11.11.2020

chrome ball interview #144: ray simmonds

Chops cracks his head on a frontside with RAAAAAAY Simmonds.


Special Introduction by Pat Duffy:


It’s hard to put into words the impact that Ray and Jeff’s Shackle Me Not part had on me, and I imagine, a whole generation of skaters at that point in time. It was raw, unfiltered and just genuinely savage. I lived for that part. Studying it religiously every day, meticulously rewinding and memorizing the details. I still get chills hearing the sound of his Gullwings 50-50 the Sausalito Post Office Rail, chiming in perfectly to the breakdown of the song. 


Those guys were my first skateboard idols. I’m pretty sure that I was Ray’s biggest fan... although Welsh will tell you that it was him. I grew up in the same town as Ray so I could skate all over Marin County and actually see how gnarly those spots were. Hell Rail and the Library Roof in San Rafael. The College of Marin Roof Gap. Sausalito Post Office.  


What really got me was the do-or-die, no-holds-barred, “go as fast as you can and fuck it attitude” towards skateboarding. I wanted to be like that. That intro is forever ingrained in my head. One push 50-50 the 10 stair. Pettit at SF State. Slow-mo kickflip indy at Benicia. And, of course, the legendary stalefish over the ladder. 


FUCK YES. 


And to this day, I still quote, "He doesn’t know what’s goin’ on… he cracked his head on a frontside." 


Thank you Ray for your contribution to skateboard history!




=O =O =O


CBI: While we all remember you from that classic shared part in Shackle Me Not, I honestly don’t know much else about you. Give us some baseline info here: where you’re from, when you started skating, etc. 


Ray: Well, I was actually born in San Francisco, although nobody would call me a “city boy”. I moved to Marin County when I was about a year old and grew up in Kentfield, a little town sandwiched between San Anselmo, Greenbrae and San Rafael. 


I had a plastic banana board when I was really young, but it was basically for getting pulled behind bikes. How I got into modern skating was through some friends of mine in middle school. They had boards that I started to ride around on. And even back then, before I could really do anything, I liked riding off loading docks. So I guess “going big” was always part of it for me. Eventually, I bought my own board: a used Santa Cruz with Bennett Vector trucks for $25 bucks at the local shop, “Outdoor Skates”. Yeah, I would’ve loved to have had that Powell board with the Rat Bones logo on it, but I didn’t have enough money, so the Bennet Vector board it was. 


I was in middle school, so this was probably 1982. 


I’m guessing Jeff Pettit was also from this same town? 


No, I didn’t meet Jeff until way later on, when I was in high school.


One of my oldest friends is Joel Wrona, who I’ve known since kindergarten all the way up through forever. Well, we started skating around the same time, so it quickly became all we cared about. The two of us would go skate around College of Marin and look for little cracks right before stairs. We would lift our front trucks and bounce our back wheels off these cracks to clear the stairs. Not knowing how to ollie, these little lumps would do it for us. You could actually get a fair bit of air going down stairs like that. 


I also remember taking an inner-tube and putting it around our boards. Again, because we couldn’t ollie, we’d just pull up on that inner-tube and jump to launch over stuff. We thought we were really flying with that one. For some reason, we called it “the Bock”. “Bock” over this and “Bock” over that… I have no idea why. (laughs)



For context, Joel is that guy from the beginning of Duffy’s Questionable part, right? 


Right, and he’s also in Shackle Me Not, too. In the slam section. He does that same long railing at SF State and bounces off the wall. That’s Joel.


I know Gabe Morford said this in his interview, but Joel was probably the best skater in all of Marin back then. He had the best style, for sure. Eventually, he started getting Powell stuff from Tommy Guerrero and there was talk of him getting fully on Powell at one point, but it never happened. That was years later, though.  


During those early middle school years, I mostly skated with Joel and some other local guys from nearby towns. But it was also around this time that I remember seeing flyers posted around our area for a “Surf/Skate Film”. It was going to be shown at the College of Marin theater… which is actually the same theater with the curved roof that I ollie off of in Shackle Me Not years later. The one where I’m filmed from underneath.  


Anyway, I remember us all being so excited for this movie. Just a bunch of kids wanting to see new skate footage, you know? Because we didn’t know much about skating back then. We still couldn’t really “forward ollie” at this time. We could kinda 180 ollie by scraping the tail and quickly whipping the board around, but we’d only get maybe an inch of air. Other than that, we just rode off stuff and skated ditches. So, this movie was a big deal for us. 


…But when we go to check it out, it’s all these 70s surfers and banana board guys doing 360s! 


“What the hell is this stuff? This is old, dude!”


The guy who made it, John Malvino, comes out afterwards and talks to us about it. We were just like, “Dude, that was all old footage! Where are all the skateboards like we’re riding?”

 

“Yeah, these films were all made a long time ago. Honestly, I’d really like to make a new one.”


“Maybe you should go to San Francisco!” 


Amazingly, he actually did end up going to the city and met up with Tommy, Bryce and the rest of City Boys Shred crew. He filmed them all and came back to that same theater a year or so later. Same thing, he put up a bunch of posters all over town, this time saying, “Skateboard Movie”. And not only was it modern footage, but Tommy, Bryce, Orb, Arco and Dave Hackett were all there at the showing. It was amazing! This was years before Mack Dawg Productions did something similar with “Sick Boys” in 1988.


As we watched the movie, seeing these guys ollie up a curb and a little bench… oh my god, it was magical. And then after the movie, with us all jazzed by what we saw, those same guys were now outside skating the theater! I remember us all watching in shock as Arco ollied over the four steps out front. That was a big deal, man! I remember Joel looking at me and saying, “That’s it for the Bock, dude. We gotta get rid of those inner-tubes and learn how to ollie!”


The next day, we set up shop near my house and practiced “forward ollies” for, like, ever. We’d put our wheels in a sidewalk crack to keep the board from rolling and try it again and again until we finally figured it out.


