INTERVIEW & INTRODUCTION BY JAY ADAMS
PHOTO BY RUDY MANHEIM
Ray Flores is an old friend of mine. I’ve known him so long that I don’t even remember when we met. When we talked about doing this interview I had to ask him about it. He remembered it well. He said he was in the parking lot at Bay Street in a van that had a skateboard company logo on it. That’s probably what started our conversation. We hung out and skated together and have been friends ever since. Ray remembers a lot of things about skateboarding. He’s been doing it all his life, and he’s still a skateboarder who actually SKATES. Ray was born in 1951 in Santa Monica and started skateboarding in 1956 when he was six years old. His next-door neighbors were surfers and after seeing them tear apart a pair of roller skates and nailing the wheels on a 2X4 then surf down the sidewalk, he was hooked. He shaped his own skates through the early ‘60s and eventually got a new red Makaha board with early clay wheels. He entered his first contest at Santa Monica Civic in 1964 and ended up getting on his first team, the C & D team. After that he got on the original Dewey Weber team. The following year, he entered the Pacific Palisades skate contest and got picked up by the Hobie team. He toured the West Coast doing demos and appeared on TV on several different variety shows. In 1967, he was going to Venice High School and skateboarding popularity took its first nosedive, but Ray never stopped skateboarding. He used to ride his skate ten miles up to Paul Revere to skate with guys like Steve and Dave Hilton, Torger Johnson and Danny Bearer (some of my early heroes as well). I have a lot of respect for Ray for being so real. I’m proud to say that I followed a similar path, so I know the feeling. About 1973, he moved up to Marin County and, after Cadillac Wheels came out, skateboarding became popular again, so he started entering contests again. On a trip down to Santa Monica to visit his mom, he hung out with Jeff Ho and Skip Engblom and became our only northern Z-Boy. In ‘74, he moved back down to Santa Monica and became best friends with [Tony] Alva. Ray skated for Pepsi and Grentec and helped design skateboards for Mattel. Later, he started riding homemade Wes Humpston custom Dogtown decks. That’s when Wes handmade them in his garage. Ray loved pool riding and he helped develop our Dogtown style. Ray was always so amped to skate anything and I remember him driving all over California chasing different spots to skate. Ray has been a big part of skateboarding as long as I can remember and he also has a mean collection of old skates. Find Ray in Venice if you want to see the best collection of Dogtown stuff anybody has. Ray is a skateboarder for life and I’m proud to say I know him. (Hey, Ray, I hope I’m just like you in ten years). – Jay Boy Adams
Hey, Ray! You ready, buddy?
Yes, sir. I am ready.
Let’s get to the basics. What kind of Mexican are you anyway?
I am a Mexican American.
Where were you born?
I was born in Santa Monica. My dad was born in Santa Monica and my grandfather was born in Santa Monica.
You’re a fourth generation Santa Monican.
Yep. My dad’s mom is from Mazatlan. Mazatlan and Santa Monica are sister cities, which is coincidental. I learned how to surf in Mazatlan when I was a little kid.
How old are you right now?
When did you start skateboarding?
Growing up in Santa Monica, we were poor Mexicans. We lived in duplexes and apartments. When I was in first grade, there were some surfers that lived in our duplex.
What year was this?
1956. These surfers lived behind us, and they would always grab their boards and put them in their car and take off to the beach. I would wait around for them and they would come back late in the afternoon and I’d watch them take their boards out of the car and put them in the garage. One day they went out in the morning and came back a half hour later and they went in the garage and started banging away on a 2×4 and some old roller skates and made a skateboard. That was the first skateboard I had ever seen. They started riding it up and down the sidewalk in front of our house on Venice Boulevard and then they gave me the board. They just said, “Here, this is for you.” That was my very first skateboard. Many years later, I figured out that there were no waves that day, and that’s why they came back so soon. They were jones-ing to surf, so they nailed this skateboard together and they were riding it up and down the sidewalk.
You lived in Venice Beach then?
Yeah. I lived on Venice Boulevard.
I was born and raised in the Venice Canals and then I lived on North Venice Boulevard.
I was closer to Mar Vista. It was those apartments right there on the Venice/Mar Vista borderline.
That’s when you got introduced to skateboarding, and you were how old?
Actually, I started surfing first. In those days, skateboarding was just what surfers did when there were no waves. It wasn’t like a huge sport that you would go out and practice. It was sidewalk surfing. You didn’t skateboard if you didn’t surf.
