The Turningpoint ramp, it’s possibly the one thing I’m most often associated with as a skateboarder. In some cases, I’m told Jerry Valdez and I did the first loops in it. In others, I’m told that what Jerry and I did weren’t loops at all but rather, inverted carves. I never really cared and certainly never made any claims… both Jerry and I let the images do the talking. At some point I just wanted to distance myself from the ramp and that conversation for no other reason than that I wanted to be remembered as a pool skater, not a sideshow clown. In retrospect, I am proud to have had the opportunity to work with family while riding and touring with the Turningpoint ramp. We hauled that beast from Ft. Lauderdale to New Jersey setting it up and breaking it down ourselves. We did demos at surf contests, a trade show, and the New Jersey state fair, then dragged it across the country where it ended up at MDR.
By the time the ramp arrived on the west coast, I’d been riding it almost exclusively for several months. I had the thing wired, which anyone who’s ridden it will tell you was no easy feat. It was kind of scary dropping in from that little crow’s nest thing up there, and the ramp rocked back and forth while you rode it. The faster you went, the more it moved. Those 4’x4’ Lexan panels were stronger than Plexiglas, but they still flexed. Again, the faster you went, the more they flexed. It made for a bumpy ride and slowed you down… eventually we learned to stay off the Lexan and ride the ribs as much as possible. It could be surreal at times, especially in the low light situations we got during the night shows at the state fair.
The loop line was a figure eight starting with a carve in the dome and then two kick turns at the far end of the pipe, and the trick to getting an upside-down carve was that last kick turn. You had to get as high as you could and pump really hard off that one. It was heavy because you were over vert and looking down into the abyss. The pipe was at a 30 degree downhill angle and you were about 35’ off the ground. In the last weeks I rode it at MDR I was finally able to do a double loop. I knew the line was there. I’d been working up to it for a while…It really wasn’t even that hard, just scary. There was more than enough speed, you just had to come out of the first one and keep turning. Thanks to the designer, my little brother Scott Senatore for having the vision and wherewithal to make it all possible. The continued influence of his creation is reflected today by the many “cradles and capsules” seen in skateparks around the world.
Thank you to Kent Senatore for the memories and to William Sharp for the photograph. X Ozzie
The dark clouds boiled on the horizon. He sat in the living room and watched the sun pour over the city. It was first light and with it came another day of isolation, questions and fear. The virus was in the hospital. He knew. He worked there. It was everywhere. A latent ugly growth on the horizon that one couldn’t see. Death stalked on noiseless feet. He rubbed his tired eyes and walked to the kitchen. “Fucking people. They’d soon see.” The virus was a little monster hidden out of sight. It wore a mask. He watched and read. He looked up the World Health Organization stats. The Centers for Disease Control kept guidelines current online. “Read…” he mumbled sitting back down with coffee. We are in uncertain times. He mused about the pandemic of 1918, the AIDS epidemic, the black plague… All of our efforts may have been for nothing. Ubiquitous. Everywhere.
He had been looking at social media lately. Scrolling. Reading people’s thoughts. Raw naked fear and ignorance. “Better to keep those thoughts to yourself folks.” Hannah Arendt wrote of the ‘Banality of Evil’ in her book about Adolf Eichmann. He was the Nazi in charge of keeping the trains running to supply the death camps. Captured, he turned out to be no monster. He was a cardboard cutout. A paper-thin personality bereft of color. He thought of this while scrolling through the banal and tedious musings about politics and other such useless nonsense. It was like throwing popcorn at people. No one got hurt and people just made a mess. “Be a part of the solution or be quiet.” He muttered.
At the hospital, he clocked in and hustled. There was no other speed at which to work. Full throttle. All day. In this time, any sniffle, allergic reaction or elevated temperature was like a death sentence to the afflicted. Brutal panic was a default position. The hospital was choked with ‘RULE OUT’ cases. We didn’t know… it took time. Chest x rays, lab work, the usual host of antiseptic hospital horrors. He moved from bed to bed. He asked the same hundred questions in the same calm manner. 7:00 am quickly became 11:15 am. He slammed a lukewarm cup of coffee from a styrofoam cup… “Was it the one I left on the desk an hour ago?” He shrugged. He slid a pale green curtain aside, experienced eyes raking in the scene. Elderly man, seventies, sweating, feverish, wet lungs… he could hear the rattle in the top of the man’s chest. Scared. Fear is evident to one who’s seen its face so damned often. Death grins back at you. He worked on the old man, assessed his symptoms and moved to a computer module down the hall.
