JUICE MAGAZINE 13 YEAR ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL
INTERVIEW AND INTRODUCTION BY JIM MURPHY
PHOTOS BY DAN LEVY and AARON ELLIS
Artist. Innovator. Revolutionary. Jeff Ho is a man before his time and a name that will last throughout it. Jeff has shaped countless numbers of surfboards by hand and experimented with many designs some of which are used as an industry standard in this modern day. Jeff has been working with Juice Magazine since 2003 and we are honored to have him on the team. His interview style is detailed and unique very much like his shaping techniques. We recently embarked on an East Coast Tour and this is a talk about the trip and his experiences from the road. Here is Jeff Ho.
“I SEE KIDS OUT THERE. SOME OF THEM ARE IN IT FOR THE MONEY RATHER THAN THE SKATING. TO SEE SKATING IN IT’S PUREST FORM IS MORE RARE. THEN YOU HAVE THE PEOPLE ON THE EAST COAST THAT ARE SKATING IN DUCT-TAPED SHOES.”
Yo, Jeff. What’s up?
I don’t know. Same old thing. It’s another day in paradise.
What have you been up to?
I just came back from Tokyo and before that we did the East Coast tour. We toured the underground skate and surf scene and met some great people.
Where did that all start?
It all started with Charlie at Red Dog’s in Wrightsville Beach, NC. Charlie is a cool guy. He owns a bar called Red Dog’s and he bought one of my retro surfboards for his collection. So Charlie flew us out there and we had a little party at the bar. We had a great time.
What kind of board was it?
It was a remake of a diamond tail two-plus-one thruster. The design was pre-Simon Anderson era. The design was a single fin board, but back in the early ’70s we were putting little side fins on the diamond tails. We called them stabilizer fins. That’s the design of the board.
If you’re riding a single fin and then you add side fins, what was the ride like?
The ride was a little more maneuverable. You could go to a wide tail. The little side fins gave the board and extra boost. It was something we were doing in the early ’70s. It was the forerunner to the modern day thruster. Brewer was doing some of those in Hawaii in the late ’60s and early ’70s. They were experimenting with those on the North Shore.
Charlie is a collector. He wanted a board, so we flew it out there and that was the beginning of the East Coast trip. Juice Magazine sponsored the tour and we went on a road trip from North Carolina to Florida to New York to check out the underground skating scene on the East Coast. There’s not been a lot written about the East Coast scene in some of the other magazines and there are a bunch of hardcore skaters on the East Coast.
What did you think when you got to Wilmington? Were you looking forward to getting on the road and seeing all these underground places?
Yeah, because I’d never been on the East Coast before.
I’d sold boards to people on the East Coast. I had team riders from the East Coast, but I never had the time to travel up and down the Coast or visit.
What was your first stop after Wilmington?
We had the new issue of Juice ready, and we got invited down to the Surf Expo in Florida. We were meeting up with Buttons and Garrett McNamara and his crew. We were hanging out with the Surfrider Foundation and the Vans people. It was cool. We met the people from Grind for Life that have a foundation that raises money for people with cancer. We had a good time. It was kind of hot. Then we went to the Orlando Skatepark and took some photos. The locals have a great scene there.
Hell, yeah. The park with the blue tiles near the little airport.
Yeah, we met a bunch of guys. There was some sick skateboarding going down. I talked to a lot of people and they thought Juice Magazine was great.
Where did you go next?
Then we got invited to the Kona Skatepark, so we went to Jacksonville and handed out some magazines and signed a bunch of autographs for the kids. All of the people who work there were super cool to us and we met a bunch of the locals. Kona Skatepark is the oldest skatepark in the United States. The original owners still own and run the park. It was cool to meet the kids.
Did the little kids know who you were?
A lot of them did. It was interesting. We had a good time. There’s a lot of history and legacy at Kona. It was a really cool place. You wouldn’t have expected that the skatepark would have survived so many years. There have been times when skating dies and then skating changed from skateparks to street skating, so it’s amazing any parks survived. Most of them closed. We had Marina Skatepark out here, and now it’s covered up by a big freeway on ramp.
