I met Gregor Rankin through Lance Mountain or Rob Schmeltzer; I’m not sure which it was, but I remember clearly riding Lance’s ramp with him. Normally, I would watch guys skate and judge how good they were by the size of the airs they did. I saw this guy in a white long-sleeved sweatshirt and it was hot out; he kept doing loads of small backside airs over and over. I thought he was okay. I’m just about as good as he is, I thought. I was doing airs four to four-and-a-half-not consistent at all, though. Each air was a spectacle, foot flying off almost, hanging up, whatever.
Soon the session progressed and then Gregor-the guy skating in the hot weather with a sweatshirt-just started destroying the ramp. Long drifting alley-oops and enormous method airs with his leg cocked straight up, his graphics facing toward the heavens. Bang! Air the trick down the transition, across the flatbottom, up the next transition, bang! The next trick. With speed and fluidity, it was a violent smoothness. He spent about an hour to an hour and a half doing tiny airs and grinds, getting the feel of the ramp, and it was incredible.
Afterward, I tried talking to Gregor. He was odd, though. He wasn’t like any other skateboarders I had knew or met. He was no joke. He hated to play the social games that go along with life and skateboarding. As hard as I tried to get to know him and see what he was about, I never found out. But he insisted on one thing: that I meet his friend in New Zealand, Lee Ralph.
Ever since I was little I wanted to go to New Zealand. When I turned pro I got my sponsors to pay for half the trip and I paid the other half. The plane flight was long and stopped in Fiji; “Wow,” I thought, “This is the real shit, going to a far-off country.”
It was raining there. All the trees and green bushes looked beautiful. We walked around through a corridor, waited for a while, and then got back on the plane. In New Zealand it wasn’t raining. The sun was shinning brightly.
The first time I met Lee, I walked into the skate shop and they had alot of cheapo skateboards, k-mart style. At first I thought Gregor was having one over on me-a big one. I told the man, “I’m looking for a kid named Lee.”
The man said, “I’m Lee.”
I thought for sure I was getting pissed on. Lee was large and had broad shoulders, manly looking. Most skateboarders didn’t look too mean and manly at this time. This was before the rough, rugged Alva team was assembled with Gibson, Murf Johnson, and Hartsel. Anyhow, his hair was short all around the top and sides, about an inch longer than a buzz, and the back was about four- to five-inches long. He looked like a rocker or a warrior. I was afraid of him-he looked like a raw islander. I mean, I had just come from picking up checks at Vision in Newport Beach. I for sure didn’t think he skateboarded. I asked, “You’re Lee? Lee Ralph?”
He looked at me, tapped his chest, and nodded his head yes: “I’m Lee Ralph.” When he came out from behind the counter, he didn’t have any shoes on. He looked like a raw islander.
The cab was waiting in front of the shop for me, because I wanted to make sure it was the right place. From how Lee looked, I was nervous. I thought about just taking the cab back to the airport and leaving, but I didn’t. I stayed and learned more about skating and life. So I’m thankful to have met Lee and Gregor.