I saw the ‘Gullwing- Full Power Trip’ video in 1990 or 1991. I remember Chris ruling it throughout. I was skating behind the ‘flannel curtain’, in central PA at Buster Haltermans barn ramp. Buster was a huge fan of Chris & rode Schmitt Stix boards religiously. If you compare Chris & Buster, you will see many similarities. Both can go high, flow at all times & seemingly drip style from every pore. Comparing the incomparable. At the Brick, NJ skatepark, they had a piece of wood on the stairs of the vert ramp, entitled ‘Vert Gods’, with names listed. Both -Chris & Buster- were on it. I met Chris one day in 1991. Buster was at Woodward skating with Chris, who was a visiting pro that week. This was before Buster opened the door for me to start running things at Woodward. I drove up there and found out that Chris had slammed on a ‘body jar’-I think. He was done skating for the day. At the time, vert skaters would melt their shoelaces -virtually- every time we would knee slide. I had managed to find Frankfort Leather in Philadelphia. They made super strong laces with metal ends. I would give them to friends that rode vert. I remember giving a bright orange set to Chris…he just smiled at me strangely, thanking me. Odd gift. Buster told me that I was a “goon”. I answered incredulously, “But, he’s Chris Miller! He does that FS ollie to truck thingee.” Anyway, that is a memory I have of meeting Chris. I have run into him many times thereafter. He came with Dave Swift, Andy Mac & Moffett to ride Gonzales pool when I painted it. Chris put a new board together & destroyed . Period. I thought I would question him on the basics & sent him some questions via email.
1- When & where did you start skating?— I lived in Santa Monica as a kid during the Dogtown heyday, ’76-’79. Not that I was part of the DT scene at all, but skating was just part of life for kids in the area. I got my first board for Christmas in 1977, it was a G&S fiberflex, Road Riders, and Bennett trucks. My first few years were spent skating the schoolyards, alleys and garages of Santa Monica. I lived on 7th street and went to school with Bela Horvath. This was also where I skated my first backyard pool… except it was in front of an apartment building.2-What parks did you ride most? Were you a local at any?—I didn’t go to a skatepark until 1980. My parents split up and I moved out to Claremont (upland area) with my Mom. I was pretty miserable about it, but the consolation was all the skateparks. Pomona Grand Prix was my first park. It was not a great park, but to me it was amazing. I loved it until I found out about Pipeline in Upland, which was much much better.3-Did you ride baldy often & with whom?—I started riding Baldy with the Upland locals after I had been coming to the park for a year or two. It’s funny but I can’t remember my first time there. I do have plenty of memories doing little missions from the skatepark up to the pipe. We would get dropped off (none of my crew was old enough to drive) skate the pipe for a while, and then skate down the wash to Arrow Hwy, where there was a rope you could climb out on, and then go back to the park. It was only about a half mile from there. Skated many times with the Albas, ChrisRobison, Eric Jueden, Tim Galvin and all the locals.4- What is your ‘Pipeline’ history?—Too much to even talk about, but I spent literally every day there from 5th grade until I was 18. It was my sanctuary. Skating with all the groms, watching the Albas, and Dunlap and others rule the place. I got to see the Hester Series, Gold Cup and all the major pros from that era come through. One of the best days ever was when Cab, Scott Foss and the Powell Peralta team came. This was pre Bones Brigade and Cab and Foss were the new generation… Stacy gave me some stickers, and made fun of me for using the term “flow” when asking for them.5- Who are your influences?—Salba, Micke, the Hoffman family, the Badlands, Dogtown, Steve Olsen, Brad Bowman, Billy Ruff, Neil Blender and everyone at G&S. It doesn’t end there, but those were key people when I was young.6- How did you start Zacharys Planet Earth? ( i saw it (full name) on the paycheck or letterhead at busters when i lived w him)—After Schmitt Stix, I was looking for something new and felt uninspired by a lot of the brands that were offering me sponsorship. I wanted to start and artistically inspired brand and Tony Mag and Mike Ternasky offered to help. H-street and World were the new brands changing the industry, being run by skaters and mixing things up. I was inspired by them, but wanted to do it my way and continue that lineage that Neil Blender started over at G&S by doing his own graphics. Skateboarding and skateboards were about personal expression, a canvas for art. I felt that the world was a crazy place and the perspective of Planet Earth seemed to fit as a name. I was also 21 years old with a wife and baby son named Zach, and in many ways it was more about providing for my family than anything else. Hence, the corporate name Zachary’s Planet Earth.7-Is there something you’ve never done yet always wanted to do skating?—I’d love to do frontside rodeos, and front noseblunt slide the combi corner.8- Do you have any threshold moments?—I tried 540’s for like a year before I made one, it was so frustrating. Then, when I hadn’t tried one for a while I was at a demo in Portugal with Tony Hawk and he did a run with every variant of a 540 possible, including an ollie 5. I was just like, “if he can do all that, then I can at least make a regular mc twist” I spun a couple and then just made one… perfectly. Like I always could do it. I went on to make the next 40 or so that I tried. I was more consistent on them than backside airs for a while! it just shows that if you believe you can do something you can do it. That day represented a shift in my skating, and I was far more confident and progressive from there on.9- Do you still try progressing or ride for fun mostly?—It’s all just for fun now, but progression is fun. I am always pushing to skate the best I can, not necessarily leaning new tricks but pushing myself, new lines, big airs, etc.10-How do you see your boys skate? Do you see yourself?—I love skating with my sons Zach and Luke. They are so different as skaters but both are super rad in their own ways. Zach’s style is smooth and controlled, kind of a more modern version of me or Buster, and Lukas is totally creative and unique, kind of Craig Johnson meets Jay Adams, throw in a little Gonz and take it back to 1977.11-Whats the deal with you winning all the combi contests? (HaHa).—I love that pool. I love skating it and the contests are really fun. I get nervous, but also love the energy. I also never won a pro contest at the OG combi, so it’s pretty cool to get paid back for all my blood, pain and broken bones!12- What is in the future for you?—Keep skating as long as possible. I am inspired by Salba! If I can I’d like to be riding pools when I am 60!!13- Do you ever still ride backyards?—On occasion, but I am pretty lazy about leaving North SD county. Encinitas, Carmel Valley, Clairemont, Washington Street, Bucky’s! It’s all too good, but I do love the fun and challenge of a good backyard.14- What is your first or most memorable backyard session?—Well that would be my first pool in Santa Monica. I wrote a story about it for The Mag a couple of years ago.Chris Miller. ‘First Time’
