“...not my favorite skateboarder, but he’s my favorite person who rides a skateboard.”
Couldn’t agree more.
I’ve always been a fan of Thiebaud.... from his early days on Powell through earning Natas’ official seal of approval on SMA, up to and including his various duties over there at Deluxe. If there’s anybody that pops in my mind upon hearing the utterance, “True skateboarder,” it’s this dude.
Jim’s name was actually the stuff of legend around my house growing up. Truth be told, that first SMA Avenger board of his was the booty my Mom would utilize to “motivate” me into playing out my last season of little league baseball without quitting. It wasn’t that she wanted me to play… she didn’t want to go to those games either… she just didn’t want me to quit (a valuable lesson learned, aside from all that bribing).
So for an entire summer, that holy grail of boards danced around in my head as I sat in the dug-out, positively hating life at age 11. I was miserable… and played even worse. But I do get a kick out of remembering how I’d pep myself up at times by quietly doing my best version of a Sickboys voiceover impression (“Jimmmyyyy Theeeeeboooo!!”). This actually became my mantra of sorts until I could finally ditch the glove and begin my prospective lifelong career as a full-time misfit.
The autograph shown is from the third demo I ever went to in my life. It was in December of ’90 at Sunsports skatepark in Columbus, Ohio… a 2-hour drive from my quaint little cottage in the countryside. As I mentioned earlier, the Thiebaud name registered big in my household back then so once I told my parents that Jim was coming quasi-nearby on the very first Real tour with the one and only TG and a hot new amateur named Henry Sanchez, they knew they were in trouble. It didn’t really take much in the way of pleading as they could tell that they were either going to take me or deal with the high probability of me running away. Erring on the side of caution, it was my Dad that drew the short end of the stick.
Now I’m known for having a good memory but the details I can recollect regarding this day are pretty ridiculous. The combined forces of excitement and anticipation in a young man can really do wonders. I can tell you everything from the shirt I was wearing (a green o.g. Real logo shirt) to the board I was riding (Ed Templeton’s first New Deal Cat model) to the tape I was listening to in my walkman the entire way up (3rd Bass’ “Cactus Album Revisted”). I can also tell you that it snowed a considerable amount that day which served to put my dad in sterling mood for what was to be a very tense 2-hour Columbus migration. One thing became obvious despite how many times I could hear Prime Minister Pete Nice rhyme about his mazarahti… Dad was pissed! He could barely even look at me as he dropped me off at the indoor park while he went and caught a flick during the wait. “Dances With Wolves”, I recall.
But the demo killed. T.G. did those classic kickflip melons of his and Jim landed a fakie big spin kickflip. Ponytail power was in full effect. Sanch got into the mix with impossible boardslides at warp speed and some Canadian dude named “Sluggo” did his thing on the tranny. The shit was incredible and best of all (at least for the kids), there was hardly anybody there as the weather really took its toll on attendance.
As the demo started the die down, we all started to spill out onto the course to both skate a bit and maybe catch an autograph or two. Everyone was really cool… but I was so nervous. I remember going up to Thiebaud and thinking that maybe I should ask him if he wanted a cup of coffee to drink because I knew he liked it… (an unlikely choice considering he’d been skating for two hours, but what did I know?). Luckily, I opted for the standard autograph request. But it was not a standard autograph that he had in store. I remember he grabbed my nerdy little notepad and really started to go to work.... on something. I couldn’t tell what he was doing but I knew the secret of life was about to be unlocked right here in Columbus, Ohio by our visiting friend from the West. I remember there was already a crowd of people around but the longer Jim took to scribble, everybody in the immediate area started to gain interest in what was going on. There was really starting to be a buzz. Heads began to cock with curiosity. What was he doing? It was like that Little Orphan Annie Decoder Ring scene from A Christmas Story, only with Limpies product placement.
It probably only took about 30 seconds but this unexpected turn of events involving such an important personalized communicae from my main man was enough to throw me into frenzy. With one last scrawling line from his bic, he was done. “I hope you like it,” he said. What he would then handover was one of the illest things my pre-pubescent eyes had ever seen. “Real” then “Thiebaud”, all right beside this big ass face! Sick! I knew he did poetry and stuff but now art, too? Incredible. So incredible, in fact, that my mind had blown all circuits… on some R2D2 shit. I was incapable of speaking. All I could do was look dumbfounded at this drawing and quietly walk away. Overload. My brain was smoking.
It wasn’t until I was about 10 feet away that the notion of actually thanking him for doing that even came to mind. "Oh shit!" I turned around and there he was just staring at me. Bummed. I hadn’t even the wits to thank the man for totally making a two-hour drive through snow with my pissed-off Dad totally worth it (not that he even knew!). I went to speak out but he'd already turned his attention to the thirty other kids hovering around him. The damage was done. I was incapable of going back. The dye had been cast. I suck. The aura of stoke, the true culprit of this crime, quickly vanished leaving behind only guilt in its wake.
“How was the demo, Eric?”
“Dad, Jim Thiebaud thinks I’m a dick.”