guest post: chris nieratko

I got to meet Chops a few weeks ago at Tampa Am 2012 and we spent some time shooting the shit in our hotel lobby. The conversation naturally went towards the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy as many of my conversations do these days. My beloved home of New Jersey has been ass raped. People are still without homes and power. Kids will have no Christmas or Kwanzaa. They’re putting a $70 billion price tag on fixing things and no one is opening their wallets. We ended up talking at length about the slow recovery, moreso than I had with anyone up until that point or since. When Chops asked me to do this editorial, I was honored and instantly knew I wanted to focus on some of the most inspirational Jersey Boys.

This is perhaps the first time I was tricked by skateboard photography. We were very young and very impressionable and here was Mike 180ing a picnic table. It was unheard of. We knew nothing of “California picnic tables.” To us, all picnic tables were created equal. Not true. California picnic tables are for ants. Doesn’t take anything away from this sequence though. No one was going over these things on flat yet.

Mike V will always represent New Jersey skateboarding to me. He made his bones a few towns over from me and frequently returned after moving to California.

A lot of people have a lot to say about Mike but for me he’s one of the greatest of all time. Every era he has skated differently than everyone else and even now in 2013, he can do just about anything he wants on a skateboard.

After Hurricane Sandy, Mike reached out to help. He created 100 limited edition boards that he sold for $100 each and donated all the money to local NY/NJ charities. So many skateboard brands stepped up and donated so much but Mike, being from the area, he wanted to do more, long after the storm had been forgotten by the media. He’s people’s champ.


This is from that great period when O’Dell was still shooting skate photos for Thrasher. I love Epicly Later’d but I also very much loved his photos and miss seeing them in skate mags.

Chet isn’t from Jersey but this spot is in Asbury Park, a town that was somehow missed by the storm while all surrounding towns were devastated.

I love photos that tell stories and this one just jumps off the page/screen. Last try before the crane eats the pool alive.

My reason for picking this photo is my personal story with it. This image was in the Indy 25-year book. There was a proof page with registration marks and Bryce’s editor’s notes written on it in Sharpie for auction at one of the last ASR trade shows I ever attended. This story is one of the main reasons I stopped attending: the industry of skateboarding is littered with kooks and those trade shows were full to the brim with them. As soon as I saw this photo for auction, I told myself it was coming home to New Jersey with me. I bid $200 and I waited. I literally stood next to the image drinking wine, waiting to dissuade people from bidding. For some time, no one else bid. No one even looked. Then came along some bro-brah surf kook and bid $205. I told him not to bother. I was winning the photo and I bid $300. “Oh yeah, dude?” he said, “Fuck that!” He bid $1000. I was stunned. “What are you doing, guy?” I asked. “You’re not winning this, I am,” he told me. He then proceeded to up his bid to $2000. “Why? Why are you being a fucking prick,” I asked. “Because I can,” he said. Real piece of shit. I asked him if the image had any meaning to him. He said no, that he just liked it and he liked pissing me off. I actually liked that last part, I could relate to it, it made me smile at him. But not too wide. I threw back my last gulp of wine and said, “Fine. Listen. I’m going to be right over there,” I pointed at the bar, “I’m going to start drinking very heavily, very quickly. I’m not going to take my eyes off you for the rest of the night. After you pay the $2000, I’m going to follow you into the hallway, beat the piss out of you and take the fucking photo. Understand?” He laughed. I laughed too. I laughed all the way to the bar. Then I started really drinking. For an hour I mad dogged the fuck out of this asshole in sandals. I don’t even now if he even had a shirt on. It got so uncomfortable for him that people in every conversation he got into had to ask who the guy was at the bar that was trying to melt him with his eyes was. With five minutes left on the auction he came over to me half-joking, half-cautious and said, “Come on, dude! I was just kidding with you.” “I wasn’t kidding with you, dude. Pay the money. I’m taking the photo. I’m going to knock you out right in front of everyone.” He had no response other than the obvious course of action; he went over and crossed out his name off the bid.

“There,” he said, “it’s yours.”

“It was mine either way, you fucking kook.”

It now sits proudly above my pool table in my basement for all traveling teams who come over to ask about and be subjected to the above story. Now I can just email them this link.


Anthony claims Houston but he’s Jersey. Always will be. You can tell by how he fucks with people. This was a good era for Zoo York. It was still small and owned by Eli, Rodney and Adam with Eli still in charge of art direction. Eli is one of the most talented art directors skateboarding has ever known and every one of his Zoo ads stood out from everything that was in any mag at the time. From the lay outs to the silly white boy, hip hoppy vertical small font rants to the inclusion of hip hop luminaries that no one else had access to (in this case Stretch and Bobbito); he could elevate the most unexciting skate photo to something beautiful with great design. I mean, look at this shot. Front nose on a knee high ledge? I can do that shit. But this ad is not about that trick; it’s the image and branding that Eli created.

