chrome ball interview #105: steve caballero

style or stinkbug? you choose. 

So we’re fresh off your shared victory at this year’s Van’s Pool Party. Congrats, Steve… but how did this crazy tie happen? And were you even expecting to win? I know you’d been hurt.

Yeah, I feel like I was only around 80% going into the contest. I’d suffered a big shoulder injury about a month-and-a-half before the contest and then a few weeks later, I ended up compressing my spine while riding dirt bikes. All of this while I was trying to gear up for the contest. So yeah, while I was  looking forward to it what can I say? Things went downhill pretty quick! (laughs)

With everything that was going on with me, I really didn’t know what to expect. I’m really competitive, too. I want to do the best that I can. So obviously, because of all this, I was feeling some pressure.

But to be honest, it wasn’t a tie at all. Van Doren called it a tie just because he’s a nice dude and is always looking out for everybody. I think a lot of people were confused but whenever two riders have the same score, the system automatically breaks the tie by including the highest and lowest scores that were previously thrown out.  Regular scores typically only include the scores from 3 judges, even though there are always 5. The system throws out the extreme scores as a way of equalizing any potential favoritism.

We only had the same score without the highest and lowest scores factored in. Once the computer put those scores back, I had the higher score by .2 points. The same thing happened with Pat and Magnusson for 3rd and 4th but once they recalculated everything with all the scores, Magnusson ended up being a little higher. 

So yeah, a lot of people were confused. I think even Lance was confused about everything. But you’re going to have to ask him why he didn’t take his 3rd run. I don’t want to get into all that because I don’t want to say something he wouldn’t be stoked on. I can’t speak for him. But he did have a chance to take another run and didn’t take it. That was his decision.

As we get older, the body’s natural tendency is to breakdown. With an already pronounced neck condition, in addition to any new injuries that may stack up, how are you faring at 52?  Are there tricks that just don’t work anymore?

Oh man, I miss tuck-knee inverts. Stalefishes, too. I just can’t reach back there anymore. Les Twists, where you grab behind your foot. Andrechts. Stuff like that. But all this is really my own fault. I didn’t take the time to stretch back in the day. I mean, skating was our stretching back then. Doing those tricks kept us flexible. But if you stop doing all that stuff, you’re not stretching anymore. I stopped skating vert for a long time, basically in the late 90s through the early-2000s, because I was out street skating all the time. But when you’re skating street, you’re no longer bending down and grabbing your board like you do on vert. You’re just ollieing all the time. So little by little, your back is getting tighter. You’re becoming less limber. I remember once I started getting back into vert again, I was kinda surprised with how difficult it was to reach my board!

Dudes that kept skating vert the whole time don’t seem to have these problems. Andy Mac, Tony Hawk... I never see them stretch and they can get into any position, no problem. And they skate every day!

You gotta stay limber. The older you get, the tighter you get and I think that’s what hinders me most at this point in my life, the lack of flexibility. Not to mention how much longer it takes for me to recover from injuries now. My shoulder still hurts from something I did two months ago! If this would’ve happened back when I was 20, I would’ve been fine the next day. That’s old age for you.

I was reading an old interview where you said that you had looked into getting your neck fixed and it was a 50% chance of success, 50% chance of paralysis. Is that still the case?

I’m not sure. That’s actually something my Dad told me when I was 10-years-old. They had doctors looking into whether or not they could fix the tilt of my head. I guess they could never determine how it was caused, whether it was a birth defect or that one of my neck glands possibly grew too large, throwing it off a little. But it hasn’t really affected my ability to do stuff, just my appearance. I don’t have the gnarly scoliosis that a lot of people have, mine is much more slight. But I don’t feel that it’s ever really hindered by ability to do anything.

Yeah, I think you’re doing just fine, Steve. (laughs)

Yeah, I don’t really care. At this point, I’m honestly afraid of getting it fixed because that might be what starts throwing me off! (laughs)

You’ve had so many highlights at both Combis over the years. I was always hyped on your backside nosepick photo, with no nose, back in ‘88. That had to be terrifying, right?  

