Friday, December 30, 2011

Tony Hawk #3.

The T-Bone might be one of the most maligned wheels ever. It was designed as a vert wheel, but it did make a few appearances on the streets. I had a Powell Peralta Mike Vallely elephant with some white T-Bones. This would have been at the time when I was really starting to get into skateboarding so naturally I picked out the same gear as the pros I liked. I was excited to have the elephant deck in yellow with the brand new Powell wheels until I actually started riding the thing. The Vallely had a weird shape and a shorter tail that did not agree with the 67 mm wheels attached to it. In retrospect, it seems obvious that since Mike V. skated mostly street with smaller wheels that his board would be designed to those specifications. But at fourteen or fifteen you aren't thinking about the board dimensions, the wheelbase or length of the tail and how this directly corresponds to the performance of a skateboard. You just want what looks cool and aren't making the connection as to why suddenly your feeble ollies are looking a little more feeble. I'm glad we don't have this problem today since all the boards are the same.

Anyway, I sold the Vallely to a friend who loved that deck, maybe a little more than you should. I think I replaced it with a Blockhead Mark Partain and some OJ Street Razors, which was a much more enjoyable setup. I kept the T-Bones and they made another appearance at the end of the year when I got a Steve Saiz debut pro model for Christmas. I had this thing about keeping everything Powell if I was riding one of their boards, which is why I busted out the T-Bones from storage. I had blue rails, white Thunder trucks with the little lizards on the baseplates and the Schmitt Stix Shox Blox risers to complete the board. The Saiz was a larger board with a bigger tail so everything worked out alright. Now that I think about it, this was a good setup as a whole and I recall getting better at skateboarding while riding it.

As skateboarding became more street oriented in the early 1990s, anything that was seen as dated instantly became a target for the pacesetters. This included the T-Bone, which was reissued in a slightly different second version. As was often the case with a World Industries company, any time a chance to make fun of Powell came along they went for it and Plan B did just that. Plan B made the point that four of their 42 mm wheels used the same amount of urethane as one T-Bone. I guess this was considered some degree of progress. For functional matters, both a 42 mm and a 67 mm wheel are at opposite bad ends of the useful scale, although a 67 mm would probably still be good for vert. It's not like skateboarding knows when to stop at pushing the envelope of useful product design.


Vert Is Dead will be back on January 3. Have a good weekend.

The T-Bone vs. Plan B picture is from a late 1991 or early 1992 World Industries catalog.

Transworld - October 1988 Volume 6 Number 5

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Speed Freaks.

Speed Freaks was the first of two all encompassing videos released by Santa Cruz that showcased their entire wheel team. The other was Risk It, which is noted for Danny Way's almost successful 900 attempt as the ender. Given the sheer number of team riders, each video is long and full of lots of skating, sometimes great, sometimes not so hot and sometimes just a guy bombing a hill for twenty seconds. There were several notable individual parts, as well as shared parts and montages.

It's interesting to consider that Santa Cruz was a wheel sponsor to skaters who didn't ride for one of their board companies. Nowadays that doesn't seem strange, but in comparison to Powell Peralta, the other major wheel manufacturer, it was different. If you were sponsored by Powell, it was the complete package. Today they do sponsor separately for wheels and bearings, which makes better business sense, but back then, they did not.

As for Speed Freaks, the video followed the classic Santa Cruz format with lots of raw shredding and a soundtrack heavy on SST bands. There were not a lot of special effects or arty filler. Since the wheel team was so large, you were more than likely to find footage of pros that you only had sort of heard of or your favorite obscure skater alongside the bigger names of the day. It felt like you got to watch an everyday session. (From a production standpoint, a good number of the parts probably were filmed in a day or two since there were a lot of people.) I think this is part of the appeal of the video to me, in much the same way as the Neil Blender, Lance Mountain and O section from Ban This.

Speed Freaks included strong parts from Tom Knox, Eric Dressen, GSD, Mike Vallely and the ever quotable Jeff Grosso. There was footage from a SMA tour with Natas, Jim Thiebaud, Mickey Reyes and Julien Stranger in the mix as well. Finally there was also the classic antics of Neil Blender and Steve Claar goofing around at a thrift store. I'm leaving out a ton of stuff, but you can search it out on internet.

Note: One thing in the video was that the title graphic that introduced each rider included what size and type of wheel they rode.

Transworld - January 1990 Volume 8 Number 1

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Alva Wheels.

Wheels for Daggers.

This ad is a good sampling of the Alva team with Dave Duncan, Chris Cook, Eddie Reategui and Jim Murphy.

