Skateboarding Las Vegas in the late 70's was a mirage of ancient dreams of spillways, ditches and riding them on small gadgets we called skateboards.
I had ridden BMX for a few years, and that was a blast, but I was introduced to skateboarding by a friend that did a lot of 360's on the sidewalk...he was so awesome to me.
Somehow I acquired a yellow Cadillac board that was just so cool and, thinking back, I can't really remember what ever happened to that board, it was the best board I ever had. At the time, I was wrestling on the varsity team in high school and skating was a part time hobby. I would take the bus way across town to the last stop and then walk 2 miles in the hot desert to this spillway way out past the Tropicana Hotel. I can't believe I did that in 110 degree weather in the middle of the day. Once I arrived there I would always see about 5-10 guys skating and they would look at me like I was lost... as if saying "Ummm hey kid, the basketball courts are in town." Of course, after going through all that trouble just to get to the spot, I would stay and skate for a few hrs and it wasn't long before the others warmed up and were cool to me.
It was so weird to get these odd stares from white skaters which really was from day one of my time skateboarding. The funniest part of this experience was that my black friends would say I was an oreo and I was trippin'; "black people don't skate!" hahaha. So, you see, I got it from both sides of the coin; I knew then that I was going to embrace skating as my own beloved alien spacecraft that would take me off of the God forsaken Planet and I would not let anyone take that away from me.
After a year of cruising around part time, I hear about this place called the dust bowl. So, me and some friends went to check it out, by that time I had met Joe Calzon, who was an early influence on me, and we skated a lot and pushed each other. Anyways, we went to this place called the dust bowl and. Oh my gosh, it was this huge empty pool and, even with a big pile of dirt just sitting in the middle of it, dudes where shredding it to pieces...up until that time, I had never seen anything like that ever.
Looking back, that day was like the best day of my life, Kenny Coobs, Jack and some other guys where the Kings, and it was on that day I knew I was going to be part of skateboarding for life.
I started skating more and more and finally decided to take a trip out to California...my first destination? Upland aka The Badlands, the King of the Kings of skateparks!
There before me was the now mythical Combi Pool, Steve Alba, Mickey Alba, Tank, Chris Miller where so freaking good! As a newly arrived grom, I felt a bit intimidated and could barely bring myself to look at them when they skated by...Steve Alba was, and continues to be, my Idol, "Le Machine", is one of skateboarding's elite pioneers and even to this day, no one could skate the Combi like he did, or even the replica of the Combi at the Van's skatepark which exists today. Though, don't tell Steve, but Mickey was always my favorite. One of today's great masters, Chris Miller, was a just a tiny little rugrat who skated so fast and smooth it was funny, he was better than everyone else.
That was it, I had to make this place a part of my life, so I would start to take the greyhound out to Cali for two days at a time. Whittier was the new spot, tons of sick pools with the likes of Lester Kasai, one of the best skaters ever, John Lucero, Lance Mountain and Neil Blender, who was perhaps the funniest person I've ever met, being the local standouts. Though he is an incredibly talented artist, sometimes, I'm surprised Blender didn't become a comedian and rule the galaxy with his avant garde, genius humor.
It wasn't long before I went to the Gold Cup at Upland and saw Steve Caballero and Duane Peters, the master of disaster, in action. They were unreal, Cab was 3.5 feet tall doing tricks no one could, the Caballerial at the time was like witnessing a magician's trick, I think he hypnotized everyone there literally, because we all thought he did a fakie 360...that trick was not possible. I'll never forget how Steve signed my board when I was too afraid to even ask him. It was then and there, that day, he made me want to be a pro skater and, only three years later, I was in the finals skating against him, Miller, Mountain, Hosoi and Kasai...I loved Upland! I had been given the nickname "freight train" and on the day I turned pro at upland, I skated in every event; Pipe, Bank, Slalom, Longest Boardslide, Longest Carve and the pool comp. I won every event except for the pool, which I placed 4th. That was the first day I was on top of the skateboarding world.
Whittier had the whole package; Full Pipe, Clover, Big Pools, Capsule, Small Bowls, Half Pipes etc. that's where I ended up becoming a local and eventually the manager at the pro shop...best job I've ever had, until I founded my own company. I'll never forget doing backflips in the high ball courts with Neil Blender, his inverts are still the sickest, he was the master of them all; Andrechts, Tuck Knees, Egg Plants, etc. everything was over your head cause he is so tall. I actually think Neil blender was one of the most underrated skaters in skateboarding, but it's good to see how the new generations have discovered the importance of his role in our history.
Skating with Lance Mountain, John Lucero, Kasai, Blender is really the reason I was able to get so good. These guys where so cool, down to earth and would get you to skate with them. When Brad Bowman would come and skate I would go hide far away and stare at his magnetizing blue eyes; he had the sickest flow ever, the smoothest style. Darrell Miller did board slides around the entire pool...literally, I couldn't count all the blocks! He came one day and it was just him and I skating the keyhole...he was so cool to me and it is because of Darrell that I had to learn some of the longest board slides in the biz. I often like to feel that it was, on that day, he passed the boardslide torch on to me. That has to be the most fun trick ever, besides landing a 7 ft airs.
But, as with everything, times change, and we entered into the dreaded age of insurance lawsuits which resulted in 95% of all the skateparks being closed, it was the saddest part of my life and, I think, the skateboard world's as well. But, it wouldn't be long before skateboarding rose up through the ashes like a phoenix, because the resurrection of the sport through backyard vert ramps had begun.
I moved to San Diego to skate Del Mar Skate Ranch and was kindly accepted by the locals who made me one of their own. Though I didn't like that tiny 9 ft. high pool with 100 feet of flat bottom, all of the local crew where awesome; Tony Hawk, Owen Nieder, Dave Swift, photographer Grant Brittain, Todd Swank and so many more. Awesome people and friends who welcomed me into their scene, but I did think, at the time, Owen Neider hated me though...I was the guy who blasted the raddest hardcore band to ever grace the planet, Bad Brains, at poolside all day long. hahaha!
It wasn't long after, that I was able to get a job at Uncle Wiggley's making skateboards and I loved it! I would make boards all day and then go to Del Mar to skate every afternoon.
That's it, how it all began and, for now, this is the end of my first episode/installment into my blog. I will jump around different timelines which have relevance to what is on my mind and spill the beans on everything I can remember from back then and now, there's soooo many memories!
I hope you all are having an insanely awesome day :) . Until next week. God Bless...