It didn’t even have the name skateboarding. It was sidewalk surfing. This was before skateboarding was skateboarding.
Exactly. I got my first surfboard when I was in the fifth grade. My parents wouldn’t let me go surfing unless someone’s dad was standing there on the beach to watch, so I had a friend named Mike Byham whose father lied to my dad and said, “Oh, yeah, I always stand on the beach and watch.”
Where did you surf?
We learned to surf on the north side of Santa Monica Pier at Station 9.
That’s where I learned to surf too. The north side of Santa Monica Pier was the spot. It had that little thing off the pier and there was a good left off of that.
You would paddle from under the pier to catch that left right there. We all surfed either the north side of the pier or Bay Street. Those were the two places we went. When we got better, we went down to the T’s or P.O.P. I surfed a lot on the north side of the P.O.P. Pier.
Do you remember my step-dad’s surf rental place down there?
Yes. I used to keep my board at Eli’s when I was a little kid.
How fun was P.O.P.? I went to the Cheetah and saw the Doors play there. You know my mom used to go out with Jim Morrison.
I know. I remember your mom. She was a beautiful lady.
We went to one of Jim Morrison’s concerts and I remember that the snare on the drum fell down and he picked it up. I still remember that.
I want to hear one of your P.O.P. stories.
I’ll tell you a story about P.O.P. I was in the fifth grade and my class was taking a road trip to the beach. We went to the north side of P.O.P. and you could see the bubble trams going up in the sky. Two guys on bicycles ride up with rickshaws with their Weber Surfboards on the back, and they look at me and go, “Little Raymond! What’s going on?” They walked right up to me with 30 of my classmates around me. These two guys were my cousins Tommy and Joey Balfour. Tommy and Joey were really hardcore surfers from Venice. They went to Venice High School and they were friends of Skipper. Skip used to go to Mexico with them and they used to stay at my grandmother’s in Mazatlan. Skipper knows my grandma. Tommy and Joey Balfour were actually my father’s cousins, so they were my second cousins. I was with my class and those kids had never been close to a surfboard, so my cousins let them play with their boards in the water. I remember their Schwinn bikes. They had big old Schwinn cruisers with tanks on them. This was probably 1957. I felt proud because my cousins were there with their surfboards and I was just a little kid in grammar school. That’s when I decided that I was going to be a surfer. That’s when it clicked in my mind, “This is what I’m going to do for the rest of my life!”
“SURFING WAS INFLUENCED FROM SKATEBOARDING. ALL THE AERIALS DONE IN SURFING WERE DONE ON A SKATEBOARD FIRST. SKATEBOARDING IS THE FATHER OF EXTREME SPORTS. IT REALLY IS.”
[Laughs] I remember the South Side Surfers. They had that written on the wall.
Those were my cousins who I owe my love of surfing to because all of my other cousins in my family were cholos from Pacoima. They were all gnarly gang fighters and old school gangsters. They carried knives. No guns. They would fight with honor, face to face, not shoot each other in the backs. I like to call myself the white sheep of the family because everybody else in my family was just hardcore gangster, and I wanted to be a surfer. I was one of the few Mexican surfers back in the day when it was all blond-haired, blue-eyed guys.
Remember how gnarly the Cove was and P.O.P. and guys like Dale Grant?
Yeah. I used to worship a guy named Victor Torres. He was a Mexican that used to hang out with Skip. I really admired him because he was a hardcore Mexican surfer, and there weren’t many Mexicans surfing back in the ‘50s and ‘60s. Another one of my favorite surfers was Jose Angel and it turns out he’s like one of the Hawaiian surf gods. Legendary. Eddie Aikau and Jose were best friends.
He was a radical waterman. One of the places I first learned to skate was at Santa Monica Pier right across from Eli’s. There was a bar there and there was that hill that went up. That’s the first place that I ever skated in front of people. I remember seeing this biker fight where they were fighting with chains in the middle of the bar. I remember running to the beach because I was scared. I was a little kid, so I was like, “Those guys are gnarly.” That’s the first place that I learned to skateboard.
That’s where I learned to skate too, right in front of the carousel. That was a fun hill. You could get really low and do Berts on it and stuff.
We learned how to go back and forth instead of just going straight down. Where else did you skate?
