Haut Skateboards

Christian Cooper

Were it not for Doug Haut moving to the west coast from Milwaukee in 1954, it is indeed
possible that, none of what is said beyond this point would be anything other than pure myth. Haut began the journey of becoming an expert waterman off the shores of Santa Cruz and parts north. Later, while living in Hawaii and honing his big wave riding skills, he apprenticed under legendary surfer/shaper Mike Diffenderfer, learning the fine art of surfboard repair, glassing, sanding and all other aspects of the craft. In 1964, Haut returned to Santa Cruz where he eventually would open three locations where his surfboards sold as fast if not faster than he could make them. In 1970, brothers Lance and Kevin Reed began to take their surfing expertise onto dry land on flat days, constructing ramps and annihilating any and all terrain they could get their wheels onto. Kevin, who had taken on the nickname “Mr. Radical”, was already creating his own prototype fiberglass/wood boards as early as 1971, not settling for available ready made boards of the era. Kevin surfed and skated competitively for O’Neill and in 1974 the Reed Brothers along with Lance Moulton discovered and cleaned out the now legendary Buena Vista pool and were the first to ride it.

Kevin Reed

 

Peter Kiwi Gifford Image: William Sharp

 

Kevin Niccoli

Some two years later, The Haut brand would enter the thriving skateboard marketplace. Not an easy arena to enter when one of the most prominent brands of the time is not more than a few blocks away. The initial offerings were longer, laminated rocker/kicktail combos, something that was extremely innovative in a time when boards still clocked in around 7-1/2″ wide and rarely eclipsed the 30″ length mark. The Boards came out of Haut’s Swift Street location, and if you’re from NorCal, you know it was a stone’s throw from Derby park. As skating entered a light-speed era of progression, Santa Cruz was one of the NorCal epicenters, with the challenging contours of Soquel’s park being a proving ground for skaters and equipment. Haut’s first signature pro model released in early 1978 was the Kevin Niccoli model, which would be followed only a few months later by Kevin Reed’s “Mr. Radical” pro model. All of this history minutiae aside, I had been aware of the Haut skateboard brand nearly from its inception, not only for the nod to a NorCal-based brand but also, because in the early park days at Soquel, Newark, Campell, and Winchester, often times the guys laying down the most fluid lines and innovative moves.

In a recent interview, Kevin Niccoli stated,ย  “The Haut Team was small. I basically did freestyle but I skated everything. The real heavies were Kevin Reed and Kiwi Gifford. They ripped pools and bowls well. I remember Kevin Reed was the first guy I saw do 360 frontside airs. He also did tail taps holding his inside rail. He was innovative. We did a tour of the east coast through Atlantic Skates. They gave us an RV and we drove around and skated. After that, I wasn’t making too much money and had to get a regular job. Around then, Scott Parsons joined the team. I do recall a funny story. When we were putting out our boards, we all drove to George Powell’s house in Montecito. I think it was Doug Haut, Bob Skinner (team manager) and I. George told us to stay out of his kitchen. We were like “Huh?” Anyway, George goes to do something in another part of the house and we went into the kitchen (of course we did) where he catches us. He was baking his wheels in his oven! I guess he was scared we’d steal his formula or something. We ended up using Bones Wheels on all of the original completes from Haut.”

Haut
Kevin Niccoli model
Image: Greg Baller

Kevin Reed
Image: Fineman archive

I can loosely classify these skateboarders as the “first generation” of park rippers. Kevin Reed possessed a style that combined the best type of surf-based fluidity and style with one of the earliest forms of aggression seen in the pay-to-play environs. Reed was all business in all situations and having seen that I was inspired to buy the first and only Haut board I would ever own. Kevin Niccoli seemingly vanished from the scene, just as Reed’s star was rising. It’s important to note here that the two year span of 1978-1979 remains the the most accelerated period in skateboarding history from skateboarding progression itself to product innovation and advertising. By the time the newest issue of Skateboarder Magazine hit the newsstands, a good portion of the content and advertising had already been eclipsed by current action. An aural interpretation of what this period felt like can be found beginning at 3:58 of The Beatles’ “A Day In The Life”. A chaotic building crescendo ending in a massive echoing piano slam that slowly fades to silence.

