P.D. of Skull Skates

P.D.

PETER DUCOMMUN

INTERVIEW & INTRODUCTION BY JIM MURPHY

PHOTO BY DYLAN DOUBT

In the Emerald City of Vancouver resides a certain skate shop dedicated to the color BLACK and it calls itself SKULL SKATES! The man who heads this crew is the one and only PD, whose story and travels are covered here in this interview! There aren’t a lot of privately-owned skate companies anymore, so it’s great to see and hear how Skull Skates has survived since the ‘80s and is still completely relevant from Vancouver to Japan and the USA. Having a guy like Bill Danforth involved helps too! It’s all about the attitude and keeping things punk, so check out what PD has to say!

Yo, P.D. What does P.D. stand for?
P.D. is my initials and it stands for Peter Ducommun.

Where were you born?
I was born in 1962 in a little place called Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. When I was eight, my pops had the good sense to move the family out to Vancouver Island.

What was Saskatchewan like growing up?
Saskatchewan is cool. It’s a really great spot to visit, just not the best place to live. It’s cold, snowy, windy and flat and it’s great. Lots of interesting people live on the prairies, but you get spoiled when you’re on East or West Coast. There’s something about being close to the water. In Saskatchewan, there’s ice fishing and snowmobiling. It’s flat prairie land. I got into bicycles as a kid, but it took me until I got to Vancouver Island to discover skateboarding.

So you’re eight years old and you go to Vancouver Island. What was that change like?
Well, I was a dumb kid, so it seemed a lot better, but other than that I wouldn’t know. There was one interesting point. My little sister and I got skipped ahead two grades in school because the Saskatchewan educational system is more advanced than the one in British Columbia.

I’ve never understood British Columbia. How is that different from Saskatchewan?
In Canada, we have provinces, instead of states. British Columbia is the province that’s located on the West Coast and the next province is Alberta. Alberta is where all the oil money is right now in the tar sands. The next province from there is Saskatchewan, in the middle. It’s a long ways to get to ocean in either direction. [Laughs] I’ve never been a surfer, but there’s something primal about the ocean. They say that life forms came out of the saltwater and that makes some sense to me. In a province like British Columbia, we’re on mountain ranges that plunge into the ocean. It’s a pretty crazy, great spot to be.

“EVEN THOUGH WE’RE IN CANADA, OUR HERITAGE IN SKATEBOARDING ACTUALLY STRETCHES BACK PRETTY FAR.”

When you were a kid and you got there, were you digging the whole new scenery thing?
Yeah. My pops is really into fishing and so a good day for me as a kid was to go with my pops out on the boat. On the way out to the fishing spot, we’d set crab traps on floats and go out and catch salmon and jig for red snapper and then we’d scoot back in and grab our crab traps. We’d pick oysters, mussels and clams from the beach. We embraced the coastal lifestyle. We’d have big cookouts with raw oysters, clam chowder, baked salmon and fried halibut. We went off with that because it was a whole different lifestyle.

As a little kid, did you get into skateboarding and BMX at the same time?
I was asking my dad recently how I got so crazy about bikes and was always going fast and having fun and eating shit and getting back up and laughing and stuff. He told me that when I got my first bike, I was four years old, but I wasn’t having any training wheels. He said, “You just crashed and burned until you could pull it off.”

No use for training wheels.
My first memory of bikes is banana seat bikes with the high-rise handlebars. We would do skids and wheelies and jump them and make them into choppers. I got in some shit one time because I had taken a chrome shower curtain rod out of my Pop’s camper trailer and cut it out to make fork legs for my bike. We went from that custom style of motorcycle choppers to making them like motocross bikes and putting heavier parts on them. You couldn’t really buy a pre-made BMX until the late ‘70s. Skateboarding came along in 1974, shortly after the urethane wheel became popular.

