November 16, 2015

Empty Pools

[Just a reminder that I publish more frequently on my Facebook page which you can also follow via Twitter]

Pool skating is something I've been thinking of a lot for a long while now. For me, it is my holy grail of skateboarding. I'm not suggesting that other forms of skating are somehow second rate -- far from it. The rise of half-pipes and, of course, street skating, contain all sorts of benefits and plenty of their own stoke. Who can imagine skate history without thinking of its surfing roots and the banks of Paul Revere middle school in Santa Monica for example? Or, for that matter, of Natas Kaupas and Lance Mountain's employment of virtually anything and everything in their path on the street? Who also cannot think of greats like Tony Hawk and Christian Hosoi battling it out on half-pipes? All of this serves to enrich skate culture and shows its diversity of mediums and styles; a diversity that lends it strength. So many other pursuits are, by contrast, fairly uniform in how they must be approached; a single surface or style, a single context. But skateboarding is not contingent upon anything other than a hard surface beneath your feet and board, and whether that surface is flat or curved, all are equally useable as surfaces upon which to create, skate and innovate. What form that surface takes merely changes how you might approach a particular skate session -- or, on the other hand, perhaps not!

Natas Kaupas, wallie (detail). Natas showed that you could even use the hard surface of a vertical wall upon which to skate. Photograph by Craig Stecyk, used for the cover of Thrasher Magazine, Sept. 1984. Street skating at its finest.

Jay Adams, bank skating. These banks approximated a wave. I wish more schools had these sorts of banks.

Jay Adams pool skating. Photographed by Glen E. Friedman

Tony Alva pool skating. Tony's style, whether on a bank or in a pool, was perhaps the most graceful and stylish of all.

So I am speaking very personally here when I say that, for me [sic], pool skating is my holy grail of skateboarding. I'm not saying it is "the best," merely that it is my grail. Why is in part because of the lines that can be carved in a pool -- and one can perhaps get no better sense of this than by watching legends and masters like Tony Alva or Jay Adams skate a pool.

Pool skating has a certain three-dimensionality about it. It is hard to describe what I mean by this. It is not a matter of an 'x' or a 'y' axis; rather is it that and everything in between. Insofar as that is the case, a pool can be so very fluid and filled with so much potentiality.

I wanted to share a couple of videos here today on this subject of pool skating, both coming from Vans. Enjoy. (If you want to read more about pool skating, I'd highly recommend Blue Tile Obsession and Empty Pools.)

September 19, 2015

A Noble Cause and an Auction for a Rare Spidey De Montrond Personal Rider

A rare opportunity to own the personal rider of one of the great Santa Cruz skate legends of the 80's has come up -- and also a concurrent opportunity to support a noble cause in the process.

Spidey De Montrond -- who needs no introduction here -- is auctioning off his personal rider from 1987 in the early and very rare yellow dip. Accordingly, not only is the lucky bidder going to get the personal rider of a skateboarding legend, he or she is also going to have a version of this famed board that few if any other collectors have. (I have yet to see a yellow dip version of this board ever come up for sale.)

Here is the board in question:

In addition to the board itself, the winner will also receive a mint condition O.G. "Skate Buck" sticker and a Spidey signed and framed copy of the original Santa Cruz ad in which this deck originally appeared. Pretty fantastic, "one off" kind of stuff here.

So why is Spidey auctioning off his personal rider you ask? Good question. It must be a great personal sacrifice to let such a thing go. However, Spidey explains the situation that has prompted this action on his part:

My name is Spidey De Montrond and my goal is to raise $20,000 to buy a wheelchair-accessible van for my friend and fellow musician, Josh Schwartz. You might know Josh from his years with bands such as Further, Beechwood Sparks, The Hub Caps, Northern Lights and Painted Hills. It's my hope that this fund-raising campaign will enable those who have been touched by Josh's music to give back in his time of need.