Well, that was probably the easiest spot to do that at because right there, in particular, had the least amount of vert in that entire pool.

People forget how gnarly the original combi was! It was insane! It had the most vert out of all the bowls around! And the trannys were so small. You’re looking at, like, 8-foot transitions with 2 ½ - 3 feet of vert! It was way gnarlier than what’s at Vans now.

But yeah, that’s a cool photo. I think I shot a Smith grind that day for a Gotcha ad, too. You remember the ones with the cut-out 50’s people in them? That was fun. Oh, the 80s! (laughs)

Backside nosepick… that’s probably a trick I can’t do anymore either. I just can’t grab!

Another classic: you and Lance blasting with helmet-in-hand. Was that a planned thing or improvised? What’s the story there?

Nah, that just kinda happened. We were shooting with Glen Friedman and trying a doubles routine. I remember Lance went a little bit higher that time and my hand just happened to be down there. I hooked the top of his helmet, pulling it back. I don’t think we made that shot but it ended up being printed anyways. I mean, it’s a hilarious photo. You gotta run it.

It ended up as a Bones ad because I remember that they made the coping look really weird for some reason, like they airbrushed it or something. It doesn’t even match. Glen put the real photo in his book and it looks totally different. No idea why they did that.

Powell Magic.

Yeah, some of that lesser-seen Powell Ad Magic.

Speaking of Lance, were you aware that he kept your Future Primitive braids after you cut them off? And honestly, was it a little weird for you that he did this?  

I had no idea that he saved them. I only found out years later when he was showing me his collection of stuff. But that’s just Lance, he’s a collector. His Dad was super into World War 2 stuff and I know that was a big influence on him. But he was pretty smart to keep all that stuff, you know? I remember him keeping a deck I rode in Australia that was one-of-a-kind with an airbrushed dragon-and-bats graphic. We were on tour and I didn’t know that he’d saved it. I’d completely forgotten about it until it showed up in a few photos and Lance ended up selling that board for a couple grand!

But no, I don’t think it’s weird at all that he kept that stuff. You gotta remember that with his ramp, people were constantly putting together new boards and leaving the old ones, he just saved them. He was thinking ahead. Those braids were on the cover of Thrasher Magazine. I’m sure someone would buy that.

The big question is which ones does he have? The first braids I had were held together by little mini Thrasher stickers. Those are the ones that were on the cover. That’s my real hair.

The other braids I had with rubber bands, those were hair extensions. This was later on in the 80’s when everyone was wearing super long hair. I remember Christian had some hair extensions and I thought it looked cool. I’d just cut my hair short, so yeah, I had some hair extensions in for a little while. But I braided mine. Fake hair extension braids. I’m not sure if Lance has those or the real ones.

Lance had ones with rubber bands.

So those are the fake ones. That makes sense as I would’ve just unraveled my real hair, I wouldn’t have cut it all off. But that’s pretty funny, actually. No wonder he kept them. (laughs)

How did the Caballerial come about?

I just happened to be at the right place at the right time. It came from watching a friend of mine skate at Winchester Skatepark, Robert Chavelli. We used to call him “The Fly”. But he used to do this trick called the RB Slide, named after Rick Blackhart, where you rolled up fakie, put your hand down and slid around, rolling back in fakie. He also used to do these fakie 360 kickturns on the tile, coming all the way back around. He always liked to do those two tricks back-to-back.

So we’re all skating together one day and I sit down to rest for a second. I’m watching Robert skate the bowl and I see him pumping super hard out of a RB slide on one wall, going up to do a fakie 360 kickturn on the next one… but he’s going way too fast and flies out of the bowl. I still remember him flailing in the air but seeing him do that got me thinking about if doing that in the air on purpose was actually possible? Because I already knew how to do fakie ollies, what if I could go 360? So I started trying them.

At that point, with how skating was and where I was in it, I’d basically learned all the tricks that you could do in a bowl. I mean, everything was still so wide open, it was basically up to you to figure it out and start coming up with stuff. It wasn’t all laid out there yet. So all you started to think about was what’s next? It’s funny to think about now but it was actually kinda easy to get bored because you didn’t know what else to do.

