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|Interviews (12 Posts)
Interview of Marcus Rietema, President of IGSA
On 4/26/2002 Leonardo Ojeda
wrote in from
An interview with Manu Antuna, by Leonardo Ojeda
1.-Hello, can you tell us your full name, age, and other info about your
My name is Manu ANTUNA, i'm 37 and i'm married and father of 4 children,and
i manage a little company for 15 years.
2.-how and when do u got into the sport?
approximately five years ago a friend of mine came to visit me with a
longskate, i found the board interresting and it was reminding me
snowboarding in the same time, thus i decided to try. Believe me, the
begnning wasn't easy at all for me, i had never put my feet on any
skateboard in my whole life before! anyhow, i persevered until i'm able to
ride down my neighbourhood hills.
3.-its well know worldwide your sliding capabilities, are they a natural
gift or what?
I think i'm the first guy in the history of skatebaording riding a board
like an alpine snowboard and that naturaly came from my "heavy" past of
Actually, i would tell that when i was a beginner i had no other choice than
sliding , first for braking and then to control my boards in the corners to
get down the alpine roads . so i perfected this style not even knowing guys
like cliff coleman, stacy peralta and other big names of skateboarding who
were sliding as well.
Anyway That "manu's style" made stand up skateboarding change, that's
what is cool !
I remember three years ago nobody sled my way in the corners, i especially
remember at the g-games, last year was quite different 'cause almost
everybody had sliding gloves and knew how to use them perfectly!
4.-who are your day-to-day skateboarding friends?
i've two friends i made a team with and they are french guys named stephane
and fred, another good friends of mine are eli smouse, biker, darryl,pamela
and many other guys from the scene i love riding with.
5.-when and where do u started into racing stand-up?
6 months after my very beginning in the sport there was an event in the
alps, i think the first big event of "longboarding" in france, i went there
and i finished on the podium....which really suprised me cause i just came
for fun and principally to learn how to ride from other people!!!
6.-how do you connected to team dreggs, if u raced with them how come u dont
have a black- yellow flamed leather suit?
Very good question.
Actually Biker is a very good friend of mine since the beginning of my
carrier, i wanted to get into the team since my first race in usa but too
many stupid political problem prevent me from doing it, i just wanted to
know more about dregs before getting involve in the team.
Today many people consider me as a dregs rider cause i'm riding with the
sticker on my helmet, that's true in a way but i would prefer say i'm
biker's friend and that i'm promoting the brand through europe. In another
hand i'm managing EDI and team dregs europe.
7.-how many and where, have been the races you been?whats the best spot for
I ran 57 races and won 17 and was on the podium on 46 that's for the
the best spot ever is probably not known yet but at the moment my prefered
race track is probably the insane track we raced at the australian xgames
2000. For freeriding there's so many places i know and will know that i
can't tell you...
8.-talk about the present and the future of stand up racing.
Stand up sk8boarding exists for years and years and is almost as old as
skateboarding, with the up coming of extreme sports in the last 90's the
sport came a bit in front of the scene but today i wouln't say it's gonna be
a mass sport or that it will become olympic, it's a small sport which
probably going to remain small and keep on going for ever especially for
passionated people like us.
9.-why u decided to retire?
Because i felt the need to do something else, i came, i saw, i won, now time
has come for me to get back to other passions, but don't worry i will remain
active in the sport, first by holding edi and team dregs europe,then by
promoting the sport through some "freeride events" a kind of events i
develloped in europe, where everything is free, everybody can ride all day
and night long and where there's no matter of level, rankings etc... of
course people are free so they can race at each other if they want but the
goal is to ride not win !
My other "crusade" is just to ride the most beautiful roads around the
planet,meet new people, new friends, new civilisations and cultures and
ride, ride, ride....
I'd love to go to south america especially argentina and chile, actually i'm
preparing the trip with my two fellows.
10.-now that u will be out of pro racing, what do you think of your
opponents and who will be your favorite?
What a difficult question !!!
many peole improved a lot, and there's probably many new riders coming up on
the scene, in another hand with have the old and great values, like biker,
darryl, gary, todd, eli, mark and chaput who's probably the most determined
rider at the moment,for the euros the ranks are well known amongst the
riders, and guys like doudou, remy, roli, werner etc.. are really accurate
and potentially dangerous for the americans.
11.-besides the gnarly crash at the "campo race" that appears in "the
Monkey", is there any other crash u remember?
OH yes, probably the biggest i've ever had and which took me far from the
scene by the beginning of last year, luckily i don't fall often and am
pretty solid on my board, but the most you fall the best you learn.
12.-are you going to race again some day?
Why not, maybe in streetluge for the g-games and if they give me a wild card
i would probably accept to race this kind of big events....
13.-any last words?
Thanks Leo, hummm, my last words are pretty weir for a guy who competed so
much but i must tell the truth to everyone, I hate competition, i'm a
freerider, i just wanted to see what it was and as i succeded i went further
and further each time meeting new friends, knowing new tracks and countries,
but my real feeling goes to freeride, just because i consider skateboarding
as a life style and absolutely not as a competition sport with rules and
whatever, the most important is to do what you want when you can and be
i love u all.
wrote in from
15 February, 2002
No doubt about it, Paul Andrew Dunn is a force in slalom skateboarding. From his early racing days in the 70’s until the newly-turned century, Paul has remained one of the fastest American skaters to blaze through cones. His fluid style and focused attack has remained as an enviable method by which to negotiate slalom courses. PD’s record speaks for itself: many regional victories, national conquests, and recently, a run of podium finishes for the 2001 season - and an amazing reputation for dominating races without any practice.
Paul “Damage” Dunn still wants to race - but after a disheartening fall -- and a 9th place finish at last year’s season finale, the La Costa Open, I wondered if he still has it in him.
I found that the flame still burns…
How were you first introduced to slalom, and to skateboarding in general?
Well, for slalom, it kind of happened by virtue of the fact that I was hangin’ around with Jack Smith… this was in about 1976. He had just returned from his first trip skateboarding across the country and I ended up becoming one of his groupies - I was a wide-eyed 15 year-old kid back then. When Jack started racing, I naturally followed him… He was the kingpin of our local skate scene, no doubt about it. A whole group of us would pile into the back of his ’67 T-Bird and go racing. We raced every weekend for years -- we were very into it.
As far as skateboarding in general, my first memory of my own board was a “shark,” a steel-wheeled classic, which my dad bought at a hardware store, that I rode in little circles in my neighbor’s driveway when I was 8 or so. Of course later on I had a Black Knight like most kids of my era… which brings back fond memories of the “clickety-clack” of sidewalk riding in those early days…the smell of Jasmine in the air on a summer afternoon…
Then, of course, I had a number of extruded fiberglass decks with open bearing wheels. One of them was a Wayne Brown Kicktail… One day our minds were totally blown when a guy showed up on a Santa Cruz deck, with Bennett’s and Road Rider 2’s with precision bearings. None of us could believe it! We spun the wheels with our hands and figured they were slow - there was no extended spin. But when we rode the board, it was faster and smoother! That really was a pivotal moment in skateboarding history - when that board came out…
Why did you choose to focus on slalom instead of another discipline?
I’m focused on slalom right now. But to be a good skater, you have to skate everything. For instance, my wife is interested in slalom - which is great - but I want her to be able to get on a board and be able to skate all kinds of different terrain. From early on, I was riding everything that I could skate. I skated ditches, pools, parks, banks, ramps, street - everything. We’d spend days looking for pools, even hiring planes to take us up in the air looking for empty pools to ride -- you know: skatin’ and spyin.’
The whole skate thing tied in really well with being a surf rat. Growing up where I did (Morro Bay) and living right next to the ocean, it was a natural thing for a bunch of us to be surfers and skaters. We had a really cool scene going. And speaking of surfing, I think that surfing really helped develop my pumping technique. Henry Hester would probably agree, when surfing fast waves you have to be able to accelerate in order to make sections of the wave, and working the wave for speed is very similar to a good flatland pump on a skateboard. I’m working on transferring this knowledge into a teachable format that can be replicated so that pumping will become easily taught to new slalom skaters.
Getting back to the reason I “gravitated” towards slalom, I guess I’d have to say that I always dug the racing thing - because it had an athletic element to it, it was timed with no judging involved, and I had a knack for it. But I was committed to slalom: when we all started riding for a local skatepark team, I would be the one out on the slalom hill while my buddies rode the clover bowl or the ½ pipe.
Describe your early experiences learning and racing.
Wow. Well, the first goal for me was to learn how to pump. Jack gave me a few leads, and I went into solitary… Just like decades later when it became obvious that I would have to learn how to Ollie. I just shut myself away, and practiced like a madman. I figured out how to pump effectively, and worked on developing an efficient style. We were always looking at pictures in the magazine (Skateboarder Mag), and trying to emulate styles - we didn’t have videos back then. For us, Bobby Piercy was the guy we emulated style-wise the most. We used to say, “Man, that was totally BP,” speaking in reference to his style…
But going down this road, I soon realized that I couldn’t possibly have his style and be as absolutely fast as possible. This is a hard thing to say because I never saw him race in person. But, in my world, he was what I wanted to be. I was obsessed. And it had a good sound to it: “PD, the next Bobby Piercy…” And so I kind of kept that concept in the back of my mind. I wanted to be BP. It was a direction that I gravitated towards - and since I wasn’t right in the La Costa scene, racing with Henry and the boys of SD County, I didn’t go that way. Had I lived down there, I’m sure I would have become “Totally Henry.” That’s just the way influences work. Jack had driven to Colorado a few times to race and to watch some of the ARA races there, and he always came back with exciting tales of the talent that raced there. We dug Tommy Ryan, BP, Conrad Miyoshi, Randy Smith, John Hutson, and, of course Bad H.
Back in 1978, when Henry came up to San Luis Obispo for a local race, Jack played a trick on me. He calls me up and tells me to come over to help him with a wheel problem or something. I walk into his parent’s house, and Henry Hester is sittin’ on the couch, all casual, talking to Jack’s parents. I started to shake. I tried to look away, but I couldn’t help but stare: Henry Hester was real, he was alive, and he was sitting on Jack’s parent’s couch!
What were your biggest accomplishments?
I started racing in local get-togethers and at small California events in 1977. Those times were probably critical in building my racing experience - because now I see a lot of guys who are potentially fast but need to build racing experience. I did well in California races - this is all from 1977 to ’80. There was a series of races that ran in the Central Coast called the ARA/West. It was about 7 races, and I took first overall in the series. Was on shop teams and a skatepark team… I wanted to go to an ARA race in Colorado, but the day before we were going to leave, I got in a car wreck. The dream was shattered…
My next big move in skateboarding was skating across the US with Jack, Bob Denike, and Gary Fluitt - that was the Summer of ’84.
Then, years later, I started racing down south with Beau Brown, Jim Korten, Steve Evans, Steve Sherman, and the some other guys down that way. Racing with them, I was able to see that I was right in there with ‘em. Korten had become something of a legend. He challenged me with some tight courses. I was riding some Turner cutaways, and I was forcing them through some tight gates - because Korten had this thing about setting 5 footers and less. Then he started racing me in the CASL Series, which allowed for a “Pro” division. I beat him in a few races, but he could take me in his tight courses that he set - probably because I refused to ride a board with a 16-inch wheelbase. He didn’t have a very good pump. Whenever a race required more pump for speed, I could take him.
One day, during the “Loretta Street Sessions,” races that occurred every Sunday in Oceanside from around ’87 to ’90, I met Bob Turner. I was riding “Ole Yeller” my yellow Turner cutaway that I had been riding since 1977. Bob said he remembered making the board and wouldn’t mind taking it in trade on a new Blackbird. I had no idea what a Blackbird was, but I was game to try one. A few weeks later, on that hill, we exchanged boards, and that was the last I saw of him until September of 2001-about eleven years! But that board, the one I call “Whole Lotta Love,” is still under my feet and STILL has some life left in it. It’s a totally amazing board.
Getting back to accomplishments, it was becoming clear at the time - the late 80’s/early 90’s -- that we needed a showdown to see who was falling where in slalom. So we had a race in Morro Bay and most of the heavies were there. This, of course, was our scene. We had no idea who was racing back on the East coast, or in Europe… So I don’t want to slight the guys back East who were racing then. It’s just that we never heard of them. But, at the time, Steve Evans, Korten, Beau, and myself were right up there. The day arrived and we had this guy from “up North” show. It was Gary Cross. The day had 13 racers or so, and to put a long story short, I won it, beating out Steve Evans in the final. Gary Cross was fourth, I think. A month or so before that race, there was a race in Virgina Beach that ran in conjunction with a Pro Vert contest at Mount Trashmore. I went, because, at the time, I was working for Vision. The Vision Pro team went, and I kind of went along as a chaperone. The contest was kind of a drag because the weather was wet and misty, and while most of the Pro Vert guys were down on the grass playing tackle football, we had a slalom contest. I felt like a geek, for sure. Simon Levene was in the country from England, and he ended up winning, and I took second. I suppose the weather was perfect for him -- as it was just like soggy Brighton Beach to him.
In the recent boom, getting third at the World’s was pretty intense. I had to battle my way up from qualifying around 9th place. I did very well, considering: I was having equipment headaches most of the day. Getting 2nd at the Golden Gate Park contest with basically no practice was cool; Winning the Cambria Double-Header overall was very pleasing, especially I finally took out Cross that day. Working my butt off to get 2nd overall at Donner was a tough battle, and it was a remarkable contest. I was bummed about slamming at the La Costa contest, but I’m glad that Mike Maysey did well.
What happened to you at La Costa?
I was in the second round of the finals - up against Richie Carrasco. Such a cool dude. I wanted to really come out and just amaze people with my time, so I went into our first race pushing as hard as I could - which was a stupid thing to do. I should have saved that maneuver for the last race. But I was a little jacked up and I ended up “over-pumping” a frontside gate and I found myself way over the fall line. I was never going to make it bake over to the backside gate, and I wiped out. It was a hard fall onto both of my arms. I broke a bone in my left wrist and bruised myself pretty badly in some other places. It was an amateur move that I should not have done - I was pretty ashamed of myself.