Not too long after that, we started going to high school and taking the bus into “the City”. We’d hit up the Embarcadero Center and then head over to Golden Gate Park, because we’d heard about the skate jams Tommy and those CBS dudes would have there every Sunday. They’d haul out these big jump ramps and launch. We’d watch Tommy Guerrero float these massive ollies, just soaring.


We were only 14 or 15 at this point, but our skate zone had increased a lot, both in the City and Marin. Back then, people used to put on skate bashes in Marin, too, where everyone would bring out their jump ramps to a school and session stuff. I think that’s where I first met Jeff, at one of those bashes at a nearby high school. I remember him launching over a picnic table and all of us being like, “Woah! That dude’s good!” 


That was Jeff.   



Quite a first impression. 


Yeah.


From there, things just kept picking up momentum. We started building our own little “ollie ramps”, like mini-jump ramps you could easily move around. We’d skate during the week, combining everything that we’d seen in the city with whatever we saw in the magazines. Basically just ollieing over everything and trying whatever we saw Tommy do. 


It was in these early years that I started doing “ollie-to-grabs”. I first started doing them off of loading docks and other drop-offs… like in the H-street video, over that wall between parking lots. Then, I started doing them off those little ollie ramps, grabbing indy or mute. Sometimes I’d just palm the board because I wasn’t that good at grabbing the rail yet. But I’d never seen anyone else do them. The closest thing was Steve Caballero basically doing a vert air off the edge of the quarterpipe. He’d pop off the coping and grab late backside. But we all learned them in Marin. 


One weekend, we went to Golden Gate Park and busted them out in front of Tommy and the CBS crew. I remember those guys being pretty surprised! No one was doing those back then, it was all early-grab Method and Japan airs. But now, they noticed us. We'd basically gotten good at skating out of nowhere. 


…Joel says the SF guys started calling our Marin crew “the Ollie Masters” but I don’t remember that. (laughs)


Marin Skate Jam, 1987. photo: Morford


How did H-Street enter the picture? 


Tommy was actually interested in flowing me for Powell at one point, because he had seen me doing some big ollie grabs off the street ramp and even “ollie flips” during park sessions. But the thing with Powell was that you had to be able to skate well in competitions… well, I always sucked at contests so that was a problem. Not to say that Tommy was a contest guy, even though he did very well in them. He just knew that was more of Powell’s priority. They encouraged that. 


Tommy actually made it a point to come watch me skate in a local Marin Surf Sports shop contest. I remember at one point, he told me to do an ollie flip in my run and I could never get it. I ended up trying, like, five times and I missed them all. I totally blew it and that was pretty much it for my chance with Tommy. I was so bummed. 


A couple years later, I met Ron Allen at Embarcadero, I think, and he asked about possibly meeting up the next weekend to skate in Oakland. He gave me his number and we ended up skating Oakland Tech. I remember us skating the bank and these long-ass railings in the front of the school, steep and gnarly. I’d never done those before, but I was pumped because I was skating with Ron so I was just going for it. Putting my fears aside. And when I got home that night, scraped and bloody, I got a call from Ron. 


“Hey man, I’d like to sponsor you.”


Oh man, that was just the best feeling in the world. 


So, Ron and I started skating together more and he was giving me boards. Then, one day, he goes, “Come to Santa Clara Skate Camp. Mike Ternasky is going to be there, the guy who runs H-Street. You should talk to him about getting fully on the team.”


Well, Jeff and I ended up crashing skate camp. We never actually signed up for it, we just showed up. That morning, we started skating that railing, the rail that I 50-50 and Jeff boardslides in Shackle Me Not. I think it was the entrance to a dorm tower. But I remember all of these people gathering around to watch us skate, and we could kinda tell they were like, “Holy shit!” 


Anyway, Jeff and I boardslid that rail and I caveman 50-50’d it… and then we just went and sessioned the rest of the camp stuff. A bit later, Mike Ternasky walks over to us, watches us for a while, and asks, “Who are you guys?” 


I think someone had told him about us sessioning that rail.


Jeff and I introduce ourselves and Ternasky says, “Oh! You’re Ray Simmonds! Ron said that you were going to come. You’re on the team! Jeff, you’re on the team, too!”



Just like that? Was Jeff getting flowed through Ron as well?


No, Jeff just happened to be with me. We just barged the camp, started skating and that was it. Ternasky saw us skate and put us both immediately on the team, yelling at Dave Schlossbach to start filming us. 


“Dave, you should start filming these guys right now!” 


So we went back over to that rail and filmed. And even though both Jeff and I boardslid that thing multiple times earlier that day, we both ate shit when Dave started filming us. Both of our falls made it into the slam section. Luckily, we were both fine. And at least I was able to ollie 50-50 that thing a couple of times for the video.


But yeah, that footage was basically the exact moment we got on the team. 


So your skate camp experience was a little different from the rest of the guys. 


Yeah, we didn’t get the full supersonic skate camp experience. Most of those guys were counselors and worked there all summer, Jeff and I were only there for a week or so. That’s why we didn’t have as much footage in that part. We didn’t even stay on campus, we stayed at Jeff’s sister’s house, who I think just happened to be going to school there at the time. 


…But I will say that the food really did suck. Those guys had to eat that crap for weeks. That must’ve been awful.



How was your one week at skate camp with all your new teammates?


It was cool, man. Because at that point, there was no way of telling which way street skating was going to go. You could see a lot of different influences coming into play, whether it was personal style or possibly more of a regional thing. I remember tripping out on all the different tricks people were doing on this one course. Because in Marin, we were more into jumping things and doing railings. But suddenly, I could see ollie flips and varial ollie flips were going to be a thing… and then you had Matt Hensley there, too. He was doing all kinds of stuff. Like that crazy trick where he’d step off and pop his board to where it kinda did like a 360 kickflip-type thing? Or that other one, where he’d do the no-comply on the quarter pipe to revert? I think Rich Ezekiel called them ‘ballerinas’… because in the ‘Supersonic Skate Camp’ song, Rich says “He did ballerinas galore, ripped everything on the course…”. 


