Jerry Valdez

JERRY VALDEZ

The road towards Malibu was winding and perilous. Cars moved like a long metal snake, twisting and sinuous. The sun’s glare rested on the horizon and burned. Summer. Angelo’s clover bowl was the destination and I looked forward to skating with my friends. Jerry Valdez was going to be there and I was stoked. I met Jerry for the first time at the Old School Skate Jam in 2001. He was larger than life. I recall photographs of Jerry in Skateboard World magazine in the nineteen-seventies. He seemed way ahead of his peers. It was strange to me that there was so little information about Jerry. He came on the scene, burned white-hot and disappeared for decades. I was anxious to talk to him and get the back story to so many pools from that time. Recently, I heard he was skating again after a long hiatus. It would be good to roll with this early influential rider.

The hillsides of Malibu rose up out of the Pacific Ocean and meandered off towards the east. Huge estates balanced precariously on the edges of the hills and black fences wrapped these properties. I drove up past Pepperdine University until I found the street I was looking for. There were several cars out in front of Angelo’s and the dogs started barking as I pulled to a stop. Once down by Angelo’s clover bowl, I saw that William Sharp, Jerry Valdez, Jay Adams and several other skaters were already there with Angelo. I said hello and quickly joined the session. After a few hours, everyone sat around and talked. There was a wide swath of shit talk that came out of everyone. Buttons were pushed, old rivalries discussed and stories words rose up like smoke. I asked Jerry about some pools. He answered that I’d need a bigger note pad if I was going to walk down that road with him. I smiled. He was just like the stories I’d always heard about him.

Jerry Valdez
Jay Adams RIP

A few days later, I spoke with Jerry and he told me that he was in Los Feliz. I asked him if we could get together and talk. I met up with him at his place and we drove over towards Mulholland Drive. Everything moved at a snails pace. We cruised up Laurel Canyon and past the Laurel Canyon store where Mama Cass and Jim Morrison once held sway. Jerry eased the car up the hill in traffic. “You see, I started skating as a means of transportation. This was way back. It was for going to and from school. I liked it but it didn’t really bite me at first. I had balance and that stuff through gymnastics and martial arts at that age. I didn’t really get broke off right away because of this. Most people that slam hard in the beginning, quit pretty quickly. My balance and sense were well-developed and I knew where I was in the moment and that’s really how you have to be when skating.” I understood what Jerry was telling me. I felt the same way. When I’m skating, I can really think of little else. Pure escape. In the moment.

“I used my skateboard for transportation at first all around Hollywood where I lived. I ended up meeting some guys that skated and we became a crew. Marc Smith, Dave Ferry and a couple of other people. We were just getting through high school. We started skating on clay wheels at that time… there was this magic shop on Hollywood Boulevard and they had this little novelty glass case with the first Cadillac Wheels we had ever seen. We were like, “They would be insane!” I eventually scraped enough money to get a set and I had an immense feeling of ‘awakening’ riding those. One day we walked into this liquor store and there on the shelf was Skateboarder magazine. We couldn’t believe it! A magazine for us. We had never seen it. On the cover was Greg Weaver. Right then and there, I said to myself, ‘If this guy can get on the cover of a magazine, I’m not going to stop until I do.’ That moment was when I made the choice to drive myself and push beyond anything I had previously done. I became committed to a lifestyle.”

Mulholland wound its way off into the distance as Jerry and I drove the spine of Los Angeles. The ridges slipped down into canyons and I could see the San Fernando Valley spread out to my right. Houses hung from the ridges and often I could see a pool shimmering in the afternoon heat. Jerry swung the car towards the left and slowed down. I could see a chain link fence with bushes and trees masking it. Vines wove their way through the fence and one could barely see what was beyond it. Jerry switched the engine off and waved for me to follow him. We walked up the hill and he stopped at a spot between two huge trees. I recognized the place. Skyline ditch.

Skyline

I recalled this spot from a long time ago. The magazines had photographs from the catch basins in the Hollywood Hills. Jerry pointed out the surrounding houses. “Many of these weren’t here back then. We went from riding the streets, to bombing the hills of Mount Olympus — before the houses were built — to riding Bronson Park and Skyline.

Jerry and the Mount Olympus crew

Each of these spots had its local riders so we got to meet others like ourselves. At Skyline, I met Kent Senatore and some other kids. It’s amazing how these spots all tie in together. When I started skating swimming pools, I was living in Hollywood at Cockroach Haven. My dad said I had to get out, so I left. I ended up being an early couch surfer. Ultimately, I ended up staying at Kent’s house in the tool shed.

Val Surf Ad

It was at this time that I went into Val Surf with Kent and saw all of the high-end, great equipment that they had. It really opened my eyes. I had a bit of recognition by that time in the skate scene and the Val Surf owner said, “Let’s try a sponsorship.” I was starving so it was pretty easy to agree to that. Val Surf never really wanted to pay, but they gave us a bunch of merchandise and that’s how we did it. Rode one. Sold one.

Skyline. 1976 Image- Wm Sharp

Jerry Valdez
Skyline 1977 Image- Wm Sharp

We walked around the edge of the Skyline catch basin. It was surreal being there with Jerry. He sat on a tree stump and continued. “We rode all of the catch basins in these hills. Vipers was really good and we spent a great deal of time there. More people started coming to these spots and sessions were pretty heated. My friends couldn’t believe the stuff that came out of my mouth but I learned early on that I could say the craziest thing and then I’d push in and take a run. I got respect very quickly. It was a lesson I utilized again and again. I just psyched people out and then let my riding speak for itself. We were starting to ride pools more often at this time as well. We would do these little demo things for Val Surf and kids would say, “We got this great pool.” We ended up riding pools that way. They just started coming to us. I believe that’s how we ended up at Buddha pool. I took Hugh Holland up there and to the catch basins very early on.”

Jerry Valdez
Vipers
Image – Hugh Holland

Jer at Vipers
Image: Hugh Holland

Jerry Valdez
Buddha pool
Image: Holland

We drove back across the backbone of Los Angeles. Mulholland rose up against the sky and Jerry kept his eyes on the road as he spoke. I asked him about his early days. “We were just skating on the streets and sidewalks. As skateboarding exploded in popularity, we evolved with it. I never had a global picture… a big picture in my mind. Stacy Peralta and a few others had that vision. I never did. I was just trying to make a mark. I would’ve never believed that I’d go from skating the sidewalks of Hollywood to skating in a half time event in a coliseum! It was like that. They were the craziest times and those times moved very quickly.”

Jerry talked about the pools in Los Angeles. I was particularly interested in the legendary pools of the times and simply pools in general. He turned the car down Coldwater Canyon and continued, “We would do it much in the same way you do it today. We had a crew where the vibes were good and we could push each other harder every session. Every pool was that way. Sometimes we’d ride it once or twice and others remained for a time. Pools always come and go… you know how it is. We’d be on to the next thing.”