Describe your current profession.
Oh well geez Dan, don’t ya know: I’m a professional skateboard slalom racer. The money I make from this career allows me the freedom to skate everyday, to live under the freeway overpass, and to eat from the garbage at only the finest restaurants… Seriously, though: I’m involved in a lot of things that I thoroughly enjoy that all make a little money. I’m a biologist, working for a marine ecological firm. We do mostly marine studies for permitting purposes, environmental assessments and the like. This involves some SCUBA diving, a lot of boat work and such. My days in the laboratory are getting less and less, because I like to do field work. Along this path I picked up my US Coast Guard master’s license, so I often run a research boat to conduct ocean studies in California.
I play the bagpipes. I picked this up about four years ago, and I play a lot at Highland Games events, weddings, funerals and such. It is a great creative outlet for me, and I dig it. So when people ask me at parties what I do for a living, I tell ‘em I’m a Pro Biologist, Captain, Piper and Skateboarder. That usually gets people talking.
When and how did you become the Editor of Poweredge and SKATER Magazines?
Well, I was working for Vision in the late ‘80’s and things were not working out between the company and I… so I got very lucky and fell into a job with Poweredge. They needed help running the mag, getting things together and such, but mostly, they wanted someone to head up an in-line magazine. In-line skating was really coming on, and I knew something about it, but needed to learn more if I was going to run this mag. It was tough. Now, looking back, I think that Tom Peterson was the one guy who really helped me out. He was the one who warned me how screwed up the skating rink industry is in this country - how closed-minded they are - and warned me of the challenges. We traveled together and had some good times. The mag was actually doing pretty good, but then an investment group came in and bought us out. I saw the writing on the wall: they just wanted the name. They didn’t care about the people of Poweredge. So I bailed, and went back to Morro Bay, to start an in-line mail-order supply with Jack.
Based on that experience as an in-line gear distributor, what conclusions can you draw about how best to guide slalom, longboarding, and skateboarding in general toward a healthy long-term future?
For slalom, we need to have a place to participate. I’ve always mused that slalom depends greatly on the housing industry, because it seems that all the epic spots were roads in housing developments. That bothers me great deal. We need access. We need to be creative. To seek out schools, churches, whatever kind of place that allows a us to race on decent pavement. Slalom skateboarding is a sport that relies on external elements to allow us a place to recreate. That may be a very limiting factor in the “growth” of slalom skateboarding - if it is going to grow. Extending this out further, for longboarding and skateboarding in general, it all comes down to facilities. Skaters are getting a least some momentum with the general acceptance of skateboard parks in this country. I recently saw a list of parks in a skateboarding business mag - and the list was impressive.
Skateparks are being developed because the parent’s and kids are getting involved: going to city council meetings, speaking up, etc. Is it conceivable that a municipality would pave a slalom hill for a group of its cities participants? I wonder… you need to have enough of a voice. That’s how tennis courts get built. You get 100 tennis players together, and you make some noise at city hall. By noise, I mean petitions and the like.
If we want racing to be around, we’re going to have to nurture it a little bit. We have to grow more skaters, ones that are young and enjoy the sport. I can tell you, Team Turner is making this a priority. We want to introduce slalom to young kids. Because it is going to stagnate and die if it remains a sport participated by nothing but 30-somethings and older. This responsibility falls upon those that are skating now. Talk to people, show them how it’s done. Get your kids doing it. Make it fun for them - encourage them.
The slalom starter kit being marketed is a good first step. Let’s get ourselves into a mindset that invites new participants into the fray. The “more the merrier” is the mantra by which we should all be living by.
What do you have to say about the current slalom renaissance?
I’m surprised - yet I’m NOT surprised. When it comes down to it, racing is damn fun. It’s challenging. One can test one’s self against a timed result. That kind of reward is not generally available in skateboarding. Plus, in head-to-head racing the energy level is intense! Complete bystanders at the Morro Bay World Championships could not believe how exciting the racing was.
Many of us racers knew that slalom was cool, but many of the others weren’t willing to try it. Maybe now that they’re older and wiser, they are open to trying slalom. I have many guys come up to me and say that very same thing - that they would not be so into hardcore vert now, due to risk considerations, but they feel better about slalom skating.
Who or what is most responsible for this unexpected development?
Ahhhh… That’s a good one. I’ve heard more than one person claim that they were responsible for this newfound love of slalom. The way I see it, it’s the result of a set of circumstances: homegrown races, talent and product run in those races, and a forum to share the results. Credit goes to those who put on the events, the skaters who showed up, the small number of manufacturers for sticking with it -- and for Adam at NCDSA for creating a forum by which the word could get out. I really wasn’t skating slalom at all when I heard that the NCDSA existed and that people were actually running slalom races. That got my blood going. Then someone posted “What happened to Paul Dunn?” and the rest is history. And, interestingly, I think I’m faster now than when I was 10 years ago as a result of my intense, re-visit to the sport I love.
What about it delights you the most?
Couple of things: getting ready for races, and actually running them. When I posted a ripping time in qualifying for the tight slalom at the Cambria Double-Header, the actual run for me came in slow motion. And I remember being about 2/3 the way through the course and having this thought: “I love this…” That was my thought. So, that is a delight for me. That’s for racing. For non-race delights, I have to say that watching someone break a personal barrier is another - especially when it comes as a result of my advice. I try to help people as much as possible on hills. At Donner this year, I was all over this guy Scott from Santa Cruz. He had a board that needed some tweaking. I tried to get him up on a few little secrets to get his long-wheelbase board through the gates. And he was stoked to get a little help, post some better times, and generally make it through the course a little easier. Helping people is what it’s all about - it’s the Turner Way…
Okay, what frustrates you the most?
I’m not often frustrated by slalom skating. I’m rarely frustrated by my equipment. I’d have to say that hitting cones is the most frustrating thing for me. I’m striving for perfection. Hitting cones is less than perfect. So that’s what I’m after: no more cones. The fast European skate scene bothers me - in that, these guys are incredibly fast, and I haven’t figured it out why they’re so fast yet. But I will figure it out. One of these days I’m going to set up a series of boards just like they ride, and experiment with varying techniques, to emulate their style and pump. If you think about it, slalom can be reduced to the limits of physics… and I plan to do that in order to be as fast as possible without evaporating…
What goes through your head during a race, especially a dual race?
Good question. The mental game is very important in racing, for sure. You want to clear all obstacles from your mind in order to focus. Your amount of focus determines your destiny. I’ve gotten a set of very good performance standards from, believe it or not, playing music in public. When I’m ‘piping, I have to be performing, I have to be playing in tune, I have to “play the part,” etc. Racing is not much different. You have to know your equipment. You have to know what’s going to work and not work in a particular situation. You have to develop a relationship with the course - to know it, feel it, and to sort of groove with it.
I use a lot of mental projection techniques. Also, as many people have noticed, I’m very Eastern in my approach to the slalom game: the ritual in which I set up my boards, the mental preparedness aspect, etc. Slalom can very often be a very mental sport, so you have to have a good mindset.
For single-lane work, in addition to drawing the smoothest, fastest lines possible, I think about projecting my being only forward. I once lost a contest because I was racing on my heels all day long, and I was having girl problems. See how important your mindset is?
When racing, all of my energy is focused on moving my body forward, and as fast as possible. I think about every ounce that I have must be as quick as possible.
For dual races, it’s a different game. Step one is to qualify. How you qualify is optional. Once you’re there, then the mind needs to address new situations. Every opponent has to be approached individually. The goal is to beat the other racer, how you do that is for advanced students only…but there are a number of tools that a racer can use in order to accomplish the job. Psychology and reverse psychology, performance adjustments, equipment changes, and start & finish strategy, are all just a few examples of the tools found in my “finals” tool box. A prime example was the old “wait!” call at this year’s World Championships at Morro Bay. I was up against Chris Hart from Switzerland. It was our second race - I was getting tired, I was down after our first race by a couple of tenths, and so I needed an edge. I figured he might of never been introduced to the old “wait!” call on a starting ramp, so I opted to use it. Right before the starter hit the gun, I yelled “Wait!” and pretended to need a truck wrench to fix a loose wheel. Not only did it perhaps rattle my competition, but it gave me some time to catch my breath, and it sure made for great racing and on-the-hill commentary! Hester, of course, saw right through my scheme, but it didn’t matter, my call was for the Swiss guy. I beat him and advanced to race in the finals…
This is the kind of thing that you can’t use very often, because it is a light veil. I don’t want every racer next year to pull that one every other race. That would be obvious, and non-effective. Try it on me, and I’ll just call it on you and give you a laugh.
Another good example of mind-tweaking: John Gilmour did an excellent bit of work this year at the Cambria Double-Header. He was in the Porta-Potti and the finals were going to start. I made the poor decision to meet him at the top of the hill. So there I am, waiting for him, and everyone is yelling, “Hurry-up John!” See that puts the focus on him, and he was working it beautifully: he pretended not to hear, and strolled very casually up the hill. I finally saw what angle he was working on and so I left the box and went off to the side, and pretended to adjust my Gull Wings…
How do you feel about the courses that are currently being set and run?
From what I’ve raced, the courses are excellent. I would like some that are a little tighter, but I love being presented with a challenge: it only makes me work harder. From what I’ve seen, Andy Bittner sets the most interesting “Hybrid” courses around…
You have to remain flexible as a racer. Like I said, you should be able to skate anything. It may take a deep quiver and a depth of talent, but that’s what it’s all about…
How do you feel about the racers?
Whoa! We have some of the best people showing up for this “New Era” of skateboard slalom. The fact that you have guys like Brad Edwards, the venerable Don Bostick, and a guy like Chris Chaput, and Andy Bittner all on the same hill, is mind-blowing! The always hilarious Ritchie Carasco; the tripped-out Eric Groff; Mr. Quiet Chicken Deck; of course we have Henry, Cliff Coleman, Hutson, and relative newbies like Gary Holl, Terrence Kirby, Marc DuPaul and Mike Maysey… the list goes on. I think that next year’s heavies will be Cross, Mollica, Olsen, Evans, Kimball and SSS guys - but the Turner bros will be going full bore: me, Gilmour, Maysey, and a few new additions to the team that are going to blow minds.
Overall, I’m convinced that this past year has been one of the best for all concerned in skateboarding. The amount of stoke out there is amazing. I hope it contiues.
How do you feel about the revival of Turner, and about your role as captain of Team Turner?
I “feel” absolutely excited about it…You sure have a lot of “feel” questions, Dan…
I don’t know about “Captain” of the team… but since I’m kinda the oldest, I’m getting that rep, I guess, so I’ll assume that role… But let me explain: I’m sooooo stoked Bob is making boards again. Turner was destined to come back, to go into production again, and to win races again. My conviction is that any guy or girl who’s serious about building a good slalom quiver, should have at least one Turner board in their stable. If people are going to race with the desire to win, then they have to have something under their feet that feels good. Maybe not everyone is going to get that natural love feel from a Turner at first, but given enough time, they’ll figure it out. Be patient: Turner will be making more boards to suit a variety of courses and sub-disciplines of slalom skateboarding. And I hope to help them get down that road…
The Turner scene is fantastic because of our “Skunk Works” division. Bob loves the R&D that goes into making people faster. He craves it. The fact that Turner is back is good for the sport, just like the fact that Roe, Comet, Indiana, G & S, etc.etc. are in the game. Racers need selection, they need quality. As they say, it’s all good…
As captain, I am in charge of shaping the image, feel, texture, accessibility, and outward presence that our skaters are projecting. I should lead by example, and I hope I’m doing a good job at that… At Turner, we have an ethos, a plan, a way that we like to race, and a way to promote slalom. We like to win. In fact, we plan to win, but accept the consequences of not winning. We are humble in victory; gracious in defeat…
How do you feel about the plethora of slalom gear now being offered companies, old and new?
Did you say “plethora,” Dan?
I thought so. Well, I don’t think that a “plethora” is being offered! From what I’ve seen, racers are getting by and making due. What’s eventually going to happen, is that the gear selection and availability will be market-driven, just like it is in so many industries. That’s just how it works. If we continue to have no more than a total of 200 slalom racers in the whole United States, why would a wheel company want to make a new 65mm wheel in four different durometers? That is not a market. In order for us to keep the sport growing, we have to get out and spread the word. We need to do demos, show videos, get on the tube, and such. But, things are getting better for us slalomers. My hat’s off to those companies who are sticking their necks out to produced new slalom gear.
Do you think the independent-suspension trucks favored by the Fat City Racing crew gives and unfair advantage?
To tell you the truth, I don’t think so. I can’t honestly say because I haven’t ridding them in many years. I tried a set back in the early 80’s but I rode them in the front and the rear, and, as I recall, ran ‘em in a tight course. Setting your board up with just one in the rear, and for use in a GS course, that seems to be the way to go - for them. Again, I need to ride one to really say. It is worth mentioning, that I took everyone out in a small GS with a Seismic front and stock Indy rear rig on my Blackbird at Cambria. And there were some good, challenging off-sets there on that course. What FCR has, besides those trucks, is talent. It’s the Tony Hawk phenomenon: Tony was winning contest after contest back in his early days riding a fairly basic, un-concaved board. He won on his talent alone…a lot of the winning on these trucks has to do with just plain old skill…
What factors influence your equipment choices for a particular race?
Well, obviously, some equipment works better in a certain situation than in others. For example, my “White Dove” board loves tight, technical courses at a good hill pitch. She’s set-up with old HPG split-axle Gull Wings and no risers, just two pieces of cardboard under ‘em. “Green Destiny” likes a little faster course with perhaps even more technical sections where the cones are farther off the fall line. I rode that board at the Donner Invitational this year in the dual slalom. That was the limit probably of its optimum functionality, but it did well. There was only 1/100 of a second between Cross’ best time and mine. If it’s a course that is just right for a turnable, pumpable set-up, I’ll usually go with one of my Seismic set-ups. When conditions are just right, they are the most pumpable…
On race day I walk the course, study the sections, figure out what board would “feel” right, and then try running the board that I think would work best on that course.