His fingers punched and punched. Details, history hastily gleaned from the old man’s wife. The doctor came in and he transmitted orders. The machinery moved. The great groaning sophistication of modern medicine impotent and ill-equipped to deal with the microscopic assassin looming on the horizon. He went back to the old man. He didn’t tell him what he thought. He gave him and his wife words of comfort. He gave them anything to hold onto. He’d give his own breath away.
Later, he took a break. He mindlessly ate yogurt and drank a protein shake. He thought of the old man, the numerous other patients from that day. What did they have to cling to? Did they workout? Play sports? Did they take photographs and write stories? What would the world lose when these people lost life? He put his head down and sat there in the nurses lounge. The distant paging system kept him company. Doctors and respiratory therapists were paged from place to place in rapid succession. He felt like he was a thousand years old. He thought of his skateboarding friends. He thought of the people that helped form him into who he was. Kent Senatore, Jerry Valdez, Tony Alva and others. He’d give his own breath away. He knew. He always would.
My good buddy Ozzie forwarded me several photos the other day from the Uber-talented Bill Sharp. Among these were a couple of unpublished, never before seen shots that stopped me dead in my tracks. As I studied the shots, picking out the details that firmly rooted these pictures in the time they were taken I became aware of a feeling. My mind seemed to waver back and forth between the “present” and the day these were taken. One moment I was a 56 year old man in the rain forest on the volcano and the next I was a 16 year old kid in the middle of the action on the screen. I felt like I was actually there down to the last detail and it got me to thinking.
These shots were taken 40 years ago and as such are from a different time and for all intents and purposes a different life and yet looking at them changed my perceptions and thus my reality allowing me to purposefully navigate time instead of just holding on for the ride. We are much more beings of our energy than of our matter. (Yes I know Einstein proved those two things are one in the same but for sake of some clarity we shall hold them as separate here.) We are what we do, not what we have and everything lies in intent. As individual beings we associate proximity with closeness when in fact it is an illusion of our concrete perceptions of space and time. How many people do you know in a loveless relationship who feel isolated and alone even though the other person lives in the same space? Closeness has to do with the connection we feel with another being and that connection is not strengthened by proximity nor lessened by distance.
Scott Foss Winchester
Looking at these old photos instantly brought me back to that time I feel because of the heart I was putting into my actions and the love I had for all my friends experiencing it with me. I still feel very connected and close to that 16 year old, not distanced or detached by time. I was living legitimately and my intent was pure, charge as hard as I could, do my best and appreciate the same in my friends. That is why I feel a close bond with that kid, I have never changed myself or that approach.
In our daily lives we experience time as a linear process and perceive space in terms of proximity. In our minds though, where we actually process and “feel” what’s going on, these fundamental aspects of reality are not so straightforward and are actually much more malleable than the literal definitions we are all confined to. There is a point to my esoteric musings and it is this. In these extremely unsettled times we have a choice. We can either stay confined to the box in fear and suffer all of the destructive consequences to ourselves and others or we can realize and accept the fact that we are beings of energy with great power. That energy does not recognize our concepts of time and space. We can either use it to get past this and become more compassionate and evolved beings or we can go the opposite direction. Our thoughts and actions are the energy we put out and with that power we can all either help each other, and thus ourselves or we can destroy. Peace – Scott Foss 20 March 2020
Thank you to Scott Foss for the thoughts and William Sharp fo the previously unpublished images. Skate- Ozzie
It was very cold that winter. Pennsylvania was a barren land of gaunt trees, ice and frozen roads. The fields stretched away to the horizon… rolling and empty. Farms shouldered the hillsides and cattle plodded aimlessly in mud and snow. They nosed the hard earth for anything green. The earth slept and– like me — dreamt of springtime. I jumped puddles and slush to cross the road and get to the mailbox. My breath hung in the air. The cold bit at my lungs. We lived out on a rural road and it was that time of the month when Skateboard World magazine arrived in my dreary corner of the world.