Jerry at Corral Pool
Image : Wm Sharp

Jerry Valdez Ranch Pool 1977 Image: King James Cassimus

Jerry in Laurel Canyon
Image- Wm Sharp

Jerry -San Fernando Valley
Image: Wm Sharp

We drove into Hollywood to stop for some food. As we cruised through the city, I told Jerry how I thought most people walked around as if they were being filmed in a TV show. They all think they are so ‘Hollywood’. He laughed and stated, “I’m from here. I was Hollywood in yearbooks. I had been homeless for awhile and couch surfed. As the skateboarding thing took off, I found myself traveling more and more. The Pepsi Skateboard Team started up and it was really something. I was an original member and the Pepsi team helped put skateboarding on a larger map. We did demonstrations all over California, the midwest and east coast.” I recalled seeing the Pepsi Half Pipe at one point and photographs of it in the magazines of the late nineteen seventies.

Jerry Valdez LA Coliseum 1977 Image: King James Cassimus

Pepsi Team

 

Pepsi Team
Jerry, Marc Smith, Gregg Ayres, Stacy Peralta, Gordie and Lonnie Toft

Jerry started relating how skateparks started being developed and how concrete contractors were trying to make these parks without understanding skateboarding itself. “These guys never rode. They had no idea about transitions and hips. No idea about what worked. They just built the things. There was a guy we met and he worked for NORAD and built missile silos for the US Government. He called Val Surf and invited Marc Smith and I out to dinner. He was building a skatepark and was smart enough to want an experienced skateboarders input. We ended up designing Endless Wave in Oxnard and two other parks. Endless Wave in Oxnard immediately became a hotbed of activity. Everyone started making the drive up to Ventura County. The sessions were intense and there would be a hundred people standing around watching.”

Jerry at Endless Wave Oxnard
Image: Wm Sharp

Jerry at Endless Wave in Oxnard
Image: Wm Sharp

Jerry in Vans Shoes Ad

Jerry continued, “It was at Oxnard that I shot one of the early Vans Skateboard Shoe advertisements. Around this time, things were happening for me. I was getting paid and traveling. Skateboarding was changing fast. I had met Stan Sharp and also William. They were shooting the Altieri brothers early on and began to come shoot at the pools we were riding. They were always taking photographs for the magazine Skateboard World. Torque Publications had a BMX and motorcycle magazine so they decided to come out with a skateboard magazine as well. Stan and William were the primary guys behind it. One day Stan said, “I’m planning a trip to the huge desert pipes on Arizona. I was definitely into that. It ended up being me, TA, Hackett and a few other guys. There was nothing smoother than those pipes. The surface was like glass. They were about twenty-two foot high but also only twenty foot wide. So, when you got pretty high up there, you’d turn and fly down so fast… often you’d be merely inches from the edge of the pipe. It was very intense. I had learned how to twist my body up in gymnastics when I was young and it really helped when I went frontside high up in the pipe. I’d push my hips and legs up and torque my body… I’d literally free-fall down sometimes as my body tried to catch up with my board.”

Jerry Desert Pipes Arizona
Image: Wm Sharp

Jerry owns the high line
Image: Wm Sharp

“By this time, I was going all over the place and riding. Our crew would hit a new park being built or opening up. We’d roll into the place and just go for it. We rode more pools and radical spots than most anyone else and — truth be told — everybody knew it. Mt Baldy, Arizona pipes, pools, parks…  we rode everything.”

Good Lord!
Jerry -Baldy Pipe 1977
Image: Wm Sharp

Jerry- frontrock at Marina del Rey
Image- Wm Sharp

Jerry deep in the Badlands at L Pool
Image: Wm Sharp

Jerry rock-n-roll at Oxnard
Image: Wm Sharp

Jerry frontside deathbox way before most.
Mondo’s Pool
Image: Wm Sharp

I recalled Jerry riding for Arrow Skateboards and asked him about the details. “Well, Pepsi actually sent to me to England and when I was there, I ran into Bobby Piercy. He told me that he was there and was working with a billionaire who was dumping tons of money into  an international skateboarding team. Bobby offered me a bunch of money, a car and a place to live. I ended up going to England and I stayed there over a year and a half. I brought a ton of skateboarders over during my time with Arrow and Traknology.

Traknology Ad

Traknology Ad with Jer, Kent Senatore, Bobby Piercy RIP, Tony Alva and Billy Yeron Image : Boyd Harnell RIP

We ordered some coffee and I scribbled notes. My fingers ached. It seemed as though everything he was telling me… was a pearl of wisdom. When I was sitting in my isolated frozen world of Pennsylvania in the late nineteen seventies, I studied the photographs in the magazine and dreamed. Now, here I was, getting a crash course in skate history… real stories. Truth.

Turningpoint Advertisement

“What about the Turningpoint Ramp?” I asked. Jerry sipped his coffee and slipped into a reverie. “Well…  that’s an interesting story. Scott and Kent Senatore’s mom had a very wealthy boyfriend and he was funding the construction of the Turningpoint Ramp. It was probably a half-million dollars. This was in 1978-1979. She also funded the film Skateboard Madness and other things associated with Turningpoint skateboarding. The ramp was clear plexiglass and wobbled around. It was difficult to ride but I agreed to go on tour with it and I feel that we ended up really putting that thing to the test. We’d regularly go way over vert on our carves…” Our Arizona pipe trips seemed to help prepare us for that ramp.”

Turningpoint Ramp

Turningpoint Image : Boyd Harnell RIP

Jerry -Turningpoint sequential
Image: Boyd Harnell RIP

Jerry at Marina del Rey
Turningpoint model
Image: Wm Sharp

Jerry sat back in his chair. He laughed and told me story after story. It would’ve been unbelievable except I knew all of it to be true. I’d heard some of these tales before and often confirmed by history itself. There are no versions of the truth… It just is. We finished our meal and headed to my place. I had a copy of the William Sharp book ‘Back in the Day’. I had poured five years of my life and anxiety into making the book as good as I could get it. Jerry was predominantly featured along with about a hundred other skateboarding greats. He looked at the book page by page. His eyes wandered over the images. Some brought a laugh, others a story… history written by a victor.

Jerry at Marina

He turned the page to the Marina del Rey skate park section. He paused… there was an image of him in full layback position. He pointed to the expanse of white paper to the right side of the photograph. “My life has been a crazy ride. With nothing, I created everything that is good in my life and it all goes back to skateboarding. He tapped the white paper… your life is a blank sheet of paper. It’s up to you how you write it.”

Thanks to Jerry Valdez for the words and experiences. Thank you to Noemy. Thank you to William Sharp, King James Cassimus, Hugh Holland and Boyd Harnell RIP for all of the great photographs. Be kind out there… Ozzie

Parting Shot

Jerry – body position tell-all

 

Rise of the Warrior

Robert Buchsbaum and his father

Rise of the Warrior

Descending from animals, humans still carry a fight or flight reflex. In some of us the fight reflex is more dominant than in others. It can be so prevailing that fighting becomes the whole purpose in life. Those of us have no choice but to dedicate their life to combat.
Robert Buchsbaum lived a life dedicated to martial arts. He was a warrior. It was his existence and his identity. Living a life like that is hard. Taxing. Tiring. It sometimes leaves you with nothing. Nothing left in you. Nothing left to fight. Then fleeing becomes your last option. The price you pay as a warrior. Robert Buchsbaum spent his last years in an old house in the middle of Los Angeles. Alone. Maybe he was tired. Too tired to fight. Maybe he started running. From what? We don’t know. But the pictures on the walls in his house, his martial arts books, his medals and his Gi were still telling the story of his life. A life dedicated to combat.