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is a debilitating and progressive degenerative disease resulting in difficulty speaking, swallowing, and eventually breathing. There is rarely an identifiable cause for the disease and no known cure, although there are some treatments known to help ease the pain and discomfort of those afflicted. The van that I am raising money for will allow Josh to access these therapies and treatments in the most dignified and comfortable way possible.

Josh is 43 and has been living with ALS for several years. Signs of Josh's ALS first began in 2009. After seeing doctors in 2010 to address some vocal issues, he was diagnosed with ALS in early 2011. He is currently being treated at the ALS Clinic at Cedar Sinai in Los Angeles and is under the home care of his girlfriend Allison. Josh's daily commute from Monrovia to the hospital is very difficult and challenging due to his immobility and necessary medical equipment; having a wheelchair-accessible van would greatly improve his quality of care and overall quality of life.

This campaign is just getting off the ground, but there is a limited amount of time to participate so act now.

There are a couple of way you can support Spidey's initiative:

First, if you're not able to participate in the auction for the board itself but would still like to donate toward this cause, you can head on over to the campaign page Spidey has set up and make a donation, however large or small.

Second, if you have some means at your disposal and would like to take a crack at the auction for Spidey's personal board, the auction for that board can be found here: eBay Auction. (Do note that the auction is intended to serve as a fundraiser with all proceeds going toward Spidey's campaign, so the idea here is not to give away this board to the cheapest bidder, nor to get a steal of a deal. The intent is to raise funds for this particular cause -- and, after all, let's consider too that this is a pretty unique piece of skateboarding history.)

Of course there is also a third option, which is to spread news of this initiative amongst your friends and family. I would encourage you to at very least support Spidey and Josh in this way if no other.

Kudos to Spidey for making this personal sacrifice of his own personal skateboarding history to help a friend. This action, to me, speaks once again to the great integrity that exists within the skateboarding community and family.

September 15, 2015

Some Santa Monica Localism: The Rip City Skates Board

For those of you who are wondering, this site has mainly been active as of late on my Skate Culture Facebook page, so if you into the kind of stuff we have been posting about here, make sure you go over to that page and give it a "like" because otherwise you're missing out on all kinds of stuff that goes on there but not necessarily here.

At any rate, many of you will know how much I enjoy board art, and especially board art which is not seen as often, so I had to show you this really cool bit of Rip City localism in the form of a Rip City Santa Monica board with its classic and distinctive Wes Humpston art. I seem to recall that, quite fittingly, Rip City Skates has one of these boards hanging up in their skate shop (which also seconds as a kind of skateboarding museum with all the really legendary stuff hanging on its walls!); this particular one was picked up by a lucky skate collector by way of a local Venice skate swap.

Having watched skate collector forums for years, I can't say that I've ever seen this particular board come up. As I say, the only place I have seen it is on the walls of Rip City Skates and also in Bulldog's Art -- Wes Humpston's skate art book.

At any rate, I don't have much any more history than that, other than to tell you that Rip City Skates had a little trouble with vandalism back in the day -- that is, until Wes Humpston teamed up with them to produce some Rip City Art. As the owner Jim Bob put it, their collaboration with Wes was a bit like getting a papal blessing of sorts and, coincidentally or not, the vandalism stopped.

At any rate, check out this board.

May 06, 2015

The History and Importance of the Vallely Barnyard Deck

Head on over to Mike Vallely's Street Plant brand site and read Kyle Duvall's interesting account on 25 Years of the Barnyard. Here's an excerpt:

"25 years ago, World Industries released the Mike Vallely Barnyard “double kick” deck. It was the first professionally endorsed symmetrically shaped deck, and the first to rattle street skaters out of resigned complacency with scaled-down vert shapes. Designed by Rodney Mullen, bankrolled by Steve Rocco and ridden in a legendary video edit by Mike Vallely, the Barnyard is the universally acknowledged forerunner of the modern, elliptical “popsicle stick” shape, and one of the most important deck designs in the history of skateboarding.

