You Gotta Have Heroes

Skateboarding. It’s been part of my life since I was thirteen. I’m old now. I’ve witnessed the winds of change blow through my favorite activity several times over the years, but the thrill of watching someone who has mastered the craft is a mighty pleasurable experience. The skaters in the photos on the next several pages have all been major influences on my skateboard life. They are the ones I looked up to in the early days and still do.

When Vans opened their park in Orange, California and I saw many of my heroes from days gone by tearing the place apart, I knew what I had to do.

Steve Alba

When I got sucked into the skateboarding addiction back in 1978, Steve Alba was the man. He was in every magazine, winning contests, and traveling the world. About eleven years later (1989), I found myself working at TransWorld and my first assignment was to interview Steve for his upcoming Pro Spotlight. I was nervous as hell because I’d never met him, but I soon found out he was just a normal guy with tons of love for skateboarding (the guy has a photo of nearly every backyard pool he’s ever skated).

These days, Steve is 36, has a wife named Julie, and two kids, but still manages to skate more than most eighteen year olds.

Tony Hawk

In the early summer of 1983, I was skating at the Del Mar Skate Ranch. Those were the days when few people could be found skateboarding. This skinny kid named Tony Hawk was the only kid at the park, and we’d been skating the keyhole together for a little more than an hour. Even then everyone knew who the shy fourteen year old was (he’d just won his first pro contest a few months prior), and I was shocked when he asked me to go to lunch at Denny’s. I still remember us skating over there, him wearing brown SIO shorts with his kneepads on. Anyway, he bought my lunch and I’m still thankful to this day.

Last year Tony turned 30 and is still regarded as one of the best skateboarders in the world. Tony, you’re the man!

Lance Mountain

The first time I spoke to Lance was the day before an amateur contest at Del Mar back in 1981. My friend Tod Swank (Tod Weseloh, at the time) and I were playing Missile Command in the arcade. Lance walked up to us and said, “You guys need Lump.”

We were like, “What?”

He just held out this mass of paper – we later learned that it was a ‘zine he’d made – and said it again, “You guys need Lump.”

We were speechless, and Lance just walked off.

Chris Miller

Chris was a member of the last generation of skateboarders who learned to skate in the burly confines of the Upland Pipeline. Skating the original Combi pool was by no means a task to be taken lightly, but little Chris made everything he did look so easy – speed, power, lines, and above all, style.

Chris had it all, but he’s probably remembered for taking one of, if not the, gnarliest slams captured on film at the 1986 Pipeline contest. The slam came during the semifinals (Chris had qualified first), when he hung up – no, locked up – on a sick backside air into one of the corners. Jaws dropped all over the park as Chris lay lifeless in the bottom of the pool. When all was said and done, he was all right, but a pretty good concussion kept him from finishing the contest. There wasn’t another pro event at the Pipeline, so Chris never got another chance to show the world how much he dominated the place.

Jeff Grosso

Not a lot of people remember the pre-Mothra Jeff Grosso of the early 80s, but I sure do. He was the loudest and most obnoxious of all the Skate City locals. Maybe that’s why Santa Cruz Skateboards referred to Jeff as “The Brat” when he rode for them way back when. Jeff was John Lucero’s sidekick, and it was rare to see one without the other. They were like the Abbott and Costello of professional skateboarders – 100-percent comedy – even while riding a skateboard.

Over the years Jeff’s grown up, had some good and bad times, but still retains that yoouthful personality we all know and love. Whether he’s doing a seven-foot madonna or a disgusting Grossman air (roast beef), Jeff will always be one of my favorite skateboarders.

Steve Caballero

Skater, father, husband, musician, legend – there’re so many reasons to give Steve Caballero the utmost respect. Back in the day, I mean, way back in the day, before Tony Hawk, Steve was the most innovative skateboarder on the planet. As an amateur he was beating the best professionals of the time, and when he won the Gold Cup Final of 1980 at the Upland Pipeline, no one argued. A move that bears his name, the Caballerial was unveiled to skateboarders around the world at that contest. When I saw the sequence in a magazine months later I nearly shit my pants. Now nineteen years have past and Steve’s still a very recognizable face to skateboarders young and old around the world.

Mike Smith

My number-one hero of the 80s. Why? Shit, I don’t know. He was such a freak. When he skated, the style poured out of him like it would never end. He invented one of my favorite skateboard tricks, the Smith stop (later becoming the Smith grind). When he’d come to the Del Mar Skate Ranch with his whacky friends from Hermosa the laughs would be nonstop. Mike is still the ruler. Long live Ape Rock.