Robert Buchsbaum

He may have passed, but his spirit will live on in some of us. He left us his pool. The Equalizer. It was a great pool and it soon became legendary. Some of the best skaters came to ride it. There were heavy sessions for a time. Then the house got torn down, the coping pushed in and the pool buried under piles of dirt, mud and concrete. It was thought dead. Lost forever…

Tristan Rennie
Image: Tim Aquilar

Chris Gregson
Image: Tim Aquilar

I’ve been fighting my whole life. I’ve always felt the urge to fight. It was as if being a fighter was the only justification for my existence. I finally became a martial arts competitor. A life dedicated to combat. However, I haven’t fought for awhile now. I’ve started running. From life, from people, from myself. I never knew why I ran, I just knew where I didn’t want to be. Running without a destination. I ran far from myself. Maybe further than was good for me. Sometimes, we look back on our life and find pivotal moments where our life turned sharply. I believe that this is where Change Agents push you off your life path. They push hard. They tear your identity apart. They shatter your soul. They suck everything out of you to leave only a shell behind. A shadow of your former self. It’s not always for you to know if it’s for the better or the worse. You might find out… at some point. But it’ll be too late.

I was finally preparing to compete again. At the same time, we received a phone call. The Equalizer was still there. It had survived. Silently, secretly. It was as if it had been hiding. Maybe it had lost its identity for a while.  But it had been there the whole time. It was crushed and filled with trash. The bulldozers tore huge scratch marks on the surface. Broken plaster. Broken tiles. No coping. It took hours of washing the walls, filling the big holes and scratches with concrete and lugging mud and water out. It was worth it. We gave the pool a second life. “The Warrior” was reborn. On this day we took our first runs in it. Out of nowhere a slide appeared in one of the dirt piles on the edge of the pool. It showed Robert Buchsbaum on skis in the mountains. 1959. His house — and everything in it — had been gone for almost a year. It was hard to believe that this small slide had survived. I think that it was his way of letting us know that he was there with us and he was proud. The pool had changed. Obviously. It had changed from something extraordinary to something… even greater. At least for us.

In a pool that was thought to be lost forever, we were able to skate in peace for as long as we wanted. It was ours. Ours alone. We got to spend long, sunny, happy afternoons there. It became our Garden of Eden. After the first session I laid in the deep end. For the first time in an eternity my thoughts stopped racing. It felt as if the walls of the pool shielded off everything that had tortured me. It was protecting me from all the grief and the negative thoughts of the last months. For the first time I felt… peace. I’m slowly starting to feel like myself again. Like my old self? Certainly not. But like myself. In a different way. Not without damage. Like the scratch marks in the plaster of the pool, I have scars on my body and my soul. Like the tons of dirt that had buried the pool, I had been almost dead inside. Like the missing coping, I’ve lost parts of my identity.

Anna Kemper

But something had remained. One small piece of coping was still there in the right corner of the face wall. A piece of hope. Something in me had survived. My fight instinct was still there. Not fighting against somebody. This time, fighting against myself. When skating a pool, the ultimate goal is to grind the coping. I started working on grinding that last piece of coping.  It became my mission. My obsession. The Warrior had to be grinded. I finally made it. I knew then that the pool and I needed each other. I had helped the pool to get a second life as much as it had helped me to be reborn. We had helped each other to rise from the pain and the destruction. Neither of us had made it without damage. But, we were still here. We had persevered. We were still alive, and we were fulfilling our purpose again.

Thank you Robert Buchsbaum. We will always be grateful for the Equalizer / Warrior.

Words- Anna Kemper

Images- Tim Aquilar / Ozzie

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Existence

Brake lights glimmered in front of me as my drive came to a grinding halt. “Fuck” Traffic snarled and festered on the I-5 north. Cars lined the freeway in a long metallic arc away and into the sun. I worked a path off to the next exit. Under the interstate, people lived in metal clumps that once were automobiles. Flat tires, car hoods, tarps draped everywhere… Tents were erected around this and piles of junk oozed at every glance. It was like the last house on the block… The dirty disheveled residents mumbled to themselves as they moved about in the shadows. They reminded me of rats in a sewer. I asked myself, “Where did they go so horribly wrong? At what point did they go so far astray?” Questions and no answers. A man sat in soiled clothing. I could hear him yelling out loud at nothing. Maybe he was screaming to the voices in his head. He was sitting in his own feces. One could see it from the car as we drove past… I reminded myself that these were once children, bright eyed. Someone’s son or brother… back then, long ago… when a new day was dawning and everything was good in their world. I shrugged and wondered at their existence.

I pulled away from the next red light and quickly left them behind me. I passed an industrial section of town and moved further away and into the neighborhoods that stretched to the hillsides east of me. I could see houses perched there. Big houses. Rambling stone walls and thick granite. Deep pockets and family money… Long metal gates kept people away. Tall hedges — green and lush — hid the houses from prying eyes. Huge pools were set in back yards with perfect landscaping. I could see an owner in my minds eye. Cappuccino sitting in a cup, soft jazz from recessed speakers, smoothly going about their morning. Cell phone in perfect manicured hands. Smooth hands. Hands that never knew work. Hands that never picked up anything heavier than the cell phone they were clutching like a life preserver… Those fingers thumbed quickly from one thing to the next. They lived visually. I pictured them then… I wondered. It seemed that they lived a strange form of existence not unlike those beneath the freeway. They simply had better accommodations.

SFV Pete

Me

I arrived at the pool of a friend. We weren’t always friends. It’s a new thing we are trying… I thought back to when I was young. Impulsive. Angry. I drank too much and didn’t care who got hurt… However, I wanted more out of life and decided to try and change. I didn’t even know if I could. I quit drinking and fucking around. I applied myself to my dreams. It took awhile to find them again but I did. Eventually, I found my own path and as I sat in front of my friends house waiting for the crew to arrive, I knew I was right where I was supposed to be. I knew I had found more in life than mere existence.

Liam Pace
Front Feeble

Raney Beres
Fastplant

Eric Hutch
Texas Plant

Lance Mountain
BS Air

The crew that arrive shortly after I did, were a complete wrecking ball. These were the best of the best. I was struck by the savagery of skateboarding ability that lined up to ride. These were skaters that did not merely exist in their world. They were active participants. People that burned like a Supernova… incandescent. They were each gifted with an ability to push boundaries and in doing so, inspire others. Skateboarding is a gut-level thing. It is primitive fury and beauty all at the same time. It is far beyond simple existence. Skateboarding is a raw nerve-ending rolling down the street.