I just kept trying this thing. After a while, I started to figure out that if I held my legs in longer, spinning a whole 360 might actually be possible. Finally, I got one around about 3/4s of the way, slid the rest and landed it. I was stoked.

I call up Stacy, like, “I think I invented a new trick.”

“What is it?”

“It’s a fakie ollie 360.”

“Oh! Well, when you come down for the Marina Gold Cup contest in a few weeks, I’ll pick you up a little early and you can show it to me.”

I still remember getting to the park and Lance and Neil are already in the parking lot as we pull up.

“Stacy told us about this new trick you invented! We want to see it!”

They start pushing me up to the Upper Keyhole, literally putting my pads on for me. (laughs)

But yeah, I got warmed up and bailed a few before landing one. They were blown away when they saw it, which felt really good. I hadn’t shown it to anybody yet because I lived all the way up north. The Marina contest was when I unleashed it… even though I didn’t do very well in the contest.

Who came up with the name?

Stacy did. This is back when we were doing those Intelligence Report ‘zines.

I had a whole month after Marina to really perfect it for the Upland Contest so I just kept on doing them. Once it came time for Upland, I had them wired and ended up winning the contest.

When the next Intelligence Report comes out, Stacy puts me on the cover with the headline, “Stevie Wins Upland with the Caballerial.”

That was all Stacy. I never called it that and had no idea that he was going to put it in there like that. I thought it was a kinda funny when I saw it, but I still called it a “fakie 360 ollie”. Honestly, “Caballerial” always made me feel weird. It was always a little embarrassing for me, which, of course, meant that soon enough, people started teasing me about it.

“Oh, what trick is that?”

“A fakie 360 ollie.”

“Oh yeah? Don’t you mean a Caballerial? Yeah, that’s a Caballerial.”

You also invented backside bonelesses and frontside slide and rolls, right? Am I missing anything else?

That’s true. I think I was also the first to do frontside bonelesses on vert. Invert varials… frontside gay twists, too. Switch inverts.


Yeah, I did one in my run at Colton. I’d do an Andrecht to fakie and then a “backwards invert” because there was no such thing as switch at the time. So yeah, there’s that, too.

What was your relationship like with the McTwist back in its heyday? I know you learned it with a backside grab years later but how badly did you go after learning it during its prime? It was easily the biggest trick in skateboarding back then.

You can see me trying one in Animal Chin at Borst’s Ramp. I just don’t think that I really had the proper ramp to learn them on. My ramp was only 12-feet wide. And honestly, I was always a little bit spooked by them. Lester was the second person to learn McTwists and I'd heard the story about him trying one and flying out of bowl, landing with his body on the top deck. That’s scary! I didn’t want that to happen to me! So I basically stayed away from them after hearing that. I just didn’t have the passion to learn it.

I learned the Unit, which is a frontside 540 where you plant your hand. That was good enough for me. I had a 540 with that, I’m good. I felt that would be good enough for me in contests… but it obviously wasn’t.

I never really bothered with it until I learned backside 360 ollies on vert. It was right around the time of the San Jose Warehouse, because I remember doing them there before going on a tour with McGill to New Zealand.

I remember thinking to myself that I was gonna try learning those 540 ollies that Hawk does next.

I gave them a shot and wasn’t even coming close. The board’s just flailing away… why don’t I try grabbing backside? I can already do melon gay twists, what if I just grab it like that but go 540?

So yeah, after all that time, I end up learning that trick in a demo in New Zealand in less than an hour.  After all those years! I think it was those backside 360 ollies that helped me with getting into that position of tucking my head.

I remember Steve Douglas saw me do one after I got back to San Jose and said, “Oh, Cab’s gonna start winning contests again now.”

And he was right. (laughs)

Where did the dragon concept come from?

