INTERVIEW BY STEVE OLSON
PHOTO BY JIM GOODRICH
When you go, and go hard… and that’s the only way you know… you’ve entered the world of George Orton. When all else fails, don’t bail, hold on tight… it’s gonna be all right, when you wake. Living proof is on the pages of this interview with the man that brought flying on skateboards to a reality, and changed the path of how we ride. Thank you, George, you’ve done good, boy…
George, it’s me, Duke Kahanamoku.
[Laughs] How are you doing, man?
I’m hanging in there, brah. Mahalo. Are you ready?
You need to calm down right now.
You need to settle down before I come through that new phone and get you!
I can feel my left nut being pulled right now, as we speak. That’s reaching out and touching somebody.
Let go of it. You can call yourself Steve whenever you want.
I will do that. I have several times and it didn’t work for me. Where do you want to start? We have a lot of history behind us.
This interview is about you, buddy.
Well, about me is about you and has been for a long time. We’ll be keeping on my side, but just so you know where we’re coming from, right?
[Laughs] Okay. Shut up. I want to know more than that. Where were you born?
I was born in Long Beach in the same hospital as my good buddy, Waldo [Autry], rest in peace. It’s Long Beach Memorial now, but it was Seaside Memorial back when the dinosaurs ruled the earth and real men were born.
Yes! That’s back when they were pumping oil out of Signal Hill. Just so you know, we share the same birth city.
That’s awesome. At least we have something in common besides women.
Okay, relax. Tell me what was it like being brought up as a poor little cowboy?
It really sucked. I was getting shit on all the time because I was so short. Living in Norwalk, it was the dairy farms and we had horses when I was young. I saddled my own horse and the saddle came loose and I was riding upside down and didn’t let go. When I did, he trampled my head. I think that’s where my certain downfall began.
Maybe it was a lack of fear.
You could call it what you want.
I just did call it what I want. [Laughs] Oh, fearless one, you were born in Long Beach and then you were in Norwalk. What were you doing in Norwalk?
I was causing all kinds of havoc. I was ripping Christmas lights off people’s houses and throwing the bulbs in the street and jumping fences so I could have dogs chase me because it was a challenge. Nothing else was a challenge until steel wheels came along and I started riding a skateboard. I got a surfboard when I was seven and decided to go that route, hitchhiking to the beach.
Wait. What else were you doing before you discovered surfing and steel wheels? Were you playing sports?
Because of my ADHD, my parents had me in four sports at the same time. Because of my serious handicap of wanting to go full throttle all the time they had to harness it somehow. They harnessed it by putting me in Little League at four years old. I played football and basketball and ran track and anything that could run me to death so by the time I got home I would drop on the bed. Welcome to my life as a child.
What did you run in track?
I ran long distance. I ran the 880 and the 440 and the mile. I ran in all the races that the community had. Back in the day, you would get a Presidential certificate if you completed the course.
It was the President’s Physical Fitness award. I know it.
Remember that? When I was six years old, my mom and dad did try to sedate me to calm me down and they used this drug that was far beyond Ritalin. It was more like LSD. When the saliva started coming out of my mouth and I became a complete zombie, they thought that wouldn’t be the road to go down, so they decided to do sports.
Your parents put you on drugs?
They put me on some heavy shit and then my head started spinning and it started zoning me big time. I would sit there like a zombie and do nothing, fully sedated. After six weeks of that, they said, “No more.” It made me very sick too, so they didn’t know what to do. The doctors said, “Give him this pill. No. Give him this pill instead.” They still do that today. That’s medical technology right there.
Oh yeah. Keep the kids stoned, babe. Zombies personified. What position did you play in Little League?
I played shortstop and third base. With the arm that I had, they started putting me in the outfield. I was really fast and I could catch the ball. I was a pretty good ball player. When I was nine years old, I was the only one to get moved up to the major league to play ball as a left fielder.
I got moved to the majors, too.
You were very athletic. You had that natural ability to do anything you set your mind to. If you didn’t put your mind to it, you did it even better.
Okay. I was just mentioning the fact that there are parallels between you and I.
Well, that’s you, asshole.
[Laughs] Okay, so you discovered surfing and skating around the age of seven?
Yeah. My cousin was a surfer out of Cerritos and he took me down to Bolsa Chica. I had a longboard and I ate shit all over the place. I was paddling around and I kept hitting the shore break. I think that’s what else is wrong with me. I hit the shore too many times. Who gives a longboard to a child?
I grew up surfing on a longboard.
Well, you stayed away from the shore break. I never did. The Seal Beach jetty was awesome. The power plants would put out that warm water and whatever nuclear shit was in it. Do you remember how warm that water was? That’s where I learned to surf. Being that I didn’t have a shred of meat on my body, I would get cold really easy, but that warm water at the jetty made it so much nicer. You had that beaver tail that was totally in your way. It was too thick and you couldn’t paddle. I weighed 50 pounds and I was trying to surf a 300-pound balsa wood board.
How did you discover skateboarding?
After clay wheels came along, I bought a Black Knight skateboard with clay wheels. I was so proud of it. My dad made me earn it. I had to work my ass off for everything I had.
That was a huge difference from metal to clay wheels.
It was huge. The only problem with the clay was, since it was all pressed together with whatever chemical they were using and pressed wood and bits of rubber, it would chip apart. Once you started doing carves, the edges would break off and, all of a sudden, it was like you were skating on a flat tire.
Did you ride the riverbed ditch?
Absolutely. That was big for you and me because we both lived off the San Gabriel River Bed. Dudes used the access roads to ride on the wall. That’s where I met Ed Economy and a few guys from Norwalk. That’s where we went to mimic surfing. It wasn’t about skateboarding. It was about tuning yourself into that feeling of riding a wave. You’d wipe out and pay the price by being covered in complete raspberries for about four years until the urethane wheel came along. I was a total raspberry. I had them all over my arms, my head, my legs, my hips, my ass and my ankles. It was crazy.
[Laughs] I still have the scar of a crater on my left knee from grinding it down on the plaster of a pool. When I went surfing, it turned into a crater and it would never really heal. It’s still there.
That tissue finally gave up. It didn’t want to respond anymore and fill in the gap, so you wouldn’t fall on it anymore. That’s funny. You wore the padding out of the meat on your leg.
Did you ever ride the riverbed at the very end, before it went into the dirt canal?
Yeah. I rode there a few times. Basically, you were only four miles from me down the freeway.
When skateboarding started to hit and it was clay wheels and we’d ride the sides and traverse across and drag it low and hang ten. After doing a couple of runs, the clay wheels would disintegrate into nothing, so then you had to figure out how to get another set of clay wheels.