Tristan Rennie
Tail Grab Nose Bonk

AJ Nelson
Egg Plant

Grant Taylor
FS Grind

After the session, we all went our separate ways. Life moves in its own strange way. Time pushing us into an uncertain future. It waits for no one. The urgency of traffic, life, family pressures and social media are a constant reminder of why we skate. We skate to escape. We exist in a vacuum at times… the only time we feel alive is when we are rolling. In the moment. A finger on the raw pulse of life. Rolling makes life worth living . I only wish we could gift the rest of the world with what we have…  but then again, maybe not.

Thanks to Dave Swift for the images and SFV Pete for the session. – Ozzie

Reflections / Chris Strople

Chris Strople
Caster Quiver
Montana
Image: Bryce Kanights

In the nineteen seventies, everytime I skated near or with Chris Strople, he was charging. He was always lit on board and pushing his own limits. He was raising the bar for all of us in the game at that time. To me, it seemed like one day it was Chris raising the bar and the next day it was Wally. I have memories of his runs seared into my memory from the Pipeline competitions. Then, Del Mar Skate Ranch opened up and it became the southern epicenter for advanced vertical skateboarding. Chris was the one to watch. His mega-fast alley-oops were sublime. -Brad Bowman

Steve Alba, Brad Bowman, Steve Olson, Doug Pineapple Saladino and Chris Strople
Image: MRZ

Chris Strople was an innovator and ripper with style for days. He took skating to a new level by inventing a couple of tricks like the Alley-Oop and the Rock-N-Roll board slide, which are now standard tricks in todays world of skating. – Doug Pineapple Saladino

Chris was a force to be reckoned with from the minute I saw him skate in person. He made an impression with his bowl and bank skating, but I was stoked on his pipe and pool riding as well. Being a local at Pipeline in the nineteen seventies was amazing. The Upland Pipeline — along with the Mt. Baldy pipe and all of the pools — were on the main menu for all the people that traveled to the Badlands to ride and Strople was always welcome. I loved his backside airs over side stair ladders and his Alley-oops were all-time! He skated fast and did things more explosive than most. He had a clean style and did sick tail taps everywhere, along with inverts. Many Hester Series veterans brought something that became a  vert staple in modern skateboarding and Strople introduced the Alley-Oop, rock-n-roll slide and the rock walk/cess slide which are still  ‘main stay’ tricks to this day. For those who don’t know, Chris is a class act and natural-born skater and someone I can call a good friend for over forty years now. All Hail Chris Strople ‘Hall of Fame’ skateboarder. – Steve Alba

Chris Strople
Upland Pipeline
Image: William Sharp

Chris and I hung out a lot and shot together quite a bit… mostly at the Del Mar Skate Ranch. I was the team captain at Tracker Trucks and sponsored Chris. We took him up to Milpitas and Winchester and entered him in those contests. He almost won. I also got to witness him destroying the original Rampage half pipe in Encinitas with Warren Bolster RIP and I shooting photographs. – Lance Smith

Chris Strople
Skatepark Victoria / Milpitas
Image: Lance Smith

Warren Bolster RIP / Chris Strople -Rampage Ramp
Image: Lance Smith

In 1978,  Professional skateboarding came to NorCal and like many people,  I was unimpressed by the media stars at the time. We saw these guys that were new to the scene. Heavy rippers like Dave Andrecht and Chris Strople. Chris was doing huge airs.  He was smooth, stylish and blasting. He’s why I got into backside airs and alley-oops. Chris Strople was the guy I saw and wanted to ride like. The guys featured heavily in the magazines at the time, turned out to be different than who you thought they were. – Scott Foss

Chris Strople
Rad Ramp
Image: Warren Bolster RIP

It was easy to make Strople and Wally heroes.  They were stylish AND aggressive; pioneers that were pushing the boundaries at the very beginning of pools, ramps and skateparks. You could tell by the smiles (and the Heinekens) in those old photographs, that they were having more fun than anybody. Inouye’s Pool Service. Caster ‘boing’ Skateboards. Bio air. Remember Cess Slides? Alley-oops? Rampage? Trackers? Gull Wings?  It didn’t matter what they rode or where… they still had more lines and they’re the nicest most unpretentious guys you’ll ever meet. – Jeff Ament

Chris Strople
Ladder Air
Eshtray Pool
Sierra Madre
Image: William Sharp

When I first met Chris, I was working at Skatepark Montebello and Chris kept sneaking in and I was the one that had to kick him out. So I went up to him and said, “You can’t keep sneaking in. You have to leave.” His response was “I have pools.” I went to my supervisor Brad Strandlund (also my best friend) and said that this dude is okay and we need to let him skate because he has pools. From that day on, Chris and I became skate buddies and that has lasted over forty-five years. The pool above, is one of the pools he took me to. The best part about this photo is that its from the early days before boards went wide. Strople was one of the first skaters to take airs to new heights as shown in this photograph of him airing over a ladder. – Wally Inouye

Wally Inouye and Chris Strople
Image: Rich Burton

Chris Strople
Seal Bowl
Sierra Madre
Image: Rick Cortenbach

I can’t say that I know him, but he’s the reason I ever wanted to learn alley-oops. That Del Mar Skate Ranch sequence was seared into my brain once I saw it. – Tony Hawk

Chris Strople
Image: Bryce Kanights

What I remember most was watching two great friends pushing each other. Chris and Wally were always doing that with each other, but each were something completely different. The alley-oops were unreal. They were so smooth and flowing. I wanted to do them. – Arthur Viecco

Chris Strople
Upland Pipeline
Image: William Sharp

Chris was the first skater I saw wearing high top shoes… and a week later, we were all wearing high top shoes. He really started to emerge during the Hester Series and then he suddenly disappeared. I never understood why? He was a really good guy. – Stacy Peralta

Chris, was one of my favorite riders to shoot sequences of and his board slides at Del Mar Skate Ranch were insane! They were some of the longest at the time and his hand plants were extended to the max. – King James Cassimus

Chris Strople
Del Mar Skate Ranch
Image: King James Cassimus

Chris Strople was one of the first Pros in the magazine that looked inspiring to me. It was the things he was doing. Particularly, his backside airs and Alley-Oops. I saw the Alley-Oop sequence in the magazine … I was thinking, “What is going on here?” He’s actually traveling backwards in the air. This hadn’t been done. I hadn’t learned backside airs yet so I went to the skatepark and rolled down the roll-in. I grabbed early at the bottom of the wall and yanked Alley-Oop… I taught myself because of his skating. Chris inspired me to learn those and his board slides. I saw him do the long board slides and knew I had to go learn them immediately. I was totally impressed with his skating. On top of his game. He was a big name in skating and one to watch. – Steve Caballero

I met Chris through Wally Inouye. Wally was my neighbor. Those two guys got me the job at Del Mar Skate Ranch when it opened in 1978. Some of my early practice photos were of Strople in the keyhole pool. I still think he’s one of the best skaters of all time. – Grant Brittain

Chris Strople / THEN
Del Mar Skate Ranch
Image: Grant Brittain

Chris Strople NOW
Image: MRZ

I never met Chris back then… I do have one memory about Stan Sharps reaction having shot Chris doing  Alley-Oops in a backyard pool down south somewhere. Stan said something to the effect of, “…this guy is going to end your skateboarding career Kent.” Then he showed me the proof sheets and some 8X10’s. I immediately realized that Stan wasn’t joking! – Kent Senatore