Mar Vista Elementary School was right behind my apartment building, so that was our stomping ground from when I was a little kid. We skated that place with all the banks. From there, we graduated to Paul Revere. From Paul Revere, we graduated to Bellagio.
You were on the original Hobie skate team, right?
That’s right. That was in 1965.
How did you get on that team?
One of my old skating buddies was Cris Dawson, one of the original trainers of the Z-Boy Team. He lived down the street from me, and we used to watch each other skateboarding all the time. We finally got together and skated everyday. Then there was this big contest at Palisades High School that Hobie was putting on, so we both went there and won it. We won first and second place. The Hobie team manager was there and he asked us if we wanted to be on the team. We just looked at each other and said, “No way!” He gave us a brand new Hobie board right then and there and took us to Ted’s Ranch House on the beach in Malibu to eat lunch afterwards.
That’s cool. Let me ask you something else. What did the movie Skaterdater mean to you? When I saw that movie, it changed my whole outlook on skating. It showed me that you could jump down curbs and it really opened up skateboarding to me. Did you know those guys?
I knew all of those guys. Those were the Makaha guys. It was a great time because that’s when skateboarding started to become skateboarding. We started to invent tricks and really take it seriously like it was its own sport. There was a whole group of us that were really into it and wanted to take it to the next level. We were trying to do these gymnastics tricks on boards, like an L sit to a handstand. It was all based on gymnastics. Going off jumps was like jumping off a sawhorse. Then we started really getting into banks. From banks, it graduated into pools.
Let’s go back to the Makaha and Hobie Team. How did you get on the Hobie team? Who was on the team and what did you guys do? Guys don’t know about this. Skateboarding shouldn’t start with Dogtown. There’s a whole generation of skaters that skated pools ten years before Dogtown even came around. Tell me about the Hilton Brothers, Danny Bearer and Torger Johnson.
Well, Hobie Alter originally started the Hobie skateboarding team, and then the Hilton brothers got into it. Their dad was interested and he owned all the Hilton Hotels and a company called Vita-Pakt Orange Juice Company, so they bought the skateboard company, and the molds, and started making skateboards behind the orange juice factory in Covina. The first team was the Hilton Brothers, Torger Johnson, Wendy Bearer, Suzie Rowland and Colleen Boyd. Stevie and Davie Hilton were really into it, but surfing was way more important to them. They would rather surf any day than skate.
Were they more surfers?
They were more surfers and socialites. Those guys were billionaires. They had everything they wanted, so skateboarding was just a small part of their lives. It wasn’t as serious to them, but they were very gifted skateboarders because they had been surfing from the time they were little kids. Stevie and Chris Picciolo were on the Hobie team too.
Steve Picciolo won the Del Mar contest. People don’t know that.
They were just little kids at the time. They were my age, but older than you. Stevie and Chris Picciolo were so good. They stayed on the team because they were really serious about skateboarding, so that was the second team. We used to travel together everywhere. It was Steve, Chris, Cris Dawson, Wendy, Suzie, Colleen and I.
I didn’t know Steve Picciolo was on Hobie. I thought he was my age. I guess he was a little older than me, right?
He was maybe a year older than you. They were the little kids on the team. They were younger than Cris Dawson, Tom Waller and I. At one of the first contests that Hobie held, the Hilton Brothers didn’t even show up, so they essentially were off the team. Cris Dawson and I won the Pacific Palisades contest, so they asked us to replace Steve and Dave Hilton. At the time, Cris Dawson could do twenty-five 360s, which was unbelievable. He could do more 360s than anybody in the world, and I could do handstands all the way down Bicknell full speed, when most people couldn’t even ride their boards on their feet down Bicknell. So we got on the Hobie team with the original girls, Wendy Bearer, who is Danny Bearer’s sister, Colleen Boyd and Suzie Rowland, who were all World Champions from the very first World Championship. We used to travel around and do demos at Montgomery Ward and places that sold Hobie skateboards.
Where were the Logans at this time?
They were Makaha boys from the South Bay. They were the South Bay guys. There was always a big competition between Hobie and Makaha. Those were the two top teams and we were always competing against each other.
I bought a Makaha LX-10 kicktail at a toy store over there in Venice on Lincoln Boulevard. That was the first kicktail, right?
Those were the first. We were doing demos all over the country. We were traveling around in our station wagon that was painted with Hobie logos all over it. The team manager was an old guy named Erwin J. Beebe. We called him Skeeter.
I wonder if that’s the guy that lives in Hawaii?
