POOLS, PIPES AND PUNK ROCK WITH SALBA
INTERVIEW BY MURF
PHOTO BY RHINO
Steve Alba, give me comments on this Memorial Day Jam.
It’s kind of rad; an honor to the veterans of yesterday’s skateboarding battles. It’s trippy, because all these cats I’ve seen and skated with since I was a kid and looked up to as a kid, I actually got to be their peer. And now it’s 25 years down the road and Alva’s going, “Yeah, man, I can’t believe I’ve been skating 25 years, too.” It’s a trip to see all these cats here. I mean you, Rhino and Cholo. Everyone’s got ten-to-fifteen plus years. Anyone who puts ten years into anything is pretty rad, no matter what they do. I’m just kinda honored to be here. It’s just a rad day, a rad bbq, a rad moment, rad history.
Have you ever had a session like this with all these guys together?
No, not in a long time. I skate with Olson still and I see T.A. quite a bit still. You never see Worm. I actually called Strople out of the blue two months ago.
Yeah, tell me about Chris Strople? We saw him here. Where’s he been? What’s he been doing?
He does insurance or the stock market or something like that. That’s what he went to school for. He’s from a pretty prominent family in Sierra Madre, and that particular part of town is really high end. He came from that background but he was just a little rebel kid when he was growing up. He just skated pools and I was really into his style. I used to hang out with Wally a lot. That’s the thing, my part in history is so much radder because I grew up with those guys skating parks with them. And that’s where I got to know them and not only be their friend, but when there was a contest, it was like the Boy Scouts. We’d all go to a contest on the weekend or Strople would have a party. We’d be like ‘I placed fourth at Winchester this weekend’ or ‘I got second at Winchester this weekend’. We were all so close and we all just had so much in common and shared so much history. So, it’s really good to see Chris again. He was one of the best with his alley-oops and rock’n’roll slides. I mean an alley-oop way back then was sick. That’s the whole thing between now and then, now the age of discovery is gone. Then, you were making up tricks as you went along and making up the rules as you went along and that was the beauty of it for me.
What keeps you stoked to keep skating?
I don’t know, it’s just something in me. If I don’t skate, I turn into a crying little bitch. Even my wife sometimes will say, “Go skate, you’re driving me crazy.” I don’t know what it is, I guess it’s a passion. I don’t make that much money. I’d like to make more to help pay the bills, but, hey, if I don’t make money, I don’t care. I like it just for the feeling and the sake of doing it. Skating makes me happy and keeps me happy. You know people are like, you gotta learn to ollie and street skating and I’m just closed down to that kind of shit. My whole thing is to skate a pool or a pipe or some cement. I like to skate ramps too, but I like to skate things that weren’t meant to be skated. That’s the beauty of skating a pool.
Do you think we’re going to have a new generation of kids skating at these parks? When I go to Vans, I never see any kids riding the combi. Do you think this next generation is going to ride the pools?
I see kids that are into it. At least it seems like some of the kids are into it. But I’m partial to seeing more kids that are into my trip too, y’know. I really think the new kids don’t have trannie skills that the older skaters did. And it must be said, if you want to be a well-rounded skater. . . but a lot of them are really closed-minded to vert ramps or pools.
Why do you think that is?
Half of it is because it’s a trend. Half of it is just trying to find yourself when you’re thirteen or fourteen. Trying to find what you’re really into. And that can change from month to month, whether it be music or whatever you’re into that month. It’s not that street skating is any worse or better; it’s just different. We’re all gonna say, ‘hey, you need to learn to ride trannie’ because we can from that era. And I think if you can ride trannie, you can ride anything. And most of the street guys can if they adapt themselves.
When I was young, you didn’t have the option of going to a park and skating a street course. Your option was you dropped into a pool. Now kids have more options.
Well, yeah, you learned on pools, but the way it mostly happened was you learned on banks first, and then pools and pipes. Then the park owners were like, we need to model parks like this, ‘cause that was what was happening at the time. Then it faded and the park thing kinda modeled into mini-ramps, then into big vert ramps. Now it’s more half-and-half but it’s still leaning way more towards street as opposed to pools. And having the Vans Park has definitely brought someone like me out into the public eye more, so people can understand what this is about. People are realizing that the street course is pretty rad, but the combi pool is kinda rad, too. So, I’m proud to be part of the tradition and I’m still skating.
We’ve all been through skateboarding when it goes in waves – like it peaks out and then it totally crashes. What do you think is going to happen next with Vans building all the parks? Is it overkill?
I keep thinking it might happen and in six years, all the corporations will just run out and everyone will be bummed. Planet Earth will be bummed. But at this point, I don’t think that’s going to happen anymore. There are too many kids that are into new ideals, our kids, kids that are younger and hipper to what’s up. Let’s put it this way, it’s hip to be a skateboarder. I mean, you see kids walking around in skate shoes and skate clothes that don’t even skate. We all wanted to be in a punk rock band or a ska or rockabilly band and now kids want to be a rapper or a skater or a rock god. It’s so amazing the amount of skate clothes companies sell. Companies aren’t selling boards really; they’re selling clothes and shoes.
What about the Warped Tour? You’ve been doing that for a while. Where do you see that going?
Well, in a sense, it was just made to capitalize off this thing. Basically, we were just the first people to do it. I mean, I had ideas to use a ramp like that at rock venues for a long time. We actually did it at a show that Golden Voice put on back in ‘93 or ‘94 and they saw that was successful and they said ‘why don’t we do this on a ramp everyday?’ I think it’s pretty cool. It’s better than that run-of-the-mill Ozzy nonsense. I personally don’t really like metal at all. Not that I like a lot of these bands either but I mean I’d rather watch my kid be into this new kind of punk rock than that heavy metal nonsense speed freak music. Not that that’s bad either, people are into what they’re into. But, I’m just pretty opinionated. This is America and if you don’t like what I say, then don’t fuckin’ read it.
