LANCE MOUNTAIN X STEVE OLSON
INTERVIEW & INTRODUCTION BY STEVE OLSON
PHOTOS BY ANTHONY ACOSTA & BRENDAN KLEIN
When one plays King of the Mountain, you try to get to the top, right? But when you play the same game with Lance Mountain, it’s hard to win…Competitive, that’s an understatement… Passionate, his picture is in the dictionary… Talented, well, that’s easy… Yes. Committed, slightly, and very… ’til death does he part ways with his skateboard”… Goofy, Disney owes, know what I’m saying? Loyal, ah yeah…, I mean… Should he be the first man knighted in skateboarding? Just think of the way it would sound… Sir Lance Mountain… off with his head!
INTERVIEW & INTRODUCTION BY LANCE MOUNTAIN
I just read over Olson’s intro for me and I love it. How can I compete with that? Steve has a way with words and making you feel good about yourself. Charming, maybe, but I’m not a girl. There are many words to describe people who have done and loved what they do for so long, but to have the ability to pretend that none of it matters is the hardest, and it comes so easy for Steve, as does his skateboarding. He has shown us how to turn on a skateboard better than anyone. He has won multiple contests and awards. He has turned down more sponsorship opportunities than most have been offered. He brought in a new wave of style, thought and look to skateboarding. Some called it punk. We called it Olson.
OLSON: Okay, this is part two of this interview and we haven’t gotten to the Bones Brigade yet. I was one of the test pilots.
LANCE: Wait. Are you getting on Powell Peralta? Is that what’s happening?
OLSON: Why do you think Stacy and I have been talking?
LANCE: I thought so.
OLSON: Powell Peralta Olson. [Laughs] Just kidding.
LANCE: Wait. Why are you asking the questions?
OLSON: I don’t know. Ask me a question.
LANCE: When did you decide that skateboarding was boring?
OLSON: I never thought that. You’re killing me. Ask another question besides that one. When did I lose interest in skateboarding? Come on. The fact that George Powell coached you through the frontside invert in the capsule is an amazing story.
LANCE: [Laughs] Where are you going with this? How many practice sessions did you have with Dale Smith?
LANCE: Touchy subject, huh?
OLSON: No. I was just going to be 100% honest. I saw Dale Smith after I split my head open and tweaked my ankle. I ran into him at a contest and he was like, “How’s it going?” I was like, “I don’t know. I had tricks that passed me up and I’m just trying to get back into the whole scene.” He’s like, “What kind of tricks were you thinking about learning Stevie, baby? I’ll meet you at Lakewood and the first thing we can work on is the Miller flip. I taught Darrell how to do those.”
LANCE: You’re talking about the Olson flip. Oh, this is where it wasn’t possibly the Olson flip yet?
OLSON: No. I did a session with Dale and realized he wasn’t going to help me land a Miller flip.
LANCE: [Laughs] Why? Was it because you didn’t have enough patience?
OLSON: Well, no. I just didn’t think that he knew what he was talking about at that time. Patience could have been part of it because I’d probably run it through my head a couple 350,000 times while he’s telling me how to rotate and plant the hand. I was like, “What is this dude even talking about? He can’t even skate a pool.” Hence, I never took the time to learn the Miller flip. [Laughs]
LANCE: Do you think now that he might have known some of the mechanics and rudiments of it?
OLSON: There’s a good possibility he did, but there’s a good possibility that I did too. I just wasn’t hitting it properly.
LANCE: So you’re saying…
OLSON: I’m saying that’s possibly when I started to get bored with skateboarding.
LANCE: That’s exactly what I thought. That’s when you decided you were over it.
OLSON: Did you ever work with Dale?
LANCE: No. He actually called me earlier and asked me to ask you that question.
OLSON: No way. Okay, fair enough. When you were riding with the Variflex team, would you guys, as a team, have sessions where you would do workouts?
LANCE: You’re crazy. Absolutely not.
OLSON: [Laughs] I am so not crazy. What about the time when they were having a Colton contest and Duane and I were the last ones to leave and we were pulling away and the place was totally dark.
LANCE: Then the lights went back on and you guys snuck back in and we were there in our uniforms practicing together?
OLSON: [Laughs] Yes!
LANCE: That’s completely made up by a bunch of dudes that were on drugs. That never happened. If it did, it wasn’t at Colton.
OLSON: Oh, for sure it was at Colton, but maybe you weren’t there.
LANCE: I definitely wasn’t there because I didn’t skate for Variflex when they had the jerseys. I never had a Variflex jersey, unfortunately. I got on late. I got on in the beginning of ‘81, but they didn’t have those jerseys. Those jerseys were like ‘79 and there was no Colton Contest in ‘79. That’s why I know you guys are completely out of your minds.
OLSON: I did not say ‘79.
LANCE: No. I’m saying nobody had those jerseys after the first Gold Cup. That’s when those jerseys were around, at the end of ‘79.
OLSON: Were you involved with the Variflex/Santa Cruz battle?
LANCE: By the time I got on Variflex, a couple contests in, I was involved in the battle. Well, I don’t know if I was involved in it, but I really took notice of it at the last Gold Cup.
OLSON: Tell me about that because I have no idea.
LANCE: You have to tell me because I don’t know about the battle that was going on before I was on there.
OLSON: There was no battle.
LANCE: Right. It just happened at the Gold Cups, right?
OLSON: Who knows? I don’t think I was at too many Gold Cups.
LANCE: That’s what I’m saying. I don’t even think you knew of the battle, so the conversation that you were having with Duane about when you saw the Variflex team practicing in the jerseys is not right.
OLSON: No. That was at Colton. We saw a weird picture where Salba, Duane and I are at Colton at the pro shop. That’s right around when it happened. I guess it was Gold Cup. I don’t know.
LANCE: That was Gold Cup. There were no other contests. There was one Gold Cup and there was one contest at the Holiday Bowl after the Gold Cup. I didn’t really get to spend a lot of time with any of the Variflex team. I went on that U.S. tour.
OLSON: What does that mean a U.S. tour? I am so curious.
LANCE: It was sick. That’s one of the reasons that I got on Variflex. They said, “We’re going to go on a tour of the United States and go to all these different skate parks.” It was the Variflex team as a group. Eddie Elguera didn’t go on it.
OLSON: Wow. Why not?
LANCE: Well, right after the Gold Cup, Eddie split. He went to Mexico or whatever he did, so I didn’t spend a lot of time with him. My only real experience with any of them was those five Gold Cup contests. I went to Oasis. I went to Big O. I went to Marina. I went to Colton and I went to Upland. The only real time I spent with any of them was those contests and then we went on a U.S. tour and Eddie had already split because of the Variflex/Santa Cruz battle. I think it really bothered him.
OLSON: [Laughs] Come on.
LANCE: It was the Variflex/Santa Cruz battle that never existed. The thing is, it existed in people’s minds or in the writing in the magazines and I fully believe it stemmed from the fact that everyone on Variflex rode Variflex trucks and therefore, there was no neutral ground of riding Trackers or riding for Indy, so it was very easy to battle against. It was more of an Indy thing than a Santa Cruz thing because none of them rode Indy’s.
OLSON: Skateboarding was pretty dismal then.
LANCE: It was, but there were still contests.
OLSON: The contests were dismal because there weren’t that many people there. When there’s a lot of people, it kind of amps you up. The contests were dismal in that era, but the skating was amazing.
LANCE: I understand exactly. It was three years of it and it just ran its course. Variflex was like, “Hey, we’re going on a U.S. tour and we’re going to go to all the skateparks.” I was like, “This is it. This is exciting. It’s my time.” This was right when the whole compulsory stuff came out, and we were starting to be in a place where we could probably be pros. Some of the older generation pros just seemed more grounded and they skated harder.
OLSON: What do you mean by that? Were they grounded because they stayed inside the pool?
LANCE: [Laughs] No. I watched footage of Salba skating some of those Gold Cups and I’m like, “Man, he was good.” At that point, it was so based on tricks. It was all about who did a new trick. They didn’t look at the way you rode a skateboard as much. It was all changing. Someone like Bowman was the real in between guy. He rode good lines, had great style and started trying some of the newer tricks, but then there was the way David Z did a trick or the way Neil did a trick. It was like, “Oh my god. Something is happening that is new and different.” We were young kids and we were trying new things. I mean I did invert fakies as an amateur in the Gold Cups.
OLSON: It was just a changing of the guard.
LANCE: Yeah. It was weird. All of those guys ruled, so you wanted them to be part of it. You didn’t want to push them out. I think a lot of other guys wanted to push them out, but I didn’t. It was like, “You push them out and then you get yours.” Companies drop guys and make money. I didn’t understand the dynamics of it. I just remember going to these contests after dreaming about being a part of it and finally getting the chance.
OLSON: This is part of the process of growing up.
LANCE: Yeah. I’m super immature because I’m 17 at that point. It would have been cool if it were happening to me when I was 12. I remember going to the Gold Cups and we were playing the Game of S.K.A.T.E. It was Bowman, me, Billy Ruff, Mike Smith and Jerry Valdez. It was just this weird mix of guys.
OLSON: Jerry Valdez was in the Gold Cups?
LANCE: I remember skating the brown bowls with Jerry Valdez one day at Marina. He was still skating, but I don’t think he was in the Gold Cup contests. Right when I got sponsored, there was this weird mix of guys and these guys were ripping. It’s like it is today. There’s this broad line of guys and you have these guys that are set and then you have new kids changing the guard. So I went on that Variflex tour and it was just flushed out and gone. The first stop was Dallas and the second stop was Mobile, Alabama and we were skating by ourselves. No one was there. At Kona Skatepark, there was a little ramp contest with ten pros at the most. We get to Apple Skatepark and it’s closed. Cherry Hill had closed before we even left. Boulder was closed, but they opened it back up for us to ride. We skated Kalamazoo and Skateboard USA, but they were all closing. When we got back, they had to manufacture these contests at Pomona, Pipe and Pool. Micke Alba, Cab and the rest of us were amateurs and it was like, “Oh my gosh, we’re finally here. Where is everyone? Where is Darrell Miller? Where is Bobby Valdez?” I think you might have been judging.
OLSON: I judged a lot of contests back then.
LANCE: I know. I would look up and go, “Oh my gosh, what do I have to do to make this guy score me well?”
OLSON: [Laughs] You’re crazy.
LANCE: Which Gold Cups did you enter?
OLSON: I have no idea. I think I went to Oasis.
LANCE: You did an invert in the compulsory.
OLSON: I had to do inverts in some compulsory and that was annoying. Oasis was a nightmare. The night before Oasis, I was with Taters and my girlfriend, Vicky. I was rooming with George Orton and his girlfriend Dee, and the night before the contest, Tater says, “I have some mushrooms.” I’m thinking, “Okay, we can do some mushrooms and then have some fun and go to sleep.” So we were on mushrooms and my girlfriend is like, “I don’t want to eat mushrooms right now.” I ate hers, so I had a double batch.
LANCE: Then you woke up and saw the Variflex team practicing in their jerseys. [Laughs]
OLSON: [Laughs] No. Taters split, so I was in the room with George Orton and his girlfriend, and my girlfriend, Vicky, and we were watching Grease and then, all of a sudden, Grease was in Technicolor. The colors started to get really wild and then I started to dart into the closet and then back to the bed and back to the closet and back to the bed. George and his girlfriend are sitting there and they’re like, “You are so weird. What are you doing?” I was losing my mind. My girlfriend was like, “Oh god, you are such an idiot. What is wrong with you? Why did you have to do that?” She never explained that I was in a crazy mushroom meltdown. It was a terrible over-the-top trip, and there’s a point to the story.
LANCE: This must be when you lost interest in skateboarding then. Skateboarding wasn’t more interesting than taking mushrooms.