Exactly. They knew that and they started selling plastic shrink-wrapped packs of wheels and ball bearings. If it wasn’t the wheels that gave out first, it was the loose ball bearings that were popping out and rolling everywhere because of the stress you’d put on the steel hub. If you kept on riding, all of a sudden, you’d wear it down to the axle and break the whole truck. You wanted performance out of something that wasn’t actually meant to be.
I recall going there when Cadillac’s came out and loose ball bearings and there were like 150 dudes there. It was insane.
You’re right. After it got going, everybody wanted to skate there. It was fun, but it was a competition to see who could ride the wall and do the gnarliest thing and make it down to the bottom. People would actually shoot the top of the riverbed and try to hit that transition. It was like, “What are you thinking?” They’d hit that transition and lock and get wheel bite before they even knew what wheel bite was. They’d ride on their shoulder all the way to where the river ran through down the middle. It was like, “Wow. No. That’s wrong.” I was nuts and halfway ruining myself but, shooting from the top, I didn’t see the math in that one.
It was gnarly.
Those were good days. I met Allen and Ed Economy there and they were good at what they did. They brought Waldo and Waldo would come down because he lived in Long Beach. I don’t think John O’Malley had even thought about building the Carlsbad Park. This was when I was 11 years old.
I just remember how nuts it was. We’d go there after school and there would be so many people there in the ’70s.
Did you ever ride up there off of Firestone? Firestone was popular. Lance Moorewood’s shop was there and that’s when I used to hang around with Jeff Ward. I was seven years old. Mike Bell and all the motocross racers would come to Lance’s shop because Lance’s dad, Ted Moorewood, was the key man for boring cylinders. I even got to meet Roger Decoster. He came to this shop called Cycle Town in Norwalk. They were the mecca. Jeff’s dad was one of the best pipe builders in the world for getting more exhaust from the motor and Lance’s dad was awesome. Those were my influences. They were already winning World Grand Prix Champion titles. They didn’t really skate, but they were a big influence. They were the best of the best. AMA hadn’t even been thought of yet, and then Lance’s dad started AMA and Jody Weisel put out Motocross Action Magazine and Lance would always be on the cover. Lance was my best friend in my younger years.
I knew Jeff Ward and Mike Bell. I didn’t know them, but I knew of them. My one friend was Jeff Ward’s cousin. They were winning all the Indian Dunes races.
That was when Indian Motorcycles started making the bikes for little kids and then it went from there. I watched it grow. Lance’s dad had a big input on that. He didn’t care about the big guys. He cared about the little kids because he could see a market there. The dude was a genius and to hang around that all the time was very influential in my life. At 15 years old, Jeff Jennings was winning vans over at Ascot. He would win it all. He was crazy as could be. He’d get the torch out and go, “Hey, Orphan!” That was my nickname before Waldo and Ed Economy gave me the name “Wild Man.” Instead of saying Orton, Jeff would call me “Orphan.” He’d say, “Come here, Orphan,” and he’d burn me with a torch. It was crazy, but it was crazy good stuff. You couldn’t have hung around a better group. We would ride Jeff’s driveway, which was really slick concrete and he would modify the bike. Jeff was the inventor of the motocross bike. He would take GT bars and weld them on. We’d never seen anything like that. He’d totally modify a Schwinn. We’d all be coming out of the backyard and get going like On Any Sunday and lay the bikes down and slide sideways down the driveway. We would wet it down with water, but the water kept on drying up, so Jeff decided gasoline would work better, so we were all sliding around in gasoline, not knowing that if your peg sparks the ground, we were all going to be a bunch of fried barbecued shits.[Laughs]
Yes! There used to be a jump down by Oak Junior High off of Katella and the 605. It was a natural drop off from the service road down into a dirt bowl. We built a berm, so when you’d land it, you could go up and do a berm shot. Then we dug out a little hole in the road so you could sit there and watch your friends go over you. One guy would be sitting in the hole waiting and, right as you were going over, he would pop his head up and you’d eat shit. It was so funny.
That is classic. In 1971, Jeff Jennings and I were able to talk to the Junior High School principal, on Americanism Day, where you could do anything you want, and they let us dig up the baseball diamond and make a motocross track out of it. We dug it up and made mud holes and had motocross races during school hours for Americanism Day. It turned out to be a huge success. Guys were falling all over and into the mud holes. It was freaking wild.
What school did you go to?
I went to Corvallis Junior High School and then I went to Norwalk. I spent a little time in Maywood as a child. My mom and dad had a home over there when Huntington Park and Maywood were supposed to be family towns. They got sick of that in 1968 and we moved to Norwalk and lived there for many years off of Imperial and Studebaker. It was across from the Emergency Center. How ironic is that? We’d see all the ambulances come in.
That was ultimately convenient.
Yes. From all the flesh I opened on my body between surfing, motocross and skating, I used that hospital quite a few times. One time, years later, I rode my motorcycle to Big O and I had a brand new set of the first Rector shorts with the padding that they made with the color panels. I had my money and keys in them and some kid stole my shorts. I saw him wearing them and he was going behind the 3/4 pipe and I was like, “Hey, come here!” He disappeared behind and didn’t come out the other side. I was like, “Where did he go?” He had jumped the wall and was running over to Orange. We caught him across the street. We tracked him down in Frank Blood’s van and I was like, “You stole my shit, dude. What are you thinking?” He was like, “No. These are mine.” I said, “Reach in the pocket and those are my keys and my money.” He reached in his pocket and pulls it out and he was like, “Fuck you. No. This is mine.” I buckled up my hand John Wayne style and hit him so hard that I took all his teeth out. One tooth went flying 30 or 40 feet. I hit him so hard that I ripped my hand open. I got my stuff back from him and I took my Sims shirt off and stuffed it in his mouth. I said, “I’m sorry, but you shouldn’t have done that.” I went home and I didn’t know that the human bite is worse than getting bit by a dog with rabies. My hand started swelling up and my forearm was getting big. My mom was like, “What is going on?” I told her that this kid stole my stuff, so she took me over to the Emergency Center across the street. The doctor said, “What? Are you John Wayne? How hard did you hit him?” I said, “Well, I wound up first. I came around with a roundhouse and hit him in the mouth and wiped out his whole mouth.” I had torn my whole hand open at the knuckles. The doctor was like, “Do you want to know what pain feels like, Mr. Hero? No anesthesia.” He started stuffing cotton into the hole in my hand and sucked out all the human venom. He was like, “Don’t ever do that again.” That was my worst nightmare. I never forgot that.
[Laughs] So you were a combination of a dog with rabies and human bacteria.
Yeah. That’s my hospital story. We had a lot of visits there and helped pay the bills at the Studebaker Hospital. No doubt.