So you were never into King Diamond or Slayer?
No, I was never into metal, period. When I was growing up, if you were punk rock, you hated that shit. I just continued to hate long hair music. Whether it’s Ozzy, Black Sabbath, Def Leppard, any of that shit. I mean, I like Metallica, Motorhead, Kiss, classic rock’n’roll. I just have more punk rock ideals.
It seemed like last year, Warped Tour was the shit, because Lollapalooza was dogged out.
Last year was really good for the Warped Tour. They had really good bands last year, I thought. Strong bands that could actually headline a venue on their own and sell 10,000 tickets regardless. We had bands like Rancid and bands of that stature, I think that’s pretty cool. I like Rancid. I mean any punk rock band that’s not happy, that lived in the streets in the gutters, ex-junkie, puking your guts out. You gotta appreciate that. That’s punk rock. And they had Civ, H20 and the U.S. Bombs. Those were the ones that stuck out in my mind.
How can they keep the Warped Tour from going the way of Lollapalooza?
Keep booking good bands that are at a street level and that aren’t really too blown up. Bands that are popular and still pull on their own like Social D, Pennywise and NOFX and bands like that. And I was really stoked they had Rev. Horton Heat on there last year. They just gotta keep the bands that have balls and credibility. They’re planning a little more rap for this year; Mike D is coming out on the tour. We had Kid Rock last year and the kids really liked him. He was a bit much for me, but whatever, man.
What spots did you hit on the tour that you really liked?
Portland, because of Burnside. Places that fit into my style of skating like the Philly deal under the bridge is cool. I really like that place. Arizona is good, Nevada is always good, parts of Texas were good. I skated the C Pool up in Boston. It was super gnarly; I’d love to go there again. I made two of the death boxes first time. I was just stoked to skate it. It was like a dream to me; I haven’t seen that since the Skateboarder days. Shit like that that I’d seen back in the days but I never got to skate, I’m super-stoked to even go there. Because you know how pro surfers get to surf every great wave in the world and pro golfers get to tee off every different course in the world; for pro skaters to do pools is just like an adventure in time. It’s another pool on the list. Like if you had an old war plane and you shot down all these guys and you were an ace and had all these marks on your plane of all these Japanese flags or swastikas and people you’d hit. And you’d killed like 26 guys and you had 26 flags. I think I’ve got at least 500-1000 pools under my belt. But there are still a lot that are just a dream to me.
You hit Amarillo right? What was that like?
It was the killerest place I’ve ever rode. It was like skateboard mecca of all vertical skateboarding. Pools, concrete, bowls, vert ramps… It was the ultimate place to skate.
Best pool pipe you ever rode?
Yeah, by far. Arizona was even better. but they were such hit-and-miss spots and you had to deal with the scenes there. So in Amarillo there was no scene and it was just so big and awesome. It was inspiring just to be there in the middle of nowhere. I mean, you could go there and slam and die. I guess it’d be a good way to go.
Is there any place you want to go that you haven’t been?
I’d like to go to Brazil one day. I’ve been to Argentina and Mexico for demos and shit. We skated some wack skatepark in Guatelahara with a full pipe and a reservoir. I skated the best pool in my life in Argentina but they ‘dozed it last year and put in a shopping mall.
Why did they do that?
Gavin O’Brien from the Santa Cruz team hit his head there after some kid broke his leg there. They were like ‘some American pro got hurt here; we have to shut it down.’ He was in the hospital for two weeks with convulsions, concussions, the whole deal. I’ve never been to Rio Sol but that pool was at least that good. The most perfect bowl I ever rode – channel, metal coping, 30-ft wide with a little bowl next to it where you could transfer into it both ways. You could do big backside floater airs and come in lien airs over the spine and just carve it out and tailslide back in and rock’n’roll slide to lipslide. It was sick. I’ve never been to Marseilles. I’d like to go there. Right now I’m just looking for some pipes. I’d like to find some pipes and ride those because it’s like a lost art. I think the skateboarding world really needs to know about pipes. It’s kind of like a one-off deal that people don’t really get to experience anymore. It used to be so common back in the ‘70s. I really miss pipes. Most of the pipes in the desert fill with water now because they’re using them. You have to go to Saudi Arabia to ride the big Amron ones.
What’s going on in Saudi Arabia?
Well, I looked some shit up on the Internet and this company Amron makes those pipes. So, I talked to this dude there and he said there aren’t any projects right now in the United States because they’re finished with the projects in the desert. Arizona was the last one they did, the CAT Project and the Salt River Projects and they’re still running in the Palies now. They actually drain those every once in a while. But the big pipes they have now are all based in Saudi, where they’re building new pipelines to bring water in, cause now they have the money over there to do it. There’s like 20-25 footers but the locals over there would probably kill you, y’know. So if anybody finds any pipes, call me.
What year did you start skating?
1974. Twenty-five years and hopefully I got more in me. I got my kids now, my son Jesse. Hopefully I can skate with him when he’s twelve or fourteen.
Anything else you want to comment on?
Have fun and remember that no one is different than you are. Everyone’s out there to have a good time. There are so many cliques in skating and punk rock now. When I was growing up when you saw someone skating he was your ally, he was your bro, he was your friend. Now all the street kids are over there at the parks and the pool guys are over there. If everyone just got along and respected people’s trips more, it’d be a lot better for everybody. It’s all good.