OLSON: [Laughs] No. There were tears coming down my face and it was just a bad trip. The whole night I’m up and I’m having a bad trip and then I finally come down around six in the morning and I have to get up and go to Oasis. I get there and it’s practice. I’m not on my game whatsoever, but I’m practicing a little bit. I’m extremely exhausted and mentally drained completely. I go to do a backside air to rock n’ roll and I missed the rock n’ roll part. My board lands on the deck, but I go back into the pool and slam really hard. I tweaked my ankle, and I was just laying there in complete misery and then Curtis Hesselgrave, rest in peace, comes running down into the bowl. He’s like, “Don’t move. What part of it hurts?” I was like, “It’s my ankle, but it’s not that big of a deal. I’m just resting for a second. You have no idea what I’ve been through.” He was like, “Oh, no. I can run the energy, I can run the chi into your ankle and heal it within five seconds.” He punches my ankle and puts his fingertips into my ankle and it doesn’t feel good. I was still having a bad trip and he’s doing that and he’s like, “Can you feel the energy transferring, bro? This is kinetic energy and I’ll have your ankle healed in no time.” I just looked at him and I was like “Would you take your hands off of me? Do you understand I’ve just had a horrible mushroom trip and now I’ve slammed and I just want to rest for a second?” [Laughs] That’s the end of my story. If you know Curtis Hesselgrave and you know me, it’s funny. He just touched my ankle and I’m just like, “Get off me, dude. You are really annoying me right now. Get your hands off my ankle. There’s nothing happening. It hurts. Nothing you’re doing or saying makes any sense except for the fact that I haven’t slept all night. Get away from me.” [Laughs]
LANCE: I broke a rib in that contest. I can’t remember if it was in practice or during the contest, but I broke a rib. It was lame.
OLSON: What were you doing?
LANCE: I hit my wheels coming out of a frontside rock and you know how you fall with your elbow into your ribs?
OLSON: Oh yeah.
LANCE: I cracked it and that thing hurt. That pool was so compact and there was nowhere to go.
OLSON: Didn’t Gino Tucci win that contest?
LANCE: Billy Ruff won it as an Am and Micke won as pro. That’s when Micke was on G&S. Gino Tucci had a giant ollie to axle, but Billy Ruff won.
OLSON: Well, there’s a contest that guy won too.
LANCE: Well, it wasn’t that one. Micke Alba won that contest. I’m an expert at contest placings. [Laughs]
OLSON: But not practice sessions.
LANCE: No. You don’t remember entering Big O after that?
OLSON: I’m sure I did.
LANCE: Do you remember the Pomona Pipe and Pool Contest? It was the first contest after Gold Cup. The next one was the Turkey Shoot at Whittier. You judged the Turkey Shoot at Whittier didn’t you?
OLSON: Yes, I did, with a rockabilly haircut.
LANCE: So you went from entering to judging right then.
LANCE: All the other pros were gone, right? Duane and Micke were the only O.G. guys and they were rad. Those guys went for a while. Micke was especially rad. Micke had another couple lives in skateboarding. He reappeared during the ramp days and skated great. He was riding for Dogtown and he placed really well in contests. In 1982, he was winning contests and skating great. In ‘87, he was still killing it in contests, so Micke really lasted a long time and did great.
OLSON: Wait a minute. When did Micke have that yellow and black board on Santa Cruz?
LANCE: That was about ‘84 or ‘85. It might have been a little bit earlier. It was maybe Dogtown then because he bounced from Santa Cruz.
OLSON: No. It was a Santa Cruz. What do you think about dudes that bounce around on teams?
LANCE: I think people bounced around teams because they weren’t doing anything. I think people bounce around on teams now because they think they can get more.
OLSON: Yeah, but I’m not talking about now.
LANCE: Well, back then, I just don’t think there were a lot of solid teams. A lot of people were like, “Hey, do you want to get free product? We’ll give you $100.” Then you got it and then nothing. There was never a solid program. I think that’s why people bounced around. I don’t think people bounced around because a company was terrible or the company sucked. I just don’t think they were ever given solid deals. I could be wrong. You’d probably know better than me.
OLSON: No. That’s your opinion of the subject.
LANCE: It’s like when Sims came out. From what I saw, Sims went out and sponsored like 30 dudes, but then kind of cherry-picked. It was like, “Okay, we’re going to give these guys, LaMar, Andrecht and Bowman, boards. There was a bunch of guys getting Sims product, but they didn’t necessarily get a board or seal a deal. It’s like George Orton was riding for Sims, but then he didn’t get a solid deal, so he went somewhere else. I could be wrong. I just thought people bounced around because there was nothing really solid.
OLSON: Well, did you think it was stupid that they were bouncing around?
LANCE: No. I do think that when people don’t bounce around you can really identify with them stronger and better, because you see them more consistently. I don’t think there were a lot of guys that bounced around because they thought they could get a better deal. I think they were bouncing around because they didn’t have a deal. You know better than me. I was just looking at it as a kid.
OLSON: I had a whole different take. I always thought it was looking for a better deal than the current deal you had.
LANCE: Well, you might have been, but the current deal was probably nothing, wasn’t it? I don’t think anyone got really good deals. It sounded like a lot of people got photo incentive. That’s how they got paid, photo incentives.
OLSON: They also got paid from board sales.
LANCE: Yeah, but, early on, people didn’t really have their names on boards, right? Tom Inouye says the reason he got on Sims was because he was skating and putting his Sims jersey on, so he got a bunch of photos in the magazines. He’s on Sims, but he doesn’t get money. He just gets photo incentive and then there was someone offering him a board with money and a paycheck. Is that bouncing around or is that taking an opportunity because the other opportunity doesn’t exist?
OLSON: I don’t know.
LANCE: All I know is that, when you go back to that time that you say was dead, it was kind of depressing. All the skateparks started closing. Whittier closed and then it got exciting because we were determined that we were not going to go down, so I think we got kind of emboldened. We didn’t have to share it with anybody, but there was nothing to have, so it was exciting again. It became anything we wanted it to be.
OLSON: I wasn’t really involved with the ramp contest era, but you had a ramp at your house and you were in that scene.
LANCE: My friends and I built a ramp in ‘77, so during that time of what you guys were doing, we were in our backyard pretending it was happening. We were already riding ramps because we could only venture close to home. Montebello was the closest place to skate and that was a completely useless skatepark. From ‘77 to ‘79, we had all these different pools that would just pop up for a little bit and we’d skate pools, but we wanted to have something to skate all the time, so my friends built a ramp. We were riding that ramp the most consistently of everything and not going places during that time. When we’d go to skateparks, most of the skateparks were easier to ride because our ramps were so jacked. At the same time, when the skateparks closed, everything started collapsing and the magazines started putting my ramp in the magazine. I kind of swooped into it by having one of the first known ramps. It kept expanding from there to other ramps and then the backyard ramp contests. It was one of the natural things for the magazines to go after. There were only a couple of ramps around the world, and we already had ours. The ramp thing was completely out of necessity.
OLSON: I get it.
LANCE: We were wishing we had a skatepark in our yard or a good pool in our yard that we could ride everyday. Kids didn’t know how to build it, so they built things that go back and forth because that was the easiest thing to build. The cool thing about that ramp is that we rode a pool that was fairly wide open and there was flat bottom in the pool, so my friends put flat bottom in the ramp. This is when Rampage and Rad Ramp plans didn’t have any flat bottom. The pump is a different pump. It spreads it out and you can learn stuff easier. Fausto, George, Stacy and Tracker Larry worked together and started the backyard ramp contests and they were putting content into Thrasher to show that this is what pro skateboarding is. It became our thing because it was only 10 or 11 of us. It was insane. Then it grew. By ‘85, it was wide open. Where did you go at that time? Is that when you went to New York? You stopped judging contests around ‘83, right?
OLSON: I don’t know, but there was a push for street skating in the early ‘80s. I remember a little yellow board with a yellow dotted line going down the middle.
LANCE: Was it the Jammer?
OLSON: No. This was before the Jammer. For me, it was not about street. We were just riding curbs and parking lots and hills.
LANCE: There was definitely that push even before it completely collapsed. In ‘81 or ‘82, everyone was riding a smaller size board. They rode a bigger board in the park and a smaller size board outside of the park, which everyone called a street board. Pineapple’s board said, “Street Cruiser.” That’s the one he rode on the street, not in a pool. Powell did a street board. We knew there was something going on. It didn’t really take until Mark and those guys took Rodney’s ollie and made it high speed exciting on the street in ‘84 or ‘85. At that point, were you still skating?
OLSON: In ‘83 and ‘84, I was in San Francisco.
LANCE: Were you skating or playing music?
OLSON: I was a commodities broker.
LANCE: What? Tell me about that. There was a certain time when everyone had to start making money outside of skateboarding.
OLSON: We had no choice, but my trip from skateboarding to playing music was totally exciting and new. Maybe this will answer your question of why I disappeared. I discovered music. Punk rock and new wave and rockabilly were going around and it was exciting and brand new. All of a sudden, I was trying to play music in a band.
LANCE: Was this the Joneses or something else?
OLSON: This was before the Joneses. My first band was the Hoods with Ron Emory from T.S.O.L. on guitar. There was a great drummer, Brian Wassman, and this dude Paul Brashier. They were neighbors that lived across the street from my girlfriend. Down the street was Jack Grisham.
LANCE: Were you guys playing shows?
OLSON: We played a couple of parties. The Hoods were playing and Vicious Circle was happening at the same time. We played this show at our singer’s dad’s machine shop at Signal Hill.
LANCE: Was this before Gold Cup?
OLSON: This was before Gold Cup. It was definitely during the second Hester. I thought music was cool and the whole thing was amazing, so I ventured over into that world. With skateboarding, I’m still venturing. [Laughs]
LANCE: When did you start playing real shows?
OLSON: With the Hoods, we were going to go in and record, but the singer didn’t show up and we broke up. We were like, “This guy is an idiot. He’s not interested in going any further.” Then T.S.O.L. started and I sang with them a couple of times, but I was not into that. I was into rockabilly. That was with Roche, Ron and Todd Barnes. Then Jack came back and he was a perfect fit for T.S.O.L. It was excellent. He’s a great friend of mine. Then I started a rockabilly band with Joey Escalante of the Vandals. He wasn’t in the Vandals then. He was in this band called the Aristocats. We were in a band with some guy named Johnny Rockin. He could actually play his guitar and he had an older brother that knew all about the blues. It just kept on going and I was learning more about rock n’ roll, and I went deeper into the roots of where it had all come from. Then the Joneses happened and we played real shows. The Aristocats played real shows. We played at the Cuckoo’s Nest with the Screws and T.S.O.L. We were a rockabilly band opening up for T.S.O.L. and the Screws.
LANCE: How was the crowd reaction to that?
OLSON: They didn’t care. It was too early. T.S.O.L. wasn’t popular yet. It hadn’t developed into the uniform yet, so it wasn’t like, “Get out of here you rockabilly freaks!” They didn’t care.
LANCE: Punk changed really quickly though when people were like, “This is what punk is and what it isn’t.” It wouldn’t have been fun to play with them in ‘82. It would have been horrible. Right?
OLSON: Well, yeah. We split the Aristocats, and that stopped. Joey Escalante went on to create the Vandals with “Steveo”, “Human” and Jan. I did some other things with this band the Rockaholics.
LANCE: It’s sounding like you were getting kicked out of bands to me.
OLSON: [Laughs] No. I was just breaking them up. The guitar player and I did this other rockabilly band called the Rockaholics and we played real shows.
LANCE: Who was in the Joneses?
OLSON: The Joneses kind of morphed when the Rockaholics were done. The Joneses came up because I met Mitch Dean through Rodd Saunders. Mitch was a drummer and he played in his band and they had this rehearsal studio with all the gear. He was like, “I don’t really like playing in this band. I just do it to keep my chops up, but you can come and jam here anytime you want. You should get some dudes together and we should go jam.” I got Jeff Drake, the singer for the Joneses and Ron Emory from T.S.O.L. Mitch was friends with the dude that booked Alpine Village in Torrance and he was like, “There are three gigs happening around Christmas. The first show is Missing Persons, the second show is the Dickies and the third show is the Plimsouls. You can have the opening slot for all three gigs. You should put a band together.” The Joneses played those three gigs and those were our best gigs because everything was brand new.
LANCE: Did any of those shows pay?
OLSON: We were getting paid, but not a lot.
LANCE: Were you thinking that music was better than skateboarding, because it paid better?
OLSON: No. It was just new and a completely different world than skateboarding and there were way more chicks. For those three gigs, we had written a couple of our own songs and we did a cover of “Brand New Cadillac” by the Clash, which had just come out a month earlier. Then these dudes approached us and wanted to do a single with the Joneses. We did the single and it got played on KROQ, so we heard our song on KROQ and that was really insane.
