chrome ball interview #22: rick ibaseta

chrome ball sits down with rick i for conversation.

Alright Rick, let's start at the beginning: how’d you get introduced to skating? What was your first set-up?

My older brother used to push around and carve but the earliest board I can remember was a burgundy fiberglass board with silver flakes called the GT Spitfire. I bought it in on a family trip to LA with twenty bucks my uncle gave me when I was 9. My first real pro set up came in the 7th grade: the first Lucero with Independents and black OJ’s.

Who were your influences early on?

I came from the Tommy Guerrero-school of skating. I thought you knew! It sounds funny but that’s true with just about every kid out here. Once Future Primitive came out and Tommy ollied that bush, we were hooked. Fogtown and Concrete Jungle pictures on the wall were truly inspirational. Natas and Gonz were also studied, of course. But nobody was more influential than the kids I skated with everyday.

Growing up in the Bay, who was your favorite Sick Boy?

Mic-E was always so raw. He’s the first person I ever saw do a frontside-halfcab kickflip... going so fast, completely out of nowhere. Skating with Mic-E always made you feel safe skating in places that didn't want skateboarding around, like the Blood Banks or 24th Street which was a big no-no back then. Arco was real smooth back in the day, too.

I remember the Sick Boys premiere at the Women’s Building being so amazing. Carroll and Jovontae actually had tricks in it but they were cut out of the VHS version for whatever reason. But my friends were on the big screen! There was a heated session at 16th Street Bart afterwards that was pure skateboarding madness.

So how did a kid from SF get hooked up with the very NY Shut posse? What was it like riding for them as the only West Coast kid on the squad?

Well, I was friends with Coco Santiago who was always back-and-forth from SF to the East Coast then. He, along with Shrewgy and Danny Sargent, had talked to the Shut guys about putting me on. Barker Barrett probably had a say in it, too. This was around the end of 1988. I guess I was the only West Coast rider on Shut, like the long lost cousin.

With Shut, I was stoked just to belong. I used to call those guys collect and they’d just chop it up with me for days, putting whoever was there on the phone just to say what up. You couldn't get their boards out here but as soon as I got on, FTC had a stack for the people. Kent always had our backs. Quitting Shut was never in the picture but rumors of an exodus or of the company going under fogged my brain. Plus, while all the other companies started rolling with a longer upturned nose, they kept with a bowl concave that was limited and somewhat obsolete.

When was the last time you talked to Coco anyway? What was that dude like coming up?

I just saw him at Potrero skatepark when it first opened. But before that, it must’ve been over 10 years.

Young Coco was raw... dropping in and doing backside airs at the HP ramp. Gnarly! Coco was a grown man skating in a kid’s body and could destroy anything on command. I always heard from old schoolers out there that he brought the slappy to the East Coast.

Mike Carroll was like his arch rival. They were around the same age but Coco couldn’t understand how Mike could do the things he could.

What’s your favorite thing about having grown up skating in Frisco?

Weather, the hills... not having to push. Not having to drive and just skating to-and-from everywhere. It is an exciting place to learn how to skate because the city streets were our skatepark and most of all, it wasn't accepted. At most places, you had one shot at doing what you came for.

What was the vibe in the City like back then? Specifically Embarcadero when it still hadn’t fully blown-up… like pre-91 when shit was going down there on the low compared to’93 after it had detonated and hundreds of kids would show up on the daily. What did you think of kids driving cross-country to skate SF and get fame?

Everyone knew everybody else who skated in the City and everybody would always trickle down to Embarcadero on the daily. It was like animals coming to the watering hole. It was always the place to skate or see skating. Pros like Natas, Tommy and Thiebaud would make rare appearances and show how they approached shit, doing things that weren't even in magazines yet. Bryce and Thiebaud would sometimes even bring jump ramps down late at night and we’d try ollieing into airs like Tommy… but only Mike Carroll could really do it. There was always a tight-knit group of skaters there, from the previous mid-80's crew to the later one that everyone knows as the EMB crew.

Our city became the Mecca and Embarko was at its center. Skaters from all corners of the world would show up and sit there like it was an arena. Crowds would just gather and watch. Find a spot and kick it. But I can't hate on someone that came out here to skate, they were just trying to follow their dream.

When did it become obvious that Embarko’s Most Blunted was gonna be more than just your crew… that the shit going down was actually changing skateboarding?

I realized this when people who used to talk shit suddenly came down with cameras, trying to blend in and yelling applause at you from across the plaza.

Tell us something we don’t know about your friend, Mr. Jovontae Turner.

Fully-extended frontside bonelesses to tail on quarterpipes all-day. Seriously, there was a warehouse in the Mission full of these makeshift ramps and he just kept doing them on one day. There's a photo somewhere, circa 1988.

