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

How did the first dagger graphic come about?
Long story short—it actually started with Mofo. We wanted to do like a hot rod street machine car. The dagger was actually on the front grill of a ’30s or ’40s Ford coupe. The centerpiece was a fisheye photo of the grill and up top it had the V8 emblem. Basically, we had a rough version that I gave to Stacy that he then gave to Kevin Ancell, who did my very first graphic. He diminished it to just the dagger with roses around it but it still had the V8 in there. So people always wondered what the V8 was and it was left over from the hot rod grill.

Were launch ramps kind of a hiccup in the whole evolution?
That was my whole life based around the f—king jump ramp. When I first started ollieing off jump ramps that probably opened up the door. From the early grab tricks to more ollie grab tricks.

Is it fair to say the Future Primitive part, especially with that Stecyk quote, introduced the concept of the urban playground to skateboarders? It almost felt like an instructional video.
Yeah. He always talked about the way skaters would transcend obstacles and their environment and surroundings.

The San Francisco scene from
The Search for Animal Chin (’87).

How did that part come about? Did they talk to you about what they wanted?
No. They were just making a video. There was no preconceived notions in the sense of, “Let’s showcase street skating.” It was more just, “Hey, we’re going to come up and film you doing what you do.” I basically just cruised down the same hill I had been skating since the beginning. Like, “Ok, this is how we do it. We skate these hills, then I skate the dish, and then I go home.” Nobody filmed for more than two days for any of those videos. So it really was just a snapshot of the way you skated on the daily.

Do you have favorites in those videos?
Honestly, my favorite section to watch is actually Lance (Mountain) in The Bones Brigade Video Show (’85). Him just cruising around, pushing through gravel, doing goofy street plants. I love that shit. It makes me want to go skate to this day. It just looks so fun.

Did Stacy understand the importance of street skating at that point?
I never thought of it that way at the time. That was just the way we skated. But Stacy might have intuitively known that it was going to be big. He knew all the skateparks were closing. It was the obvious next step.
The Bones Brigade: McGill, Tommy, Hawk, Cab, and Lance in the Animal Chin ad.

Is it fair to say that part put the SF scene on the map?
Yeah. I think so (Laughs.) It was before Sick Boys.

Did you interact with Natas and Gonz at all during those years?
Mark used to come up here and stay with me when he was probably 15/16. We would just go skate all day. Natas would come up all the time, or (Jim) Thiebaud and me would go down to Santa Monica and stay with him. I think those dudes really pushed each other in a different direction. The way we were skating here was different. We sort of adapted to our surroundings and skated that way and they adapted on their side. LA is super flat, so it just led to a different approach. They were pushing rails and stairs. We had the hills so we adapted to that.

How did you feel when you saw the rail stuff coming in? Did you see Julien (Stranger) and those guys pushing that?
It seemed like a natural progression. We were already ollieing up to boardslides on benches or flat bars or whatever. One of the first guys that I saw try it was Danny Sargent—a really long time ago. He was such a rad skater. Then seeing Natas try it at some contest—just kind of huck himself at the rail. That opened the doors. Then Mark too for sure, at contests killing the PVC rails.
TG’s first Flaming Dagger board and a stair launch for a Jimmy’z Clothing ad.