LANCE: Was it Rodney?
OLSON: Yeah. Rodney spun the record. It wasn’t like we had made it, but to hear your record on the radio was a pretty cool thing.
LANCE: On a side note, before my wife was my wife, she kissed Rodney Bingenheimer. He was a crazy old man and she was a little 14-year-old girl.
OLSON: He’s a freak. What do you mean she kissed him? Was it on the cheek?
LANCE: She kissed him on the lips. She sat in on his show with her friend. At the end of the show, Rodney kissed her, or she kissed him. [Laughs]
OLSON: Oh my god… Okay, whatever. The Better Youth Organization (BYO) did a compilation of a bunch of bands, and the Joneses had a few songs on that. The drummer and I were hustlers, so we promoted our own shows. We did a gig that we promoted in Stanton at one of the VFW Halls. We had Social Distortion, the Joneses and the Vandals and the place was packed and we made money at the door. By this time, skateboarding was dead, kind of, but the Doris sessions were going on still.
LANCE:Was the Doris pool in your neighborhood?
OLSON: That was in my old neighborhood.
LANCE: Which house was it at? I might have to possibly go over there and buy that house.
OLSON: [Laughs] It’s somewhere around there.
LANCE: I wonder if it’s the one I looked at. I looked at a property there that has a square pool and a tennis court. It was for sale.
OLSON: I don’t remember a tennis court, but that session produced a few good photos.
LANCE: What about the Hackett grind?
OLSON: Yes. There was a photo of the Hackett grind. Mofo has a picture of Jay Alabamy.
LANCE:Was it the one when he’s drinking a beer?
OLSON: There’s one of him drinking and another one of him slashing.
LANCE: It was more of a skip ollie.
OLSON: [Laughs] It was a skip-to-the-loo-my darling ollie, back in my rockabilly era.
LANCE: Was that a square pool or did it have a love seat?
OLSON: It had a love seat, but it wasn’t a pitched love seat. It was kind of a cutout in the square.
LANCE: There was a lady named Doris that lived there?
OLSON: Her name was Doris and she was nuts, but she had a couple of daughters.
LANCE: Who found Doris’ pool?
OLSON: I found Doris’ pool. Are you kidding me?
LANCE: We have to find that pool.
OLSON: I know exactly where it is.
LANCE: We have to go over there.
OLSON: Okay. Just let me beat my own drum first.
LANCE: [Laughs] Okay. I want to know what got you from doing music to selling stocks.
OLSON: I did commodities trading and we’re going to get there in five more seconds.
LANCE: Yeah. Okay. Tell me what a commodity is because I have no clue.
OLSON: It’s futures, like gold, silver, the S&P 500, pork bellies, orange juice, oranges, and all of that. It’s just like the stock market, but it’s commodities.
LANCE: Do you have much money still in that?
OLSON: No. I lost my Studebaker to the stock war. I lost my Studebaker to Swenson. I said to him, “I think there’s a move we should take advantage of, but I don’t have the cash to do it. If you put up the cash, I will put in my Studebaker. If we lose, you can have my Studebaker.” It was like a $3,000 investment, and the stock went against us for the Deutsche Mark. We got out with $1,000 and we had gone in with $3,000. I got him back his $1,000 and I gave him the pink slip to my Studebaker. He lost a $1,000 and I lost my Studebaker, under the condition that I could buy it back for $1,500 when I got the money. I gave him $2,000 so he would make his grand back to where he wouldn’t lose, but when the time came, he wouldn’t sell me my Studebaker back. I thought that was a bad deal on his part. I kept my end of the bargain and all he did was keep the Studebaker at Thrasher, so that every time I would go by, I would see my Studebaker. When I had a lot of money, I offered him more money, but he still wouldn’t sell it back to me. I was like, “You have millions of dollars and you won’t sell me back this car that I built with my girlfriend’s dad.” So we know where those dudes are.
LANCE: Were you into selling commodities?
OLSON: No. The markets never moved when I was trading. They were totally flat. I had moved to San Francisco and I was trading privately for some firm up there. I was living with Thatcher and Swenson in the house on Potrero. We started skating the hills with City Street wheels. We were cruising Kansas Street and we were totally into skateboarding. We were flying down hills and it wasn’t about tricks. Thrasher was happening and Thatcher was the editor. That’s when I started to do S.O.S. I did that with Novak. I had the idea, Save Our Skateboarding. Make it fun again. It was just because of the crazy amount of fun we were having raging down these hills in S.F.
LANCE: This was the period where you were catamaraning and riding the parking lots?
OLSON: Yeah. It was totally fun. It was just skateboarding.
LANCE: How long did S.O.S. last?
OLSON: Not long enough, or maybe just the right amount of time.
LANCE: How many runs of boards did you do?
OLSON: It only lasted one run. Here’s the deal with S.O.S. I wanted to do S.O.S. because I was still surfing and skating. I said to Novak, “I have this idea.” I wrote down this list of ideas I wanted to do and I took it to him. I didn’t type it out like a professional presentation. I just had it on a yellow notepad. We had a lot of stuff on there, but he told me that I had no idea what I was doing.
LANCE: [Laughs] That’s probably why it was good.
OLSON: I had a whole strategy completely worked out. He said, “You have no idea what you’re doing, Olson, but I’m willing to do this. I’ll pay you $200 a week and you have to work in Santa Cruz, three days a week and you can have two models and an ad campaign.” I said, “Okay. I need a full page.” He said, “There’s no way I’m going to spend the money for a full page.” He was claiming he had no money and maybe he didn’t. Whatever. He gave me a 1/3 of the page in Thrasher where it was just the logo, which was directly Jim Phillips ripping off the Alva logo, kind of. Anyway, my brother did the graphics for the boards and I liked the graphics. I got to do the ad campaign and it’s S.O.S. There were all these things that S.O.S. stood for, but who cares what it stood for? The ads were always this chick and I in some weird situation, but at least I had my skateboard. It may not even have had wheels on it, but I had my skateboard. All the ads were black and white. I got to run a bunch of ads in Thrasher. I also ran an ad in Transworld, which freaked them out. When my so-called roommates, Fausto, Swenson and Thatcher, saw my ad in Transworld, they were like, “Are you kidding?” I was like, “What are you talking about?” They were like, “You’re advertising with the enemy?” I was like, “Yeah. Sure. Whatever.” Then Novak wanted me to come down to Santa Cruz and learn the business. He wanted me to do silk screening, sales and shipping. It was like two weeks of boot camp. I was like, “I already know how to screen and do shipping. You want me to do sales? I just got done working in the gnarliest sales situation and I wanted to create things and make stuff happen.” This was before they realized that you could make money off of clothing. It went on and I was at an ASR tradeshow in Long Beach. In the meantime, he had hired Dave McIntyre to do sales and that really pissed me off. Here’s this fat dude that is just lame. I was like, “I’m sure you paid him a lot more than I’m getting paid.” We’re at the trade show and McIntyre is working the Santa Cruz booth and I have a little subsection for S.O.S. with two boards. The dude from Nordstrom’s comes up and says, “I’m looking for the S.O.S. representative.” McIntyre said, “I handle the sales for everything at NHS.” He’s talking to the guy and he says, “Well, S.O.S. isn’t really that big of a deal. It’s more about the Santa Cruz line.” The guy from Nordstrom’s said, “I get that. I understand that you work for Santa Cruz and it’s your established brand, but we’ve been following this S.O.S. ad campaign and we really like the direction this company is going.” That’s when I stepped in and said “I’m the guy that does all that stuff.” The guy pops out a couple of pieces of paper and he’s like, “My name is Chris Brown and I work at Nordstrom’s. This is what I’m willing to offer you.” He handed me the projections and it was a lot. All of a sudden, Nordstrom’s was interested and things were moving forward and it was happy days for everyone. Dave McIntyre kept trying to push Santa Cruz on the guy and the Nordstrom guy, in a polite way, said, “Listen. I understand you work for Santa Cruz and S.O.S. is a subsidiary of Santa Cruz, but we want S.O.S. It’s a little more viable for people around the regions of the Nordstrom’s stores. No thank you on Santa Cruz. It’s not that it’s not a good company. We just see more of a demographic for S.O.S.”
LANCE: Did the Nordstrom’s deal happen?
OLSON: No. It didn’t happen. After the trade show, I drove back from Long Beach to Santa Cruz. Someone in Fresno had bought the tradeshow booth and I gave these kids from the skate shop a ride there because their mom asked if I could. She said, “Could you carry the G&S booth and the Sims booth too?” I said, “No. Those are my competitors and I don’t work for them and I don’t work for you. I’m doing this out of the kindness of my heart.”
LANCE: [Laughs] Yes.
OLSON: So I dropped the kids off in Fresno with the trade show booth and I got into Santa Cruz about 7AM. No one was there, so I left the car there and got on a Greyhound bus to San Francisco and went to sleep because I was exhausted. Then I got a call from Beryl, the bookkeeper at Santa Cruz. Who knows if there is truth in it, but I think that she might have been one of the accountants that had problems with the cooking of the books. She had one book and then there was another book of the sales, so I really didn’t have a fond heart for her. She called and woke me up and I was a little bit tired. She said, “Olson, do you really want to work for Santa Cruz?” She had no idea what had happened down at the trade show. I didn’t like her attitude and I didn’t like the fact that she had no idea what had just transpired. I told her, “I don’t really know what you mean by, ‘Do I want to work for Santa Cruz?’ but now that I’ve given it some thought, I’m not interested.” I was totally ticked off, pissed off, mad and hot under the collar. I said, “No. Not really. I think you’re a clueless idiot,” and I hung up on her. Then McIntyre called me and said, “Hey, Olson, Dave McIntyre here.” I said, “What up, fatso?” He said, “You don’t have to come down here and work. You can work in San Francisco. You can just come down and oversee stuff.” I was thinking, “I’ve already brought in a couple of other projects, like board designs and apparel designs.” I was really over it already. I told him, “Listen, I remember you kicking my board at Skatopia and telling me that I was never going to do anything with my skateboarding, and now here you are telling me that I don’t have to work down there. This is ridiculous. I don’t care how much money is involved. I don’t think you guys can produce.” I hung up on him too. I was so mad. Emotions are not something you bring into business I guess. Then Timmy Piumarta called me up and said, “What’s going on?” I said, “You can’t produce. You shouldn’t be doing R&D.” I hung up on him. Then Novak called and said, “Olson, what is wrong with you?” I said, “Nothing. I just don’t want you to make another penny off of me. I just don’t dig it.” It was a lot more rowdy than that, but whatever.
LANCE: So that was the end of S.O.S.?
OLSON: That was the end of S.O.S.
LANCE: That was a long story. How long had you been doing S.O.S.?
OLSON: I think it was about eight months.
LANCE: That story lasted about as long as the company did.
OLSON: [Laughs] Okay, that’s not nice. You asked the question and I tell you the story in detail and now you’re telling me it’s eight months long. What is your middle name? Dictionary?
LANCE: [Laughs] No. It’s Lance.
OLSON: What’s your first name?
OLSON: Okay, Bob, so then I sent a telegram.
LANCE: A telegram?
OLSON: Yeah. I sent a telegram, because that’s the way things were done then. I sent a telegram to Novak that said, “Don’t use the name Steve Olson anymore or S.O.S.” S.O.S. really stood for Steve Olson Skates or Skate or Surf. Then I got a telegram back from Novak saying, “Well, I can use S.O.S. as long as I want because I registered it and I own it.” I wrote him back, “You can’t register letters.” Then he wrote back, “Well, I own Skate or Surf, so I can use that as well.” I wrote back, “Well, that’s cool. Find someone that can do both.”
LANCE: Wait a minute. We have to take a little break here and explain what a telegram is.
OLSON: A telegram is a telegram. C’mon.
LANCE: I don’t even know what it is. What is a telegram?
OLSON: You know what a telegram is. You’ve seen Blazing Saddles. “Telegram!”
LANCE: [Laughs] What is a telegram? Is it a phone call? Is it a letter?
OLSON: A telegram is a written document that someone sends that is registered.