For a while, he did live in Hawaii.
Well, there’s a guy that claims he was the captain of the Hobie team and he was telling us this Elvis Presley story. He said that Elvis gave Torger Johnson a Harley Davidson motorcycle. He traded him for a skateboard.
Yeah. Elvis lived on the North Shore right above Pipeline. I’m pretty sure he owned that house. He used to stay there a lot. That’s a true story. The Hobie team and the Makaha team were really used to competing against each other a lot. Hobie was making boards and Makaha was making boards and then Makaha patented the kicktail, but there were big fights in court over who invented the kicktail. Even I had to go to court about it and tell them that we used to ride boards and put little wedges on them before we ever bought kicktail boards. That’s how we used to do it. Makaha lost their court battle trying to patent the kicktail. That’s how everybody in the world makes kicktails now and nobody has to pay anybody, but Makaha and Larry Stevenson were the first to actually make the kicktail. We traveled everywhere and we were so dedicated to skateboarding. I remember when it was starting to lose momentum and people were like, “Why are you still riding those boards? That’s not cool anymore.” We were like, “Screw you. We love skateboarding.” We never stopped skateboarding. In 1967, skateboarding kind of died and became really unpopular. If you were riding a skateboard, you might as well have been walking down the street with a hula-hoop or something, because it just became super uncool.
That was the first time that skating had its fad, and then it boomed out.
I graduated from high school in 1969 and I was still riding my Hobie skateboard on a daily basis.
Were you riding the laminated one or were you riding one of those red fiberglass ones or the white ones with the blue stripe down the middle?
It was the white fiberglass one. The red ones were Makaha boards. They were similar to the Hobies. The Hobies were white fiberglass with a blue stripe or wood grain stripe. If they had a blue stripe that meant that they were made for Montgomery Ward, and it said Montgomery Ward in the Hobie decal.
It had a little plastic triangle almost like grip tape.
It was the grippy surface molded into the board. When skateboarding became unpopular, I still rode that board everyday. I couldn’t give it up. Everybody else gave it up, like it was a little trend or something, but I was like, “No way. This is too much fun.” When I graduated from high school in 1969, I moved to San Diego and I was going to San Diego State College riding my skateboard around campus. In 1969, there were not very many people riding skateboards. Alva told me that he was still riding skateboards, and you were too.
“I STILL SKATE VERT BECAUSE IT’S SUCH AN ADDICTION.”
Yeah. I have pictures of me in 1969 skating at Paul Revere, when I was eight years old. The board I’m on in those photos is a laminated Hobie with clay wheels. How do you think skateboarding made a comeback again? Do you think it was the Cadillac Wheels?
Well, here’s the funny thing. In 1966, the Hobie skateboard team manager had gone to a roller skating rink to buy loose ball bearings for a board and noticed some wheels in a case at the roller skating rink. He said, “What’s up with these wheels?” They said, “These are professional roller skating wheels.” He said, “Give me three sets of those.” So he got three sets of them, one for me, one for Cris Dawson and one for Tom Waller. He gave us these wheels and said, “Put these on your board and tell me what you think of them?” We were like, “What are these wheels?” He goes, “They’re special formula wheels.” We’re all, “Cool.” We put them on our boards and we couldn’t believe it. It was like magic. We had the very first urethane wheels, which were made for roller skates.
Those weren’t Cadillac wheels?
That’s all Cadillac wheels were. Frank Nasworthy saw the same wheels in a roller rink and had Cadillac put on them. Those were professional roller skating wheels. We were beating everyone in every contest because we had special formula wheels. We had urethane wheels, way before the Cadillac Wheel came out, and we didn’t know what they were. We called them special formula wheels and then Road Rider came out with the first sealed bearing wheel many years later.
I remember I was at a skate contest in San Fernando Valley and a guy came up to me and said, “Hey, I’ve got these new bearings and they’re called precision bearings.” He gave me a set of them and no one had them that I knew of. I was like, “Whoa, these are cool!” Skating with loose ball bearings, it would just fall apart and you would eat it really bad. You always had to have extra ball bearings in your pocket in case your tire blew out on you.
I remember gas stations were like skate shops. We used to ride our skateboards from Santa Monica all the way to Paul Revere Junior High and you’d get flats on the way, so you would stop at a gas station and they’d sell you ball bearings for a penny each. They’d lend you the tools and give you the bearings and grease. Gas stations were like the early pit stops for skateboarders.