Well, they gave me that skull-and-propeller graphic for my very first board. Remember that? They even put an ad in Action Now of me holding it with Stacy behind me but the thing is, there were literally only 6 of those boards ever produced! That’s it! I’m still not sure why they put out an ad for such a limited run.

But wow, I really didn’t like that graphic. They didn’t even show it to me until after it was done. I think they wanted to surprise me… total buzzkill. (laughs)

“I just got off a Ray “Bones” Rodriguez Skull and Sword and you’re gonna give me silhouette of a skull with a propeller?

I mean, what is that!?! They basically took an image from the Air Force and copied it for my board? No way! That’s not what I want, especially for my first graphic! Not even close!

“Well, what do you want?”

I wanted to put some thought into it, man. I needed an image that felt like a good reflection of who I am. I start looking around and noticed that on the Chinese Zodiac, I was born in the Year of the Dragon. That’s kinda cool, but what kind of dragon? So I went to my friend who is a comic book artist.

“Can you help me draw a dragon?”

He drew this dinosaur-type dragon with wings on it, which was a good start. I took it to Powell and Court made a few further renditions. We ended up going with one where the dragon is sitting on a bearing. That’s cool, let’s go with that.

Years later, they took the bearing off but kept the dragon. But you gotta remember, I had that graphic for 5 years, from 1980 to 1985. Just that graphic. So when they wanted to finally do a new one, since I’d already had this one for so long, I knew that I wanted to stick with this dragon thing. It’s obviously working for me. Let’s try a different type of dragon.

So I’m at my Dad’s shop and there’s an artist there. What about more of a Chinese-style dragon with it going all the way down the board? So that’s what he did and I take that into Powell so Court can do his thing again. This one lasts about a year and from that, Court came up with the dragon and bats.

Yeah, where did all the bat stuff come from?

The bats are sort of an inside joke. It’s pretty funny, actually.

In 1986, I’m at a “streetstyle” contest in the Carson Velodrome when Stacy approaches me with a folder full of Xeroxed photos from skate magazines. He sits me down to have a little meeting and starts laying out everything on this table. They’re all pictures of me. Covers, centerfolds, ads… everything.

“So what’s going on here?”

“What are you talking about?”

“Why aren’t you wearing Powell shirts?”

I look closer and I’m not wearing a Powell shirt in a single one of these photos.

(laughs) “Well, because I don’t want to wear Powell shirts.”

“But what’s up with all this Batman and Spiderman stuff? The Misfits?”

“Stacy, that’s who I am.”

“Well, George really wants you to wear our shirts.”

“Well, I do wear them sometimes, when I want to or if I like one, in particular. But I don’t want to wear most of that stuff.”

I wanted to be different, man. I wanted to stand out and have my own personality. I wanted to connect with people who are into the same stuff that I am.

So what did George do? He starts putting these bats all over my boards to make it look like it was all planned! I can just see him getting in Court’s ear, like, “Okay, if he’s not going to wear our stuff, we’ll just make a bunch of bat stuff and he’ll have to like it.”

They start making sweatpants with bats going down the bottom, designing my name in the bat logo… it was so crazy to see that stuff come out. I had no idea. (laughs)

Stacy claims that the entire Chin project came from your expressed desire to act. Was that a possible byproduct of Police Academy 4 and Thrashin’?

Acting was just an idea I threw out there. I was brainstorming with Stacy about what to do next and brought up possibly incorporating a storyline. Something where we can talk and act things out, like an adventure. I love movies and I’m sure I thought it would be cool to show our personalities a little. So I just threw it out there, not realizing how embarrassed I’d end up being once we actually got down to it.

It was rough pretending to be an actor through all that… and I definitely made a conscious effort not to talk very much. Luckily, there was never a full script with lines you’d have to say. It was all pretty spontaneous. Stacy would have an idea for a premise and we’d just go with it, saying whatever we wanted. Which for me, was very little. So that’s basically how it went.

Well, you might not have said much but there’s that scene after Wallows where everyone’s eating and you do that thing with the banana…

(laughs) Oh man, I don’t know! It seemed like a good idea at the time! We were just messing around, trying to make each other laugh. It seemed like we were always laughing back then.