The San Diego guys were all doing variations I’d never seen before. Railslides-to-grinds… including Brian Lotti, even with a cast on his arm. 


And what they called “flatground runs”. We never did that in Marin, either. That was the other thing in Hensley’s part of the song, “Flatground runs, 50 feet or more...” They would string together all of these different tricks while going down the sidewalk. We were more into ollieing stuff, not necessarily trying to stack tricks together — like kickflip-kickflip-180 kickflip-whatever.


So yeah, it was really cool to meet those guys. And I think we definitely influenced each other a lot. 



But you seem to already be kickflipping pretty consistently here. I mean, you boardslide that rail and then kickflip off the curb, super quick. Really advanced for the time. 


That clip was actually my reacting to Ternasky telling me to string tricks together like Hensley. Because “it looks cool”. I remember that, specifically. Well, I guess I’ll do this then. Because I was kickflipping stuff anyway, just not working it into things like that.


We filmed for Shackle Me Not in 1988, but I’d learned how to “ollie flip” years before that. Because I had started skating with Ray Meyer at Golden Gate Park, the old freestyler on Santa Cruz. I saw him and Phil Chen doing them and thought they were awesome, so I started doing them on my big board. It was hard to flip because boards were so fat back then… they flipped so slow, but I eventually figured it out. This was early ’86, so I’d been doing them for a while by the time I got on H-Street.  


How would you describe your relationship with Ternasky?  


It was good. He was very motivated, that’s what I remember most about him. Really hardcore. He had a lot of energy. I mean, when I first met him, I could tell that he hadn’t been skating long. He could do the skate camp railing and ollie some stuff, but he wasn’t that good. I knew he was more into the business side of things.  


He had that clip in the skate camp section... 


Which is funny because I remember him saying that he’d only been skating for a year or two at that point. It’s not like he grew up skating or anything. Not at all. I always thought that was interesting, that he was so into this thing when he’d really just started doing it. And he was already running a company, running a skate camp… It was his whole life! It’d gone from nothing to everything for him in such a short time.  


I didn’t really talk to him much at skate camp. But afterwards, when I went down to San Diego and skated with those guys, that’s when I started to notice Ternasky being a bit of a “coach”. There was definitely a lot of, “Hey Ray, Hensley is doing this. What are you doing? What tricks are you doing?”


I think he meant it in a good way, but I could also tell that he was trying to get us to compete with each other. To push each other, which did work. I definitely felt some motivation from all that. 


I just remember being on the phone a lot, because we were up in NorCal. Ternasky would call all the time.


Mike Ternasky


Did you guys leave skate camp and immediately start filming your Shackle Me Not part? How did that work?


Honestly, I’m not 100% positive on this. But from skate camp, I think Ternasky invited me down to San Diego to skate… I don’t know why Jeff didn’t go. Because there’s shots of me kickflipping a gap and ollieing-to-grab over that wall drop. That was down in San Diego. I went down and stayed with Steve Ortega, who was super nice, especially for letting me sleep at his house. I’d never even met the guy! But Ternasky hooked all that up.


From there, Schlossbach came to Marin and we filmed our part. Jumping the ladder and hitting all those spots in Marin, that was pretty much all a week… including a day where we went to San Francisco and skated with Dave Sorenson and Ben Jobe. 


Did you know those guys? 


No, I think we’d seen them at Benicia before but we didn’t really know them. 



How motivated were you with filming for Shackle Me Not? With skate videos in their infancy and H-Street such an underdog, did you actually expect the project to make any sort of impact?


We wanted to skate well, obviously. And you’re right in that H-Street was really small at the time. 


Honestly, I was just happy to be getting boards from Ron. For Ternasky to instantly put us on the team like that was amazing, too. It felt like I was finally getting some recognition. Jeff, Joel and I had been sponsored for the past couple years by our local shop, Marin Surf Sports. They were really supportive, but this was another level.


Also, you have to remember, we literally started filming the second we got on the team. I wasn’t really thinking about where H-Street was heading or what all was about to happen. That stuff never even crossed my mind. I was just happy that they wanted to film us. 


We’d never filmed that much before, so Dave Schlossbach was a big part of it, too. Like that day when we jumped the ladder? I’m pretty sure that was Dave’s idea. We used to jump other stuff back then, but I think Dave was the one who pulled that ladder out of Jeff’s garage. We were just ollieing off the ramp, talking about how we’d jumped over cars and things like that, when he goes, “Hey, do you think you guys can jump over this?”


Yeah, how’d that work out? That had to be terrifying. 


It was definitely higher than anything we’d done before. 


Initially, we put it to the side of the ramp, just to be sure that we could clear it. We didn’t want to just slam into the thing. But eventually, we moved it straight on. 



Because I know Jeff ollies it, but you did several grabs over it. A bent indy and that stalefish with the kid on the bike and “fuck yes!”


Yeah, the stalefish was actually the first time I ever made it — hence, my reaction. Because I was trying to ollie it first, without grabbing, but I couldn’t make it solid. Jeff made it twice, actually. But for me, after a while, I just said screw it, I’m just gonna grab over this thing. I guess I’ll do a weird one, because I used to stalefish over stuff a lot back then. So I went and did it. Obviously, I’m super happy there. You can tell the first time Jeff made it, too. He throws his hands up in the air. It felt good.


The tuck-knee actually came later, when I didn’t know they were filming me. Those guys had rolled away and I thought they’d left. So I was just doing that one for me. That’s probably why it’s the best one, because I wasn’t thinking about the camera anymore. I had no idea anyone was even watching, let alone filming. And you can tell because he’s farther back… There’s those orange cones that Jeff put out to protect us. (laughs)


Powell videos didn’t really showcase this level of street skating, especially from amateurs. 