What was the skate scene on Vancouver Island?
There was no scene. My connection to skateboarding was my brother who was ten years older than me. He skated in the ‘60s when it was clay wheels. He had this company with iron-on t-shirts of the disco chick and The Fonz and that kind of shit. He’d go to California to get the iron-ons and he said, “You should check out skateboarding. It’s pretty rad and now they’ve got these urethane wheels.” I’m like, “Cool. Yeah, I’m down.” If I could get hurt and go fast, I was in. We went to this toy store in the mall called Toys and Wheels. It was a chain store and they didn’t sell skateboards. They sold parts. You had to ask the people working there for the skateboard parts. They’d pull out plastic trays from under the counter and in the compartments would be loose ball bearings, cone nuts, hangers, cushions and urethane wheels. We had to buy bits like that. We’d go to my dad’s lumberyard and scrounge a piece of mahogany and cut out a crooked ass shaped board. I took my first ride, and we put the trucks on backwards because my brother couldn’t remember which way they went. I ate shit and he was laughing.

[Laughs] What kind of trucks were they?
They were Sure-Grips with the little “SG” on them. That’s right before the ACS-430s came out, because the ACS-430 was almost the same truck. It was a hair wider with more of the square-shaped hanger on it.

Did you run the screws off the top of the wood?
No. We had our shit together enough to get the right length screws, but the trucks were mounted off to one side and all crooked. It was total caveman style. Even if they worked, they were far from adequate.

Were they turning at all?
You could carve like crazy on them. They turned good, but my brother didn’t know how to adjust the truck tension. I was one of those inquisitive people, so I would take shit apart and see how it worked. I figured out truck adjustment and cranking them harder. I had to figure that out because there was no real reference point. It was trial and error.

Was there ever a point where you said, “Okay, I’ve got a skateboard. Now I have to build ramps to ride or were you fully riding street?
Our first ramp was a wedge. We’d eventually gotten to see the magazines and the early stuff we saw was not pool riding. When you’d see somebody riding a transition, it would be a ditch or something with a 45-degree angle. When we started making ramps, that’s what we would make. It was a good standard ramp for us as kids. Eventually, I met some kids that skateboarded and our standard ramp became a 4×8 sheet of plywood. We’d lay it on its side at a 45 degree angle so you hit it and do a carve kickturn. When we got more daring, we’d lean it the opposite way so that the four-foot wide part would be on the ground and then you would ride eight feet up. By the time you got to the top of the ramp, you might be four feet off the ground, which was crazy. When we did finally start to see pool riding in the magazines, we didn’t know how to build transition, so we’d take a wedge and add another wedge on top of that so you would have one wedge come off the ground and another wedge half way up.

You kept building it out.
My first experience with a tranny ramp was when I built a four-foot wide, eight-foot tall transition ramp in my wood shop class. It was ribbed out, but we didn’t know how to do radial, so it was still wedge at the bottom and at the midpoint it had some radial tranny and went to vert. We didn’t know shit about putting a pencil on a string and making a proper radius curve. We had the wedge mentality.

How did that thing ride?
The first time I hit it, I got up to the lip and the thing tipped over and I ate shit so hard off the back of it. We realized we needed angled supports from the back to keep the thing from flipping over when we hit the lip. That first ride the whole world fell out from under me. It was shocking.

[Laughs] At that point, you had a somewhat legit board with urethane wheels, right?
By that time, it would have been Fibreflexs, early laminated Santa Cruz five-plys and Logan Earth Skis. My set up was what T.A. was riding. Even early on, we were influenced by what we’d see in the magazines. The next bomb set up to follow was the first edition Alva laminate with the Mid Track Trackers and the C65 Green Kryptos. That was the shit.

That was the cut out grip tape on the side?
Yeah, that was the first one that came out with the split fountain screen under the grip and it had a navy blue logo on the bottom. I rode the 30” with the navy blue logo and my little sister rode the 27” with the red logo on the bottom.

So your parents were cool the whole time you guys were building ramps? They were stoked?
My parents have always been supportive of everything we’ve ever done. I was very lucky, but I ended up being a high school dropout that owns his own skateboard brand.

