piece was broken by a flying board), it was literally a heavy project! Sports Illustrated’s famed John Zimmerman used a different technique on golf and tennis swings to capture 180 shots per second, compared to my 30. Very striking — but we didn’t even need the 30 shots. Fortunately, I could adjust the speed to illustrate what we needed.
Hester and his cohort Bob Skoldberg would set up very difficult slalom courses on the steepest hills for weekend races. (I was a Giant Slalom racer myself until injuries got the best of me.). On the fastest section, three-quarters of the way down the hill, they liked setting one cone very wide. Then they’d sit on the curb next to it and giggle at everyone (on their own team no less) who took the fall while skating barefoot.
I wasted myself with falls before safety gear was even available. I had to raid medical supply offices for funky wrist braces. One particular bone in the wrist doesn’t get much blood circulation and is therefore one of the slowest-healing bones in the body. I spent the first six months of one year with a broken wrist, then went through a knee operation. (Water on the knee — very painful when they drain it.) When Brian Logan bought the first slalom cones and didn’t trim the square bases, tight turns transformed into flight and another broken wrist for me. After that, I not only couldn’t skate much, but I couldn’t surf at all. You know what? I bet Hester and Skoldberg were giggling at me, too, come to think of it. They were snakes — but friendly ones. Showing Hester snaking through the cones is especially appropriate — and for me, a favorite photo.
We paid attention to all possible aspects of the sport. Here Torger Johnson shows off a move leftover from the ‘60s, another of his specialties: the high-jump, shown in a one-frame sequence at Black Hill. Hard enough in the day, landing this at night with the blinding rapid-fire strobe lights was downright dangerous — but perhaps not as hazardous as his long drive home to LA on the California Freeways. Torger passed away about five years later on Kauai’s notoriously dangerous North Shore curves — possibly blinded by an oncoming car and flying into the trees. His girlfriend’s sister, Beege Greenlee, told me they thought he lived for a long time, trapped in his car, but died before being found the next day. Torger was a handsome talent. He looked a lot like the young Brandon Cruz — co-star of “The Courtship of Eddie’s Father” TV series, who also surfs and skates.
I knew of Torger from the four issues of SkateBoarder published in the ’60s. When I’d call him in the ’70s, he was like a young rock-star hottie. The little story in the morning paper left me numb — it was as if guitar god Eric Clapton had died. Torger is missed. He was very special, a personal favorite, and he honored every session with his quiet presence. Skating is not allowed in most of my neighborhood, so I’ve been teaching my kids things he invented like the spacewalk — a repeating kick-turn, with the front wheels balanced in the air, that actually accelerates you.
Chris Strople Del Mar Skatepark August 1978
Rodney Jesse was a very popular and very hot pool skater during this period. He told me that his hair had been very straight as a kid, but when his Mom shaved his head it grew back kinky! His thick, electric hair added a lot of pizazz to the action photos.
Shogo Kubo May 1978
One of the last photos I shot for SkateBoarder was at the thennew Del Mar Skate Park. I really loved its progressive bowl designs, colored tiles, tropical landscaping and night lights. From near the beginnning to the very end, Tom Inouye was one of my favorite subjects because of his low, hard-driving style. I never thought about it until now, but in San Diego I suppose he was the closest thing to Tony Alva. I always called on him to join the photo sessions, and he always produced the goods. I shot this image vertically, so I was probably thinking of it as a potential cover. The orange and red tiles would have contrasted well with the cover logo and the “blurbs” (sub-titles advertising the issue’s contents). Even today I ask my subjects to wear color to create contrast with the usual blue skies, black asphalt, and white pools and bowls. On newsstands, often only the top three inches of a magazine are visible. When designing your magazine’s masthead, you need to make this special area “pop,” so customers can easily find it. Maintaining a uniform logo color scheme from issue to issue helps, too. This was, at least, the thinking in the ’70s. I started SkateBoarder with several Surfer magazine veterans, including Kurt Ledterman as my Associate Editor, and we applied what we had learned at Surfer. Our main inspiration came from Surfer’s original Publisher/Editor Steve Pezman, the wisest man I know in the sport of surfing. 148
SKIP ENGBLOM Zephyr Team Manager
FRANK NASWORTHY Inventor of urethane skateboard wheel 150
TORGER JOHNSON (rip)
CRAIG STECYK Artist/Writer/Photographer0 151
TOM “WALLY” INOUYE
TY PAGE 154
DAVE “FIBREFATS” McINTYRE 156
KURT “MELLOW CAT” LEDTERMAN
Adams, Jay............................................................................52, 53, 60, 99 Alaway, Robin............................................................................39, 58, 59 Alaway, Robin ................................................................................58, 59 Alva, Tony ....................................47, 50, 62, 63, 75, 90, 91, 92, 93, 152 Ayres, Greg ................................................................................121, 123 Beardsley,Brian ..............................................................36, 37, 117, 128 Bahne Team ..........................................................................54, 55, 56, 57 Berryman,Ellen ..................................................................................74 Bertleman, Larry ....................................................................96, 97,154 Biniak, Bobby ................................................................................49, 108 Bolster,Warren ..................................................................................18 Cathey, Steve ..........................................................................24, 25, 152 Cespedes,Kim ..................................................................................44, 45 Classic,Catalina ................................................................................137 Cruz, Brandon ....................................................................................73 Cullen, Paul ........................................................................................77 Davila, Randy ......................................................................................22 Downhillers..............................................................................64, 68, 69 Engblom, Skip ....................................................................................150 Estes, Murray ......................................................................................38 Fair, Wilson ................................................................................126, 127 Fraas, Bobby ......................................................................................100 Hackett, Paul ....................................................................................115