Because Stacy was a big contest guy, and Powell was all about polish. When I go back and watch those Bones Brigade videos, it was all very orchestrated. It was obvious that Stacy would go on to become a filmmaker. The production value in those videos is insane. But even then, contests were still the top priority. Much more so than the videos. 


H-Street was the opposite of that. We weren’t contest guys at all. The video was way more important to us than contests ever were. I mean, Powell videos were all shot on actual film while we were out there with camcorders. We didn’t care, we just wanted to land the best tricks. And I think that shows in how raw it is.



But I have to say, for the record, that your and Jeff’s part in Shackle was super ahead of its time. 


In hindsight, it may seem like that, but that stuff was all happening. It just wasn’t being filmed. Skateboarders weren’t filming everything like kids do today. 


I think Jeff and I were both lucky to be street skating as it was just coming into being. As it was being invented. I don’t think we fully realized that at the time. I mean, part of the fun was figuring out new tricks. Ollie flips. Ollie grabs. Ollieing onto handrails. Everything was so new, whereas everything we were learning in school was figured out ages ago. I loved that about skating.


For example, the first railing I ever boardslid was a four-stair at the Ross Post Office. At first, we’d just grab the nose and hop onto the very end of it. Starting on the bottom step and working our way to the top, one stair at a time, until finally trying to ollie onto the rail. We weren’t sure if we could do it, but that was the process. We didn’t really look at it like we were inventing or innovating things back then, but at the same time, we knew we were doing something new and awesome. It was just so fun for us. 


Ternasky and Tony Magnusson both appreciated people doing hard stuff. It wasn’t about some crazy style or being able to land something every time. They just wanted awesome skaters on the team and awesome skating in the video. For some reason, no other companies thought that way. I mean, I heard that Matt Hensley skated for Vision prior to H-Street and they didn’t promote him at all! It’s Matt freaking Hensley! The guy was so good! But that’s how it was back then. H-Street changed all that.


Ray on the Ross Post Office Rail, 1987. Photo: Morford


H-Street was the paradigm shift, for sure.  


Honestly, the biggest thing that dictated how we went about all of this was H-Street having no money. But they had a video camera and Schlossbach and were going to make it work. That’s why it is so barebones. 


It’s funny to think about how all of the music was cobbled together. Like, I worked at a 24-hour gas station and some of the guys I worked with had a band. They gave us some songs and we used them. The part just after Matt Hensley says he was stoked to “tauch... teach” kids at skatecamp? That was their song. The first song in Jeff and my part is the guys from the gas station, too. I think they had some other songs in there, too. 


It was total garage style. Shooting on tape and watching it back, as opposed to developing film. Not worrying so much about trying to make it nice. It’s way faster to film everything on a camcorder and be done with it. Talking over the video themselves. I feel like all that worked to our advantage because it felt more homegrown. We were basically making a video the same way kids would.


Was the plan for you and Jeff to always share a part? 


Pretty much. We were skating together a lot anyway. Mike put us on the team together… We were kind of a package deal.  


Pettit ollies some pretty big gaps in that one, like the Gonz gap, and you’re in the background of pretty much every clip. Were you guys both trying this stuff? Was it just a matter of who got it first? 


I do remember ollieing the Gonz Channel that day, but it wasn’t as good as when Jeff did it. Not that you can even tell what it is by the footage, Dave’s angle was a little off on that one. If you didn’t know that was the Gonz Channel, you wouldn’t be able to tell how far that was. Not at all. (laughs)


But no, the Gonz Channel felt weird if you were regular-footed… for me anyway. With the angle and how those steps came up that you had to clear? When I did it that day, I landed a little sideways and didn’t go straight off the three stairs. I turned a bit and went off the little drop to the left of the steps. It just didn’t look as good as when Jeff did it. He’s flying in that footage!


Pettit on the Kinky Rail. Photo: Morford


Would you guys camp out for clips?  


For the most part, everything in our section was stuff we’d done before… except for the ladder. We really didn’t have the time to try learning stuff on camera, we were more concerned with getting footage of everything we already knew that we could do.


A few stunts were pretty spontaneous, actually. Like I remember being down in Vista with those guys, we stopped to get gas and I just happened to notice this crazy driveway across the street. It went up, with a big wall and a drop-off on the side. That’s the one I ollie grabbed off of in my part. I think I just went over there and did it on my own, but Mike saw me do it. 


“Dude! What the hell!?! Let’s film that!”


I don’t know if I would’ve thought to film that on my own. 


How’d all those doubles clips come together? 


Well, at Santa Clara, where I do the caveman grind and Jeff does a caveman boardslide right after me, that was Schlossbach trying to get us all in one shot. Because it adds a little something, you know? That was one of the longer rails we’d ever done at that time. There wasn’t much runway for that one, either. And like I said, I totally slammed doing it, too. I hit my nose on that cement block at the base of the rail and went flying over the rail onto my butt. 


That kinked rail was more of Jeff’s spot. I think I tried to grind it that day but couldn’t get it. I remember us both trying to boardslide it together, but that didn’t work either, so I just ollied the stairs. Because I was going second, I knew I could make the ollie. 


The double ollies over the Sausalito Post Office Rail, when Jeff hits his wheel, that one didn’t take too long. We skated there all the time, and to be honest, that rail wasn’t super high. But again, that was another Schlossbach idea for us to cross like that. We’d never done it like that before.


Is that you guys doing the voiceovers there? Is that just your names over and over again? 


Yeah, it’s just our last names over and over again, but I think that’s Ternasky doing the voiceovers. He and Dave or Tony came up with all that in the editing room. 


I still remember the phone call when they told us about the whole “Jeff Pettit, Raaaaaaaay Simmonds” thing. I think it was after Rich Ezekiel did the Skate Camp Song, which I think was a joke… Ternasky decided to recap everyone’s name for fun. He said he wanted people to remember the team, which was a great idea and totally worked! From there, they must’ve decided to do funny voiceovers for everyone else’s section, too. Making them sounds sorta crazy so people would remember them easier. 


