Jeff “Ffej” Hedges

Ffej

JEFF “FFEJ” HEDGES

INTERVIEW & INTRODUCTION BY JIM MURPHY

PHOTO BY RANDALL KLINE

Once you learn how to drop in on a vert ramp, you are hooked for life. It’s hard to put into words the feeling you get, but you know once you conquer that fear, a new world opens up to you that you will explore the rest of your life. Take this vert soldier, Jeff Hedges, who got addicted to vert in the ‘80s and is back 20 years later ripping vert all over again! The Ffejster’s smile tells you all you need to know about why he skates and what his motivation is. It’s the comradery of the old and new vert soldiers getting together and having a blast doing something they love regardless of the cameras and hype – so check this interview with a true skater who skates for the love of skateboarding – FFEJ!

 

What’s up, Ffejster?
Wow. It’s been 20 years since I’ve heard your voice.

How have you been doing?
I’m good. How about you?

Good. Okay. Here’s how we start it out: name, rank and serial number.
I am Jeff Hedges, some guy on a skateboard. You don’t want my serial number.

[Laughs] Where were you born, bro?
Redwood City, CA, on the San Francisco Bay Area Peninsula, in 1966.

What was it like growing up in the Bay Area? When did skateboarding hit you?
1973 was the first time I saw a board. They had those Grentec commercials on TV and the next-door neighbor got a board. We borrowed his board and tried to figure out how to do wheelies on a one-inch tail. We used to do barrel jumps and high jumps. We’d set up a pile of junk and put a board at the end of it and we’d jump over the pile of junk and land on the other board. We’d put a broomstick across something to hold it up and we’d do what kids now call hippie jumps.

Did you have a gang of bros skating with you?
This was the neighbor Mike, me, my brother Eric, and another friend of mine, Danny Reynolds. There were maybe four of us. The neighbor guy had an older friend that skated, but we didn’t get to skate with them a lot. Then we got our own boards and started goofing around.

“Smoke bombs, dirt balls and a dead cat went flying. It was crazy. The skating was incredible. I got back up on the deck to see the last of the pro jam and I look down and I see Lance taping maxi pads to his tail. I didn’t know what he was doing. Five minutes later, he’s dropping in with his tail on fire.”

What was going on in ‘79? Was it skateboard parks, or ramps and street?
We were just kids rolling around on skateboards. I hadn’t seen Skateboarder magazine. My parents didn’t have a lot of money, but they did take me to a park nearby in ‘79. My parents were splitting up and I moved further away from the park, so I really didn’t have contact with the rest of the skateboarding world. We just skated around until we found a park by accident.

Which park did you find?
It was Skatepark Victoria, Milpitas Skatepark.

No shit. What did that have there?
It was one of the last of the ‘70s parks. Robert Schlaefli, Fly, had something to do with it. I don’t know how much he shaped it or designed it or poured it, but he was involved with that and Winchester. The snake run there, from all the videos and photos I’ve seen, had to be one of the best snake runs in the world. It was just awesome.

What was it like? Was it all the same depth or did it waterfall?
It started at almost nothing and each hip was progressively a half-foot or foot deeper all the way down the long side of the park, until it got to over head-high. As a little kid, it seemed 10-feet deep. I’m sure it was closer to 7 or 8 feet in the deep end because it cornered around and the short width of the park was one of the old straight half-pipe capsules, no flat bottom deals. The end of the snake run filtered into that and went into the half-pipe.

The snake run platforms were the same level and it slanted down and got deeper?
Yeah. Next to it was a mogul run, with concentric circles that got bigger and bigger. It was the anti-snake run. Instead of being the S, it had two hips opposite each other going down deeper and deeper to about five or six feet deep. There was also a washboard and a clover.

As a kid, when you first pulled up to that, what was going through your head?
We were going to the waterslide, so we had no idea. We see this skatepark and we were all tripping out. We told our mom that we were going to go watch for a while, and we watched the guys skate. It was still operational. All the guys were padded and helmeted up. We were like, “Oh man, we can’t do this. We can’t afford this. Oh well.” So we went to the waterslide and went home, but next time we said we’d bring our boards. Sure enough we did.