Chris Strople
Bionic Alley Oop
Marina Del Rey
Image: William Sharp

Chris Strople was my biggest influence when it came to wanting to do high backside airs. Airs that were done with style and finesse. Seeing those incredible sequences in Skateboarder Magazine of Chris Strople doing his signature maneuver called the Alley-Oop, made such an impression on me. That trick and his photos are so seared into my mind that every time I do one, I actually tell myself I’m doing it to honor Chris. – Christian Hosoi

Chris Strople
Image: MRZ

All of my memories of Chris Strople were from the Hester Series and in the heat of competition. There was not much talking. It was just everyone pushing each other as this was early, when the best vertical riders were finally gathered together all on the same terrain. Strople was someone who stood out with amazing artistry, smooth style and powerful riding. His airs were legendary and his Alley-Oops were mind blowing the first time you saw them. So many things were seen in 1978. Rock-N-Rolls, Inverts, rolling out and in and very high backside airs. Strople was one of the best. – Howard Hood

Chris Strople
Upland Pipeline
Image: William Sharp

He was a super cool guy and I have to say that I’ve never seen a man fly backward so far with so much power. Wow! He was always so nice too… amazing skater. – Jay Smith

Chris Strople
Upland Pipeline
Image: William Sharp

Thank you to everyone for their thoughts and reflections about such an amazing influential skateboarder. Stoked. Thank you to William Sharp, MRZ, King James Cassimus, Bryce Kanights, Grant Brittain, Lance Smith and Rick Cortenbach for the images. Thank you to Chris Strople for being who he is. – Ozzie

Time Travels

Sometimes the only way forward is back. Tony Hawk had a childhood much like yours or mine. His dad took him fishing, he played baseball and soccer and loved candy. I’m unsure how he did at any of these things but once his brother introduced him to a skateboard, he was no longer like you or I. He quickly found his calling. Skateboarding is the thing Tony Hawk was born to do. Influencing millions would come much later in his future…

When he was young, he looked at Skateboarder Magazine and saw the equipment, the new skateboards and longed for them, and like most of us, he didn’t get them. Elusive. He did ride hand-me-down boards and gear for as long as the rest of us. Over the ensuing years, the Tony Hawk life story played itself out in front of all of us. ‘The Search for Animal Chin’ days… the Bones Brigade. Global impact.

Bones Brigade / Animal Chin / Pink Motel 1987

‘The Search for Animal Chin’ was released in 1987 and watching it was like having your eyes opened for the first time. It was like you suddenly saw things and understood them as never before. Metaphor… “Have you seen him?” Fun is where you find it, and fun has become our mantra. Recently, Tony finally had the opportunity to take a childhood skateboard dream and forge it into reality. He always longed for a Sims Taperkick. Sims made amazing glossy advertisements in the magazines. The boards were aesthetically perfect and the Sims team had some of the best riders of the era. That early Sims team roster was all-time. Tony recently located a Sims Taperkick, period-perfect HPG Gullwing trucks and Road Rider 4’s. Then, he reached out….

The Fishbowl AKA Pink Motel has become a ‘mainstay’ within the skateboard world. Skateboarding legends rode the pool in the nineteen seventies and it was featured in the skateboard magazines at the time. Skate TV was filmed there in the eighties. The evening session at the pool in ‘The Search for Animal Chin’ is a highlight in the film. Its been in books, magazines and TV shows. Tony thought it would be the best possible place to ride his throwback Sims setup. I made some calls… I wondered. We went forward so we could go back.

Gregg Ayres 1977 Fishbowl / Pink Motel

Fishbowl / Pink Motel

I received word that we’d be welcome to come skate the Fishbowl / Pink Motel and I passed on the information. A crew was assembled and we all arrived at the appointed place where past and present met. Tony Hawk, Lance Mountain, Rob Loriface, Anna Kemper, Jason Ellis, Dave Swift and myself walked the edge of the pool and talked among ourselves. It was interesting to watch ‘The Search for Animal Chin’ in the days leading up to this moment.

Tony Hawk

Rob Lorifice

Me

Jason Ellis

Anna Kemper

Anna Kemper had some interesting thoughts as ‘The Search for Animal Chin’ was filmed before she was even born. The future generation…  inspired by the past. “In the car,  I realized I was wearing a Steve Caballero sweatshirt and had my Mike McGill reissue ready for a skate session with Tony Hawk and Lance Mountain at the Pink Motel pool. I was tripping. My ‘Search for Animal Chin’ had begun. Pulling into the parking lot of the Pink Motel felt like a time jump. I got in the car in 2021 and got out in 1987. From what I could tell, nothing had changed. The vintage pink and blue Pink Motel sign, the pool, the old rusting cars in the parking lot, all sat under a blue sky. 1987. Tony pulled up and cruised into the pool with the Sims Taperkick skateboard and wore a  vintage Skateboarder Magazine headband.”

Tony Hawk

“As the session started to heat up, the borders between generations started to fade. The future melted into the past and created the present. The moment. All that matters. I first felt like a tourist, but I slowly began to feel like I belonged here. We were all in this session together. Everybody was ripping and trying tricks. Laughing. Cheering for each other. Having fun. Being in the moment. The session culminated when Tony and Lance started trying to get Inverts on the face wall. It was obvious, that they had left 2021 and found themselves back in 1987. The session came to its peak when Tony and Lance made their Inverts back to back. Unbelievable. That day at the Pink Motel,  we all found Animal Chin. After all these years, he was still there, and most likely will still be there for future generations to come.”

Lance Mountain

Thanks to Tony Hawk for taking us back. Thanks to Dave Swift, William Sharp and MRZ for the images and Anna Kemper for the thoughts. Ozzie

 

The Warrior

Robert Buchsbaum

The Warrior

Robert Buchsbaum stood at the doorway. His big brown eyes watched the boys from the Japanese martial arts school. They stood perfectly in rows. Uniforms white and clean. All of their movements were crisp and efficient. Lifetimes of tradition woven into the fabric of the country. Honor. Discipline. Sacrifice. He was in Japan and found himself the outsider. Everywhere he went… it was palpable.The Japanese were too kind and never said anything. No pointing fingers or dirty looks. It simply wasn’t their way. Inscrutable. His father was an interpreter at the US Embassy in Tokyo. They had come from Los Angeles that summer. Pretty soon, he knew he’d be in public school here. His fathers assignment would last three years. He’d already started learning the Japanese language. Later in life, he’d look back on this day. A bright yellow sun, a blue sky, the white uniforms and perfect fluidity of the young warriors martial arts kicks and strikes and a longing that took him on a lifelong journey. He’d find himself sitting in an armchair in Cheviot Hills in Los Angeles. He would be old, tired and broken. He thought of all the years of training, the self sacrifice and preparation to be a warrior. His greatest battle would end up being time.