How often would you hear that over the years? 


Oh man, I’d get that a lot. Because it was always kinda weird when kids recognized me after the video came out. It was like having a little bit of fame, which was strange. 


But I’d hear them say, “There’s Ray Simmonds.”


…which would immediately be followed by, “Raaaaaaay Simmonds!” 


So, I guess it worked. (laughs)



I’m pretty sure that’s the first front foot impossible in your part, right? 


Yes, I will legitimately take credit for that trick. Other ones can be argued, I guess, but I do think that was the first one of those. 


I actually remember where that came from. Because first, there was the ollie flip toeside, then we started fooling around with the ollie flip heelside. That’s basically how the front font impossible came about. I learned 360 ollie flips on the toe side because I think I saw Jason Lee or Ray Barbee do one. Front foot impossibles actually came from trying to do a 360 heelflip. I’d pop and kick but I could never get my foot out of the way, so the board would just wrap around my foot instead.  


“Oh, okay. I’ll guess I’ll just do this instead.”


That was one I definitely wanted for the video… and it definitely took a bunch of tries to make. I was still kinda figuring that one out.


Nobody knew what that was at the time. 



What about the kickflip grab at Benicia? That was early, too. 


I don’t remember having seen anybody do that one on film before, either. Because I’d been doing those for a while. And that was another one that I was really wanting for the video, because it felt so new. 


Funny thing about that clip, I remember really working hard to film a clean one of those. Trying to go high, but not far, just at the corner. But then, Dave Sorrenson started doing regular kickflips on that same corner for the camera, which got me super irritated. I got all competitive… 


“Fuck that dude!” 


So, I went super fast and ollie flip grabbed the whole thing. Just to prove a point, I guess. Looking back, I really don’t know why I got so irritated, but Dave was definitely like, “Oh shit”.


He didn’t try it anymore after that. (laughs)



“Cracked his head on a frontside”. Tell me the story of that night. I’m guessing that’s your gas station gig?


(laughs) Again, all credit goes to Dave Schlossbach for that. He and Jeff came by my work to either pick me up or drop me off, I don’t remember. But Dave takes one look at this tiny booth I had to stand in and asks if he can film me.


So yeah, Dave just stood behind me and filmed. He’s the guy who starts laughing when I’m talking to that guy. Because that was something that would always happen at that place. It was a 24-hour gas station, so the pumps were set up to where you had to pay first. They didn’t want people running off with stolen gas in the middle of the night while the attendant was asleep in that booth… which happened. I definitely slept on that floor a lot because it was set up to start beeping whenever people pulled up, which would always wake me up.  


But anyway, people were constantly confused by these pre-pay pumps, man. And I’d have to say that same thing all day long. Countless times.


“You have to pay first.”


Over and over again. It just so happened that Dave’s filming me say it for the 100th time that day. And I was definitely a little more animated with it because of the camera. Giving a little play-by-play. 


I’ve had many people ask what “Crack your head on a frontside” means? A frontside what? Well, I meant a frontside boardslide on a railing, but I didn’t get a chance to finish my sentence. I had been doing the Sausalito Post Office railing frontside recently and one time, I slipped out and hit my head on the bar. So, that’s what I meant.


“He’s crazy, man. He must’ve cracked his head on a frontside…”



What's the story with the “Pussy Hairs” dude? 


Oh, the fat guy yelling at Jeff? I wasn’t there for that. I think I had to work that night, so I missed it. 


I always thought that was you saying, “Touch him. Touch him. I dare you.”


No, that was our friend Jerry Thompson. People always ask me about that clip, too. 


“Did you get into a fight with that guy?”


No, they didn’t get into a fight. The funny thing is Jeff saying all of that stuff, because he was always super mellow about everything! He was always the guy trying to keep people from getting into fights! So for him to get that angry is crazy. But that guy was just being a total asshole… I mean, what a dick!


It’s pretty funny how everyone’s just yelling at that dude. He’s all gross, not wearing a shirt.


“Come here, boy! Come here! You punk!”


It really does epitomize that time for us. We were always getting into confrontations like that. Not that we were seeking them out, we just wanted to skate. But without skateparks, we were forced to session whatever we could find, which meant pissing people off. 



A young Mike Carroll fills out the last third of your part. Did you know the Carroll Brothers prior to that day of filming? 


Yeah, but I knew Greg better. Just because he was more my age, a little bit older than Mike. 


I honestly don’t think Mike liked me very much at first. Because there was a time where I seriously almost killed him while skating at Embarcadero. We got along better after we started skating together more, but it was a rough start, for sure. 


What happened?


I was trying to ollie the pyramid at Embarcadero one day… I think Natas does it in a video, where he runs up there, jumps on his board and ollies it? Well, Joel and I used to do it by putting our boards up there, then we’d run from the floor of the plaza, near the fountain. We’d run up the stairs, jump on our boards and then ollie it. 


Well, one time, Mike Carroll decided to start sessioning the bottom step as I was doing this. And I didn’t know he was there. So, I do my little run up, hop on my board and ollie… and he’s right there. Grinding. I kick my board out and scream. I think I may have knocked him over, but I definitely got super pissed at him. 


“What the fuck are you doing!?!? You gotta pay attention, dude. I don’t want to kill you!”


He was just a little kid! But yeah, he hated me. He definitely thought I was an asshole. 


But by the time we filmed for the video, we’d made amends. And he was already super good. Doing all those rails, grinding everything. It was clear that he was going to be super awesome. And it was cool to have him out there with us, doing his thing. 



What was your favorite thing about Shackle Me Not? And more importantly, did you like your part? 


Oh, Jeff and I were super hyped on how our part came out. 