And one time, I fixed his car with a shoelace.

Awesome. Carroll’s Questionable part or Henry’s Pack of Lies part?

I don't know… Henry could throw his board farther.

Good answer. Give us a good Kelch story.

I remember we were driving up to Vancouver in the Real van and James was telling me all these stories about acquiring classic cars. Caught up in the moment, I didn’t realize that I had just driven almost the whole trip with the emergency brake on. Our brakes locked-up every time we tried to slow down or stop for the rest of the trip.

…so we ate mushrooms.

(laughs) With so many kids either coming up or through SF, who were some of your lesser-known favorites? Who was one of those kids that should’ve blown-up and didn’t?

Out of all the countless rippers, I thought Tony Henry was gonna be the guy. Very innovative. He was the first person I saw do backside nosebluntslides and wallie-backside 180's. He had a real burly style. He skated for Thiebaud/SMA and eventually Real. A really bad ankle/knee injury set him back, if I remember correctly. Doug Saenz was a rubber band and another guy who could do anything.

What’s your all-time favorite SF spot? I know you used to skate the shit out of Brown Marble. And on the flipside of that question, what was one spot you just couldn’t fuck with?

Brown Marble was the shit but my all-time favorite was and still is China Banks, especially the inside part. Also good were Ft Miley with Bo Ikeda and Jovontae and the Casting Ponds when emptied. It was awesome seeing Tommy, Julien, Jeff Whitehead and Phil Chen totally kill it back in the day.

I always thought Pier 7 was lame.

From an outsider's perspective, you were seemingly down with everybody… from the older, hill bombing heads to the fresh-to-def EMB tech kids.... was there ever any type of beef there? It had to be tough for the older guard now looking through magazines and only seeing flatground pressure flips with tiny-ass wheels.

There was no beef because we all shared a common goal: destroy! On any given Friday night, you could find us 10-15 deep flying down Corbett with the likes of Stacy Gibo and Henry Sanchez, all ending up at the Safeway curb at the bottom. It was nothing but love and respect because we all skated. There was always something to be learned from one another.

Honestly, I don't think the “old guard" really gave a fuck cause they always had stacks of big wheels tucked away in shoeboxes for the occasion. Modern street skating was there to save the industry. It was freedom from pads and waiting your turn.

I remember one time stepping into Concrete Jungle and Mic-E and Julien had their boards in the vice with Mic holding what looked like a grinder. He looked like a mad scientist but he was actually grinding his wheels into a more functional, symmetrical shape. Julien was drilling his front truck holes back for a smaller wheelbase and a longer nose for nollies. This was so new. I was actually seeing skateboarding evolve and adjusting from what the industry was giving us.

Would you ever catch any of those older heads down at the fresher, new school spots?

When the clock struck midnight, the lurkers would show up and indulge on the Bricks. It was magnetic.

Speaking of Safeway, what’s one thing that sticks out in your mind about all those sessions with Danny Sargent there? Dude used to destroy that place…

Danny destroyed everything. First person I know to 50/50 a rail, first person to hurricane a rail, first person to do a lot of things. Pools, vert… you name it. He killed it all in the loosest style, teetering on sketchy but far more enjoyable to watch than the solid robot.

Now Danny got you on New Deal which led to your breakout Useless Wooden Toys part shortly thereafter. Didn’t you turn pro when that video dropped? I remember that all happening pretty quickly.

One thing that’s funny about that part is one of the Gruber brothers used the same song as mine in a Vision video afterwards. I still don't know if it was coincidental or if Vision was still vibing Schmitt.

But yeah, Danny got me on New Deal at the Earth Day concert in 1990. And I did turn pro when that video dropped. I was an 18-year-old high school drop-out with a new pro model, a fat check and a ticket to Europe. Suddenly the parents approved. What could go wrong? (laughs). Really I just wanted to skate and was blessed and lucky enough to have been given the opportunity to do so with some of the best to ever step on a board.

What did you think of the 1281 video when it dropped, with all of its super tech, pressure-backfoot-late-flip steez?

I thought it was a decent follow-up with lots of new faces. Pressure flips looked cool but there’s nothing like a good pop. Late-flips were inevitable after the late-shove craze but half the time the board hit the ground before you landed it. I couldn't do ‘em.

But you never know, things always come full circle. Turn the page and you might just see them again..... too late, just saw one.

Yeah, a lot of that stuff is coming back. I’ve always thought your 1281 part is one of the most slept-on parts of the decade. Were you pleased with it as your Useless follow-up? Seems like 1281 has more of your personality in there. And what’s the story with the Barley grind you have in there? Did you invent that trick?

