INTERVIEW BY JIM MURPHY
INTRODUCTION BY JIM MURPHY
PHOTOS BY DAVE HUPP
The word “sketchy” can be defined in many ways. There’s good sketchy and bad sketchy. There is Duane Peters sketchy, which is by far the best sketchy. Tobin is in that Duane Peters realm, and when you watch him skate, he will make you very nervous! To say he skates on edge is an understatement! Over the years of watching Tobin ride and the fact that he doesn’t appear to realize the precarious situation he constantly puts himself in makes it even better! He’s got such a good sense of humor and such a gnarly East Coast and West Coast history, we felt this interview was long overdue at Juice, so here’s Dave Tobin!“MY GOAL WAS TO ONE DAY HAVE MY OWN BOWL. NOW I’M STANDING AT THE COPING LOOKING DOWN. MY GOAL WASN’T TO GO PRO. MY GOAL WAS TO HAVE PEOPLE AROUND AND ENJOY IT AND SHARE. I THINK THEY’VE ENJOYED IT AS MUCH AS I DO.”
Let’s start at the beginning. Where were you born and raised?
I was born in La Jolla, California, in 1962.
What were you doing out in La Jolla?
My parents ended up out there after cruising around. My dad was a military guy. He was a WWII hero. I actually turned my garage into a room for him. I’m helping him out right now because he needed a some care. He’s got these pictures of WWII bombers. He was a navigator on the B-24s.
Was he in Europe or in the Pacific Ocean?
Europe. Air Force. In fact, I got this cool tat on my neck. It’s the Air Core tat. It’s an eagle flying with these bolts. My first tattoo was from Fred Smith, and you can’t beat that.
What was it like growing up in La Jolla?
Well, I was born there, but I grew up in Santa Monica. When I was nine or ten, I moved to Maryland, when my parents moved there for their jobs.
What year did you move to Maryland?
That was ‘71 or ‘72. A few years later, I got kicked off all of these sports teams for not being serious. It turned me off to team sports.
Were you skateboarding at the time?
That’s when I started skating. I started on clay wheels. My first board was a Cowabunga. I remember that. I was going down the hill on this clay wheel board. Then I wanted to be on this team so bad, so I snuck into this team meeting inside a cardboard box in the sixth grade and the principal caught me. He grabbed me by the ears and kicked me out. I said, “Screw it.” I found skateboarding right there. My friend Brian Martenson and I were skating from day one. I remember buying my first real skateboard from Henry Garfield. That name may mean something to some people. He used to work at Bethesda Surf Shop. His real name is Henry Rollins from Black Flag. I bought my first good board from him. That’s when bearings started coming out, and then urethane wheels came out.
Henry Rollins was working at a surf shop?
Yeah. When I knew him, his name was Henry Garfield. The surf shop he worked at was right there on Bethesda Avenue. My mom worked on the Ave also. I guess his mom lived in DC. Maybe the other part of his family is from California. Q Man just showed up. Pat Quark. He’s a Northwest legend.
I know Q. I’ve seen the video. I know the deal.
Hell, yeah. He’s a Skate Army guy. We melted together in the skate scene. We both traveled up and down the East Coast. I have to tell you one thing though. When I first started seeing skateboarding in the magazines, it was all of these guys from California. I remember seeing Gregg Weaver doing a 7 o’clock kickturn at Baldy. I was like, “Did I just miss out? I just left California. If I was still living there I could be doing that shit.” We started trying to mimic all of the skaters in the magazines. When the Z Boys movie came out, they talked about Franklin Elementary and Brentwood Elementary. Those are the schools I went to. I was like, “Fuck. Holy shit!”
What were you guys riding in Bethesda?
I started riding ditches right next to my junior high school. There was this thing called the Drop. It was a long ditch that went downhill, and then we saw in the magazines that they had ditches all over. They’d always show Tony Alva riding ditches, so we found our own stuff. We thought we had more stuff then they did though. The only coverage we ever saw was California. I was kind of pissed because we were doing it on the East Coast, too. We were going big time.
When did you get your first concrete down there?
Waldorf was the first one. We made trips up to Cascades in Baltimore all the time.
What about Lansdowne?
Lansdowne was sick. That’s when half pipes started coming in. Crofton was the first capsule pool, that I know of, on the East Coast.