I remember going down to San Diego for the premiere. They rented a theater out and the whole thing. We got to hang out more with Dave Andrecht and Tony Magnusson, which I had both of their pictures on my wall as a kid. Just that was enough to blow us away, but all of these people we knew from the magazines were there to watch our video. We had no idea what to expect but it was all very exciting. 


I think the second shot is me doing a caveman grind, and it’s like, “Woah! I’m in there already!”


Then, after “Page Mill forever!”, we get to our part and that music starts off at the beginning, with the really tense guitar and all the slow-mo. Then over the ladder. After that, it really kicks in and the music changes with those weird voices saying our names?!? We were just beside ourselves. So much fun!  


People were yelling and screaming. I can’t remember who, maybe John Schultes, but there was this guy on the team who always gave me crap. I don’t know why, he was just never very nice to me. But after I jump the ladder, I saw him stand up and scream, “Holy shit, dude!” He looked over at me real quick, and from then on, he was always nice to me. (laughs) 


One funny thing from that trip was Danny Way coming with Ternasky to pick us up at the airport. I remember him asking me all these questions, until he goes, “You’re my favorite street skater, man!”


He was just a little kid at the time but it blew me away. I just remember being, like, “Dude, you’re giving me way too much credit.” (laughs)


Even back then, I knew that there was no way I could live up to his expectations. It was like Imposter Syndrome or something, that he’s quickly going to figure out that I’m out of tricks. (laughs)


Ray and Brian Lotti, Summer '89


Was there ever talk of you or Jeff possibly going pro?


Well, they gave Hensley a pro model right after the video came out. That was pretty much a given as everyone loved Hensley. It’s hard to believe that he was still an amateur at that time, he was just so awesome. 


They never really pushed Jeff or I in that direction but I did feel like it would eventually happen. Maybe Ternasky would tell us when we’re ready? We didn’t quite know how it worked. I did go on a Midwestern tour that Ternasky asked me to do, but I also knew being pro meant doing well in competitions… which, again, I always did so bad in contests. 


I just never had any real type of strategy. I didn’t like practicing a specific run over-and-over again to get it dialed, which is what you have to do in contests. I was always looking for something wild to do instead.


In hindsight, I realize now that there was a new kind of pro coming along at this time, the “film crazy crap for a video and do whatever you want” pro. Where contests didn’t matter. 


Yeah, you were right before the “video pro”.


That probably would’ve worked for me. It just wasn’t there yet. 


Ray's only ad. A-1 Meats.


But it’s weird that H-Street never gave you an ad back then, because your part was such a standout in the video.


No, the only ad I ever got was with A-1 Meats, a wheel company down in San Diego. Gabe Morford took the photos, which was cool. 


But no, I don’t remember H-Street even bringing up an ad to me at any point.


You moved to Santa Barbara after Shackle Me Not, right? What prompted the move?


It’s interesting because I actually debated between moving to San Diego or Santa Barbara for a while. In high school, as with contests, I never did very well on tests either, so my grades weren’t exactly fantastic. After we graduated, Joel and my friend Mike both moved down to Santa Barbara for college while I hung back and went to auto school in Marin. 


During that year is when I went on that Midwestern tour and also skated down in Vista for a bit, basically because I didn’t know what I was doing with my life. But I think that tour ended up being the deciding factor for me. Because in doing demo after demo, it just grinded on me. I started to get this feeling, almost like with competitions, where I felt like I had to perform on-demand and do the big tricks. I had all these kids asking for tricks: Do a tuck-knee here! Kickflip that thing!


People constantly pulling out ladders. (laughs)


(laughs) It never got to that point, but that would’ve been funny. 


But here we are, on this big tour, and I got so burned out. I ended up getting injured, too. The bottom of my foot was black-and-blue but I still skated anyway because I felt like I had to… even though it was super painful. 


Suddenly, it felt like a job. And that’s not why I started skating. I just wanted to do my own thing and have fun. To have skating as a creative outlet. But once I got into the whole circuit, I wasn’t sure if I actually wanted to be doing this with my life anymore. 


I figured if I moved down to San Diego, I’d get sucked in deeper into this whole thing and end up killing myself on some crazy gap or rail. Because I’d feel like I had to do it. 


So, I moved to Santa Barbara with my friends instead. 


When it came time to film Hokus Pokus, I was just completely burned out. I vaguely remember filming some things in the Bay area with Mike McEntire, but not much of that made it into the video. I’m not quite sure what happened to that stuff. 


It’s funny, because they did use one shot of me in Marin near our local grocery store... the ‘Freddy Krueger’ shot in the night skating montage.


I didn’t know that was you. 


Yeah, I’d attached some palm fronds to my hand and boardslid this long cement bench that goes around a 90-degree curve. As I come off, I clawed at the camera. That was just McEntire and I messing around.


What’s too bad is that I was super pumped right after Shackle Me Not came out and was doing all kinds of stuff, I just never filmed any of it. But by the time we were filming again, I didn’t have that same energy for Hokus Pokus. I just wasn’t willing to risk it all for the camera like I used to.



Yeah, you didn’t have much in there. But I imagine Hokus Pokus being a much different beast than Shackle, right? 


For me, it was. Jeff actually got a bunch of great stuff in Hokus Pokus. He kicked ass in that video, it's just hard to know which shots are him! Like that lumpy rail he boardslid? But Jeff and I weren’t skating as much together by that point. He had moved to San Diego and I went to Santa Barbara. We were able to get some footage together at Fort Miley before moving. I did an ollie-flip off that big drop and he did the no comply off it and then goes down the hill and slides, kinda like in Shackle. But that was really it for us together on that one. 


After Hokus Pokus came out, I was kinda bummed. I didn’t really do anything big or memorable. I felt like I should have realized that when I was filming, but I felt pressured and burned out. I never really skated in order to impress people. Sure, I liked getting credit for stuff. And it felt great when people were stoked on my part in the first video, but that was never why I skated.


I put so much pressure on myself, because I felt like people had all these expectations of me now. I just couldn’t handle it. 