Do you remember the Chicago Trucks where it was a big screw? It wasn’t a kingpin. It was a big screw and if you had it too loose, it would catch on the ground and you’d eat shit.
It would fall out or stick on the ground. It’s like when you rode your skateboard too much and the wheels wore down. You would never know when that kingpin was just about to bottom out on the ground. When the Cadillac urethane wheels came out, I was the first one to go out and buy them. I was living in San Francisco at the time and I was still skating.
Is that why you were not on the Zephyr Team?
I was on the Zephyr Team, but I was representing up north. I knew Skipper because Skipper used to surf with my two cousins.
I know Tom Waller and Cris Dawson were on the Zephyr Team. They were at that Del Mar contest in that photo with all of us.
They were more like the team managers. They were the older guys. I was still skating. Tom and Cris were skating old style, upright. I was the only one of the old skaters from the Hobie Team era that made the transition into vertical skating. That’s why I was skating with you and Tony and everybody. I was the old-timer skating pools with you guys. I still skate vert because it’s such an addiction.
Tell me again how we met. I can’t remember.
Well, I moved to San Francisco to go to school, but I still had affiliations with the Zephyr shop because I always rode Zephyr surfboards. I went into the Zephyr Surf Shop to buy a new board and Skipper goes, “Dude, you have to represent us up north. You’re on the team. Here.” He gave me a board and a Zephyr t-shirt. He said, “You’re going to represent up North.” I said, “Okay, fine.” So I was skating all these drainage ditches and big old spillways up North and that big old pipe at Lake Berryessa in Sacramento. We would go out on safaris and look for these places to skate. When I moved back to Santa Monica, Zephyr was over and it was Dogtown. I was skating for Dogtown because Wes was my friend, and he used to paint all my boards for me. One day, I was sitting in the parking lot at Bay Street checking out the waves in a big van. I used to ride for a company called GT Skateboards that made all of those cheesy plastic boards. You saw the van in the parking lot and you skated up to the van and we just started talking. I knew who you were because I’d seen you skate, but you were a little kid. That’s when you and I hit it off and you said, “Let’s go skate a pool.” So we drove to the keyhole in Beverly Hills.
How did you meet Alva, because you and Alva became really good friends?
Alva knew about me from the very beginning because Tom Waller and Cris Dawson used to talk about me to Alva. They were like, “Ray Flores is the best. He jumps off picnic tables on his skateboard.” When Alva met me, he was like, “Fuck, dude. I can’t believe I finally met you.” We just hit it off and became best friends and went everywhere together. People thought I was Alva because I had the same haircut as he did. [Laughs] Then I started working with Alva, and I helped him develop the first Alva wide board and Alva wheels. I was also a consultant with the Alva clothing line.
This was when Alva was living on Dudley?
Right. That was my old apartment. You and Vince Klyn used to knock on my door at six o’clock in the morning when you were little kids. You’d say, “Come on. Take us surfing!” So I would take you fuckers surfing. We would go to Oxnard and all over the place.
I remember Terry Nails lived in those apartments.
Yeah. Do you remember that one time we went surfing in Oxnard and we were driving back? We saw those guys at Zuma with the Karmann Ghia.
Oh, yeah. We got in that automobile wreck, right?
Yeah. You got into a car wreck right in front of me and Vinny.
I was with Frank Corbett in his Karmann Ghia. He was driving and you guys were following us. I was going to buy that Karmann Ghia off Frank. Frank was driving, and we put our surfboards in your truck. We were racing back down the coast going to Zuma, but when we got to Zuma that stupid Volkswagen made a u-turn right in front of us.
We hit the car and the whole car exploded. The guys flew out of the car. Everybody went to the hospital except me. I was the only guy that didn’t get hurt because I saw the wreck coming. I grabbed the little handle on top of the glove box and braced myself. When we hit, we annihilated that car. We spun around, and the guys flew out of the car. You guys said that you almost ran someone over.
Yeah. Dudes were flying out of the car.
“WE USED TO RIDE OUR SKATEBOARDS FROM SANTA MONICA ALL THE WAY TO PAUL REVERE JUNIOR HIGH AND YOU’D GET FLATS ON THE WAY, SO YOU WOULD STOP AT A GAS STATION AND THEY’D SELL YOU BALL BEARINGS FOR A PENNY EACH. THEY’D LEND YOU THE TOOLS AND GIVE YOU THE BEARINGS AND GREASE. GAS STATIONS WERE LIKE THE EARLY PIT STOPS FOR SKATEBOARDERS.”
