Puttin’ It On Wax? John Lucero’s Your Man
“Man, this spot is so tight! All we need to do is wax these ledges up a little and then we’ll be on point.”
How many times have you and your buddies caught yourselves thinking a similar thought? Countless, right? Anytime we stumble upon virgin territory, it’s one of the first things out of our mouths. As a matter of fact, it’s one of the ways we judge whether a spot is truly new or just new to us.
A waxed curb or ledge lets us know that we have brothers and sisters we haven’t met yet. Even if we’re suffering through a horrible parentally imposed vacation to a new place, or worse, a full-fledged move to parts unknown, we can always spot the signs of our tribe the world over.
However, we weren’t always connected by underground sounds and markings. There had to have been a beginning to it all. We know part of our humble tale begins from surfers waiting for the tide, and we know we owe a debt of gratitude to Alan “Ollie” Gelfland for helping push us to the next level, but who on Earth are we to thank for helping us see that if we could slide better and farther, we would have more fun and progress faster? That debt belongs to a good man named John Lucero, one of the godfathers of street skating and the owner of Black Label skateboards.
“Well, it all started with this one red candle around ’78,” says John. “We’d been skating the GEMCO shopping center curbs way before then. We already knew how to do boardslides in pools, and they were always in the magazines. We knew that we wanted to do them on curbs, and this was before rails (board, not hand) had been invented. My friend Hago’s mom had this big red candle, and we thought maybe curbs would slide better if we rubbed wax on them. Lo and behold, it worked!
“Then we started bringing the candle around and waxing everywhere we skated. Remember, this was in the 70s and the candles weren’t skinny like they are now. This was a big-ass square ‘table-candle,’ which was the size of a cinderblock. After a while the candle was beginning to take the shape of the curbs!
“Around ’81 we started seeing the groms we couldn’t get rid of coming around with their own candles. We still didn’t think much of it, and we never saw it really happening until the late 80s-it was just a local thing.”
Fast-forwarding a bit from the 80s, there were plenty of things to let go of. Teased hair, painfully tight shorts, neon pants, and armfuls of Swatches-all which thankfully fell by the wayside. Rolling into the next decade, we gained a few more weapons for our arsenal: Dad’s size-40 pants, an utter disregard for business sense, wheels the size of our bearings, and thanks to John, hoards of wax-wax that, if it wasn’t available in our own homes, was found right next to the Jell-O in every grocery store across America.
Things can always get slightly out of hand, though, and waxing in Huntington Beach was no exception. “There used to be so much wax in Huntington Beach that they had de-waxer trucks in the early 90s,” says John laughing. “They would just come by and steam off the curbs. It’s pretty inspiring to know I helped a whole generation of kids wax and destroy property.”
When asked why he didn’t take the credit for creating and marketing skate wax, an idea he was actually the first to introduce to the industry via Vision Skate Wax alongside Brad Dorfman, he simply says, “It could’ve been launched by kids everywhere at the same time. Who knows? Who cares? Besides, a wise man once said, ‘I don’t want any credit, but I’ll take all the blame!'”
In the end, John may not have been the first person to sell wax, but he was the first to discover the endless possibilities of making a curb and ledge slide better, and look where that’s taken us. So the next time you’re in the kitchen stealing one of your mom’s big red candles (now’s the perfect time-she won’t miss it ’til next Christmas) and are trying to lube up a virgin ledge, take a moment to boow your head in respect to the man who made it all possible. Without John Lucero, street skateboarding might’ve easily died due to the monotony of nosepick stalls on dry ledges from a 90-degree angle. Endless thanks to The Man, and if that slogan hasn’t rang true to you in the past, it sure as hell better now: Label really does save.-Neftalie Williams