What was your first trip to an East Coast skatepark like?
We got rides to Ocean City where a bunch of surfers were riding barefoot on an asphalt bowl. We got hooked. Then when we were old enough to drive, it was a bunch of people in a big giant gas-guzzler car. Basically, our first long road trip was to Cherry Hill. I took, John Hargadon, Henry Rollins’ roommate back in the day, up to Cherry Hill with a car packed full of people. We opened the door, and they took your picture, and you got your ID. I still have my ID. It’s killer. That park was huge. They had this guy named MotoMan who rode a motorized skateboard around the egg bowl. I’d see Jamie Godfrey there. Then 20 years later, he showed up at Cedar Crest skating. It was crazy. I was like, “Do you remember me?” He did. I’ll never forget the time Dave Andrecht showed up at Cherry Hill. He was the first real pro that I met. He was wearing a Sims hat. I was like, “Do an Andrecht.” Fred Blood was there on roller skates going across the keyhole. That was pretty sick.
I remember seeing Bowman doing backside ollies over the keyhole channel. Do you remember that?
Yeah, I was there. I saw most of those dudes that were there skate that thing. What about that dude, Jesilowski? That dude was crazy.
He was doing slides through the egg bowl.
He went all the way across. I used to meet Marc Emond from Ocean City up there. He showed me the line in the 3/4 pipe, backside to frontside thrust. I was going frontside, frontside, frontside and he showed me how to do a backside thrust to frontside. That was it, man. The hottest thing I saw was when someone rock n’ rolled the 3/4 pipe. I couldn’t see how they could keep their wheels on there.
That was Victor Perez, probably.
Yeah, it was Victor Perez. I moved to Florida in the early ‘90s and went to school there. Dave Ellis was there and he told me I had to meet this guy that used to skate Cherry Hill all the time. I was like, “Who?” He said, “Victor Perez.” I was like, “I know Victor Perez.” It was weird seeing that guy.
Back in the day at Cherry Hill, I used to watch Perez and Godfrey. Those guys ruled that place. That park was such an epic park. When you see the skateparks they’re building today, how do you think they compare to Cherry Hill with four pools, a 3/4 pipe and a half pipe?
It’s definitely different. It was the feeling that you get from traveling to get there and picking people up along the way. It would take an hour or two to get there in the car, and then you’re stopping on the Jersey Turnpike. Halfway up there, you’re still far as shit away. It was a full on trip. You were going on a skate trip because you loved skateboarding. It’s definitely a different experience. One time, on the way back from Cherry Hill, we all stopped at a Jersey Turnpike rest stop, and I was taking pictures with my camera. I came back from the pisser and there were these dudes in my car. I was like, “What the hell?” So I ran up to the car and kicked the door and pushed them. I turned around and Blair was like, “Dude. What are you doing? That’s not even your car, man.”
I was like, “Oh, sorry, man.” I said I was sorry to them like a million times, but they couldn’t speak any English. They were just wondering what had happened. I thought they were stealing my camera, but it wasn’t even my car. It was funny. I’ll never forget that. On that same trip, someone hit us while we were driving and we chased them down at 100mph in this old ’98. We finally cut them off and got them to stop. I said, “Hey, man. I’ve got insurance. Let’s deal with this.” I’d been chasing them forever. Then someone in the back of our car goes, “What the fuck!” It was Blair. He’s got this blaring voice, so they ended up spinning off again. I was like, “Screw it. I’m not going down the Turnpike anymore at 110mph.” All of this weird shit happened on the way back from the skatepark. One time we went up there and the place was closed down. We’d heard rumors it was closing, but we got there and the sign on the door said, “For Lease.” I was like, “This can’t be true. This is a legendary epic thing.”
When you saw that sign and realized it was gone, what was going through your head?
I couldn’t believe it. That park was so big and epic. We were going all the way to Jersey to skate this epic world-class park. It was like a dreamland. People skated there from all over. All the pros knew about it and would come through and skate there, and then it just ended. It ended too fast.
When did the Toke Team start to form?
That was in the late ‘70s. A lot of the Toke Team guys are older than I am, by a couple of years. They built this huge ramp with an extension on it at the end of this dead end road. That was ‘79 or ‘80. After I met those dudes, we all stuck together. There weren’t a whole lot of skaters, but there were a few small groups of skaters here and there. After that first ramp got turned down, we headed across the river into Northern Virginia. That was Micro’s territory.