I just remember the car stopped. I looked over at Frank and he was knocked out against the steering wheel. His chest had busted the steering wheel and I looked at myself and said, “Oh, I’m not hurt!” I jumped out of the car and those other guys were hanging out of their car. Everybody got airlifted to the hospital but me. I had a scratch on my elbow. I remember I rode home in your car. I was like, “Oh, my God! How did I not get hurt out of everybody?” Gnarly.
It was a gnarly explosion. Right as the car exploded, you bolted out of the car and you were running down the PCH, up and down the big ivy banks like a madman. It was crazy. We couldn’t believe you were alive.
Do you know why I’m alive? It’s because I had skateboarding skills. I saw it coming and I braced myself. It’s like crashing on a skateboard. I was lucky. I saw it coming and I held on and didn’t get hurt. I’m lucky. I remember I went skateboarding at the Marina Skatepark later on that afternoon.
We all did, man, and we were tearing it up. That was rad.
Didn’t you live by Venice Pier when you were hanging out with Alva all the time?
Yeah. Then he moved to Malibu because I moved to Malibu. He moved next door to me out in Malibu on that ranch.
You, Billy Yeron and Alva really hung out hard. I was mad at Tony because he stole Tyese from me.
Tyese was such a beautiful girl. She was so nice.
Yeah. She was the hottest chick. I remember taking her to parties and I was like “I’ve got the most beautiful girl in this whole party.” She was only fifteen. She was the most beautiful girl ever.
She was. You know she died a few years ago.
Yeah. I was talking to her before she died. She said, “I need to make amends to you for what I did to you and breaking your heart like that.” I was like, “Ah, you don’t owe me nothing, girl. C’mon. We were young. I’m just glad I got to spend time with you and you were the first love of my life.” That’s when I learned that girls are gnarly and they can hurt you.
[Laughs] You were just teenagers. There’s a shot of her in the Dogtown and Z Boys documentary at Gonzales’ pool. Tony is there. Kathy Alva and Tyese are sitting in the background.
Yeah. Kathy was the first girl that ever had her way with me. She was Tony Alva’s sister. [Laughs]
[Laughs] I know. That’s so funny. Tyese’s father was a comedian and actor named Martin Mull. He used to come over to my house all the time early in the morning and knock on the doors like, “Where’s Tyese? Where’s Tony? I want to know where they are.” I was like, “I don’t know where they are.” [Laughs]
It’s funny because she was my girlfriend, but I went to Hawaii and then Tony swooped her up. Who could blame him? She was such a beautiful girl. I can’t blame her because Tony was a handsome guy and desirable for any young girl.
He was much more of a scammer than you were.
I was an innocent kid. Tony was four or five years older. He definitely had more female experience than I did.
He has that hot Latin blood too.
[Laughs] It’s all good. It’s part of growing up. Let’s hear about Malibu because that’s when punk rock was starting. I remember Tony had some punk rock shows up there, right?
Yeah. He had a birthday party and X played. That was the first time that anyone had seen punks in Malibu. Nobody had ever even heard of X except Tony, who was into punk rock before any of us. He was dressed up with plaid-Scottish print pants with chains hanging all over them. Alva’s hair was butch cropped down. No dreds or nothing. Totally punk with make up on his eyes. The word got around and everybody came. X played until one o’clock in the morning. Then the Malibu sheriffs all came. They arrested Tony Alva because they thought he had escaped from jail because of all the chains he was wearing. They had never seen a punk before. I’m not kidding. After that party, punk rock became famous. X became famous. I got into punk rock after that myself. I tried to resist, but I couldn’t.
I lived on Highland then. That’s when the Zephyr team broke up and we made EZ Ryder. Tony was on there and Wentzle, Shogo, Marty Grimes, Baby Paul and a couple other guys. Then that became Z Flex. Wes and you lived over there too. I remember the day Jai was born. Jenna Hardy was your woman back then.
Right. We were living practically next door to Wes.
I remember you guys moved up on Santa Monica and you had that big half pipe in your backyard.
Right. You lived with Tiffany at the time.
Tiffany was my girl then. We went out for about ten years.
You have a kid with her, right?
No. That wasn’t my baby. We named him Jayson, but he wasn’t my son.
