Powell- Peralta. The Bones Brigade. I recall that team & its formation much like everyone else. ‘Skateboarder’ magazine was soon to be a cherished memory. D.David Morin changed it to ‘Action Now’ magazine but the bicycling, sandboarding, rollerskating & the rest of it sort-of nauseated most die-hard skateboarders. Its life was short lived. Like all things in skateboarding at that time, everything exploded hot & heavy. It was quickly undone. Vertical skateboarding was changing just as rapidly. Surf styles, lines & powerful flow became usurped by technical maneuvering. It became a sport of trickery. Jay Smith filled me in on the details of this time. His time. 1979.
Jay Smith hails from Canoga Park out in the San Fernando Valley. He started skating in 1975. Jay stated- “I was really just a street skater. This was before parks and magazines in a way. All my friends rode motorcycles and skated. That was what we were into back then. Eric Grisham and I rode pools together in the valley.” Jay then told me an interesting anecdote regarding his early pool skating barges. ” The Sunset Pool company had an office with concrete demonstration pools on site. This was right next door to where ‘Skatercross’ was being built. They had two pools there. One was empty. We would sneak in and ride even while the park was being built next door. It was the first time I hit tiles & I recall looking over at ‘Skatercross’ and wanting to ride the bowls there when it was completed.” Jay became addicted to the speed and vertical like so many of us.
He recalled riding pools all over the area when he was young. Jay told me how they would constantly look for things to skate. – “My friends and I would ride all over the San Fernando Valley. From Encino and Woodland Hills all the way over to Glendale… everywhere. There were so many pools to ride. We hopped the fence at –singer–Barry White’s & were riding his pool one morning. He walked out but was really cool about it. He had his maid come outside and they watched us for awhile… he was pretty nice to us considering the situation. Lucille Ball had a house out in the Valley and it sat empty. The pool was a ‘go’ for quite some time. We also rode at this place in the Valley. It was a zoo or animal park. It had these bowls and stuff that were empty. The place was closed down. We rode the reservoirs that the animals had used as a natural habitat type of thing. It was pretty unreal.”
Jay talked about the early skate park scene. He was a local at Skatercross. Jay told me that he rode with Eric Grisham, Arthur Viecco, Shane Reed & Jerry Valdez. He told me that those guys were a bit older though. “My early skate influence was probably Shreddi Repas. I loved to skate with him. He was stylish, fast & powerful. Eventually, I rode for Lonnie Toft & Sims. I skated with the whole Santa Barbara crew. Doug de Montmorency, Jack Waterman and other Oxnard and Skatercross riders.” Jay told me that he was really into flow and speed. -“I really love to go fast!” It would be at Oxnard where Jay had his first photograph taken which ended up in the magazine. ” Bill Sharp took a photograph of me doing a tailtap on the corner. I was stoked. I couldn’t believe it!”
Things started falling into place for Jay. He was skating some of the hottest parks & pools. His speeding, low-slung, rubberman approach to skateboarding was rapidly winning him respect & admiration. Jay then told me how he was put on the Powell Peralta team that Stacy had just formed. Jay is a wealth of historical skateboard information. After all, he was on Powell Peralta before he was 18 years old. These were formative years for Jay. He continued- “I was riding for Sims but they already had Bert Lamar & Brad Bowman. Those guys were both super riders & Sims wasn’t really doing anything for me. Powell Peralta & Sims were both out of Santa Barbara as well. It was odd. When Stacy approached me at Marina del Rey and asked me to ride for him, I was like- “Oh hell yeah!” It was immediate.”
Jay told me that the Bones Brigade started as- Stacy Peralta, Ray Bones Rodriguez, Mike McGill, Alan Gelfand and then he was added. I asked him about the ‘Powell Peralta Class of 79’ advertisement. Jay stated that Stacy chose the best he could find to represent all areas of the country. ” Stacy added Mike Jesiolowski & Jami Godfrey from Cherry Hill right after I was put on the Bones Brigade. He also added Rodney Mullin & Tim Scroggins from Florida, Steve Caballero & Scott Foss from Northern California, Teddy Bennett from Big -O and David Zakrzewski from Oasis. That was the original Powell Peralta team.”
Jay remembered early contests with Powell Peralta and stated tersely- ” Contests just weren’t my thing man! They’re just too organised. That goes against everything I am. I just loved partying and riding pools with my friends. Stacy was super nice though. He bumped up our confidence. If I remember correctly, I actually turned Pro at the Bakersfield contest before I was on Powell Peralta. Once I was on the Bones Brigade, I waited for awhile before I received a model. I think we all did.” Steve Caballero & others told me that some of the riders kept their AM status & continued to build contest standings & placings. They developed new tricks and worked on their overall skating. This way, they created a demand for a model rather than just having one put out for them.