Did you skate those parks back in the day?
Yeah, I did. And Kona reminded me of a lot of the old parks with the big snake run and bowl. After Kona, we went to the Hanger Bowl in Charleston.
What did you think about that place?
I met Hank Beiring. He’s a cool guy. He has his own skate museum going on. Those guys are so into skateboarding that they have this bowl. I don’t know the whole history of it, but they built it, they own it and they skate it. Hank and his friends got together and made it happen. This bowl is really big. Here in California, there are parks, but they’re owned by companies or the city or the YMCA or someone. These guys have their own bowl.
What was impressive was that it’s not the corporate deal. These guys built the bowl and they skate it and that’s where the hardcore basic lifestyle breeds. That’s the skating culture. These guys live the hardcore skating lifestyle. They’re not there because they’re charging money to skate their bowl. There were no poseurs hanging out with video cameras. This is the hardcore roots of skateboarding. What’s so interesting is that here in California I don’t see a whole lot of that. I know there are pockets of guys that skate their own bowls. There’s the Basic Bowl and the new backyard bowls. Hawaii has a taste of it too with Steve Ellis’ bowl. It’s cool, but I was just really impressed with the East Coast scene.
Who did you meet in Charleston?
I met Jimmy Leaphart, and Otis and Shannon and a lot of the locals.
Mouth of the South.
He was just a hardcore skating machine. It’s such a good scene. It was really cool to see. We got to chill out and check out a session and see the skate museum. There were all of these other scenes we wanted to visit, so we kept rolling north. We stopped back through Wrightsville Beach and stopped in Surf City Surf Shop and then went to sign some autographs at Sweetwater Surf Shop that Ben Bourgeouis family owns. We stopped by Two Guys Grille and had lunch and they were really cool. The next day we stopped at Jersey Mike’s at the beach for lunch and then we made our way up the East Coast to the Outer Banks.
Did you do any surfing?
No, I didn’t know I was going to stay past the Surf Expo. We just decided at the last minute to stay and tour up the Coast. I wanted to check out the skate scene.
What made you change your mind?
Terri had this idea. She wanted to show me around. She had a few days to make it happen so we decided to take the time to go up the Coast to New York and visit you. The East Coast was great. I want to thank Terri.
Hell, yeah. Let’s go back to the Outer Banks. What did you think about that?
We checked out Kill Devil Hills and we went to Duck, but we visited Wanchese first. We took some magazines to Marc Corbett and met his daughter. We met Pat Clark and he was killing that bowl. There was a good crew. Then Science showed up with his duct-taped shoes. I guess his real name is Dave Maxwell. He tore the living shit out of that bowl. He tore it up.
Meeting these guys for the first time, and not knowing too much about them, I just knew that Wanchese was another underground spot. It’s another huge bowl that they built out in the middle of nowhere. It’s on the back lot of someone’s house. It’s hardcore skateboarding. Science shreds. I couldn’t believe some of the stuff that guy was doing on the over vert. He was just going off. These guys are not in the corporate arena. I don’t think they go to the X Games, but they skate harder than anyone I’ve ever seen. It was great. Science was shredding. We got to visit there and then we hit some other spots. What’s happening over there is that these guys have been building their own pools. There are probably about five permission pools out there. It’s a group of guys that surf in the summertime and then during the wintertime they skate. They’ve built their own pools on their properties all up and down the Outer Banks. We skated Mike’s pool and checked out his shaping room where he makes his own surfboards. Then we went and saw the pool they’re building for Jeremy. At lunch, we met this character named Bob that owns Bob’s Grill where his motto is “Eat and Get the Hell Out”. It was great food. Then we checked out where the Wright brothers did the first airplane flight in Kitty Hawk. That was cool. Then we went to check out Bob and Tanya’s house. We stayed with them and that night we had the first session of the season at their place. They drained the pool and the crew from DVO, Jason, Boogie and the boys killed it. Science showed up. Bernie was there. Pat Clark and his son showed up to skate. Rob Nelson and his son were ripping it up. Ashley and Sue were there. It’s Bob’s bowl. He and his wife Tanya built it. Sometimes they rent the house out to people that want to skate, so people can stay at the house and skate the pool.