Notice the wheel sizes range from 60 mm for street and 63.5 mm for ramps and pools. The wheels also come in a variety of hardnesses - 92A, 95A and 97A. I think whether wheels were hard or soft used to be a much bigger factor back in the day. These days everything is pretty much the same. I'd like to think that the technology behind wheels has improved. This morning I watched Neil Blender's part in Footage, Jeff Phillips' part in the Tracker Brotherhood video and Jason Jessee's part at the Sadlands from Gullwing's Full Power Trip. Neil's part got me thinking about how wheels probably had to be bigger and softer back in the late 1980s and very early 1990s because we were skating some uneven plywood monstrosities of mini ramps. You needed those extra millimeters to get over the cracks and seams.

I also watched Neen Williams' part from the Shake Junt video. That kid brings a large degree of style to the heelflip.

The photos are by Joe "Xeno" Lloyd.

Poweredge - July 1989 Volume 2 Number 6

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Chris Miller #8.

"Well, I just know that I like to do tricks where I move. I don't like going straight up or straight down. I like to move across the wall, to carve, to go as fast as I can. That's what provides the rush."

I like this quote from Miller. Use the whole ramp, please.

It's nobody escapes the wheel week.

Transworld - October 1988 Volume 6 Number 5

Friday, December 23, 2011

Jeff Phillips #11.

Number 900.

Never forget.

Jeff is the all time leader for page views on Vert Is Dead. It's great to see that people still care about him and his legacy. Jeff rode for Sims and then the Life's A Beach board company B.B.C. He was from Texas and one of the best pros in the 1980s and early 1990s. Unfortunately, Jeff took his life on Christmas in 1993. Some of his signature moves on vert included massive frontside boneless ones, airs to fakie, blunts and the Phillips 66. He was one of the early pioneers of skating switch on ramps, too. Jeff often wore a black helmet with a skull painted on it and was into building Japanese animation models.

Merry Christmas & happy holidays.

Vert Is Dead will be back on Tuesday.

Jamie Mosberg took the photo.

Thrasher - December 1988 Volume 8 Number 12

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Ray Underhill #4.


This is the intro to Ray's Pro Spotlight in Transworld. It was written by Stacy Peralta.

Ray Underhill was thirteen years old when he was infected with an obsession for playing the banjo. Shortly after his fourteenth birthday he entered a banjo and fiddle contest at the local mall, competing against musicians his own age as well as his music teacher. He walked away with first place. Says Ray, "I won something like $150 or $200, I quickly cashed the check and went to the local skateboard shop just outside of Nashville and sunk it into Rector gloves and a Santa Cruz seven-ply. That was pretty much the end of my banjo playing and the start of my skateboarding obsession."

Skating soon became the predominant component in Ray's lifestyle. At the age of nineteen he was running a clubhouse-style skate shop in the basement of his home. "It was real small-time, but it helped local skaters get equipment during the early 80s when all the shops were closing."

Around the same time, Ray, along with infamous Midwestern-Eastern skate-lifers, Britt Parrott, Bryn Ridgeway, Mike Hill, Jeff Kendall, Rob Roskopp, and Bob Pribble found the M.E.S.S. (Mid-Eastern Skateboard Series). The M.E.S.S. was an interstate contest series run by skaters for skaters, with natives of Tennessee, Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Virginia, and the Carolinas participating.

Says Underhill, "I believe it was the first, or one of the first, of its kind." The contests took place five to six times per year on homemade backyard ramps, each state providing an opportunity for its best skaters to compete. Ray was one of the organizing hands as well as one of its finest competitors.

Nowadays, Ray resides in North San Diego County, California. "I think the further west you go in this country, the more open-minded people are likely to be."

His close friends and skate confidants include Joe Johnson, Tony Hawk, Adrian Demain, Chris Miller, Sean Mortimer, and Buster Halterman. He supplements each day with a large dosage of skating at Hawk's Skateland, as well as an occasional session at Mike McGill's park or other local skate spots.

People close to Ray speak of his quick wit and good-natured attitude under any and all circumstances. "He's the greatest to tour with," says Ken Park.

The photos are by the late Sin Egelja.

For the quote: Transworld - July 1991 Volume 9 Number 7

Thrasher - May 1990 Volume 10 Number 5

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Remy Stratton #7.

"For all it's worth, I had a good time when I skated, and if people enjoy that then so be it, but if not there's nothing I can do about it."

A Vert Is Dead favorite.

Remy turned pro for G & S and then switched to Acme in the early 1990s. He injured his back during the Acme years and started doing sales for the company. At the time Volcom was located across the street from Acme and he started to help them with their skateboarding program. This evolved into him doing a lot of the ad layout and filming a couple of videos. These days he oversees the skateboard program at Volcom.

"I don't call myself a street skater but I love the Volcom park. I'm not going to say I can fend for myself on the streets [laughing], but I just love skateboarding so I don't care. Backyard pools are where my heart is at, but I'm not above any terrain."

