Legends of skateboarding converge for a celebration of our history.
The Old School Skate Jam¿held February 10, 2001 at the SkateLab in Simi Valley, California¿was a evening intended to honor the legends of our sport, the guys who paved the way for the skateboarding lifestyle and strong industry we all enjoy today.
The SkateLab is an indoor park with about 7,000 square feet of modern skate terrain: a street area with ledges, boxes, banks, hips, and bars; another with ledges, bank to walls, bowled corners, and lots of transition; a perfect six-foot spined mini ramp; a small mini ramp; and a near-vert bowl. It’s also got the most complete collection of skateboards and skateboard memorabilia on display anywhere. Entering the park requires a walk through part of the museum, and anyone who’s over drinking age usually spends several minutes checking out artifacts of our sport’s history.
The idea for the Old School Skate Jam was inspired by Michael Brooke, who wrote the 1999 skateboarding-history book, Concrete Wave, and who envisioned a reunion of all the skateboarding legends. SkateLab Co-Owner Todd Huber realized that his park was a logical location¿it’s just north of Los Angeles and fifteen miles from Val Surf, widely considered the world’s first skate shop. SkateLab also has a perfect nine-foot wooden kidney bowl and the skateboard museum, which attracted much of the attention throughout the evening’s festivities. “It was our way of giving back for what those guys created for us,” says Huber.
The Old School Skate Jam was aided by the help and expertise of Eric “Arab” Groff, Ed Economy, and Brad “Barleye” Ellman, who’s been working with Stacy Peralta on the z-boys.com Web site. Huber and the list of attendees run deep: seventy-five guests at the Old School Skate Jam had signature models long before anyone was getting two bucks a board, six-figure salaries, or even free shoes. But they planted the roots, establishing the radical, go-for-it attitude of progression that has since become one of the basic attributes of skateboarding, and every skateboarder who has followed is rolling in the path they paved.
The SkateLab bowl was the center of skateboarding activity for most of the night, as Tom “Wally” Inouye, Tony Alva, Duane Peters, Alan “Ollie” Gelfand, Howard Hood, Jimmy Plummer, Bob Biniak, Ray Flores, Jerry Valdez, Jay Smith, and many others skated or just cheered, greeted, and did lots of catching up. Many gathered around the museum to point out the types of boards they started on, or just to laugh at the steel and clay wheels on the first generation of skateboards.
Most of the pros at the Jam could find their own original pro models on the wall. Huber is one of a handful of collectors with a truly impressive range of classic equipment. He began collecting skateboards in the late 80s, when Brewce Martin and Dale Smith were the only other collectors he knew about. He later hooked up with Economy and Groff at an early skateboard swap meet, and began to network with the collector community at large through his ‘zine, Skate Trader, which featured interviews with classic skaters and listed vintage equipment that people had available.
Although some of his favorite boards have come at two or three bucks a pop, some have come at significantly higher prices, including the Henry Hester custom skate car¿a luge sled with an aerodynamic cover¿that the museum received at an undisclosed cost. Huber says several rare skateboards have recently sold for over 5,000 dollars on eBay, and when asked if prices for vintage equipment are getting out of hand, he repeated what one of his customers told him. Paul Ng, who was a pro for G&S in the 70s and is now a successful contractor in San Diego, recently offered Huber 1,000 dollars for a board on the wall of the museum. When Huber declined, saying it wasn’t worth that price, Ng had replied good-naturedly that some people have more money thaan time.
Huber attributes the inflated prices to that general attitude, but he also believes that for the first time, older skateboarders are now at a place in life where they’ve got the means to fulfill some of their dreams.
Groff also has a very solid collection. He’s the curator of the semipermanent skateboard installation at the Surf Museum in Huntington Beach, California and has been collecting boards since the early 80s. Last year his skateboard collection saved him from serious debt, as he was forced to sell some of the boards to pay for shoulder surgery.
A veteran who bought his first board in 1964, Groff has seen trends come and go. He still swears by his old, wide flat-nosed deck but doesn’t begrudge the kids who are doing their own thing these days. He attributes a lot of the resurgence of interest in classic skateboarding to the skateboard parks popping up everywhere: “It’s opening the doors for a lot of old skaters. There’s been nothing for them to skate for the last ten or fifteen years¿now with all the parks opening up, you’re seeing all these old guys come out of the woodwork.”
Groff and Huber particularly value the vintage Dogtown skateboards in their collections. In the 70s, these were the first wide boards, the first with radical graphics, and the Dogtown crew was constantly on the cutting edge when it came to radical skateboarding and radical attitudes. Stacy Peralta and Craig Stecyk’s award-winning documentary, Dogtown And Z-Boys, was the talk of this year’s Sundance Film Festival and recently secured nationwide distribution. Its release later this year is eagerly anticipated, particularly by skate historians and collectors.
It’s unclear whether the hype surrounding the film is a result of or responsible for the renewed interest in skateboarding’s history. Interest seemed to be growing before the film was even undertaken, but certainly the Dogtown documentary and this resurgence have scratched each other’s backs, helping the current swell snowball.
Several generations of skateboarders have come and gone, and the Old School Skate Jam managed to bring them all together for the first time ever. Even if Huber and friends don’t make an annual tradition of the Old School Skate Jam, the first was an incredible night to remember.
The Old School Skate Jam guest list included the following (and many others): Dennis “Polar Bear” Agnew, Jay Alabamy, Micke Alba, Steve Alba, Tony Alva, Dave Andrecht, Waldo Autry, Ricky Barnes, Jonny Ray Bartel, Bob Biniak, Brad Bowman, Beau Brown, Steve Caballero, Chris Cook, James Cassimus, Steve Cathey, Chris Chaput, Paul Constantineau, Sam Cunningham, Bill Danforth, Darrel Delgado, Adrian Demain, Freddie DeSoto, Art Dickey, Bill Dohr, Eric Dressen, Dave Duncan, Scott Dunlap, Ed Economy, Eddie Elguera, Ron Emory, Skip Engblom, Don Fisher, Ray Flores, Mike Folmer, Glen E. Friedman, Alan “Ollie” Gelfand, Art Godoy, Steve Godoy, Jim Gray, Marty Grimes, Eric Grisham, Tom Groholski, Jeff Grosso, Dave Hackett, Omar Hassan, Tony Hawk, Henry Hester, Lonnie Hiramoto, Mike Hirsch, Steve Hirsch, Jeff Ho, Howard Hood, Wes Humpston, Tom “Wally” Inouye, Jason Jessee, Marty Jiminez, Hunter Joslin, Bryce Kanights, Alan Losi, John Lucero, Tony Magnusson, Dennis Martinez, Mike McGill, Rob Mertz, Lance Mountain, MoFo, James “Red Dog” Muir, Aaron “Fingers” Murray, Monty Nolder, Layne Oakes, Peggy Oki, Steve “Bulky” Olson, George Orton, Brian Patch, Tim Payne, Duane Peters, Doug “Pineapple” Saladino, Eddie Reategui, Dave Reul, Everett Rosecrans, Billy Ruff, Paul Schmitt, Ben Schroeder, Bob Skoldberg, Buck Smith, Dale Smith, Jay Smith, Mike Smith, Kevin Staab, Craig Stecyk III, Chris Strople, Tod Swank, Ted Terrebonne, Jerry Valdez, Mike Vallely, Chris Yandall.