Jay Smith himself was soon ready for his own model. He originally rode Powell Peralta Double Beamers. – “I wanted the Double Beamer to be my model but they were having lamination problems.” Jay asked me if I remembered the rivets in the Double Beamers.- “Of course.” He laughed & continued- “Back then we would do long boardslides and the top- most layer of black fiberglass would become ground down. The rigidity of the deck was affected and it would snap. Rib Bones were then made larger to compensate for this. Caster made my boards for awhile. The first Jay Smith ‘Splash’ deck was made by them. I think that the Caster boards were more expensive though. They were really good & had concave. Powell Peralta finally ended up making my boards from Brite Lites but they were definitely flatter than the Casters were. ”
Jay went on & discussed the early punk scene and its influence in his life. He loved the fast music, motorcycles and anarchy. ” It went along with what we were doing. The music and clothing added to it. It was crazy, fast & fun. I really didn’t care. I just wanted to rip and have fun…. no worries.” Jay told me that Stacy liked him on the team with his long hair & all. “I was just rebellious. I was actually a long-haired surfer kid. Then, I made an anti-christ kind-of change. I cut all my hair off. I was back east with Glen Friedman. We were going to Cherry Hill, Staten Island, Apple & other parks. We would go in & cut the skaters hair. It was just to be obnoxious… the kids were so cool.” Jay said that he was really into heavy rock-n-roll like Zeppelin & early Van Halen but the punk music was too hard to resist. “Bands like The Buzzcocks, Discharge, 999 and others soon fueled all of our sessions.” Jay told me that he will always have a fondness for Marina del Rey & Cherry Hill skateparks. “They were the best things I ever rode.”
I had heard various stories regarding Jay Smith over the years. One quote – “He was the epitome of punk.” Another – “Jay would take a contest run and he’d just carve in circles throughout the entire time… smiling.” Whatever the case may be, Jay Smith was hard to miss. He was a standout. Glen E. Friedman & Jay became pretty good friends and would hang out quite a bit back then. Some of the great Jay Smith images that we have were from Glen and this period in time. Style. Timeless perfection. Glen told me about Jay Smith- ” The bad uncle (to Stacy’s good father) of the Bones Brigade, his awesome girlfriends, his insane risk taking driving, The most stylish layback and frontside carve in existence, and a heartbreak of an injury that sent him for a loop. I took him to see the Bad Brains play a club in NYC (when they first moved here), with less than 30 people attending the show. We drove across the country together to do a skate tour and he tweaked his ankle on the first stop, so it was ‘Jay’s Barber Shop Tour’ instead. That’s just off the top of my head– 30 years later.”
image courtesy- Glen E. Friedman
Jay Smith and his life have been shrouded in myth & legend for decades. I was at the ‘Old School Skate Jam’ in 2000 and I remember seeing Jay Smith attending the event. There were just as many people crowding around Jay as there were with Tony Alva. He has immense popularity & appeal. Jay is one of a kind. I asked him about his disinterest in skateboarding & subsequent walk from it. He readily replied- “I didn’t dump skating! I became kind-of bored with it. Tricks were becoming wall-to-wall and mechanical. It took away from the speed, flow and beauty. If you take away the beauty of it, it’ll lose everything. That is what drove me from skateboarding. The ‘power & finesse’ is what made it rad for me. That is what Powell Peralta embodied. Stacy encompassed all of this. Jay lists Duane Peters, Eddie Elguera, Shreddi, Steve Caballero & Scott Foss as being a huge influence to him & his skating.
Jay told me that he continued riding into the mid 1980s but motorcycles & racing took up more of his time. Eventually he stopped. He saw Richie Carrasco at a show & Richie kept after Jay to go skating. Eventually he caved in. Jay- “Richie took me out and we went slalom riding. It was so rad. Pretty soon, I was riding vert, doing airs and laybacks, I slammed though and was hurt pretty badly. It hurts more… and for a longer time these days.” I asked Jay if he skated recently. He went on to tell me of a dark day a few years back. A day he will never forget. He was riding his motorcycle in the rain. Almost night. The black greasy ribbon of wet freeway reflected all of the lights.
” I was in a motorcycle accident on the 101. I slammed into a car. I had a few drinks & it was raining. I got on the freeway and found myself behind this woman going 55 mph. I got pissed and went around her. I really gunned it. Then I saw why she had been going only 55 mph. There was a car directly in front of her going slow. I saw it at the same moment that I ran up into the back end. I hit her so hard that I broke both my legs. I got tore up! I was in the hospital for a few weeks. I haven’t really skated because I have plates and screws in my legs. My movement just isn’t there. No flexibility.” I was quiet for a moment, digesting all the tragedy that Jay had just laid bare. The thought of Jay Smith skating without flexibility was intolerable. It was like Picasso without a paintbrush. I groaned inwardly. Jay quietly went on – “Ozzie, you know what ? It was all worth it. Skateboarding. I am stoked on my skating time and how it all went down.” So are we Jay…. so are we.
Thank you to Glen E. Friedman for the –previously–unpublished Jay Smith images. Thank you to Jay Smith, Steve Caballero, Glen E. Friedman & Jami Godfrey for their memories. Thank you to King James Cassimus. Thank you to the internet for the Valley pool image of Jay. It says courtesy of Ted Terrebonne but I think its a Bill Sharp image. We’ll just thank them all. Jay wants to thank Dave at Skaterbuilt for all the support. Skate- Ozzie