LANCE: It’s like a letter that’s stamped?
OLSON: Yes. “Telegram!”
LANCE: It’s not an email. It’s not a text message. It’s not a Twit. It’s not an Instagram.
OLSON: It’s all of them.
LANCE: We’re really dating ourselves.
OLSON: [Laughs] Anyway, so that’s what happened and then I went to work at a punk rock clothing store on Haight Street.
LANCE: You were living in San Francisco then?
OLSON: Yes. I was living in San Francisco with Kevin Thatcher and Eric Swenson. I had moved up there in 1982 after the Gold Cup.
LANCE: Well, the Gold Cup ended in 1980, so it was two years after that.
OLSON: Okay, don’t get crazy.
LANCE: I’m just trying to figure it out. Okay, so S.O.S. never went to Nordstrom’s. Do you think it would have been good if it went there or would it have been weird? Would it have been way ahead of its time or did you care? You were just trying to find a way to get paid and be a skateboarder, right?
OLSON: Well, no. I thought it was fun to make things where I had a strategy together and it was a good way to do a business and make some cool stuff and get people excited about it because we had been skating a lot up in San Francisco at Potrero Hill. It looked like skateboarding was starting to have a little upswing, so I thought, “This is good timing to start something like that.”
LANCE: When you were working in the Santa Cruz office, was the offer more as an employee than a skater?
OLSON: The offer was, “Okay, you can do your own little S.O.S. company, but you’re going to have to come down here and work three days a week.” I was cool with that. Novak wanted me to train and do a week in shipping and a week in sales and a week in design, and a week here and there.
LANCE: Did that bother you?
OLSON: It bothered me a little bit. It bothered my ego.
LANCE: You just wanted to be a skateboarder?
OLSON: I wanted to skateboard and I wanted to make cool things and I had a lot of ideas. The execution would have been good, but it never got to come to fruition.
LANCE: I just think that’s an interesting note based on what’s going on today with most of the skaters. When you come to that place in your career where the company that you’ve been riding for says they want to offer you something and then you realize that they’re making you this offer because they want you to transition into working because they don’t think you should be skating anymore, it bothers most skaters.
OLSON: I think so as well. At the same time, if you’re 23 years old, you’re like, “Oh really?”
LANCE: A lot of skaters now are going through the same thing. They want to be a skater and the only way to keep going as a skater is to start making their own stuff and selling it. When you do that, you don’t skate as much. It’s just a weird time for skateboarding. I think it’s interesting because it’s happening to a lot of skateboarders now.
OLSON: I get it. I understand. I also think that, within that realm, I’ve experienced times where we weren’t skateboarders and we had to get jobs. I had to get a job in the world of finance, so I had more of an idea of how things happen and how to make things fun and interesting and bring the fun back into skateboarding. When you’re 23 and you’re told that it’s over, it’s hurtful.
LANCE: Well, a lot of these guys now are in their 30s and they had more time than a lot of others. Back then nobody thought you could be viable after the age of 20. So you went into the world of finance. Is that when you sold gold and silver?
OLSON: Yeah. I was a commodities broker.
LANCE: Wow. Tell me about that.
OLSON: Oh, that was just insane.
LANCE: What is a commodities broker?
OLSON: A commodities broker is a guy that sells futures in commodities. They’re selling gold. They’re selling silver. They’re selling pork bellies. They’re selling anything that trades on the NASDAQ or the New York Stock Exchange. The big game is the big board, which is commodities and futures and it’s fat.
LANCE: Did you do that job in an office or what?
OLSON: I did it in front of a ticker board. Basically, I was calling people and trying to get them to invest. When I got someone to invest, I thought, “Oh, this is a cool thing. They’re going to make money and I’ll make money too.”
LANCE: You just cold called people and tried to get them to invest?
OLSON: Here’s the main task, “Dial and smile.”
LANCE: Call me up right now and pitch me.
OLSON: Okay, I’ll give you a pitch right now. I never used my real name, in case they skateboarded.
LANCE: Okay. [Laughs]
OLSON: I would say, “Lance, is that you?”
LANCE: This is Lance. Make it quick. I’m about to do some gardening.
OLSON: [Laughs] That’s okay, Lance. There’s nothing wrong with gardening. This is Michael Lawrence with Spiegel Trading. I talked to you about two years ago and you told me to call back when I had something interesting in the market and I’ve got something right now. The Kahn Brothers are coming back into the market and they’re going to drive the price of silver up, so I need you to make a move. I’ve waited this long and this is the right move.”
LANCE: It’s like selling Amco.
OLSON: [Laughs] I’m talking to you about silver, Lance.
LANCE: Oh, I’m trying to figure out what you’re doing.
OLSON: I’ve got silver to sell here.
LANCE: I’m into gardening now and I’ve been gardening for so long that all of my money is gone.
OLSON: Lance, I have a bad connection. I have to go. Bye.
LANCE: [Laughs] How long did that last?
OLSON: About 30 seconds. You didn’t give me a buy signal, so I hung up.
LANCE: [Laughs] I was just asking, how long did that job last?
OLSON: [Laughs] I did that for almost two years. I was really excited because I thought everybody involved was going to make money. I believed that my clients were going to make money and I thought that the markets were going to go up. I believed and I had a real positive outlook, so you could hear it in my voice.
LANCE: I still hear it. I’m convinced.
OLSON: Well, I’m going to tell you one thing right now, Lance. There is no freeze going on in orange juice. We need to hedge it right now. I’ve got three options at $591 per option. How many of them can you handle? Do you want to take ten or 25? I think we should come in easy at about 50.
LANCE: [Laughs] That’s great! Why aren’t you doing this now?
OLSON: I’m doing it for you right now, okay?
LANCE: [Laughs] Okay, I’ll buy.
OLSON: Okay, I’ll send a messenger out there. I need you to go to the bank and get me a cashier’s check. Make it out to Spiegel Trading for $29,562.
LANCE: What is your cut?
OLSON: I got 10%, so I’d make about $3,000.
LANCE: Here’s my question. After two years of doing that and making all that money, what did you do with it? Where did you put all of that money?
OLSON: I lived. I didn’t make that much money. The markets were flat. You’re mean.
LANCE: I’m mean?
OLSON: Okay, you’re not mean. I’m joking, but the markets were flat. There was no movement.
LANCE: That’s crazy. So you did that after or before S.O.S.?
OLSON: That was before.
LANCE: That’s during the time when you were judging all the contests that I was in?
OLSON: Now you’re getting really mean.
LANCE: No. During that period where you were judging contests, you were doing commodities trading at the same time?
OLSON: Yeah. Judging contests was just a quick $100.
LANCE: It was the Rusty Harris days, in ’81 and ’82.
OLSON: This was before Bryce Kanights was the head judge.
LANCE: He’s a judge now, but that was a long time ago. At that time, there was not much to skate except for ramps, hills and street.
OLSON: We were riding city streets up in San Francisco and having a blast. It was really fun.
LANCE: That’s before they actually called it “street skating.” This was before skateboarding was segregated into vert skating and street skating. It was just skateboarding.
OLSON: Yes, for sure.
LANCE: What’s your take on how that whole thing came in and skateboarding got verbally segregated?
OLSON: Didn’t that come in around the ‘90s?
LANCE: I don’t know. It just kind of crept its way in.
OLSON: I think those cats running the skate industry were desperate and nervous.
LANCE: Obviously, in the magazines and at the contests, street skating became a thing, and then you had street contests. Before that, you had vert contests and mini ramp contests and then street skating got a name.
OLSON: Well, it was giving them something to be able to market. Enough of me for a second. Let’s go to you. You’re on Variflex and then you go over to Powell Peralta. How did you get on Variflex?
LANCE: George Orton had asked me to be on Variflex after I had been skating all these amateur contests, but I didn’t get on until a year later. George was on Santa Cruz by then and Steve Hirsch asked me again. They were ready to go on that U.S. tour and I got to go on the U.S. tour with them. Skateboarding was dying and all the parks were closing. When we got home, Variflex was changing. Most of the riders were leaving or were already gone. I ended up having that same conversation with them. They said, “Hey, we want to bring you in and have you do some other stuff so you can make some money.” So I went to work at Variflex screening boards. I had the idea that I was still trying to be a skateboarder and then I realized what was going on.
OLSON: How was that for you?
LANCE: By that time, it was dying. It happened and died within just a few contests. I finally got accepted into this community and the community was gone. I was like, “This is not what I had hoped it would be. Why is skateboarding falling apart?” I was more interested in watching all the other skaters keep doing what they were doing. It was heartbreaking. It wasn’t just the last thing around for me. It was the last thing for everyone. At that point, they called me in to Variflex and asked if I wanted to work there. They were telling me that they didn’t think that there were going to be any more pros in a year. At the same time, they were asking me if I wanted to run the team and get a paycheck to work there. I kind of had to do that to make a living, so I started making decisions like, “Yeah. I’ll do these side things because I want to keep skating.” In my mind, I was thinking, “What am I going to do about this?” At that point, I made up my mind that I wasn’t going to let skateboarding die for me, no matter what happens.
OLSON: What year is this?
LANCE: This is the end of 1983.
OLSON: How did that make you feel as a kid that had worked really hard and been skating and had come up in the ranks? You were about to be pro and now, all of a sudden, it’s gone.
LANCE: It still makes me teary today. It was a sad and disheartening point. Here’s what I think it is. As a skater, you start skating because it’s super fun and it’s very enjoyable and you find your group of friends and you love it and it gives you enjoyment and it’s just fun. You’re trying to be the best too. You’re trying to create something and do something that your friend hasn’t done. You’re vying for them to go, “Wow.” And then they do it and you go, “Wow.” You feed off each other and vibe off each other. It’s energy and you’re stoked. Then you get introduced to a bigger world, which is usually pros or better skaters. That world was always closed to me and I only saw it in the magazines. I was never really around any top-notch industry sponsored skaters, until I got on the Skate City team, and then I was going from contest to contest. I was an amateur, but I got to rub elbows with the pros and it was all the greatest dudes, from Alva all the way to Jerry Valdez and Brad Bowman. At the amateur contests, the pros were practicing and I’d see Jerry Valdez doing tail taps and Strople doing alley-oops and I saw Ray Bones and his whole deal. I had respect for every one of them and what they did. Ultimately, I was thinking, “Wow, it would be cool if that group would accept me in as one of theirs.” You’re accepted as a skateboarder, but you also want to be accepted because your level of skating is good. I think all skateboarders want that. There is a belonging to it, and your friends are all stoked. As soon as that started happening, and all the guys that I had put on the pedestal of being the elite stopped being able to make a living and were gone, it was a bummer. I could have looked at it like, “Whoa. Rad. The slate is clean and I get to take it all for myself now,” but I didn’t. I felt like all the guys that I wanted to be a part of skateboarding with couldn’t be around anymore for whatever reason, whether they chose not to be around or there was no money or whatever, and it was heartbreaking. That’s how I explained it in the Bones Brigade documentary. I still feel heartbroken for that group of guys because some of those guys were the best guys I’ve ever seen ride a skateboard. They did it at a certain time in a certain way and they did more and they’re more important, to me. Now the average skateboard kid is way better than any of us ever were but, in a certain way, they are not. They’re not better than the guy that invented the Miller flip. They’re not better than the guy that figures out the mechanics of an invert. They’re not better than the guy that jumped the channel first. That’s my opinion. I still get emotional about it because that time was so dramatic. I thought, “Okay, we’re here. I get to be part of this.” Not only did I not get to be a part of it, there was no money to do it either, so it was time for me to move on too. I was just a few years younger than most of them, and I was like, “No way. It’s not going to go away. I’m going to figure out a way to let it never go away.” I was so mad at the system and the circumstances. I was like, “I’m not going to let this happen. I’m going to find a way to make this be what I thought it was forever.” Does that make sense?
OLSON: Of course.