At one time, my slalom quiver was very limited: all I had was a yellow Turner cutaway. I rode that board, set up with a pair of Gull Wing HPG’s, for about 12 years! In fact, I recently realized that I’ve been racing -- off and on -- for nearly 25 years, and I’ve only been riding one deck. I never even TRIED another deck until a few years ago. I probably should have, because I would’ve been much better prepared for the European scene and the race in France that I went to in ’93 with Beau Brown, Roger Hickey, and John Gilmour.
What motivates you?
For slalom and racing?
From a personal perspective, making my times faster motivates me. Racing motivates me. When I hear that someone is fast, it makes me work harder. For example, when I knew the Morro Bay race was going to happen this year, I got pretty into it. I hit the gym, pushed out some squats, and did a fair amount of visualization work. John Gilmour played an important role in that motivation. When I see him blaze through a course, I try to make that a goal to surpass. I have to admit: I really like to win. I’m competitive. My parents didn’t make me play T-Ball where “everyone’s a winner:” I went out for junior football, and we took winning seriously. We cried in the huddle just before going up the middle for a TD. Winning is a prime motivator to make you better at anything…and losing makes you even MORE motivated.
Who do you look up to?
Who do I look up to… Hmmm. Well, I respect anyone that is trying as hard as they can. When I saw Henry come out, skate, then hit the gym for six months, work hard, drop some pounds, and get faster - THAT gets my attention. I dig seeing that. I look up to my slalom elders, those who went before us that really created the slalom scene. The early La Costa sessions, now legendary, are etched in the stones of slalom time, if you will. Those guys laid the groundwork: they ran through piles of rocks, square-bottomed road cones, wore torn-up Levi’s - the works. Tommy Ryan, Chris Yandall, Conrad, Henry… those guys are in my personal slalom hall of fame. Our web site has some great photos of those days. What a classic time…
What’s your deal with naming your boards - why do you do it?
For me, each board his an identity, it has a soul. The name won’t become a part of the board until I ride it a little bit, and until I develop a relationship with it. In fact, I try to create a relationship with my equipment - and with any course that I’m running. This convention started early in my association with Turner boards. It makes complete sense to me. The deck was shaped by a human, Bob Turner, and into that creation went his energies, thoughts, and skill. I treat my sailboat the same way: it was crafted over a period of weeks by skilled men in Bristol, Rhode Island, in 1968. In a way, that creation is part theirs and mine…And so the owner of a boat names it eventually, doesn’t he?
This naming thing falls right in line with my somewhat famous “drilling ceremony” that I perform with each un-drilled Turner. It’s a very involved process, but the results are spectacular…It all fits into my whole approach to slalom.
In order for slalom to grow and thrive, what is needed? More TLP type races?
That’s easy: more participants. At all levels. The TLP thing is good because it’s going to get slalom out in the open at a few cites - plus, hopefully, some TV time. So that’s good. Overall, you need to approach it like a hockey program. You have tots, juniors, etc. on up the ranks all the way to professional. That means that a certain amount of education and support - a slalom infrastructure - is needed. It doesn’t have to be a full-on Little League kind of thing, but it does need to be organized enough to help facilitate growth. With more participants, there will be more market demand. It doesn’t take a lot to be a slalom skater. You can have one board, and be set to have a fun time - if that’s as far as you want to take it. Historically, skateboarders have frowned on organizing itself. But you have to have a certain amount of organization just to exist. If we don’t get new skaters involved, we’ll stagnate. If we stagnate, we’ll die.
Do we need more or less tight, dual, GS, Super-G and/or Euro-style “Boarder-Cross” (a sort of obstacle slalom)?
I think at the professional level, we can have just about anything. If you’re pro, you have to be flexible. That’s why you never see me complain at races. If the race is going to be presented to the public, it should not be one that results in a bunch of DQ’s, blown-out cones, popcorn machine-type runs. That just makes it less polished as far as presentation goes.
For other levels, courses should be challenging but makeable for the bulk of the participants. Television-friendly events like boarder cross are marketable things that get people to watch, I suppose, and I don’t have any problem with that. I still think we should have a race that features an “over/under” tunnel/ramp object that permit riders to change lanes mid-course, then you’d have another “over/under” to return to your lane. That would be interesting…
What are the biggest obstacles to the long-term growth and stability for slalom, and how can we head them off?
I think I’ve already addressed these items, but I’ll admit that there are a number of activities that are all competing for a potential skater’s time. Your typical 14-year-old could be looking at choosing between basketball, soccer, baseball, BMX, video-games, skateboarding, etc. Then, if it’s a guy, when they hit 16 or so, they want a car. A car leads to more freedom - and girls. Many, many, many skateboarders - not the hardcore ones - will drop skateboarding when they get involved with their cars. Because skateboarding may have been a transportation/lifestyle thing for them when they were 14, but when they’re 18, it’s all over. Of course, if they are dedicated skaters, they keep their board in their car, and drive to the skate spot…
How can slalom attract more younger skaters?
They have to be able to try equipment that works for them in slalom. Get ‘em out there on slalom boards running cones. Not on their street sticks - ‘cause they’ll just get frustrated. Believe it or not - they’re going to have to learn how to turn. For most younger skaters, the concept of turning on a skateboard has been lost for about two decades! It’s amazing. Once a kid sees that it’s actually fun, then you’ll have to work on what I call “The Cool Element - TCE.” That means that they’ll need peers skating with them so that they can jam together. They can’t go at this totally alone. It has to be a group activity. That’s when we, as adults, have the most fun, when we’re all skating together. It’s like surfing: you always have the best time out in the water when you’re surfing with your buddies. When kids are skating together, then it could get more of a scene and TCE will kick in. Make sure that they become all-round skaters, not just slalom specialists. That’s the way to go.
What is the brightest possible future for that you envision for slalom? Should it be in the Olympics?
It certainly could be in the Olympics - but I happen to know that the process of campaigning a particular sport for the IOC is a long, involved process, and it takes a considerable amount of money. We can have plenty of fun without being “an Olympic Sport,” but I suppose if we were, it would funnel money into slalom skating programs via the USOC…
For now, the brightest possible future is a series of contests that would keep the pros busy, and a bunch of regional contests that would keep the up-and-comers busy. For now, it’s definitely a group thing with people of all skill levels participating, but eventually we’re going to have to get away from that. We’re going to need more smaller regional events once we get enough of a skating base out there.
What are your goals for 2002?
Well, I’m knocking on 41, so the first priority is to stay healthy. I took a pretty big slam at La Costa - and my arm is still healing. The second priority is to win every race I enter. To stay at the top of your competitive game, you have to come out and shoot for the top every time. After that, I want to remain involved in getting the word out to new slalom recruits as much as possible. Turner hopes to get in front of more kids for demos - so they can try slalom gear and try the moves. I’d like to expand on my new slalom coaching/teaching technique, which seems to be working well with my local scene. If I can get that together and make it duplicatable, then maybe I’ll take my show on the road…
How much longer would you like to race?
I think I have a few more years left in me - probably five or six years. When I feel like I’m making a fool of myself, then I’ll retire gracefully…
When you retire from competition, what role(s) would you like to play in the sport?
As I said just a minute ago, I’d like to teach and coach slalom. I’m certain that I can make anyone faster than they are now. I’d also like to put on a few contests - I’ll need to give back to the sport in some significant way. How about a series of slalom clinics held in remote, sunny locations? You’d fly in, get to your bungalow, and class would start in the morning, right after we all went surfing…
wrote in from
Interview with a Downhill Skater: Jim Norton on the History of Skateboarding and Downhill Skating Scene in Cookeville, TN.
Andrew’s Old School Skateboard Forum
Who is Jimmy Norton? If you were a skateboarder living in Middle Tennessee during the mid to late 70’s, you probably either knew of him or of his namesake team, the Norton Skate Team. Located in Cookeville, Tennessee, Jim was the unofficial leader of the early 70’s skateboard scene in Cookeville. Jim was one of those old school guys who did all forms of skateboarding downhill, slalom, freestyle, and vert skating and doing all of them well.
Jim was a true innovator and entrepreneur starting a skate team with silk screened jerseys and decks to opening up a small skate shop in the back of a local athletic store all while still in high school!. Jim also had a decent halfpipe ramp in his backyard that we had many great sessions on.
I recently emailed him a bunch of questions on the early skate scene in Cookeville. Below is his reply. Still skating at age 40, Jim is now an architect and a happily married man living in Huntsville, AL. Anyone interested in learning more about downhill/slalom - drop Jim a line. Jim can be reached via email at email@example.com
AW(Andrew Wahl): When and what age did you start skating? You were known as a pretty versatile skater - you skated anything from downhill to ramp skating. When you first started out, did you gravitate to any particular style of skating right away (i.e. ramp, freestyle, downhill, slalom, etc.) or did you just sort of try each style gradually? Also, who/what were your early skate influences?
JN(Jim Norton): The summer of 1975 was really the start. I was 13. Skateboarding was just that. We had not really evolved into any distinctions. The following summer was when things really took off. By this time we had been exposed to Skateboarder Magazine. We built our first ramp which was two 4 x 8 sheets of plywood placed end to end. We placed it along side the road and skated for hours. That was probably the highlight of everyone’s skating. We did do a lot of street riding and racing as well. Influences? Of course the riders in the magazine and one of our neighbors had lived in California. He showed us style. You know, stuff like where to put your hands, being smooth, etc.
AW: Cookeville, Tennessee is/was a small town and is not know for its skateboard scene, yet skating flourished during the late 70's and early 80's despite the absence of a local skatepark or any city/county facilities. Describe how the early skate scene in Cookeville got started. When did skating become "popular" in Cookeville and when did the boom go bust (in your opinion)? Who were some of the original skaters that you skated with, and at its height, how many skaters were there in Cookeville?
JN: At first it was just happening in our neighborhood. Some may claim we were the first to bring skateboarding to the town. By the fall of 1977 skating had become widespread and as you say Apopular.@ I would say this popularity and bust went hand in hand with what happened nationally. As far as the skaters, I cannot count all of them but some standouts were of course yourself, Roy Bell, Charlie Callis, Greg Stamps, Kenny Crossman, Rory Smith and Jeff Jones. Did I forget anybody?
AW: (response) Jon Eiche comes to mind.he had a good quarter pipe in his driveway. Also, Kenny’s friend Greg , who skated in the one-wheeler contest at Kenny’s ramp. Other guys that I skated with later (after you and Jeff Jones graduated high-school) include Paul Thompson, Brian Thaxton, Phillip Smith, and Todd Ratermann. Todd took some of the Get-a-Way skate park pics of me. Most of these guys - kids really - were not serious skaters but who were part of skateboardings early 80’s surge in popularity - maybe they were serious - but I doubt they were as serious as we were.
AW: You built a halfpipe in your backyard - what year was it built and can you give some details on how you built it and who helped. The Burton Bums also had a ramp - was your ramp built first? Describe who/what the Burton Bums were . My memory of them is that they were sort of our rivals - did they just skate their ramp or did they also slalom/downhill? Also, what were some of the other significant ramps and /or skate spots/hills in Cookeville and provide any relevant and/or interesting anecdotes on skating them?
JN: The halfpipe in my backyard was started in Spring of 1978. It started out being just 4= wide if you can believe it. We quickly realized that it must be 8= wide or we would roll off of it just fakieing! The second halfpipe was built in the fall of 1978 in the Burton area. We would get together and ride both. The great thing about the Burton pipe was that it had a roll in. Looking back, this might have been slightly ahead of its time. We had a friendly rivalry with these guys and we shared many types of skating. As far as other ramps, we rode a few quarter pipes scattered about. I had heard of other halfpipes being constructed but this was at the time many of us older skaters were moving on.
AW: While you were in high school, you opened and maintained the first skate shop in Cookeville in the back area of a small sporting goods store. How did that come about?
JN: All this came about with the purchase of my first Skateboarder Magazine. My Dad made me aware of the Adealer inquires@ in many of the ads. To make a long story short, I started a skateboard business out of my bedroom in 1976. I was able to move the business into a local Sporting Goods store during the Summer of 1978. It was a good experience learning how business worked.
AW: You also created a non-competitive skate team (Team Norton) that included mesh jerseys, T-shirts, and decks for the team members. Again, where/how did the idea to create a skate team come about. Who were the members of the team?
JN: Non competitive? I have to correct you here. Anything we had in Cookeville had to be created. If you were good enough to ride on a team there was no team. If you were good enough to compete there were no contests. We had to create our own skateboard environment. The Norton Team came about as a way to address this. The most difficult thing about the whole deal was what to call it. Despite accusations of ego, I decided to call it Norton as I was starting to tape, decorate and label blank decks with a Norton logo. Cookeville Skateboard Team or something of the sort just didn=t get it. As far as the competition, two contest come to mind. The team competed at the Tennessee State Skateboard Championships and brought home two fifth place awards and also in a One Wheeler contest covered by the local media. We did compete. The problem was just finding or creating contests!
AW: How did a pocket of downhill racers appear in Middle Tennessee?
JN: In the summer of 1976, all of my friends in our Cookeville neighborhood were skateboarding. There was this really great hill we would ride at night. I believe it was Woodland Avenue. Anyway, Woodland was about a half mile long. The top half was a gradual slope feeding into a much steeper slope with a 90 degree right turn at the bottom. Just about every night we would gather and race teams of catamaran. On some nights, we would race coffin style. Either way, it was a challenge and a thrill to negotiate that turn at the bottom while trying to keep or maintain a lead.
AW: Why did you ride at night?
JN: It just ended up being that way. Mainly traffic was at a minimum and it was more fun to race under the street lights.
AW:Was there any standup racing?
JN: No, not any real racing. The three and sometimes four team catamaran races were just hard to beat. The curve at the bottom of the hill could not be negotiated in any other way except by catamaraning or laying on your back luge style. The turn was just that sharp.
AW: Do you have any memorable experiences of these early days on Woodland?