I named Jai after you, my youngest son. Jai is the Hindu word for Jay. Jai is spelled J-A-I, but in India they pronounce it Jay. Jai still lives in Hawaii. Have you been skating at all, Jay?
Yeah, I’ve been skating quite a bit.
That’s good. I’ve been skating a lot over at the Santa Monica Cove. I really love the Cove in Santa Monica and the Venice skatepark too. You can go on Youtube to opening day at the Venice Skate Park and see that they let me be the first one to drop into the pool. I had a suit and a tie and I’m just tearing it up. It shows me getting a frontside grind in the deep end. I’m skating a lot and skating hard. I’m better than ever right now.
That’s rad. You always had nice cars like your little minis. Do you still have those?
I have a couple of old Mini Coopers. One is from the ‘60s. I love old Mini Coopers, and my son Jai really got me into drifting. He’s a semi-professional drift car racer, and he fabricates custom parts for drift car racers. His company is called Broken Fabrication. I have a couple of 240 SX Nissan’s, an S13 and an S14. I really love drift cars and Jai is super into it too.
Do you remember when we went up to Ventura and bought that Mini Cooper car and a bunch of skateboards?
We bought those from Todd Huber.
There was some guy selling a big collection. You bought a bunch of them and I bought a bunch of them.
Yeah. Stecyk was there.
Somehow Cassel got my whole collection.
Yeah. I bought some of it from Cassel. He said it was your collection. I love collecting skateboards and old surfboards. Each one is like a sculpture to me.
When I moved to Hawaii, I sold it to Mike for $3,000. It was a lot of money at the time. I was like, “I don’t need all of these skateboards.” I traded that for a life in Hawaii.” If you have them, they’re in good hands. That’s great. What do you do for a living now?
I sell vintage skateboards and surfboards to different shops around town that like to get into the vintage thing.
You had a shop in Newport Beach didn’t you?
Yeah. It was called The Board Gallery. I closed the Board Gallery in Venice. The rent got too high, so I’m just doing wholesale business now. I want to move to Hawaii and open a Board Gallery in Hawaii. That’s my goal. I’m saving my money right now and just making as much money as I can.
Do you know what I have? I have one Zephyr board from the Dogtown movie, so it’s a replica. One is a Zephyr and one is a Z-Flex. Do you remember they replicated those boards?
I have one of those too. They’re exactly like the originals.
I have a red one that is so sick. It’s in perfect shape and it looks like it has clay wheels, which are actually urethane wheels with precision ball bearings. I have a nice little collection of skates going in my storage unit. I managed to buy quite a few before I went to prison the second time. I have probably twenty skates, really nice ones, and some old ones.
That’s nice. Well, any skateboard with your signature on it becomes an instant collector’s item.
[Laughs.] So you want to move to Hawaii?
Yeah. I really want to move to Hawaii because I just love surfing so much. It’s just so much more difficult surfing here on the mainland because of the water conditions. I like warm water, so I don’t get much surfing in the wintertime.
It’s the endless summer in Waikiki. What else do you want to talk about, brother?
Well, right now I’m at a point in my life where I’m getting older and I just appreciate being able to skateboard so much that I try and give back to skateboarding. I give a lot of skateboards away to a lot of poor kids in the hood here. I just try to give back to skateboarding because my whole life has been supported by skateboarding. It’s given me so much and I have to give something back to it. I just love skateboarding.
“IT ALL STARTED WITH ALVA, BECAUSE THAT WAS THE BEGINNING OF MODERN DAY SKATEBOARDING. THAT’S REALLY THE BEGINNING OF RADICAL EXTREME SPORTS. ALSO THIS PLACE THAT WE GREW UP IN, THERE IS NO OTHER PLACE LIKE THIS. WE WERE SO PASSIONATE AND SO MOTIVATED TO PUSH HARD. WE ALL WERE TRYING TO IMPRESS EACH OTHER.”
A lot of people don’t know what a skateboarder you have been your whole life. People think Tony and I are the old skater guys, but there are guys like you that were ten years older than us and did it before us and still do it. You’re a 100% skateboarder for life.
That’s right. I really feel that I will be skateboarding into my seventies and eighties and until the day I die, even if it’s just riding to the pharmacy to get Advil for my arthritis.
What do you think happens when you die? What’s the deal?
