My best friend at the time got into it so I figured I’d give it a try as well. He had this little 70’s metal board that we would ride around on. So much fun.
This was also around the time my dad had come back into my life after being gone for a while so I basically punished him by making him get me a board. Kinda raking him over the coals but getting exactly what I wanted at the same time.
But yeah, it was a Roskopp with Trackers and these crazy 70mm Kryptonics wheels the guy at Hamels talked me into buying. Tracker copers and every other piece of plastic I could find.
You came up around the latter part of that legendary park era in Southern California. Hitting up Del Mar and Upland all the way through to McGill’s. Of all those legendary parks, which one was your favorite?
Del Mar. Linda Vista was good but I gotta say Del Mar.
I didn’t even really know that much about skating the first time I went to Del Mar. I had heard there was a skatepark nearby with cement things to ride but I didn’t know anything else about it. I went there and was totally blown away. I couldn’t believe something like that even existed. So it was on after that. I had my Dad drop me off there every weekend from 10 to 10. Seriously, all day.
But Linda Vista was awesome, too. It was so ghetto… with crackheads living under the ramp and shit. It was crazy. But they had the old Vision Skate Escape ramp and people were always coming through. Peter Hewitt and Matt Moffett were there. So much gnarly stuff going down constantly.
That was a sick time to grow up. Those early parks really forced you to learn how to skate everything. Skaters didn’t just skate one thing back then like they do now. There’s not some cool guy sitting around, smoking blunts instead of skating the pool.
But was it weird for you when all these pros you grew up skating around started vibing H-Street? Why do you think that was?
Let’s be honest: there were a lot of aspects about H-Street that were fucking goofy. When skateboarding is progressing that fast in such a compressed period of time, you’re gonna have that. Skateboarding will never advance that quickly again and it’s only natural that with this progression, some of it shot into some pretty stupid areas. Whether its too many combos on a noseblunt, pressure flips or whatever, you’re gonna fuck up sometimes.
But it takes those experiments to lead the way. If not, we’d all still be doing layback roll-outs. Nothing against that trick or the people who do them but that’s a lot of the reason why those dudes hated on us. We didn’t want to do laybacks, we wanted to do kickflip boardslides on handrails.
Was H-Street your first sponsor?
Actually, my first sponsor was Team Steadham.
After Del Mar closed for good, all the northern San Diego dudes built a mini-ramp under a bridge. One of the first mini-ramps ever, actually. And once again, my Dad started dropping me off on weekends while he’d go have beers down the street.
I happened to be skating there one time when Steadham just came up and asked me if I skated for anybody. I didn’t even really know what that meant at the time but I said no and he started giving me boards.
It’s funny because I didn’t fully understand what it meant to be sponsored back then. I have all of these photos from back when I was on Steadham and my boards are totally covered in H-Street stickers, not really thinking about how doing that would bum him out. I’d be totally pissed if someone on Autobahn did that now but I just didn’t know back then. I’d just be like, “Wow! I love H-Street! Thanks for the free stickers!”
Do you remember that ad where Tony Mag is airing over the two kids sitting on the coping? That was Andy, of “Andy’s Ramp”, and my best friend, Squash. Squash was my connection over at Andy’s back then… because at first, I wasn’t cool enough to go over there. It took me a little while.
But I started going over there a lot and seeing all these different people… Dave Crabb, Mike Yousefpour and a lot of the H-Street dudes skated Andy’s as well. Word started getting around, I placed well in a NSA qualifier and then got on right before Hokus Pokus.
I remember they gave me 300 Shackle Me Not stickers and one deck. That was it. That’s what it was like to get on H-Street back then. And it wasn’t even a production board but a sample of one of those Ti-Tech boards… the ones with the titanium strip in them and no graphics. Just a raw board. But I was stoked. H-Street was the only company I wanted to ride for…
But whenever people talk about H-Street getting too big, I’m probably one of the dudes they’re referring to (laughs).
Did you have any street stuff in Hokus Pokus or was it all vert footage?
I had a clip in that underground parking garage where Frazier does the manny-to-kickflip. I got a 5-0 to 180 out and then I do a fakie bigspin. But that was it.
I’m wearing some crazy gear in that one, too. Those pants in that clip, Frazier made those. His Mom used to work at the Jimmy Z factory and could get us fabrics and labels. They’d make us all this bootleg Jimmy Z gear!