JN: I was fourteen at the time and it was great to spend the warm summer nights racing skateboards with your friends. I remember the "cat" races the most and how the rider on the inside of the curve would literally have to lay completely back sometimes touching his shoulders to the pavement at 30 mph! If he didn't, then the team would slide off the road into the bushes.
AW: Any injuries or memories of anyone getting hurt?
JN: No, and this was before pads and helmets! I do remember one particular race where me and my teammate were in a dead heat with another catamaran team. Well, we hit the turn side by side and it came down to who could get the lowest and keep their line through the curve. Fortunately for us, the other team could not hold their line! I can still see them sliding off the road and tunneling through 15 feet of bushes! It took us about an 1/8 of a mile to slow down before we could run back and check on them. We couldn't see them but could hear them saying they were o.k.. We all started laughing. All in all, I can't remember anybody being hurt beyond your typical road rash.
AW: So how did things go from this style to standup?
JN: I believe seeing the Downhill Symposium in the 1976 Fall issue of Skateboarder Magazine had a profound effect. We learned of what was required to go fast on a skateboard.
AW: What do you mean "learn to go fast"? Elaborate, please.
JN: Well, just seeing the downhill pro's and learning about their equipment etc., really had an influence on the type of downhill racing we were doing. We started experimenting with long boards and finding the fastest wheels.
AW: Where did you do this "new" type of downhill? Was it on Woodland?
JN: No. Our high school drive (Cookeville High School) was called Cavalier Drive which was a very long, smooth and wide road virtually free of traffic. We started riding there every weekend doing everything from downhill and slalom to jumping over new 1977 Mustangs. If it would not have been for Cavalier Drive, I seriously doubt downhill would have existed in our area. It was just a great place to ride both slalom and downhill. It was our La Costa.
AW: How was this different from the early days of riding on Woodland?
JN: It was night and day. Mainly, those of us who were still interested in speed racing were older and therefore more serious. We had great interest in the technical aspects of making a skateboard fast. Also, equipment had changed drastically. We were using longer and wider boards, wide wheel base trucks and three inch diameter wheels. Intellect entered in.
AW: It sounds as if only those whom were serious about racing were participating during the days on Cavalier drive.
JN: Yes, we had assembled a small group dedicated to racing.
AW: Did you compete among yourselves or were there others to race?
JN: Mostly it was among ourselves as the nearest organized racing was in California. The biggest event occurred when we hosted a team from Hendersonville, Tennessee to compete on Cavalier Drive. We raced downhill, slalom, giant slalom and even high jumped! I do remember we were downhilling on boards in the 40" range and these guys were on boards up to 60" long! It was definitely two different schools of thought. We raced in a Guy Grundy parallel stance and they in a modified surf stance.
AW: What other memories do you have of racing on Cavalier Drive?
JN: Cavalier Drive was different than any other street racing. It was such a great hill! And, it was fast and free of cars. This was the first hill that exposed us to drafting on a skateboard. Unlike previous hills, you could ride within the slip stream of air from the rider in front of you. It was just like Nascar as you could ride right up on your opponents tail then quickly pull out and pass him. Sometimes he would be able to then draft you back and retake the lead. The prize of all drafts was a double draft. This is where you would catch one big draft of two riders when one pulled aside the other. With precision and a little luck, you could slingshot yourself to the lead. Oh yea, all this racing was at night too!
AW: Who were some of the other skaters/racers?
JN: When the dust had settled, there were three of us who seriously pursued downhill racing. They were myself, Jeff Jones and Rory Smith. All were from Cookeville. There were others but we seemed to pursue downhill more enthusiastically.
AW: Since Woodland lasted only during the summer of 1976 - how long did the racing on Cavalier Drive last?
JN: We started racing on Cavalier Drive in the Fall of 1977. The last time we raced was in August of 1990. The heyday was the late seventies and the early eighties.
AW: Was there anything special about this last race?
JN: I remember that last time because it was the weekend of my 10th year high school reunion. It was at night. Me, Jeff and Rory got together for "old time sake" as it had probably been five or six years since any of us had raced anything on a moving skateboard. It didn't take us long before we were once again drafting each other at near 40 mph. I also remember this because we had little brass plates engraved commemorating the event.
AW: So, August of 1990 was the last time you raced downhill on a skateboard?
JN: Yes, it was the last time I assumed a speed tuck on a moving skateboard. I guess the days of us riding on a weekly basis ended around 1984. Finishing college, marriage, etc. tended to change our priorities. We just kind of drifted away from it. I do know that the three of us were the last true downhill racers the area has seen.
AW: Were there any other hills worth mentioning?
JN: We searched out many hills but the ones we felt comfortable on were the safe ones. You know, free of traffic. There was one other noteworthy hill which was in an undeveloped subdivision. We raced there in the summer of 1982. Later on houses were built making this hill history. But, it was fun while it lasted! We called this hill the "road course." It started out with a slight slope, turned 90 degrees into a steeper slope and ended with a sweeping 90 degree turn leading to about an 1/8 mile of runoff. It was perfect! Fresh pavement, concrete curbs and lots of trees!
AW: Did this offer the same opportunities for fast racing as Cavalier drive?
JN: It was not as fast. I would say maybe 25 to 30 mph speeds. No longer could we really draft. The appeal of racing here was the use of smart racing. What I mean by this is having and executing a strategy each time you ran down the hill. Entering and exiting the two turns was a whole new avenue. Couple this with competing for the tightest line through a curve with two or three opponents and you have some intense racing.
AW: You have seen stand up downhill on the Gravity Games. The riders switch stances in the curves. Is this how it was done with you guys?
JN: No it was parallel stance the whole way.
AW: How did parallel stance work in the curves?
JN: Real good if....you didn't get into trouble or do something stupid. I remember one particular race where Rory was passing Jeff on the left side of the final right hand turn. I was trailing the field but had enough speed to pass Jeff. The only problem was that Rory was where I wanted to be. So I did the really stupid thing and tried to pass Jeff on the right side on the concrete gutter. I had this little strip of concrete between the pavement and the curb to try and pass on. So I went for it and immediately knew I had made a mistake! The board was impossible to control with half the wheels on concrete and half on asphalt. I started speed wobbling, bounced into Jeff and crashed us both! Today's riding style would have probably allowed me to squeeze through that gap. The Parallel stance had its limits.
AW: What was the level of equipment in these final days of downhilling?
JN: We were using wood boards about 9" wide by 34" long. Independent trucks were good as they looked aerodynamic and red Kryptonic 70 mm wheels were just the best on most surfaces. Earlier, ACS 650 trucks, UFO wheels, Powerflex wheels and Park Riders were also used.
AW: We talked earlier about pads and helmets during the early days of Cookeville skating. How about wearing safety equipment for downhilling? Was that a concern at all?
JN: Yes, for sure! Always gloves and long pants. Helmets and pads when things would be a little intense.
AW: Did any of you ever get hurt while racing skateboards?
JN: Never that I recall. We all experienced sliding down the road at 30 mph and the associated road rash but that was it. I skated for many years without anything remotely serious. In 1989, I was teaching a co-worker's kid how to ride a drainage ditch. I took my last run of the day and slammed causing a slight fracture in my forearm. That is all in 25 years.
AW: What about today? Are you or any of the others riding. Is there still any downhill racing going on where you guys left off?
JN: I learned of the old school movement and have once again started slaloming at age 40. It is difficult to find anyone to slalom with much less downhill race with. So, it appears as if downhill racing will be a part of history for me. I would love to downhill race again! I am sure the others would say the same. Downhilling has always been an unseen facet of the sport of skateboarding. I hope events like the Gravity Games will bring it into the mainstream. Maybe then, we will see others take our place.
AW: Any final thoughts on skateboarding as it exists today? The state of skateboarding today seems to concentrate solely on street style skating - i.e. flippy, technical tricks and doing massive rail slides and ollies down stair ways - especially in the skate mags of today. While vert, slalom and downhill are starting to enjoy a resurgence among the older guys who are getting back into skating or guys who never stopped, what is your thoughts on skateboarding today and what direction do you see skateboarding heading?
I find myself very interested in what is going on in downhill and slalom. So much in fact that have started riding my 20 year old Turner Summer Ski through the slalom cones again. I recently learned of the "Old School" movement of skateboarding and I like what I see. Otherwise, much of skateboarding leaves a negative impression. I hope skateboarding heads in the direction of hot rodding and drag racing. Fifty years ago, both were viewed as a public nuscience. A man by the name of Wally Parks came along and gave us what we have today. Mainstream appeal and acceptance. I hope skateboarding experiences the same vision and direction. Especially, the downhill racing. I really enjoy seeing this on the X Games and the Gravity Games. There is a lot of spectator appeal and that’s what we need.Thanks for making me aware of all the new things going on in skateboarding. It is great to be almost 40 and still being able to rip on a skateboard!
Thanks Jim for sharing your memories and providing a nice little history lesson on skating in Cookeville, TN.
On 10/30/2001 David Hamm
wrote in from
If you follow long-skateboarding or slalom skateboard racing on the internet, it seems like Marc DuPaul's name & image are everywhere! Marc was already a high-profile player in the skate 'industry' before the recent Slalom genesis, but now his determination to be one of the best slalom racers on the West Coast has pushed him over the top and everybody knows that Marc Dupaul is 'one to watch'.
So just who in the hell IS Marc Dupaul? I hooked up with my friend for this interview to try and show the skate world what keeps this guy going..........
This interview was completed via fax & email over the 1st week of October '01.
Hamm: Marc, I know your life has been crazy the past 2 months. Can you touch on that?
MDP: Yeah, I bailed on SoCal, took a chance and moved to Mammoth Mtn. Just getting out of our place in HB, getting into the new place in Mammoth,and finding a job in Mammoth was hectic. Combine that with running up to Donner for the Fat City Racing Invitational and training for the LaCosta Open and you could say it's been 'crazy'.
Hamm: When & where were you deeded a life on earth?
MDP: Clearwater Florida, 1971
Hamm: So that makes you 30. Lets touch on growing up in Florida, what kind of things where you into?
MDP: BMX, Baseball & skateboarding
Hamm: What infuenced you as a kid?
MDP: Well, there were no video's back then, so I'd say the skate magazines and TV had a infuence on us back then. One time I went to a Supercross race in Tampa and they had a pre-race skate demo with Monte Nolder, Christian Hosoi & Mike McGill that was UNREAL! In terms of skating, that had a BIG infuence on me
Hamm: Skating since?
MDP: 4th grade. All the kids on the block got Veriflex's @ Toys-r-Us and we would ride them around for transportation. After a while we started doing 360's. A friend of mine discovered the standing slide, and we practiced that alot. Eventually we built a 1/4 pipe and I ate shit pretty good on it and I stuck to rolling, carving & turning after that.
Hamm: When & why did you move to SoCal?
MDP: At 17 I started surfing and completely FORGOT about skating. Since Florida is so HOT it is desirable to be involved in watersports. I always wanted to move to Huntington Beach(Surf magazine influence), so at age 26 I packed up and headed west to HB.
Hamm: How did you get involved with the skate 'industry'?
MDP: My roommate had a connection at sk8shop.com
Hamm: How did that lead to hooking up with Rene Bruce and 11/11 Distribution(note: 11/11 Distribution is the parent company to Longskate.com, PowerPaw,Equal,Logic,Vapor)
MDP: Rene came into my work often because we sold Fluid & Equal products. One day he gave me a set of Alluminators to 'test'. That got me interested in Longboards and I ended up working for Rene & 11/11.
Hamm: Is it possible to summerize what you did at Longskate.com & 11/11 Dist? Is there more to it than just shipping cool stuff to your friends?
MPD: Working at Longskate.com was amazing for me! Rene taught me every aspect of running a business. Everything from product design, to buying&selling, to manufacturing, to advertsing and accounting and EVERYTING in between. My expierence there was nothing short of an education.
Hamm: Hhhhmmmm, so its not all just skating & new product R&D huh?
MDP: When I went into Longskate, it was WORK. But there was entertainment value as well. Thats one of Rene's goals; to have fun while you work.
Hamm: Grateful for the opportunity Rene gave you?
MDP: Absolutely! THANKS Rene! Actually we continue to help each other and I am still an employee of 11/11 Dist. I'm just not as 'hands-on' and work on my computer up here in Mammoth.
Hamm: Beside racing slalom, what makes you tick?
MDP: Well, I just like riding. Be it Skateboard, Surfboard or Snowboard. I work hard and like to play(ride) hard.
Hamm: Enough of your personal file, lets talk about the industry. What would you say is the biggest mis-conception the average skater has about the industry?
MDP: Well, I see skaters caring more about being sponsered than just getting out and skating. These guys think being sponsered means "free stuff" and do not realize they have a job to do: Promote the Sponser.
Hamm: If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be?
MDP: I'd like to see more diversity and an acknowledgement of ALL forms of skating. There is too much segregation and when it comes down to it, its all skating.
Hamm: In terms of retail markets, what does the future hold for longboarding?
MDP: I think there is great potential for longboarding. I got hooked becasue it was so easy to get on and 'go ride'. People from all board sports appreciate riding time and longboards can be ridden just about anywhere
Hamm: So you do not think that longboard market has peaked?
MDP: Thats a hard question to answer. I believe there is still growth potential, but it depends on hows it marketed and what crowd that marketing is directed at.
Hamm: Do you feel the growth will come from complete's or performance parts?
MDP: I think both area's have potential. A rider will start with the complete and buy the performace parts after his skills develop.
Hamm: Where do you see longboarding in 5 years?
MDP: Again, thats a hard question to answer. Unfortunately it all depends on who markets what where.
Hamm: Its a very exciting time to be into slalom with all the new gear coming out, but I personally have concerns that the market will be saturated soon, manufacturers will have unsold inventory and pull out again. Are manufacturers making too much too soon?
MDP: I don't think so. Wheels wear out. There will always be a new deck or truck to try out, but we really do need all these new wheels. Every situation calls for a different wheel. When Gary Cross & Paul Dunn had 1st dibs on the prize pool @ GGP, they both grabbed wheels 1st. Everybody had thier eyes on those wheels.
Hamm: Will Slalom survive this time around?
