INTERVIEW BY JIM MURPHY
INTRODUCTION BY JIM MURPHY
PHOTOS BY JOE HAMMEKE
A master of speed lines and style, Omar creatively utilizes every inch of pool coping, roundwall, and platform area and reminds you of why you started skateboarding: because it’s fun. You never know what he’s going to do next because he can do so many liptricks, footplants, handplants, airs and flip tricks through any kind of round wall section. The last time I was at the Pro-tec Pool Party we were on our feet screaming so hard that Omar became a tornatic blur of grinding liptrick assaults. From pools to street to mini ramps to his dominance of vert ramps, throwing out 540s like they were kickturns, Omar has been on the scene a long time and continues to rip concrete at the highest level! It’s great to see concrete parks back on the scene, and its great to have masters like Omar Hassan that ride pools like they should be ridden with speed, style and grinds down to the axle! Skate and destroy!“We all started skating street and vert, which was normal back then. There was no such thing as a street skater and a vert skater. You skated everything. It wasn’t about putting a label on it.”
Yo, Omar, let’s start from the beginning. Where were you born and raised?
I was born and raised in Newport Beach, California.
What year were you born?
When did you start skating?
I was about nine, and then I really got into it and started to learn how to get better. I got my first photo in Thrasher when I was 13.
What were you riding? Were you street skating or did you have transition back then?
I learned how to skate at Upland at the Pipeline. My older brother brought me there. The lady who owned Mad Rats Shorts is Dorfman’s sister, Lou Anne, and she used to give me $5 to come by and help her out. She would silkscreen shorts and I would hang them up to dry. That was my job. I would work for a pair of Mad Rats or $5. My parents weren’t too into my skating, so she signed as my mom at Upland the first time I went there. That was how I got into skating. She had two sons that skated and they were good friends with my older brother. Then Vision Skateboards started and Brad Dorfman was her brother, so I started getting boards from Vision. I was a little skate rat that would get off-print stickers or off-printed shirts out of the trash. I would just dig through the trash. Back in the day there was a little mini ramp in the trees behind Vision, and we had this ramp called the Junk Ramp in Costa Mesa. That’s where I really learned how to skate. It was right in my hood.
Who were the guys you were skating with when you were hanging out at Vision?
I skated with Mark Gonzales a lot. He was one of the first pros that lived in my area. There were kids my age like Skip Prenier and Jose Serta and a bunch of kids that we skated with. Mark Gonzales was one of the first guys who started giving me boards, so I was skating with him and he took me under his wing as far as teaching me how to skate. He lived on Brad Dorfman’s boat in Newport Beach at the time. My grandpa worked at a seafood restaurant and the boat was docked right behind the restaurant, so we’d go to his boat and then we’d go skate around town or whatever.
You guys would go and street skate together?
We would skate all kinds of stuff. We would go to Upland. We would go to Lance’s ramp once in a while when I first started skating vert more. We had this thing called Pay As You Play at Huntington High on the basketball courts. We would bring ramps and bank to walls. That got me into skating everything. Mark had an open mind about all skateboarding and he really liked to skate vert. It wasn’t like today when everybody had skateparks. There was Del Mar, Upland and the backyards. It’s funny to see this new generation of kids at the city parks with their parents. It’s more of a soccer mom mentality now. Back then you had to know the person that owned the ramp and then get heckled. If you were a little grom, they taught you respect by just heckling you. The first vert ramp I skated with Mark a lot was the Fallbrook ramp in San Diego. That was a good one. We had McGill’s after that for a little while.
When you were sponsored by Vision, was Dorfman encouraging you to enter contests?
At first, I was sponsored by Mark. He would just give me stuff, and then he got Paul Hogan on the team. When I was 13, I took my first trip to the Munster Contest. That really opened my eyes to what skating was, seeing all the pros there. I was in the amateur contest and I didn’t know what to expect. That was my first eye opener. I had entered CASL contests, but that was the first time I got to see all the pros in one place. I was like, “Damn, this shit is cool. All these fools are skating and they’ve all got a different look. They all skate for different companies and everyone has different styles. It opened my mind up to what skating was about.
What skaters did you look up to at that point?
I really looked up to Mark Gonzales. He was one of my favorite dudes. I looked up to Hosoi a lot because Hosoi was just a myth to me. Neil Blender was another one I really looked at. He was rad. Ben Schroeder was another guy I thought was rad and then the whole street movement came in really thick. I went through that whole generation of Upland closing, and I always skated vert. Remy and I were really good friends, so we built this ramp. Jimmy Arrighi had this Hellbow ramp, which was one of the first mini ramps spines with hips and all of that. That opened up my mind too because that was the first spine ramp I ever skated.
I remember we were all riding vert and then the mini ramp trend came in. What was it like when you first saw a spine?
I think Jimmy’s ramp was one of the first spine ramps, and that guy Marty Jiminez skated there a lot. I would watch guys like that skate, and Gator was really excellent. I looked up to Gator a lot back in the day. I thought Gator was awesome. We used to skate there a lot and a lot of pros would come there because it was a unique ramp. So I just started watching and learning. One thing I like about skating is all of the different obstacles. A lot of people back then had vert ramps and then it went from vert ramps into mini ramps and then mini ramps started getting extended with hips and spines and quarters. That’s when I actually met Jim Gray and he got me on Blockhead after the Vision thing.
What happened with Vision?
I got a better opportunity to ride for Blockhead and it was cool. Right after I got back from Munster, they sent me to Sacramento to meet everyone. I took a Greyhound bus from Santa Ana to Sacramento. Being a 13-year-old, it was pretty gnarly because there was no parental guidance or anything like that. It was just crazy with all of the different characters on a fucking Greyhound bus. It was a freak show. They had a ramp in Sacramento too, and that was one of the first ramps with a corner. I met Sam Cunningham and Rick Windsor and all of those cats. That was so rad.