Fresh! But be honest, did he really skate that fast?
Yeah, he really did.
Frazier was sick. He had all that early nollie and switch stuff back then. He actually used to take his Kingsize Hensley boards and drill the holes back to make the nose bigger.
Ternasky used to trip out on that… saying that it looked ridiculous.
Now I wasn’t trying to understate your shared vert part in Hokus Pokus. There was a ton of next-level ripping in there, for sure. Especially with my man Cookiehead and that stalefish 540.
That was the craziest thing ever. Cookiehead is a lot more well-rounded now but back then, he’d come out of nowhere sometimes. He’d get something in his head and do it, totally skipping the basics for the craziest shit you could think of. Like when he did that stalefish 540, he could barely do backside airs! I think he even 50-50’d into that!
But I remember that trick being on the H-Street house whiteboard for quite some time. 500 bucks. Not sure if anybody has brought that list up to you but it definitely existed. A whole list of tricks with monetary values beside them.
Doesn’t surprise me. But why do you think H-Street was so set on only showing you skate vert? Were you skating much street back then?
I was always street skating but honestly, I was clueless about how things worked. I never knew what was going on. It never dawned on me that if someone was filming, I should probably try to get a clip, too. I didn’t think about it as a career or anything. I was only concerned with learning new shit. It wasn’t until Next Generation that I started to figure it all out.
So could H-Street be broken down as the street guys having a closer relationship with MT while all the vert guys were down with TMag?
Basically. We were always skating with TMag so we all got to know him pretty well. I didn’t know Mike as well. He was definitely more down with the street dudes. The times that I went out filming with Ternasky always seemed to get pretty serious.
There was a separation, for sure. We had this “H-Vert” stencil on the ramp. It was retarded but we were only like 15-years-old during all this. Complete goofballs trying to come across like adults.
Talk about your breakout part in Risk It. You killed it on virtually every terrain for that one. And I can’t imagine you having much time to do it in.
It’s funny how that video was set up. They actually sent us a team letter explaining that you’d only get one day to film unless you skated street and then you got an extra day… they were really trying to push street at time. So, of course, I’m like, “Fuck yeah! Give me my two days!”
All that shit was done in two days as opposed to five years like it is today. You basically filmed what you were normally doing at the time. You couldn’t really try to learn anything while filming because you didn’t have enough time.
I remember trying a tre flip down the four in front of School W. It probably took a good thirty or forty tries but I was coming so close. I knew I had it but they were over it. They wanted to leave. Luckily, I got it right afterwards… but they were still bummed. And then it was on to the next spot. No time for rest because you had to get everything you could in there.
It was ridiculous but there were just so many dudes. I liked how it came out, though. And I was stoked to have Bad Brains in there, too.
I honestly didn’t really hang out there much. I was an awkward kid. If I smelled weed or anything, I made a thing about it. Plus, those dudes seemed so much older than I was, even though it was only by like a year or two.
One thing that stands out was watching Jovontae’s footage for the Planet Earth video there. This was before he had really become a fixture and I remember Ternasky calling him “Mellonhead.” He was like, “Yeah, look at this kid Mellonhead. He got a clip today! This kid is coming up.”
But the best H-Street House story is really the best School W story. It’s about this chick Katie.
Not Hurricane Helen?
No, this was another chick. Somehow all of these hippie chicks were coming out of the woodwork back then. This one came from a rich family or something. Regardless, I remember us rolling up to School W and this chick was straight serving dudes. Just like a line-up, one after another. Incredible.
And not to mention any names but there might’ve been a ringleader in all of this. Could’ve been a vert skater. He might’ve gone to backside revert a lot. Just sayin.
That shit was too crazy for me so I dipped but I will say the sense of camaraderie in H-Street back then was super sick. Especially with all those people hating on us. We really stuck together.
So were you surprised when Plan B went down? Could you see that coming?
Yeah, I could see it. The industry had changed so much. It went from being all about this Powell mega-squad to Blind, which was this focused elite team.
Mike mentioned something about what he was doing one time but it seemed more like he was just screwing around. “Yeah, I got something cooking…”
I think it was originally supposed to be called Next. I remember going to Europe around this time and Danny had “NXT” written on his board. We were all asking him what it meant but he would never really tell us. So we kinda knew something was up.