MDP: I have no idea, this birth of slalom to me, re-birth to most, is all new and I have no way of knowing whats next. I do see negativity from time to time, but overall I think those who are slaloming now will remain slalomers for many reason. And there appears to be an 'interst' when a newbie see watches cone running for the 1st time.
Hamm: We're still talking industry here. Retail-wise, can slalom stand on its own, or is it a natural to market it with longboarding?
MDP: We all hope it can. In my opinion, the more races the better. If at least one person leaves each slalom race with a desire to give it a go, then it will survive on its own.
Hamm: Last industry question, see anything interesting at the big Action Sports Retail show that went down recently in San Diego?
MDP: We saw the Turner Downhill booth & hung out there all day.
Hamm: Lets talk slalom racing. Marc, you are making quite a name for yourself these days. Is it skill, determination, natural talent, or beginners luck?
MDP: All the above! I was fortunate to hook up with Sean Mallard, who is a walking skateboard encylocpedia and a great rider of everything he steps foot on. He worked with me on the R&D of the Fluid Stinger and got me started on the right foot. The expierence I gained with components & modifications in the short month was enormous to my understanding of what makes a slalom board work. One you figure out a board that works for you, your progress will increase substantially.
Hamm: I would very much like to congratulate you on what you've accomplished this summer. Bad H calls you his 'slalom grom', Don O'shei recently made numerous references to your progress in a recent NCDSA interview, and old pro's are coming out of the woodwork to call you Rookie of the Year. Are you stoked to be getting these types of Kudo's?
MDP: Absolutely! But I want to say that I have been kind of lucky. Being involved with Longskate.com and on TeamSSS has made it easy for people to recognize me. There are many guys that deserve as much, if not more attention & props for what they've done. Barret 'Chicken' Deck, Mike Maysey, Terence Kirby and Gary Holl are nust a few names that are also new to slalom this year and are racing very fast. Chicken kicks my butt everytime.
Hamm: To what can you attribute your racing success?
MDP: Arab lived less than a mile from me in HB. He was very determined to get our 'skill-level' up before the Morro race and pushed me very hard to get better&faster. He still does. And Richy Carrasco spent a lot of time on my riding. He's a slalom natural, but you gotta figure than anyone who can do 142 consecutive 360's has a balance abnormality.
Hamm: Any infuence you'd like to mention?
MDP: Yeah, all the Fat City Racing guys! That brotherhood has stood the test of time. Those guys showed up at Morro as if there was NEVER a break in slalom racing and kicked butt! The younger Swiss guys came & stayed a few days with me in HB and taught me alot. And, John Gilmour, who came out to a small West LA College race over a year ago with his Turner and blew my mind. He really opened up alot of eyes out here that this level of slalom exist.
Hamm: How has joining up with Team SSS helped you?
MDP: I don't know where to start. What we have is incredible, so much equipemnt knowledge and skating expierience IS what got me to where I am. Chicken kicked down the timing system and thats what made our 'Secret Slalom Spot' THE spot to race each other When you are able to time yourself its easier to see whats fast & what's not.
Hamm: Are you going to win the La Costa Open?
MDP: I'm gonna try! I can't say I'll win the whole deal, but I'll sure spank Maysey!
Hamm: Last question, what in the future for Marc DuPaul?
MDP: I never know the answer to that. 4 years ago I would have answered that question by saying I'm saving to buy a house in Florida. Thank God I did'nt do that! For now I'm in a new town and I'll try to make it through the winter. I hear its crazy up here at Mammoth. Right now I'm just holding my Gold Pass, waiting for snow...........................
On 10/3/2001 Gary Holl
wrote in from
Gary Cross Interview by Gary Holl, September 28, 2001
HOLL: I know you skate pools and slalom, how many years have you been skating?
CROSS: Comet skateboards, Independent Trucks, Etnies Shoes, Ninja bearings, Daggers Sun glasses, Croakies, Cutting Edge Sports, working for N-MEN Pool service and riding for FAT CITY RACING.
HOLL: Slalom has seen a big turnaround since Morro Bay in June, why do you think the resurgence is taking place? And please describe what was going through your mind as you raced Maurus Stroble in the final two races to then be crowned the World Champion?
CROSS: The race at Morro Bay kicked it off. And the Internet has taken it 10 fold. Finals: 1st run- I can beat this guy. On the way up the hill, why did I double pump before the last section, I hadn’t done it all day. 2nd run- Pull out all the stops, I need the run of my life.
We have now seen several races, Morro Bay, GGP, Cambria among others. What was the best course? What was the worst course? What was the most memorable race?
CROSS: Best, GGP. Worst, Cambria TS (everyone there could barley make that problem). We haven’t had a race on a real hill yet. That’s when the fun will begin. Most memorable, The Dump Road Race (Dave Criddle making his comeback).
HOLL: The new Comet Gary Cross Pro Model Slalom board is out now, how did you decide what shape and material to use? Who came up with the Graphics?
CROSS: Wide = More control. Long = Faster. Material: I showed Jason and Jonathon at Comet Skateboards the flex I wanted and they hit it right on the nose the first time. The bamboo was their idea along with the graphics.
HOLL: I can remember looking at SKATEBOARDER Magazine and seeing pictures of slalom in the mid to late 70’s. In a recent issue of THRASHER Ben Schroeder wrote a story about Morro Bay, What did you think when you saw the story?
CROSS: Haven’t seen it yet.
HOLL: Fat City Racing Team member since?
CROSS: Back in the day.
HOLL: What is your oldest memory of slalom skateboarding?
CROSS: Racing around soda cans on clay wheels and doing four wheel drifts on the smooth cement behind Paul Clarks 4 plex.
HOLL: I know the one thing I really dislike about racing is standing around waiting for my next run, this can sometimes take one hour or more, do you find this to be a problem and can race organizers do anything to resolve this or is it all just part of race day?
CROSS: Patience young weed hopper. All the races I’ve had the pleasure to be at have run great. Except Hamm showing up an hour late. I think he was waiting to see if the cops hauled us off. Once the coast was clear he did a great job.
HOLL: Who should we keep an eye on as “up and coming” in slalom racing and why?
CROSS: Dillon looking fast at Cambria because he is not over 40.
HOLL: In what year did you enter your first slalom race and how did you do?
CROSS: The first big contest, back in the day. The Cow Palace in SF. They showed Five Summer Stories and had a fiberglass pool. The slalom ramp was massive, 40 feet wide, from the top of the arena on one end to the far side of the floor on the other. And it was steep. The run out was foam pads that you had to jump into. It was slippery and I had the wrong wheels for the dusty plywood surface. But, I did good in the high jump.
HOLL: Can you describe the back Independent Truck you use with the off-set axle. Who invented this and what do you think it does?
CROSS: How about those Giants? Think Bonds will beat the record?
HOLL: On race day how do you decide on the correct wheels to use?
CROSS: The best race car drivers are the ones that can go out on the track and tell the crew chief what the car is doing and what is needed to make it faster. “You have to try something you don’t like to know what you like”.
HOLL: The market now offers slalom decks and wheels, how can we get a new generation of kids to go out a buy the products and get into racing?
CROSS: Giant Slalom Races. Skateboarders see someone carving around cones and say “I can do that, that looks like fun”. Spectators see a GS race and can compare it to snowboarding or skiing. Beginners can make a GS course with out a special board, and soft wheels. At the time I thought Morro Bay was to loose. Henry and Jack are geniuses. The kids and the spectators loved it. They couldn’t get enough of it.
HOLL: You are the “World Champion”, what does this mean to you?
CROSS: I got First Place at the Morro Bay Race.
HOLL: Where will slalom skateboarding be in one year, two years, and five years?
CROSS: Hopefully going strong! We have the right people in place to help it along.
HOLL: Final thoughts?
CROSS: “lean left to go left”, skateboarding at its simplest.
On 9/24/2001 Gary Holl
wrote in from
Henry Hester Interview by Gary Holl September 24, 2001
HOLL: How many years have you been skating and what is your first memory of
HESTER: That goes back a few years. I was born in 1951. I started skateboarding
at about 8 or 9 years old. That was in the late 50s. Of course, we only had two
by fours with metal roller skate wheels at that time. My first slalom moment came
at the age of 12 in La Jolla, on Fairway Rd. I set up an obstacle course using
spray paint dots and rode that on a Super Surfer with clay wheels. It was a mini
GS with 8' spray marks set on a 4-5'offset, probably 25 marks long and good for 8-
10 mph. I did not know that cones existed in 1962-63. I've gone back to that
hill recently and I will try to post some photos on my site. It was fairly steep,
on a curve and impossible to ride today because cars go too fast.
HOLL: The new ROE Hester Model Slalom board will be out soon, how did you decide
what shape and material to use?
HESTER: Taking you back again, I had met Gareth Roe at Morro Bay. We talked a
little at Cambria the day before the race and kind of hit it off. He was down
from Seattle and I had worked as Sales Manager for Mervin Manufacturing, the
makers of Lib Tech and Gnu Snowboards, in Seattle. Anyway, a few weeks later we
had a little e-talk about how rad the Ick Sticks were. I always loved them.
Charlie Ransom and Steve Evans simply ripped on them in the late 70s. Doug Hitch
was thinking of making some Icks and I believe he and Gareth were in contact early
on. Gareth asked me to send a shape up to Seattle, as he wanted to put something
together, probably to get me off the couch. I don't really know. Remember, I
hadn't skated seriously in over 15 years.
Now, to "answer the question". I used the H-Bomb SC shape, as I couldn't find
anything I liked more. The shape was developed throughout the 70s. It was
widened from the early G&S Hesters and even the early SC Hesters. The length
remained at a typical 29". The design uses the familiar narrow tail design for a
few reasons. A narrow tail will detune the tail and actually work like a wedged
rear truck riser. This keeps things sane at high speed where a board can really
get sketchy. Also the narrow tail allows you to grip the edge of the rail with
the bottom of your shoe. Eric Groff and I were riding the other day and asked him
note my rear foot position after a run. While still "forward" in angle/stance, it
was almost half on the board and half off - feeling perfect to me. Of course he
said, "I could never ride a narrow tail." However... he saw how I was riding the
design and it probably made more sense after that, at least for my style of
skating. We'll post some photos of this stance on Roe Racing's upcoming site.
Everything else about the design it pretty standard (i.e. the nose shape).
The materials are Gareth's department. He initially started with bi-directional
glass. This produced an Ok ride but something was missing. TK, JG and myself
were all reporting plenty of pop but side-to-side reaction was a little weak.
Once Gareth hooked up Mike Olsen of Mervin Mfg and his super secret tri-axial
glass, things came alive, firstly for TK and then for me. We found the right
combo of fiberglass, foam and epoxy to produce boards that worked better than any
of us could ride. That was enough to put them into production and eventually, to
HOLL A lot of time is spent debating how best to start a race. I know you're
working on several starting "gates" similar to those used in ski racing and luge
skateboarding. Why do you think we need this type of device and how can we assure
that the race community will have enough of these devices to use at every race.
HESTER: Well, dual slalom needs some sort of restraining device to allow for even,
fair starts. We all went through the arguments on this site about how important
the start should be. I can honestly say that I have had more dual skateboard
slalom starts than anyone in the USA. I've seen every contraption used and have
personally busted three wood and metal doors trying to get out of the box early.
Had I had a simple lock on my rear wheels, whether it was a push or pull start, I
would have not won so many races back in the day. It just makes for a totally fair
Some of us in SoCal have determined that your start, especially a 15' push start
is the most critical component in your time. The next few races will use pull
gate ramps like Morro Bay. This will open up opportunities for skaters who start
mongo and have trouble setting their front foot quickly (me), skaters who can't
push fast (me) and skaters who ride more parallel like Bruce Brewington. As far as
the race community having access to starting devices, we have UPS. Anything is
only a day away. Plus, a simple bungee cord works well enough for regional
OLL: Fat City Racing Team member since?
HESTER: 1976? John Krisik, a silent god in many of our minds, invited me to join
FCR about the time I joined Santa Cruz skateboards. I like the guys and their no
bullshit attitude. To see everyone complaining about the course and surface
(including me) at the Dump and THEN to see the O'Sheis saying "Let's just ride
what's set." really locked in Fat City Racing for me - for life. It was
impressive moment in skateboard slalom for me. I learned a lot that day. I've got
HOLL: In the 1970's you were known as "Bad H", how did this get started and who
first gave you this nickname?
HESTER: I was just one tough slalom skater. I don't know, maybe Tommy Ryan came
up with Bad H?
HOLL: What was it like racing in the 70's and how does it compare to some of the
races we've had this past year?
HESTER: There is literally no difference between now and then with the possible
exception of the missing smack put out by Piercy and Ryan. There was more smack
then and it made things a little more fun. Uh, um... Gary Holl you SUCK! Yep,
today, we have to be more PC and not offend anyone.
HOLL: There are similarities in the shapes used in the new slalom decks
manufactured today compared to those in the 1970's, is this coincidence or do the
old shapes have a functional design?
HESTER: So far everything has emulated the 70s for good reasons. We tried every
truck design, board material (except tri-axial glass), wheels, urethane,
everything. We had 5-6 years of testing different options. Everything was
pioneered back then. Now, it's refinement and tweaking.
HOLL: I'm predicting a podium finish in your near future, what are you doing to
prepare your self physically for racing?
HESTER: Well, I know enough to know I can't place but I fell confident I can get
to the top ten group. I am a slow starter, in more ways than one. Things don't
come quickly for me. I was a slow starter in surfing yet reached top ten
California pro status in the 80s. Ok, I know I can't win but what am I doing
about it? Working out three times a week in a gym with lots of core work (abs,
back, etc) eating protein, taking Glucosimine, changing my outlook on life, making
new friends in skating. I'm feeling pretty good.
HOLL: Please finish this sentence: In the year 2002, Slalom Racing will....
HESTER: "become more organized with repeats of the 2001 races but all linked
together through some sort of association or body." Hopefully we won't loose our
roots. We all need to keep things in perspective here. Nobody's curing Cancer.