How did that happen? What was the evolution? Concrete parks started blowing up in the ‘70s. When did it hit in Vancouver?
That shit was really early. We have different liability laws in Canada like, “We’re going to build a skatepark. If you smash your head in, it’s your own fault. You shouldn’t be in the skatepark if you don’t know what you’re doing.” It’s different than the way that U.S.A. laws are written. The first skatepark in Vancouver was built in 1978 in North Vancouver, which is close to the mountains downtown. The next one was built in ‘79 and it’s out in East Vancouver. Both of those parks are still standing today and are still sessioned heavily.

Who built those?
The municipality of North Vancouver built Seylynn Bowl.

How did they know how to build something good? Were skaters involved?
They had this guy named Nelson Holland design it. There’s a video of him where he talked about the curves of the snake run being like the curves of a beautiful woman. It’s awesome. It’s a snake run into a bowl, and it’s still a completely functional design to this day. You can ride down the snake run, carve through the bowl and pump back up over the hips and keep going forever, so he definitely did a good design.

It was all shotcrete, right? No plaster?
Yeah. Then China Creek got built. China Creek is the spot where the Jaks Team contest happens every year.

What do they have there?
They have two bowls. One is called the Bathtub, which is a rectangular reservoir with rounded lips and then they have one called the Tea Cup, which is like a miniature keyhole with a more square grind-able lip. What’s cool is, even though we’re in Canada, our heritage in skateboarding actually stretches back pretty far. I think it’s a big deal having the municipalities actually support kids and build skateboard parks. In those days, it wasn’t a common thing in the United States. In the ‘70s, private skate companies generally built the skateparks and charged you to get in and made you wear your safety gear. Here they built the shit and people could just come and rip it.

I think it’s impressive that a lot of those parks still stand today and they didn’t get bulldozed, whereas in the States they all turned into parking lots. Do you think that’s a testament to the parents of Vancouver and Canada supporting it?
I think it’s a couple things. The cities are pretty progressive and supportive of things, even though they did try to bulldoze China Creek a few years ago. We’ve got a skateboard coalition that was instrumental in getting a lot of the parks built in the last 15 years and they were a major force that opposed the destruction of the park. The reason that they wanted to destroy the park was a budgetary thing. There’s a weird thing with parks where money gets allocated and if they don’t do something impressive with it they might get passed up the next time the money comes up. They had drawn up this big elaborate plan to revitalize the park and the new plan didn’t include a skateboard park. I don’t think they understood how much use that park got and what an incredibly good investment it was. They found out pretty quickly through the actions of the coalition and other people who came forward and said, “You can’t pull this out.” In Canada, we still have a system where people can participate in the democratic process. In a case like China Creek, that’s proven pretty clear. If the city says they are going to take it out and enough people say no, then they don’t, which is kind of amazing. I know it happens in other places where lots of people come forward to say, “Look, don’t do this.” And they’re like, “Fuck you. This is what we’re doing.”

“I WANT TO DROP IN AND SEE WHERE MY SKATEBOARD TAKES ME.”

We lost Cherry Hill and the concrete parks in the U.S. in ‘79- ‘81, so I’m impressed that a concrete park could survive in the public realm when skateboarding was dead in the early to late ‘80s.
There are a number of different circumstances that point to why that didn’t happen in Canada. One of them is because of those earliest parks. If those pieces of property were on desirable property that had a large value from a real estate point of view, there’s a good possibility, when skateboarding dipped in popularity, that they may have gotten bulldozed and redeveloped and made into condominiums. No one else is doing anything with that piece of land, so they just let the skateparks be. It’s like a tennis court. You don’t build a tennis court and track the popularity in tennis and plow the tennis court if, over a three-year period, you see a little dip in participation. Ideally, you live up to your original commitment when you built the facility. We maintain it and keep it going for when people do want to use it. Otherwise what’s the point of building it?