In hindsight, it was great for skateboarding and I’m a huge fan… but on a personal level, I was bummed. It was rough working my way up inside my dream company only to have it collapse like that. I just remember thinking to myself, “Well, we’re fucked.”
I know, dude! Fuck! I don’t know why that happened like that but it did! (laughs)
I just didn’t want to give up. Like the TM stuff I’ve been doing, I immediately started trying to fix everything. I remember thinking that if we got Ronnie Bertino and Danny Mayer on the team, we’d be okay. I’d been skating with those dudes and knew they were murdering it. Especially Ronnie. I tried so hard to get him on H-Street back then but Tony wasn’t into it… which really sucked.
But you still put out that Next Generation part that remains one of my favorites. I’ve read that you don’t especially care for that one. Why not?
I like it but it’s still primordial ooze. Skateboarding was more about trying to do things first back then. Learn it, film it and then on to the next thing. Everything was going so fast
It’s funny because that part is like watching a sponsor-me tape: it’s edited in chronological order and you can see stuff changing as the part goes on. Like at the beginning, I’m doing grab varials and shit. I might even be riding rails still. But by the end of it, I’m doing pressure flips down gaps. It was such a condensed time period that by the time the video actually came out, we were all on to the next shit.
But I am stoked on how diverse that part is. Not all curbs, not all vert. I didn’t even take it all that seriously. I wasn't even sure there was a video coming out until the last few months of filming.
What was it like watching Koston come up during that time? Was it obvious that he was going to become one the greats?
Koston was on a trip that we took early on during the filming and it was insane. I didn’t know him that well back then other than he was one of Eddie Elguera’s kids. I’d seen him do some ill shit at the Calvary Chapel sessions before but on this trip, he was killing shit. It was clear that he had way more control than anybody. I wanted Tony Mag to turn him pro right there on the spot.
Another part of the H-Street recovery effort was Dan Peterka. Such a rad skater just to dip like that.
Yeah, he became a pro snowboarder which I think is crazy considering how well that dude skated. But I think it was a progressive time in snowboarding back then as well. Pro skateboarding just didn’t seem like it was a big deal to him. And at the time, it really wasn’t. We were all broke back then. So I think it was easy for him to walk away from $300 a month. It doubt it was a hard choice at all.
H-Street got picked pretty clean. I imagine you got offers to leave…
This was back when if you weren’t on a Rocco team, you were basically cut. There were a few other companies that were cool but it was really Rocco’s deal at the time. Evidently I was supposed to call Rodney Mullen at one point about possibly getting on something over there but I was such a weirdo back then that I didn’t even try. That's what I'd heard anyway. I was pretty out of my head around then.
Think did ask me to ride for them, though… which I probably should’ve taken. Shao and Drehobl were on and that would’ve been rad. But at the same time, I wouldn’t have had the opportunities with Arcade and Autobahn had I left.
I remember talking to Alf about it at the time. I asked him what he planned on doing and basically decided to do whatever he did. He said he wanted to stay at H-Street so that’s what I did, too… which is funny because he quit to ride for Bitch not too long that that.
MLK, Christina Applegate, Public Enemy… so many great graphics over the years. Which one was your favorite?
At the time, probably that Applegate one. I loved Married with Children. That was right when slickbottoms came out and everyone was using photos for graphics. I bought that poster and turned it in hoping that Fox would sue me and I’d get the chance to meet her. So stupid.
Also, the Soul Train board I really liked. If anyone out there has that one, contact me!
Now your Lick part came next and I’ve always wondered, who was that Ben guy? What made you decide to share a part with him?
Ben was just my homie. I grew up skating with him and he started getting really good so sharing a part seemed like a good idea.
But that thing was a mess. We were drunk and stoned out of our minds during that whole shit. Running X-Clan and the Sugarcubes in the same part!?! Brutal.
It’s funny because they gave us the camera to use and you can actually see me break the mic off halfway through the part. That’s why the rest of it doesn’t have any sound. We broke it.
But Tony let us edit and do whatever we wanted to with it… which is why our part ended up being almost 9 minutes long. We were convinced that since kids were paying $20 for the video, we should give them their money’s worth and show them every single trick possible! We thought we were being economical but that part is just a nightmare. I want to formally apologize for that ridiculously long part. (laughs)
It was long but your skating ripped. That was your first part of entirely street footage. Was this more of a career move or were you just burned out on tranny?