"In 1989 skateboarding was changing faster than even skaters knew it. Street skating was well into developing its own complicated vocabulary of tricks and styles and, in the parking lots of America, concepts from freestyle like shove-its, kickflips, and varial-flips were fully infiltrating the repertoire of the average skater. 180-no complies and step-off shove-its were mandatory. In the elite ranks, skaters were probing a whole new frontier of nollie variations and even basic switch skating. Despite all of this, the boards everyone was riding were still based on the curvy, square-tailed, noseless paradigm of the mid 80’s vert stick. Boards were shaped to move in one direction, and any extension to the deck that went beyond the edge of the front base plate was largely considered a waste of 7-ply maple.

"By 1989, it was obvious that skaters needed a board like the Mike Vallely Barnyard “double kick” model, but most were too afraid to admit it..."

Read the rest over on Street Plant.

April 29, 2015

A Short History of Rip City Skates

A great interview with Jim McDowell on the history of Rip City Skates in Santa Monica, California. Jim gets into the origins of the shop, some early competition wars, their collaboration with Wes Humpston and their philosophy of providing high quality pro boards.

April 25, 2015

Wes Humpston and the Dogtown Skateboards

Wes Humpston needs no introduction of course. He is the Dogtown skater and artist who was behind so much of what we've come to associate with the Dogtown art of the 1970's. As my refrain always is, there is "o.g." and then there is "O.G.". For me, if it's Dogtown, it is on a level all to itself. I was born in the 70's and a skateboarding child of the 80's, so while the 80's are my own personal "core" as skating goes, the fact is that I recognize that the Dogtown skaters and artists are the godfathers of skating as we have come to know it. They command our admiration, respect and undue gratitude. Without them, skateboarding as we know it may have never come to be.

Here is a short documentary by Walrus TV with Wes Humpston which takes you through some of his work. The video as described by Walrus TV:

"Best known for his work on the original Dogtown boards, Wes Humpston has been involved in skateboard graphics since the 1970's. Still heavily inspired by Zap Comics, art nouveau, and album covers, his designs retain their original Cali-born aesthetic. In addition to appearing on vintage Dogtown Skates decks, his artwork is now featured on the old school decks from his new company Bulldog Skates."

I hope you enjoy this video as I have -- which includes some lesser seen Dogtown footage. Amazing stuff.

As a bonus, here are two additional video interviews with Wes:

March 28, 2015

Is This the Greatest Grip Art Ever?

Okay, I admit it; the title of this post is an exercise in hyperbole, but I do find myself asking that very question -- knowing all the while that there really is no satisfactory answer to it since there is not standard by which to make such a judgement. Grip tape can be a simple and utilitarian enterprise, and for most of us it is just that. We've also seen some skaters who famously used paint pens to personalize their grip in creative ways -- we've shared examples here before. But I have to say, when I saw this particular bit of grip art I was stunned. Check it out:

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February 22, 2015

Bernie Tostenson Follow-up: Brand X Team Deck Variant

As a follow-up to our last post on the skateboard art of Bernie Tostenson, I wanted to share a little variant on the superb Triple X team deck. Essentially it's the same graphic, but in a different colourway and with the Brand X labelling -- instead of "Triple X."

I cannot overstate how superb I find this particular bit of skate art; from the art and design itself to the quality of the screening. It has come as no surprise to me that both of these Tostenson collectors are artists themselves who appreciate what Bernie has done, both from a design perspective and also from a technical screening perspective. It is sheer brilliance.

Aside from the number of colours and the Robert Crumb like look of the graphics, I particularly relish how Bernie has even put art where it was destined to be covered by the trucks. What's more he has arranged the art in a precise relation to the footprint of the trucks such that the board art and the trucks would merge into an integrated design whole.

