40 Winks

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Steve Alba, V21N01

40 Winks
A squinted look at a group of skateboarding’s greatest.

Jeff Phillips

“Yeah, I’m going backward a lot now. I like to ride my board backward, though, a lot. Like do all the tricks on it, frontside rock ‘n’ rolls. You know, you’re on your nose, on your front toes-it feels so rad. Frontside ollies feel really weird backward.” October ’88

Jeff Phillips from Dallas, Texas became arguably the most solid skateboarder of the 80s. His natural ability enabled him to adapt to different terrain with ease-he made it all look so easy. The guy could do a handplant on one wall into a seven-foot air on the next. The best frontside bonelesses ever, inventor of the Phillips 66 (a fakie frontside 360 invert), winner of the 1986 NSA Finals (Holiday Havoc), and the man who put Texas skateboarding on the map. Tragically, Jeff committed suicide on Christmas Day 1993, and his presence is sorely missed.-D.S.

Steve Alba

“Skaters are just a different breed than most people think. Skaters in general are just wild. I think all skaters are ahead of their time as far as music and fashion go, and they always will be.” August ’89

Some would say that Steve Alba’s best years riding a skateboard came during the late 70s when he was winning contests. During the 80s, Salba caught a second wind, and although he didn’t really skate contests on a regular basis, he did take skateboarding very seriously. Pools, pipes, and ramps were not safe from the wrath of Salba as he traveled the world-he made it his mission to skate any and all of them. Throughout the 90s, Steve found himself without his longtime-sponsor Santa Cruz Skateboards, but that didn’t deter him from keeping the fire alive on the pool- and pipe-riding front. Today, Salba lives in the Badlands with his wife and kids and is always down for a session.-D.S.

Tom Groholski
“Skateboarding goes through phases of what’s hip. First it was big airs, and that’s all people would do. Lip tricks were a big thing for a while; I guess that’s still going. Now going backwards is a big thing-who knows what’s next.” November ’89

Gazing, glimpsing, and convincing his shred sled to dominate the undulating kissers of many an 80s and 90s skate structure (rather than only the airspace above the same constructs), this particular devil from New Jersey made his way through the era’s ramps, pools, and mythology with a deliberate and smooth style that few could match, but all could appreciate. He’s still tearing it up, Jersey style, to this very moment.-K.W.

Neil Blender
“I keep thinking there’s going to be a better generation of kids. Kids that want to learn more. Find out who knows what. It seems that kids just want to break stuff. It’s just a form of anarchy we don’t know about.” June ’86

Every time Blender stepped out his door, he went a different way. And upon planting his size twelves in the softness of skating’s freshly tilled formative years, his footprint became larger than most anyone’s before or after his walk through the contest circuit, his stumble onto magnetic tape, or his stroll into the pages of our pulpy text. First to incorporate the front truck and nose of his board into our tricky vernacular, Neil extended the lip-trick vocabulary of the day as well as led the eyeballs of all kids into a self-realized style of graphic production. Most importantly, though, he stomped clear the path of originality in our sport-encouraging absolutely no one to follow his lead-and in doing so, or rather not, his influence is felt to this day as skaters struggle to ascend the muddy mound of what’s never happened before. Just for the hell of it.-K.W.

Chris Miller
“The true motivation is speed. Speed is what allows you to skateboard. It’s an emotional outlet, and in a way it’s an art because it is expressive.” March ’91

Chris Miller is and always will be on the lips of those who speak in terms of farthest, fastest, hight, and the best ever. Ask me why. Not because of his yellow helmet, not because of his backside corner-air lockups, and not because of his successful skater-run business. It’s because amid slapping his back hand on the coping while dropping in, going 100 miles per hour across the flat, and pointing neck-wrenching methods toward the heavens, he pockets miles of style and a brand of precision that never goes on sale. Point blank-vert, pools, and just pushing around-Miller is it.-K.W.