When did you really start skateboarding?
I was around 12 or 13 years old. That’s when urethane wheels came out. I was hanging out in Seal Beach and Huntington Beach and I remember the board. It was at the Infinity Shop in Huntington Beach sitting in the glass. It had gold urethane wheels and it was like the heavens had opened up. I just wanted to reach into that glass and grab it.
[Laughs] I love this story.
There was a mist around it and it was all that I could see. Like an asshole, I went in there and tried on a wetsuit and, on the way out, while the guys were busy with other clients, I grabbed that board and ran out the door and across the street and joined Bobby Neishi and all those guys that were riding the banks down below the stairs. I was in heaven. I never told anyone that I stole that board. [Laughs] Ironically, I owned a board shop years later and it got broken into many times, so what comes around, goes around.
You’re basically like the kid that stole your shorts.
Yeah. That board had a grip on it. It was wood and fiberglass. They were just getting into the shapes and molds. That’s around the time that we started making molds of surfboard-shaped key rings and we were using laminate wood and learning how to use fiberglass and resin. We’d use a sponge to pull the resin up to make grip that would rip your nuts off. Remember that? You had to take a file to it.
Oh yeah. I remember.
I can’t hear you.
Hey, hey, hey! You know why you can’t hear me? It’s because you talk incessantly. I’m going to tell you something. This is a hypothetical situation. If you were my son and I had to deal with you, I would pull out the fanny paddle.
[Laughs] Would that be an aerated paddle?
Oh, there would be holes in it for more leverage.
Yeah. You need to get more aerodynamics out of it. That’s what we used to get swatted with in junior high school. We were always getting swats. Our principal had a wooden leg, so he’d take a couple of hops and then take a whack at you.
They should bring that back.
I totally agree. They need to use that heavy wood and spray some flames on it so you can see the fire coming at you when they hit you. We’d have a lot more discipline and not so many bratty kids who feel entitled to everything.
That’s how it is, babe. There was a time when I was in wood shop, which they should also bring back too, and this kid, Teddy Ketchum, was screwing around with me and we got in trouble by the shop teacher. Mr. Baxter was like, “Go see Mr. Palmer, the vice principal.” This dude was 250 pounds with a flattop and he was gnarly. Teddy was like, “I can’t believe you got me in trouble.” I was like, “You’re the one that got me in trouble. I’m the one that’s going to get a swat because of your bullshit.” Mr. Palmer had his own version of the swat. It was a three-part process swat. He would come up and you would be giggling and then he’d come back with a roundhouse and swat the hell out of you. It was gnarly. Mr. Palmer was like, “Who is going first?” I was like, “He is!” He was like, “Get over here, Ketchum!” He swatted Teddy Ketchum and Teddy started crying and then he swatted me and I was like, “Whatever.” I had already been beaten up by my bigger brother a bunch, so it didn’t bother me.
Did he ever jerk a tear out of you with the swats?
It never really hurt. We’d laugh when we got out of there. While we were in there, we’d be like, “Oh, don’t swat me, Mr. Wally!” They couldn’t give us enough pain. We were already putting ourselves in pain daily. That swat was amateur compared to the pain we were putting ourselves in on the streets. We got swats for going to Cerritos when the mall was being built. That was the best motocross track ever. We took shovels and rakes with us and we’d build a dirt wall while they were building that mall out there at South Street and we’d ride the riverbed down there. That was good stuff.
Down in between Studebaker and Katella, there was a weird powerplant and they built a motocross track there. That was just as crazy a spot as where the two riverbeds met. We’d go down there every day and there would be 50 or 75 dudes riding motocross. It was wicked.
Whatever forces put us on this earth at the time that they did, we nailed it just right. You couldn’t have picked a better decade. The ‘60s were awesome, but the ’70s were just cherry. I turned 10 years old in 1970 and I turned 20 years old in 1980. In between that time, it was full throttle. There were no rules. There were no regulations.
We had a severe case of go time.
That’s right. I just couldn’t stop. I was everywhere doing everything.
At that time, my friend was selling a mini bike and my parents were like, “There is no way you are going to get anything that you could kill yourself on.” I conned them into letting me show them how competent of a rider I was. It was just a little shitty mini bike, but it had a 2.5 Briggs & Stratton engine. I had my friend bring it down and I was like, “I think I can buy this mini bike off of you. I just have to show my parents.” I was rolling around on the street and my parents were standing on the sidewalk and I’m showing them that I’m in control and, all of a sudden, the throttle sticks as I’m coming around the turn and I went flying into the curb and got pitched over the handlebars and landed at their feet. I looked up to get their reaction and they were like, “Absolutely not.”
[Laughs] I’m picturing that whole thing. “Do you think it might be a go?”
Exactly. I said, “That was just an accident. I’m okay.” My friend that gave me the mini bike said, “You broke my bike!” My dad was like, “Get that thing out of here!” I still bought that mini bike too and I parked it at my friend’s house.
[Laughs] Yes! Good for you! You reminded me of the time when I first moved to Norwalk in 1969. I had money because I had my first job, so I went to this yard sale and I wanted to get a mini bike to ride down the cow trail, so I bought a mini bike for $90. I was nine years old. My mom and dad had said “Absolutely not. You will kill yourself. You are out of control.” They said the exact same thing that your mom and dad said. I went and bought it anyway and brought it home. It was a Cat mini bike with a green and black seat and the frame was a metallic color. We had a really big backyard and my mom and dad weren’t home yet and I wanted to try it out, so I was riding around the backyard and I started going a little faster and I was going around the trees. I wanted to lay it down and I hit the throttle and, all of a sudden, I see the wall coming and I froze. I hit the front brake and the front buckled and it slammed me into this brick wall. I couldn’t even see for about an hour. I had a big old cut on my head. I was just thinking, “How am I going to explain this?” I had already bought the thing and spent my $90 and now I needed to go to the hospital. [Laughs] It was crazy. The parallel to your story is so funny. I’m in hysterics right now. It was hilarious.
Since we are on the mini bikes, I grew up in one of those little housing tracts and Steve Thomas was my best friend and he had a Cat mini bike and mine was some Sears piece of shit. We used to ride them at night and we’d get Indy 500s, the longboard version of the Black Knight, with the checkerboard flag. We’d chip away the plies so it had a little flex and we would put a tow rope on the mini bike and waterski behind these mini bikes and do ollies on trash night. We’d whip the dude around the turn and try to whip him into the trashcans. You could always tell the dude that got whipped into the trash because he was always covered with eggshells. He’d be like, “No! Don’t do that!” It was too late. You couldn’t let go of the rope because you can’t be a pussy.