That’s totally logical. I want you to tell us about your experience because you’re building all of these kinky ramps and, all of a sudden, you get to skate a brand new concrete skatepark. What was that like for you as a kid?
It’s a whole other realm that you enter at that point. The first time we started to really hit parks it influenced me to how I skate to this day. I’ve never had a huge bag of tricks. My deal is the lines. I want to drop in and see where my skateboard will take me. Those first times riding a snake run or riding a couple bowls side by side where you could start to link up runs, it blew my mind. It made me want to just do that shit for the rest of my life. I haven’t been able to put it down since I picked it up. I think that was a turning point where we went from doing these one hit wedge ramps to actually realizing that it’s about putting the run together. You practice and practice and try hard and then you get to a point where you don’t have to try as hard. You can let your board sort of take you. I’ve always loved the challenge of skateboarding, but the biggest stoke for me is getting to that level where you’ve got a bit of an eyeball on what your first couple turns are going to be, but it’s not until you end your run that you know what was going to happen. That spontaneous rush all started for me the first time I rode a proper skatepark.

Were you getting into the mentality of wanting to get sponsored or were you just in it for fun?
Since I was a kid, we looked at people in the magazines and thought they were cool, but I didn’t put it together like I want to be sponsored. It was more, “I want to skateboard.” Skateboarding owes you nothing more than the incredible stoke you can get by doing it and the real point of it is just to do it. The satisfaction of putting in the time was my stoke. Early on, it was learning to bomb hills and not get speed wobbles, and coming to the realization of the way to stop speed wobbles is to relax, which is the most counterintuitive thing when you’re just about to eat shit. To reach that realization without anybody having to show you or tell you, that’s like the pinnacle of life right there. You’re making your way through sketch situations and coming out at the end of it. Calming speed wobbles down and making it to the bottom of a hill, it’s like your adrenalin is through the roof.

[Laughs] Now you’re addicted to skateboarding. Did it get to the point where you’re totally immersed in the magazines? Yes. So you’re seeing Olson coming up. You’re seeing the whole punk rock thing. They’re doing vert contests. Trucks are getting wider. Who did you see in the magazines and identify with?
For me, it’s always been Tony Alva. He’s the dude who went, “You know what, I’m not going to ride for Logan anymore. I’m going to make my own shit.” When I came up with Skull Skates, it was a direct influence from Alva. That dude is rad because he’s doing his own shit and he doesn’t give a fuck what anyone thinks. He’s kind of crazy and he goes a bit nutty, but he’s just doing his shit. He doesn’t care and that was very impressive to me. When I saw T.A., his style impressed me and encouraged me to do my own shit. Plus, I felt this urge to design and ride my own shit. When you talk about Olson and punk rock, we had a punk rock scene early here in Vancouver. We had amazing bands here like DOA and the Subhumans. I can remember going to punk rock shows with my skateboard and punk rockers were vibing me out like,” That’s a toy. What are you doing bringing that in here?” I was like, “Fuck you. That’s how I got here and that’s how I’m getting home. This is not a statement. It’s purely a utilitarian thing.” When we saw Olson get Skater of the Year and stick his finger in his nose, we were like, “Yeah!” We assumed it was happening everywhere because it was happening here. The whole thing of skaters and punk rock is the intensity of the music. That’s really nice to me. It helps me with the activity the same way surf guitar totally matched sidewalk surfing.

The Ventures.
It was Dick Dale and all of that good shit.

When did you start Skull Skates?
We started the shop in ‘76.

What was the shop called?
It was P.D.’s Hot Shop, which were my initials. That was never my idea. It was my brother’s idea. My older brother, who got me started skating, started the business side. What happened was that I’d been getting lists from my friends going, “Oh, your brother is going to California again. Get him to pick me up some OJs and Trackers.” We realized people wanted this shit and couldn’t get it, so we started importing goods from California and selling them here. The connection for me was that we had been in contact with Wee Willie Winkels, because he’s from Ontario. We knew that he was working with Lonnie Toft and producing Sims boards. He eventually produced all those Alva boards. He’s made boards for tons of different people out of Eastern Canada, so we’d go with him and do runs of our own shit. By ‘78, we were doing Skull Skates.

Wait a minute. Wee Willie Winkels was producing Alva decks and shipping them to the West Coast?
He was making Alva boards and Sims boards. He was shipping them to those dudes and then they were shipping them all around the world.