Had you ridden any tranny up to that point?
Never. I don’t think we even had a proper bank anywhere. We had sidewalks in the schoolyards that banked up, but we didn’t ride them like a proper bank. We just rode up and down it. We did fly-offs over two or three stairs. We weren’t really popping the tail. We were just flying off and landing.

What kind of board set up did you have when you went to that park the second time?
By the time we found that park, I had already gotten my good board. Up until then, it had been the fiberglass boards like the Makaha, with a really short nose and short tail. Then my mom got me a Pegasus board by Gremic at some shop on Pier 39 in San Francisco.

Was that nine or ten inches wide?
No. It was still early for that. This was late ‘79. My mom got me a lower end board because she wasn’t going to spend top dollar on a top board like a Powell Peralta. I didn’t care. I just wanted a bigger better board. This one had a bow to it so in the middle it sagged down between the trucks. It didn’t have a kicktail. The tail and the nose were sort of up. It didn’t have much of a nose and only four or five inches of tail. It was 11 plies thick. It was super thin plies, but there were a lot of them. It had Motobuilt trucks, those square ones. They were no wider than Indy 109’s, the freestyle truck. It had Krypto 70s and Kryptos were so good, fast and smooth, I couldn’t believe it.

What color?
They were the big red flatbacks. It was sort of a conical on the outside edge, off center bearings, because hardly anybody had centered bearings yet.

So you go to the park and were you freaking out about trannies or what?
Well, when we showed up to the skatepark the second time, we were going to the waterslide and we didn’t think we’d get to skate because it cost too much. Dumbly, we didn’t bring our shoes because we didn’t think we were going to ride, but we got there and the place had been closed. The fences had been knocked over and the pro shop was all burned out. There were BMXers all over the place and it was pure anarchy. We said, “Mom, we’re riding. We’ll go to the water slide later.” So we went in there and figured it out. We started at the top of the snake run and played in the little shallow part. We roamed around the whole place. It was killer. It had a keyhole pool that we didn’t dare go in. The pink kidney pool was awesome, but we dared not go in there either. That’s where all the good skaters were.

Was that a Wally Hollyday bowl?
I thought he did the keyhole, but I’m not positive about the kidney. Interestingly enough, Wally did the park here in Fremont that just opened up a few months ago.

Sick. How is it? Good vert?
Yeah, it’s good. It’s a good pool. There are some issues with the tile work and some of the finishing, but it’s a great park. We love it.

Okay, back to Milpitas. You guys were in there cruising around.
Yeah. We were skating barefoot our first time on transition, goofing around, trying to figure it out, not taking it too seriously and just loving it. That was it. We rode that transition, and all we could talk about all day was skating. We got home and mapped our way back there on buses. It took two hours and three buses to get there and we went there almost every weekend that summer until they dozed it. Midway through the summer, it’s 104 degrees and each of us are taking turns in the snake run and almost having heat stroke and then going back to the shade.

“Skating had gotten past the number bibs and non-skaters running contests and then it was just skaters. The contests were run by skaters, skate companies and skate mags and that was it. Skating was much more punk and pure.”

Did any other heavy-duty skaters show up there to ride?
There were some rad dudes there but they mostly hung out at the kidney and the keyhole. One day they said, “Oh man. They just dozed Winchester.” I was like, “What’s Winchester?” That’s how clueless we were. We had found this one park and thought it was the only one on earth. I had just turned 14 and I was just learning to skate transition. Skateboarding was as dead as can be. There was no skateboarding magazine. Thrasher wasn’t out yet. There was nothing. We were in a void, skating by ourselves. We saw some guys from San Jose and Milpitas skating there, but we didn’t know them. They were better skaters and bigger kids. We’d talk to them sometimes, but we never really connected with anybody. Then the park was gone and we were on our own. We found out that this guy that worked at Gremic skate shop had a mini-ramp made out of wood with banked transitions like a ditch. We were like, “We’ve got to build one of those.” Next thing you know, we built a mini ramp with six-foot transitions, four-foot tall. This was 1980. We were building a mini ramp and they didn’t become popular until later. We got bored with the mini ramp and then we made it vert. The ramp I learned on had six-foot transitions and we added another foot of vert to that and rode that for a while.