I had a ritual. I would feel my heart pound, as I saw it inside the mailbox. I fingered its glossy edges and peered intently at the cover. I saw the image, the stickers on the board and the riders helmet. I saw the skaters style, the trick, the grab, the pool, its blue tiles and coping. I looked at everything. I was like a scientist in a white sterile laboratory. Scrutiny was my occupation and Skateboard World my lab manual. My ritual was followed monthly. I would run into the house, tripping over my own wet sneakers. Grabbing a quick snack, I would careen down the hallway and take the stairs two-at-a-time in my haste.
I would hibernate behind my big wooden door and open the cover. I read the advertisements. I read the editor comments, letters to the magazine and small print within the staff listings. When I say that I read every word, I mean it. Skateboard World was the biblical fountain from which I drank. It was where I went to drink and quench the thirst in my soul.
I care little of the opinion of those out there thinking I am a kook. Think what you will. I have skated ramps, pools and vert for over 45 years of my life and probably will continue doing so until it is an impossibility. I know in my heart that there are those out there, just like me. There are those of you out there that remember. Do you? Skate and remember what it was like to be a kid, before the weed, booze, girls and egos. Remember skating, rolling and loving your skateboard. – Ozzie
The William Sharp photography book that we put out has been a success. I want to thank those of you that bought it and supported us. I appreciate all of you that came out to the book signings as well. Gingko Press sold through the first run and when it came time to do another production order, we talked and thought that a smaller version with a lower price point might be welcome. The initial version was over eight pounds, five hundred pages and nearly seventy dollars. We are hoping to get this new smaller version in front of more people. We cut the contest chapter, the random pools chapter and did some minor editing. We fixed the few typos, color corrected an image and sharpened a black and white photo or two. The main thing we decided to do immediately, was place Jay Smith on the cover.
Jay Smith at Mondo’s pool. San Fernando, CA
There were some wagging tongues within skateboarding because Tony Alva ended up on the cover of the first version. Tony and I are friends and… you can see where this thought process is headed. William and I wanted Jay Smith on the cover. We wanted this photograph as well. Gingko Press — at that time — pushed hard for Tony Alva to be on the cover. No disrespect to Tony… I mean, he’s Tony Alva. Any photograph of him is going to be a good one. Since William Sharp mostly shot in the San Fernando Valley and took many photographs of Jay Smith, we thought he should be on the cover right from the start. As far as I’m concerned, this photograph of Jay Smith is one of the greatest pool photographs of all time. The book took five years to put out and another five months of wrangling with the publisher wasn’t something William and I looked forward to. We put it out with an amazing photograph of Tony Alva high in the Arizona pipes. I still stand by this cover.
Tony Alva Arizona
Once we decided to trim down the original version, William and I sat down and went through it. We decided that we needed to cut some two hundred pages. It was much harder than we thought. We finally realized that if we removed the contest section and the random pools section, we came in roughly on the number. So it goes… you’ll be seeing the new mini version soon. Its drop date was March 20th but with the current state of China and things, its been pushed back a month or so. I hope those of you that don’t have it will go buy the smaller version and I’ll let everyone know the day it comes out. We will probably have a signing too. I hope to see you there. Thanks for everything and thank you for reading the Blue Tile Obsession. Skate- Ozzie
A dirty sun had perched over the city as he reached the thickest part of its guts. The news was blue. A grey sky overhead colored his every word. Brain boiling black. Fingernails bit into his palm. The freeway was a blur of metal and motion. His dark eyes drifted left and right. Exhaust fumes were a balm to his troubled mind. At seventeen, he knew his end was close. No Medicare for him. The thought of growing old, church functions, ice cream socials and Viagra filled him with a raw red panic. His blood thrummed. He was the kind of kid that others called, “Strange”. Snorting in laughter, he changed lanes almost hitting the car beside him. Middle finger sign language passed between them. “Fuck. What’s so strange about Sigur Ros and poetry?” As far as he was concerned, they were the ones that were fucking strange… slaves to parents, schools, jobs and expectations. He had read a book by Talbot Mundy who said, “The only safe thing I know is to follow opportunity and leave others behind to do the worrying. More people die lingering, ghastly deaths in arm-chairs and in bed than anywhere.” He fully agreed.