I thought the Alva boards were made in California?
No. Wee Willie Winkels in Ontario made the first laminated maple skateboards. The connection there was that Wee Willie Winkels was a skateboarder. His pops was pretty well off from making laminated maple furniture. Willie was this skateboarder and everything was wedge kick. Everyone was doing wedge kick, so Lonnie Toft and Winkels created the first laminated maple skateboard decks. Willie was on fire there for a bit because everybody was coming to him. Wedge kick was over at that point because the laminated shit had this snappy flex to it. It was lighter because it didn’t have that big ass wedge on the back. It was a leap ahead in function. That’s part of how Skull got started so early. We approached Willie to make these little runs of boards for us.

What year was that?
It was late ‘76. Our company was called Great North Country Skateboards. We ripped off the Town & Country Surf Design sticker, the yin and yang. It was early sampling, right?

I get it. [Laughs]
I was stoked on it, but I realized we had to come up with something original, so I carved this skull out of my grip tape with an X-acto blade. My brother saw it and said, “That’s a cool skull. We should make a new logo and use that.” I said, “Oh no, dude. I can draw a crazy evil skull all detailed.” He’s like, “No. I think that’s it the way it is right there.” So we used that skull. I put the words Skates under it because at that time calling it a skateboard was lame if you were cool. You would call it your skate, not your skateboard. You’re going to go skating. We’re not going to go skateboarding. The way the skull logo looks now was exactly how the Skull Skates looked then except to the left of the word Skates in tiny little letters it said “GNC” for Great North Country. We did a few little Skateboarder ads and kids started writing us letters addressed to Skull Skates instead of Great North Country. We realized everybody saw us as Skull Skates, so that’s what we called it. That’s how we evolved.

“SKATEBOARDING OWES YOU NOTHING MORE THAN THE INCREDIBLE STOKE YOU CAN GET BY DOING IT.”

So you started the shop when you were 16?
Yeah, but my brother was 26.

He said, “Let’s start a skate shop.”
Yeah. When we opened the first shop, he could sign a lease and write checks and I couldn’t. At least, I didn’t think a 16-year-old kid could do that. That was another reason I got in so early. I had my older brother handle that side of things and that left me free to be creative, to design and to skate.

You had your own skateboard company and P.D.’s Hot Shop so when skateboarding blew up in the late ‘70s, you must have been selling tons of shit.
We owned Canada pretty much. If you bought a skateboard during that time, there’s a pretty solid chance you bought it from us. You could mail order from the magazine from Val Surf and Kanoa Surf. Those were great ads by the way, where you would see all those complete boards. You’d see the Kent Senatore PPP model built with Kryptos and Trackers and it would just blow your mind. You would drool over that shit. It was like skateboarding porn. Some people would do mail order, but it was daunting. It wasn’t like you could point and click on an icon and add it to your cart and pay by Paypal. It was a process. I think people felt more comfortable with someone in the same country.

Did you drop out of high school to run your shop?
I dropped out. I made it to the first couple months of grade eleven. Since grade eight, I’d felt that they weren’t really teaching anything I wanted to learn. I would not encourage kids to drop out. I’m not trying to say that’s cool. Reading, writing and arithmetic are incredibly crucial for everybody. I just wasn’t learning shit at school and I was learning so much in the real world. You learn how to design something and have it produced and what it costs and how to get it shipped and how to package it and invoice people. Those are all pretty basic things, but it seemed a lot more practical than the things I was being taught in school.

Were your parents supportive or skeptical?
Oh, I planned a meeting with my parents and my counselor. I had this big pitch like, “Here’s the thing. I feel like I’m learning more at the shop and I’m not learning anything here.” I did this big speech and I held my breath waiting for them to talk me out of it and my folks were so awesome. They were like, “Okay. Cool. Sounds good. I guess we’re outta here then.” We got up and left the counselor’s office.

What did the counselor say?
The counselor was dumbfounded. He was ready to tag-team me and try to talk me out of it, but my folks were like, “Yeah, sounds good. Run it.”