That’s why I laugh when corporations come along and buy brands and then fire the talent that made them desirable purchase in the first place. Look at Blueprint? You lose Dan McGee, you lose everything. I’ll always have a soft spot for Zoo. Eli’s art direction plays a big part in that.


Talking about art direction, the early World Industries black and white ads could not be fucked with. Each one was more absurd than the last. If you love Enjoi ads you should track down the old World ads.

I’m sure everyone, everywhere backed World super hard back then but for us, it was even more special because Mike V and Dune rode for them. Both Mike and Pastras are from a few towns over from where I grew up. By the start of World, Mike was already legend-status in our area and Dune was our age so we all felt like he was one of us. I can’t really remember seeing another Powell board after World came out.


Fred Gall has always been sick. I remember seeing him at the old, wooden Sayreville skatepark at the tail end of the 80s and he already stood out. During this era where he murdered Hubba, he really became a street pioneer. He still rips to this day and always will but during those early Alien and Sub Zero days, no one could really touch what Freddy was doing.


I live by the six-degrees of Jersey rule. Example: When Flip’s Ian Deacon and Sole Tech’s Don Brown first came to America in the 80s, they landed in Newark, NJ, therefore, by my definition, it makes them from Jersey. Same with the Gonz. He lived in New Brunswick, NJ for a spell and so…the Gonz is from New Jersey. Sure, it’s debatable. But one thing that is not is Krooked started in New Jersey in the early 90s. Our friend was making Krooked stickers, with the eyes for Os and all; the rest is history.

To this day Mark Gonzales is my favorite skateboarder. He embodies every childish, untainted, silly trait that keeps us all young.

This was one of the earliest photos I had on my wall.  I remember always looking at photo credits and all my favorites were always Kanights. Thrasher is the Bible and we should never forget that Bryce wrote a lot of the gospel with his photos. I’m honored to have become friends with him later in life. That’s the beauty that is so unique to skateboarding, for the most part your heros have no egos and they are completely approachable. You might meet LeBron James in the supermarket and he might say hello and be cool but you’re not going to ever get invited to his house for dinner or go to Cuba with him.  


Hensley was my guy! I had every color of H-Street Hensley King Size made, I had the cut off cargos, the chain wallet; he was a god amongst men. I stopped trying to learn back threes because I couldn’t get my front foot to come off the board like Hensley. You want to talk about forced steez? Hensley created an entire generation that forced their back arm into a downward right angle when they skated.

I tended to not like California-looking skaters, all blonde and blue-eyed like Hitler won the war. Hensley was So Cal but you wouldn’t know it to look at him. He was bigger than that; he changed the world of skating at that time.  And every image I remember was always him skating something unique.


Knigge ruled the huge pants, small wheels era and was arguably one of the techest dudes at the time. Switch triple flip? WTF? I remember seeing him kill the little ledges at Lackawanna in Hoboken. I think about him every time I walk by them. It’s the reason my partner and I wanted to open a skateshop in Hoboken. I heard he bakes ornate wedding cakes now but can still do tre flips with ease.


I think Pete is actually regular footed and has been lying to everyone all along. He skates switch better than he skates regular and it’s been that way since I first saw him. I remember him coming by the shop when he was installing fireplaces and doing handyman work after Bootleg and I am so thankful that he has his name back on a board because he is too damn talented to just be swinging a hammer.


Vinnie is the first guy to ever hit The Love Gap and so, by my above stated theory, The Love Gap is in New Jersey.


Ah, Puleo. I don’t want to out anybody but Bobby is from New Jersey. He’s thought of more as an SF or NYC guy but he’s Jersey. Ten years ago I interviewed Jamie Reyes for Big Brother. She told me how Bobby harassed her at Max Fish for not being from NYC but claiming it. I simply said, “But he’s from New Jersey.” Well, that was enough to put his panties in a bunch. He put the word out that he hated Big Brother and he didn’t want any more photos of himself in BB. What could we do? The only thing a group of childish dipshits who like to bust balls could do…we put the word out to all photographers that we’d pay double for any Bobby Puleo photos. We didn’t care if they were portraits, snapshots, park photos, axle stalls; we were buying. That last year or so we must have run four or five Puleo photos that were complete throwaways with captions like, “Hi, Bobby. We miss you! Enjoy the photo incentive.”

But the truth is that Bobby Puleo supports my theory that I’ve purposely always made sure to share with any NYC skater: The best skaters in New York have always been from Jersey. Let’s not bullshit ourselves. When NYC was at the height of its media coverage in the 90s and guys were going super slow towards a garbage can on its side at The Cube, Kris Markovich was hauling ass towards the Carlsbad Gap. And when they put the spiked fence on top of the beloved Brooklyn Banks wall to stop people from doing tricks over it, only a Jersey Guy has ever stepped to it.


