INTERVIEW by STEVE OLSON
INTRODUCTION BY TODD JOHNSON
In 1982, I started going to Kona. I didn’t have a quality skateboard, so I rented one from the pro shop. It was a Jimmy Plumer Z Pig model, early fish shape. The die cut Z in the grip tape was seared into me that day by the ghost of Plumer. I had no idea who Plumer was or if he was even still alive. I quickly learned from the older skaters that Plumer was the only skater to be able to fly into the bowl with lightening speed, hauling ass over the peak from the top of the snake run, also tail tapping the 6’ tombstone.
In 1992, Plumer is in his second decade of commercial diving. Swimming up from the depths with a bag full of fish, a bull shark comes out from behind and sinks his teeth into Jimmy’s shoulder. Plumer turns around and puts a spear in the shark. He continues swimming up to the boat where his brother and step-father think he is going to bleed to death, but a rescue helicopter comes and takes him ashore to sew him up for a few more adventures. The shark is now tattooed on his shoulder in memoriam.
Six years ago, heard Plumer’s motoboard screaming down the street and jumped into the window to see him edge out off the curb, wipe out and got up and outta there. Last week, heard a bicycle with engine whizzing down the street, blowing through stop signs and notice the black rider to be Plumer, identified by his shark scar tattoo.
Cracking airs higher than most, carving on tiles the longest, cruising airs in Marina Del Rey vertical on his motoboard. Yesterday and Today, Plumer is still raging, read on.
You’re fucking yelling.
[Laughs] Okay. You’re right. My ringer was down. I’m on the beach.
How is it?
It’s knee to waist high and the wind is on it. I might take the longboard out later.
What are you doing these days?
I’m a commercial lobster diver.
Why did you quit skateboarding?
It’s because of all of the injuries that I had.
Can you explain a little bit about those injuries?
I had three pins in my hip, both ankles broken, both wrists broken twice, head bongos… You name it. I got it. And then, after I started diving, a shark bit me. You heard about that one, right?
No. Tell me.
On May 28th, 1994, we went out for a six-day trip. It was me and two other guys. My stepfather has two boats out of Mayport Commercial Fisherman Dive Boats. I run one and my brother runs the other one. We were coming in from our last day and we were going to make one more dive. We produce more fish that way, spear fishing. An eight-foot dusky came up to me and made a pass at me. It was just me and the shark. I didn’t think anything of it because I’d seen thousands of them, and shot hundreds of them. He made another pass at me and, at the last second, he turned and swam up and grabbed me. I had just enough time to put up my arm. He grabbed me underneath my shoulder and my arm. He started to grab my head and I pulled my arm up to protect my head. So he grabbed me by the shoulder and swam up in the water about 30 feet. This is 35 miles off the beach in a 120-foot water. I kept banging on him using an explosive tip of a spear gun 357 and he finally let me go. He knocked my regulator out of my mouth, and my mask was up on my head, so I cleared my mask real quick, and put my regulator back in my mouth and he made a big old turn. I knew he was coming to get me again. Thank God I still had my gun in my hand. I shot him in the head and blew him up and I came up screaming. They had to send a helicopter out. You could see my lungs, my ribs, and the whole nine yards. I was on TV for about 15 minutes. It was on CNN and the front page of The Sunday Times. I got 450 stitches. My brother kept direct pressure on until the cops got there. It took a half hour for them to get there.
Your brother saved your life. I’m glad. Where did you grow up?
I grew up half of my life in Jacksonville and half of my life in California. I met Tony Alva and Jay Adams at Will Rogers State Park down the street. My mom and dad divorced when I was 12, so I’d go out to Santa Monica and spend the summer with my dad. I started surfing when I was six. My brother Dean and I went surfing at Will Rogers and we’d seen these two little blond hair kids and it ended up to be Alva and Adams. I met them at the beach that day. They needed to borrow wax and we hit it off. Jay introduced me to everybody: Biniak, Muir, P.C., all the boys…
I was 14. I have videos of Alva and I riding Paul Revere when we were 14 years old. My dad took Super-8 videos. I was born in 1959, so that would have been 1973. I moved to California in 1976 after I won a downhill pro contest at Kona. First, I skated for Alva for about a month. That was right when Z-Flex had the Venice shop. Jay said, “Why don’t you come skate for us and we’ll give you your own model?” I met Kent Sherwood, Jay’s stepdad, and Chris Pasques, the owner of Z-Flex. That’s how I switched to Z-Flex and I’m riding with them still. I have my fifth model out now. I’m still getting royalty checks 35 years later. It’s way cool. I’m not the celeb you are, but it’s cool to be remembered.
Shut the fuck up. So you bounced back and forth from Florida to California when you were a kid?
Right. I stayed out there from 1976 to 1979. That’s when I moved back here and started commercial diving with my stepfather. I worked with him for 10 years and then I started running the boat for my step-dad.