LANCE: I was just stubborn and determined. I was going to figure out a way to do that. I’m not going to wake up one day and go, “Whoa. There is nothing to skate. There’s no money. I have to grow up and do something else.” I wasn’t going to do that. I’d work other jobs to keep doing it. I’d build things to skate. I would do whatever it takes. Part of it is that you start doing whatever they offer you. A lot of times you’re like, “This is not what I wanted it to be.” I would take the opportunities and try to make it what I wanted it to be. As soon as Variflex said, “Do you want to drive all the way up to Chatsworth to screen skateboards and make $100 a month being the team manager for our one rider?” I said, “Sure.” In my mind, I was thinking, “Where is the escape route? I have to find the escape route.” The escape route ended up being Stacy Peralta offering me to work, ride and get a paycheck from Powell to be a rider. Stacy looked at me as a rider at the end of his career that was going to phase into doing what he did. I’d rather work behind the scenes at Powell than work at Variflex behind the scenes when there weren’t any guys on the team. At that point, I was bringing in Grosso and Lucero and giving them Variflex boards, and then I split. I bailed on them. It was a weird time. It was a bummer. That’s why I enjoy talking about seeing all you guys ride. It’s because I still picture myself at the Gold Cup contests and the Hester contests and the Lakewood contest, sitting behind the fence, peeking under the banner, and watching you guys ride. I can still picture a lot of the guys riding at the Lakewood contest so vividly. I remember Howard Hood and what he wore at the Lakewood contest. That stuff just burns into your brain. I still wanted to see that. That answer was way too long. You can shorten that up to, “Yeah, I thought skateboarding was neat.” [Laughs]
OLSON: Right. [Laughs] Well, that answer was a little longer than the S.O.S. existence.
LANCE: No, it wasn’t.
OLSON: Okay. Relax. I was kidding.
LANCE: [Laughs] At that point, there were only ten guys entering contests.
OLSON: Who were those ten dudes? Do you remember? Of course you do. [Laughs]
LANCE: Yeah. There was Joe Lopes’ ramp contest. That’s when it went to the backyards. I had a ramp at my house and we had a contest there and there was a contest at Joe Lopes ramp in Palmdale. That’s when I got on the team for Powell at Palmdale. The rad thing about Duane was that he still entered the Palmdale contest. He was the last of the breed that was involved in crossing over from riding pools to ramps. Duane was in it. Micke Alba was in it. Micke was younger, so he really adapted well. Tony Hawk had turned pro. Neil Blender had turned pro. Billy Ruff and I turned pro. Cab was there. Tony Magnusson was there. We all turned pro within a few months of each other.
OLSON: Yes, but you were still competing and going to those contests, because you guys really loved skateboarding.
LANCE: Yeah. We loved it. Also, I believe there are guys that love it that don’t have to be in contests or be professional skateboarders. You don’t have to do that to love it. There is a big difference between loving skateboarding and loving making skateboarding available for others. There is the part of creating it and keeping it going. It was really more about keeping it going. We got to jump on the bandwagon of the industry with Fausto, Stacy, Novak and Larry Balma, because the industry was collapsing, and they all got together to talk about how they could keep it going. Out of that, we decided that we had to promote it. We have to make magazines and try to promote it from the grassroots. We were in the right place at the right time to do that. We could adapt and we were still young enough that we wanted to try different things. Tony explains it, “Winning $14 and a moped when you’re 13 years old is big.” That’s a move forward. For any of the guys that were already making money, that was a huge move backwards. We did love it. It was just small. That’s all I remember. It was just small with only ten guys competing.
OLSON: It was tiny.
LANCE: My very first pro contest, after I got a board, when I actually had a model, was a tiny little ramp contest up at Summit Ramp. Randy Katen was there. Caballero and I were there. It was small. They had three events. They had highest air and an add-a-trick contest and an open ramp contest. Cab won the highest air and I got second. I don’t think anyone else even competed in that.
OLSON: How high was the highest air?
LANCE: This was early on in ’81 when the highest air was like 4’2”. This was way before it got into the 8’ or 10’ or 12-foot range. It was on a junky wooden ramp where 4’2” was high.
OLSON: [Laughs] Yes.
LANCE: They had an add-a-trick contest that I won. There was an overall contest too. I don’t think they had a normal ramp contest, but if they did, Cab won. All I remember is the high air contest that Cab won and the add-a-trick contest that I won, and I won a Bob Denike Seaflex board, as a pro.
OLSON: Really? [Laughs]
LANCE: As a pro, I won another dude’s pro model, for first place. That’s how pro skateboarding was back then. I still have that board.
OLSON: Of course you do.
LANCE: It’s a total reminder of where we were in skateboarding. You can imagine why we were determined to make it what we wanted it to be.
OLSON: I would use the words “committed” and “passionate.” I’m just saying.
LANCE: Well, thank you. I would use more the words, “completely baffled” and “frustrated.” [Laughs]
OLSON: That’s fine. You’re entitled to use whatever words work.
LANCE: It was cool though. It just went into this different era. It was a time that no one can take away from me and no one else can experience. As huge as skateboarding will ever get, or how successful and amazing skateboarders are now, that is something they can never take away. Those times were special. They were only special because there was no one doing it. It’s not because it was great or because it became something. It was just great because it was something different.
OLSON: It’s not about ego or anything else except that you were there and that was your personal experience and no one can take that away from you. They might not understand it, and if they don’t get it, it’s okay. It’s your personal experience.
LANCE: Exactly. Every generation has that and it just gets bigger and bigger. The guys that are top right now are experiencing something that the guys ten years from now will never experience.
OLSON: It’s just progression.
LANCE: The guys that are making a killing now and enjoying it and doing new things, it’s their time and they’re clicking. It’s happened so many times. As skateboarding gets bigger, the later groups think that what they grew up on was a special time. There’s a whole group of dudes that are starting to become nostalgic like I am, because they grew up in the ‘90s and, to them, that era was so special that they are trying to recreate it again right now. We’re going through a time in skateboarding, where a lot of the guys that grew up in the ‘90s want it to feel and be like the ‘90s again and it is kind of like that because a lot of guys are doing their own things in their own ways and they’re connecting directly with their fan base that they created back in the ‘90s. There’s a whole new group of kids that are doing whatever they want to do and that’s skateboarding. It’s great. Skateboarding is just great.
OLSON: How do you really feel?
LANCE: [Laughs] How I really feel is that it was my son’s 30th birthday in March.
OLSON: That’s amazing.
LANCE: It was really amazing because he invited me to go skate with him and his buddies. They just go skate junk, like we used to skate in the early ‘80s, just to have a giggle. They’ve gone to skate the hardest things and now they’re like, “We just want to go skating and ride stuff that is fun to skate.” There are a lot of kids that are doing that now. There were eight or nine of his friends just skating and giggling and laughing. They all know what each other do and don’t do and they were teasing each other and pushing each other and laughing about, “Oh, wait. Did you just ollie?” They were laughing at the guy that doesn’t ollie a lot, because he was doing an ollie. They were just laughing and doing pretty hard tricks and they were making it and clapping and it was so much fun. The way I really feel about it was that I miss my group of guys. I don’t get to do that with my group of guys anymore. We get older and we move on and we get busy and we’ve constantly got to find different groups of dudes. I’m driving home from San Luis Obispo right now. I woke up at six o’clock this morning and drove to San Luis Obispo by myself to the skatepark and then I drove home because I don’t have that group of dudes that are just clicking and laughing and joking around. That was the Skate City team for me. That was our clique and that’s what makes skateboarding special. It’s the clique. It’s not any of the other stuff. That’s how I really feel about it. I wish I had my clique. You think the same and talk the same and feel the same about skateboarding. You’re at the same level of skateboarding and you’re pushing each other in the same way. That’s what skateboarding is. All the other stuff is just the industry figuring out how to sell boards at Nordstrom’s, or whether or not they own the S.O.S. name. None of that is skateboarding to me.
OLSON: It’s not, but that’s what it turns out to be sometimes.
LANCE: Yes. When you get boxed into that situation, you realize that you’re fighting a two-edged sword. Professional skateboarding is one thing and skateboarding is another thing. Professional skateboarding is “How do I make a living off of what I like doing?”
OLSON: Understood. Okay, not to segue out of any of this, but it takes me to the first street contest, like Golden Gate Park and Capitola.
LANCE: Were you in that?
OLSON: No, I wasn’t, but I know that Tommy Guerrero won. I just remember that it had gone away from pools because a lot of the parks had closed. They were doing those street contests and we were like, “Yeah. We can all ride the streets because we grew up riding the streets before pools were so prevalent.” At the same time, there was the contest in Oceanside where the Gonz showed up with his little braids and he was hopping around. It was like, “Okay, well, that’s where skateboarding is going.” Not many of the other dudes that I grew up skating with were there. They had moved on. I was like, “Wow. This is where skateboarding is going? I don’t have any interest in this.” It didn’t appeal to me. I’m not saying it’s bad and I’m not saying it’s good. On a personal level, I looked at it and thought, “I’m not interested in stopping and doing a handstand on one hand, such as a streetplant, and then coming down and rolling away at two miles an hour.
LANCE: I totally understand.
OLSON: I’m not saying it’s wrong. I’m just talking from how I saw it. It didn’t appeal to me. It stopped the flow for me and I like to keep moving. It’s exactly the same thing as it was in the late ‘80s into the early ‘90s when the new crew came in with small urethane bearings covers and big pants.
LANCE: It’s the same as when we fed off Neil Blender and we learned to drop it below the coping. When I learned how to skate, you had to be on coping on every wall. Carving was so important and every wall was important. The next group of guys was trick-based. Then trick-based events became the thing because we were doing new tricks. I think we all learned that from Neil. We learned how to stop trying to carve grind and carve the tile so we could go faster and we could carve higher on the next wall.
OLSON: It was progression.
LANCE: It was progression and regression at the same time. The rad thing about it was that people were called skateboarders and you rode everything. As it took a divergence to where the street guys were becoming very specific, they called themselves street skaters. To this day, a street skater will say, “Oh, you’re not a street skater?” We went to skate this pool the other day and these two little kids came in. As we were skating the pool, one kid was on the deck flipping his board. He was doing nollie flips and frontside flips and then he tried a frontside half Cab flip and he fell. I was watching him and he was like, “That trick is really hard. Are any of you guys sponsored?” Somebody said, “All these guys are sponsored.” At the same time, our guys were riding this pool that was really hard to skate and they were doing gnarly lines. If the kid had opened his mind, he would have seen that and been like, “Wow.” Instead, he says, “Do any of you guys do any normal tricks?” I was like, “What is a normal trick?” He said, “You know. Flip tricks.” I said, “Oh, who says that’s normal?” He wasn’t at a place where he could appreciate it all yet. He was at a place where he was looking at it like, “Oh, you’re a vert skater. You’re not a street skater.” I wonder if it will ever get back to the point where the term, “street skater” will have a bad connotation, like that means you’re not well rounded. I think it will.
LANCE: It will be like, “Oh, you’re just a street skater.” I think it will get to that point because the new kids are riding everything well. I think that’s what makes a real good skateboarder today. I think that’s how we look at it too. We’re not street skaters. We’re skateboarders. It made me want to say to the kid, “Yeah. I was skating street before your dad was even born, but I’m not a street skater. I’m a skateboarder.” That’s what excites me about it. For me, when all the new stuff started coming in, I liked skateboarding enough to swallow my ego and try it. I was losing my position and people were telling me to move on. It was like, “Go away, old man. It’s our day.” That was heavily coming at me, but I liked skateboarding enough to want to try the newer stuff. Neil Blender was the one that pointed out Mike V to me when he was doing his streeplants. People had done street plants and wall rides back in the early ‘80s, but we didn’t do it to a high degree. All of a sudden, Mike V was like light years ahead doing these handstands and stuff. Neil showed him to me and I noticed he had a beat up board, so I gave him my board. I was like, “Wow. You have a terrible board. Here’s a board.” Then I told Stacy about him. At Trashmore, maybe a week later, he was in the parking lot and they sponsored him up on the spot. They brought him out to California and it was just something new and different. This was during the break dancing era where everyone was sitting around in a circle and one guy would go in and do a trick and come back out and the next guy would go in. It was almost a cultural thing of what was going on with breakdancing and the whole ‘80s thing. As someone who turns his skateboard and carves and hits coping on every wall, I was like, “Do you need a skateboard to be doing what you’re doing? You don’t need a skateboard to do that. This is absurd. Is this where skateboarding is going? You don’t need a board and you don’t need trucks. You’re not even turning.” I was filming a trick the other day where I had to run and throw down the board to get the speed to do it and if I said that was so foreign and weird to me, they’d be like, “What are you talking about?” It’s such a common thing now and an integral part of skateboarding.
