Paycheck Frankie Hill

Through the 80s and into the 90s, Powell Peralta, more than any other company, laid the tracks for what is now considered to be the main promotion for a professional skateboarder: the video. Its pro team, track record, anticipated new ams, and yearly consistency of video release are but a few of the reasons why.

A barely teenage Frankie Hill made his debut in Public Domain, the fourth in the Powell Peralta series of videos, and by his opening part in Propaganda (the seventh), where he skated the Sean Cliver-designed “Bulldog” board, he could be stamped as Powell Peralta’s first-and one of skateboarding’s first-“video pros.”

With the release of Ban This a year earlier, Frankie had unknowingly created a name for himself by opening the video with an array of monster gaps, flip tricks, and massive rails-all some of the biggest and most technical street skating for the time. Along with Frankie’s new name came the demand: “George (Powell) said it was the first board that came about not from contests, just from kids asking.” The kids’ asking meant George was insisting Frankie go pro-not bad for a kid who was too nervous to skate many contests, a kid who in his words “weasled” his way onto the team: “I did a kickflip Indy grab off a jump ramp and basically begged every rider to talk to Todd (Hastings, team manager) and put me on.”

At the time the Bulldog was released in 1990, its upturned nose was “monster” compared to anything else Powell Peralta had previously released and comparable to the noses on boards SMA World Industries had been putting out for the past year. In Propaganda Frankie put that nose to use, frontside 180ing garbage cans while skating his board in reverse, further promoting and popularizing street skating, the Bulldog, and his name, thus leading to the fattening of his wallet: “They said I was the number-one board seller in Canada (for a few months). My checks started at 5,000 dollars a month. I was pretty blown away.”

But by the ripe age of 21, with only a handful of pro models and even fewer years under his belt as a pro, the only thing blown for Frankie Hill was his knee. While shooting a “backup” photo (he had already logged a handrail back lip the same day), Frankie’s knee buckled on impact: “I knew immediately my career was over. It wasn’t a guessing game. My whole career stopped right there-1992. My girlfriend cut me. My friends cut me. I moved in with my sister. It all ended right there for me.”

Frankie Hill literally dropped off the face of the skateboarding Earth in the 90s, and in true Hollywood skate-story fashion, the hundreds of thousands he had made went quickly: “Let’s just say I spent it frivolously.” He was penniless and working minimum wage at Ready Brake for two and a half years, finally deciding to go to school as a dental technician, where he finds himself now making prosthetic teeth for dentists in downtown Santa Barbara.

The job is good and the chips are stacking, but with a rejuvenated knee, Frankie has also found himself skateboarding again and with an updated version of the Bulldog graphic as his pro model for Revolver skateboards. Frankie may or may not make skateboarding his career again, but he’s bound to make it his life: “This (working thing) is just a waiting game for me. When I get up to about a half-a-mil (in savings), which is coming in the next five years max, probably less, I’m out. I’m gonna cash my money out, live off the interest, maybe live in a boat at the harbor for 178 bucks a month. I’m talking early retirement. I just wanna skate.”

Definitely can’t argue with that.-Eric Stricker