INTERVIEW BY JIM MURPHY
INTRODUCTION BY JIM MURPHY
PHOTOS BY DAN LEVY AND SEAN PETERSON
Growing up, I remember putting pictures on my wall and one of them was Salba doing a frontside air over Scott Dunlap who was carving backside directly underneath him at the 15-foot bowl at Upland skatepark. It was such a gnarly shot on so many levels that it just blew me away. I could hardly imagine the skill and balls it took to pull that off, and made me want to skate even more! Having guys like Salba to look up to helped us push ourselves to skate more concrete and find more outlaw pools and pipes. Salba still rips as hard as he did 30 years ago, and we wanted to talk to him about the incredible outdoor concrete skatepark explosion. Here’s the one and only Steve Alba!“I just think there’s nothing impossible in skateboarding.”
Salba, I wanted to talk to you about the second evolution of the concrete skateparks. Let’s start with the Vans Combi Pool. When you heard about that coming on originally, did anybody consult with you about that?
As far as the Combi goes, no one really got a hold of me. At that point, Carje had some people working on it and Duncan had made the ramps for Vans, so he had Van Doren’s ear, with Reategui and those guys. The new Combi at Vans is way different than the old one at Upland.
As it was being built, did you go over there and check it out?
At that point, they already had it dug out. They changed the shallow end, which was my big bitch. It’s not the same. For what it is, especially during that time frame, it was really rad just because everyone wanted to recreate something. At the same time, you can never recreate how it actually was.
Do you remember the tranny/vert scenario in the original Combi at Upland?
In the old days, the round was actually a little deeper than the square, but they were both pretty much eight and three. The north wall in the square was gnarly hectic. It was maybe three and a half or four feet of vert, plus there was a big old lump across it. No one ever hit that wall but local dudes like me, Micke and Miller. On the compulsory runs, I was the only dude that actually could do it in a line. I did my invert on the north wall for the compulsory run.
Back in the day, when non-locals would come to that Upland Park and hit the Combi after riding all the other stuff, was it something that they were stoked on or were they intimidated by it?
Everybody hated it because they were intimidated by it big time. Even the heavy locals were intimidated. It was the same for me, and I skated it probably more than anybody. I was at Upland on opening day in 1977 and all the way through the end of it. Chris Miller wasn’t really skating when we first started riding, but outside of me, Miller probably rode there more than anybody. I’d rather watch Chris skate it than anybody, because he’s the raddest of everybody. The original Upland Combi was totally rad. It was a rad training ground. Upland was the Pipeline of skateboarding. It was the most hectic platform. Even though we were kids giving Tony Hawk shit, I’ll tell you this, Tony really impressed me when he came in and did a slider to fakie around a corner. He had some good lines in there and so did Cab. Outside of the local dudes, it was Lance, Cab and Tony Hawk. Gator skated it pretty rad the first time. Lester killed that place. Toward the end of it, Losi skated with us quite a bit. I was doing some of the lip tricks and Losi and Ben Schroeder were getting rad. Ben really ripped that thing. It was the perfect size for him.
He’s like 7’10”, so it was a perfect size for him.
Yeah. The Combi was rad. The whole park was rad. The Pipe bowl offered something different because it was a 12-foot bowl, and then you had a 15-foot bowl. Before we even had the Combi, we had a freestyle reservoir, but we had to get rid of it. It worked for what it was at first, but we wanted a pool. The thing about Upland was that it was the first place that had vertical, but they didn’t have pool coping. We were like, “We need a pool.” All the pros like me, Micke, Strople, Dunlap, Worm, Wally, Gregg Ayres, Doug Schneider, and Blackhart and everybody got together and gave a $1,000 each to get the pool built. It was $30,000 to build the Combi. Stan didn’t have the money to do it, so we took all of these donations from the pros. Then they made the gold card thing. The gold card was when you paid $500 as a local kid and you had all access to the park, and you could skate the pool before anybody. We were kind of pissed because we paid more than anybody. I think I ended up paying $3,000 because I had a lot of money at the time, but I didn’t get to ride the pool first. Stan let the gold card kids ride before us. The Domico brothers definitely rode the pool before we did. It was pissing me off. A lot of people don’t know that when I shot my interview for Skateboarder Magazine that was pretty much the first time I rode the Combi that day.
What did you think when you first rode that thing with all the lines?
I was always kind of a line freak. That goes all the way back to the L Pool. I really learned to skate in an L pool and because it was such a unique pool, we already knew how to pump. When we got to Upland, we saw what was going on. It was a plaster pool, so they had to cure the plaster first and fill it up with water. We swam in that pool for months waiting for the plaster to cure. When we were swimming in it, I’d be feeling the trannies. We’d be standing on top of the coping going, “I’m going to frontside carve here. I want to hit the hip.” The pool was so new and gnarly. It was gnarlier than I expected it to be, but we were so excited to have a pool with coping. When I was 15, 16 and 17, we skated there every day. We rode pools and Baldy, but once the park was actually built, we skated the park a lot. It was like our babysitter. Even before I had a car, my mom would just drop us off at the skatepark. She was like, “I’ll pick you up at dark.” It wasn’t just Micke and me. It was all the friends we know. There was a different set of dudes that I skated with originally. The second set of guys was Chris Robison, Chris Miller, Eric Jueden and all those dudes.