That’s actually the first scene that we ever shot in Chin so I’m sure I was extra nervous.

What’s your favorite quote from Chin?

Probably the one where McGill goes, “You gotta push with your ahhhmmm.”

When’s he talking to Donnie Griffin at Chris Borst’s? I always loved how he said that. But there’s so many. Obviously, Tommy has his fair share with “Yapple Dapple!” It’s not like you can quote me in there! I barely even say anything at all. But yeah, “You gotta push with your ahhhmmm. Steve Caballero, watch out!”

Did the 4 inverts seem like a big deal at the time? It goes by so quickly in the video, was there a sense of missed potential after seeing Grant’s photo afterwards?

So much of those tricks were completely spontaneous. The 4 inverts was just another idea we had. You have to remember that a ramp like that had never existed before, so we’re just feeding off each other with all these different ideas. We were going with not only what we could do that day but also what we could film. We were just hyped to be getting as much as we could.

When that photo was originally shot, we were just out there doing our thing while Grant was doing what he does. We were making it up as we went along. But recreating it 30 years later was much harder than I thought it would be because there was now something to compare it to. We didn’t have to worry about the angle being right before. But Grant wanted everything to look exactly the same. His positioning, our timing… it was a lot harder to do.

You reportedly walked off the set during the all-night Blue Tile Lounge shoot in Chin. Stacy and Stecyk were known for having some pretty far-out ideas back then… was there anything asked of you that you felt was weird or flat-out refused to do?

Back when we were still amateurs and I’d just met Stecyk, I’ll admit that it felt a little crazy. Having to go to this guy’s house to shoot an ad that wasn’t going to have any skateboarding in it? That felt a little weird, because I was still so young. I was so much about tricks, I didn’t realize what an ad like that had to do with me or my skating. Now I understand that they were creating a certain persona around us, building our own brands. That doing this is what would actually make our ads different and stand out. But I was just too young.

I just went with it at first. I looked up to Stacy so much that I trusted his judgment on what was cool before I really figured out what was going on. But there was never a time where I outright refused to do something.

This is a knit-picky one but there’s an ad that will always mystify me: The Tattooed Love Boys. You, Lance and Mike V with fake tats and a bottle of Jack. What was that?

Oh yeah, I remember that. That’s my real leather jacket, too!

That ad was Stacy’s way of making fun of the Alva crew. Because those guys were always trying to call us out. They were always trying to say we were a bunch of sissies. That the Bones Brigade was just a bunch of goodie-two-shoes and that we only drink milk. That ad was Stacy making fun of their image, like, “Hey, we can look tough, too.”

Granted you won some street contests early on but how seriously did you take “streetstyle”? Many pros from back then seemed to think of it more as a novelty and an easy way to pick up contest winnings.

I’ve always taken competition seriously. If there was a contest with nothing but curbs, I’d go out and try learning every trick I possibly could in order to win. That’s just how I am. Every contest I’ve ever entered, regardless of the terrain, always had my focus. So when street contests started popping up, that was just another outlet for me.

Obviously things changed as street skating started to evolve. Like, when kickflips were invented, that was a pretty big deal. Tommy was one of the first guys to start pulling them out in his contest runs. I clearly remember that.

“You’re not going to do that in the contest, are you? Aren’t you afraid you’re going to fall?”

Because in my mind, kickflips were easily the most inconsistent trick. I never thought anyone could actually get those things wired. But he had them. In my mind, that seemed like one of those subtle moments where a change was becoming apparent. That street skating was becoming more of its own thing.

You could tell by the courses: rails, ledges, flatground. It wasn’t just vert guys out there adapting their same tricks to quarterpipes anymore…. most of the early street courses were almost all huge quarterpipes so you’d see a lot of that actually. Guys were out there that couldn’t even ollie.

I always liked street skating but I honestly didn’t get super serious about it until later on… after most of the ramps were gone.

But that frontside nosebone Brittain shot was a definite early standout. How’d that come about?