Look, for example, how the design of the mouth here would partially disappear under the footprint of the truck, but what would remain visible would integrate with the base of the truck as though the mouth was consuming the truck:

You can see the same sort of thing below as well:

This is great stuff. Very often the trucks just cover some part of the overall deck art, thereby obscuring the design. Tostenson has taken steps to ensure his design here would integrate well with the setup skateboard. What's more you'd have a bit of fun rediscovering the art that was covered by the trucks should you ever remove them. I am put to mind of the broader artistic tradition whereby artists conceal little hidden gems within the details of the art. Great stuff.

February 07, 2015

The Skateboard Art of Bernie Tostenson

Some of the very best known skateboard artists out there are names like Wes Humpston, Jim and Jimbo Phillips, Sean Cliver, Marc McKee, Andy Jenkins and Ed Templeton -- to name a few. Rightly so of course. These names have contributed a very great deal to the corpus of skateboard art, spanning between them the 1970's, 80's and 90's.

One skateboard artist whose name perhaps doesn't come up as often as it should (in my opinion at any rate) is that of Bernie Tostenson. Bernie's most widely known bit of skateboard art is almost certainly his Sims Christian Hosoi Street Flag design but he did many other iconic decks for others brands, including Vision, Kryptonics, Toxic and his own company, Brand X. Sean Cliver credits Tostenson with being a significant influence for him in the development of his first Disposable book, by way of an early art show of skateboard art which took place in the mid-1990's and which included a zine, Grind: The Graphics and Culture of Skateboarding in which Bernie included writings on skateboard art and the art of silk-screening. In fact, if you want to read a bit more about Bernie, I'd recommend you go over to Sean Cliver's old Disposable blog where he did a memorial tribute to him shortly after Bernie passed away. The article includes excerpts of Tostenson's writings from Grind and makes for interesting reading on the matter of the history of skate art: In Memoriam: Bernie Tostenson, 1950-2009.

My own purpose in mentioning Bernie today is because I wanted to share a few pieces of his skate art which really strike me. The first is his "People in my head" graphic which he did for Denny Riordon and Kryptonics -- and later Toxic skateboards. It is a bit of skateboard art that really makes an impact on people. I can recall opening up a copy of Transworld Skateboarding back in the 80's and seeing this deck advertised. Right then and there I fell in love with that graphic. Here is one version of it:

Turning toward the Brand X "Riot Stick", you will see some similarities between the figures in the head and the figures found within this particular deck:

Image credit: Michiel Walrave

Detail. Image credit: Michiel Walrave

However, my particular favourite is the imagery found in Bernie's Triple X team deck:

Image credit: Michiel Walrave

Image credit: Michiel Walrave

Image credit: Michiel Walrave

Love the flies and love the bits of art that would otherwise be hidden beneath the trucks when this deck was fully setup to skate.

These latter two decks, incidentally, come from the personal collection of Bernie Tostenson himself, now residing in the collection of (one lucky) European collector, Michiel Walrave.

Bernie Tostenson's style was quite versatile, but in these particular decks I find a particular graphical brilliance shining through. The graphics strike me as particularly rooted in the cartoonist/illustrative tradition. In fact, when I look at these graphics, particularly the Triple X team deck, I cannot help but wonder if Bernie was somehow influenced by another great American artist, Robert Crumb -- most infamously known for his work on 1970's underground comics like Zap, Mr. Natural, Fritz the Cat.

Whatever the case, I personally believe these are examples of amongst some of the finest skateboard art ever created. RIP Bernie.

January 18, 2015

Seldom Seen Deck Art: Steve Caballero "Cab Man" Deck Inspired by Ironman

Here is a deck you don't see every day. Steve Caballero's early 1990's "Cab Man" deck from Powell which features, of course, Ironman for the deck art.

Image source: "Moloko-plus" on SNB

Cab himself notes the rarity of this particular deck and shows a remake which was personally done for him in 2005:

Image source:

January 07, 2015

Spidey de Montrond: The "Swindle 2" Story

Skate Culture is very excited to be able to present the following guest piece, written by Spidey de Montrond for this site. The article not only gives readers a history of his Santa Cruz model and skating career, but also details his current career with Pocket Pistols Skates and his newly released new Swindle 2 model deck.