I guess it reflected the skating I was into at the time. The Kold Blue song worked really well, too. Personality is cool but the bottom line is your skating has to speak for itself or you get left behind quick. You have to be so on it nowadays and kids are just killing it! It's a beautiful thing. Get your "Yeahs" kids.

The Barley Grind confidentials: I can't say I invented it, I just rolled with it. Donnie rules and does ‘em really good but Gonz did a 180-to-switch feeble in Video Days. Losi and Buster Halterman also used to do them on vert, too. My interpretation of that was a switch 180 to frontside smith on a bench. It was a case of monkey see, monkey do. That was pretty much the only time I did it and I did it first try. My original intent was to half-cab into a frontside smith but I got frustrated so I decided to try a switch 180 into it and it worked. Go figure.

So was New Deal just becoming too big at this point? How did Underworld Element come about?

My relationship was good with New Deal but the team had just become a huge stew of individuals with too many ideas. It was only a matter of time before it split. Andy Howell and I came up with the idea of branching out with Underworld Element while we were on tour. We wanted a company that would consist of underdog skaters from metropolitan cities that could hold it down.

How did Julien end up in the mix with UE? His style definitely made an interesting contrast with the company’s whole aesthetic... and his Skypager part is still the shit. How does that dude even film a part anyway?

Julien didn’t have a board sponsor at the time when Andy and I asked him to go to Atlanta for a skate project we were doing and the rest is history. We didn't even think twice about it. Julien rules. Just point the camera at him and everything just happens.

What do you think of Element now? I know you left on not-too-great of terms with those dudes…

I don't really think about it. It's turned into a really successful generic brand for the masses.

The company was already getting stale when I got a call from Andy saying that we weren’t gonna be friends anymore. It didn't matter though cause people were already leaving. Julien was on Real and Chris Hall had his headphones on. Rod and Eli asked me to ride for Zoo York with Pang when it was just starting but I was already gonna ride for Stereo.

Being from SF with all your Thunder and Spitfire ties, a Deluxe board sponsor seemed the obvious move. What happened with Stereo? Did you film at all for A Visual Sound? I remember seeing your name in an ad for it…

I got on Stereo along with Mike Frazier after ending up on tour with them in Europe. I thank Stereo for giving me the opportunity but I was too distracted at the time. Ethan Fowler and Mike Daher were coming up hard and it was a no-brainer for them to run with those dudes. There weren’t any hard feelings. Still love those guys.

If you watch Mike Cao's part in Let the Horns Blow, I'm the guy skating with the orange filter in front of the lens. That was a little footage I filmed for Stereo.

Talk a little about Menace. I know they were interested in picking you up during their early days.

Billy Valdez and I raged one summer in SF. The following winter, I was staying in LA with Christian when he said Kareem was down to get me and I think Mike Daher on. We just had to wait a bit. I was stoked. That team was sick and all about street but I liked being in the City and was already down with Deluxe so I went with the obvious. D’oh!

Damn. Now I know around the time when you were starting to plan Cream, you were bouncing back and forth to NYC a bit until you finally moved there briefly. Any particular reason for the relocation?

I just love skating new places and New York offered everything I needed at my disposal. NYC was loaded with skate talent but was somewhat forgotten at the time. All the focus was out west until Skypager came out then boom, NYC was on the skate map again. I went out there to look at a few schools but just ended up partying and skating. I liked skating Time-Life and the Bubble Banks and just rolling on the streets, finding a new spots around every corner. The gritty terrain and change of pace along with new friends to skate with basically sealed the deal. With everyone going west, we had the city to ourselves. The city and the people accepted me with open arms and I finally could realize the NY skate vibe that was Shut.

I remember my first time going to New York was during a road trip with Julien and Pang. Jeff was given the task of driving his sister's car back from Malibu to Brooklyn although he had no license and had never driven a stick shift. He ended up teaching himself on the way to Costa Mesa where he met up with Julien and I only to find out that neither of us had drivers licenses either. So we drove to Arizona without licenses, insurance or registration and picked up Randy Colvin, thinking he would have a license. Nope. I remember we taught Julien how to drive stick on an interstate exit and somehow made it through New Mexico and Colorado for a demo. We ended up picking up Gonz in Chicago and drove straight to Jeremy Henderson's place in NY where he took us in and showed us what was up. Respect.

That’s amazing.

Yeah, I remember Jeff's brother then borrowed the car and totalled it right after.

I always loved Cream. Sick team, ill ads, loved the whole vibe. Way ahead of its time. Did you always want your own company? And what ultimately ended up happening to it? All those Experience-affiliated companies were looking real promising there for a minute.

Who wouldn't want their own company? I launched Cream sometime after Stereo. Unfortunately, I wasn't ready. I didn't trust my partner and I always had my guard up. Plus, there were things that just weren’t adding up, like I'd show up at a spot and kids would be selling Cream shit. So I ended it.