That was at the old LAX banks. We were shooting photos one day with Grant and decided to head over to that spot. It’s an early grab frontside nosebone. I didn’t know how to ollie into frontside airs yet so I just yanked it.

Right, but that’s still super high for an early grab off a little bank.

Oh yeah, I could yank an early grab pretty good back in the day. (laughs)

We already had mini-ramps back then and in order to emulate what we were doing on vert, you had to grab super early and yank as hard as you could. That was me just taking the same approach out in the streets. You could do that sort of thing on banks.

A somewhat forgotten scene, what was Raging Waters like? Was that a daily skate for you? And was it weird to be skating in a waterpark like that?

Not a lot of people know this but they built that ramp just because it was getting so crowded on the weekends. The lines for the waterslides were getting super long and they needed something to entertain people as they waited. So they put all of this money into building this enormous ramp, which is kinda crazy. I mean, it was 106-feet wide!

So for 2-years straight, I’d go skate Raging Waters everyday. We got free reign of the waterslides and even free lunch if we skated. They were seriously handing out lunch tickets to skaters. It was pretty awesome.

The big thing for me was once that ramp was built, I cut my ramp down to a mini and made it wider.

You did your record-setting 11-foot air there. What’s going on in your head when you’re that high above coping? What’s your process?

You basically have to work your way up. Leading up to that, Hosoi and I had learned how to pump airs in order to go higher. He had just done a 10-foot air a few weeks before. But it basically came down to landing as close to the top of the coping as possible, so you could get the full pump onto the next wall.

It was a little different back then because of the quick transitions, you could pump super quick and get more speed. It’s harder to pump an air on bigger transitions because your legs just don’t work like that.

I’d start off by dropping in and pumping a set-up air. We didn’t have roll-ins back then so it was straight from the taildrop. That was usually around a 6-foot air or so. The next wall would be around 8 or 9-feet and then the third one is where you blast as high as you can. My 11-foot air was the third hit.

We also learned over the years that if you method it, you’re bringing your legs up over your head and can get a foot or two higher. They mark the bottom of your board as the height so doing methods was our way of getting a little extra.

But as far as what all is going in my head at the time?

“Don’t hang up!” (laughs)

Airwalk foot taps and melon nose bashes on the SJ Warehouse rafters. Was that common for you or just for the video?

Yeah, I used to do stalefish and hit my tail on it as well. I think that rafter was about 7 feet or so. The thing is that it wasn’t completely lined up with the coping actually, it was a little bit over. But you could get high enough to where you could hit it pretty good.

I actually remember doing lien airs and pushing off them with my hand. They were really kinda low.

My Ship… Underwater. Talk about that shared slow-mo part in Ban This with McGill. Was that a lot of repetition in tricks to get the shots? Did you know how it was going to look beforehand?

Oh no, I had no idea how that was going to turn out. We’d never filmed with that kind of camera before. It was like a high-speed 16mm camera, which was actually kind of intimidating because he’d turn it on and you’d have to wait while it got up to speed.

Stacy would go, “Rolling!”

You’d hear this crazy noise and quickly realize that there was a ton of film being wasted.

At the time, we only filmed tricks we had wired. Shooting stuff that we’d never done before was unheard of. That change came with H-Street because they’d go out and spend days trying to film a trick. Maybe not even getting any tricks at all that day but with video, you could do that. So they were constantly filming things that had never been done before, which became part of skating and its progression.

Bones videos really weren’t that different from contests because you’d only have a few hours to film your entire section. There really wasn’t enough time to really try stuff so you’d typically play it pretty safe.  

I’m not entirely sure how the editing process for Ban This was. We just skated. Stacy would tell us to do our thing and they’d film it. I was never behind the lens so I never knew what they were doing. I could tell Stacy already had an idea of how he wanted it to look but definitely didn’t know that he was filming my face so up-close like that. Filming my feeble grind, focusing on the wheel. He just had us do our tricks while he talked to the cameraperson. I didn’t see any of that stuff until the premiere.

