JUICE MAGAZINE DOGTOWN CHRONICLES
INTERVIEW WITH SKIP ENGBLOM
INTERVIEW BY STEVE OLSON
Welcome to our series of articles about the Zephyr competition team and the “DogTown and Z-Boys” documentary. The first series of the DogTown Chronicles began in issue 52 featuring interviews with the original Zephyr shop owners, Jeff Ho, Craig Stecyk III and Skip Engblom. In issue 53, Juice talked to Zephyr team riders Stacy Peralta and Bob Biniak. Issue 54 featured Z-Girl Peggy Oki and Z-Boys – Wentzle Ruml IV and Jay Adams. Issue 55, Juice Magazine talked with Zephyr team riders Paul Constantineau, Tony Alva and Shogo Kubo, as well as DogTown documentarian Glen E. Friedman. Issue 56, Nathan Pratt tells his side of the Dogtown story. Issue 57, Allen Sarlo gives his perspective on the documentary and the classic style of The Z-Boys – the ultimate instigators of aggressive surfing and skating. This series of articles has generated plenty of controversy and proves, in fact, that history does repeat itself…
Where are you?
Right now I’m in Hawaii looking at a bunch of chickens and pineapples and shaping some boards.
Tell me about your involvement with the Zephyr team.
I owned the company along with Jeff Ho and Craig Stecyk III.
What year was that?
We started in the winter of 1971. We had a factory in West Los Angeles where we were making surfboards, but we didn’t have a retail store yet. And I was also working for this other company called Blue Cheer on the side. Our dealer in Santa Monica at Select Surf Shop was going out of business because he was getting a divorce, so he asked if we wanted to take over his space. That’s how we got the shop and became retailers.
When did you first start skateboarding?
When I was seven or eight. I used to take the handles off scooters and ride those around. Then I had a friend whose old man was a famous roller derby skater and he would let us go to the roller skating rink to buy the old truck assemblies and wheels. We’d take them and build skateboards. They would fall apart pretty quick, but we’d just take them apart and reassemble them.
“THEY ALL HAD NATURAL ABILITY. THEY WERE NATURAL SKATEBOARDERS.”
You’ve been skateboarding a long time.
Yeah, my first job in the industry was at this place called Specialized Products. They made water skis and coping. They were subcontractors for Makaha.
Remember those skateboards with the branding iron?
I used to brand those boards after school everyday; it was my first involvement with chemicals.
Were you selling your boards?
The first board I ever sold was to a friend of mine named Danny Woody. He came by to go surfing and he saw the board and asked if he could buy it. I sold it to him for one dollar. I guess I was already a capitalist.
When did you meet Stecyk?
I met Craig in 1966 at Pismo Beach. We were surf friends all through the ’60s.
Then you had the retail shop and you guys were making surfboards?
Yeah, and Jay Adams comes in one day and he’s on our surf team and he’s like, “Look at these wheels. These are great.” They were the Cadillac wheels and they would go over anything. Jay says, “You ought to start making skateboards and my dad, Kent, can help you out.” Then Kent came in, and he and Jeff came up with a shape and it was really good. It had that natural rock to it like the Hobie. That was what made the Hobie so good. The Bahnes weren’t worth shit. They were uncontrollable and they would flex out and throw you into the street. Jeff started making the Zephyr skateboards to introduce at the Del Mar contest, and the skate team went in to full training.
Once we decided to have a team, we went into full training. It would last three or four hours after school. We were into it. We spray-painted all these slalom courses different colors on the street on a couple of hills. We’d put a look-out at the top of the street and practice. After school, the kids would come and help out at the shop and then practice on the slalom course until it was almost dark.
Yeah, so we went to Del Mar fully prepared. It was take no prisoners. We just knew. We were pissed – the judges cheated us. They didn’t even know what they were looking at. There was no way that anyone beat us that day, but they couldn’t let us win because the people that sponsored the contest were the big skateboard manufacturers. They gave us third or fourth place. Peggy won first place, though, in the girls division. Peggy could go downhill quicker than half the team.
How did you pick the team?
We had the basic team with Tony, Jay, and Nathan Pratt. There was a guy named John Baum and he surfed and skated really well but he hated contests, so we added Paul Cullen. Alan Sarlo had a thing where he didn’t skate on Mondays or Fridays. He just skated the slalom contests on Saturday. One time he advanced over a bunch of the guys in this one heat and he went to the judge and said, “Do you lose points for going over the cones?” And the guy said, “No.” This was when they had the street cones bolted down to the pavement. Sarlo comes down and plows right over the last two cones and stuck his hand out and beat the other guy. He stood up after he won and looked at the other guy and said, “You lose.” He was like Arnold Schwarzenegger. And everyone flipped out. Skateboarding had changed forever.