“Hey, you did all that sick stuff… Wait, we already saw that trick! Where are your new ones?” 


In the end, I just said, “Fuck it” and didn’t make it a priority to seek out any big tricks for the video. I basically took myself out. 



In doing these interviews, I’ve found that a lot of H-Street guys were constantly worried about being replaced back then. 


You could say that Ternasky might’ve been a little na├»ve about this. Because I don’t think he was trying to do push us in a malicious way. I just don’t think he understood everyone’s emotional state when it came to this stuff. All of the pressure and that people could begin to feel under-appreciated or even crack. I guess he just thought that everyone would rise to the challenge. Maybe he was being very Darwinian about it, rise to challenge or fade away, I don’t know. But I didn’t need him asking me what tricks I did every week. I wasn’t up for that. He was giving me boards, so yeah, I should be progressing for the team. But you have to keep doing it for yourself, too. 


I mean, look at Ron Allen! He’s still shredding and he’s over 50 years old! That’s my point. I think it’s better to just allow people to evolve and learn new tricks because they love it. Because they want to.


Other than the Marin stuff, was that just a few days of filming when Sal and MT came through Santa Barbara? 


Yeah, that was when Sal used to travel around everywhere with Ternasky. I think they even lived together back then. That’s a big reason why Sal was all over that video. He was just awesome back then.


I will admit that I was bummed when they filmed him doing the curvy pink railing for the video. Because I’d already done it for my A1-Meats ad. But they ended up going there without me, even though it was in my town. I’d even do backside lipslides around that thing, too. But I just remember seeing him do it in the video and being like, “Dude, that’s my spot!”


I don’t remember where I was when they did that, but whatever. 


They were only in SB for a few days, but I was able to film some things with them. Like that weird ramp with the railing? That was at my house. And there was that school with the embankment. I got some stuff on that, too. 


…I don’t know where I was for all those sessions when Kit Erikson and Sal got that footage at the UCSB campus, either. I was going to school there at that time, too. 


Sometime during that summer, I went up to San Luis Obispo with Ternasky and Colby Carter… he’s another guy who went pro pretty quick. But that’s when I did the bluntslide on the yellow rail in that parking lot. I hadn’t seen anyone do that before. I also did a feeble grind on that bike rack, too.



Friend of Smokey the Bear, what was up with that fire? 


We just happened to be skating there when a fire broke out in the grass. I think there was maybe a bottle lying there, and with it being so sunny, it caught fire. It was pretty wild. But I just went over there to put it out and they happened to a catch it on camera, so they stuck it in there. Just for fun. And that was Ternasky’s voice again. 


I think they wanted to do another funny thing with me since it worked so well the first time.


I think this brings us to your knee injury…


Well, I went skating in Santa Barbara on a rainy day and was sliding one of those plastic tubes that they put in the ground… like a big drainpipe. I was doing boardslides across it and basically slid out on one, tweaking my knee. It hurt really bad at first, but the pain went away after a day. 


I thought I was totally fine, so the next weekend, I went up to Marin and was skating with Pat Duffy. We went to the Black Point ramp, which had all these holes on top of the deck. I did a tailslide and my foot got caught on top, in a hole or something. Tweaking that same knee again, I heard a pop and I knew that was it. 


Pat actually wasn’t old enough to drive yet, so I had to drive home with a stick on the accelerator. We went straight to my house because I was in too much pain to take him home. And I remember giving him my board.


“Dude, you can have it. I’m not going to be skating for a while. I’m screwed.”


I laid down with an icepack for the rest of the night and woke up the next day to searing pain. I immediately went to the doctor and found out that I’d broken my ACL. And at that time, you were out for several months with an ACL surgery. I know a few guys have chosen not to have the surgery but I decided to get it. I felt like I needed to. And that was it. 



How did your H-Street relationship end? 


Well, Ternasky would call me afterwards and we'd talk about everything. But in hindsight, I think I was pretty immature in how I handled it.


“Dude, I broke my ACL. I gotta have surgery and it’s going to take me a while to recover.”


I specifically remember him saying, “Don’t worry, man. Just heal up. We’re going to keep sending you stuff.”


“Please don’t send me stuff, dude. I’m not gonna be skating anytime soon.”


“No, we’re going to keep sending you stuff.”


I mean, that was kind of the thing again: Ternasky being a bit pushy, you know? 


“Don’t worry about it. I’ll let you know when I’m healing up.”


But it didn’t matter, H-Street kept sending me stuff anyway. I actually remember feeling really bad about that, like I didn’t deserve this stuff. So I only kept a few things and gave the rest of it away. 


I did talk to Ternasky a few more times after that, but then I just stopped. I stopped talking to him. And he’d still call. He would leave messages. 


“How’s it going, Ray? Are you riding again?”


Looking back on it, I might’ve taken those messages the wrong way. Because you can look at it as either Mike being pushy or possibly just being supportive. And early on, I needed that type of support. But after everything that had gone down, I took it the other way. I felt like I could no longer do the job, so I felt bad about myself. I felt guilty. And that’s not Ternasky’s fault. 


I was the one who stopped calling. He would call but I wouldn’t call him back. And that was wrong of me. He kept leaving messages but I just disappeared. I don’t think that I ever officially quit H-Street, but at the same time, Mike never kicked me off, either. That says a lot. 


I did skate some after I finally healed up, but it was clear that things had progressed far beyond where I thought I could possibly get to. At first, there was a feeling that I needed to “catch up”, but that’s not why I ever wanted to skate. I felt that I had to move on to something else. It was a very depressing time in my life, actually.



Did you have any hand at all in connecting Duffy with Ternasky? 


No, that was all Pat. Ternasky didn’t need me to tell him how awesome Pat was. I think that was pretty obvious. 


Could you tell that Pat was about to have the impact he did? 


I knew Pat was an awesome skater. You can never really tell about someone’s career, just because there’s so many other factors that come into play. But I tried to support him as much as I could. 