A little ego buster ramp. That’s sick.
Yeah. Anytime we saw someone with skate shoes or a board, we were like, “Come ride our ramp!” We found a few other spots. This one kid had a ramp we called the Red Ramp. This kid in Palo Alto painted it red. It was 8-feet wide and it had 12 feet of flat and 8-foot transitions. We got to ride that one a handful of times before it went away. We had a few other random spots, but our ramp was the ramp we rode every day.

At what point did you get into the culture of the magazines?
Palo Alto had a little sports shop called, Palo Alto Sport Shop and Toy World. You’d think that skateboarding wasn’t going to be taken seriously there, but it turns out that Steve Weston, otherwise known as Del13, legendary among the South Bay rippers of the late ‘70s, worked there. He turned us onto Thrasher and gave us a few of the old shop copies. From there, we got a subscription and we were hooked.

Rad.
Del turned us on to the Kitty Pool, one of the most legendary pools in this area. I didn’t get to ride the Los Altos Pool, but I did get to ride the Cathouse. It was incredible. It was a left hand kidney and super tight. It had tall walls and you could do tricks on it. It had aggregate rock deck that came over the edge of the pool as the coping, so it was gnarly to grind. I learned inverts in it. We got our basics down in that pool. We loved it. Del hooked us up good. Later, Gary Hall worked there and he was key to keeping us clued in, but by then we had met Joe Lopes. That’s when it all really turned on for me. When we found Joe’s ramp, we hunted it out. We saw pictures in Thrasher. Remember that one where he’s doing an invert on a trashcan?

Yeah.
There was another one where he’s doing a grind and the dog is trying to bite the board out from under his feet. Those were the first two photos of Joe’s ramp we saw and we were like, “Where’s this? We have to find it.” We never dreamed that we’d find it. Then they had that contest, which was like five pages in Thrasher, talking about where it was in San Leandro. We were like, “Oh fuck. We have to find it.” About six months after Joe’s Ramp Jam, we found the thing.

What was the scene like?
It was still so small that we were all happy to see another skater. When skateboarding was that dead, you’d ride all day long with one or two friends and that was it. It hurt sometimes. You wanted other skaters there to inspire you and take some turns. You can’t take but so many runs in a row.

Oh yeah.
When we went to Lopes, we were working at some ski show in Oakland, so we were looking for it from the freeway. We could see the tarp from the freeway, and we were like, “That’s it. There it is!” So we turned off and drove around the neighborhood until we found the house. We knocked on the door and Joe’s mom answered. She said, “Oh, I’m sorry. Joe is not here right now. He’s at a skateboard contest in San Diego.” He was at Del Mar. We were super bummed because we just wanted to ride that ramp. I said, “Is there any chance we could just go back there and look at it?” We were dying. She said, “Sure. Go ahead.” We go back there and it was incredible. We were looking at the biggest ramp we’d ever seen. It was 20-feet wide with 8-foot transitions and a foot of vert. I don’t know if it had 15’ of flat, but it had to be close to the standard flat. I was blown away. Channels! Aaah!

What kind of coping did it have?
It was split PVC, nailed on, and on one side of the channel, he had a single metal pipe bolted on. It was actually held on with brackets and flexi-tape. Funny enough, we never really thought about the fact that the metal pipe coping might be useful. It took another year or two before I saw metal pipe coping on ramps.

You used whatever you had, broomsticks or PVC…
So we’re looking at the ramp and up comes Vince Rodriguez. Vinny was Joe’s best friend. He was a local and he was Joe’s neighbor. Joe asked him to watch out for the ramp while he was gone. He says, “Hey, what are you guys doing here?” We told him that we knew Joe wasn’t here, but we were just taking a look. He was totally cool. He was like, “Cool. Come back and ride sometime.” I guess Joe’s mom gave us their number because we got in touch with Joe a few weeks later. He’s like, “Yeah sure. Come on out.” From the first session on, Joe was amazing, and, as we were leaving, he’d say, “Okay, see you next weekend.” Joe was the greatest. I’m sure if you hung with Joe for any length of time, you would know what a good host and a good friend he was.