It’s hardcore skating at its purest form.
It’s just about having fun and skating.
This is what our lifestyle and our culture is all about. It’s surfing and skating. As far as the industry goes, our surf industry has really changed. It’s all gone corporate.
What do you mean by corporate?
The surf industry is now being controlled by the clothing industry. Things have changed a lot. What I try to do is to keep it on the real level.
It’s just like with Wanchese and the Outer Banks. They’re doing it for the pure love, and you’re the same kind of person. You’re making your boards and doing your company for the pure love of it. I see a parallel in that.
I build my boards. I don’t mass market them. I do the work on the boards. I hand shape them. They’re not done by computer. I don’t use molds. All the boards are hand built. I try to make each one different and special. I can relate to what these guys are doing with their skating. I learn more about skateboard design, too. I’ve been making limited runs of skateboards and experimenting with shapes. I’m just doing it because I like to do it. It’s what I do. I love what I’m doing. And you can tell when you see the hardcore guys on the East Coast skating that they love what they’re doing, too. It’s cool to see that scene going on, and it’s happening up and down the East Coast. I didn’t know there were so many other people out there that are as hardcore as that. It’s just like Jeff Ament. He’s one of the hardcore skaters and musicians that I’ve met this last year. He goes and plays music and skates. He’s got a hardcore scene where he lives and then they go out on tour and he’ll play his concert and skate during the day. Along with being a high profile musician, he’s a hardcore skater. He skates for the love of it. There are a lot of people like that.
Is it harder to find a purist surfer or skater in California with all the mass marketing and commercialization of skateboarding and surfing?
Well, it’s not the norm. When you meet people that have the same values that you do, it’s kind of refreshing.
Tell us about New York.
We went to New York to visit you.
What was it like seeing the city for the first time?
It was interesting running around New York. There’s a mass quantity of people there. I guess there’s a good street scene going on. I saw kids skating at Union Square. Those kids are out there riding rails and ollieing stairs.
What did you think of NYC? Were you stoked on it or was it too much?
It was cool. We didn’t get to spend a lot of time there. We met Marc Reiter for lunch. We were talking to him about the music scene.
Tell people who Marc Reiter is.
He’s a skater guy from the old days and he’s in the music industry. He manages Metallica and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. He hooked us up with some backstage passes for the Virgin Music Festival in Baltimore.
Were the Chili Peppers down there?
It was the Chili Peppers and The Who and a bunch of other bands like Gnarls Barkley and the Killers. We were hanging out backstage and we met Pete Townshend from the Who.
Do you know that guy?
I met him and his daughter Minta. He was stoked. His son is into skating, so he knew about Juice Magazine and he’d seen the Dogtown documentary.
He knew who you were?
Yeah, I guess he was a fan or whatever. He and his family knew about the skate scene through the Dogtown documentary.
Did you get to talk to him much?
Yeah, we hung out for a while before the show. He’s working on a documentary film. I’m a big fan of the Who, so we talked about his music. Pete Townshend was punk before punk. When he was doing the “Quadrophenia” days, and you look at his career and his life, it’s amazing. He’s a wild guitar player. He’s rock n’ roll. He was one of the first guys I’d ever seen break a guitar on stage.
Did you see him do that back in the day?
Yeah, that was in the ’60s and the guy is still going strong. It’s crazy to see him play and do some of his stuff. He wasn’t busting guitars on the stage, but he’s probably in a different space now. They’re still going strong. They’re out on tour. His kid is into skating.
Did you meet his kid, too?
I just met the daughter. She was a fan of the lifestyle and the culture. I believe that rock n’ roll, surfing and skating are all part of our lifestyle.