It was one of those summer days that seemed to last forever. I remember feeling like there were so many hours in a day that there was really no rush to do anything. I lived in an apartment building on 7th street in Santa Monica. I was 10 years old, my parents were divorced, and I lived with my Mom. She had gone back to college to get her degree and she had a part time job. Since she was working or going to school most of the time, and my brother and sisters were older, I had a lot of free time in the summer. The only time constraint was to be home by dark. Because the neighborhood was mostly apartment buildings, there were tons of super smooth parking garages to skate in. We would go out and skate in the alley behind our building using the driveways as banks, just carving down the street pretending to surf.One of the best things to do was to build up your speed then cut down into a steep driveway that lead to an underground garage, bomb the rough driveway cement and then, as soon as you hit the perfectly smooth garage surface get tucked low and do a big carve. I don’t think I knew who Jay Adams was at the time, but I knew about Dogtown and understood the aesthetic and imitated it every day.All of this information now seems like a frame around a picture of a particular day that is forever ingrained in my memory. I had been skating around the neighborhood, and met up with a friend who had a paper route. We sat on a sunny sidewalk where his papers were dropped off and folded them into thirds wrapping each one with a rubber band. He had one of those double-sided canvas bags that you wear over your head. They are designed so while you ride your bike, you can pull a rolled newspaper from either the front or back of the bag to throw it at the front door or driveway of the house of the subscriber.Those bags were pretty functional, except the only problem for him was that we lived in apartment-land and he had to get off his bike, walk up the steps to where the mailboxes were and leave the appropriate number of papers there for the residents of that building. He wanted help, so I volunteered to go along with him and speed up the process. He rode his bike and I skated. At one of the apartment buildings, I took a bunch of papers and ran up the steps to drop them off. At the top of the steps I could see over the wall into the pool area. In the center of a pseudo tropical oasis sat an empty pool. It was a right hand kidney and it looked skatable. Although, since I had never skated a pool before, I didn’t really know if it was good or not, but it looked good to me.I showed my friend, and we agreed to come back later after we finished the paper deliveries. When we came back, we heard the sound of someone skating. We looked over the wall and there was a guy standing in the shallow end. We debated whether to skate or not because of him. The guy skating was at least 10 years older than us and we were intimidated by him, but at the same time his presence made the act of jumping the wall and being down there seem less scary. We decided to continue with our plans to skate the pool. We climbed over the wall and down into the shallow end. Without much words besides a quiet “What’s up?” to the older guy we started skating.I was surprised at how much speed I got dropping down from the shallow to the deep and fell on my first few kickturn attempts, leaning back too far as I went up the wall. We sat and let the older guy take 3 rides to each 1 of ours. Gradually we began making carves and kickturns on the transition. We were pretty excited about our progress, but our new “friend” was getting annoyed by our presence. He declared that we would have to “leave unless you can go over the light on the face wall.” This seemed pretty much impossible, but we were willing to try, rather than leave with our tails between our legs.My first attempt took me on a trajectory straight toward the light and I jumped off right as my wheels bounced of the thick bubble shaped glass. My friend fared worse than I did, jumping off without even getting close to the light. With a couple more tries, I was actually getting up just above the light before jumping off and running out of it. I was filled with adrenaline pushing myself to do what seemed previously unattainable, and was now just within reach. The older guy was now giving us some advice instead of just vibes, and getting more stoked on us as we pushed ourselves.I can’t remember how many tries it took, but I do remember the feeling I had when I made it. It was a feeling of fear, exhilaration, accomplishment, satisfaction, pride and relief all in one. It was amazing. It is the same feeling that has inspired me to skate day after day for the past 25 years. It’s the same feeling I had just a few days ago, finally getting backside tailslides really solid. It’s the same feeling Tony Hawk had when he made the 900. It’s the same feeling you had making your first noseslide on a big ledge. We all know it, because it is skateboarding. My friend never made it over the light, and despite warming up slightly to us, the older guy told him he could no longer skate. If he couldn’t skate, I wasn’t going to either. So, I took a few more runs to make it over the light again before we left. That was it. The beginning of everything. That was the mental picture inside the frame of all those other memories from that time of my life. Making it over the light.Thank you to Chris, for taking the time to do this for us. Thank you to JGrant Brittain, Ray Zimmerman & Jim Goodrich for the stellar images. Skate-Ozzie