He was totally cool. Back then I knew, after reading Thrasher, that we had the same thing going on here back East. We’d see photos of Caballero and all the S.F. locals at Joe’s ramp. To us, it was like, “Holy shit. They’ve got it going on out there.” That’s when the vert ramp thing started to take off. You’d see Caballero skating at Palmdale.
Yeah. It got big.

Who would you be riding with?
Well, me and my buddy Troy Sliter and my buddy David Cox were there almost every week, riding as often as we could. To us, it was just the local dudes like Bryce Kanights, Tommy Guerrero, Shrewgy, Fish, Livmo Joe, Spock and older guys like Al Asby.

What about the O’Brien brothers?
Corey O’Brien showed up one day with Cab. We were like, “Who are these dudes?” We knew Cab from the mag, but we didn’t know them. They were total vert rippers from San Jose. We were so inspired and so stoked. We got to meet all these dudes and skate with them. I was just a sucky little grom, but I learned what I learned and connected to every part of skating through that ramp. Joe took me to the Lock at Lance’s to skate that and I got my first picture in Transworld from that.

Sick.
I was riding at Lopes’ ramp one day and they were having a BBQ and Fausto was there, and he was like, “Hey, do you want a pair of trucks?” I was riding Indys already, so I was like, “Fuck yeah, I want another set!” Joe tapped me into Santa Cruz because he was getting boards from them. As he was going off to Schmitt, he told them to keep sending me the boards. I officially met them at the Mile High contest and, from then on, I was on Santa Cruz. I just kept getting boards. I didn’t take it too seriously. I was like, “Oh, if you skate good, you can get free stuff. Okay. Cool.”

You were just stoked to get free boards, right?
Yeah. There was no idea of wanting to get sponsored. Nobody talked about it. Joe did because he was connected. You knew he was getting free product and you were like, “That’s awesome.” We just skated and didn’t think about that shit.

When you saw the pros coming through, which were the guys you were respecting? Were you aware of Duane and Salba and that whole deal?
Joe was just so good. We didn’t really know about Duane except from talking to Joe. At Joe’s ramp, after sessions, hanging out, you’d hear about all this stuff. At that time, 1983, I felt like I was born too late. I found parks too late and skating was dead. I thought I missed the whole thing. I was always jealous of the era of Duane and Salba and the early parks. I really wished I could have been riding all that stuff. Looking back on it now, 1980 was a great year.

It kept you hungry.
It was pure and there was none of the bullshit. Skating had gotten past the number bibs and non-skaters running contests and then it was just skaters. The contests were run by skaters, skate companies and skate mags and that was it. Skating was much more punk and pure. The first contest I entered because I couldn’t stand watching. I was sitting on the side going, “What do I have to do to skate?” They said, “You have to enter.” I said, “Okay. I’m entering. What do I have to do? I’m going.” I just wanted to skate.

Was the Mile High Ramp where you entered your first contest?
The very first contest was at this ramp in Mill Valley called the CMP Ramp, the Corte Madre Punks ramp. It was crazy, and Duane Peters, of all people, was judging. He was drunk as a skunk, and yelling and heckling the whole time the guys were riding. When I was taking my run, he was like, “Break your arm and you’ll win!”

[Laughs] What was going through your mind when you saw Duane there?
I knew who he was so I was like, “Oh, man, I want to see this guy ride.” But he wasn’t riding. He was hanging out and, ostensibly, judging the contest and having a couple of beers. I didn’t get to ride with Duane until years later.

After you rode that ramp contest, what were you thinking?
Well, I never had an idea of anything beyond the fact that the contest was fun and the ramp was killer. The next contest after that was the first San Francisco street contest and we entered because we didn’t want to sit on the sidelines and watch. We bashed around on those ramps and Tommy won. To us, it was a funny thing to do, to just goof around on the street like we always do, instead of having a ramp contest. We skated street more than we did ramps, but we didn’t take it seriously. We just did it. We’d slappy a curb.