OLSON: It’s exactly what it is.
LANCE: I told Stacy, when he was filming, that the reason I started skateboarding was that I’d found this toy that could generate its own speed and I hated traffic and I hated running, and now I’m running? That’s not skateboarding to me. The reason I started skateboarding was because I hated running. It’s such backwards thinking. I think that plays back into the idea that if you don’t constantly change your idea of what it is you don’t get to be involved.
OLSON: Or you get left behind.
LANCE: Yes. The first contest I ever entered was a high jump contest. My friends were all about high jump. I was small and I wasn’t great at it, but for my size, I could jump pretty high, and I won a high jump contest. I guarantee that there were guys, when it turned to a bowl riding event from the high jump contest at Montebello, that were going, “What are these guys doing? It’s not even skateboarding.” I knew that back then. I was like, “If I just stick with high jumping, I’ll be high jumping by myself.” When the street skating stuff came in, I was like, “Oh, this is different. This is new. Gonz and Natas are doing something different.” Tommy had a more classic style, so it almost made more sense. Gonz was the one. That’s why he’s so popular. He made such an impression on the change. He basically took what Rodney Mullen was doing and made it palatable and it changed our world. Luckily, it’s come full circle. I think Arto’s pool is a great example of it. All the guys that had big pants and small wheels and were going two miles an hour learned how to push to where you could slow yourself down. On film, it looked like you were pushing without putting your foot down and stopping, so they could go slower. Those guys that grew up in that era and had never seen you ride, when they saw you ride at Arto’s and they saw you cut and turn and go half speed into the coping, they were like, “What’s this? This is amazing.”
OLSON: Whoa. Whoa.
LANCE: It’s come full circle for skateboarding.
OLSON: Yeah, but let’s backtrack a little bit to where they were slowing themselves down, but they progressed. In the early ’90s, and into the late ‘90s, those dudes were still there right?
LANCE: Which guys?
OLSON: I’m talking about the guys from the early ’90s, like Mike Carroll and those dudes. They adapted and they continued to progress with where it was going in the mid to late ‘90s because then it wasn’t little wheels anymore.
LANCE: Well, the bottom line is that great skateboarders can adapt and change and they can do things on skateboards. When a movement happens in skateboarding, it’s usually one or two guys that change things and make it very attractive to another group, like the Zephyr guys did. That group then attracts a bigger group. In that bigger group, a lot of guys came along under that umbrella, but not all of them lasted. The great guys lasted. The ones who loved it and were more talented and more creative and had more character lasted. Some of the great guys didn’t last because they didn’t know how to play the game. Ultimately, the really good guys that change things are the roots of a whole movement. Among that movement are some other really great guys. When you mentioned Carroll and guys like that, they’re lasting because they’re great. There were other guys that came along and got swept along with the movement, but they weren’t as great as Carroll, and they maybe didn’t last. The other side of it is that a lot of the great guys, like Carroll and Koston, were secretly good at everything. All of those guys were really good on mini ramps. As it started changing and became very progressive and block-oriented, they just wouldn’t ride ramps because it was considered bad or old or wrong. As soon as things started changing again and people started riding tranny again, all of a sudden, people were like, “Carroll and Koston can ride tranny too?” Of course they can.
LANCE: When it started changing again, some of those other guys were like, “Wait a minute. We have to be able to ride tranny?” Guys like Carroll and Koston could always ride tranny because they’re good. Then you have modern guys like Nyjah, who is one of the top guys right now, and look at him riding trannies. He’s developing as a great skateboarder and he has a great skate career and he can ride everything. If you’re a good skateboarder, you’re a good skateboarder. Good skateboarding goes a long way sometimes. Bad skateboarding goes a long way a lot of times too. [Laughs] The average skater now would have been pro in our day. The average skater now is way more advanced. It’s weird and it’s hard to judge that way. I think it’s very confusing for kids. I don’t think a lot of skateboarders skate just for the sake of it now. How can you skateboard just for the sake of it now that it is something? When there are 10,000 kids at the pro level, how do they all turn pro? How does it work? It’s just weird. It’s different.
OLSON: It’s different, but it’s still the same. The standouts are the same. Obviously, there are more people doing it now, but that goes along with population.
LANCE: Yeah. There’s still the same amount of standouts.
OLSON: There are those that are fortunate enough to be really talented.
LANCE: Well, I’m saying it’s different in the sense that the ones that are not the standouts may be more confused by why they’re not getting what they thought they would get if they’re so good. It’s like using the word “amazing.” Everybody uses that word. We use it so much that it doesn’t mean anything anymore. I don’t know. All I’m saying is that skateboarding is rad. It’s good.
OLSON: Yes. We completely agree there.
LANCE: We’re talking about this thing in a sense where any of those guys we are talking about may say, “Why are they analyzing us? What do they know about it?” I think it’s those guy’s opinions that matter, not ours.
OLSON: That’s fine, but here’s the deal. We were fortunate enough and now we are old enough that we have seen the progression and the generations and the decades and the history. They didn’t. They don’t have that knowledge. It’s not right or wrong, but we were there. We were there and you weren’t. I’m telling you because it’s part of getting older and watching the development of skateboarding and seeing where it’s come from and where it’s going. We are old enough and wise enough to realize that it is the same and it isn’t the same. Periodically, you get some of these kids that are just phenomenal.
LANCE: Isn’t that part of the thing that makes it great, when you’re young and clueless and it’s all about you? Isn’t that what it is? It’s a group of dudes that are doing it and thinking they are what it is and that’s what it’s about, and everything else is not it. That’s the great part about skateboarding.
OLSON: Well, the rad thing to me is that you can still get the same enjoyment out of skateboarding 30 years later, which is amazing.
LANCE: Yes. It is.
OLSON: That’s what makes skateboarding rad for me. Skateboarding is bitchin’. Skateboarding is still at a pretty infantile stage. It’s only 50 years old or whatever and it has a lot of room to continue and progress. Okay, can you tell me about the Bones Brigade now?
LANCE: Oh, we haven’t even gotten to the Bones Brigade. You’ve got to be joking.
OLSON: No. We diverted.
LANCE: Maybe we should go to Skull Skates. Tell me about Skull Skates. How did that happen?
OLSON: Skull Skates was up in Vancouver, Canada, which was beautiful. They had a company called the Great North Country, the GNC and they also had that Skull Skates logo. When I was 16 or 17, I went up there because they were like, “These guys up in Canada want you to come up and ride.”
LANCE: This was after Santa Cruz.
OLSON: This was when I was on Santa Cruz. So I went up to Canada and I get to the border and they said, “What are you doing here?” I said, “I’m here to go skateboarding.” They said, “What do you mean?” I said, “Someone asked me to come up here and they’re picking me up and I’m going to spend a couple of days skateboarding in Vancouver.” They said, “That’s not good enough.” The Canadian border is kind of hard. I said, “That’s okay.” They said, “Who is picking you up?” I said, “I’m not 100% sure. They’re with GNC.” They said, “Well, we don’t know if we’re going to let you into the country.” I was like, “Okay, well, that’s fine. Put me on the next flight out.” All of a sudden, they let me in. Then I’m doing a little interview with Rick Ducommun for his Great North Country company and I was telling them how I wasn’t really feeling Santa Cruz. I didn’t know I was doing an interview. I was just talking to them and confiding in them. The next thing I know it’s an interview in their little Vancouver paper and Santa Cruz was like, “What is wrong with you?” I was like, “That’s how I feel. What do you want from me?” Cut to: S.O.S. goes sour and Skull Skates has now moved to California, to L.A.
LANCE: I didn’t know that.
OLSON: Yes. They said, “Hey, do you want to come here and ride for Skull? We’ll pay you this much and you can work and do sales.” I said, “Totally. Yeah. Fine.” It wasn’t to do S.O.S. It was just to help promote Skull Skates. That was cool and it was fun.
LANCE: Who had boards on that?
OLSON: We had a good team at one point. We had Hackett. We had Hosoi. We had Duane.
LANCE: Hosoi was on Skull Skates or Hosoi Skates were being made through Skull Skates?
OLSON: Hosoi was on Skull Skates and then he started to make his own, I think.
LANCE: That’s right. I saw him riding that board in Thrashin’. Was that Skull Skates board Hackett’s first board? Hackett’s first board came out in ’89?
OLSON: This was before ’89.
LANCE: Was it ’85? That was a long time for Hackett to wait for his first board to come out.
OLSON: I agree.
LANCE: He was really good for a long time and he never had a board on any team. He had a board on Arrow, but they went out of business before his board came out, right?
OLSON: It was something like that. They had some samples.
LANCE: I think that’s very interesting. Any time that I think it took me a long time to get things to happen, I think that Hackett won a contest in ’76 and had to wait until ’85 to get a pro board. [Laughs]
OLSON: Yeah. That’s a long wait.
LANCE: Well, that’s a whole different story. So you did Skull Skates for a little bit.
OLSON: I did that for a little bit and then Thrashin’ came along. Everyone thought it was funny that they were going to make a skateboard movie. I knew that Skull Skates’ Rick Ducommun was a funny guy. He was a comedian. He wanted to play the company owner guy, in the movie, where he bounces the wheel and it bounces back up into his hand. Do you remember that shot?
OLSON: He was up for that role and didn’t get it. All of a sudden, it was like, “That movie is lame.” Before that, Thrashin’ was going to be the greatest movie with the greatest people. All of a sudden, they cast someone else and it was like it was terrible.
LANCE: How did that make you feel?
OLSON: It didn’t change my mind. I just thought, “It’s a movie, and we can make some extra money on the side.”
LANCE: With Skull Skates, you were making enough money to do what you wanted, go surfing and go skating when you wanted and do whatever?
OLSON: Well, yeah. We were just skateboarding and loving skateboarding again and having a fun time and riding pools and whatever else there was. Then Thrashin’ came along and then I bounced in ‘85. I met this girl and moved to New York and lived with her. I was skateboarding in New York. I was a skateboard messenger, in the middle of winter, riding around with a bag on my back, pushing from 42nd Street to Houston. I was like, “Wow. This is exhausting. This is what happens to you when you make choices?” It was a bad choice that I made to go to New York and go to acting school and live with a girl and be a messenger. It was depressing.
LANCE: Did you see skateboarding growing again at that point?
OLSON: No, not back there. There were just a few dudes skateboarding. There was the Barn Ramp.
LANCE: Yeah, but in ’86 and ’87, it turned that corner and started doing really well. You couldn’t see that back East?
OLSON: No, not as much, no way. I couldn’t. I was going out on trains trying to open accounts. It was worthless. No one wants to buy Paragon, which was some sporting goods store in Manhattan that I repped for.
LANCE: When did you see that skateboarding was taking an upturn and people were making money again?
OLSON: When I moved back to Cali, that’s when it started to hit again, and then I was so sad and depressed from my choice that it was really harsh. In New York, I’d skate Union Square at nighttime by myself, at the upper part by 17th or 18th Street. I skated with Jeremy Henderson, Bruno Musso, Ian Frahm and Harry Jumonji and they were totally cool. We had the Brooklyn Banks and the banks off 8th Avenue and the Harlem banks and a couple of ramps, but it certainly wasn’t that much fun for me.
LANCE: Do you think New York has changed?
OLSON: New York is fantastic. I was just in a weird place.
LANCE: I mean for skateboarders. Do you think New York City supports skateboarding now?
LANCE: Why did your son go out there?
OLSON: Well, skateboarding is readily accepted now. It has nothing to do with New York City. It just has to do with the time of where skateboarding was. There weren’t many skateboarders in New York. I didn’t know Andy Kessler then. Mark Baker lived there and he didn’t really skateboard any more. At least one good thing came out of it. I got a good picture at the Brooklyn Banks with Christian Lepanto. In the long run, it was well worth it for that one photo.
LANCE: When you moved back to California, you noticed that it was starting to pick up. People were starting to make money.