Who was on the Toke team at that point?
We were all from Maryland, and most of us were from Potomac. We all skated and had the same kind of deal. It was a little ritzy over there and there were a lot of stuck up people, and we were trying to get away from that, so we all hung out. It was John Aires, Dan Heyman, Bob Umbel, Tim “Puker” Whistler and Richard “Wiggy” Austin. Puker rode a board that said PPP for park, pool and pipe. We called him PPP – poor, pissing puker. The Puker name came from the fact that he did some super sick tricks. You could almost puke watching him, because it made you sick. It was like, “That’s sick, hombre! I can’t believe you pulled that.” They called me Sketchy back then.
[Laughs] I wonder why.
When Cedar Crest got made, we were pumping some big airs. That thing was so solid compared to all of the splintery ramps that we rode.
Tell us about the evolution of Cedar Crest.
Well, we had a ramp back in Gaithersburg, and then we heard that Micro’s buddy owned this million-dollar golf course, and the guy’s dad said, “Build whatever you want to skate.” So they started building the ramp. We wanted to be part of it because we heard it was going to be mega. Then we heard it was metal. I’d never heard of a metal ramp. I’d heard of aluminum ramps, but not metal. There was this ramp called the Sign ramp made out of a bunch of highway signs, but it was dented. They were planning to build this huge mega steel ramp. We were like, “No way.”
Micro was the man that was managing to have that thing fabricated and built. Was he on the cutting edge of building ramps back then?
I think that’s when he started. He had a ramp or two before that though. He was on the Annandale crew. We skated there weekly. He built that with another guy that has dreadlocks and lives in California. He was ripping. That was Micro’s best buddy, Mike Kresky. That was the Annandale crew. It was this guy named Mark Hooper whose family owned the country club. They built that ramp and we started going there. You would not believe how much better we got just by riding that thing. Since it was metal, you knew when you slammed, you weren’t going to mess your knees up on splinters, so you could try all these new tricks. Your pads would just slide.
When you were riding metal, how blown away were you when you first started dropping in?
When you dropped in the first time, it had pipe coping and then we realized we needed coping, so we butted the coping together and bolted it down. It was good for six months and then it got super chunky and you had to power over that shit or replace it. Now we’re back to why they called me Sketchy. I used to pump big airs at Cedar Crest and I used to come in and hit my back wheels, and sometimes my trucks, and pull it off. They’d say, “Oh man, that was sketchy.” Later on, The Toke Team would go to see Fred Smith and get tattoos. We’d go up to Providence and skate and see Fred in his little office. After my first Toke Team tat, I wanted to get my initials for some reason on my lips. He was like, “Okay, I’ll write your name.” It seemed to take longer than it should have, so I was like, “What the hell are you doing?” He was like, “Oh, instead of writing your initials, I’m writing your name.” I was like, “Okay.” I was halfway passed out from drinking from some bottle of something. Then I looked in the mirror and he had written “Sketchy.” I was like, “What the fuck? I didn’t ask you to write that.” He said, “You told me it was okay to write your name.” That was my second tattoo. It’s still there on my lip. It’s super sketchy too because the “y” is faded out. It’s a sketchy tattoo. It’s like Losi. That was the only other guy that I saw hanging up on really big tricks and making it. All of those guys used to come visit that ramp. It was so sturdy and you could pump airs. Magnusson and Blender came out there too.
Tell us about the pros and the sessions you saw at that place. You had Reese Simpson, Chris Miller…
Chris Miller came out a couple of times. Reese Simpson was there with the Losi team. We had this house that we owned out there in the middle of nowhere, but it was the closest place to live if you wanted to skate the ramp. I used to live out there. That’s where all the guys from California would come because they had heard about the ramp. They’d drive all the way across the country to skate that ramp. Blender was the funniest dude. He would scribble on this piece of paper. I’d be there just rolling in and rolling out all the time. He would say, “What’s wrong with you? You’re really hyper today.” I’d say, “Yeah, I am. I’m having a good day. I’m just rolling in and out.” I’d be standing on the deck and then just roll in and surprise people.