Craig Johnson
“If it keeps going like that-organizing the sport-it will probably die again. The reason most people skateboard-the reason I do-is because there’s not somebody telling you what to do.” December ’86

During the days when you could count the number of pros on your callused hands and feet, somewhere around your middle-left digit, Craig Johnson emerged from the dried-up ditches and kinky vert ramps of the Dallas, Texas area. An imposing six-footer weighing in around the 180-pound mark, Johnson, along three other massive Texans-Jeff Phillips, John Gibson, and Dan Wilkes-proceeded to pound out bruised spots in the memories of anyone who experienced their Texas-style assault. But while his Lone Star contemporaries possessed power and size, Johnson pushed the envelope. Let this be known-if brute force were a measure of immortality, Craig Johnson would be a god. Deadlifting and extending every single variation of handplant imaginable, hucking himself seven feet above vert ramps, and then stomping the lip with his own heavy-handed versions of footplants and lip tricks, Johnson literally manhandled his surroundings-nudging and jarring the atmosphere, shaking the people standing nearby, and forever changing the role of the big man in professional skateboarding.-K.W.

Mike Smith
“The way I look at it is, we’re naked apes. We can do anything we want. It’s just all those people you hate, they ruin everything for you. They don’t try, they just do.” December ’85

Correct style in an era of poop airs and other open-legged silliness, Smith incorporated speed and an on-point fluidity. Master of his own disaster, he coined many a move (most famously Smith grinds and Smithverts) in his wasted youth, honing the edges of his sharp form in skateboarding’s first bustling park era, and then successfully adapting his round-wall expertise to the home-grown setting of the backyard vert scene that skateboarding evolved into by the late 80s and early 90s.-K.W.

Christian Hosoi

“I wanna see somebody like Tony Hawk get paid a million dollars, he should be paid more. I think we all should be paid a lot more than we’re getting.” April ’86 “Skateboarding keeps kids out of trouble, keeps their minds off bad things.” April ’86

Everything to everyone who was part of 80s and 90s skateboarding, Christian Hosoi was the name on the bottom of two out of three skateboards at any local spot, and was never spoken of in hushed tones by his kinsmen-the loyal admirers of long stand-up grinds, arcing lien and backside airs, and the most boosted boneless ones ever known to man, woman, or child. When it came to the ideal style and perfect mix of all of skating’s elements, Christ delivered like a true savior should. He threw boatloads of cocksure star power into the mix when skateboarding was at its lowest, pulled the entire show up to his level, and made the whole game legit when the rest of the world wanted us to quit. Hosoi is real. Hosoi is a legend. Hosoi is skateboarding. Long live Hosoi.-K.W.

Mark “Gator” Rogowski

“Skateboarding is eternal-because I am.” You make your own scene. If you, only you, skate, then it’s alive. Enjoy it pure. Honk if you’re a hedonist.” December ’88

From 1983 to ’89, Gator was the poster child of skateboarding. You couldn’t pick up a magazine during that time period without a photo of him-he appeared on four TWS covers during that span, more than any other pro of the time. And although he was perceived as sort of a sellout when it came to endorsing product and whatnot, the guy flat-out ripped on a skateboard. Pools, pipes, ramps, street, ditches-any sort of skating, Gator ruled it. When he turned himself in to police in April of 1991 for the murder of Jessica Bergstron, a black cloud hovered over skateboarding for the next few years. His name is tainted from his unforgiveable deed, but his skateboarding talent will always be remembered.-D.S.

Jason Jessee

“I don’t care if I die. I drive fast to die. Who cares? It would be better if I died. I wouldn’t have to worry about taxes, people calling me up, and I have to do something, tickets. I wouldn’t even care if I died right now, big deal. Oh, I’m scared.” December ’89

Jason Jessee was born and raised in the land of ultimate consumerism, Orange County, California, and started skateboarding in the days when Ronald Reagan was president. Jason got sponsored by Vision skateboards, quickly rose through the amateur ranks, and by 1987, he was the future of Santa Cruz Skateboards. On the eve of the ’87 Vision/NSA Holiday Havoc amateur finals, Jason was disqualified for instigating a fight with East Coast skater Peanut Brown. It was obvious that Jason would’ve easily won the contest, but he didn’t care, thus beginning his professional skateboarding career. By the way, Jason lost the fight. His power on and off a skateboard was/is something to be witnessed firsthand.-D.S.

