From our October 2010 issue. Words by Mackenzie Eisenhour

Everybody loves a comeback. Redemption speaks to our deepest primal instincts. Watching a fellow human overcome seemingly insurmountable odds gives us hope that we too might summon the inner strength to stand up and get heroic. Life will throw you curveballs regardless of what league you step up to bat in. As the old adage goes, the true measure of a person is not what they accomplish when things are in their favor; rather, true character is measured by what we accomplish when the chips are stacked against us. Professional skateboarding has seen its share of inspirational story lines over the past 40-plus years. Here are ten good ones. Don’t stop believing.


In the fallout of Bootleg’s demise, our man Pete got lost in a shuffle of his own-finding himself scraping by installing heating units and fireplaces with his uncle back in Philly. To anybody who had witnessed him roll, the situation felt like an injustice of cosmic proportions. Thankfully, with some help from Jamie Thomas, adidas, and the rest, you can throw in Hallelujah today and be comforted that order has been restored to the flatground universe.

Pete’s Bootleg 3000 part from 2003:


Yep. You know he’s on this. The Guy trials are a textbook blueprint of exactly what redemption should look like. Until the documentary and Showtime special drop (the Epicly Later’d Lakai episodes did a pretty solid job), it’s worth repeating at every opportunity available. The road from a Bloody Mary breakfast at Ye Rustic Inn, holing up in a crack-den motel, and losing his board in 2001 to his monumental return to glory in Fully Flared (’07, embedded below) are still the best proof in life that anything is possible.


When Daewon’s Love Child (’92) and New World Order (’94) prodigy counterpart came back after almost half a decade of obscurity with his shocker in First Love (’05, embedded below), the impact on skateboarding at large was monumental. Shiloh single-handedly launched the ledge combo revival, later co-opted by nearly every up-and-coming am in the industry, and did so by essentially taking tricks he had pioneered on curbs fifteen years earlier and reapplying them to ledges.


Skateboarding’s ’80s vert superstars walked a difficult road heading into the ’90s. Some like Jeff Phillips (RIP) and Gator never made it through. Holmes’ downward spiral culminated in ’00, when he sobered up to an initial ten-year prison sentence after being caught with 1.5 pounds of methamphetamine at Honolulu Airport. In a testament to his inner strength, Christian immersed himself in spirituality, served only a fraction of his sentence based on good behavior, and returned to his rightful spot beside Hawk four years on.


After snatching up Back To The City in ’93 at the age of fifteen, Matt went on to a solid decade career of professional skateboarding all the way up through his criminally underrated part in Can’t Stop (’03). Then, poof! The Firm folded and Beach all but disappeared. Cut all the way to ’08 and rumor has it Brad Staba randomly stumbled upon Matt packing boxes at a UPS store in Portland. Within months, Beach was back in the mix, repping Skate Mental and Nike SB, and filming a whole new part for Right Foot Forward (’09).

Matt’s Right Foot Forward part starts at 24:40


Let’s just go with a quote: “They started handing me $65,000 a year at seventeen. I mean, really, I was doomed. It lasted about four years. But like Hosoi, I ran around for another ten years living off my name in the seedy underbelly of the skate world. Like, ‘Oh you’re that professional skateboard dude.’ I’d be like ‘Hell yeah, that’s me. By the way, can I sleep on your couch? And I’m gonna steal your VCR in the morning when you’re passed out, because I need to go get more drugs.'” Glad to have you back, Jeff.

Jeff winning contests in 2010


Never forget where you came from. When EMB’s OG originator decided to dust off the shred stick and clock in for attack mode, first for Sight Unseen (’01, embedded below), then for Chomp (’02) after all but disappearing from the pro ranks in the mid ’90s, skateboarding at large got a welcome wake-up call never to sleep on The Terminator. Henry, skateboarding salutes you.


In terms of coming back from injuries, a whole slew of notables should probably be on here*. But Cards’ battle back from being told he would never walk again is the type of story that makes you feel there is hope for mankind. I’d place his landmark back-on-the-board Anti Hero nose wheelie ad high on the list of contenders for most inspirational moments in skateboarding ever.

John’s voiceover of his Sight Unseen part


Not long after Guilty (’01), Old Dirty Smolik, who had snatched up Best Part and Best Style at the 1st Annual TWS Awards, disappeared from not only the Shorty’s and Osiris rosters, but pretty much from the face of the Earth. Rather than shut down the kegger and send everyone home, Pete up and made the kegger his own company; Sk8Mafia not only brought Smolik’s career back, his backside flip Judo-ing return in Let’s Do This! (’07, embedded below) was pretty much the starting gun for the whole new boom in the San Diego scene. Lace the f-k up, son.


For our “Church Of Penny” article a few months back, Geoff Rowley was asked if he’d ever seen another skateboarder as naturally talented as Tom. His answer, after a long pause, was this: “The closest guy I’ve seen, as weird as it sounds, was Bastien [Salabanzi]. When you’d see him skate in person, he was just so f-king incredibly impressive. For what it’s worth, that’s about the only comparison I can see.” Welcome back, Bastien. Tout est bien qui finit bien.

* Every time Danny Way skates should qualify as a comeback.