Haut was at the forefront of deck innovation, releasing wider boards earlier than most companies as well as constantly evolving new shapes and craftsmanship, and the advertisement announcing pro models for Reed, along with Scott Parsons, and Peter “Kiwi” Gifford is a perfect example. Upon close examination, the boards currently available in the ad are already surpassed by the prototypes these guys were riding in the action photos. The brand and it’s riders still remained largely unknown outside of NorCal, but for those of us coming up in the area they were the marquee guys, along with the original lords of the north Rick Blackhart, the Buck Brothers, Kevin Thatcher, and Tim Marting. The “up north versus down south” rivalry felt very real from our perspective. Our dudes could throw down with anybody, anywhere, anytime, and this was about to be proven on our turf after a controversial SoCal-centric first Hester ISA series.

Peter Kiwi Gifford
Image: William Sharp

Kevin Reed Winchester

In a recent interview, Peter Kiwi Gifford stated, “Initially, Bob Skinner ran the team. It was hard preparing for a contest with Bob as your team manager. He was a fast-living rich kid and he was always partying. We were quite the opposite of the Bones Brigade. We were like pirates or something… Myself, Kevin Reed, Scott Parsons and Eric Halverson really rolled around everywhere together. We would party really hard and have fun. There wasn’t much more to it than that. We would travel everywhere and meet up with cool people and ride with them. We pushed ourselves and each other.”

Scott Parsons
Image: William Sharp

In August of 1978 the Winchester Pro Bowl contest gave the rest of the skateboarding world a first-hand look at what the Haut crew was capable of. The results sheet were a bookend of sorts. 1. Tim Marting. 10. Peter Gifford. At the time, it was clearly understood that Kevin Reed would most likely dominate any Winchester event, but injury kept him on the sidelines, giving many of the top pros of the day an instant placing boost.ย  In April of ’79, The Winchester Shootout served to cement reputations on the northern front, when Peter Gifford dispatched all comers including the red hot Chris Strople and young upstart Micke Alba. 3 Haut guys finished in the top 8, with Scott Parsons in 7th and Kevin Reed in 8th. The placings of the Haut trio had less to do with local knowledge than with the blazing level of skating they were applying on a daily basis. A scant year later, at the Winchester Open, skateboarding had changed dramatically. Style and lines had taken somewhat of a backseat to tricks and “bionic” aerial leaps. Whereas the Haut team had once been more synonymous with a flowing surf style punctuated by power moves, the new paradigm had been cemented in by the power moves of Gifford, Halverson, and Parsons. An overall Nor Cal dominance was crystal clear when the dust settled in the keyhole. Young guns Steve Caballero and Scott Foss firmly handled the second and third spots (as amateurs no less) and Halverson and Gifford taking 5th and 7th respectively and Scott Parsons tying Jay Smith for the 14 spot.

Eric Halverson Image: William Sharp

Not long after this event, Winchester would be closed and dozed, and every other pay to play park in northern California would quickly follow. The real story behind the Haut brand and the guys who rode for it truly runs far deeper than a couple of contests. Purveyors of both style and attitude, and a unique presence in a time of growing contrived conformity. For myself, having grown up witnessing it first hand, I can honestly say that in the long history of skateboarding, the Haut phenomena was something very special. The shapes, the wheel wells, the airbrush jobs, and the guys that rode them. Sometimes the candle that burns twice as bright truly lasts half as long. – Christian Cooper

Thank you to Christian Cooper for taking the time to put this together. Thank you Duncan Campbell for the Fineman shot of Kevin Reed. Thank you to William Sharp for the images.

6 thoughts on “Haut Skateboards

  1. Always the best and great attitudes
    Doug and his wife ! Met them filming
    A contest southern California . Before
    Alot of u folks where born๐Ÿ’–๐Ÿ’•๐Ÿ™

  2. Rad article Christian!!! Brings back epic memories. I skated for Haut for 2 weeks, then went on to ride for Santa Cruz. Haut was going to pay my entry fee into the first Winchester contest but I declined. Honorable mentions to early Haut riders Jim Martino and Beau Holbrook ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Nice piece of Nor Cal history there, Mr. Cooper. Being born in 1972 I never knew Haut made skateboards, but I skated or drove by his shop on Swift St. every time I went to Derby. Skated a few backyard pools with Kiwi over the years, usually in Modesto or Sac. Also, Campbell has a ‘b’ in it.

  4. I always wanted a Haut board never got
    to ride one I did get to skate with Kevin Reed and Peter Gifford at Cherry Hill Skateboard Park!
    Classic Legendary Company and Team

  5. Those guys were cool & ripped CHSP. I remember trying to keep up doubling up fs grinds in the L bowl with one of them. Stoked on the story!

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