OLSON: It was definitely starting. Jimmy’Z was happening, and you guys were doing your thing with the Bones Brigade, and Alva had his crew and they were doing their thing. G&S was doing their thing. It was starting to happen. We could feel it, when I was living up in San Francisco. Kevin Thatcher and me and “Street Scott” and those cats were digging it like we used to dig it and it was a blast. We were having fun with our buddies and just skateboarding. It wasn’t about how many boards you’re turning or if you were doing the newest raddest trick. It was just the flow of digging skateboard riding. In New York, in comparison to the West Coast, it’s seasonal. It was just reality. I just didn’t have anyone to skateboard with in New York. I remember I did a 360 up at the Harlem banks and they said, “Look! It’s Michael Jackson.” Then I did a couple of stop-and-go’s and a spacewalk and they were like, “Look at that white boy. He’s moonwalking. That’s unbelievable.” Then I ate it and they were like, “Oh, he’s insane. He’s just trying to hurt himself.” I was like, “No. I hit a rock and got slammed.” So that’s the Skull Skates era for me. Later on, Skull Skates moved back to Canada and started to do their own thing. So let’s talk about the Bones Brigade. How did it originate?
LANCE: George Powell was making product, and Steve Olson rode for his wheels, right?
LANCE: You were on the Bones Brigade before me.
OLSON: That’s fine.
LANCE: You rode his wheels and then Stacy hooked up with George. I think George made interesting product. When those Bones white wheels came out and we saw Ray Rodriguez riding them with his name “Bones” on it, all of a sudden, we thought, “These guys are riding these wheels and they look cool.” That was my introduction to it. It was just Powell at the time. Then Stacy Peralta from G&S was part of it and it became Powell Peralta. He brought on a couple more guys and they had a few amateurs like Scott Foss and Steve Caballero that showed up at pro contests and did great. Then Jay Smith was on. It was cool and the product looked great. The team looked good and the advertising was cool. It was just one of those companies that you looked at and thought, “That is a good looking company.” I saw Ray skating at Lakewood on the Brite-Lite board, and I wanted to get that set up, so I got one of his boards from Skate City. He was one of the judges, and one of the guys that could put you on the team. At the contest down at Skate City, he gave me some stuff. As soon as a pro gives you stuff, you start thinking, “Maybe he’ll get me on the team.” That whole era of the Brite-Lite and Bones, and then the Cubics came out, was an attractive period and those guys were going fast and furious. I wanted to ride for Powell Peralta, but it didn’t end up happening, so I rode for Variflex for a while. I was one of ten guys in that dead period. I went up to the Summit Ramp and I started skating with Stevie a little more. Even though he was up in San Jose and I was down here, I would make trips up there to skate because I wanted to be part of whatever was going on good, and he was always pushing me. Any time I went to San Jose, I would come back home very motivated. Through that friendship and skating together, he had a ramp and I had a ramp. When Stacy and Cab came to pick me up to go to Palmdale, I talked to Stacy about what I should do. Skateboarding was falling apart and I just wanted to be involved and I told him that I wanted to do what he did. Basically, he put me on the Powell Peralta team so I could take his position. I got on Powell as an employee but, in the back of my head, I thought, “I have to beat all the top guys that he put on his team and make him think, “Oh, wait, Lance doesn’t have to work here. He can be a pro.” I don’t know if I lied to him or I just didn’t know myself that I didn’t really want to work. I wanted to skate, but I was willing to go work if that’s what got my foot in the door.
LANCE: The first contest after I got put on the team, I was sick. I used to get sick a lot when I was young, so I missed a lot of contests. For the second contest, I was super sick. It wasn’t really a contest as much as a big event. I won one overall when the skaters voted for who they thought skated the best, so I was automatically doing well. Then I got second at St. Pete and right after that I won the Upland contest. I went from being the last guy on the list to being right at the top. I was thinking I was doing what I was supposed to do. As usual, I lose interest pretty quickly. I do something once and I’m like, “I did it, right? I’m good.” Right when I got on, that’s when they started making videos and they made the Bones Brigade Video Show. Collectively, Stecyk and Stacy figured, “Hey, let’s put Lance in there as the guy that ties it all together.” I think when that came out, people’s minds changed and people were asking for my board. Stacy asked me if I wanted to have a board and I said, “I would definitely like to have a board. I would like to get paid. I need money.”
OLSON: Did you have your son, Lance, then?
LANCE: I had Lance right when I got a pro board. All of a sudden, things kind of looked up. Those times were great.
OLSON: I’m curious what it was like to make the videos at the beginning. That was the pioneering stage of skate videos.
LANCE: Yes. It’s true. It was the first video, but there were a lot of skateboard films made.
OLSON: Yes. I get that, but these were the first skate videos that were promoting a company and a team.
LANCE: Videos were different. VHS cameras just came out and VHS in the house had come out. It was just perfect timing. People weren’t watching films in school or in theaters. They were watching them in their house. When Stacy and Stecyk and George got together, they started making videos. Stacy had done a little movie before that, so it was the right timing. I think I was just at the right place at the right time seeing as my career was basically based on people’s reaction to who I was in the video, more so than the industry deciding, “Hey, who should we bank on to sell product?” It was almost like the people got to decide. I think I was the first person to get to be pro based on a video. That changed things. I didn’t even have a board yet. I just had that visibility and when that visibility happened, people were like, “Hey, we connect with this guy. Can we get this guy’s board?”
OLSON: It helped propel your career though, no?
LANCE: Well, yeah, but I already had a career on Variflex. I was trying to be progressive, even as an amateur. I was learning tricks and doing tricks that hadn’t been done. No one had done invert fakies and Andrecht fakies hand on coping. I was an amateur when I did that. I probably shared lien 360s and developing that and making it an above the lip trick. I did frontside 360 airs out. I did eggplants. I did the first invert channels. Neil really got the first photo of it in the magazine, but together we developed the gay twist. I think I was doing what I was supposed to be doing. I wasn’t naming the tricks after me, but I was developing tricks. I never was considered a guy that was developing the sport trick-wise because I didn’t have a voice saying that. Stacy was saying that about his guys on his team, but I wasn’t on his team at that point. When I did get on his team, I wasn’t being looked at like that. I’m still not looked at like that. Stacy was taking care of his team. It wasn’t his job to be interested in what we were doing. It was the job of the guys I was involved with to tell our stories and they didn’t know how. That was one thing that was great about getting to be part of the Bones Brigade, with Stacy and Stecyk, and George’s product and the rest of the guys that were great skateboarders. I got to be part of this group and the story being told and I had my place. My place didn’t happen to be as a trick inventor. It happened to be whatever people think it is. I don’t know what it is actually.
OLSON: What do you think it is?
LANCE: I think I’m a trick inventor. [Laughs]
OLSON: [Laughs] Yes!
LANCE: As a skateboarder, you’re proud of that stuff, but if no one else is telling the story for you, it’s not really interesting. For me, it was all about getting on the crew and then doing it and them telling the story. I remember watching guys before me and there were the guys that invented tricks and then there were the guys that people just wanted to be. If people wanted to be you, you had a longer deeper impact. For the guys that just invented tricks, six months later, someone else would invent a newer trick, so that had more of a short term impact. I always felt like I was the janitor or the glue. I wanted to help pick up the pieces and help make everyone else look good and be good, and I really liked being part of something that collectively was great as a group. I’d rather be with other guys than by myself because I have a tendency to get down on myself and be pessimistic. With the Bones Brigade, I just threw it out there that we were just messing around and having a good time. Ultimately, you want the other guys to go, “This guy is good.” So that’s what we did as a group. Collectively, we talked about how great we all were. It worked out that some of us believed it. [Laughs] Maybe a lot of it’s made up. Maybe none of it’s true. We just talked about all this stuff. It was fun times. The Bones Brigade ran for nine years, which was a huge period of time in comparison to what anyone got before us. We had nine years of being able to do what we wanted to do. Most people got six months or maybe two years of that. Nine years was cool. I wasn’t there for the beginning, so I missed out on the first two fundamental years of the Bones Brigade, so when I hear Bones Brigade, I personally think of Stacy Peralta, Scott Foss, Steve Caballero, Jay Smith, Ray Bones and Mike McGill. To me, that’s the Bones Brigade and I have a huge respect for that group of guys. I wanted to ride for Ray Bones. By the time I got on Powell, Jay Smith and Ray Bones and those guys were gone. I was riding a Skull & Sword board, which was Ray Bones board without his name on it, and I felt guilty. When the Rat Bones came out, with Stecyk’s graphic, I connected with that. Deep inside, I felt guilty that I was riding a Ray Bones board without his name on it. I love Ray Bones. I still feel so nostalgic about Ray. I finally got to ride on Ray’s team and Ray wasn’t there. That’s another another sentimental, emotional thing. Everything about skateboarding is emotional to me. It’s nothing more than that. It’s all emotions. It’s highs and lows. That’s what it is. It’s an emotional connection. I just make it higher and lower than it really is. I make it more because I want it to be more. We’d play those games like, “That guy was the best ever!!!” He wasn’t really that good, but we’d just make up all these things. The Bones Brigade was really good. It provided a great way for me to enjoy doing what I like to do and take care of my family. Skateboarding is the best job I’ve ever had and we don’t have to stop when it’s time to get a job because we figured out a way to make it work.
OLSON: You were able to prolong it.
LANCE: Yeah. It goes through its highs and lows and you learn how to take the dips. We just have to stick it out. We’re not going to quit. We’re going to stick it out. We learned that companies go hot and cold. All you have to do is connect with a good group of guys. Then you can make money for yourself or make money together. If you don’t make money together, than you can try to do it on your own. The company’s job is to look around the field and see what’s happening and go, “You know what? We can make money off that. Let’s get a piece of that.” It’s our job to be there before them. It’s our job as skateboarders to do it first. Some people have a problem with that. I don’t. It’s just the way it is. Things have changed now. It’s very different. Stacy taught us a long time ago that our job is to go out there and make people fall in love with skateboarding. That way there would be more skateboarders. It was our job to make them want to do it. That’s still our job today. Doing that creates more skateboarders. The biggest difference now is that the guys building skateparks have more value than people like us.
OLSON: Oh really?
LANCE: Yeah. They’re building places for everyone to skateboard. If you have no place to skate, guys will just go build it on their own. I personally think that the guys that are building skateparks are creating more skateboarders than pro skateboarders are now. I mean good skateboarders are good skateboarders, and kids look at them and go, “Oh, they’re a good skateboarder.” It’s trippy. The pro skateboarder was supposed to promote skateboarding and build skateboarding and make it bigger, which is what we were doing. In the last 15 or 20 years, it’s been more about the dudes that are actually pouring concrete and building places for kids to go skate. I think Red and those guys that built Burnside, and Kelly Bellmar and Chicken building pools, and all of that kind of stuff, has a bigger impact on the kids skateboarding today than anything else.
OLSON: They are providing a place for us to go and express ourselves on our skateboards.
LANCE: Yeah. When we were doing it, we were doing the same thing. Indirectly, we were building little ramps and then bigger ramps. At one point, you were talking about walking around on your hands and then it was all about jump ramps. We went on a whole tour across the U.S.A. with a jump ramp on the roof of George Powell’s car. We’d set the ramp down and then just fly off of it, but it was so not skateboarding to me. It’s what was happening in skateboarding at that time, but it was not double truck grinding at Big O.
LANCE: It was just another part of it. In your heart, you’re thinking, “It’s weird because so much stuff was eliminated out of it.” You agonized over it, like, “Is this good?” You knew that by doing it you were creating so many kids that wanted to do it. On the other side of it, you wished that you were showing them a skatepark. Out of that came the whole street thing, which was a world that we weren’t really part of. I learned everything I could on street, but it sucked. It really sucked because, as a professional skateboarder, I had younger professional skateboarders telling me it was time to move aside. I’m like, “Yeah, you’re right, I may not do it correctly, but I still love doing it, so you can’t tell me to stop.” Now they’re like, “Oh, we never told you to stop.” I’m like, “Yes, you did. A couple of you guys directly told me to stop.” [Laughs] Some of those pros that told me directly to go away aren’t even pros anymore. They’re not even around anymore. It’s interesting. Weird.
LANCE: Yeah. They were good too. I still trip on that. There are so many good skateboarders that came and went. Why do I still get to do what I love? It’s so crazy. I don’t know. It’s not even right, but I’ll take it.