Hester, Henry ............................................................................134, 142 Hitchcock, Skitch ....................................................................8, 33, 41 Howell, Russ ................................................................................55, 155 Inouye, Tom..................................................124, 132, 139, 148, 149, 153 Jesse, Rodney ......................................................................................145 Johnson, Torger ............................................................35, 58, 143, 151 Katz, Eddie............................................................................................46 Kubo, Shogo ................................................................................146, 147
Logan, Bruce ............................................................19, 51, 72, 116, 153 MacIntyre, Dave ................................................................................156 Madrigal,Bob ................................................................................68, 69 Martinez,Dennis ..................................................................................94 Neishi, Bob ......................................................................................16,17 Olson, Steve ..............................................................................140, 141 One Legged Rider ................................................................................82 Oâ€™Neal, Ellen ......................................................................................86 Overview Skateparks ..................................................70, 71, 88, 89, 98 Page, Ty ..........................................................................................34, 154 Peralta, Stacy ......................................................................27, 130, 131 Piercy, Bobby ......................................................................135, 136, 137 Pipes, Desert ..............................................106, 107, 109, 110, 111, 113 Rampage ..............................................................................................119 Ryan, Tommy ....................................................................................66, 67 Saladino, Doug ....................................................................................48 Schaub, Marty ..................................................................................129 Sherman, Steve ..................................................................................156 Shipp, Steve ..........................................................................................79 Shufeldt, Denis ..................................................................28, 29, 32, 65 Signal Hill ..................................................................................102, 103 Sims, Tom..............................................................................80, 81, 84, 85 Skatercross ........................................................................................101
Spring Valley ......................................................................................131 Stecyk, Craig ......................................................................................151 Stewart,Tom ........................................................................................120 Strople, Chris ....................................................................122, 138, 144 Thornhill, Laura ..............................................................104, 105, 118 Toft, Lonnie ........................................................................................83 Weaver, Gregg ................................20, 21, 26, 27, 78, 87, 112, 114, 155 Weed, Mike ..................................................................30, 31, 42, 43, 61
Daniel Gesmer has written for The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and specialty publications throughout the world devoted to skateboarding and the arts. The 1970s generation of flatland freestyle skateboarders inspired him to innovate an expression-oriented, pure-gliding approach, drawing on dance and figure skating. He was simultaneously drawn to engineering skateboard equipment with advanced carving performance characteristics. After a controversial career as a competitive freestylist in the late 1980s, he founded Seismic Skate Systems, Inc., now based in Boulder, Colorado. His trucks and wheels, sold under the Seismic and 3dm brands, are used by carving-oriented skateboarders throughout the world. He is also President of the World Freestyle Skateboard Association and a key figure in the renaissance of slalom racing.
$39.95 US $55.00 CAN
If it weren’t for SkateBoarder Magazine, I would have never realized what was really possible on my four-wheeled plank. — Tony Hawk When urethane wheels hit the skateboard world in the early 1970's, they launched a revolution. By 1974, things had exploded to the point that Surfer Publications decided to resurrect SkateBoarder Magazine. SkateBoarder had been lying dormant since 1965 when the first crash of skateboarding hit. Warren Bolster, a surf photographer was chosen to be SkateBoarder's editor. It's an incredible understatement to say that Warren had a fierce determination to document the rebirth of skateboarding. He was literally a one-man army, putting in eighteen-hour days photographing, writing and co-coordinating every facet of the magazine. His hard work led to a 100% sell through on first issue featuring Gregg Weaver on the cover. For the next three years, Warren created what many refer to as “the Bible of Skateboarding.” This collection of photos along with detailed captions is sure to inspire both the older generation of skaters and the new crop yearning for images and information about the roots of skateboarding.
Limited Edition Hardcover. 4,000 copies printed. ISBN 0-9735286-0-5 (hardcover)