[Laughs] Yes! It was total commitment and you know you’re going down. We used to do the same thing with motorcycles and tear the neighbor’s bushes out. Jeff would tow us around the corners and into the street and we’d not make the corner and be preparing for the impact, but we had the neighbor’s lawn that had dichondra on it, so it was soft to land on and we tore that lawn up. The neighbors would complain that we were tearing up their lawn, so Jeff would get his motorcycle and go over there after they went to work and make big ruts on the lawn with his big tires. We would get in so much trouble. It was crazy. We did some damage. We were little terrorists running all over the place.
That was an amazing time.
No doubt. It was awesome. We had so much fun. I was in trouble half of my life. I was on restriction more often than not. When I had to stay home from a party, my guys would come over and climb through my window and we’d all have fun at my house playing games and Hot Wheels or whatever.
Let me ask you this. When did you seriously start getting into skateboarding?
It was after I got that Infinity board and I started riding with Bob Neishi and the Downey brothers and those guys. We used to ride on the stairs and do cutbacks and laybacks and Bertlemanns. Larry Bertlemann showed up there a few times. Bob Neishi was the hot ticket. He was doing the slides on the board and we were like, “Wow!”
I saw Neishi wall ride back then. There was a little bump on PCH, and I saw Bob Neishi wall ride there on those flat little Infinity boards. Then there was Brad Langager from Wayne Brown. I saw him skate those banks and he was amazing. It was Brad Langager, Bud Llamas, Danny O’Tool, Chipper Roland and the Downey Brothers, Mike and Pat.
Right. You’re saying names that I haven’t heard in forever. It’s funny how it all was evolving right around us. We had it going on as well as Tony Alva and the boys up north. They were doing the same thing we were doing, but we were just down south.
They were killing it as well.
Exactly. We wanted to mimic surfing. Surfing was my first love and surfing is still my first love.
Let’s get back to skateboarding.
The urethane wheel took it to another level. We were golden. Urethane changed the whole dynamic and it evolved from there. Neishi was the one that impressed me out of all the riders there were. He had a smoother style than anybody. Moving on from there, I took that board to the riverbed and I was doing new things. All I wanted to do was surf and skate, but my dad wanted me to be a wrestling champion or get a scholarship with baseball, so we had a big battle. My parents saw skateboarding as a fad. I saw it as a way to get away from all the bullshit and be my own person with nobody telling me what to do.
You went with more individualistic sports.
Yeah. I didn’t need the team effort stuff. I was so involved with team sports that, if someone on the team failed at something, you all failed together. That’s fine, but I didn’t like that. Even though failure is good for you and you learn from it and that’s an important part of life, I just didn’t dig losing. When you’re in control of your own destiny, it’s your own responsibility to either get it or don’t get it and you have to get on the program. I found it more rewarding in my life to do things individually than to do things as a team. That’s why I was drawn to that. Most kids with ADHD are drawn to that. You excel more as a person that’s halfway out of your mind anyway, so you’re good. You don’t want to deal with other people’s drama and issues. It’s a full-time job dealing with your own drama because you’re creating so much of it.
Within that world of team sports, it’s a psychological thing. If you, George Orton, or myself were trying 100% and there was a dude on the team only giving 25%, I was like, “Why am I trying so hard when this dude doesn’t really care?”In third grade, I was a quarterback and our first football game was in between high school games, so we had one down of offense and one down of defense. This guy does a run play and runs right into the middle of the hole and gets stuck. I was like, “Okay. I’m not going to be nice about this. Quarterback sneak.” I knew the other dudes were a bunch of dodos that couldn’t tackle me to save their lives, and I wanted to win this game. As I was thinking that, the buzzer went off and the game was over and I was like, “Why didn’t I try the quarterback sneak on the first play?” I was trying to be a team player and dodo brain ran right into the middle of the hole where there was no hole and that was the end of the game. I was like, “Wait! Where’s my touchdown, you son of a bitch!” I was pissed. I cussed like a little truck driver and the referee was like, “Watch your mouth, son.”
That is funny! That is so true. There was probably a lineman giving 25% on the other side of the line that was going to open up the hole anyway and the kid could have taken the pocket shot and jumped over his head and gone over the top. If you give it a second, they’re all going to fall down on each other and you can cowboy dance over all of them and slam the ball. There you go.
Exactly! You’re playing a team sport, so it’s all about the other guys. It was bullshit. I was like, “Give me a skateboard and I will go do some grinds and take control of my own destiny.”
So you started surfing and skating and shining the world of organized sports.
Well, I was still playing high school football and doing wrestling. I won the State Championships, the CIF, for wrestling. That was in my junior year of high school. That was when I was skating with you guys. My academics sucked. I only went to school to be in sports and do what I was doing individually. I was deaf, so they thought I was mentally retarded when I was four years old. They finally ran a fit and hear test on me and found out that I couldn’t hear anything they said. They figured out that I had a high IQ, but I couldn’t hear, so they set me at the front of the class. When they put something in front of me, like spelling, it was no problem. Math was no problem. Reading was no problem. I was deaf because, when I was three years old, I dove for golf balls and never equalized my ears at my grandmother’s 12-foot deep pool in Compton. I was too young to know about equalization and I thought my head was going to blow up and I ruined my eardrums. I wasn’t born like that. It was my own deal. Now some people talk to me and I don’t hear them and they’re like, “George is an asshole.” I didn’t hear them though. Sorry about my handicap. I compensated for it though. Thank you for letting me vent. [Laughs]
Surfing and skating was huge for me. When I got in the water, there was nothing else. When I got on a skateboard, there was nothing else. Here I am today, at 55 years old, and surfing and skating is still my thing. I got a few bumps and bruises along the way, but that’s what happens when you’re doing your own thing. You’re going to pay for it because no one else has the balls to do what you do. I love my life. I made the right choice. When everyone was telling me that I was a loser surfer/skater, they were wrong.
They considered it a losing choice.
Well, here’s how it went down. We were daredevils and we turned into thrill seekers and then we were troublemakers and, in the ‘90s, we were athletes. They try to classify you along the way. At first you’re, a daredevil. You’re like Evel Knievel. You’re crazy. This is a fad. Then they start calling it extreme sports and now you’re a thrill seeker. We used to do a lot of interviews when I was on Body Buddies in L.A. It was like, “Here’s George Orton, a thrill seeker with the Pepsi team.” We weren’t thrill seekers. We just wanted to ride.
“Here comes George Orton, thrill seeker, and he’s going to do a 3 frontside air at the Paramount vertibowl!”
Yeah! No one wanted to go to Paramount because they were scared of that vertibowl. It scared the hell out of everybody. I saw people show up there, look at it and turn around and sneak out with their tail between their legs. The vertibowl was a man-eater. That bowl really took some cojones! It separated the men from the boys.