OLSON: Well, you’re still in it. They maybe walked away.
LANCE: Yeah. It was a good time with Powell Peralta. I had just gotten married and we were struggling along and trying to raise a family. Those were special times. Wait. I get to ask you questions now. What was happening for you from ’90 to ’99?
OLSON: I had learned how to make money through doing commercials and it was really easy.
LANCE: Was that the Mr. Incredible campaign, Mr. Lucky?
OLSON: [Laughs] Mr. Incredible. You’re insane. No. Mr. Lucky was much later.
LANCE: In 1992, skateboarding really went nuts again. What were you doing in ’92?
OLSON: In ’92, I was working as a tour guide for this rock band, a jump blues band called the Red Devils. I did that for a couple of tours and I worked with The Blasters as well. I did so much different stuff. I did some commercials and it was the easiest money I’d ever made and it paid extremely well. Not that it was about the money, but in one day I could make $20,000 or $30,000 or $60,000 and it was so easy.
LANCE: I thought it was never about the money.
OLSON: No. No. No. That was only about the money. Let me be clear. It was also kind of funny.
LANCE: Was the music stuff more fun because it was something you liked to do?
OLSON: Some of it was, but it was mostly because it was offered to me. It was made available and it wasn’t difficult to do. You just make sure you to get to the gigs on time. I directed some short films and learned how to edit. My friends were doing a production company, so I had a reel.
LANCE: Were you in California that whole time?
OLSON: I was living in California, but I was bouncing back and forth to New York a lot. We made some short films and I was into that whole world of creating things.
LANCE: Were you surfing at all at that point?
OLSON: I’ve always surfed. What were you doing in the ‘90s?
LANCE: I skated that whole time. I had started The Firm and I was running a team and I was filming with them. I was street skating with them. You had five or six guys that you skated with and you went to a spot and skated all day and filmed. We went on a bunch of tours. We went on a Europe tour in ’94. We went on a U.S. Tour and went around to all the skate shops. You know what was weird? We didn’t sign an autograph at all in the ‘90s. It was even weirder that it came back around again in 2000 and 2001. When people started wanting your autograph again, that was weirder. The top pros didn’t wear any of their own shirts. You wouldn’t wear your own company shirt. You would wear white shirts or you’d buy a designer shirt. It was almost like you were embarrassed to be part of a company. As far as skateboarding goes, if it wasn’t the newest trick, it was like, “Hey, don’t be seen doing that.” If you did anything out of the ordinary, it was like, “Give me a break.” It was weird, but cool. I had a company and a team and it was some of the best times and some of the roughest times. Times were way rougher in the ‘90s than in the early ‘80s when it died. I had a family and responsibilities and no one else in the industry wanted to support what we were doing. What was weird is that the relationships I had with people in the ‘90s are stronger than the relationships I had with anybody else because the times were harder then.
OLSON: You worked as a unit.
LANCE: Well, as much as we were all Stacy’s kids on Powell, I had my own kids on The Firm. I’ll be honest, I always felt really guilty because, in the back of my head, I wanted The Firm team to be as big as the Bones Brigade. Even as skateboarding had gotten bigger, the teams have not gotten bigger. It’s harder to be important as a team now. Skateboarding had changed in a way that it was about individuals. The industry had changed, and I was trying to do whatever it took to be involved. I was trying to figure out what everyone else was trying to figure out, “How can we make companies big again? How can we make companies matter like they used to?” Board brands just don’t. You’re trying to do something that doesn’t exist anymore, rather than just accepting it for what it is, and doing your best.
LANCE: I had great teams. I put a team together and Ray Barbee rode for it. Joe Gruber, Keith Gruber, Weston Correa, James Qua, Pat Brennen, Salman Agah, Matt Beech, Bob Burnquist, Rodrigo TX, Jani Laitiala, Javier Sarmiento and Weiger all rode for The Firm. It went through about three different stages. Knowing when it was time for a new stage, I felt so far removed. Rodrigo was the last guy I put on the team, and he didn’t really know that I skateboarded. He was a great dude and I love him still, but he just thought I was some dude that had a skateboard company. Rodrigo wanted to ride with the team that I had put together. Good skateboarders want to ride for a good team. We wanted to ride for Stacy. I wanted to ride for Ray Bones. People wanted to ride for Gonz. They want to ride for Andrew Reynolds and Jamie Thomas. People constantly want to be around and ride with the best. That’s generally how skateboarders work. When you get to a point where you’re three generations away from any connection, they don’t want to ride for me. They don’t even know who I am.
OLSON: Was that a blow to your ego?
LANCE: No, because I saw it happen to Stacy, so I knew it was coming. I just didn’t think it was going to take that long. I did The Firm for 14 years and I just didn’t think it would be that long. Truthfully, the next group of guys I was looking at was just coming around the corner where maybe they could have related to me. I was at that turning point, like, “Man, I have to do this,” but the whole industry was changing and all the products were going to China. It was less and less about the hardgoods. Everything I wanted to do with the company including the advertising and making videos, it all felt like it had run its course with what I could do. I had slowly but surely started making more money on my own as a skateboarder and I was putting my money back into the company. I had offers to ride for someone else, which is what I’d been waiting for since the day that I left Powell. I was waiting for someone to say, “Hey, Lance, we see value in you. Come ride for our company.” Once I knew that Stacy was leaving Powell, I was waiting for someone to say that I had value, but none of those companies in the ‘90s saw that. That’s why I rode for Flip. The owner of Flip said, “Hey, why are you running a company? You have value as a skateboarder. You should be a skateboarder.” I said, “I’ve always wanted to be a skateboarder. No one has asked me.”
OLSON: [Laughs] Yes!
LANCE: The Firm had run its course and now I get to go skateboard more and be a skateboarder. There are good parts to everything.
OLSON: The bottom line is that when you stand on your skateboard, it feels good still.
LANCE: It feels a lot better than sitting behind a desk and working on a computer trying to make something happen. There were times when I was working as a skateboarder and I would go a whole day being so enveloped in the issues of skateboarding and then I’d walk home and say, “I’m a skateboarder.” Then I was like, “No. You’re not a skateboarder. You sit behind a desk. You draw graphics and design ads and talk on the phone. You try to get a VISA for a guy or bail a guy out of jail or you try to set up a tour or do a video or talk to a skate shop that doesn’t even care that you’re alive. You’re not a skateboarder.” Standing on a skateboard is the thing that is ultimately the best. If you stand on a skateboard and you do that well, it gives you other avenues to do things that are cool. We didn’t get into when you started skating with your kid. You have to tell that part of your story now.
OLSON: Okay, then let me talk for a second. My kid came to live with me when he was 9 or 10. I lived in a shack up in Malibu so I could be close to him because he lived in northern Santa Monica with his mom. He came to stay with me for the summer and one day he came home from school and said, “I’m a skateboarder.” Earlier, when we’d go snowboarding, he’d tell me that he was going to be a professional snowboarder. Then he said, “I’m a skateboarder now.” I said, “That’s interesting. Why?” He said, “Because a couple of other kids that are skateboarders, I’m kind of friends with them.” I said “Okay.” Then skateparks started to hit again and the Vans Skatepark in Orange opened up in ’98. I said, “I love skateboarding. It’s fun.” I was really hyped like, “I really do love this a lot.” It wasn’t about learning new tricks. It was about being honest with yourself that you actually enjoyed what you were doing. It was cool because it wasn’t about trying to be the best. I was skateboarding for the pure stoke that I got from it.
LANCE: That’s all about having a place to do it again.
OLSON: Yep. I grew up in skateboard parks, so it was a natural transition. I loved skateboard parks and I still love skateboard parks. I love rolling around and going fast and whatever it is that makes it so fun. My kid, Alex kept skateboarding a lot and he was really deeply into skateboarding, so we’d go on trips and go up North and go to openings of skateparks and we’d go to the Block constantly and skateboard. He was really into skateboarding. We’d drive from Malibu down to Orange and then get home at like 11pm and then get up and I’d take him to school and then we’d repeat it. It was totally fun. There was Skate Street up in Ventura and it had a little bit of a flow thing going on and a giant wall, which brought back the flow for me as a skateboarder. I wasn’t into metal coping to be honest. I prefer to grind block coping because when I grew up, we’d ride block coping and try to break it.
LANCE: Do you miss those times when your kid was just learning about skateboarding and you were skating together and enjoying it?
OLSON: No. I enjoyed it and I’m grateful that I had the opportunity. I was spending time with my kid and skateboarding and watching him develop. It was a whole different perspective from being a skateboarder and competing and being in that whole scene and then watching him. It was interesting that’s for sure. Seeing where skateboarding has gone, there are mad similarities, and it’s definitely different, but it’s the same. It’s just progression and the evolution of where it goes as time moves forward. I was totally into skateboarding again. I love skateboarding. I loved going to the Block. I loved seeing the people that were coming there from all different parts of the city. I loved going up to Vancouver and skating with PD and those guys or going to New York and riding the Helicopter bowl. It was just wicked. There were skateparks popping up everywhere. I was a skatepark kid and now I’m a skatepark adult. My son went on and got deeply involved in skateboarding and he made a career out of skateboarding for himself, which is totally insane. We were skateboarding together because we both loved to go skateboarding. It’s an amazing thing that you can do with your son. You know that. I really became friends with you because of our sons, so that’s very cool too.
OLSON: I love skateboarding. I really love rolling on sidewalks and pumping and carving and making turns. I am a carver. I like to make turns and I like to draw lines. When I’m riding my skateboard, still to this day, there are times where I’m pretending the same as I did when I was a 10-year-old that I’m surfing a wave. That’s unbelievable in one aspect of it because I can’t believe that I’m allowed to do that still. It’s amazing. It’s the best.
LANCE: What is next for you in skateboarding?
OLSON: I’m going to keep skateboarding because I really enjoy it.
LANCE: How do you feel about getting taken out of the Hall of Fame and being replaced?
OLSON: [Laughs] We are not being replaced. There are just new guys being inducted.
LANCE: [Laughs] Can you imagine if someone said they were looking for our trophies because we have to give them back?
OLSON: My trophy? No way. They don’t know where I live.
LANCE: I’m coming to collect it right now. I’m in charge of collecting it.
OLSON: [Laughs] That’s okay, but no.
LANCE: It’s like the Stanley Cup. It floats around. They just change the names. We don’t get to hold onto those. It was nice though, wasn’t it?
OLSON: I was totally amazed and super proud to be inducted into the Skateboarding Hall of Fame. To me, as a person that has skateboarded for a long time, to be recognized by whomever it is that recognizes you, is totally flattering and mind blowing. It’s nice to be in there with the guys that deserve to be there.
LANCE: Who are your picks for it? Who are the next five guys that should be going in next?
OLSON: I will give you my list. From the ‘70s, I think Gregg Weaver should be going in. I think Hackett and Pineapple should be going in. I think Mike Weed should be going in. There are a lot of dudes that should be going in. In the ‘60s, there are a lot of dudes that should be in like the Hilton Brothers and George Trafton. To me, George Trafton, in those early films, skateboarding with a trashcan around his head, was my favorite dude.
LANCE: He’s the best dude, but I don’t think enough people know his name. The only reason I knew about him was from Stacy. I was like, “Who is that guy?” Stacy told me who he is and I was like, “Oh, he’s the best.”
OLSON: Right. From the ‘80s, there are a lot of dudes that should be in and there should be dudes in from the ‘90s too.
LANCE: Yeah. Who are the five best new guys that are really interesting to watch?
OLSON: There are a lot of them. I really enjoy the amazing board control they have and I’m amazed at the ollie and how it just sticks to the feet. I like Nyjah Huston. I like Louie Lopez. When it comes to pool skating guys, there are a bunch of them that rip. There are a couple of Brazilians that rip too. I like Pedro Barros a lot.
LANCE: He goes fast and high.
OLSON: He’s fast and high and looking good. Then there are other guys that are really badass. There are a lot of good skateboarders. That’s a hard question. I like Curren Caples. I love Greyson Fletcher! I love all those tranny kids. They rock. They bring a whole new energy into roundwall and skating transition. They’re amazing.
LANCE: A lot of them are mixtures now. They skate it all. Most of the new guys can ride everything good.