You weren’t allowed to film tranny back then! I did a frontside blunt over the light in the El Cortez Pool on 42mm wheels and it just didn’t matter. There weren’t any cameras because there was no point. It would’ve been seen like, “Hey! We’re skating like back in the old days!”
You couldn’t even smith grind a ledge. That was out. You had Gino out there blowing doors and you come through smith grinding a ledge? You looked like a caveman in comparison.
I'm just saying this as what was "accepted" in professional skateboarding at the time. Not necessarily what was fun or whatever. You could do it, but it was such a hyper-progressive time…it's hard to describe nowadays.
That was through Dorfman.
Really!?! I was about to ask why it never took off but I guess I got my answer.
Yeah, that was through Vision. Danny Mayer called me up one day and said, “Hey man, they’re paying $1500 a month over here!”
“Hell yeah! And Alf’s gonna do the art!?! Fucking awesome! Let’s do this.”
No, it didn’t last too long. Dorfman was just looking for something else to put on the sales sheet. He seemed nice enough, though. But by that point, I was kinda getting out of the whole thing.
Yeah, you went underground for a few years back then. What was going on there?
I just felt so old. This was back when if you still skated at age 20, people were wondering what you were even doing. With the exception of a few dudes, it wasn’t happening and I’m not the Gonz.
I had my daughter around this time and just started to realize that I better make something happen with my life. I had responsibilities now. Skateboarding was dead as a doornail. Even the top dudes were struggling. It was slim.
So I moved to Los Angeles and started working at a magazine. At the same time, helped open up a shop called Hot Rod in West LA, which is still there. Fell back in love with having fun on a skateboard and not giving a fuck.
So where does Arcade come in?
Arcade started when I went to a tradeshow with Ben and Mischa Gundman. We were all drinking beers over at the Evol booth when I started fucking around with Tony Mag. This was right when Evol had started making shoes but before they were Osiris. But I’m messing around with Tony, making fun of his shoes and shit, when he just looks at me and says, “Well, if you think you can do any better, why don’t you come down here and try to help out?”
At the time, I was already thinking about moving back to try go to school at Square Enix for video game development. But ironically enough, TMag was working on the H-Street Box Set and that’s what he wanted to be my first project. Just to help edit. I started working part time at Alias, which was Evol and all that, while I picking up my last few credits in school.
Arcade came about afterwards when they brought up the possibility of me taking over Evol. It’s so funny, I called this meeting and came in with all these crazy demands like wanting to change the name of the company and shit. But they agreed to it! I couldn’t believe it. So I reorganized the team, got everybody I wanted on the team and kicked everybody else off.
I never thought they’d agree to it but it worked out. I had to quickly figure out what the hell I was doing.
You had a tight team, though. Pontus Alv, Malcolm, SAD, Steve Hernandez… and of course, Rodney Torres and Joey Brezinski. You might not have known what you were doing but it made its mark.
Thanks man. I wanted to bring together all these different dudes and see what happened. Instead of how some companies are all one way, one type of rider/terrain, I wanted Arcade to be a mixture of things. That’s why the first video is called Gumbo. We were throwing these guys into a pot and it’s gonna be rad.
How’d you get hooked up with SAD? Always such an enigmatic figure.
I met SAD when he used to come by Hot Rod to trade his 60/40 boards. And yeah, he was super intimidating at first. He’s had that blonde mustache, the blonde eyebrows and that crazy deep voice. I didn’t even want to look him in the eye back then. I mean his name is SAD for fuck’s sake. He’s gotta be out of his head!
But I was doing that magazine and interviewing different people, one day I hit up SAD and we just clicked. We’re still homies to this day. We are staying on each other right now to stick with our detoxifying programs. (laughs). Trying to cut out breads and whatnots.
He’s still out of his head but honestly, he’s a sweetheart. Everybody thinks that he’s this mean, psychotic dude but he’s actually the total opposite of that. He’s really this peaceful Buddhist dude just on the strugg. But he will tell you exactly what is on his mind even if he doesn't know you. He'll roll straight up and hate on your bonked nosegrind back 180 outs… which is actually how he met Steve Hernandez. Hilarious. Love that guy.
I just never knew what to make of him.