It certainly did. I loved the vertibowl.
Some people did and some people didn’t. It scared the hell out of some people. There was too much vert. Waldo and Ed Economy shaped it so that nobody could ever get to the top. It was funny.
There were only a couple of cats that could really ride that bowl and one of them was The Worm.
Spot on. He knew how to slide across that wall and do his backside wheelers. He even did frontside slashes on it. He was the man. I will give him kudos until the day we die. I love that guy. You know what? He didn’t give a fuck. He had the passion.
He loved what he did and he did it for the pure stoke of it. Okay, I was at Paramount one day when the Sims team came there. I was with Steve Vargas, Kevin Anderson, Dave Forest and my brother. Waldo and those dudes were there and you were there. You were on Powerflex then. I think maybe I rode for Powerflex then too.
You did. He picked us all up. It was me, you, Bobby Valdez and the girls.
Yeah. So we’re sitting there and, all of a sudden, I was like, “Why does George have a Sims jersey on?”
[Laughs] Exactly. Tom Sims signed me right there.
I know. I was like, “Why is George riding with a backpack on his back and going dead center in the big bowl?” Now he’s getting pulled away from the wall, from the weight on his back, and he’s getting crushed. It was insane. It was so amazing to me. I was like, “He’s out of his mind.”
The boards were so narrow. If sixteen foot is big, and you’re riding a board that is 6 3/4” wide with soft durometer wheels and the bearings were just barely in the first stages of being precision and they were still grease-packed, I don’t understand, with all those dynamics, how I got up the wall. It was just the determination of getting to the top. Where did I get the speed off those soft wheels and those bearings and that narrow board? How was I landing that board back on vert, no transition whatsoever? I was out of my mind.
It was sheer determination, passion and complete idiocy. It was so sick. I was like, “Why is George wearing a Sims jersey? That little traitor! Oh my god. Now he’s in the middle of the photo shoot and he’s the main attraction. What is going on? He is no longer on our team and he is no longer a friend of ours!”
[Laughs] That’s funny. Sims gave me a check right there. Ed Economy introduced him to me and Tom went crazy. After the session, he took me down to the Queen Mary and bought me a steak and lobster dinner. Boy, that was a highlight. I am eating steak and lobster on the Queen Mary and I’m riding for Sims and everybody was pissed at me.
It didn’t matter. It was insane. Tell me about the development of the skateboard for you?
Every three months, they were developing something new that made it better. The hubs going against the wheels changed everything.
How did you get on Pro-Am? Was that your first team?
Yeah. Ron Shan started Pro-Am out of Norwalk. He had his own molds and it was a pretty good board. They started shaping Logan-style boards and they used the same oak wood in the tail, so that’s one of the skateboards that I started learning on. The Powerflex wheels were good wheels and I was on Bennett trucks, those little tiny narrow trucks. I carried those over to ride for Powerflex, but they were too tall. The wheels were too far away from the truck because of the millimeter of the wheels. Then they had the Bennett low and the Bennett high. I was just skating and throwing shit on there and changing the bushings out.
How did Pro-Am find George Orton? Where were you skating then?
I was skating around the neighborhood. Pro-Am was a Norwalk-based company and somebody said, “Hey, George rides the riverbed really well.” They came to me and said they wanted to put me on the team. They said, “We’re going to travel and we have a whole game plan of going to malls and doing demos. Do you think you can jump over a basket or a high wire?” Then it got to where nuts George was jumping over cars and landing on a skateboard on the other side. We did a lot of demos and I did the barrel jumping. They did the Long Beach arena and set the barrels up and 18 barrels was the limit. I ended up jumping 22 barrels and it freaked everybody out. I got a little notoriety, but whatever. Pro-Am paid me a little and paid for my travel. I rode for Pro-Am all the way up to Skatopia.
I’m seeing a correlation. You were barrel jumping and T.A. was barrel jumping.
Yeah, but nobody knew who I was. I would do what everyone else was doing and then they’d be like, “Okay, George, go jump this.” And I’d go jump it. “George can you spin a 360?” Yeah. And I’d do that. I hated that shit. It was part of the show, but I hated it. Give me some fucking vert to ride. That’s when I broke into Concrete Wave when the concrete was poured on the biggest bowl. I jumped over the fence the night before they were supposed to have a big grand opening. I went rolling around the top rim of the bowl and, all of a sudden, I was getting bogged down in it because the concrete was still wet. I put a little 1/4 divot in it and it stayed there for years.
My brother worked at Concrete Wave and I used to spend the night in the bowls when I was a kid, so I’m fully aware of your track mark in the far bowl.
Yes! I heard them doing an interview on TV and they said, “Skating is so popular that somebody broke into the park last night to skate it and left a track across the top of the bowl. We didn’t think anybody could ride that high yet, but apparently somebody can.” I’m standing over there listening to this and laughing my ass off. I left my mark.
It was the tracks of George Orton.
I was leaving my mark and putting my imprint on it. At the time, I thought they were going to find out and I was going to go to jail.
It was pure vandalism. You’re a vandal.
I am. I’m sorry about that. I couldn’t wait. I had to get in there before everybody else.
I get it. Okay. Who else was on Pro-Am?
Ron Shan was the so-called head of the team. It was a family affair type deal. All the brothers rode skateboards and the dad knew the chemistry of wheels and he knew how to knock off the Logan boards. He was doing his own thing and making his money. That was what Pro-Am was about. We were doing demos to get the name out there.
What does the name Pro-Am even mean?
It meant that the Shan’s are pro. That’s how they explained it, but their last name was A-N, not A-M. I never got that, but I didn’t care. I didn’t have to pay for my skateboards anymore, so I was golden! I was getting to skate stuff for free, so I was a happy camper. I was getting to live my passion and it all went from there.
Shut up or I’ll beat your ass when I see you. I’ll wrestle you.
Did I mention that I was a CIF wrestling champ? Oh yeah, I did. I’m a CIF Champ. You want to wrestle me?
Yeah. I didn’t get my chance to wrestle the CIF champ.
How many times have you wrestled me? How much did you hurt me in Palm Springs? You pounded me into the couch. It took me three hours to get out of the cushions. Thank you very much for that.
It was brotherly love. So Concrete Wave was happening. Did you ride Carlsbad?
I did not. I remember Bob Jarvis and Torger Johnson were going down there and getting photos in the mag, but I never made it down there. Concrete Wave was as far south as I went. I went over to Irvine to Culver Street where they built that stupid snakerun. Fountain Valley had made a bowl too. The first park that I really enjoyed was Skatopia. I was ready to go because I’d been doing aerials in this backyard bowl with huge coping.
