Not only was Neil Blender a skateboarder, but in the early and mid 1980s, Neil was skateboarding. An artist, a creator, a laugher at people, a namer of tricks, he made skateboarding fun in the lean years before the boom of the late 80s. He opened the door for the skater/artist, who, to this day, keep skateboarding as much a lifestyle as a sport.
But change is constant, and to Neil’s dismay skateboarding’s direction turned toward hot pink, then gigantic clothes, then hip-hop music, and Neil wasn’t having any part of it. Sometime in the late 80s, he stepped away from the spotlight, but he didn’t abandon it completely, doing artwork and mindwork for Ohio’s Alien Workshop, skateboarding on his own time, and probably laughing whenever possible.
What was your favorite year and why?
That’s hard to know. I don’t know the years that much. Probably the sponsored years–’80 to ’86–just because you get flowed free shit and you’re already stoked on what you’re doing, so it just makes it easier.
What did you think of contests?
They were good at first–getting to go around to places and experience everything. After a while, it kind of wears on you.
Who’s been your biggest inspiration?
That’s a weird question–a lot of people I guess. When we first started skating, it was just whoever was older and better. People like Ray Rodriguez and Alan Gelfand. Any of those good guys who did tricks and you were just in awe, who you’d see photos of and stuff. It’s weird. Andrecht, Caballero. Eddie Elguera–he was like a guy to be like. Chris Strople was, too. He was a sketcher. And Duane Peters, he was hot.
What’s the stupidest trend you saw skateboarding go through?
Mixing rap in with it. The mixture of rap and skateboarding is pretty dumb. Freestyle (laughter). Street freestyle is what the modern shit is. That’s kind of dumb. Too much inconsistency can be really annoying.
What do you feel your biggest contribution to skateboarding was?
I don’t even know.
I was thinking about it, and I think the artwork.
Simple cartoon graphics?
Yeah. And art being done by the skaters themselves. You kind of set that whole thing up. And then the tricks you did, too, they were just a little off. There’s a picture here of a contest, and you’re doing a rocket air over this wooden hump.
Something that probably wasn’t makeable.
And then your ramp inside the house.
That was Stacy’s idea.
You can’t think of any contributions you gave to skateboarding?
No. I just skated … did my part.
Did you get disillusioned with the whole pro scene?
It was mentally hard. You can only do so much.
Did it cease to be fun?
Kinda. The pain of putting on pads and everything smelling like shit all the time. Actually, ammonia. That was depressing. But if things were set up right … the Del Mar Keyhole would be fun. But only at night.
Have you been skating?
A little bit. I tried to skate those parks–the new ones they’ve built.
Did you go to the one under the bridge in San Diego?
Washington? Yeah. I rode around in that thing. There wasn’t much there when I went. I went to Carlsbad and Vista–Vista’s fun, you can cruise more there. At Carlsbad you run into dead ends. You’re doing a line, and there’s this one spot where you’ll ride right over the stairs if you’re not looking. Have you seen that?
Describe the current state of skateboarding.
It just seems like a bunch of video kids. It doesn’t seem like there’s much feeling coming out of it.
Do you think they’re skating for personal freedom, to show people up, or “look at me”?
Maybe a little of everything. All their clothes, and chain wallets, and shit, I just don’t understand. But that’s what will happen. MTV. Everything’s open for attack. Kids are really mean, and they don’t respect anyone very much.
What ddo you think about the pro side of skateboarding?
I don’t know about it.
It seems like in the 70s and 80s there were more characters, people had more personality, and it didn’t seem so robotic.
Yeah. It seems more cloned right now. It’s weird–all these handrails and stuff.
What are your predictions for skateboarding’s future?
I thought it was going to be dead years ago, but it’s not. It just changed its mold. Maybe there’ll be some hotter stuff. I’d like to see some slide-and-roll parks being made specifically for sliders–boards with no wheels. Picture roller-coaster tracks, and you’d just show up with a deck with rails on it, set it on the tracks, and pump through this weird roller coaster course. That’d be fun.
Oh yeah! I was thinking about the future: In malls, restaurants could all face toward the middle where there would be skate trannies that go up over windows. People would eat, and skaters would be hired to come in and skate in different shifts–two to four, six to seven. The skaters are pros, and they get paid, and everyone shows up at these modern, indoor malls. I picture it happening in Japan.
That’s kinda like Vans skatepark in Orange.
Yeah, but I’m picturing it more personal. The people are in a restaurant, and there’s like …
It’s like a dinner theater.
Yeah. Tony Jetton doing a f–kin’ loop!
That sounds good to me. And then, after that, you could shoot at the skaters. Or they’d ride over and you tuck a little dollar bill into their underwear.
They could skate in G-strings.