He went down an off ramp, slowed as he passed an accident and pulled into a line of glass-fronted buildings just off the freeway. Sitting in his car, he calmed himself. “Jesus…” He liked accidents. Hurt and happiness are one. Always. His reflection looked back at him. Empty eyed. He was a book with no pictures. Only mirrors. He reflected nothing and everything. He was whatever anyone wanted him to be. No identity. Cipher. Whatever caused him to end up like this, he didn’t know. He always felt dead inside. His one emotion was wrath… Going into a bookstore, he purchased a journal and paid for it with a stolen credit card. The clerk must’ve been stoned. He kept up some happy talk to distract him, commenting on the Phish t-shirt that the clerk was wearing. “Oh yeah, Phish bro… great band.” Had the clerk looked closely, he would have noticed that the customer certainly didn’t resemble a female named Cynthia Dottingham. He walked out of the store smiling. Underneath his sweatshirt were two books of poetry by Baudelaire and Bukowski. “He had it coming. If you’re too dumb to do your job right, you deserve to be ripped off.” Driving across town, he spotted a young schoolgirl on a corner with her mother. “Not bad.” he thought. He stopped by his friend’s apartment and bought a shard and took the speed home to smoke it.
Empty house. Empty street. Empty pool. His yard was full of trash and junk that his mom’s boyfriends left laying around. She’d come home from the bar with some shithead and he’d soon move in. A few months later, another. Then another. He didn’t even talk to her anymore. He’d be eighteen soon and he’d never allow “It” to tell him what to do ever again. He exhaled and looked out the back window. The dirty glass was cracked. His brain squirmed and his thoughts moved like ants on a hot summer sidewalk. The old pool squatted there in the weeds and grass. When he was a boy, they would swim in it. He shook his shaggy head. He couldn’t recall the last time. It was a shame… at least the neighborhood kids would come talk and hang out. It was the only cool thing about being a kid that he could remember. He mattered. He fit in. No more… Thumbing a stray strand of black hair from his eyes, he picked up the pipe again. Thank you to MRZ and Rick Stine. Skate- Ozzie
The air was cool. Sun glittered off of the cars nearby. I cut an arc south on the 405 out of Brentwood. A morning AA meeting left me optimistic and I quickly made a decision to drive a grid into the unknown. Brandon Wong sent me a possible to look into… Checking my phone, I knew I was only twenty minutes away. The morning soon found me on a hillside. Giant trees marched up the street. It was quiet and still. Suburbia. I walked the grounds of one that was for sale. Fences and gates were festooned with ivy. An air of decay and disrepair hung over the property. Behind the house, the pool sat. Black water and dog toys. The pool was amazing. A nearby dog started barking at my intrusion. I was a ghost. He stuck his nose over a fence as I slipped quietly out of the yard.
I drove the nearby streets. Yawning neighborhoods. People outside washing automobiles. The serene return from church. A bible tucked under an arm. Small dogs in front yards and a blue sky over it all. I pulled to the curb and scrolled through my GPS. Looking to my left, I was startled. A boarded up garage could be seen through a screen of trees. Palm trees scraped the sky and were untrimmed. Hedges grew thick and the yard was overgrown. I almost missed it. I walked across and soon found myself in the backyard. The house was boarded up. Mail filled the mailbox and it was obvious that the owners were gone, deceased or no longer in residence. Trash, moldy boxes of papers, crusted books, splintered furniture and garbage were strewn around the side yard. I saw decaying photo albums which were water-logged and barely intact. A few photographs could be seen.
The water had destroyed them. I barely made out one of them. Recognition. It was an image of the front of the house. On the back in blue ink, “The house where we grew up”. I placed it on a paint-blistered shelf and continued with my recon. I couldn’t believe the pool. It was like I had slipped into a strange skateboarding dream. Blue tiles, perfect coping, round cups, huge shallow end, bullnose coping, side ladder, deathbox opposite… the thing was so big, it seemed to have flat bottom. Unreal.
I took photographs and was soon in my truck again. Returning home, I looked into the property and will do all I can to skate the pool. It is what I do. I think back to the house where we grew up. I wonder who lives there now. Do they wonder about the folks that once called it home? Houses are memory sheds… bricks and mortar. Bones and dust. They are merely man-made shells, unless something or someone can come along and breathe new life into them. Perhaps it is this way with all things. Perhaps… Skate- Ozzie