To Order "Swindle 2":
Pocket Pistol Skates: Spidey Swindle 2
$59.95 USD

* * *

Guest Article by Spidey de Montrond

"Let's start at the beginning shall we? It is 1985 and somehow I come up with the idea to have my expenses for travelling paid, promoting my sponsor Santa Cruz and going skateboarding all over the world by simply having a model, a deck, but not turning pro. The monies generated from the sales of the deck would assist me in paying for my travelling expenses; good idea, right? Well Santa Cruz at the time had what they called the "Pro Series" and I wanted to call it the Swindle Series as I wouldn’t be turning pro per se, yet enjoying the travel and skating from the dollars derived by the boards produced and sold.

"My account in Sean Cliver's The Disposable Skateboard Bible tells some of the back-story:

My first model came out around the fall of 1985, sometime after the last Capitola Street-style contest. This was during the time when Santa Cruz was issuing boards under the "Pro Series" moniker (printed on the tail of the decks), only my deck was the "Swindle Series," influenced by The Sex Pistols manager, Malcolm McLaren. The idea I had was to never turn pro and have the proceeds from the board put into an account to be only used for traveling expenses. My wish was to travel and to promote skating and Santa Cruz, but for some reason, which seems vague and nebulous now, I turned pro.

I initially came up with the shape, which in retrospect was already dated, as it was based off decks of a bygone era when boards were progressively getting wider: a Sims Brad Bowman circa '79, Powell Peralta Ray "Bones" Rodriguez, and Sims Mike Folmer Tornado deck. I conceptualized the graphics and drew a crude but effective approximation of how the layout would be. Tim Piumarta, who was head of production at the time, had a few comments here and there and then Jim Phillips did his rendition, which I gave a thumbs-up on. A prototype was then silk-screened and sent to yours truly. It's the only one I know of in existence with these graphics and I skated it in two contests: the Arkansas Ramp Jam '85 and the Oceanside Streetstyle '85, the latter from which a photo was printed in the summer issue of Monster Magazine out of Germany.

As to why it was never released is hazy to me, but here goes: the shape, no; the graphic, no; my attitude and their egos -- yes. I was a tough person to deal with, I came from a business background and demanded a lot -- that said, I also lacked the wisdom how to use my knowledge in a way where I got what I wanted and they felt they did too. So I think it's fair to say that I locked horns with Tim about something or another that would now seem unimportant, and at that point in the process I was off the team -- thus, this board that never saw the light of capitalism. I think it was divine, in a way, because as I stated earlier the deck was already dated upon its inception, as boards were already headed for more fish-like curvilinear shapes more true to the moves being invented then.

"I was riding my prototypes as an amateur at contests up to fall of 1985 when I turned pro at The Capitola Street Style. This would be the first and last of its kind of street contest.

"At some point I checked out of skating. Santa Cruz and I had a parting of the ways in late '85 or early '86. It was then that I enrolled in Azusa City College for the winter session. I had checked out not knowing what to do with myself or life in general, so I went to school as it seemed the thing to do at the time. I had no idea of what was happening in skating except through my closest friends, Keenan, Castro, Grosso and Lance, who would keep me in the loop from time to time. I was restless in school and I was going to start a band at this time. Somewhere in the midst of all of this I received a call from Lance Mountain to come over and skate. It was unusual as Lance and I were friends, but it was rare that he’d call and the tone of his voice was very different than all the other times we had spoken on the phone. I came over and Lance had a full set up for me; a Powell set up. It was his model, a Future Primitive deck, silver rat bones, Powell Swiss bearings and rib cage rails; the works. I was floored. I started to put my set up together and began to skate with him at The Manor. During our session that day, and mind you I had not been riding for several weeks, he asked me what I was doing with my life and appealed to me to not quit skating, to stick with it, to hang in there. Basically Lance reached out to me to say, "hey, don’t throw all this away, you're so close to doing something with this." Well I skated that set up and loved it. I started to ride again and I was having fun again. Then I was given, through Keenan, a new Bullet flip-tail full Santa Cruz set up with the new OJ speed wheels. Word got back to Santa Cruz that I was skating again and I got a call from Tim Piuamarta about going to a Houston ramp contest and I was back. This, around 1986, was when the talk about the new model started to happen.