“Jay said, “Why don’t you come skate for us and we’ll give you your own model?” I met Kent Sherwood, Jay’s stepdad, and Chris Pasques, the owner of Z-Flex. That’s how I switched to Z-Flex and I’m riding with them still. I have my fifth model out now. I’m still getting royalty checks 35 years later. It’s way cool.”
I remember when Marie moved in with you to some big house.
That was one of my dad’s pads. My dad is super rich. He worked at MGM for 30 years and his mother came from money. They had a whole bunch of property on Wilshire Boulevard. When my grandmother died, my dad ended up moving to Reseda and buying Tatum O’Neil and Ryan O’Neil’s old horse ranch, which is out there in the Valley. Now he’s got this giant spread out there. It’s sick.
What did your dad do for MGM?
He was a color coordinator. He did a lot of big movies. The guy just makes sure all the scenes are the right colors and things like that. He did Towering Inferno and a lot of the old spaghetti westerns with Clint Eastwood. He’s in there on the credits at the end.
You didn’t want to go in that world?
Actually, I wanted to be a stunt man.
I ended up just sticking with skating.
When did you start skateboarding?
I was six years old. I started surfing first and then it was just something we could do whenever the surf was flat. We’d find banks or drainage ditches to skate and carve and act like we were riding waves. When I went to Paul Revere, it was ten times better than what we rode in Florida. The Dog Bowl was five blocks from my dad’s house, so Alva took me there and introduced me to Dino, the guy that lived there. His parents owned the place and all I had to do was give him a big old sack of Thai weed and I was in there. [Laughs] That’s when I started hanging out with all those guys. I was there when Alva did the first air and we had the private sessions. It was a daily thing everyday. We’d meet there and just kill it.
Why were you such a crazy skateboarder and why did you go so fast?
I don’t know. I always liked going faster than everybody. That was one of my trademarks, just going way fast like Bob Biniak, another one of my heroes. He was a super fast skater. I always liked going fast and just doing nutty shit.
Who were your heroes growing up?
Evel Knievel, Jay Adams and Tony Alva.
How about Mohammed Ali?
[Laughs] Evel Knievel is first on the list and then Adams and then Alva. You used to rip big time too, and that guy Blackhart. He skated fast like you too. Rick Blackhart was a ripper too.
That’s because we’re goofy.
What about Jacques Cousteau? You didn’t like Jacques Cousteau?
Oh yeah. My mom is a marine biologist. She actually worked with him when she was young. My mom was a marine biologist for 30 years here in Florida.
When did you get sponsored by Z-Flex?
At first, I was sponsored by Z-Flex, and then after they made my fiberglass model, they made my wood model, the Z-Woodie. Kent and Chris made my wheels, the Z-Grooves and the Z-Smooths. Then there was a clothing company called High Flyer. They sponsored me too. This bearing company that made synthetic grease for high-speed bearings was a sponsor too. I had all kinds of sponsors.
What was the bearings thing, Tri-Flon?
It was synthetic graphite that had just come out. It had my picture on it and it was just a little tube of stuff that had my picture and name on it. It was crazy shit like that. I used to skate for High Flyer Clothing and BSA Trucks from Canada. They used to give me decent cake and travel me all over.
When did you start going into competition and knowing that you were super good?
After I won the downhill contest in Florida, I thought I could make it as a pro skater. I won $600, turned pro and moved to California. I started living with my dad in 1976.
Are you tight with your parents?
What do they think of your skateboarding?
They look up to it. They know I’m a nutcase. That was my release because all of my life I’ve been the wild, crazy guy, and skateboarding was my outlet for all that pent up rage, and I actually made a name for myself. They thought I was nuts at first, “Oh, you’re going to be a professional skateboarder, and ride a toy for a living.” Back then we were outlaws. You didn’t make money unless you were Peralta or something.
[Laughs] Why did you get the name “Wild Man” before skateboarding though?
I used to light firecrackers off of my teeth, jump off cliffs and do crazy shit. I was riding on top of vans naked down the street. It was stupid stuff that we’d do when we’re young.
What was it like moving out of Florida to California?
It was great. I loved it. That was the best time in my life. I was totally free and independent. I was traveling all over the world riding a toy for a living and making as much money as I do now. I’m putting my life on the line now diving.
You were putting your life on the line then too. You just didn’t know it.
Yeah. You’re right. Hey, did you ever get a copy of that video that Mitch did? It shows that early Florida and Dogtown connection and the footage of Alva and I riding Paul Revere in 1974. It’s great. At the end, it’s got a dedication to Bob Biniak.
That makes me sad.
Yeah. Biniak and I stayed close all through the years. He used to take some serious money from me on the pool table. I thought I was good and he schooled me every time. He was the master golfer too. He had such a good heart. He was such a good guy. That was the biggest loss.
Yeah. What was your crew like when you were a little kid skating around out there?
We were little terrorists. It was Jay, Shogo, George Wilson, Marty Grimes and I. Those were the hot shots of the team. We’d just go to any skatepark and take over big time.