For the quotes and information: The Skateboard Mag - October 2008 Issue 55

Transworld - March 1991 Volume 9 Number 3

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Jeff "Ffej" Hedges.


Ffej makes a rare street appearance away from his usual comfort zone of the halfpipe. He was noted for his inverts. He is still skating today and pops up every so often at contests and other events. I always liked his part in Streets On Fire where he skated around Europe with Claus Grabke.

Transworld - June 1990 Volume 8 Number 6

Monday, December 19, 2011

Jason Rogers.

Back to the grind.

Here's one more Transworld poster that used to be on my bedroom wall. I'm guessing it is from 1989 or maybe very early 1990. Jason was pro for H-Street. He rode for Natural before starting Arcade and Autobahn Wheels later in the 1990s. Both of those companies are still going today.

I had a pair of those purple and white Airwalks that Jason is wearing.

I'd like to extend a big thank you to everybody for the well wishes about my dad. He's been home from the hospital for a few days now following his heart attack. He needs to take it easy and get some rest, but he has been improving from day to day. So far, so good.

The sequence is by Daniel H. Sturt.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Mark Gonzales #11.

"Hellbow hover test conducted by Mark Gonzales."

This is another Transworld poster from 1989 that used to hang on my bedroom wall. I think this is the poster that made me a fan of the Gonz as he was around, but not as visible as other pros in 1989. This topic was discussed in depth over at the Chrome Ball Incident a couple of weeks ago by Eric and Mark. Hellbow was this massive mini ramp with a bunch of hips and spines in somewhere in Orange County during the late 1980s/early 1990s. It got a lot of coverage in the mags. I can imagine the neighbors were thrilled with living next to it.

Unfortunately Vert Is Dead is going on a temporary and unplanned hiatus. My dad had a heart attack over the weekend and is currently hospitalized for treatment. I have some stuff scanned and thought I could keep going with regular updates, but I'm not feeling it and need to take the break. Feel free to send good vibes and positive thoughts this way. Thanks for understanding and thanks to everybody that checks out this website.

The photo is by O.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Steve Claar #4.

Steve catches some air at the Linda Vista Boy's Club in San Diego. This is another Transworld poster from 1989 that was hanging on my bedroom wall a long time ago.

The photo is by Grant Brittain.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Eric Nash.

Eric rode for Sims. He is from Arcadia, California. He acquired the nickname the Crusher on a tour of Australia. I was always a fan of Nash because he seemed like a good guy who was down for skateboarding.

You've been known as the Crusher. Do you still arm wrestle?

My arm wrestling days are over. I ruined my arm last time. I didn't lose, I was just beaten unfairly. I arm wrestled everyone in Australia and in a wild fluke I kept beating everybody. Jeff Grosso had bet me all my life but I started getting him all the time. Then it came to Christian Hosoi whose arm is half my arm's height. Christian was the only one who beat me and he lifted up his elbow. The name Crusher came about when we were in Australia doing our tours and we were being interviewed by TV or radio and the guy asked me if I had a nickname. Just to make them laugh I said, "Yeah, I have a nickname," and the first thing that came to my head was Crusher. Crusher Nash. The hottest thing was that throughout that entire demo he kept calling me the Crusher. It was fun.

For the quote from an interview with Bryce Kanights: Thrasher - October 1990 Volume 10 Number 10

The photo is by Sean Sullivan.

Thrasher - January 1990 Volume 10 Number 1

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Mark Heintzman #3.

Mark won the 1988 NSA Amateur Street Finals and turned pro for Gordan & Smith after that. He is from Fairborn, Ohio. G & S dominated the amateur contests that year with Blaize Blouin winning vert as well.

Here's a question and answer session with Thrasher:

I'd like to see different things at streetstyle contests other than quarter pipes. Maybe schoolyard, bank or curb contests.

I started skating in August, 1981. Mike Hill was a big influence, he lived up the street. The Jay Adams issue of Thrasher was also influential.

I want to finish high school first, then go pro. Skating will probably die down soon and it will be make or break for the lame companies.

I skate because I like to. It's fun. Some people skate because it's there, they're just going through the motions.

Don't mess around in contests. Do tricks you feel comfortable with and can make.

Schoolyards with normal everyday situations. Mike Hill, Rob Dyrdek, Eric Dressen, Mark Gonzales. The Columbus, Ohio NSA Central Regionals. Led Zep, Cream, Deep Purple, the Buzzcocks and everything else.

I don't like loud clothes. I really don't like people who dress in skate clothes when they don't even own a skate. As a matter of fact, some of my friends don't know I skate."

The photo is by Randy Janson.

For the quotes: Thrasher - March 1989 Volume 9 Number 3

Poweredge - July 1989 Volume 2 Number 6

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Lester Kasai #2.

Lester gets inverted at the Sadlands in Anaheim, California.