Robert Buchsbaum

As the years flew by in Japan, his ability level increased at the martial arts school where he trained. His love for the martial arts and combat consumed him. He loved the way his body felt. The iron discipline. It felt good to master himself. He returned to Los Angeles in his late teens and had already trained himself to a high level. His fathers connections soon helped him begin training in fencing, Kung Fu and boxing. He found himself in school during the days and every evening he was lost in combat. Bloodied and sore, he’d drive home to his parents house in Cheviot Hills. He’d take a hot shower and go swim in the huge square pool behind the house. The normal things that interested other young men, meant nothing to him. Girls, cruising, booze. He felt these were a dead-end. All that mattered was mastering his body and his mind. His entire focus walked on the edge of a knife… the gleaming blade, his stance, the weight shifting on the balls of his feet… It became his entire existence.

Time. Its relentless hand sweeps through everything. It leaves nothing. It takes all we have and all we’ll ever be. Robert moved through the shadows in the late afternoon. The windows were dirty as was the rest of the house. His parents had died in the nineteen seventies and he’d sold his condo and moved back into the house in Cheviot Hills. Cluttered. He’d never really got around to going through their things. He just closed the doors and lived on in the rest of the house. He saw his martial arts equipment in a corner. Unused. It had been years… he couldn’t move like he once did. Vitality and flexibility were a thing he no longer knew. Youth was a stranger’s face mocking him in his infirmity. He parted the curtain and saw the gardener watering the pots on the back porch. He waved. Robert saw the shimmering water in the huge square pool… it had been a long time since he swam. “I should get in the water again.” He thought. “It would probably be good for my joints.” Turning away, he sat back down. “Maybe another time…” he mused. Robert sat there, an old man, in an old house and idly thought through his past. The sun spun through the afternoon heat. He thought of his training, the warrior he once was and the battle he prepared for and never fought. Robert felt his advancing years in his bones. That night when he went to sleep, he couldn’t know that his battle was finally over. Sleep took him one last time.

Arthur Viecco

His Shadow On Every Wall

Arthur Viecco pulled his car to the curb and looked the house over. It was sagging there under the heat of the afternoon. The trees were overgrown, the yard a mess and it had a heavy unused look about it. Arthur’s friend bought homes and was involved in developing properties. He had bought the property from the state after Robert Buchsbaum had passed.There were no relatives. He’d told Arthur that the pool there was massive and the home would be demolished. Knowing Arthur was a skateboarding legend from the seventies, he thought it might prove to be a good pool for skating. Arthur looked it over and realized that the walls were big and round. He got a pump and the pool soon sat empty under the afternoon sun. Arthur called me and I went by. We walked through the house. Robert Buchsbaum. His entire life lay inside those walls. Every dream he ever had, every long night awake and sleepless, every fortunate and unfortunate occurrence… it was there with glaring realism. There were piles of clothing, shoes and the furniture still sat where Robert had last sat… it made us quiet and sad. In a closet, a pile of sixteen millimeter movie spools sat on the carpet. ‘Italy 1960’ was written on one canister, ‘Christmas 1957’ on another. These were scattered with photos and slides. His entire life discarded. It was grotesque in its abandon.

We walked around and took it all in. The fragility of life. Paper-thin.  I found a teak wood shelf filled with martial arts books. I saw his belt certificates and I found his Karate Gi. His belts were all there to show his rise in Karate and the combative arts. Martial arts equipment and books on fencing and combat were strewn about. I told Arthur “This man was a warrior.” It was hard to reconcile all of the discipline, training and achievement with the mess we were looking over. His shadow was on every wall. We finally called in some friends and rode the pool. I was haunted by Robert Buchsbaum, his demise and the fact that all he ever was, would soon be a pile of rubble. We took his Karate Gi and photo and hung them up. Respect. Honor.

Tribute

Every session became a tribute to him, at least for some of us… The pool was big, deep and you had to step up to it. One had to be a warrior. Arthur called the pool the Equalizer. I think he felt the pool challenging enough that it had a tempering effect on all who came there. The pool made you give one hundred percent. If you didn’t charge in full-throttle, you came away with nothing. The pool was the ultimate opponent.

Brad Bowman

Lance Mountain

Arthur Viecco / Equalizer

Tony Alva

Axel Cruysberghs

Grant Taylor

Raney Beres

The sessions became a weekly thing. We knew that the pool wouldn’t last. If anything, this property reinforced how fleeting life can be. One look around the remnants of Robert’s house made that abundantly clear. Life waited for no one. Soon, word came down the line that permits were secured to demolish the house. The next time I drove over, a green construction fence was wrapped around the property. The endless cycle of life, death and life. The sessions increased and the pool demanded more from everyone.

Terrell Schmidt

Tyler / Gone Cemental

Patrick Ryan

Jake Reuter

One of the things that I noticed immediately, was the intensity in the sessions. The pool made each skater battle it out. Hardly one of us would walk away unscathed. It seemed fitting, given that the homeowner had been one to challenge life in the way that he did… In every session, someone was at war with themselves. Apropos.

Tony Alva

Howard Hood

Grant Taylor

Me

Mami Tezuka

The power company appeared one day and installed a new power box and pole in the back corner. That same week, all the trees and shade in the backyard were gone. It was like some giant hand had reached down and moved things around like a chessboard. Huge trees gone, giant piles of lumber stacked, concrete bags and pipes scattered along the fences. Progress… just not the kind I like. I walked through the house after the last session there. I saw an old first aid kit, razors, tea bags and medicine from the nineteen nineties scattered across the filthy carpet. Someone had come and piled the living room area with old appliances, furniture, wires and clothing. I picked up a postcard from the floor. It had a foot print on it. Smudged. It showed a handsome couple dressed in winter clothing at a ski resort. In big red letters it said , “Greetings from Paradise.” I looked at the pool and thought of the sessions we’ve been having. I laughed under my breath… “Paradise indeed!”

Darrel Delgado

Tristan Rennie

Elijah Akerley

Robert Buchsbaum spent decades becoming a master of the martial arts. Pain, sweat, injury, self denial… things — as skaters — we can completely relate to. For us, there’s no other way. People live their entire lives collecting stuff. They go to school, collect a few letters to put after their name, some gather trophies, others ribbons and banners, some collect cars and wives… the list is endless and ultimately sad. These are but small victories on the long, gritty road of life. As the great end is sweeping in, we find ourselves standing before only one opponent and it’s the same for each of us. Time. Time always wins. Rest in Peace Robert Buchsbaum. Thanks for the lesson and the fun. – Ozzie

Thanks to all of the photographers, skaters and filmers that contributed to this story.

Robert Buchsbaum RIP

 

Steven Lippman

Steven Lippman
Marina del Rey

In any endeavor, there will always be some that were a bit overlooked or those that fall by the wayside. When we were doing the book ‘Back in the Day’, I came across many images of skaters that were absolutely ripping. Parks, pools, pipes, ditches, banks… every aspect of skateboarding has unsung heroes. Steven Lippman is one of those. William had some amazing photos of Steven and I found out through others of that era, that he was basically a Reseda Park grom that came up through the scene in the mid to late 1970’s. When everything took a nosedive in the early 1980’s, he discovered surfing and devoted himself to it. I decided to do a quick Q&A with Steven and I leave it here for your edification. Ozzie

Steven Lippman

Steven Lippman

I started skating very young. I went to the parks and ended up riding mostly with Shreddi Repas, Don Szabo, John Harris, Jay Smith and Bert Lamar (off and on). We were mostly on the Sims Team together so it was a natural thing for us to ride consistently at places. I personally never really  cared what we rode, just as long as I was skating. Backyard pools were great though… They gave me a feeling of being — in a way — one of the elite. I had a sense of being a part of the growth of skateboarding. Special. It was just us, no one around. Pushing limits and each other.