"When I was summoned to Novak’s office he said, "okay, we’d like to do a model with you." So I drew up a contract and we landed upon an agreement and now it was time to get started on model #2 for Santa Cruz. I favored the flip-tail and loved my experience riding Lance’s board, so I phoned Lance up and asked him if could I copy his shape. He agreed as the shapes never come out exact and they vary and his original wasn’t the exact shape he started out with. So the initial prototypes were a Lance Mountain Future Primitive shape with a flip-tail. I made a template of Lance’s deck and sent it to Tim. The graphics were influenced by Lance’s caricature of me in his "Book of Spide." I had also devised a marketing plan based on The Sex Pistols “Great Rock n Roll Swindle“ film with its ten lessons that had a story like quality to them that one could follow. Each of the ten lessons anticipated print ads, so it was with this aesthetic in mind -- Malcolm McClaren-esque via Andrew Loog Oldahm PR techniques, the energy of The Sex Pistols, and pop art -- that I would devise my graphics. I had laid out the graphic in detail to Lance after he’d agreed to draw it for me. Other than John Lucero, for me Lance was the only one who could do this as he was familiar with the pulse of that type of art, music and all the subtle nuances that go with what I was trying to do.

"Lance did the original rendition and I loved it, unfortunately I do not have it, nor can I find it. Santa Cruz at the time said they could not silk screen the graphic as it had too much detail and the stipple dot technique applied to the piece proved to be too much at that time. So I met with Jim Philips and imparted my art direction to him which I am sure drove him, as well as myself, nuts. Jim is a fine graphic artist of course, but he was not familiar with Jaime Reid’s pop art work and the late 1970's English punk subculture iconography that I was drawing from, so we did our best. I went with Keenan to the Santa Cruz boardwalk and paid two dollars for a photo booth photograph to procure my head shot that would be needed to draw my face from. I chose the photo and delivered it to Phillips' home. We went back and forth more than a few times and finally I settled on the graphic as we needed to get things into production. There was a snag though: my model was a flip-tail and it was difficult to screen the leopard spots down the full length of the tail, so in the first run of yellow flip-tails you will notice no spots are on the tail. As well, they didn't put the correct top screen on the deck, which was my ransom note Santa Cruz logo that I did the art direction for on my first Swindle deck. That would come later towards the end of the production run and it would also be used on the Grosso dog ear concave. This would be the end of the run -- and me -- in January of 1989.

"I started to ride again in 2001 thanks to Lance and Grosso’s generosity and encouragement. It was different this time; it was fun and deep rooted in friendship. I had also started to really dig Pocket Pistols gear. Chicken would flow me gear and I dug everything about PPS. High quality, good riding decks and great silk screened graphics plus I get to skate with my sponsor. So it happens one day I get a text from Chicken: it's time to do a board. I was a bit surprised. We met up at the skatepark and talked about my new deck which would be the Swindle 2, also my Skatebuck new skool old skool pool deck. The Swindle would take awhile so we did the Spidey Billion Dollar Maybies deck while working on the Swindle 2. Now, finally, Swindle 2 is ready."

-- Spidey de Montrond

Swindle 2: Design and Development (Artist: Matt French)

The design of the new Swindle 2 deck was undertaken by artist Matt French. Here are his sketches:

Swindle 2: Silk Screening

Swindle 2: The Final Product

To Order:
Pocket Pistol Skates: Spidey Swindle 2
$59.95 USD.