INTERVIEW BY JIM MURPHY
INTRODUCTION BY JIM MURPHY
PHOTOS BY ROBERT GROHOLSKI
When I was growing up in the ’70s, skateboarding was viewed by the majority of people as a trend for kids that really wouldn’t culminate into anything as prosperous as the organized sports of the day. It was viewed as something the outcasts did. Tom’s family was different. Once Tom’s dad, who we called Mr G., saw how much Tom was into it and saw the sessions go down at Cherry Hill, Apple Skatepark, all the late ’70s California parks and Kona skatepark, he knew that something seriously fun and new was going down and he would travel anywhere to keep his son going in skateboarding. He and his wife even gave up their backyard to put up a big plexiglass vert ramp for Tom and his friends to session all day long! Mr. G. also got into film and photography and was able to capture a lot of classic sessions along the way. I was really honored to hang with Tom and his family, ride his backyard ramp and road trip with the kind of dad I only wished I had. They did so much for Tom and all his friends, and gave all of us some of the greatest memories of our lives! Thank you Groholski family for all your personal sacrifice, for letting us crank Metallica Kill ‘Em All at 10, and for having the most fun and hardcore Jersey backyard ramp scene back in the day! It’s amazing what one family can do for so many skaters! – MURF“Lucky for us, all the parks were close to the shore so the family had stuff to do while we were skateboarding. They could drop us off and pick us up and sometimes they would hang around and watch for a while. My dad got involved with photography from driving us to Cherry Hill and Monster Bowl. He would hang out and watch and play video games and shoot photos.”
TOM GROHOLSKI INTERVIEW BY JIM MURPHY
Let’s start at the beginning because this is all about your dad and you. Do you remember what year you first got your first board?
I would say it was like ‘77. That was my first good board.
How stoked was your dad on skateboarding?
He was pretty enthused. He was really supportive of anything that his kids did. He was just stoked that I finally found something to focus on.
Your dad was into photography back then too.
He always documented stuff, but he really started focusing on it once he had some time to hang out at the skatepark.
Do you remember the first time he took you to a skatepark?
The Fiber Rider was the first one.
Had your dad ever seen half pipe riding before?
No. That was basically our introduction to it. Lucky for us, all the parks were close to the shore so the family had stuff to do while we were skateboarding. They could drop us off and pick us up and sometimes they would hang around and watch for a while. My dad got involved with photography from driving us to Cherry Hill and Monster Bowl. He would hang out and watch and play video games and shoot photos.
I know a lot of our fathers didn’t seem to be as into it as your dad was. You had about three or four guys that would come with you.
It was all the neighborhood kids that skated. Their folks weren’t too enthused. They were shuffling their kids off. I don’t know if they saw any kind of future in skateboarding. I don’t think they were as interested in their kids. Maybe they were just too busy with their own lives to get involved. My dad embraced all of our friends as family and I think they’ve continued to do that for all of us. It’s really cool.
What did he think of the punk scene you were getting into?
He was like, “You’re against everything.” I just wanted to go skateboarding and listen to aggro music. That music was encouraging us to get more aggro. I think he thought it was anti social behavior. He wasn’t too stoked on that, but it was just our way of being in our own world.
In the heyday of Cherry Hill, was he encouraging you to get sponsored?
Not really. The only beef I ever really got from him was when he said, “I didn’t bring you here to skate the kiddie section. I want you to go skate the big pools with the good guys.”
[Laughs] Did he bust your balls about that?
He just saw me wasting my time. He knew that to improve I had to ride with better skaters. He said, “Look at all this other stuff.” He was seeing all the pro guys coming through and seeing the progress of the local rippers. I was stoked on the push, or the kick in the ass. I was stoked on improving.
How did you get a Plexi-glass ramp in your backyard? Where did that come from?
That was from Skateboard City in Staten Island. We got that in ‘81 because they were closing and they were going to scrap it. We put that up in the yard, and that enabled us to keep skating through the dark period of skateboarding when there were no parks.
Did you just ask your dad if you could put a halfpipe up? Was there much argument to it?
No. There wasn’t any real argument. They sacrificed their yard for a long time and I really appreciate it. I’ve always been fortunate enough to have a ramp. This one spanned the whole yard and hung over the garages.
I know. It was sick!
We were definitely stoked on having a big ramp to ride. I think ramps really helped skateboarding progress.