Nobody's selling thousands of slalom boards. It's just not very big. But dang,
it sure is fun. Let's not loose that.
HOLL: New slalom boards and wheels are hitting the market, these goods can be sold
on-line via mail order businesses, how can the manufacturers sell to skate shops
that have a physical (brick and mortar) location and is this necessary for the
growth of the sport?
HESTER: They can't and it isn't necessary. Skate shops will always suck when it
comes to slalom stuff. Buy from the on-line guys who are at the races and support
the scene. The Internet and this site, of course, are directly responsible for
this round of slalom. Support slalom through the Internet and from the on-line
HOLL: Will this sport continue to grow and how can we, the slalom community, help
grow the sport and avoid having it repeat its past?
HESTER: I don't know if it will grow any more. Maybe some more old guys will
surface. Maybe some new guys will enter the scene (like you). I don't think it
can get too big. I have no clue how to maintain anything in skateboarding. It all
seems to cycle.
HOLL: You were and are an inspiration to many skateboarders. How does this make
HESTER: Really good. Getting so much love from all of you has completely changed
my outlook on life, diet, activity and well-being. Ask Jack Smith about my
attitude before Morro Bay. He knows. I have gained much more than anyone in this
sport recently and it's all inside me. I am very appreciative and humbled by the
HOLL: I like the "underground" feel of racing, I'm not sure the appeal would be
there for me if we had big corporate sponsors and a rule book the size a phone
book; what are your thoughts on moving the sport toward having a big association
with corporate sponsored races and a governing body to enforce rules?
HESTER: I agree. I don't think we have the youth, the show or the X-spectacle for
TV. However, I've been wrong before.
HOLL: I know you have plan for a race at La Costa, I think you ran in to some
roadblocks with the City. It seems that City Officials and The Law view slalom
skating the same lame way they view skateboarding in general, how do we change the
way they (City Officials/Law enforcement) view slalom, allowing us to have more
racing in the future?
HESTER: So far the city planning guys are pretty cool. Where we ride is in BFE.
I just needed a traffic plan and insurance which are both in the works. I think
the website proposal worked well to show that we are at least responsible idiots
HOLL: Final thoughts?
HESTER: Who me? Well, let's see here. Paul Dunn is just incredible. Never, ever,
ever practicing the course and then blowing doors. John Gilmour will probably
never get to ride a course in an official competition that will highlight his
insane skills. Gary Cross is just a tough brute of a man and has replaced
Skoldberg in American Slalom. Eric Groff, the slalom skater formerly known as
"Arab" and Chicken skate so fast that when we practice, all I want to just leave
and go watch TV or something. Richie is amazing, at his weight, I know how
amazing. Chris Chaput has the most beautiful style ever - How can a guy can swing
that wide and post those times? GJB is the guy who has ultimate course knowledge.
I vote that he set MB next year. The O'Sheis are two tough competitors. Don's a
little bit country and John's a little rock-in-roll. John Hutson will be right
there in no time. Fear Charlie Ransom and Steve Evans if and when they return.
TK and the eastern boys are truly respected by all of us out west. Jack Smith
wasn't supposed to get this good. The new and improved Attila has all of us
scratching our heads. Marc is still my rookie pick. Gary Holl shows what we can
expect if the new crowd gets involved. Young Dylan, once he can flex a dang
skateboard, will get twice as fast. Hugh just came on too, hot performance at
Cambria. Hey boys, there's more to psychloyd than we know, someday something
genius will rear its ugly knucklehead.
In closing, got to say... I'd never ask for a cent from Gareth Roe and he may not
break even so go out and pay big retail for a "Bottle Rocket" or "Hester Model"
from Roe Racing because it's all for the love of skateboard slalom.
On 9/17/2001 Gary Holl
wrote in from
Don O'Shei as Interviewed by Gary Holl
September 17, 2001
Gary Holl: Years skating?
Don O'Shei:I started skating in about 1974-75 when I lived in Carlisle PA. In 1976 I moved to Sacramento, CA and continued skating there.
DO: Current sponsors are Fat City Racing, Comet Skateboards, Absolute Speed/ Ninja Bearings, Daggers Core Optics, Croakies. And Fat City is currently working out an arrangement with our beer sponsor. Past sponsors are Sims Skateboards. Sims was an unbelievable experience. I was on the team with Bobby Piercy.
Fat City Racing: For all the guys involved Fat City has always been our true racing home, no matter who else we rode for. John Krisik started the team in 1975 in Sacramento. The original group which is still mostly together today was John Krisik, Jamie Hart, Tom Merrick, Dave Criddle, Joe Woodman, Mike Wagner, Don O'Shei, John O'Shei, Ross O'Shei, Don Bostick, Gary Cross, Dan Ewell and Steve Olson.
Team Santa Cruz. A very tough Slalom Team. When John Krisik went to work for Rich Novak and Jay Shuirman the entire Fat City Crew migrated to Santa Cruz to race. John Hutson was our hero in these days and later when Henry Hester joined the team he was one as well.
Indy: When Jay, Rich and Fausto started Indy the entire Santa Cruz/Fat City Team started riding their trucks. I've never stopped.
GH: Slalom has seen a big turnaround since Morro Bay in June, why do you think the resurgence is taking place?
DO: The internet has allowed the skaters to interact directly without the need for an intermediary like a magazine. This was always possible when skaters were located in the same area but now it removes the restrictions of distance to a great extent. It makes it possible for a sport like slalom (or luge or downhill) to reach critical mass more easily.
GH: Do we need a governing slalom body with rules/regulations to make the sport grow? Or do you think keeping it underground with smaller races is the way to go for now?
DO:I think that the organizers of the events (big or small) should decide what they want to put on. A race is like a party. The host tries to throw a fun time and the guests should try to be well behaved and gracious. These races are not a business and to treat them that way removes a lot of the fun. At some point an organization may, if interest is high enough, evolve to organizing a series of races which would have, presumably, consistent rules, but I don't see a need for the politics associated with a "ruling body". Lets just have some fun.
GH: Wouldn't it make sense to have regional events and then have the top 10 riders from each region go to a World/National event?
DO: Maybe, when the sport is big enough but maybe not even then. Why not make it as easy as possible for people to participate. Maybe we should, however, have experience divisions so that those who are newer to the sport have a realistic opportunity to win against their peers.
GH: I know that the GGP sessions on Sundays is what got me interested in slalom. How do we attract new younger competitors to the sport of slalom?
DO: Go out and enjoy our sport in a public place. In GGP people always come by on Sundays and ask about slalom and a number of them have come back to ride. Always take the time to make them feel welcome, have boards available to ride and set some courses that are easier to make for newcomers.
GH :Will slalom ever make the X-Games or Olympics?
DO: People have been talking about skating in the Olympics since I was 16 years old. I don't see it as likely to happen. The X Games are a possibility, but we are probably a couple of years out from having a good shot at it.
GH: Tight cones or G/S?
DO: A good racer should be able to do it all. There will always be racers who are better at one type of course than another but I believe that the ideal is to be able to handle all courses with speed and style. If an organizer is putting up just one course then I would go with a Hybrid layout. Everything that we have seen this year called a GS has really been a form of Hybrid. The Donner Lake Race will have the first true GS of the year.
GH: Top three favorite Websites?
DO: NCDSA.com for slalom, Ebay.com for equipment, AOPA.org for flying info.
GH: The new Comet Don O'Shei designed Slalom board is out now, how did you decide what shape and material to use? What other boards do you use and for what type of course?
DO: I originally got involved with Jonathon and Jason from Comet about three months ago. They came to one of our GGP Sundays with Bill Malin (Mr. Bill) to show their slalom prototypes. Those boards were not suited to racing but they have worked out well as the sport model for transportation riding. At that time I was still riding a Santa Cruz Graphite. I was drawn into helping them design the materials and boards that turned into the race models for two reasons. First, I wanted functional reasonably priced boards available to help popularize the sport. You can only go so far with the $1,000 Turners available then. Second, I wanted to replace my SC John Hutson Model which until then was, I believe, the best slalom board ever made. We worked on the materials to start with the Graphite feel and then worked to improve it with the use of modern materials like the vertically laminated bamboo core and the use of tri-axial glass developed for the snowboard industry. In addition, the resin that Comet uses is "rubberied" to increase impact resistance, which is why it is a little milky and not clear. As for the shapes, we started with what we raced on. Gary's shape is from the board that he won on at Morro Bay, which he cut originally from a Santa Cruz blank. The two shapes I cut (the narrow and the Don O'Shei Design) are derived from what I have ridden all along. They are effectively a Hutson Cutaway shape lengthened, widened and re-proportioned. For me, probably the greatest thing to happen, so far, is that now John Hutson is riding on a Don O'Shei Design deck. It is really a carry forward from the design John did in the 70's.
GH: What other projects related to Slalom are you working on?
DO: Right now I am getting organized for the FCR Donner Invitational. John Krisik and his team at Life-Link are fabricating start ramps, which I am working on. I am working on an article for Ski Racing Magazine about the cross-training aspects of Slalom for ski and snowboard competition. FCR is working jointly with Jack Smith for the potential Catalina Race and with Henry Hester for the La Costa Race. Finally, we are trying to put together a Fat City Website which will serve as a resource for people trying to get into the sport to learn from and use. And of course practice and self-improvement.
GH: Fat City Racing member since?
DO: 1976 when my brothers and I moved out to California from PA.
GH: FCR is more than a loose knit group of riders, you guys help each other out before and during a race. What does it mean to be a part of FCR?
DO: Well, I have been on a lot of skateboard teams. The difference with Fat City vs. the others I have been on is that the others were marketing tools for product. At FCR (and SSS, MBSC etc.) we have no product. The team is a mechanism for having fun and advancing each other. The reason FCR is especially good at this is that we have been together so long. The idea of the team is more important than an individual situation, so we help each other, give advice, trade equipment etc. FCR is about racing, but it is more about friendship and shared history. That is why, for example, it is such a natural for Henry to ride with us. We share a common philosophy.
GH: A Lot of work goes in to running an event like the one in GGP. You ran a great contest and had plenty of sponsors lined up so every racer went home with some goods. You are now working on the "Donner Invitational" that will be held in October, what kind of work doest it take to plan an event like this?
DO: The first one at GGP took a lot of time. I hope that as we do them over time that we will become more efficient. When I first started looking at this I was a proponent of the underground racing philosophy that has driven FCR all these years. In practice, so many people show up for these races and they travel so far that I think you really need to run an organized semi-professional race. That means, generally, permits and spectator insurance. Organizing the volunteers and cone staff. Prizes and trophies etc. Basically, it is just a lot of attention to detail.
GH: When running a contest, How important is it to set all the rules long before race day? (size of the start box, number of pushes, number of qualifying runs, type of course etc)
DO: I don't know. When I raced back in the 70's nobody told you anything until you showed up at the race. You tried to figure it out on the spot and you did your best. We didn't complain because we didn't know any better. Now with the flow of info on the internet people expect more. The problem is that there is a certain tendency to "wargame" the rules. When I was in the Army, when someone over-studied the rules but not the spirit behind them to gain an advantage it was called "quibbling" and it was not considered a very appealing trait. On the other hand there is nothing wrong with competing hard. I think, the issue is less that rules be written in stone in advance, but that they be flexible enough an well thought out enough to survive collision with the racers. Also the contest organizer has to be tough enough to make a hard call but diplomatic enough to keep things fun. It is not easy.
GH: Gary Cross showed that he can race the tight cones in Cambria, Who are the top slalom riders today and why?
DO: No doubt Gary is the top racer today. He has shown it over and over. Cambria was a great race and I think it showed more about Gary and FCR than his earlier wins did. It was a race in which there was a considerable home field advantage on courses that were not necessarily our strongest types. Gary hung tough and did well. Paul Dunn is a tough competitor, the whole SSS Team (Chicken, Arab, Chris, Richie, Marc) is tough and any one of them could uncork it on a given day. Look at Marc DuPaul. Before Cambria he was probably considered the newest and slowest of a fast group. But then he set off a rocket in the Dual Slalom. John Gilmour is tough particularly in tight events. Chris Chaput is always a threat along with Jack Smith, Attila Aszodi and you Gary. The great thing about racing is that on any day, on any run someone can let it rip and post a great time. Any of the FCR guys are always tough, particularly my brother John, Joe Woodman and Dave Criddle.
GH: Who do you think is up and coming and why?
DO: The growth curve has been so steep this year that I think we are all up and coming racers. It seems absurd to say but Henry Hester is one of the most up and coming. At Morro Bay he wasn't racing and this Sunday he was at GGP ripping it up. He has huge wells of experience to draw on and as soon as he wears the last of the rust off he is going to be as tough as they come. Don't let his congenial exterior fool you, he is very competitive inside and will be looking to kick some ass. Marc DuPaul has been improving tremendously this year and of course for a guy who has only skated slalom for three months you do pretty well Gary.
GH: Where will slalom skateboarding be in one year, two years, five years?
DO: I don't begin to guess but for next year I want to see a fairly stable race series that takes advantage of this years experience to put on 6-8 national class events with some decent sponsorship. Nothing crazy but enough to make it exciting for the riders.
GH: Final thoughts?
DO: Don't spend so much time on the internet.
Bobby Turner, as interviewed by John Gilmore
On 9/12/2001 John Gilmore
wrote in from
Bobby Turner Interview. June 9th 1992. I interviewed him by phone for slalom magazine.
Where are you from?
From San Diego (Del Mar)
How did you get involved with skateboarding?
I started in about 1947 when I was a kid. We broke
down our union roller skates and nailed them to a 2 X 4.
How did you get involved with slalom?
My brother Vince and I , along with Skip Frye, Dana
Williams, Willie Phillips, Mike Hyson, started slalom
skating in about 1962. We made our own boards from
Surfboard find plates. (laminated fiberglass sheets).
At this time we used Chicago trucks, and red Clay
wheels, These were the first "flexible" skateboards .
It was probably around 1957 or 1958 when we first
started riding this type of board.
You mean like those Hang Ten skateboards?