You would always see the Sadlands in photos and wonder about the place, especially if you didn't live anywhere near California. It seemed like something that wasn't real, but had to be because Neil Blender was always skating there.

Here is a bit of the story behind the spot from a Thrasher interview with Lester conducted by Rick "Spidey" Demontrond:

Where have you been skating most lately?

At Sadlands. I go there almost every day with a couple of friends. We'll get some food and go out and skate, find some pools, find some ramps, whatever's going on.

Is it valuable to have a spot like Sadlands where you can go every day?

Oh, yeah, you need something like that. You've got to have a spot.

What's the Sadlands story?

It's been around for years. It was around before I started skating. I remember seeing a photo of it in an old, old Skateboarder. They built it for no reason, just to resemble the moon. We call it Moon Park or Brookhurst Park. They used to try and stop us from skating it, but we didn't pay any attention. They never bothered to change the terrain to stop us.

And you guys keep it cool around the park, don't bother the family picnic?

Yeah, we're pretty cool to everybody. We take care of it. We're the Sad Posse. A lot of gang people think we are a gang, so they come around to check us out. We're just skaters, not a gang. I don't want to be associated with that so we don't do any more hit-ups (paint on walls) to encourage them. If some gangs come around and spraypaint stuff we just paint the parts over. The gang activity in our neighborhood used to be pretty heavy, but we haven't seen that much lately. I'm tired of the gang scene.

Any hot underrated locals at Sadlands?

There are a lot of shredders. The young guys come, we call them the Dream Team, because they're not ripe yet, they're just coming up. They rip the Sadlands.


Grant Brittain took the photo.

For the quotes: Thrasher - October 1989 Volume 9 Number 10

This is a scan of a poster that was included with an issue of Transworld from 1989.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Neil Blender #6.

"This world is in no rush, just the people in it." - Neil Blender

This is a drawing Neil Blender did of Eric Nash driving. It was used as a board graphic on G & S. I scanned this in from a sticker that I have. I'm guessing it would be from 1988 or 1989.

My friends and I had been skateboarding a couple of years when Powell Peralta's Ban This came out in 1989. I got the video for Christmas. We were all into Powell and Santa Cruz at the time as those were the big companies that dominated skateboarding. They were pretty easy to latch on to because they had the best skaters and the best products. But there was a segment in Ban This that started to change my way of thinking about skateboarding. It was the part with Neil, Lance Mountain and the photographer O. It showed the three of them skating sketchy ramps (sometimes in Neil's living room), having band practice and goofing around doing silly antics. The part was rather lo-fi compared to Stacy Peralta's normal high level of production, which made it stick out. To sum it up simply, it was fun. You felt like you could relate to Neil, Lance and O because they were just like you and your friends. It was somewhat of a breath of fresh air or more likely an intermission in the 77 minutes of high quality skateboarding and editing techniques that made Ban This. There's nothing wrong with all the best, but sometimes you just need to chill out a bit and have a good time. That's an important sentiment to hang onto in this day of big time contests, private skatepark enterprises, internet beef and corporate sponsorships. Relax.

Note: The Blender quote is from Gary Scott Davis' The Best Of Skate Fate 1981-1991 book.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Brian Lotti #4.

Now and later.

This photo of Brian is from the 1992 Thrasher calendar, meaning that it was taken in 1991. I had to crop out the month info at the bottom of the page, which slightly results in the dreaded floating in the air without a frame of reference composition. The photos used in the calendar were adjusted to fit a full two page spread and fit around the month. It looks nice, but is somewhat unusable in terms of scannable material.

It's going to be stuff from 1988-1990 from here on out to the New Year.

For the new Spitfire ad, Skate Mental's Dan Plunkett bluntslides the massive banister in front of the former Jim Kelly's Sports Grill and Network Club in Buffalo. In an appropriate Skate Mental moment, I saw Ween there back in 1995.

Sleeper was the photographer.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Mike Carroll #10.

"Not quite Koston over the Lukang gap. Sorry."

Old school December starts tomorrow. I'm done with the year 2000, as it has dragged on for far too long. I thought that since skateboarding was getting bigger that there would be plenty of material for an in depth look, but oddly there wasn't. In the future, I'm not going to spend more than a month on any one time period, so 20 to 25 scans tops before changing it up. Carroll seems to be the right way to end this section as he has roots in the late 1980s/early 1990s and will be a perfect transition to what I have planned next.

This particular photo of Mike is from when Lakai was a company, but they didn't have any shoes made yet. You can tell because he is wearing the second Eric Koston model from éS with a Lakai shirt. It takes a lot less time to make t-shirts than it does sneakers.

For Friday, it will be that guy who rode for that one company, made an amazing video part, then switched teams and disappeared for a long time.

Thrasher - March 2000 Volume 20 Number 3