They must have been proud that you had the balls to do something like that and the intelligence to pull it off.
For my pops, it was more like he knew that I wasn’t afraid of working. To him, that’s the most important component. If you’re determined to make shit happen, you can learn what you need to learn to make those things happen. I don’t even know if they were necessarily that impressed or thought I was even that intelligent. I think they probably recognized that I wasn’t. Being self-employed, you work long hours, seven days a week and you have to get up every day and make shit happen. I think that they saw that I was up for it.

Through the late ‘70s, skateboarding is blowing up, but it’s like a catch 22, right? I mean things are going good in your shop but you want to go skate and all these killer skate places are being built, but you can’t take off for a couple weeks and go ride, right? You’re chained in there.
The whole touring thing was never really a big part of it. I was lucky enough that we always had spots. There would be a ramp or a ditch or a big curb somewhere. I’d just do my work and my play in the same day. I’m fortunate. In Vancouver, we can do it like that. I can get up early in the morning, get a bunch of my administrative duties handled when I’m focused and there’s nobody bugging me. By midday, I can check in with my coworkers and then I can go skimboarding and bike riding and skating. In the evening, if I feel like doing a bit of design work after I’ve wound down from a day of ripping around outside then that’s what I do. I think I’ve always done it like that. Make every day count. Get some shit accomplished and then go out and have fun too.

Well, you had the hottest shop in Canada. Did you have pros coming through?
Olson reminded me of this a couple days ago of how we had brought him and Tony Alva up in 1980 to this big contest and we had them come out in this stretch limo. It was the Pacific Coliseum, which is this big venue with a polished concrete floor and bleachers. My brother is a genius that way too. He eventually got into show business and he knew how you could stoke people out that are beyond skateboarding. Maybe they’re not thinking about skating yet, but you’d get them so stoked that they’d want to skate too. So we had this big black limo, and right away the lights get turned out in this big place and everybody’s tripping. All of a sudden, this big black stretch limo rolls in with the four-way flashers going and my brother starts doing this hyped up crazy introduction through the microphone. “Ladies and gentleman, from Seal Beach, California, Steve Olson! And from Santa Monica, California, Tony Alva!” He was yelling all this shit and then the lights come on and Olson and Alva jump out of this limo and start throwing Alva buttons at kids. It was the sickest thing because the whole place erupted and they didn’t even skate. They just hung out with these kids. We did skateboard after the event, but nobody took pictures.

The event was just Olson and Alva hanging out?
It was a National Skateboard Contest. There was one of those big old wedge ramps where you’d come down and do slalom and then there was the high jump. There was barrel jumping and freestyle, but there was nothing there. There were no portable vert ramps yet. There were ramps in kids’ yards and there was a big public ramp called the Nelson half pipe ramp downtown. That’s where we ended up skating with about eight other people and not a single photograph or footage exists of that. Around that time, we took a trip to California and I remember bumping into Brad Bowman and Steve Olson at Big O. We ended up going back to Olson’s house, and those were some of the most fun times. It’s not even necessarily the skateboarding, but the whole culture around it. We went to California a bunch. We’d go there and skate Marina. The Dog Bowl was amazing.

Who’d you skate there with?
I remember seeing Christian in the Upper Keyhole and the Brown Bowls and we would skate the shit out of everything. I loved the banked slalom area and the Brown Bowls. I didn’t skate the Upper Keyhole that much, but I loved the Dog Bowl. I’m goofy footed, so I love going frontside over the hip and that shallow end was so fun. You could get so many lines going. I remember going there when Ivan Hosoi was the manager of Marina. There were some crazy times, and some fucked up stories.

Give me a fucked up story.
My brother is a pretty outgoing dude and he would just roll up and go, “Hey, we’re from Canada. You’re Tony Alva. I want to meet you.” He’d be super forward with people. So we go in the parking lot and Wes Humpston, Shogo Kubo and Jimmy Plumer were in the back of this van, and my brother cracked open the door and this gust of wind blows in and blows all this cocaine all over the place. [Laughs]

[Laughs] Whoa. Were they pissed or what?
They were pissed, but my brother was a gnarly dude, so he was like, “Don’t talk to me like that.” It was super funny shit.