Basically the same thing, though the Hang Ten
skateboards were made out of glass matt and ours were
made out of bidirectional fiberglass cloth , which was
a better laminate with some life. The boards rode well
the trucks and wheels were hurting.
What was your involvement with Surfing?
I started surfing in about 1953 There really wasn't a
surfboard industry at that time.most boards were
handmade in someone's garage. I apprenticed with local
La Jolla board builders Archie Fox and Wayne Lard and
became one of the first full time surfboard builders
What was the Basic evolution of the Turner Summer Ski?
Tommy Ryan came to me wanting a new board whose
performance level was up to the new Polyurethane
wheels that had just come onto the market. I designed
a few prototypes that weren't thrilling by today's
standards, but still rideable. We borrowed some ski
technology, and introduced Camber to skateboards. We
began skating in earnest and improving our designs.
Was Tommy Ryan a surfer originally?
Actually he was a skateboard "star" at the age of 7,
toured the country as a freestyle skater.
What wheels and trucks were you riding in the early
days of the Turner Summer Ski?
We rode Bahne Cadillac DK-51s and used Sure Grip and
There were no cambered boards at that time?
No the Summer Ski was the first.
Who was the first person to start weighting and
I think my brother Vince had a great weighting and
unweighting style, he may have been the first to
transfer the skiing style to skateboards, although
Joey Cabell, who skated for the Hobie team was an
accomplished skier and excellent slalom skateboarder.
I'm not really sure. It's probably a natural thing
that comes with riding a flex board.
What do you see as a future for the sport? Do you see
it as a cross training sport or totally off on its
own, or as a new thing, or as a club sport?
Downhill skateboarding will probably return because
it's just too good to stay asleep for too long. For
cross training, downhill cruising, and pleasure
riding, my boards are perfect. They are developed to
be stable at downhill speeds with slalom like agility,
and my boards match the characteristics of
snowboarding riding more closely than any other board
I know of. If there are places where people can ride
safely, it seems like the sport will have an excellent
Tell us more about the Blackbird, and what made you
think about that design?
The Blackbird is actually an old design. We only made
prototypes at the time we stopped production. But I
still continue to work on the model even though I was
not in the Business. I believe it is the best board I
have come up with yet.
Now you have Kevlar. Yes. I now have carbon fiber and
Kevlar to incorporate into the design of the
Since it is a costly board, do you think and insert
bumper would help sell it?
Yes. I have one planned.
I also decided to put in a section for all the
Europeans who want to know what happened to the old
I see a few of the old guys. Henry Hester works for
Gordon and Smith in their Snowboard program. Bob
Skoldberg sells clothes for Rusty. Tommy Ryan has a
landscaping business. Joe Lynch rides in Arizona,
Randy Smith is building houses in Santa Barbara,
Dennis Shufeldt works at a local car dealer, and is
father of two. Mike Williams is a plumber. Bob Piercy
was killed in a drowning accident. Kim Cespides is a
new mother, Laura Thornhill and Robin Logan have kids
too.the beat goes on!
Here's one..Conrad Miyoshi?
He sells surfing equipment.
And what about John Hutson? I don't know. I have great
respect for him as a competitor he was really
What about Rivalries?
There were plenty.
As a small innovative inventor and manufacturer, did
you encounter different problems than say the bigger
Yes, absolutely. There were exciting races being held
on a regular basis, drawing manufacturer- sponsored
racers and hundreds of spectators receiving no
coverage or mention in the skateboarding magazines. It
was tough to get coverage on the sport we loved so
much. Freestyle was the mainstream.
Do you still ride yourself?
I ride from time to time with several skaters who I
still make skateboards and surfboards for. I still
surf and ride moto-cross, but our open space (water
and backcountry) is about gone..
Who do you see as the major innovators in wheels and
Well, I like the independent sprung axles a lot.
Do you know who designed that?
I'm not sure but it is an innovation I would like to
see on my equipment. Those seemed to dominate the competition.
I think you get better traction by keeping the wheels
firmly planted on the ground. Those trucks had
independent floating axles like cars, and used spring
steel hex keys as struts.
Who was your major competition in slalom boards? Was
there another foam and glass manufacturer?
No. There were a couple of other companies that were
started by two of my ex-employees but they never were
What do you think is the correct way to promote the
sport? Do you think there are age groups and
socioeconomic groups that should be targeted?
No I think the time is right and it is coming along
just fine. As a cross trainer it is perfect for
snowboarding. As people begin to go downhill again and
experience that feeling it is a natural.
What about as a cross trainer for skiing as opposed to
I like the skateboards as a cross trainer for sure.
It is more fun. And skateboarding is closer to
snowboarding as similar muscle groups are used.
How long does it take to make a board in its entirety
and is it more of an art or a science?
It is more of a science. My boards are each custom
So temperature of Layup, resin etc. affect it all?
Basically the number of plys.
What else do you do in your spare time, instead of
laying up boards?
I play music and program computers. I play guitar and
keyboards, and I'm just starting with MIDI (Modular
Integrated Digital Interface).
Why do you think slalom is popular in Eastern Europe?
I think the sport finds it's people- outdoor people,
and the glory of a championship means something to
them as opposed to just the professional purse.
Amateur sports are strong there.
What should we call it then: slalomboarding, slalom
racing, Summer Ski racing?
Well, even the fact that I called my boards a Summer
Ski I wanted to divorce myself from the standard
run-of-the-mill stuff. I like slalom or downhill
What about private areas for slalom- Areas in
skateparks, or as a club sport?
That would be great to get it going again.
Or as a ski resort promoting it.
I know Peter Camann was talking about that. Yes, he
had people going for that at Keystone, Colorado years
ago-to put up an incline- more of a ski-run type of
skatepark. In my opinion, that type of park, if one
had been built, would still be running today.
That is interesting since Keystone is a state run
resort. Do you see boards getting wider, narrower,
longer , shorter or what?
I see them getting better. Though there are not many
manufacturers interested in making a slalom board.
Well actually the snowboard companies are interested
in doing it. NAKED Snowbaords has two models.
Niedecker has an asymmetrical s-camber board. I think
competition makes boards get better.
Do you think the trucks or the courses will adapt to
the boards at some point?
Yes. I think the wheels. I've got some ideas on
wheels still. I'd like to play with the compound, and
try some new shapes.
You mean wheel compounds like the Kryptonics Reactor
wheels with dual durometer with a soft core and a
There is a lot to be done yet with wheels. Racing is
a perfect opportunity.
What did you use for timing systems at La Costa?
Steve Sherman's father made a small timing set ups
that worked fine for our early races.
What was the most frustrating thing you had to deal
with at the slalom races?
Ha ha ha- The constant arguing about courses. Each
rider wanted his own course.
That is also a problem in Europe. Always a big
problem.who sets the course.
Different countries set different kinds of courses.
They try to allow different countries to set the
course together, but it never works out.
I think there are too many sports vying for attention
in the United States and hopefully Europe will have
more focus. Perhaps someone will make a line of boards
geared towards easy progression or a skiers direction
of marketing. That was our appeal: it worked for us,
we get a lot of skiers skateboarding in the
off-season. As far as racing goes I think people are
still looking to the United States, probably
California, to get things going again.
Dan at Seismic
wrote in from
Russ Howell as interviewed in 1996 by Dan Gesmer
Russ Howell, who began skating in 1958, was the most dominant freestylist in the world in the mid-1970’s. At his competitive peak he was known for a combination of awesome strength, blinding speed, and unique attention to choreographic structure. Russ has also shown himself to be one of the sport’s premier Good Will Ambassadors. You can always count on him to evangelize a positive, inclusive attitude amongst skaters, to help organize events both small and large, and to promote a healthy future for skateboarding in all ways possible. Russ still skates regularly - at age 50 he drops in on half-pipes, rips through slalom courses with world-class speed, and remains the greatest spinner on the planet, consistently cranking over 100 consecutive 360’s. He is living proof that we can choose how we age.
1. When was the last time you skated?
I skated today at our local skatepark. I just put together two new boards: a Santa Cruz street board and a Turner Summer Ski for slalom.
2. When was the last time you entered a contest?
We have several contests each summer, and I entered a 1996 Street Contest with a 4th place finish. Most of my skate-contest time is spent organizing the events rather than skating in them.
3. When and where were you born?
I was born September 1, 1949 in Winston Salem, North Carolina, and moved to Long Beach, California at nine months old.
4. When did you start skating?
I started skateboarding in 1958 with steel wheels from a pair of roller skates nailed to a wood board.
5. What was the skate scene like when you started? How does that compare with the skate scene today?
Skateboarding was just being invented. When companies figured out there was a market, products started showing up in the stores. Roller Derby and Chicago (both roller-skate manufacturers) made most of the stuff we were using back then.
The early equipment was terrible, but we were young kids having fun and didn't know any better. Better equipment was introduced from companies like Hobie and Makaha. Surfing was still a major influence. We skated with our friends and made up tricks as we went along.
The skate scene today is much more technical, but friends still gather together to push each other's limits.
6. Were you strictly a freestylist, or did you do other kinds of skating as well?
My surfing interest kept me riding skateboards throughout the years.
I've always been interested in freestyle, but I also enjoy slalom racing and riding half-pipes. The half-pipe in my backyard is 10-ft high with various other heights. Competing in the old "Specialty Events" of the mid-1970’s was also fun: 360's & high jump.
7. What contest experiences were the most meaningful for you?
The New York World Masters Invitational was a good memory for me because they judged the event with applause meters. I won. [Editor's note: Industry politics sometimes interfered with objective judging at mid-1970's freestyle events.]
8. You have been away from the contest scene for quite some time now, but would you ever consider entering a contest again?
I was very fortunate to have been able to compete from the very beginning of the sport. The skaters today are taking the sport to new limits, and it's their turn. But given the right motivations and events, I'd definitely compete again.
9. How did you prepare for a contest?
Long hours of practice (6-10 every day) helped make skating a reflex. I used to make maps of what tricks and lines I'd use during the freestyle event. Having the right music play helped me to remember that I was supposed to be having fun.
10. Did you get nervous during a contest, and if so, how did you deal with your nerves?
I remember competing in my home town at the Long Beach World Contest. Many of my friends were there, and I didn't want to disappoint them. My nerves were going crazy as I walked out onto the floor. I yelled at the top of my lungs, and the entire arena went silent. It helped - I wasn't thinking about my skating anymore.
11. How do you feel about flatland freestyle these days? Is there a future for it at all?
Skateboarding has always been a sport enjoyed primarily by youth. The young are often influenced by friends and the media. Streetstyle has become the #1 choice of most skaters. Too may of today's street skaters have changed the old "Skate & Create" philosophy to "Skate & Destroy."
The skate magazines don't promote Flatland Freestyle because they see no profit in it. I think Freestylers will have to carry the burden or organizing their own events. I still prefer "Old School" Freestyle, but am eager to learn the new tricks. Can't we just all get along?
12. Do you think the International Network for Flatland Freestyle Skateboarding can contribute to making freestyle more popular?
With so few pure Freestylists in existence, it's important to market the events on an international platform.
13. Why do you think freestyle died? Did it really die?
Many of the Freestylists left the sport during the late 70's because their sponsors saw no profit in keeping them active. Only a handful were able to make the transition to the "New School" form. But I still get a lot of requests to teach "Old School" freestyle to other skaters at the skatepark.
14. What kind of equipment do you use?
Freestyle: Don Brown deck / Tracker Half-Tracks / Howell FS Wheels
Street: Santa Cruz Deck / Venture Trucks / Vision FS Wheels
Slalom: Hobie Flex or Turner Summer Ski / Bennett Pro or Seismic Trucks / Seismic Richter 7.1 Wheels
360's: Homemade Deck / Lazer Trucks / Steel Wheels (rear truck only)
15. Have you invented any original tricks?
Freestyle had five main categories: footwork, spins, handstands, aerials, and multiple board tricks. I introduced many of the handstand variations.
16. Some say technical tricks are most important in a contest, some say style is the thing to look at. What do you think? Is it possible to judge a freestyle contest fairly?
A combination of difficulty and style is always the best balance. Judging has always been a problem; it's personal preference. Our local contests have always been fair, and the right people are winning. The contests during the mid-seventies were often political with family members holding up the score cards.
17. Are you into any other sports?
I used to compete in Judo during high school. I won 1st place in the Southern California tournament. I competed in and won a couple of high school surfing contests. I competed in volleyball at my Junior College; we won 1st place in our division. I won the 1979 Outdoor Roller Skating Championships in the Freestyle event. I had only been roller skating for two years. I've been snow skiing for thirty years and taught skiing at our local resort. My most recent passion is snowboarding, thanks to old friend Jimi Scott.
18. What do you do for a living?
I have four college degrees: Math, Physical Education, a Teaching Credential, and a Masters Degree in Computer Education. I've taught in both private Christian schools and public schools as a Math/Computer teacher. I currently work for the Boise School District as a Community Education Program Coordinator. I've never owned any credit cards, and my home, car, and all other possessions are paid for. My investments continue to grow. Insuring free time to enjoy life is a full-time occupation.
19. If you had all the time and money in the world, what would you do?
I'd buy a new traveling van, surf the California coast for a couple months, and hike through all the Western National Parks. This will be my birthday present to myself in two years when I turn 50.
20. Do you have any advice to both the newcomers and more experienced freestylers?
Never skate with the attitude that the sport or somebody else owes you something because of your efforts. Skating is its own reward.
Being a better skater doesn't automatically qualify someone as being a better person.
Strength isn't shown by pushing others over, but rather by lifting others up.
Enjoy what you have and help others when you can.
Poverty isn't the diminishing of one's possessions, but rather the increase of one's greed.
[Editor's note: Well said!]
On 8/31/2001 D.T.
wrote in from
Are you old school?
Submitted by D.T.
When I think of old school, I think of the days of Tony Alva, Stacy Peralta, John Hutson, Roger Hickey, and Cliff Coleman. Each brought a unique talent to our sport whether it was Tony’s vert, Stacy’s all around greatness, John’s dominating the downhill circuit of old, Roger’s speed record, which stood untouched for years, or Cliff’s eye catching slides. I wanted to get a real feel of what it was like growing up on a skateboard, so I gave Cliff Coleman a call and he was stoked to give me some time from his busy schedule.