Natas Kaupas
“An ollie will help you more than a streetplant would ’cause you could be pushing down a street and you have to ollie up a curb, or over a wall or something. It comes in handy.” February ’89

What Natas Kaupas did for the current incarnation of street skating is less about moves and progression and more about discovery. As the ordinary world churned forward in the mid 80s, Natas was unearthing the potential of street’s newest-albeit untapped-spine, the ollie. Although today’s staple of all things skate had been around for almost a decade, Natas was one of the first to reveal where this flicky little trick might really take us. And where was that exactly? Up and over anything that happened to be placed before the preoccupied street lurker, including, but not limited to, trash cans, sets of stairs, and benches. He even collaborated with a certain Mark Gonzales, discovering what has now become the undisputed arena for the battle of skate supremacy-the handrail. Eyes were opened wide by Mr. Kaupas, the unused cityscapes, shady back alleys, and strip malls of the world are now free game for skateboarding, proving that our delightful actions cannot and should not be limited to what’s already been encountered, but instead what has yet to be discovered.-K.W.

Mark Gonzales

“Every time you do a new trick, always remember that you can do about five other tricks after you learn that first one.” June ’87

When marketed teams dominated vert contests, he rode streets. When street took over, he tossed off iconic head-high stalefishes and stalled frontside inverts. When magazines were king, he casually collected one of the most inspiring video parts ever (Blind, Video Days, ’91). And then when the bottom dropped out, he painted. Mark Gonzales is and always will be a subterranean counter to skateboarding’s group intuition-changing our vehicle’s course more than short-term memories can recall, and legitimizing himself as the only reason that many of us still try to skate with any kind of style, passion, or love.-K.W.

Steve Rocco
“I lost it all. I lost my house, I lost my sponsor, I lost my virginity, but I got my soul back.” February ’88

As thief, saboteur, muck-raker, and scumbag, Steve Rocco has had more to do with the current state of the skateboarding industry-the self-produced, skater-run, clearing house for creative imagery, marketing, humor, and heart-filled talent-than most people care to admit. But nd although he was perceived as sort of a sellout when it came to endorsing product and whatnot, the guy flat-out ripped on a skateboard. Pools, pipes, ramps, street, ditches-any sort of skating, Gator ruled it. When he turned himself in to police in April of 1991 for the murder of Jessica Bergstron, a black cloud hovered over skateboarding for the next few years. His name is tainted from his unforgiveable deed, but his skateboarding talent will always be remembered.-D.S.

Jason Jessee

“I don’t care if I die. I drive fast to die. Who cares? It would be better if I died. I wouldn’t have to worry about taxes, people calling me up, and I have to do something, tickets. I wouldn’t even care if I died right now, big deal. Oh, I’m scared.” December ’89

Jason Jessee was born and raised in the land of ultimate consumerism, Orange County, California, and started skateboarding in the days when Ronald Reagan was president. Jason got sponsored by Vision skateboards, quickly rose through the amateur ranks, and by 1987, he was the future of Santa Cruz Skateboards. On the eve of the ’87 Vision/NSA Holiday Havoc amateur finals, Jason was disqualified for instigating a fight with East Coast skater Peanut Brown. It was obvious that Jason would’ve easily won the contest, but he didn’t care, thus beginning his professional skateboarding career. By the way, Jason lost the fight. His power on and off a skateboard was/is something to be witnessed firsthand.-D.S.

Natas Kaupas
“An ollie will help you more than a streetplant would ’cause you could be pushing down a street and you have to ollie up a curb, or over a wall or something. It comes in handy.” February ’89

What Natas Kaupas did for the current incarnation of street skating is less about moves and progression and more about discovery. As the ordinary world churned forward in the mid 80s, Natas was unearthing the potential of street’s newest-albeit untapped-spine, the ollie. Although today’s staple of all things skate had been around for almost a decade, Natas was one of the first to reveal where this flicky little trick might really take us. And where was that exactly? Up and over anything that happened to be placed before the preoccupied street lurker, including, but not limited to, trash cans, sets of stairs, and benches. He even collaborated with a certain Mark Gonzales, discovering what has now become the undisputed arena for the battle of skate supremacy-the handrail. Eyes were opened wide by Mr. Kaupas, the unused cityscapes, shady back alleys, and strip malls of the world are now free game for skateboarding, proving that our delightful actions cannot and should not be limited to what’s already been encountered, but instead what has yet to be discovered.-K.W.