Cream was family and Peter Huynh had it locked with the art direction. It was an excellent way for him to showcase his skate vision. It was also the time I think I had the most control over my board, I just really wasn't into it. Unfortunately, it was short-lived. It lasted a little over two years. No regrets though cause we definitely sparked something. Actually, we probably sparked too much.

(laughs) Well, what happened after that? Were you pretty much over skating at this point?

Everything was up in the air when I practically walked in to a desk job at Slap doing advertising sales. I just happended to be at High Speed one day and Jake asked me if I needed a job. Eben Sterling and Roger Browne took me under their wings and showed me how to be nice on the phone. It was funny because I'd have to call my old partner and ask for the overdue ad invoices.

So what’s going on with you now, Rick? Still skating?

I’m a family man first and of course, I’ll always skate. I’m fortunate to be able to ride even if it's just rolling around with my dog. I ride bikes and fish a lot. I also have a kids brand that we launched this year called "nimble". Look out for that… it's like Cream for kids. (laughs)

Are you happy overall with what you were able to accomplish in your career? Is there anything you regret or would've done differently?

Totally happy. I think as a whole, we inspired a generation of kids to go out and get theirs just like how we were inspired to keep the wrecking ball going. As an individual, I never looked at it as a career but I’ll always be grateful for being given the chance to see the world and meet some of the best people through skateboarding while wearing big ass jeans.
No regrets at all skating-wise but as a company owner, I could’ve been a bit more business-minded. I should’ve been the one out there selling boards out of my trunk, but I didn't have a car and preferred to just give the stuff away.

Thanks for doing this, Rick. Anything else you’d like to add?

I’d like to send thanks from the bottom of my heart to: Steve Ruge, Bruno Musso, Rodney Smith, Rick Blackhart, Mike Carroll, Jovontae, Kent Uyehara, Tobin Yelland, Luke Ogden, BK, Jim Thiebaud, Ruben Orkin, Fausto Vitello, Ed Riggins, Jeff Klindt, Dune and Jason Lee, Phelper, Lance Dawes, Gus Duarte, Steve Douglas, Paul Schmitt, Mike Pust, Andy Howell, Jeff Pang, Pete Huynh, Eli Gesner, Tommy Guerrero, Mark Gonzales, Jeremy Henderson, Julien Stranger, John Cardiel, and Joey Tershay. Finally, thank you Chrome Ball. It's so wiki when it comes to us washed-up pros. Really though, it rules. One love.

special thanks to rick and jon constantino.


chops said...

Thanks again to Rick for giving me so much with each answer, editing this piece was seriously painful as I honestly didn't want to have to cut a single word out.

Chrome Ball will return on Monday, March 21st.

Thanks everyone.

smorales said...

Super underrated. Smooth and solid.

Seabreeze said...

Best one yet for sure. And he definitely sparked shit for the rest of us, big ups Rick.

Keith said...

e! This interview turned out really good. I know its been in the pipe for a while lol

Always stoked on Rick I ever since his first New Deal promo. Always super good, original and stylish.

Anonymous said...

Here's a Jovontae Turner ITW I did... http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xc22d_jovontae-turner-itw-street-skater_sport

Anibal said...

that backside smith pic is permanently burned into my brain such a great interview chops youre killing it man continued success

more cream ads please profile experience era shit please

coco santiago!

Benjamin Deberdt said...

A classy act, delivered by Rick I.
Rare enough to be noted. Such an inspiration then, and again, after this interview!

dj twit said...

amazing read.
great to get some stories from one of the smoothest shredders ever

peel said...

he had me at "…so we ate mushrooms."

killed it

Anonymous said...

Another sick interview! Every time u get so much more interesting stuff out of the skater than any magazine does. Rick I always been a favourite since the New Deal promo and have been trying to get my hands on a copy of the Kold Blue tune since 1281 so if anyone out there has one??!

Justin said...

This is a great interview. Rick tells some cool stories.

Skateboarding Is has been posting Underworld Element ad all week so this was perfect timing.

Anonymous said...

Rick is pure style!

I always wondered why he suddenly disappeared. Now I know a little bit more.

Thanks Chops!

Though I thought it was weird and impolite that you made him tell so many stories about other legends. I wanted to hear more about Ibaseta.

chops said...

thanks guys.

yeah keith, a long time. at one point, Rick was supposed to be CBI Interview #2.

Anibal, there are already Cream and Profile posts up.

handsclapanin said...

"like animals to the watering hole"
I love it! I think I will start refering to my best spots as that from now on.
Thanks Chops!

priya said...

Wow, very cool idea and definitely creative... Adding your feed now. Thanks!

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