D.T: When did you first start skating?
Cliff: Well either in 1960 or 1961 I met the UC Berkley crew team. They were a bunch of older guys, who didn’t have a dad around, and they were always nice to me, and one day one of these guys said, “hey, have you ever seen one of these? It’s called a skateboard,” and that was my first experience with one.
D.T: What were the boards like back then?
Cliff: It was a 2 by 4 with steel wheels, and the skate was nailed to the wood. It was terrible, but we thought it was great. We would just ride on them, and maybe try and make a little turn on them every once in a while, and there’s no traction on steel. So if you went any fast at all, it would just slide out on you.
D.T: Speaking of slides, when did you first start sliding?
Cliff: Well, we first thought about them in the sixties, during the clay wheel days, and just thought, gee, if you could only slide and stay on the board, it would be great. But we never had any idea, we would actually do it. However, in about 1975, I started sliding on a skateboard doing stand up slides. I saw Torger Johnson and Ed Nadalin doing stand up slides on the concrete floor of the cow palace at the Northern California Skateboard Championships, and I started doing them myself out in the streets. First I was just making my turns tighter and tighter until the wheels would start to break free. After awhile, I started doing them on purpose and it was a lot of fun.
D.T: Had you already been racing at this time?
Cliff: The first race I was in, was a slalom race at Berkley High School in 1965, and then I raced in more slalom races that were depicted in the old quarterly skateboard magazine, featuring Joey Cabell, Torger Johnson, and the rest of the Southern California Hobie Skateboard team. We were doing the same thing, putting out soda pop cans in the street, then weaving our way through them. It reached its peak in May of 1965 in Anaheim, I entered both the flatland and downhill slalom there. I was a finalist in the downhill slalom, but I was slow. I fell on one run, and was just trying my best to make it through the course. Their finalists meant the top 20, because there were 100s of people who entered. I was terrible, 19th I think, if I remember correctly, but it was a lot fun.
D.T: How long did you do race slalom for?
Cliff: Well, right after that skateboarding took a dive off the deep end for about a 9 year period, until it came back with the advent of the urethane wheels in 1974. Then I started racing downhill on a road called Tunnel Road in Oakland, California. It’s about 3.1 miles long with a wonderful surface on it and lots of turns. That was great fun up there. You could go there on a summer day and there would be 30 to 50 kids hitchhiking back up. So it gave us a good chance to learn how to draft and race through the corners, and we did it everyday.
D.T: Who got you started and influenced you the most in downhill skating?
Cliff: There was a guy named Arthur Fisher who is now an attorney at law, and he was skateboarding when it had started to make its come back. At this time my mother actually went out and bought me a clay wheeled skateboard called a Bold Knight, she laughed and said, “If you get halfway down the hill, it was worth buying it,” and literally, after half way down the hill, big chunks of the wheels started flying off because of the heat. I was a full-grown man, and not a scrawny little kid anymore, so it was just too much, but I had a great mother. She went out and bought me four urethane wheels with loose ball bearings. And these guys took me out to tunnel road. It was Art and his buddies. So I got to thank Arthur Fisher for getting me back out to riding downhill.
D.T: How long was it until you started competing?
Cliff: I heard about these people racing every Sunday at La Costa, and I was a friend and teammate of Torger Johnson, and I knew he was riding down hill with the Logans and another group of really good skaters called the A-Lot-A-Flex team from Oakland and Berkley, California. They had one rider, Tim Marting, who was the first back to back winner in the pools in the old Hester series, these guys were great downhillers, so i started riding with them everyday. I taught them some of the old school tricks, you know headstands and handstands. Well I took them on a road trip and we went down and skated in La Costa, we went to the Kona bowl, which was my first experience in a pool, and they went on to become great skaters. One of them, Jeff Sand, went on to invent the switch snowboard binding. Well shortly after the tour entered my last amateur event in Nevada and entered 3 events, and was fortunate enough to win all 3. I became the overall champion, and then after that, I decided to turn pro. The Catalina Classic was that next October in 1977. In qualifying, I was 1st place and ended up 4th place in the finals. It was the biggest downhill race I ever went to as far as having a lot of fun.
D.T: How many years did you go on to race for?
Cliff: This went on for awhile, I raced in all the Capitola races, all the Laguna Secas, and in 78 I entered the Signal Hill race. After that, there weren’t that many races. Santa Cruz decided to go to street style and change their format at Capitola. And for a long time that was the end of downhill, until Roger Hickey got things going with his buddy Perry Fisser and started EDI down in Southern California. During this same time, I had no idea what was going on. I lived right by UC Berkley and there was this guy who use to crack hop the concrete out front of my house. I could here him rolling by everyday, and one day I was going out the door as he was coming by. He recognized me, and told me about that Hutson and Hickey had been riding down there. So I called up Hutson and he told me he hadn’t been riding for awhile, I was a little discouraged but called Roger and he told me about EDI. So I took Hutson down to San Dimas, California in 1996 and that’s when I got back into competitive racing. I have been riding nonstop since skateboarding made its resurgence in 1974. For the most part, we were always just racing and sliding down the hills, not really much organization. It was nothing compared to what it is today. There was one race that had 73 competitors. It was quite a large gathering, and I actually won that one. That was the one and only time that I beat John Hutson in a downhill race. So it was a thrilling day for me, but gosh that was like 23 or 24 years ago.
D.T: Tell me about the challenge you put out at the Capitola race?
Cliff: Well, what had happened was, we had developed the sliding skills when the dogtown guys, the manufactures, and the magazines steered all the interest towards vertical. I was 27 years old and had a child and was getting older. They didn’t have plastic on the kneepads, and I wasn’t a great vertical rider. I could do grinders on the coping, 50/50s, and one wheelers, but I never did an air. I thought to myself, “You know, I’m just going to ride these hills out here,” and it became a scene. People started joining me, and we would let anybody come, as long as their attitude was decent. I didn’t care if it was a first time skater or someone with a lot of experience. We developed all the slides back in those days to where they are now. The idea for this challenge started in 1976. I was trying to spread the sliding to the rest of the skaters in the world. The next Capitola race fell on Labor Day weekend, since this is a three-day weekend we would have an extra day. So I wanted them to come up and learn how to slide. The problem was it was difficult to get people to come out. So I offered The Cliff Coleman Challenge. I had the promoter and the MC pass out flyers. The flyer promised 10 to 1 odds for anyone on their money to come race me on this coursed called the Buena Vista Run in Berkley. So they could bet $10 and if they could beat me, they would win $100. Beyond that, I gave two riders, Rick Blackheart and Roger Hickey, 20 to 1 odds. So they could win $200 on their $10. Well Roger Hickey was the only one that had enough heart to show out of 30 some odd pro racers. I had also guaranteed that anyone that showed up and couldn’t ride the hill after looking at it, for that same $10, I would teach them how to slide. Well Roger didn’t want to ride, and since he was the only one to show, I taught him for free. I taught Roger the basics, but he never really pursued it after that. Roger stuck with his old school style and dominated everyone, until Hutson finally beat him.
D.T: As far as racing, what are your future plans?
Cliff: Well recently I have been acquiring all the equipment necessary to race on the pro circuit. I’m 50 years old now, but I am still in fairly decent shape. I think it would really be a kick to go out and qualify for the Gravity Games at my age. I want to race all the guys that are your age, 20 and up, and see how competitive I can be. I’ll do my best everytime I go out, I’m going to try and win. And if I do my best, I know I’ll do fairly well and be satisfied with whatever results. Now there is a lot of money to be won, but the most fun of all is having a chance to meet and ride with new skaters. I’m really looking forward to skating with the Europeans and people from other nations. It’s really been a lot of fun meeting all the EDI guys from Southern California. So I am going to race this season, and I am going to pass up the first race in San Diego, because I’ll be in Australia for 7 weeks. I’ll be back for the Santa Rosa race, the Zurich, and the Mammoth. In those three, I hope to qualify for the Gravity Games in Providence. And if things go well, I might even race next year. I have some gloves I have produced called Cliff Slides. They’ve been around for 20 years, but the interest just wasn’t there. Now there is a growing interest, so I would like to get them on the market by next fall. This racing series will help me introduce them to racers that don’t know about them, and I’ll be there to teach anybody that wants to learn.
D.T: You have been teaching people to slide for years, I know you mentioned Roger Hickey, who else have you taught that we might know?
Cliff: At Powell-Peralta, I met Stacy Peralta, when I did a Columbia Pictures television pilot. They had me do the downhill and Stacy did the studio work. Stacy couldn’t get down those steep hills in San Francisco. So one time I went down to look for him at Powell-Peralta. He was out, but a couple of his employees were there, Chris Iverson and Todd Hastings. Chris was working as the head of R & D, while Todd was the team manager for many years. I told them about the slides and how to make the gloves; and I had told many people this, but few had actually done it. Well these guys made the gloves that night, and taught themselves how to slide the next morning just from the verbal description. We met at this road they told us about, and since they knew how to slide, we just did slides the rest of the day. But the road wasn’t very exciting. So we started looking for a better hill, and as we looked across the valley at the Montecido Hills, I could see this windy road named Park Lane. I told them, “ That’s the kind of road we like to ride on.” We couldn’t tell if it was paved or not, cause we were so far away from it. When we checked it out, we found it was an access road to a new home development. There was a cable across the road, and our skate key fit it perfectly. We would let ourselves in, than lock it back up to ensure no one would come up. So we skated there, and that was depicted in the Powell-Peralta Bones Brigade video, “Future Primative.” That’s Park Lane, and the two riders are Chris Iverson and Rich Dunlop. There were a couple of other skaters who I taught, Rich Dunop was from Boston, and was featured in both “Gleaming the Cube” and
“Thrashin.” He had a good friend named Jim Kluggish, who is now my best friend and still skates up here. Recently, Jim and I did some video work for the Gravity Skateboard Company. Now back to the two I taught at Powell-Peralta, Chris and Todd. I told them that I would only teach them if they taught Stacy. They taught him, and it was Stacy, Chris, and Todd who than went on to appear in the Bones Brigade “Video Show.” Later on, I received a phone call from Stacy. He told me it was the most fun he ever had on a skateboard; and for a guy who was voted #1 in the reader’s pole in 1979 as the best all around skater, that was really flattering. Now, I also taught John Hutson to slide many years after his competitive days, and he loved it and had a lot of fun with it. Oh, and another thing about Powell-Peralta. After I met them, Chris would shape me boards. So I told him I wanted a double kick with each end identical. That way if you slide fakie, either end could be the front of the board. Chris than put a blank of my design in the R & D room at Powell-Peralta. It was this board that Tony Hawk chose as his last signature model before leaving to start his own company. To this day, I don’t know if Tony is aware of it, but I do know that Tony Hawk is an outstanding individual. He has never seemed to have an ego and as great as he is, he always kept his head about him. This was really flattering to me, to have this guy who I wish I could be 1% as good as, riding a board I designed. So I am very thrilled about that, it is another one of the thrilling things in my history.
D.T: You mentioned you were going to Australia. Could you tell us a little more about this journey?
Cliff: Well skateboarding is my #1 sport, but I learned to yo-yo about 9 years ago, at the age of 41. I got
one as a present during Christmas. I practiced a lot, and met some of the manufacturers, and before I knew it I became pretty decent. I think I won 3 California tittles, a couple of western state tittles, and a National tittle in 1994. I have since retired from competition, and have now taking up judging. I now judge at the Spanish, Japanese, and Korean Nationals and I will judge the upcoming Australian Nationals. I also judge the U.S. Nationals and the World Championships. So I’ve been a yo-yo demonstrator as a living for the past 3 years. I kind of dropped out so that I could get on this pro skateboard scene, but I had a good 7-week offer to go to Australia. I’ll still be able to skateboard in all but one of the races. So I decided to accept the offer, and I’ll be down there from March 28th until May 20th. I’ll have about a week to get ready for Santa Rosa.
D.T: Sounds good, is there anyone you would like to thank?
Cliff: Yes, I would like to thank all my sponsors I’ve had through out the years. And I would like to list them in chronological order. The first one is Hobie Skateboards. Hobie Alter was a personal friend of mine when I was 15 years old. He was always great to me, and that’s what got us going as a sponsored team. Hobie always made sure we had skateboards, surfboards, and plenty of clothing. We got to travel around Northern California demonstrating their products. The second sponsor I had, I picked up at the Catalina Classic when I qualified first, by Santa Cruz. Next I would like to thank Powell-Peralta, I know its just Powell now, but Stacy Peralta was my main connection there. And Chris Iverson, too. Chris flowed me wheels and decks for quite a few years, and I can’t thank those guys enough. Since then, I got wheels from Gordan & Smith when Henry Hester was there; a great guy who was on the Santa Cruz team with me. I would also like to thank John Hutson for dominating the sport the way he did and inspiring so many of us others to do the best we could out there. If you beat Hutson, it was like someone beating Michael Jordan in a game of hoops. John was unbelievable. I would also like to thank all the people who have put a lot of time into this sport. Currently, I would like to thank the people and sponsors who are putting on the contests. Biker Sherlock is doing a lot with his connections at NBC to bring real money to this sport. Manu Atuna from France, he is a great guy I have talked to on the internet, and I am looking forward to meeting him. To Roger, Perry, and Beau at the GRA for bringing back the slalom races in California. To Adam and DT at the NCDSA for creating a place for all of us skateboarders to meet and discuss things online. And there is a book out now called the Concrete Wave by Michael Brooke. Michael has done an outstanding job and he is very accurate on the history of the sport. So if anyone wants to know what it was like back in the early days, I highly recommend picking up this book. And I want to thank Nike for their ad campaign that stated: “What if we treated all athletes the way we treated skateboarders.” If you ever saw any of these ads, you know what I am talking about. For a big corporation like Nike to give us a boost towards legitimacy, I can’t thank them enough
Editors note: Although helmetless in this picture, Cliff was recently injured in a fall and now swears by his (new) helmet and wears it whenever he rides.