Of course, the rails were awesome, but I don’t think that Pat got enough credit for how good he was on mini-ramp. He was incredible. 


But yeah, Pat had that little rail in front of his house, like a balance beam. And I remember watching Pat learn how to skate that thing. Because when he first got it, he was just learning railslides. But the next time we came over, just a few weeks later, he’d already learned all of these different tricks on it. He was just getting better and better at a really quick pace, to the point where he was soon doing every trick he could think of on it. It was insane. 


I’m not sure if I picked up on the potential of translating that to real railings, but it clearly helped. He made railings look so effortless. And to those of us who knew him, it looked exactly like how he used to skate that little bar in front of his house. Exact same thing, just on a much bigger scale. 

What were your thoughts on his Questionable part? An incredible part, obviously, but also with so many of your old spots! 


I just don’t think I realized how much Pat soaked up that H-Street video, even though he later told me how he’d watched it countless times. Because like you said, a lot of those same spots were in our part. I suppose there might’ve been a bit of him looking up to Jeff and I as a younger kid, not that we would’ve ever thought that way about ourselves. 


But yeah, Joel was even in the intro! It was wild to see Pat make those same spots so iconic. He just took everything to the next level. 


Did you ever see Frankie Hill namedrop you at the end of his Celebraty Tropical Fish part?


Really? I don’t know if I’ve ever seen that, to be honest. 


He says a bunch of gibberish so they would use it, then he sneaks your name in at the end as a special shout-out to you. 


Oh, that’s cool! I’ll have to check that out. 


After the injury, I just got so into my schoolwork that I kinda stopped following skateboarding after a while. 



And now, you’re a quantum physicist? How’d that happen? Wow!


I finally learned how to take tests! And once I learned how to do that, I was finally able to do something with my schooling. 


I ended up moving to San Francisco and was able to transfer into UC Berkeley. I did my undergrad and grad school there in Physics, where I studied Superfluid Helium 3. I made a Superfluid Gyroscope for my Ph.D., exploring something called the Josephson Effect in Superfluids and Superconductors… basically some magical stuff happens through tiny holes due to pressure on them. Very funky. And now, I’m an Experimental Physicist. I build Superconducting Circuits at NIST in Colorado. My team is working on building a Quantum Computer, which you can google. It’s pretty wild. 


But it’s weird, because so much of this stuff is just like skateboarding. It’s all experimentation. 


I recently saw a video where you got all super-scientifical and had a hard time believing that it was the same “cracked your head on a frontside” guy. It’s very impressive that you went down this path. 


I’ve always been into science and did well in math, I just didn’t turn in my homework in high school. I was kinda immature about stuff back then. I’ve always felt like I have more of an artistic mind anyway. It’s always been more about inventing stuff with me. 


Pat tells the story about the board I gave him, it had these metal rods that I’d made in metal shop. Because I always used to snap my boards doing japan airs off launch ramps. Torqueing it way back, I’d always snap my board when I came down… that’s honestly why I started doing more tuck-knee airs, because I’d land with my feet on the trucks, not the tail. But I made these little bars to make my boards last a little longer. It worked, too. Pat told me he rode with those rails for a while! (laughs) 



Had you been in contact with Jeff much over the years? 


Well, what’s weird is that we were actually texting the day before he got in his fatal car accident. I’d just done a podcast with Schmitty, which Jeff was actually the one who connected us. So he was asking me how that all went and sent me a video of himself river rafting in Tahoe. 


I’d been trying to contact him about a year ago, because I’d been reconnecting with Tony Magnusson and everything he’s doing with the H-Street reboot. Jeff and I played phone tag for a while, until he ended up going on a trip to Bali for like a month or something… it just kinda faded after that. I kept meaning to call him, which I finally did end up doing. But next thing I know, Joel sends me a text, saying that he has really bad news. 


Back when I went down to Santa Barbara, he actually moved to San Diego. And I remember going down there to visit him once, but we just kinda grew apart. I killed my knee and was doing school while he got really into the whole snowboarding thing… it’s so awesome that he actually had an H-Street Snowboard. But yeah, we just lost touch. 


It’s been such a weird time with talking about all my skateboarding stuff lately, which I haven’t really talked about in years. It really made me want to catch up with Jeff and hear about everything he had going on. I’m super sad we never got that opportunity. 


Ray & T Mag, SD. 2019


When was the last time you watched your guys’ Shackle part? 


I honestly hadn’t seen it in decades, prior to the last week or so. Just in getting ready to talk about all this, I had to revisit it real quick. Still holds up, eh?


Definitely. Looking back on everything, what does Shackle Me Not mean to you personally, and what do you see as its legacy in skateboarding as a whole? 


Personally, it’s like that long-haired Berkeley guy says in the video when Mike asks him, “What do you think of skateboarding?” 


“It’s an artform, I think.”


That sums it up for me. It’s a place to explore. Skateboarding gave me the confidence to do my own thing. And it made me feel like I had value, because of this thing I was doing. Shackle Me Not is such a snapshot in time, it’s like a gift. I’ll always have these memories to look back on, which is awesome because it truly was an amazing time. I mean, that’s basically my youth right there.  


In terms of the industry, what Magnusson and Ternasky were saying with Shackle Me Not was that they accepted anyone who they felt was doing something special. It didn’t matter where you came from, what you looked like, or how marketable you were. If you were doing awesome stuff, they acknowledged you. 


It didn’t matter if you were pro or amateur, nobody got any special consideration. Mike and T-Mag put us all in there equally. Let’s show these guys off, and without trying to manipulate what it’s “supposed” to be or look like. They let it be a grassroots thing. Shackle Me Not is about as pure an expression of skateboarding as you’re probably ever going to get. And that’s why it was able to truly change everything. 


big thanks to Pat and Ray for taking the time. 


R.I.P. Jeff Pettit and Mike Ternasky