So that was the tour?
Yeah, after that we went back to Wilmington and flew home. There is an underground skate scene here in California, too. There are also cool things like the Vans ProTec Party.
What did you think of that? I thought it was the raddest skating I’d ever seen at that combi pool.
Yeah, and I thought you got burned.
That’s the way it’s been my whole life, babe.
Didn’t I see you skating in that?
Yeah, I was skating at one point.
You were killing it. Jimmy The Greek was there. Heidi was there. A lot of the people were there. This year, the Vans party was more business though. The first year had more of a party atmosphere. It was more like a family reunion. It was all business this year. There were more cameras and filmers. I did have a good time. Omar Hassan shredded. Did you think he deserved to win?
I think it’s so tight. It’s like trying to judge art. Who’s better, Picasso or Van Gogh? Who’s better? Neil Blender or Duane Peters? Omar did all his crazy lines, but then you had Rune doing his lines the way he skates. In the end, I think everybody wins. Omar and Rune blew me away the first year and this year. I was stoked on everyone.
What about that kid Sergie?
Yeah, he’s from the East Coast.
Who else was there?
Chris Miller, Ben Schroeder, Lance, Caballero…
Lance was killing it. Caballero was doing his classic lines. That was on. He was smooth. And then there was Grosso. He was really killing it. And what about Cookiehead? He was just blasting.
Yeah, he was shredding. So that’s the kind of scene we have on the West Coast. Then you have the X Games. I got invited to the X Games to present an award to the winner of the street skating event. That was interesting. The X Games is like a huge event. The arena that I was in was huge. There were so many people there. One of the things that was cool, was I was standing up there during the ceremony and I looked up and there were so many people. The one thing that flashed on me from the beginning when I first started doing the team thing with the kids was to see it come from a place where we were doing contests with hay bails for obstacles to the Mega Ramp. To see it go so big, and to see how it’s changed, it’s just crazy. Skateboarding has come a long way. Have you seen those ramps those guys are jumping off?
I’ve only seen the video.
When you walk under those ramps and stand under one of those roll ins that’s three stories high, it’s unbelievable.
Danny Way is crazy.
It’s totally insane. I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen in 2007. I want to see how many other guys are going to be pushing that envelope. It’s just unbelievable. When I was first going to contests and helping put them together we had a little ramp and some slalom cones.
Now you’ve got Danny Way dropping in off an 80-foot tall roll in.
The great thing about that is that Danny Way came out of vert skating and vert skating was dead for so long and for him to come back with so much heart and start doing shit like that, it was a testament to the kind of guy he is. Now there are other guys stepping up. It’s rad. Are you seeing new kids out there coming up?
I see kids out there. Some of them are in it for the money rather than the skating. To see skating in its purest form is more rare. Then you have the people on the East Coast that are skating in duct-taped shoes.
I was just looking at Science’s shoes. I was like, “What’s up with the shoes?” They were covered in duct tape. He skates his shoes until nothing’s left. Then you’ve got kids on the West Coast and they’ve got to have a new pair of shoes every two weeks. They don’t even know what duct tape is.
It’s just a different kind of scene. What can you say?
It’s just two different kinds of lifestyles. On the West Coast, it’s easier to get product and out East you really have to earn it. Do you get back to Hawaii a lot?
I was in Hawaii earlier this summer. The skating is going off in Hawaii. I have a couple of kids on my team over there like Heisen and Lahiki. They’re out their ripping it up. You’ve got Steve’s bowl, Cholo’s. I’ve known him for a few years. He’s from New York, originally from the East Coast. He was doing a skatepark in the ’70s in New York. He was skating and surfing with the crew from Long Island back in the day. So here’s Steve transplanted to the North Shore. He opens the restaurant and then builds himself a quarter pipe. Now he’s got the full concrete bowl. He’s got it going on up there on the North Shore.
It took an East Coast guy to make it happen.