You had Tommy Guerrero riding the vert ramp and riding street.
Tommy killed vert. I have pictures of Tommy riding Joe’s ramp and this other ramp, Bob’s Ramp. There was another backyard ramp contest and a few guys from down south showed up like Owen Nieder, but mostly it was a bunch of locals. It wasn’t until Mile High that I really started connecting with the bigger scene. We’d only seen the guys that came to Joe’s. By the way, we have some pretty amazing VHS footage that has never been seen by anyone but me, my buddy that filmed it and Bryce. He just digitized it for us and we’re going to send it out and let everyone make their edits and then put them up online. Christian Hosoi showing up at Joe’s and killing it. Of course, you have Cab. We have crazy footage that no one really has seen. Our buddy had a VHS camera that you had to wear on your shoulder and a big box you had to wear on your hip.

That’s so rad. Let’s talk about the Mile High Ramp. I remember, distinctly, the photo of Lance with his tail on fire. Was the Mile High Ramp in Tahoe?
Yep. It was just on the far side of Tahoe City out in the boonies. It was an area that they were going to turn into housing, which they sure enough did. At the time, it was all dirt roads that lead to nowhere. The closest place to the ramp was a 7-Eleven about a half-mile through the woods. We went up a few days before the contest and stayed at Mike Chantry’s house on his floor. He’d wake us up every morning with a Minor Threat tape cranked to 10 because he had to go to work and we’d get up and go skate all day and get used to the high altitude. The thin air up there was hard to get used to in the heat. The first year was a brown ramp. Lance’s was later. That’s when it got wider, Mike Chantry painted it blue. The first year was a Pro/Am open. Everyone skated together. It was one of the earlier jam format contests, so you had your heat and then you skated in a jam. I think they still went in order back then. They weren’t anarchy jams yet. You did your jam session. You got four or five runs in and you made your shit or didn’t. I did okay. I got a picture in Thrasher from it. Bryce hooked me up. Grosso was the only amateur to make the finals.

Who were the heavy pros there?
Everybody was there. Blender was doing inverts. He did an invert and fell over onto the wall behind the edge of the deck and pushed off of it, back into the ramp and landed that. It was everybody: Grigley, Lucero, Hawk, Hosoi, Billy Ruff… All of skateboarding was there. There were 40 or 50 guys entered in the contest. There were maybe 400-500 people watching. It was packed.

Were you feeling pretty competitive or was it just a loose fun vibe?
It was all loose and fun. No one was taking it too seriously. We were taking hits and having beers in between runs. It was a party. The contest was the official reason to go. The reason you were there was for the skating and to have a good time. You weren’t there to beat somebody and you didn’t worry that someone might beat you. You might be kicking your own ass for bailing shit you shouldn’t bail or you might be trying to hype yourself up to stick something you wouldn’t normally stick, but that was about it. That was skating. That’s what you would do in a normal session too. You’re trying to learn and progress. You’re skating with heavy dudes and you wanted to see if you could keep up. You didn’t think about it like, “ Who is going to sponsor me?” It was all for the fun of it.

What were some of the highlights from that weekend session?
Well, it was the early era of Hawk versus Hosoi. This was one of the first Hawk vs. Hosoi contests that I saw. Everybody was watching, knowing it was going to be those two at the end.

Was Tony hanging out with everybody? Was everyone teaming up against Tony or was the vibe totally casual?
I was thinking back on this, after watching the Bones Brigade movie and how much they hyped the Hawk versus Hosoi thing. And, yeah, it was the first thing we all knew and we all had a preference depending on the style of skating you preferred. They were both from SoCal and we were all NorCal skaters. We were cheering for Hosoi because he had those big airs and that smooth style that we thought was the heart of skating. Tricks were becoming a big thing, and we’d heard about the Veribot controversy, but a bunch of new tricks did come out and that caused the old guard to be replaced. They were like, “What is this new shit? Just do the old shit better, higher and faster.” We had the same frame of mind. Go bigger, faster, higher… Don’t spin it and flip it. It’s not that we thought it was bad. We just thought that Christian was better. That’s all it was. It wasn’t a diss on Hawk. I think that’s what changed. At some point, there were some people that did make it a diss on Hawk. Cheering for your friend is one thing. Dissing a guy who just skates differently from you is fucked up. That’s when the egos starting coming in and people started getting more into cliques. That started becoming a problem in the late ‘80s.