[Laughs] Classic.
We hung out with Jimmy Plumer a bunch and he was an awesome dude. It was amazing to meet these famous people, but we didn’t care. It was also amazing to meet some local kid who’d never had a shot in a magazine who was awesome and friendly and maybe he ripped. We didn’t fan out on people. We were psyched on a lot of people. It’s great to meet someone who may be famous and talented and rips, but it’s great to get down with anybody who is also down.

“IF YOU’RE THE MAYOR OF A CITY AND YOU DON’T HAVE A SKATEPARK, YOU BETTER GET ON IT BECAUSE YOUR REP IS GOING TO GO IN THE SHITTER. IT’S NOT LIKE YOU CAN GET AWAY WITH NOT HAVING A SKATEPARK ANYMORE.”

Were you freaking out because you’d see your idols but then you’re hanging out with them casually? I mean you’re at Olson’s house.
It seems crazier now than it seemed then. I don’t think I fully understood it. I just thought it was a normal thing. I thought if you wanted to go meet those people and skate those spots, you’d just go do it. It didn’t seem like a super big deal. I was so revved up on skating too. As much as I’d be stoked to meet those dudes, I would almost be more stoked to just skate those spots.

Did people in California understand that you were Skull Skates?
The logo was always a good foot in the door because everybody really seemed to dig it. Now you’ve got lots of skateboard brands with a skull in their logo. At that time, Dogtown was using skulls, but primarily as an additional design element. Alva’s paintbrush logo was gnarly and Powell wasn’t making skulls yet. Powell had the Quicksilver board. The Skull Skates thing definitely had some impact and it was sort of our calling card. The logo somehow gave us credibility. It was weird. There was a Marina contest in ‘81 and there’s this amazing picture that Ted Terrebonne took of Polar Bear doing an ollie. It was an airborne slash over the lip frontside into the shallow. There’s this great picture in Skateboarder and there’s a Skull Skates banner hanging in the back. It shows up in a bunch of footage and pictures from that contest. The banner is in this prime spot, but the funny part is that it was not a Skull Skates banner to begin with. It was a Sims banner and Sims had paid $600 to have the banner put up. I’m sure they had people riding in the contest, but Tom Sims wasn’t there. So my brother, being this gnarly dude, rolls up to Jimmy Plumer or someone and says, “Hey, dude, you’re in the contest and you have access to this zone where I can’t go. I’m not really feeling that Sims banner. If I give you $50 cash will you go replace that Sims banner with this Skull Skates banner?” [Laughs]

No shit! [Laughs]
That’s how I ended up getting in the magazines. It was a full backdoor deal. You couldn’t have pulled it off trying to put it over somebody from the neighborhood, but nobody got worried when they saw the Sims banner coming down. No disrespect to Tom Sims. I think Tom Sims is awesome as hell but, in those times, it was combat out there. There weren’t big budgets to advertise and you needed to get your shit out there somehow.

$50 went a long way back then.
Indeed. We saw it as guerilla marketing. At the end of the day, you’re trying to get your brand out there and establish a presence. We were like, “This is our shit and we want to get a banner up so a bunch of people are going to see it.”

FOR THE REST OF THE STORY, ORDER ISSUE #72 BY CLICKING HERE…

P.D.

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JUICE MAGAZINE | 319 OCEAN FRONT WALK #1, VENICE, CA 90291 | (310) 399.5336 | [email protected]
Juice is an interview magazine featuring skateboarding, surfing, art and music. Since 1993, Juice has been independently owned and dedicated to the core. Juice Magazine specializes in coverage of core skateboarders, surfers, musicians, skatepark builders, artists, photographers, rock n roll, metal, hardcore, pools, pipes & punk rock. Keep Skateboarding A Crime.
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© 1993-2018 Juice Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced by any means; electronic, mechanical, photocopy, or otherwise without the prior written permission of the copyright owner, photographers, writers, or artists named herein. Trademarks mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners.