It’s probably time for me to enter this conversation since I was one of the original skaters that issued in the modern era of skateboarding.
In the Beginning
We first started skating when we began surfing in 1970, the boards were not very good and the clay wheels caused many an injury due to their unreliability. We finally got a hold of a suitable board about 1972 and found that it rode like a surfboard and we could ride it up and down a banked drive way as if we were surfing.
I had the most passion and ended up with that board (I can’t even remember who owned it originally), I worked that driveway day in and day out and found I could get the front wheels off the ground at the apex of a turn.
One of the pluses of growing up a skateboarder in Southern California was that almost every riverbed and ditch in the area was paved. Less than two miles from my house was the San Gabriel riverbed, well paved and with utility access roads that allowed vehicles to enter. These access roads created what looked like a telescoping wave and were a natural to ride, although the clay wheels caused many losses of skin.
Enter the urethane wheel about 1973 or 74 and we were in business, these wheels while great still had loose ball bearings but allowed us to go faster and create maneuvers that simulated surfing. I skated almost every day in the riverbed with a friend that was as dedicated as I was, we favored the ramp near the railroad bridge that crossed the river, and we named the location Trestles.
There was another ramp less than a half mile north of there that drew throngs of people because it was by “Golf ‘N Stuff” a “putt putt” golf course with video games and go carts (made famous in the movie Karate Kid).
The big and most important advancement in a skateboarding came next, the game changer was the sealed precision German bearings. Along with the almost simultaneous introduction of the wide Bennett Trucks, we could now trust our equipment and the advancements came in leaps and bounds.
Like test pilots we were taking huge drops as fast as we could in steeper angels than we could have imagined. New maneuvers were being invented literally ever week, slide turns front and backside, hand plant turns, and what turned out to be the granddaddy of skate maneuvers that ushered in modern skateboarding…the kick flip.
My buddy had a horrific accident at Trestle one day and I had to save his life (the first of 9 through-out the years, but that’s another story) and an ambulance was summoned by a bicycler and he was in a coma for a couple days…he never skated again.
It was at this time that I took my well-honed routine public since we had a rule (probably a good one) never skate or surf alone. I made my way to Golf ‘N Stuff and skated with the top local skaters. It was there that I met the biggest asshole, most arrogant, and best skater…Riverbed Ed also known as Headwads (you must be a big deal if you get two nicknames).
He was on me like a fly on shit when he saw me pulling shit he never saw, but Ed was the King and the hazing was relentless. He would skate up on me all the time talking shit. Everyone knew it would come to a head and it wasn’t long until he approached me with a “New Drop” that no one else could do. I said let’s see it, he took me over to a spot just beyond the end of the ramp and spray painted in little letters was the words “Waimea Drop”.
This was a good 25 feet straight down where there was transition the full depth of the riverbed at the end of the access road, unheard of vertical drop at the time. I asked “You made that?” he said “piece of cake, watch.” He gets a good ten pushes of speed and over he goes, the dust trail off his board enhanced the apparent speed and it was incredible.
I said fuck it and got back and pushed towards the impossible drop and just before going over thought wow, I make it down and ended up at the bottom next to Ed looking like a guy that just got a glimpse of God. I asked Ed how long have you been doing that, his reply “Oh that was the first time, I wrote that name on there last night before I left”. I was like what the fuck, him and I were best friends and skate buddy’s for many years.
To be continued…
The Early Discovery Years
About this same time I began to meet more skaters, many had tales of awesome skate spots in the surrounding area. One of the first spots we visited was in Sears loading dock at Cerritos Mall just one city over, a long wide slopped ramp, great fun for slalom runs, with the added bonus of trucks trailers parked at the bottom that you could go under like a tube ride.
The next spot was Putnam Street in Whittier (also close) a true asphalt bank, very smooth shaped like a wave with a well sloped entrance rode alongside allowing for the achievement of good speed before riding the bank. We developed excellent skills at kick and slide turns there, the smooth asphalt allowed the rear wheels to release easily and the fact that there was a fence along the top of the bank forced you to really control the slide in order to not end up in the chain link.
The bonus at Putnam street was the trash would have huge empty boxes in it that could be hung over the fence to create a simulated tube ride. The drawback was where the trucks backed into the bank and made gouges in the wall that had to be avoided at all cost.
We then heard of a crazy scary spot the Vermont drop a steep riverbed service rode that had wave like banks on both sides, we could not get there fast enough. Near the old Ascot raceway we arrived to find a huge amount of skaters and many very skilled.
You would come raging down the entrance road and gather enough speed to get two huge carving turns one on each wall. We skated it often and became top dogs at this spot when a professional photographer showed up one evening. He snapped a shoot of me making a huge front side carve on the east wall which I had blown up to a two foot by three foot poster that graced my bedroom wall and blew people’s minds.
We then heard of something completely new, a ditch paved as a perfect half pipe, we were not even certain something like that could be ridden. We followed the directions to what was then the outback of Fullerton and there it was a serpentine half pipe ditch with a convenient two foot wide street runoff gutter leading into it, the perfect drop in. The Euclid U, later called the Euclid V, everyone eventually rode this spot…she was pretty much a virgin when we got there.
We were very hesitant with this spot but mastered it, but about two years later we realized it was better to ride it in reverse in order to end up doing side walls in the perfect little half pipe that existed just as the ditch passed under the road. Which then made us realize we needed to dig out the ditch on the other side of Euclid Street, this archeological dig paid big time.
To be continued…
After meeting Ed I started to hook-up with many skaters from my town and the surrounding area, Allen Ed’s brother, Ron also road trial bikes(we went to my first Zappa concert together in 77), Wally Inouye who broke his arm Moto crossing and it healed funny and gave him a distinctive look while skating, Waldo Autry the ultimate surf/skater free spirit, Robin Alaway sometimes known as Riverbed Robin (her and Ed had a thing), Becky Anderson best girl bank skater of the day and no one probably remembers her, and many more.
The Norwalk crew tagged ourselves the NSB (Norwalk Skateboarders) with the ‘S’ being a lightning bolt. We discovered the Brea Spillway an awesome huge skate spot a little late. It was completely over run with skaters (too accessible) and after a skater was killed with a head injury, they filled it in with a deep layer of dirt…that spot came and went quickly.
We next discovered Suicide Alley situated in between two sets of projects off El Segundo Blvd in the hood. It was named for a utility pipe probably natural gas that crossed the two sided ditch with the words Suicide Alley prominently spray painted on the black pipe, if you did not duck under the pipe…it was suicide.
The urban dwellers of the government housing had the best seats and would watch us skate for hours, they literally would hang out the windows of the multistory units and yell “you white boys are going to kill yourself”. You could always tell by the cheers if you performed well and if someone ate it there was a collective “OOOooo”.
The ditch was on an intensely steep Grade and the transitions were sever and tight (only about 5 feet across at the bottom), we called it a “cli-clunk, clunk” (the sound it made when you transitioned from one bank to the other), the banks were perfect.
I saw one of the original BMX’ers there and he failed to make it under the pipe, he got leveled and received the group gasp, thank god he wasn’t hurt because it looked funny as hell and when he got up and dusted himself off the laughter echoed through the alley…this was a fun spot to skate.
I personally suffered a sever injury there when I lost my balance on the lower end of the run making the bottom transition after an intense slide turn. I didn’t fall but my rear foot came off the board and I used it to brake causing the cement to cut through my vans tennis shoes and grind off my bunion on my right foot…that really hurt.
We were next introduced to the Mount Baldy Dam pipeline, the first full Pipe ridden, we got there after a guy severely broke his leg and they hand poured a mound of asphalt down the middle of the bottom for the entire 200 feet. But you could still ride the last 15 feet of the opening and it was a half pipe with what seemed like an unsurmountable amount of vertical wall. Waldo owned this spot and got way higher than anyone else at that time.
Many times we would make the long arduous trip up there and there would be water in the bottom and we could not skate it. This lead to us free climbing dry waterfalls, another modern adventure sport, but that’s a story for a different setting.
We ended up going to the west side of LA and skating many spots there, there were bowls in the Hollywood hills rather than riverbeds and there were some good ones. Toilet Bowl and Super Bowl were among the best, though they did not last long because the city had cement speed bumps put in to stop the skating.
One bowl stayed intact up there for some time, probably because they thought no one would be crazy enough to skate it, the Killer Wall. This bowl was basically a very large rectangle, you could skate the left wall head around both corners on the short wall. After you made the second corner the wall gradually became squared off with no transition.
We would skate here and see who could get the furthest out on the square wall but still make it back to the sloop wall, we had not invented the vertical wall transition yet. One day Ron who was a pioneer of making a fast smooth ‘U’ turn on a banked wall, went so far out it was incredible. His turn on the sheer vertical wall was unsuccessful and he ended up falling in the prone postion striking the right side of his head on the wall as he dropped 8 feet to the floor below. This was second life I was credited with saving, I stabilized him after he went into convulsions and sent a fellow skater to flag down a car (no cell phones then), fortunately the first car that came along this lonely location was driven by a doctor.
Ron was hospitalized overnight but was fine, he continued to skate for many years and invented the roll back which lead to the Fakey. We remained good friends for many years and both loved Frank Zappa and Todd Rundgren, we had a unique pool experience which I will get to later.
There were also some great asphalt banks there at Kenter and Bellagio schools, we often had to skate against the Dog Town Skateboarders there, it was considered their turf. We held our own with them easily and it would get heated at times, I always thought they were punks and I believe they owned that image, good for them not my cup of tea.
Then someone found an empty pool in Norwalk that the owners said we could skate…
More to come…