Steven Lippman
Mondo’s Andrecht

Once we were sponsored AM’s, we really worked hard to get better at skating. Our crew would spend hours every day at the parks… we wanted it. Back then, you had to do really well to get products and be a top AM. It seemed that we didn’t get the focus from the photographers and magazines that some of the other riders received. Stacy Peralta did a great job of taking the Powell Peralta riders under his wing and getting them that exposure. I can say this, we were in the finals with those guys nearly every contest. Looking back, we definitely gave it one hundred percent.

Steven Lippman Skatercross

Steven Lippman
Oasis
Image: Mukai

Steven Lippman
Andrecht Reseda
Image: Sharp

I think that in those days, I looked up to the riders around me. We motivated each other and pushed it together. Shreddi Repas was insanely good! He didn’t get what he should have as he was as good if not better than everyone out there. I liked Brad Bowman, Steve Olson, Kent Senatore, Jerry Valdez.

Steven Lippman

Looking back, I recall that some of my favorite sessions occurred at Marina del Rey. We had some amazing sessions there at night. Everyone was riding well and ripping. I remember Christian Hosoi and he was like ten years old… It was a time of pure progression unlike anything else. I rode the Vans Pro/Am at the Dogbowl around that time. I did inverts and airs. I held my own. I took third place there.

Steven Lippman
Marina del Rey

Shortly after that contest, I quit. It is the one great regret of my life. I tell my son that all of the time. I had discovered surfing and just fell in love with it and the entire beach life. Sun. Sand. Waves. Once I discovered surfing, I realized it gave me the same sensation as skateboarding. I took what I knew as a skateboarder and implemented it into surfing. I soon began entering surf contests and  sponsors recognized me. I found myself competing every weekend. I surfed all of the NSSA’s, WSA and PSA contests. Surfing had now became my way of life.

Skateboarding disappeared and I eventually gave away or threw out all of my trophies and boards. At the time I was young. I thought, “Why hang on to this stuff that I got as a teenager?!” I’m skating again and I love it. I rode Angelo’s bowl in Malibu recently. The old muscle memory is still there… though it hurts more than it once did. I’m grateful for the times I had with the people I was with. I wouldn’t trade that for anything. Thank you to William Sharp for capturing my youth.

Steven Lippman
Image: Trevor Pikhart

Steven Lippman / Malibu Image: Dave Weems

Thank you Steven Lippman and all the photographers that sent images. Ozzie

Dust & Desolation

The heat pressed in on us from all sides. In the San Fernando Valley, that’s a way of life. Heat. Dust. Desolation. We drove through it. A pool awaited. A backyard plaster beauty;  its blue tiles welcoming with cool water… a respite on a hot afternoon?  No. None for us, thank you! We are more visceral than that. Our need is a much more primitive thing. An inner engine that pushes us to push ourselves. We met up at the familiar place. Climbing out of our cars, we greeted each other… the heat again, a palpable thing. The sun felt angry. So be it. We were there to do our thing and its a thing that can barely be explained. How to explain, the unexplainable.

Jesse Lindloff

Patrick Ryan

The San Fernando Valley is a hothouse of sprawling apartments, ranch homes, concrete ribbons of roads going no where and everywhere all at once. The sun has been out for hundreds of years. Its an old and tired friend. City after city offers up plunder for those that seek. I can’t count the days and money I’ve spent searching for pools… If the truth were told, no one would believe it anyway. Such is Planet Hate.

I realized a long time ago, that virtually nothing I do matters. The only thing that does, is the way I treat those around me. Pushing pools and stoke out into the great cold distance. It’ll out live me. My dream. Jesse Lindloff, Josh Peacock, Patrick Ryan, Lance Mountain, William Sharp and I slipped into that dream… its one of my own making. I know I’ll never trade it for the world.

Lance Mountain

Jesse Lindloff

Patrick Ryan

Thanks to William Sharp for the images. – Ozzie

Wesley

 

Tommy, Wesley and TA

I met Wesley at Angelo’s in the summer of 2012. He was a sparkler on the 4th of July. He put it all out there. White hot… that’s how he lived. It seemed that way to me. He struggled with life like most of us. Sometimes he was caught in a safety net but sometimes…. there was nothing. Then he’d reappear later, threadbare and tattered like a rumpled flag. Wesley would hoist himself back up again and wave above us at times. He was that sort of person. We’d walk behind as he would run. Now the lamp expired… and here we are.

Angelo

Christian Hosoi

Tony Alva

We gathered in Malibu where we first met. Everyone came together to ride and think on these things. Friendships and accidents. Life and living. The meaning of it all. Driving home with TA afterwards, we spoke of Wesley. We wished him peace. It is a hope I carried with me all day today.

Bennett Hirada

Scott Foss

Jim Gray

Rest Wesley- Love, Us

Thanks to William Sharp for the images. Thank you to all that came and sent Wesley into the great unknown. Rest brother… XO

Always Remember

The fountain of youth is often drained.

3.31.21. It’s been a year. In the midst of the most chaotic and confusing times we have all been experiencing, and through a sea of confusing and constant changes, some things haven’t changed at all. One of these constants is the void left behind when Jeffrey Grosso departed this mortal coil far too early. Everything went black. There is no other way to accurately put it into words. This void has given rise to the discomforting concept of having to speak of a dear friend in the past tense and the constant reflection on that painful reality. Perhaps delusion would be easier, living in a constant state of denial. Pretending. But that’s not the path anyone should take. The catharsis may remain incomplete for years to come and it may or may not be true that time heals all wounds. It hasn’t helped that the pandemic prevented us from being able to come together to mourn as well as celebrate our friend’s life. But let this not be a long-winded lament, nor tear-invoking eulogy, nor a string of endless reminders of our collective grief. As I often remind myself the last thing Jeff would want us all to be doing would be soaking in a lukewarm bath of self-pity and never-ending sadness. He’d be screaming at us to get out and get it on. How could he not be? He was that way in life and that is what should echo into eternity.