There you go. That’s another underground scene that’s going on that’s pure hardcore skating. There are scenes all over the world going off.
Have you been shaping a lot of boards?
I’ve been working with every kind of foam there is, testing them out. I’ve used foam from China, Mexico, Brazil and France. The surf industry is nuts right now. There are guys I call scrapers. They have these CandC machines and they scrape out boards. They don’t hand shape them. They slap some logo on it. There it is. It’s like, “We’ll see how many hundreds we can do today.” That’s my competition, I guess. The United States used to be the center of manufacturing and it’s not anymore. A lot of the surfboard manufacturing is being done overseas. There are big factories in China flooding the market with cheap mass produced product. They’re doing a lot of molded surfboards now that Clark Foam went out of business. Instead of importing foam from other companies, some of the big brand name companies are bringing in molded boards from other countries. It’s cheaper to import a board already finished than it is to import a blank and make it here. The whole industry has changed. The snowboarding industry is controlling a lot of the surf industry.
How are they doing that?
Burton Snowboards now owns Al Merrick.
Really? You know how some people want a Harley Davidson? Is there a core market like that in surfing, too?
Yes, there is. There are still people interested in buying a quality product. I just think the surf and skate industry has gone nuts.
So why do you do interviews for Juice Magazine?
The reason I do interviews for Juice Magazine is because I believe Juice is the last magazine that tells the truth about skating, surfing, music and our culture. It’s a hardcore magazine and it speaks the truth. Most of the interviews that I’ve done are with people that I’m interested in talking to because I believe they contributed to our society. Whether it’s music, surf, or skate, they play a major role in history and they’ve done things that should be respected for. They should be publicly acknowledged for their contributions. These are important people and they deserve the recognition, plus I enjoy hearing their point of view. I think by doing the interviews for Juice magazine that it will benefit the rest of our culture. I’m not doing it for money. I’m not doing it for fame or egotistical glorification. People think I don’t want to be successful because there are certain things in business that I don’t do. There are certain lines I don’t cross. I believe in being loyal to the people that I work with. I believe people appreciate the things that have been going on at Juice magazine. We want people to get accolades and respect for their work, rather than for how famous they are.
Who are some of your favorite people that you’ve interviewed?
I think Laird Hamilton was a great interview. He’s a really nice person. He’s got a lot of integrity. He’s greatly contributed to the sport of surfing. Robert Trujillo and Strider Wasilewski were great interviews. You have to give Strider credit for the things he’s done. I knew him when he was young and he’s risen to become a very successful and influential person in surfing. Jeff Ament from Pearl Jam was a really great interview, too. Jeff is a really down to earth person. I got his insight on skating and music. He’s keeping it real. Jeff Ament is a huge rock star that’s just a down to earth person.
That’s cool. So why did you start doing interviews for Juice?
I started doing interviews because I believe that Juice Magazine should stay around and I think people should help the magazine. I started doing interviews when I saw that Juice was different from all the other magazines. The other magazines are only interested in hype and bullshit. The interviews that Juice does are real interviews. You get the viewpoint of the artist. It’s not something that’s colored over. It’s not something that I’ve written. It’s a documentation of a conversation and it’s going to be a part of history. I think many years down the line the magazine and the interviews will serve as outstanding documents from this time period and the evolution of our culture.
Right on. Tell me what’s been going on with the old Zephyr surf shop and the plans to demolish it and build condos?
I’m trying to help save the old surf shop. That’s another thing that holds no financial gain for me. I’m not looking to be memorialized. Some people are talking about putting up statues and that’s crazy. When are people going to realize that some things from the past just have to stay? Some things have to remain and be acknowledged. I think it’s really important to give credit for people’s contributions to our world.
Absolutely. So what is your “Duty Now for the Future”?
I just have to keep working.
Okay, hang tough. Keep doing it. I’ll talk to you later.
Thank you, Murf. Peace.
JEFF HO INTERVIEWS
INTERVIEWS BY JEFF HO