Classsic Text: Steve Rocco, The Origin of a Species, 1986

Steve's Trick Tip for the "Flippo" a boneless 180 fingerflip named by Neil Blender from the same issue.

Steve’s Trick Tip for the “Flippo” a boneless fingerflip named by Neil Blender from the same issue. Photos: Swank. Click for XL.

For our April 1986 Intro "Transcript" page—Then Sims pro, Steve Rocco penned an editorial summarizing the history of skateboarding's boom and bust cycle and with near eerie clairvoyance predicted and foreshadowed the imminent explosion of street skating. He also foretells the industry reboot that he himself would usher in along with Gonz, Natas, Rodney Mullen and the host of best-selling companies/riders he would begin launching/sponsoring under the World Industries banner after being kicked off Sims only a year later. This block of text reads like his warning shot to the world.

Scanned and transcribed here as an important piece of skateboard history, this is the first in a new series of "Classic Text" articles that will highlight and safeguard some of the most consequential words ever printed in our pages.

The Origin of a Species
By Steve Rocco,
TWS, April 1986—The "Street Issue"

In the beginning, there were only single celled organisms, called amoebas. Gradually, through the process we know as evolution, they branched out into other life forms. Some of these life forms were not successful. Dinosaurs, for example, died out because they could not adapt to a rapidly changing environment. On the other hand, many flourished. Dolphins and whales not only adapted to their environment, but they mastered it as well.

In the next few paragraphs, we will try to understand why certain species perish, while others thrive.

The year is 1960. Amoebas by now have evolved into countless species of life. Ranging from small Tsetse flies, to large people who worship statues of the Big Boy. It is about this time on planet Earth that a new species is appearing. They were called skateboarders.

Skateboarders, for the most part were unique…And what makes them unique is very simple. They did what they wanted, when they wanted to, and however they wanted to do it. They roamed the streets, sidewalks, empty swimming schools—anywhere their wheels would roll. Skateboarding was hot. Everyone was doing it. It became organized. There were clubs, and teams, and magazines. It was big-time.

Then something happened which nobody had expected. It died, and everybody had a different explanation why. "It was just a fad," "The equipment wasn't good enough," "It's too dangerous."

The years passed by. It is now 1974. Just as mysteriously as it died, it was back. On the hills of La Costa, the reservoir at Escondido, Kenter and Bellagio schools, and the canyons of Malibu… Skateboarding was flourishing again. But why? Was it the urethane wheel? Sure, it might have been. That's what our skate history tells us. Right?

1975 through 1978 were all banner years for skateboard manufacturers. There were skateparks, magazines, teams. Organizations were set up to get skateboarding out of the streets, and into "a safe place to skate." Skateboard companies that started out small, were now million dollar industries. Soon, the magazines were printing only pictures taken in skateparks. The skater had to be wearing safety equipment. Within these few short years, the magazines and companies had created a total misconception of what skateboarding was all about. The year was 1978.

By 1980, things were a little different. There were only a few skateparks left. What was once "The Skate Magazine," was reduced to a parasite clinging on to other sports to save itself. Only a few companies were left behind in the massive scramble for Chapter 11. And the men who were once "Leaders of the Industry," were pleading the 5th Amendment on the grounds that "skateboarding is dead."

It's now 1986. What happened? Well, skateboarding never died. The only thing dead was the manufacturers who couldn't adapt to a changing environment. An environment that they considered hostile, because they couldn't understand it. But that environment was the very place where skateboarding was born, and to which it is now returning.

That environment is the streets. —STEVE ROCCO

Click to enlarge.

The Intro as it originally appeared. Top photo: Vukovich. Click to enlarge.