From 1989 through most of 1991 I was never made aware that the whole skateboarding scene was being twisted and morphed into something largely misunderstood. Skateboarding in my teens was no longer wholesome. Long gone were the original “Bones Brigade”.
From the time I was 12 onwards, I never heard of Natas (the actual skateboarder), I never read nor seen Steve Caballero . I had heard of Mark Gonzalez, but never seen any VHS tapes of him nor any other [then] professional skateboarders. In my teens I never read many back issues of Thrasher skateboard magazine.
Transworld, another skateboard magazine, was non-exstintant to me. We had a spin-off of Thrasher called, “Skateboarding” from 1991 to my recollection and it was quite bland. It was geared more towards a “pre-processed”, all junk, no newsworthy nobodies off the streets that tried their first generic Veriflex and/ or K-Mart blue light special “Nash” skateboard for the first time. The skateboard clothing was in my eyes very “no frills”. I’d say “preppy”-looking, almost borderline on Grunge even though the Grunge scene was still years off into the future.
The clean cut image that I know from the late 80’s skateboarding generation was still there. The clothing that my older brother did hand down to me was Vision Streetwear. I always wanted that t-shirt depicting a 1950’s lady in tears, a comic strip design with her thinking 💭 “Oh, God, why can’t my boyfriend skate?!” And the boyfriend, (a Clark Kent-looking dude), is depicted on the shirt as stepping into the room. This t-shirt debuted around 1989 in Thrasher magazine. Finding the same t-shirt nowadays from this era will set a person back a little bit. There are reproductions of said image, but it doesn’t appeal to me: the new re-issues, that is.
I still find the original design hilarious 😂 and it happily takes me back to my younger days when I laughed seeing it for the first time via mail order in Thrasher magazine. The t-shirt came in white. The comic strip depiction, black and white.
Another iconic hand-me-down from my dear brother was two large/ x-large t-shirts; Rat Bones (Powell Peralta) rat with crossbones in a washed out, faded red color, and another skateboard t-shirt that stated; “What part of…(reverse of t-shirt stated); “NO don’t you understand?” The shirt was sending a wrong message, but I cherished every article of skateboard clothing that my brother wore out and gave to me. I remember safety pinning a pair of flimsy material Vision Streetwear shorts that were very baggy on me. They were beige in color, and had a crackle pattern design. The fabric was very thin, so I often had to wear a long t-shirt untucked to cover my assets. 😂 I couldn’t believe the low quality that Vision Streetwear produced in the late 80’s/ early 90’s. Maybe it was a supply and demand thing. Vision Streetwear was extremely expensive back then. But even high-priced clothing doesn’t always mean “better” nor even long lasting, either.
Skateboarding and anarchy; what I didn’t know…
Well, in retrospect I can see how skateboarders got ridiculed a lot by society as a whole. In fact, skateboarding in the late 80’s/early 1990’s was breaking away from a once wholesome image of “do your own thing” and protective gear was being less depicted in the magazines if it was street skating/ public building, parking lot areas and downtown skateboarding.
I found myself being ostracized all the time in the Podunks I lived in. There was no skate parks yet. I skateboarded wherever I felt like and wasn’t aware back then that skateboarding on a downtown sidewalk is illegal. Oh, well, live and learn. I was never busted and I doubt the cops would have cared much in the Podunks so long as you showed respect, shared the sidewalk, obeyed traffic laws, and weren’t going all Willy nilly wrecklessly on a sidewalk. Street skating took guts. In 1990-91 there was less traffic. Driving distractions with modern technology wasn’t around yet. Motorists would honk, shake their fists, maybe even shout a profanity if you deliberately ignored them, but for the most part, I’d skate on the margin, near the shoulder of the street with traffic, seldom against it unless going home and I couldn’t find a route to get me there. Skateboarding for me was about transportation as a teen and less about seeing how many stupid ways could I think of to potentially hurt myself.
When I street-skated, I wasn’t relaxed. I rode my board fast and stiff-legged. I struck those dumb pebbles, rocks, twigs with a jarring skid. I went air born a few times, never skinned myself badly, ironically. I would just “pretend” to make my skateboard come to a screeching halt, and I would two-step (or three) off it with my feet. Sometimes, I’d for no apparent reason, just dismount instantly (jump off) if anything grabbed my attention.
I never learned to grind the tail to a stop simply because I wanted to preserve the life of my first Vision skateboard. And tail (tail bones) guards were unpopular and would slow down your speed. Tail bones were by 1990-91 standards highly unattractive. You were a poser and made fun of if your 80’s deck sported a jaw bone (nose guard) and a tail bone. Those accessories were like a soccer mom van in the mid-1990’s, no teenager wanted to be caught dead with that additional “protective” physical baggage being an eyesore.
My Vision Gonzales had both jaw bone and tail bone which made me cry 😭 when I picked up my brand new deck from the skating rink. My brother worked his magic once we managed to buy the deck. The major hold up was the skateboard kiosk couldn’t sell the deck to us with that hardware pre-removed since it would be a potential liability/ lawsuit waiting to happen had I ever gotten severely injured. Hearing that the protective “baggage” had to remain on or else no sale just made me weep at 12. Hey, I was a kid. I didn’t like having something so close to me,especially a new expensive gift being taken from me right before my very eyes. And secondly, I thought my skateboard was my decision and I’d get exactly what was shown in the advertisement I seen in Thrasher. But all these rules… bah! I was irritated by “stupid rules” at 12. I was entering my “I want it this way,” not “you can’t have it because I say so even though I’m not your parent,” phase.
My brother worked tirelessly to make “fat lady” right with me and to my specifications we had already planned on. He involved me in on our massive undertaking: skateboard overhaul.
Once home, deck in shrink, I recall I had tore through the shrink wrap with my small hands. I was giddy! I was the first to get my small fingerprints all over that beautiful deep red stain. Fat lady’s neon yellow face and neon blue hair weren’t spared my touch. I christened her; “Big Bertha” after a babysitter my brother and I adored when we were just toddlers. I doubt Erma is even around anymore, but she made a positive impact in our young lives whenever mom had to head off to her second job to keep us above poverty. I never knew as a child the greatest sacrifice my mother had made for us; Providing us with a better life. I appreciate all that mom did for us and continues to do for us.
Now, Mom and I were going rounds with my first skateboard, the top image was questionable for the times, mind you. The late 1980’s were still about censorship galore. And religion played a huge role dictating what we can/ can’t hear in way of music. The “Tipper sticker” was an ever-common eyesore to my generation. Lyrics were questioned a lot. Bands were subject to controversy, our music as we knew it, was being blamed for the cause of our upcoming generation’s problems. When instead, the Washington wives failed to take into account the bigger picture and look at the shape of the current state of the nation, rather.
Skateboarding was seen as rebellious. It was falsely categorized as having ties to druggies, satanism, anarchy, drop outs, and societal degenerates, basically nowadays it falls under the “rock n’ roll listening weirdo, hell bent on never losing touch with that ‘young kid at heart'” category.
And skateboarding in the 21st century might be reverting back to its once wholesome “do what comes natural” roots, or something seen as a way of life for some. My era was an age of innocence that somewhere along the way collided with a bad erroneous reputation that damn near ruined skateboarding for many years to follow.
I dropped off the skateboard map in 1993 when I was 16. I didn’t like the ushering in of the Grunge scene. At 16, I rode a bicycle 🚴 and swore to myself I’d never pick up another skateboard. To be continued…
Oh, and Thanks to all my followers out there. Thank you for sharing and comments always welcome. 🤓 🙃🤙