Pioneer: Tommy Guerrero, Full Interview—The Streets of San Francisco

For this installment of our Pioneer column, we’d like to delve into the pivotal contributions of San Francisco’s Godfather of street skating; Tommy Guerrero. In addition to having locked down the first street video part ever in Powell Peralta’s Future Primitive (’85), Guerrero also became the first skateboarder to showcase San Francisco and its now world renowned hills. In doing so, he more or less introduced the concept of the natural urban skatepark as the alternative to dwindling actual skateparks while giving a step-by-step instructional course on exactly how to best exploit them. Along with Mark Gonzales (and a short while later Natas Kaupas), Tommy Guerrero also became the first official “Street Pro”—paid for and marketed specifically as a street skater. His style, flow, and high-speed lines set the table for everything. As a top shelf member of the Bones Brigade, at height of the ‘80s boom, Tommy basically became the face of “Streetstyle” at a time when that very concept was about to turn skateboarding on its head.

This is the full interview text from Tommy’s Pioneer Column in our August 2012 Issue.

How did you get into skateboarding?
Skateboarding? I thought this interview was going to be about fielding land mines (Laughs). Actually, it started when this kid in my school had a Black Night board with clay wheels. I lived on 17th Avenue, which is the hill that’s in Future Primitive (’85) and all that. He came over one day and brought his board. He wasn’t into it so he gave me the board and that was it. A kid living on hills, flying down—I was hooked.

Who were the first skaters you saw around after that?
There weren’t that many other skaters. My brother got into it. We started going down to the schoolyard, Jefferson—where I went to school; people actually still skate there. That’s kind of were we met our crew of friends like Bryce Kanights, Andy Myer, Joe Phuong, all these guys that are old friends now.
Early Mute launcher. Madrid days.

How did you eventually get on Madrid? Was that a bit later?
This is forever ago. This is like ’75. Me and my brother started riding for this company called A-Lot-A-Flex, which was based out of Berkeley and made metal boards then trucks. The team was me, my brother, Tim Marting, the Fisher brothers, and Paco Prietto. All those guys were the ones that really taught my brother and I how to skate when we first started skating transition and parks. These guys were amazing. Much much later I rode for a skateshop here in the city. The Madrid thing happened really because of Chuck Treece and Tom Groholski. We became friends, Chuck and I would play music and whatnot and they’d come stay with me.

Were you skating the hills this whole time?
Yeah, we were all skating the hills before the skateparks opened. I think the Alameda park opened in about ‘77 or so. We skated that then more started opening up in the South Bay like Winchester, Peters and Campbell—where Stevie (Cab) grew up skating with all these other heavyweight skaters. We would travel down that way by Bart or bus and skate those. So I grew up skating the parks. The street thing really took hold after the parks closed. There was nowhere to go. Most people didn’t have space for ramps, so we just hit the streets.

When did you first hear the actual words, “street skating”?
Really, I think it was just when they had the first contest in Golden Gate Park—“Streetstyle!” For us, it just didn’t matter what you were skating—pools, ditches, hills, curbs—you were just rolling around. It became a marketing deal at some point I think. But these sort of fragmented ways of skating that emerged seemed really odd to us back then. We just grew up skating everything.The Ollie enters the fray. Fort Miley. Continue reading on Page 2.