Whoa. You’re getting ahead of me. You’re leaving me in the dust.
Did I tell you that I have a condition?
I know your condition. It’s called GT 5000. It’s go time! Go! Go! Go! Your condition is ADHD-AZT-AT&T.
It’s a permanent trip. This whole interview is like a flashback. This is just a small study of skateboarders that have hit their heads one too many times.
Fourteen times. I’m good. There is not a problem with me. [Laughs]
Wait a minute. When did you start to pull your board off of the wall and do airs? Where did you come up with that whole thought process of grabbing the rail and pulling your board off the wall?
I will tell you exactly how it went down. Everybody was trying to get to the top of the light. Two blocks down from my house I was learning to ride a square shaped pool and it was so hard to ride. It didn’t have coping. It had square concrete cement that stuck out two inches, so I learned how to skate up and down. I really wasn’t a carver. This is what set me in my whole mode.
I just want to point out that you weren’t a carver, self-admittedly. [Laughs]
I was not a carver because I learned how to ride a skateboard in a square pool before parks. It was up and down and there was no turn to go around. When I finally got over to a kidney-shaped pool four blocks down in back of the Little League field, I learned how to carve over a light. We rode that thing for about three months. I was skating for Pro-Am and the Pro-Am boys would show up and then everyone in the neighborhood would show up. My deal was that I kept on getting caught in the corner and I started doing grinders. When I started doing grinders, the lip on this coping stuck out four inches. It wasn’t two inches. It was kind of angled upward and it stuck out. They overhung it so far that it would bump the front of your wheel. When I started doing grinders, I started falling because I kept getting detached from my board. I had to figure a way to stay on and do a grinder and come back in the bowl. I started grabbing my board a little bit more coming back into the bowl and keeping my board pressed to the wall, so I wouldn’t disconnect. When I got that down, it just progressed from there. The coping kicks you out at a 30-degree angle, so when I’d hang on my board and it would disconnect as I turned and it landed back down, it wasn’t down the transition. It was about a foot out in the air and then it would catch back on the wall. I got bigger and better and I started learning and comprehending that. When I launched out, I could land a little farther down and have a smoother landing. The rest is history.
If you say so yourself…
That’s how it happened. When we got to Skatopia, nobody was doing aerials. I was doing them a bar high already and I would have to pull out harder because I was used to the coping kicking me back in but Skatopia didn’t have that. When the park opened, that’s why Bob Ballou put me on the Powerflex team. He was like, “Fuck, dude!” Then Tony Alva showed up about four days later at this brand new park. He poked his head through those bars and they looked like jail bars. You remember that section down at the end of that bowl, right?
Yes. I would see you skating at Skatopia when I was a kid. I remember seeing you flying and you would come down kickturn carving down the half pipe and at the very end where it was the deepest and the steepest, you would launch an air. We would be like, “That dude is out of his mind. How does he do that?” One time, you were going a little too fast coming down kickturn carving and you hit the very end of the halfpipe and you pulled so hard and didn’t reconnect back to the wall of the halfpipe and you landed in the bowl and your skateboard fell totally apart and you knocked yourself out.
Well, I don’t remember knocking myself out at Skatopia, but I slammed there a lot.
You were knocked out. Maybe that’s why you don’t remember.
[Laughs] Oh, right. I was searching for the answer and there it is.
I don’t know if you knocked yourself out, but you slammed really hard.
I did slam there several times. Do you know how many times I had equipment failure? Things would just obliterate. It wasn’t me so much. I would take it and land it and the skateboard would blow up on me. The equipment would fail and I’d pay the price.
It’s not rider error. It’s equipment failure.
Totally. It was more equipment failure than my misjudgment of something, so get that straight. Put that in your little red wagon and pull it, okay?
Shut up. You were launching airs, but were you riding Gullwing trucks?
No. Gullwing had not made the split axle truck yet. I was riding Bennett trucks or whatever trucks came before those. They were little trucks and they were so tight. It was ’76. I was riding for Pro-Am and I was barely 16 years old. I have a picture of that. I’m riding up the square wall and I have no helmet on and I’ve got wrestling kneepads on and my hair is all over the place and I was doing a kickturn at the light. Those are the trucks. That’s what I was riding when I was doing aerials at the other bowl. They were the trucks before Bennett’s. They would bend all the time, especially when I started doing aerials. I went through a shitload of trucks before Skatopia opened. It was crazy. They weren’t high tempered. They didn’t think people were going to take skateboards and slam them at the bottom of the transition, so I was always bending trucks.
So it’s fair to say that you invented the frontside air.
Whatever. People want to argue.
Wait. This is your chance to say yes or no.
Yes, I did. I invented the frontside air. Absolutely. I was doing it in ’76, not in late ’77 or ’78. I was doing it well before Skatopia opened and I have people that can vouch for that. Blah, blah, blah. You say. I say. It doesn’t matter. We’re all here today living happy lives. When I showed up at Skatopia, nobody else was doing aerials. I know Alva came in and he was stoked. I knew who he was and I had seen him in the magazines. He said, “Wow.” I walked to the top of that bowl and he said, “Nice stuff.” I didn’t see him after that. It is what it is.
All I remember was seeing it at Skatopia. I can run that tape back in my head and I remember seeing it. I almost remember what you were wearing.
What do you think I was wearing?
You were nude.
[Laughs]That’s a great recollection. If I had been naked, my ball sac would have opened up like a flying squirrel and that would have slowed me down, so I know that I was not nude.
[Laughs] Okay. After the aerials and all that, you started riding for Powerflex.
Right. That’s when we were riding at Skatopia. We were riding for Bob Ballou and he was shooting off his used car salesman mouth that we were going to do this and that. They had great equipment.
Their wheels were phenomenal.
They made good laminated wood too.
Did you ever have any equipment failure when you were on Powerflex?
Yes, I did. I was riding those Lasers and I did an aerial out of that bowl when Ballou was supposed to film. You were there and I aired in and came down and my board exploded and I knocked myself out and had a head concussion. You guys were like, “It wasn’t you, George. Your wheel shot out and your truck broke on you.” I bent so many Bennetts and Trackers. I caused havoc on Trackers. The team manager was like, “What is going on?” I was like, “What do you want me to say? It’s your truck.” Every truck I ever rode, I seriously bent big time. It wasn’t good. I had a lot of equipment failure. That’s the truth. A lot of equipment failed me and slammed me to my head and knocked me out.
Equipment failure led to head injuries.
Yes. What are you going to do? You have a rebound reaction. You’re going so fast and you’re coming down with so much velocity, you’re not going to save your head. There’s no way to save it. Your shoulder is going to hit and your head is next and it’s going to recoil off the ground. Bazooka! Hello. Now I’m in Wonderland.
