Thursday, August 25, 2016

30 Year Retrospective: That First Board

The one that started it all for me. I wrote about it some in the last post, the white dip, the all pink everything. The decks of the early to mid-1980s were wide and shapely, especially when compared to what I thought of as a skateboard prior to laying eyes on Transworld or Thrasher. My previous board was a yellow "banana" board with soft red wheels and trucks that were molded right into the plastic board, so you can imagine how blown away I was looking at these decks of the now! Names like Powell, Alva, Vision, Hosoi, Skull Skates, and the graphics... sensory overload achieved. These were the boards all of the dudes around town were riding, and I wanted to be one of those dudes, I wanted to be a skateboarder. But more importantly, I wanted to skate!

My first attempts to approach and hang with the pioneers of skateboarding in my hometown were less than successful. These guys were all one to two years older than me and hung in a tight clique. I cornered one of them in front of Fas-Chek one day. "Hey man, I'm gettin' a Gator," I announced in my hickish Appalachian drawl. He was less than impressed. He was the one dude in town who already rode a Gator, and here I was chomping at his heels. By the time we became friends a few months later, he was riding a Caballero.

Another time, I approached all of them in the lunch room at school, yipping away about something I am sure I knew nothing about in an attempt to join the ranks of the radical elite. Chuck was sitting facing away from me, and according to the other guys, was trying to fart on me. Not sure if this was an attempt to run me off or some kind of hazing ritual, but I was going to be a skater.

It was late in the Summer of 1986 when I met the leader of the local tribe. He had been laid up due to a compound fracture and was still in a cast when we first started hanging out, but that didn't stop him from pushing his Powell Skull and Sword from his house to mine four blocks away. Now, here was this guy, military pants cut off into shorts, a highly yet demonically decorated cast on one leg, a Vans hi-top at the end of the other, and griptape cut out into letters that read "EAT ONE." After that cast came off, the jump ramp and wallride era was wide open, and dude was there man, just killing it. Then came senior year, they all joined the football team, geared up for college, re-pledged their allegiance to beer and women, and kind of left skateboarding behind.

But to this day, all of these dudes are skaters still, full circle is the path of life. Being a few years behind them in school gave me the advantage of staying on board a few more years before college ultimately lead me astray in the mid 1990s. By then skateboarding had changed a lot. My favorite era will always be 1988-1991, a time of just radical change, but I love it all. It's in my blood.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

30 Year Retrospective

Summer, 1986. My parents reluctantly allowed me to order a skateboard from California Cheap Skates. I procured a popular board for the time, the hot selling Vision Mark "Gator" Rogowski model. The board was a pristine white dip with the signature geometric Gator graphic in a brilliant pink to purple fade. To complete this trainwreck, I chose pink Gullwing trucks, pink Vision Shredder wheels, and all pink plastics, yes, rails, nose guard, and tail plate. I. Just. Didn't. Know. Of all of the boards I would pore over in the magazine ads, the Zorlac decks, the Santa Cruz boards, and just about every Powell-Peralta deck, all emblazoned with horned demons, slashing skating monsters, and skulls, skulls on everything, I chose a hot pink geometric pattern, oddly, one of skateboarding's most popular graphics at the time.

The day my new board arrived I hit the streets with a friend who had a board with another snoozer of a graphic, the Sure-Grip International Eric Grisham pro model. We threw some duct tape on the sides of our shoes, not because they had holes in them, but because we saw that all of the other skaters in town had duct tape on their shoes (because their shoes had holes in them from actually skateboarding), and headed to the plaza where all of the local heavies could be found most days. It would be our first of many, many skates to the plaza to session over the next few years. We had arrived, desperate to be cool.

But how cool? Even in skateboarding, which at the time was a non-elitist anti-sport if you will, there was a weird jock like pecking order composed of the older, more experienced (i.e. "better") riders at the top and the new jack posers (us, at the time) on the bottom. But it wasn't long before we were accepted into the fold. Despite our soft bellies, twangy dialect, and very new unscathed skateboards (very not cool), we became part of the crew and were soon sweeping drainage ditches and building jump ramps with the other guys.

With our new found street cred, we were desperate for female attention. We needed some skate Betties in our lives so we could be cool like the no bullshit Godoy brothers. Look at them up there. Sleeveless tees, leopard print, posing with a skateboard but not even wearing skate sneakers. These guys were punk rock, unconventional. And they probably had girls, Betties, I bet they had all of the Betties! So we did what we had to do to get the phone numbers of some girls, ones that of course didn't go to our school and lived ten minutes from town, which back then might as well have been China because we didn't drive. Our chances were slim to none when it came to actually meeting these girls, with the above factors combining with the fact that we were nobodies (at least we thought we were nobodies) we had no game. So we did what any other low-on-the-totum-pole fourteen year old kids would do. We told them we were Jeff Grosso and John Lucero. And it worked. For about a week.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The Return of Simple Shoes

They're BACK! Well, they've been back since October of 2014 but I can be a little slow on the draw. Simple appeared on the scene in early 1992, and their casual and stylish skate sneakers were an instant classic with skaters and non-skaters alike.

The gummy red rubber playground ball soles, sturdy construction, low profile silhouettes, unparalleled comfort, and even the occasional toe-caps (think Salman Agah) were MADE for skateboarding, but the stylish sneakers and 4 eye chukka boots (the Barney, their first shoe) were wildly popular with kids in the grilled cheese line as well as those looking to embrace the "I love the outdoors" denim and flannel look of the Pacific Northwest in the early 1990s. I personally remember rocking the navy blue OS Sneakers both on board and to shows back in the day!

Started by Eric Meyer in 1991, the brand held strong in skateboarding through the early and mid to late 1990s. The roster of professional skateboarders appearing in their sneakers and in the advertisements included Mark Gonzales, Frank Hirata, Mike Crabtree, Julian Stranger, and more. The return of the brand features a full line of sneakers as well as casual and dress inspired shoes.

We have a pair of the 4 eye chukka boots (the Barney) on the way and are excited skate in Simple Shoes again! Stay tuned.