Gordon Lightfoot. The undisputed King of the Ollie

I first “met” Jeff in the mid 1980’s. It was just prior to his defection from Schmitt Stix to Santa Cruz and he came to a session at the Page Mill vert ramp one day, unannounced, with no real fanfare or egocentric flair. I use the term “met” loosely because Jeff and I didn’t have any sort of real conversation, just the normal banter of a session. To say he left a lasting impression would be an understatement. His skateboarding was a full power trip, every move done with authority, and he would stand up straight through the flat heading towards each wall as if he were looking for a fight. Needless to say, when Jeff jumped on Santa Cruz, I rode perhaps a dozen of his Demon Bat decks. A year or two later we crossed paths at the Kennedy warehouse a couple of times. The 80’s nod/what’s up was about the extent of our interaction. Now if anyone had said to me back then: “One day Jeff will be one of your closest friends and you will be creating the majority of his deck graphics”. Well, I would have said that they were both imaginative and full of shit. But 20 years later, that friendship and working relationship started in a completely random and organic way. Ray Zimmerman and myself were the chief content creators for Concrete Disciples, a website that was dedicated to pool, pipe, park, and other forms of transition skating that the standard media had mostly abandoned in favor of street skating. We would organize events and invite our community to come out for an all day shred fest. Jeff showed up randomly at one of our so-called “bomb drops” in 2004. It may sound silly but I couldn’t help fanning out on him and I was honestly surprised that he even showed up. He rolled right up to me, extended his hand, and told me he was a fan of my writing, before I had a chance to work up the fortitude to even approach him without worrying about saying something completely stupid. We made some small talk about skateboarding and sobriety, perhaps even the weather. Some days later Jeff called me out of the blue and wanted to talk skateboarding, I’m not even sure how he got my number. We spent some 3 hours on the phone during which he put me through a sort of friendly interrogation about my life in skateboarding and we swapped stories of the variety that are seldom believed unless you actually witnessed them. By the end of that call, It felt very much as if we had been friends for years, which was mind-blowing because it started as a random call. Thus begun a friendship and a relationship in which we shared highs and lows, countless hours of skateboarding, travels, intense dialogues, and a nearly daily download of thoughts, ideas, feelings. What surprised me about Jeff, I soon discovered, was all based in my own stupid assumptions about what kind of human being I thought he might be. Rare are those who carry themselves with the the level of honesty, generosity, and self-analysis the way Jeff did. Some of his “flaws” were what made him such a charismatic and lovable person. Self-deprecating to a fault. OCD and mildly neurotic. Unafraid to make mistakes, but never afraid to admit them. He seemed to be in a constant state of evolution as a person, even if on rare occasions he might have taken one step forward and two steps back. Sometimes down, never out.

Smiles were never in short supply.

Way back in 2009 Ray Zimmerman and myself decided to publish a Grosso interview feature on the website. The following is the verbatim intro to the piece.

___________________________________________________________

If you ask most people to run down a list of their favorite skaters of all time, 99 times out of 100, Jeff Grosso will be on that list, and usually near the top of it. To a skateboarder, the reasons for this are obvious. One of Jeff’s tricks is worth at least three of anyone else’s. So much Power, so much style, his skating is truly in a class of it’s own. A beautiful and raw thing to witness, a true show of greatness. But to an outsider, a non-skateboarder, Jeff might not even rate as a “decent” human being. Why not? Well Jeff didn’t have the fabled and illustrious competitive pro career, with dozens of contest wins. He turned pro when it all went to shit. He didn’t become a poster child for milkTM or become a marketable commodity that could be paraded on television
for the sake of selling products. Jeff didn’t become a household name synonymous with video games, cheap Chinese made toys, or extreme sports stage shows. Instead Jeff floored it, down what some might consider to be the highway to hell. This is a recurring concept that we have seen repeatedly throughout history in the lives of the gifted, the brilliant, and the talented. “Fuck it. Fuck it all.” And in the last year or so, when Grosso was getting some coverage and interviews, it seemed as though a large part of those features’ focus was his ride down that so-called highway. Since he isn’t afraid to tell anybody anything, most of us are already familiar with the basic story line. Why dwell on the same old shit? I’ve been fortunate enough to witness Jeff’s skating in brief installments, from early on, right up until the present. Mile High, Page Mill, Upland, Del Mar, Kennedy Warehouse, and on and on. The one characteristic that has always struck me about his riding is how such a big powerful guy can put such finesse to a trick. I have often imagined video footage of his runs in which a giant exclamation point would flash on the screen after each trick. It just seemed somehow appropriate, because everything he does is carried out with authority. That’s the thing with Grosso, he tells the absolute truth through it all. In an era where we could all use a lot more truth, in times where the bullshit is piled higher than the drop-in for the mega-ramp, we should all be very grateful that he is here. His skateboarding is among the purest truths ever told, along with his words. – BLKPRJKT

____________________________________________________________

At some point, a few years down the road from that interview, Jeff made the following absurd statement: “You and Ray singlehandedly resurrected my career.’ Ridiculous. He did it all by himself. We were simply documenting the process and we were honored to do it. His humility, coupled with a sharp sense of humor, and his penchant to make flamboyant statements. Personality disorder or endearing traits. But all of it was 100% genuine. No punches pulled, no holds barred. Warts and all. I have never laughed as hard or smiled as much as when I talked with him.

Grosso practicing what he preached. “Tuck your fucking leg when you do a boneless.”

Not long after Oliver was born, Jeff told me “It’s so fucked, I haven’t slept in 3 months, I love this kid, a total terrorist already”. Jeff and Ray had a deep and close friendship, and when Oliver came along they shared fatherhood stuff. Jeff would often tell me about how he would find himself out of patience and at the end of a so-called rope with regards to being a dad and how much he appreciated Ray’s counsel when it came to raising a child. When Oliver began skating, that bond of skateboarding and being a dad they shared only grew stronger. They would go off on skate adventures together and I would get downloads of stoke from Jeff after each and every one. Seeing how Jeff interacted with Oliver, his intense love for his son was blatantly obvious. Through everything, Jeff’s love for Oliver, for his family and friends, and for skateboarding never wavered.

Rad Dads

Throughout the years of Jeff’s professional tenure with Anti Hero, I had the distinct honor and privilege of doing several of his graphics. Our interactions surrounding the art will always be among my favorite memories from this life. He encouraged me to let it all fly, to never hold back, and he never once treated me as a “sensitive artist”. His brutal honesty made him a far better muse than most artists are worthy of. Each and every graphic was an honor for me to create, and it never felt like “work”. It was quite the embarrassment of riches to be his personal art attache to Anti Hero, and I never took it for granted.

Assorted graphics shenanigans.

A lot of love and passion went into each and every graphic, it wouldn’t be possible to do any of them without approaching them in such a way. He eventually dragged me into working on the graphics for the Love Letters to Skateboarding with Buddy and Rick at Six Stair as well. Jeff was always quick to help a friend or extend an opportunity to someone who needed it. That’s just how he was.

The infamous “End Game” graphic and the un-released “AHRP Skate Coach” graphic.

Love is really the key point of Jeff’s legacy. His lasting imprint is everywhere. Enough photographs to choke a horse, video footage spanning 4 decades, and 10 years worth of the Love Letters To Skateboarding. But more important than the documentation is the impression he left on nearly everyone whose lives he touched and the pure love for skateboarding and skateboarders he shared with us all. For my part, I will remain eternally grateful for the all-too- short time we shared and the indelible mark he left on my life. We laughed. We cried. We rolled.

–BLKPRJKT

Friends.

Thank you to BLKPRJKT for the words and memories on a continuing painful subject. Thank you to Ray Zimmerman for images and my heart goes out to all of Jeff’s family and friends. He made the world a better place and is missed. – Ozzie