How many times did you knock yourself out?
While I was in the industry, I knocked myself out 14 times. By the way, in 1968, having 30 needles put in your head to do a brain scan was painful. It was not a good sight. You looked like you were on electrodes. They did the brain scan by sticking needles under your scalp and you’re bleeding all over the place. It’s not good.
Right. Okay, walk me through how it all goes down after Powerflex and Sims. Do I need to re-track it for you because you’ve had so many brain injuries?
[Laughs] No. Moving on to Big O, Paramount and Upland. I was doing airs out of that Upland pipe and I slammed so hard. Cassimus had photos of me slamming with my hands spread straight out. It was crazy. As soon as I started doing it, it looked good. The transition was good. It felt good and I was getting so close that I was like, “I’m going to transfer. I want to do a transfer.” I started pulling airs out of there. The more I did it, the farther I was pulling away from the wall and I was landing down at the bottom of the transition.
What contests did you enter back then?
My first contest was Oceanside, the freestyle event, at the end of ’76. All I did was jump a lot of things and jump off a lot of things because my freestyle skills suck. I could do 360s and nose wheelies, but I wasn’t a good freestyler. My ADHD just didn’t give me the time of day to spend on a Rodney Mullen trick. It was too complicated.
This was before Rodney. You had Russ Howell, Ed Nadalin and Matt Barden.
Yeah. Russ Howell was there. I was an amateur. I think I got sixth or seventh place as an amateur.
What about in the bowl riding?
That’s our story right there. It started out at Spring Valley. That was the start of the Hester Series. Henry called me down to his house and I helped him build the digital panel to score on. That was the scoring system. We talked about how we should score it, on a scale of 1 to 100 or 1 to 10. Henry and Bob Skoldberg started putting together the point system. Spring Valley was my first real contest. It was the first bowl series ever and it went from there. We traveled around together and had a great time. Some of the best memories of my life were from traveling and doing the Hester Series.
How was it when they started doing the high air contest?
Henry’s craziest idea, which worked out, was at the third contest when he decided he wanted us to do doubles because guys were dropping in on each other.
Wait. I have to stop you. We did doubles before that at Spring Valley.
We did, but it wasn’t a competition. It was just happening naturally because guys were dropping in.
Bullshit. I skated doubles with Dunlop at Spring Valley.
That was the second Spring Valley contest. Not the first one.
It was the first one.
It was the second one. Okay. Here we go with your drug-addled memory.
I know for a fact because I was there. It doesn’t matter. We were talking about the high air contest because they didn’t have the high air contest at Spring Valley or Upland. They didn’t have it at Newark either, but they had it at the Big O.
Exactly. At the Big O contest, they put up a chart board and I did the aerial contest and won that.
I’m going to go out on a limb and call it a measuring stick.
They used a stick, but they were doing it through the plexiglass. Remember the kids were looking through it so they could see and not get hit? They used that plexiglass board for a little while, but then they got rid of that because it sucked. I think they actually threw it away after that contest.
Who won the highest air at Big O?
I won the highest air contest at the first Big O and Alan Gelfand won the second one. I was going face wall and I didn’t land it, and Gelfand won it with the ollie. At the first Big O, they gave it to Bobby Valdez at first and then, later, they decided he had done a handplant and he wasn’t free floating. They didn’t know. It was an experiment. You could push your hand up and push your board way into the sky and put it back down, but that’s not a free floating air. The judging was all over the place. They were pulling it out of their ass and we all knew it.
Hey, you need to settle down right now because that contest helped me out with my career in skateboarding.
Absolutely, it did. You were riding like you were out of your mind. You were doing channels and stuff.
They knew exactly what they were doing.
They didn’t know a fucking thing. They gave you a mercy win. [Laughs] I’m kidding. You earned it.
[Laughs] Yes. I’m kidding too. You and Frank Blood were doing doubles.
Yes. Henry came up with this wild idea of Frank going under me while I was doing an aerial. That’s when it changed. I was like, “No.” Frank said, “I’m not going under George.” I was doing aerials straight up and down. I was high enough that he could get under me, but we didn’t know mathematics enough to not slam into each other. Then Henry was like, “Let me show you.” He explained it to us on a piece of paper. He goes, “If Fred does this, you’ll have enough velocity. Trust me.” So we worked on it for a couple of hours and then we pulled it off and it was history from there. The first under and over was created. We were winning contests because of the over and under. The judges were still out of their minds, but that’s when they were judging accurately, when I was winning. You and Hackett were trying to weasel up to us, but you couldn’t catch us, so that’s how it goes. [Laughs] I’m kidding. Take it like a man.
Okay. Shut up. We’re going back to sweaty kneepads and dirty shorts.
Those were wonderful times – stinky grounded out Rector pads and shitty equipment. You needed a new set of pads every time you skated because of the gnarly concrete finish jobs that they did. It was crazy times, but it was good stuff.
There were a couple of times when we would be skating and you would knock yourself out and you would start snoring.
I was sleeping. Don’t wake me. Are you kidding me? If I had knocked myself out and I was snoring, I was happy. Leave me alone. Don’t wake me up. I need some down time. It was the only time I could get any sleep. I was on go mode. It was good. Equipment failure was actually my friend.
Did you make money off skateboarding?
I made good money. I was paid good money by the sponsors that I had. I always had a good check coming in, plus the money we won at the contests. I still had a job too. John Baron hired me to do the clothing and stuff, so I worked there. I could pay my bills with the money I had coming in. I was very lucky. Only five or ten skaters could say that.
What did you do for John Baron?
I was basically his bitch. I packed clothes and shipped them all over the world. When I was with Pepsi, they paid well to do demos. John Baron paid me well. John Baron and I were very close. He had his Jaguar and he wanted that driven around, so I started driving his Jag around while getting the bodywork done on it. He was a slimy motherfucker, but he treated me good. He got me and Rusty Preisendorfer and Henry Hester to do modeling. The stuff that they had us wearing, you wouldn’t get caught dead with that stuff on. One time they put stuff on me and I wouldn’t go out. I was like, “I’m not wearing this cheesy looking stuff.” He said he wanted me because of my hair and my looks and everything and Rusty’s look and Henry’s look.
Where were you doing modeling gigs for John Baron?
He had us walking out on San Diego stages and stuff. He paid us good money to do it.
What was that look all about?
We were dressed in stuff that wasn’t even from the skateboard world. He had us dressed in these baggy pants and see-through flowerchild ‘60s shit. It was just short of putting on pantyhose and going out there and modeling in high heels.
Did you ever put on pantyhose and do a private session?