Yeah, I understand. Both he and Malcolm are from the cut. Just gnarly. Like I remember dropping Malcolm off one time after filming and he called me up maybe two minutes afterwards, saying that a van just shot up a car at the same stop sign we were just at. I couldn’t believe it. Right at the end of his street. Van door slides open to automatic gunfire.
Yeah, he didn’t really start wearing those shorts until after Arcade. But that hat, man. You know his hat was named “Dingus”, right? I actually think Steve Hernandez started calling it that and Haney just went with it. Big Brother had that article where they went out partying with Dingus and ran pictures of his hat sitting at the bar. So funny.
Haney is a strong-minded person, though. Driven in a way that I wish I was early on. So gnarly. If you go back and look at the shit he did, those rails are more than comparable to ones people are doing today. He might not have had the cleanest style but he’d get it.
That dude was scary at times. He’d take some of the craziest crash-test dummy slams you’ve ever seen. Like falling and not being able to see afterwards. But if he could still walk, he’d get right back up there and try again. You’d be afraid for his life.
I think if he came up today, he’d have an agent dressing him better and he’d be huge.
Oh yeah, give him a catchy nickname and some nicer clothes, he’d be set.
You should see what he wears now, dude… blonde dreadlocks and daisy dukes. But I don't care how he dresses or whatever. I just think it's funny. We have gone through so much together. All those Arcade guys are still my great friends and in most cases, like family. So proud of the things some of them have gone on to accomplish.
I think that shines through with Arcade 2. There’s such a family vibe which is nice to see. What made you decide to bring it back?
Casey Rigney. I was pissed off that dude didn’t have a board sponsor so now I have Casey’s board coming out and I’m stoked. (laughs)
Honestly, Arcade is just a passion project for me. Nothing I do has ever been for money. Obviously haha. I come out of pocket for Arcade 2. Who gives a shit? As long as Rigney has some shit coming out to show people and all the local homies have tight boards, I’m good.
The whole thing started on a bar napkin. We got Bareback Woodshop to do small numbers for us and we couldn’t pass up the opportunity. If we break even, awesome. But we don’t need a marketing team full of dudes crunching numbers all day… which we know is how we’re supposed to do it. Our guys are sick. It’s that simple.
We’re doing our wood through Dwindle now so we’re stoked on that. And being able to design shit and have it come out is awesome. So fuck it. Hopefully we can still keep doing our thing and continue to grow.
You’ve also had a steady role over at Autobahn for several years now. Is it hard balancing out these two entities in today’s nutty skateboard industry?
Yeah, Autobahn and Arcade are two totally separate entities and it does take a lot to make them both work. I’ve honestly been slacking on Arcade a bit because Autobahn has been getting so crazy.
Basically once we split Autobahn away from Osiris and started doing it on our own, we had to learn how to be the adults in the room. Before that, Osiris could watch over us and make sure we didn’t get into too much trouble. Now it’s all on us. It’s been seven years since the split and we’re still learning all the ins-and-outs of the business but I think the quality of our shit shines through. I’m proud of what we do.
It's tough because the easiest way to make money in skateboarding is to make something that hardcore skaters don't use. People are always trying to figure out how best to crossover. So to have a hardgoods company focusing on wheels, a product that only people who actually skate use…its just a smaller market than snapbacks with wacky sayings on them.
Well said. So as we wrap this up, who would you say is the most underrated skater of the 1990s?
I’d have to say Alphonzo. He was always so progressive. He and Danny used to run the show over at McGill’s back in the day. He’d have a new trick or complete new way of doing something every week. If you go back and look at his parts now, there’s still some crazy shit in there. You could probably pull a few out, film them now and still blow people away.
So Alf… or Ronnie Bertino.
That’s a tough call between those two. Alright Jason, anything you’d like to add to this thing?
I’d like to thank my business partner, Doug Johnson. He’s awesome and puts up with all my shit. Thanks to my family. My father. My daughter. My girlfriend.
I'd also like to thank T.Mag and Mike T. (R.I.P.) for giving me a shot. Dave Andrecht for always looking out for me. R.I.P. Jamiel Hussein. Thanks to anyone who has ever ridden or rides for Autobahn. Arcade, too. Thanks to the skaters out there who have supported our shit.
I hope everyone is having some enjoyable sessions out there. Amazing how much fun it still is, right?
I'd like to thank Jason for taking the time. This was really fun.
the Chrome Ball Incident will return soon. Thanks everyone.
Check the Technique.