We grew up in the backyard scene and saw vert explode. The attitudes of skateboarders changed once you turned pro and there was money on the line.
Yeah. The money started showing up. Skateboarding started blowing up and you’d see skaters coming in and you’d be like, “Are these real skaters or do they just think it’s a thing you can do to get famous or rich?” That’s been a question since the late ‘80s in skateboarding. When I started, there was none of that. There were no jocks. We were the misfits. We were the outcasts. That was the beginning of it. Tony Hawk was hanging out and talking to everybody. There was no super vibe bullshit. Nobody was catcalling anyone other than the good-natured heckling you’d do to your friends. There was no vibe.

“I was skating this empty pond underneath the eiffel tower, looking up. it was blowing my mind. i never have seen any photos or video from anyone else skating that thing.”

Fast forward to the next Tahoe jam. How had things changed at that point?
It got bigger. The ramp got bigger and wider and it had an escalator put on the ramp and that was the first one I ever saw. It was just massive. There were twice as many skaters as the year before. Everyone did take it more seriously. I had been skating for Santa Cruz for a year or two and I was trying harder. I had to do good. There was a separate amateur group and you had to try to make the cut and make your sponsors happy. Even though I knew that, I still didn’t take it that seriously. Maybe that was my big failing. If someone thought you were supposed to do something a certain way, we’d probably not do it like that on purpose, just to not do it. Fuck that. I’m skating for me and not someone else.

Yeah. When you talk about being pro, all of a sudden, you have to think about tricks you’re going to do instead of just charging it and having fun. How did that fuck with your head?
Well, I stayed amateur for years, trying to get better at it. I enjoyed getting sent around to skate places, so I wanted to keep that going. I had gotten it into my head that one day I might turn pro, but if anyone said it to me, I was like, “No. I’m not good enough. I’m not going pro.” If I couldn’t be in the Top 10, then why turn pro? That was my point of view. A bunch of other dudes maybe jumped the gun and turned pro. Maybe it was a good idea for some of them. I saw guys that were still amateurs and not ready to be in the top ten, turn pro and, within a year, they’re pushing themselves really hard and they learned great stuff. There’s something to be said about that way of motivating yourself. I tried writing down the line and doing the line I wrote down because I saw so many people doing that. I saw them doing that same line over and over, but I never could do that. That’s not how I skated. I got to a point where I could link a few tricks together, like, “If I land this air, I can probably do this invert and this air and that grind.” I never really got a set run that would happen the same way every time. Again, that’s not taking it seriously. We didn’t practice. We skated. We were too busy enjoying the act of skating.

Exactly. Back to the Tahoe Ramp 2 Jam, what was that weekend like?
It was just incredible. You can’t believe the scene. This time there were twice as many people in the audience and on the sides of the ramp and in the trees. A hundred yards away there were guys in the trees watching. The sticker product toss at the end went crazy. Smoke bombs, dirt balls, and a dead cat went flying. It was crazy. The skating was incredible. I got back up on the deck to see the last of the pro jam and I look down and I see Lance taping maxi pads to his tail. I didn’t know what he was doing. Five minutes later, he’s dropping in with his tail on fire.

What were you thinking when you saw that?
I was screaming as loud as I could. Everybody was yelling like, “What? No fucking way!” He just blasted. His run wasn’t super long, but he did it just right. He used the whole ramp and his tail stayed on fire the whole way. He did a big lien to tail at the end, and still didn’t put the fire out. It was awesome. The place erupted. It was one of the last runs of the contest. That was the moment. It was so rad. We didn’t have groupies, but there were chicks. Everybody there either knew a skater or was a skater. All the bros were skating together. It was pure skating. It was at the edge. That’s when it was pure. I look at the second Mile High contest as the real blow up of vert skating, and it was the end of the big backyard vert contests. There were a few more after that, but then it became these arenas where they could set up ramp contests and get a bigger audience. You needed an audience if you’re going to get money and TV. They thought they’d get on TV eventually, which they hardly did.

That’s like the contests they did in Virginia Beach. That’s when the NSA came in with the rules. That was Phillips’ year. He was unbelievable. He won that contest.
I flew out to Virginia Beach for one contest and it got rained out. There was a big thunderstorm, so it was gnarly. I did get to ride Glenhaven and V.B. I just didn’t get to skate the contest because it didn’t happen. I didn’t make it out East very much, so I missed out on Cedar Crest. I had no way to get there. I wish I had.