Well, there’s an old Hindu saying, which I pretty much believe in. It says, “Wherever your mind is at the time of death to that state you will attain.” If you’re thinking like a dog when you’re dying, you’re going to be a dog. If you’re thinking like a higher thinker, you’re going to go to a higher place. It just means that whatever you do comes back to you. I don’t believe that there is a hell. I believe that people might suffer for a while, but I don’t believe that you go to hell for doing little wrong things like smoking joints or drinking alcohol. Maybe you will go to hell if you kill another person for no reason other than just to kill somebody, but hell is right here on earth and heaven is right here on earth. If you live a good life and you walk the straight and narrow path, you will be happy here on earth. I believe that all religions are teaching something good to people. There is not a philosophy or religion that I don’t respect. I just try to live a peaceful life as a vegetarian. I’ve been a vegetarian since I was 16 years old, so I’m always advocating peacefulness and vegetarianism and let’s just all get along. That’s why I don’t believe that skateboarding should be an Olympic sport because then you have countries competing against each other. Right now it’s a brotherhood of skateboarders who just go and skate and they’re not really competing against each other.
I think there are certain aspects of skateboarding that can be an Olympic sport like slalom skateboarding and downhill racing. There’s a definite winner.
You’re right about that.
With ramp riding or pool riding, there’s not really a definite winner. It’s more of who you think won. With surfing, even if you have a really good wave machine where everybody has three of the same waves to perform on, it’s still going to be an opinion. With paddleboard racing, there’s a stopwatch and a winner. With free surfing or pool skating, I think it’s an opinion. There are certain things that can’t be judged.
Yeah. What I really dig about this period of time in skateboarding is that there are all these different aspects to skateboarding now. I go to Venice Beach and it’s like you’re in the ‘60s or ‘70s or ‘80s. There are guys out there riding boards with clay wheels because they just want to be old school in their style. Now these plastic skateboards have practically taken over. I hope the people that buy those will understand what pieces of crap they really are.
Guys like us are lucky because we’ve lived through all of those generations of skateboarding. There are not a lot of guys that have skated as long as we have. I started skating in 1965 when I was four years old, and I still do it to this day. That’s 50 years of skateboarding.
When we started skateboarding, it was all about surfing.
It was just surfing. It was sidewalk surfing and then skateboarding became its own thing. Now all the surfers are copying skateboarding. Every sport has progressed so much. Look at the Mega Ramp. Guys are doing stuff on skateboards that Evel Knievel wasn’t doing on his motorcycle. They’re flying farther and higher.
[Laughs] Skateboarding is the father of extreme sports. Motorcycles and surfing have been around before skateboarding, but skateboarding really influenced those sports. Look at motorcycle riding and snowboarding now. It’s like they’re going off skateboard ramps and doing skateboard tricks. Every trick is named after a skateboard trick. Surfing was influenced from skateboarding. All the aerials done in surfing were done on a skateboard first. Skateboarding is the father of extreme sports. It really is.
“I JUST TRY TO GIVE BACK TO SKATEBOARDING BECAUSE MY WHOLE LIFE HAS BEEN SUPPORTED BY SKATEBOARDING.”
Skateboarding is rad. We have been a part of it for so long, and there are many more years to come, brother. I’m glad you got to throw down some history here. Kids need to know the real roots of skating. So many people think it all started with Alva and me, and it didn’t.
Well, it started with Alva, because that was the beginning of modern day skateboarding. That’s really the beginning of radical extreme sports. Also this place that we grew up in, there is no other place like this. We were so passionate and so motivated to push hard. We all were trying to impress each other.
We were just kids having fun. We’re lucky we get to do it on skateboards and we’re lucky we got to grow up with P.O.P. as our playground. What do you think the future is for skateboarding?
As for the future of hardgoods, there are so many categories in skateboarding that different categories will evolve simultaneously. For example, there is a lot of momentum picking up in the downhill area. The boards and hardware are also evolving. I’m working on a downhill skateboard with full ground effects to reduce the aerodynamic coefficient like a racecar. I’m also working on a race suit that has bat wings under the arms to slow down in critical situations or to speed up if the wind is behind you. Trucks and wheels are always evolving. Eventually, you’ll be able to buy battery-operated wheels to put on your board for self-propulsion. Skateboarding as a form of transportation will evolve to a tremendous degree in the future. I’m also working on a street board with a blue tooth device, speakers and an amplifier embedded into the board, which will work as a stereo system operated through your phone. Skateboarding is always evolving.