[Laughs] No. Now I can laugh at it, but it was serious then. You should have seen Rusty. He was pissed. He was like, “I’m not putting this shit on.” John was like, “Well, you know, I paid you.” John could con anybody. It’s all funny now. I saw Peter Townsend at his 60th birthday and we talked about that. He tried to hide those photos and his wife started laughing her ass off. She goes, “You were the one standing up there on the box with Henry?” I said, “Yeah. We were modeling.” Rusty was shaking his head and he said, “God, I thought that was forgotten.” We were just laughing about it. That was a lot of fun.
When did you get out of skateboarding?
I went to Utah in ’81 and built my dad’s house and then came back and judged a contest. The very first contest that I judged was when Rodney Mullen was 12 years old. Rocco had told me about him because Rocco was the freestyle guy for the Pepsi team. He said, “You have to see this kid skate.” That’s when I came back to the Whittier contest, but I didn’t ride in it. I rode in the first one, but not the second one. Rodney Mullen came out and did freestyle out there in the flat and the kid was mind blowing. I remember putting my arm around him and saying, “Wow. That was awesome.” He was amazing. That’s when I got out. It was 1982. That’s when I started flying planes and then I started racing AMA motocross for the next eight years and I was still playing ball. I was still doing all the same stuff I did as a little kid. I was doing waterski tournaments and traveling around to different racetracks for motocross. I was going from one racetrack in the day to another racetrack at night. In Vegas, they’d race from 10pm at night until three in the morning because it was so hot. It was called the Speedrome in Vegas. I was racing AMA and I got on the Honda Motor Sports Team. Wardy and them took care of me. They took care of my equipment and paid my fees for the first couple of years. When I got out of skateboarding, I started racing AMA and I got serious about it. I was ranked #2 in the nation as an amateur. I had a blast hitting those triple jumps and berms at full speed. I learned a lot, especially when you’ve got Wardy, Lance and Bill coaching you. I loved flying too, so I started flying planes. I had a lot of fun. It was a blessing to move to Utah and get away from everybody. I didn’t come back for nine years.
How did you ever get on Santa Cruz?
I think you did that. My recollection is that you got me on and then Novak called me and said, “Hey, we’ve got Olson and Duane and Salba and we want to get all the old school guys. We’ll make the Stinger, your old model.” I had the conversation with him and I was like, “That sounds great.” I was on my way out the door, but I spent the next nine months on Santa Cruz. That’s when Skateboarder took a dump and Action Now came out. I was already in Utah for a year and a half by then. Then my center spread came out. It had Stacy on the cover and me on the center spread riding that wall in Century City. That totally blew me away.
Didn’t you ride for Variflex too?
I rode for Variflex and they paid me better than anybody else. My job was to bring together a good team of amateurs and work with them and push them to another level, and that’s what I did. I got Steve Hirsch and Eric Grisham and then we got Eddie Elguera. Gil Losi was very creative with Variflex. He was a thinker. He was the one that got Eric Grisham to flip the board around on his feet at Big O while going over the channel. He was trying to get me to do it and I was having a problem with it, but Eric was determined. The kid was so impressive. He was such a rock hard skater and he could take a hit and bounce right back up and start skating again. The first time he flipped that board around, he landed it. He was the first one in history to do that. Nobody was flipping boards around. It was unheard of. He pulled that off and it was crazy. Eric was there for the amateur contest and he pulled that off and I watched him do it. It didn’t take long for Steve to start doing it and then it went from there. The flipping of the board and 180 on your foot and then planting it to the wall was invented. I give Gil Losi credit for that because that was all his idea. That was cool. It blew me away. When Eric pulled that off, it was mind blowing. We were all freaking out. He had the biggest Grisham smile you ever saw on his face. It was good stuff.
Were you instrumental on getting Lance on Variflex?
I got Lance on there, but it was very short-lived. We got Eddie and then we got Lance. I met Lance at Whittier Skatepark when we were managers there for Ross Gullotti. Lance was always there drawing on the picnic table. I got him a skateboard and he started riding at the bottom of the bowl and then he started getting better and better. He asked me to teach him to do aerials because he wanted to do a frontside handplant, so I taught him how to do a frontside handplant at the bottom and he took it from there. He was a natural. Lance went to the roof from there. I was happy to get him started in that realm. He was a good kid and he listened. He would sit there and never say a word, but he comprehended what I said. You’ve inspired a lot of people around the world and I’ve inspired people. It’s a good thing. Whether you want to accept it or not, it’s good. It’s where we are in our lives right now. We’ve inspired millions of people. It’s an awesome feeling. Not taking any credit. Just saying, “Hey, okay. Good for you. I’m glad you’re doing that. It’s great. I’m glad I could be somewhat of a help to you.” Then they should do that for someone else to carry that tradition on.
Yeah. Who were you managing Whittier Skatepark with? Taters?
It was Greg Taie and Mike Johnson, the one-legged skater. Greg was the manager and then Ross gave me the job. It was a very short period. I got Angelo and his brother to start skating. They were just groms then. I enjoyed skating as well as managing that place. I loved that pipe. It was awesome. It was so fast. When you went from concrete to metal, all of a sudden, it’s like you turned on the turbo on your board. All of a sudden, it got clean and fast! I loved being tucked up inside that thing and coming off that pipe detached from the ceiling and making it most times. Sometimes you didn’t and you’d have to slide it out because you’d get so high and you’d lose your momentum and detach and try to keep your feet on the board, hoping you’d hit the transition before your body completely stretched out.
You knew you were not going to make it. You knew you were going to break a leg or something, so I’d always throw myself at the wall. If I got that far out, and I couldn’t feel my feet on the board, I would literally throw myself against the transition, so I didn’t have to hit the bottom.
That was serious shit. So in ’82, you were in Utah racing motorcycles and doing construction?
Yes. I got my high school degree and then got a certificate for college. I didn’t want to stick around long enough to become a mechanical engineer. I bought a company and started working my ass off in a warehouse that I got for my business. I did a lot of good work. I got into the siding, gutter and metal business while I was racing. That was the habit that was supporting my flying. I was trying to be like my great grandfather because he was the first man to ever race for Harley Davidson in 1906. That’s documented in the Harley Davidson book. He was a flyer too. He flew planes. He was a barnstormer. He flew through barns with broken wings. When you see old movies with barnstormers, that’s my great grandfather flying those planes. There were only ten stuntmen in the world that would break the wings off a plane and stand on top of it while strapped to the wings. I have all of his Harley stuff. He and his team were racing all the Harley bikes from 1906 to 1918. I guess that’s where I get it. He was a good man. He owned a lot of property on Signal Hill and he owned his own car dealership. I was inspired by my great grandfather to start racing motorcycles and flying planes. I was trying to follow in his footsteps.