This photo of Quim is burned in my brain. This in Hoboken and that is a signature Quim bone out. When Quim and his brother Mike (RIP) got on Real alongside Mark Gonzales, every kid in New Jersey cheered. Quim had one of the smoothest styles and to this day I’m entertained by him.


Like Ishod now, Ricky is synonymous with Philly but hails from Jersey. This time for Zoo York was huge. I worked at a shop in New Brunswick and you just couldn’t get their decks. The demand was so high at the height of that Philly/NYC era and Zoo couldn’t keep up with the demand. To this day Ricky remains one of my favorite humans, on and off the board. Skateboarding has changed. It’s big. People are scared to speak their mind and lose their paycheck to the kid in line behind them. Ricky always spoke his mind. I miss that.


Tim was at my house before Thanksgiving to help with Christmas lights. He said his ankles are feeling great and he’s skating a bunch again. I hope it leads to him being more involved with skating again because aside from being a smooth skater, he brings personality to the table. He’s one of the funniest guys we’ve ever had and our world is better with him in it.

And he’s the only guy I can think of that truly, sincerely ran a midget sidekick.  


The Jersey Devil. Tom sparked the fire for Jersey skaters as one of the earliest pros. This ramp at his house was only four towns over from my house but at 9-years-old, that might as well have been six days by horse. But even at an early age, I thought it was the coolest thing to keep seeing New Jersey written in magazines.

Grosso recently did a Love Letters episode to Tom and it’s worth watching. So many of the lip tricks that are commonplace now were products of this man’s unique brain at a time when people weren’t doing lip tricks on vert.  I had the opportunity to sit with Tom for an hour and film him for a pet project I hope to complete before I die, a documentary on The Cherry Hill Skatepark, and he’s still as awesome as I envisioned him when I was a kid.

Can't thank Chris enough for doing this. So stoked and honored to have him be a part of this thing.  

This closes out 2012 for the Chrome Ball Incident. I want to thank everyone for the support you've given over the course of what has truly been an insane year for my family and I.

CBI will return Monday, January 7th. 

Thank you skateboarding.


proud2beDIRT said...

fuck yeh! this is awesome!

mikebythesun said...

Awesome post. Great selections and notes. I'm from Jersey so this all hits home for me. I remember skating the Eatontown Roller Rink on skate night and Vallely would show up sometimes. Pulling methods, dragging his hand along the ceiling. A few years later Ron Knigge was a visible figure there and that dude was blowing minds then, back when he first go on New Deal. Good times.

The Chez said...

Another good year Chops! Killing it as usual.

That story about the Crooked Arm photo is classic yet represents skateboarding at the core. Some sandaled kook trying to butt in because he has loot. Instead the underground figures out a way to subterfuge his style. Kook.

Wait, I have sandals. Only they're not worn outside the house.

Jeff Thorburn said...

This is a treat. It's always great to see how much of a skate rat others truly are. And that story about that fucking kook got me laughing.

Thanks for doing this, Chris, and thanks for giving him the opportunity, Chops.

Ronnie Gordon said...

Thank you' Chris for all that you do for the skateboarding community!

Ronnie Gordon

Anonymous said...

PJ Ladd post in 2013, Chops. WHL is now classic rock

Anonymous said...

Happy new year chops! Thanks for all your hard work. This was a really great post.

Justin said...

This was great. It's always interesting to hear what other people think about the various ads and photos.

EricWagner said...

Knigge at Eatontown, omg. If you were there you know, if not take my word 1's and 0's can't do his tech justice. Bake a cake for yourself homeboy, you deserve it. Cheers!


chris has the best skateboard stories. growing up a kid from northern california and seeing fred gall rip the santa rosa skatepark switch was truly amazing to me. and the puleo story made me laugh. i can only imagine all the other tales that are needed to be told from the big brother era.

Jason said...

"CA picnic tables are for ants"...so true! puts all those 411 videos in the 90's into perspective.

adrian said...

i heard choppy omega ollied it a few days before vinny ponte

EY said...

Still have the issue of Taboo Magazine that was "accidentally" sent to me in place of Big Brother in a "subscription mix-up" introducing me to the practice of "anal fisting". I always thought Pi$$ NegroTaco was somehow responsible for that!

rd3308 said...

Thanks for posting this up. I get where you're coming from on the photo, not something that should fall into the wrong hands. The quim photo is not far from where I'm at these days. Grew up skating in NJ and never mind seeing something about Knigge.

Dustin Umberger said...

Chris was one of the big reasons BB was so entertaining to read. His interviews were always so brutal! HAILS Chops keep it movin' in the new year.

Andy C said...

Thank you for the read Chris you are the fucking man.

Keith said...

Great guest post!

Nice to see a locals perspective on skaters from his area.

Paul said...

The Pool Pic story is totally epic! Amazing post!!!