It was so sick. Let’s talk about Texas. You skated the Skatepark of Houston, but you never rode the Dallas Clown Ramp, right?
Nope. Dallas Clown was gone already, boxed up somewhere, I guess. We went out East for the contest in Mobile, Alabama, in the airplane hangar.

Yeah. That was the Hot Tropics, Bill Grimes.
There were six of us. It was me, Keenan, Eric Castro, Bod Boyle, Steve Douglas and Chris Robison. We drove from L.A. straight to Alabama and the only reason we stopped that van was to get gas, take a dump, a leak, eat and get back in the car and go. We changed drivers on the road, so we got there in two and half days. We got to the hotel at two in the morning, crashed out and got up the next morning and skated the contest and then we drove home. On the way home, we stopped in Houston and hit that ramp.

“Grosso said that inverts got overdone and had to die. That may be true, but they’re too good to stay dead.”

So that contest was inside the hangar?
It was inside the airplane hangar. We were goofing around up on those catwalks. It was a blast. That was a cool contest. The whole scene was cool. I got to meet a bunch of the East Coast dudes then. I had met a few of them in Chicago the year before. Chicago was super fun. I won an amateur contest there, so I was super stoked because I had never won a contest against dudes that knew how to skate. I got to meet Blaize Blouin in Chicago and see him skate. Unbelievable. I thought he won the thing. He was so good. To me, style was everything. He had such good style. His style alone won it.

Blaize was a natural.
There were so many good skaters out there, a lot of rad dudes.

Explain the vibe of being on Santa Cruz, because there were a lot of heavy dudes on Santa Cruz. Who were you dealing with at Santa Cruz?
When I first started getting boards from them, it was coming from Tim Piumarta. He was the team manager. He ran everything that wasn’t corporate company crap. He took care of the team and got us boards. He went out and shot that gymnast plant ad. He did the other stupid ad, “Hot Young Blood”. He did the Roskopp ads with the chick bending over. Tim shot those. He did everything. He was also the innovator guy, the technology guy trying to come up with new shit. Tim did a lot. He was awesome. He took care of us and took us to demos around the area. I don’t know who took over later, but at some point, Bob Denike was in there. Later, it was Steve Keenan and Gavin O’Brien. Those were the team guys in the mid to late ‘80s. At first, Keenan wasn’t officially part of Santa Cruz, but they rented the van to Mobile in his name because he was the oldest guy with a license and what they thought was enough responsibility to handle it. Being on the same team with Roskopp and Kendall was insane. The second Mile High was where I met Kendall. I was like, “Oh, he’ll be pro any minute.” I couldn’t believe he was amateur at that first contest. He was so good.

He rips.
Yeah. He didn’t quite stay on the way he wanted to with the tricks he was doing, but if he would have stayed on, he could have won that thing. Gregor Rankin killed it. The way he did his last run …it was just one of those runs. It was the Eye of the Tiger. He had the fire in his eye. He dropped in and methoded everything and came in too low and stuck it anyway and still made another trick on the next wall. It was just one of those runs. That won it for Gregor easily. That whole scene was awesome. Back to Texas. We’re on our way back from Mobile, Alabama, and we picked up an extra, Lucian Hendricks. He hopped in the van, and six guys were already stretching it in the van. A seventh guy was almost the straw that broke the camel’s back. We were all tired. It was a long trip. Crazy shit happened in Mobile. We almost lost Eric Nash out of the back of the van partying one night. There was some craziness. We get to the Houston ramp an hour before closing and I think they were closed, but the lights were still on. One of the local kids was there, and he was all excited like, “Oh, let me show you the ramp!” The Kahuna was the big one, the first one. So he runs out on the Kahuna and starts riding it and he hasn’t even fakied up halfway and he falls and breaks his arm. He fell right in front of us. We were like, “What?” That was a sign, if you believe in such things. That was the sign we should have listened to, but no, we skated for a while. Lucero and Blender were there and they needed to borrow the keys to the van to get a truck tool that Keenan had in there, so he gave them the keys, and they left… with the keys.