Mark Gonzales

“Every time you do a new trick, always remember that you can do about five other tricks after you learn that first one.” June ’87

When marketed teams dominated vert contests, he rode streets. When street took over, he tossed off iconic head-high stalefishes and stalled frontside inverts. When magazines were king, he casually collected one of the most inspiring video parts ever (Blind, Video Days, ’91). And then when the bottom dropped out, he painted. Mark Gonzales is and always will be a subterranean counter to skateboarding’s group intuition-changing our vehicle’s course more than short-term memories can recall, and legitimizing himself as the only reason that many of us still try to skate with any kind of style, passion, or love.-K.W.

Steve Rocco
“I lost it all. I lost my house, I lost my sponsor, I lost my virginity, but I got my soul back.” February ’88

As thief, saboteur, muck-raker, and scumbag, Steve Rocco has had more to do with the current state of the skateboarding industry-the self-produced, skater-run, clearing house for creative imagery, marketing, humor, and heart-filled talent-than most people care to admit. But admit it, they must; talk about it, they must. The former professional freestyler bolted from beneath his sponsor’s grasp some time in ’89, maxed out his credit card, borrowed Skip Engblom’s Santa Monica Airlines moniker for his own gains, and eventually spawned the most prophetically named skateboard company ever-World Industries. Through his doors passed the most skateboarding talent ever to push down a hallway, and since his warehouse doors first swung wide, he had a hand in belching out such successful brands as Foundation, Ghetto Wear, DuFFS, Blind, 101, Plan B, Big Brother, Tensor Trucks, Speed Demons, A-Team, enjoi, and Axion, among others. Like him or not, Steve Rocco changed (and continues to change) skateboarding more than your average angry freestyler ever has, and for that we owe him.-K.W.

Matt Hensley
“I just wish I was little again, when it was totally simple. You got out of bed, you went to preschool, you came home, and you played with your Legos and next-door neighbor and threw avocados at him.” August ’90

The hesitant hero, Matt Hensley rose from the super-heated parking lots and driveways of Vista, California-and without wanting to, he changed everything about the set ways of skateboarding. He shuffled into contest settings and lit them on fire, he flipped and spun and caught for the lenses of his friends, and magazines and videos focused on him. Then, after changing lives, he moved away from his meal ticket and studied to save them (by studying to be an EMT). Following the pioneer’s path, this irresolute icon showed us what was really important-living for the sake of life. Much to our joy, the prodigal son returned to the loving arms of skateboarding, and continues to expertly duck the limelight as he shows the world how we do it-expertly crazed, with melody, and a spirit beneath surveillance.-K.W.

Mike Vallely
“Then I just skateboarded, and now I just can’t stop. I just do it. It’s like asking why I breathe.” February ’90

In 1987, when street skating was in its infancy, Mike Vallely, a colorful teenager from Edison, New Jersey, appeared on the scene and quickly became a skateboarding icon. Mike got hooked up with Powell-Peralta skateboards, and soon after, turned pro. Mike had a sick part in the video Public Domain (known for the infamous graveyard scene). After that, he quit Powell and joined Rocco’s fledgling World Industries company, where he really came into his own (check out World’s Rubbish Heap video, if you can find it). Now fifteen years later, Mike’s passion for skateboarding hasn’t diminished, and he can be found traveling the world promoting skateboarding.-D.S.

Frankie Hill
“I know that if I don’t make it this day, I’m gonna have to come back a different day, and I might not be ready. I’m never really ready, but you’ve got to use that moment as much as you can and just try to get it over with.” February ’92

Before Kris Markovich, Chad Muska, or Jamie Thomas came along, a young fella from Santa Barbara, California named Frankie Hill put on the gnar boots and attacked gaps and rails far bigger than what was commonly skated. Frankie skated for Powell-Peralta and appeared in a few of their videos (namely Propaganda, Public Domain, and Eight) in the late 80s. Frankie’s all-out attack was an inspiration that set the standards for what was to come in the 90s, where rails and gaps are concerned. A serious knee injury ended his skate career around 1991, but his influence will never be forgotten.-D.S.

Ray Barbee
“I think it’s cool that people dig what I do, but it’s so important to keep it in perspective. It’s so easy to get carried away with fame; people think that it’s a license to do whatever they want.” April ’97

The unmitigated joy in simply skating down the street, cruising where the hill tilts you, moving as fast or as slow as your push warrants-these are the inner juices of skateboarding. That and grinning. Ray Barbee noticed