Oh, man.
We were at the skatepark now, after closing, and the van, at least, is unlocked, but we can’t go anywhere. We can’t go get a hotel room. We’re stuck, so we tried to sleep in that van. We had to go walking around that neighborhood looking for food. We found a truck stop diner near the freeway. We look in and Lucian said, “I ain’t going in there.” He sees all cowboy hats, and he’s a dark skinned bloke from the U.K. and he’s only heard the stories about America, so he wasn’t going in there. We were like, “Okay, you’re right. Let’s go somewhere else.” We don’t want to have a fight with the locals. So we keep walking down this dark street and, in the distance, is this glowing window. It was Dominos! We go running up to Dominos and the door was locked and they won’t let us in. They were like, “You’ve got to call to order!” We were like, “C’mon man!” I look over and there’s a pay phone. I yelled, “Will you deliver to the pay phone?” They made us our pizza but while we were sitting there we saw a dude delivering pizza with a shotgun. It was crazy. We finally got back to the van and we could hardly sleep. I’m sitting up in the driver’s seat and I see this glow on the tin siding of the skate shop. I was like, “What is that? Did someone leave a fire going in one of the trashcans?” I turn around and the house across the street, directly behind our van, is fully engulfed in fire. This house was going to burn down right now in front of us. I was like, “Yo, dudes, there’s a fire.” They were like, “Shut up and go back to sleep.” I was like, “No, man, this house is burning down.” We all got up and went across the street to see if anyone was in there and get them out. They had a strip of barbed wire across the front edge of their lawn and Douglas, Bod, and Castro all got clipped by it. We go beating on doors and windows and no one is in there as far as we can tell. We had to stand back about three houses down across the street to get away from the heat. The fire truck pulls up and we’re all just standing there. We just put our hands behind our backs because we just presumed, skaters sleeping in a van on the side of the street, they’d at least suspect us. It turns out that there had been a bunch of arsons in the neighborhood over the past few weeks, so they didn’t even trip on us. They just took our statement and left. So then we slept a few shitty hours in the van before we skated the next day.

Welcome to Texas.
We were just like, “Fuck it. Let’s go home.” I went back to Texas again for a couple of the Shut Up and Skate contests. They were super good.

You went back for the Hurricane, right?
Yeah. That ramp was a little bit tighter than the Kahuna. I don’t know what the dimensions were, but it was a huge ramp. Ten-foot transitions on any ramp were giant back then.

I think it was ten and two.
The Kahuna was like 11, which is insane for that year. Nobody built ramps that big. The metal surface was awesome. It was crazy scary, but super fast and solid. The contest was killer. The Texas dudes and the guys that came there from outside of Texas were awesome. Everybody had a great time. It was one of the only pro contests that I placed in. It was a great scene. I always thought the whole Shut Up and Skate thing was awesome, looking back at the contests that Jeff Newton put on. It was all the Zorlac dudes making their scene happen. It was just like Fausto did when he went out to Nebraska and set up the Midwest Melee. He said, “Okay, we’re picking a spot, and making this thing happen.” It always worked when the skaters were making their own scene. It was really a beautiful thing. It wasn’t cocky or corporate. The sponsors were there, but it wasn’t about them. It was about skaters.

The Texas scene was always like that. It never blew up to the point where you didn’t like the vibe. It’s just like you’re saying about the Mile High vibe. Texas is always that, which is killer.
Thinking back, I’m some random kid from across the Bay, and Lopes takes me in and lets me skate and then he took me around to all the different spots. Why were all the pro skaters I met being nice to me? They didn’t have any reason to be nice to me, but it’s because we were all skaters. There was no separation. Everybody was cool and everybody could get in there and ride. You know how it is now that we’re older and you get some friends that come back to skating after not riding for a while and they’re struggling to get a truck on coping, and you’re yelling and cheering for them, because you know what it feels like to get that truck on the coping for the first time in years. Everyone cheered for your success.

Exactly. It’s all about fun.
We had to do it and we had fun, but it was the act of skating and the weightlessness and the back-to-back tricks and avoiding a slam or taking a slam… Take the hipper. It was so awesome.

 

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