There was a little more repetition with that one but not much more. It was actually kinda nice in a way because it was usually a little frustrating in that he’d film a trick we knew we could do better, be it higher or farther, but he’d always want to move on.

“But Stacy, I want to do it better!”

“Nah, it’s cool, man. Move on! We’re good!”

“Well… that sucks.”

It was around this time where your signature shoe came out on Vans. Was that the first pro shoe, prior to Natas? And how instrumental were you in the design?

It was the first pro model shoe made, produced and distributed in the USA. I’m not sure what all was going on in Europe. Etnies was out of France back then and obviously not advertising as much over here. I do remember my shoe coming out and going to a contest where I saw Natas had his shoe as well. I had no idea. I’d never even heard of Etnies. I think they’re trying to claim his shoe came out in ’88 but I never saw it anywhere.

Vans had asked me to do a shoe when I first got on the team back in ’88 but it took until ’89 for it to come out. I actually rejected the offer at first because I didn’t like the contract. It was a ridiculous contract that I refused to sign. I was already making good money for years prior to that with Powell so I wasn’t naïve about things. I was already getting a set royalty of a dollar per-board when Vans approached me for a shoe with $1.25 per pair and a stipulation where my royalty actually got smaller as we sold more shoes! It was a sliding scale!

“So what you’re telling me is that if I sell more shoes, I’ll make less money? That’s ridiculous!”

Their reasoning was that if I was selling a lot of shoes, it wasn’t because of my name, it was because they make a great shoe!

“Yeah. Well, I’m not signing this. I don’t care about a signature shoe.”

That’s why my shoe took an extra year. But they just kept bugging me about it and we started to iron things out.

I actually remember talking to Lance about it one day.

“Lance, these guys are crazy! They keep bugging me to sign this terrible contract!”

Lance being Mr. Sarcastic, actually started to make a lot of sense.

“Well, you could look at it two ways: you can not get ripped off and make no money or get ripped off and make a lot of money.”

That really got me thinking and I realized that all this was just an issue of pride.

As far as the design goes, I’d been wearing a lot of Puma Prowlers and Air Jordans so I tried to incorporate those into my shoe a little. I remember drawing up something and bringing it to them and they already had something going in this same direction, which was pretty much exactly what I wanted. They had the label going, even down to the dragon scales they used to do… trying to make it relate to me as much as possible. This is cool! Let’s go with it.

As a rider, what were your thoughts on Rocco’s Powell attack?

I thought it was funny. (laughs)

But at the same time, I knew that it was all his way of trying to destroy something great. Something that was greater than him at the time. Trying to make us look bad so he can look better, which is the easiest way to stand out. It’s human nature and unfortunately, it works. Gossiping and shit-talking works. And sometimes it’s funny… it just so happened that Rocco was really good at it.

Did you know the rest of the Bones Brigade was going to leave so quickly like that? And did you ever think about leaving and/or starting your own thing as well?

Companies were actually offered to everybody because of how quickly board sales went down the tubes…. which was crazy. Like, did everybody really just quit all of a sudden? I still don’t know what happened there. But yeah, board sales had decreased to the point where it was getting difficult for people to afford living situations. That’s really what drove those guys elsewhere.

I was fortunate to have signed that crappy contract with Vans to where I was still making money. I could deal with the crappy board sales because I was making a lot of money off my shoe. So I was in a different situation than those guys. There just wasn’t any reason for me to go off and start my own thing. Why would I do that if I didn’t have to? I didn’t need anything different. I like where I’m at.

But always? I’m sure you got plenty of offers over the years, right?

Yeah, Vision reached out in the late 80’s, as did Santa Cruz. Honestly, I was pretty close to quitting Powell for Santa Cruz back then but it didn’t work out. They never made me an offer that was any greater than what I was already getting at Powell so I stayed. I’m not going to make a move unless there’s a clear benefit in doing so. Because starting over on a new team, it’s almost like having to prove yourself all over again.

The Santa Cruz offer was based on proving who I was and what I could do for them at the time… I’m not doing that. What I’ve already done in my career up to this point isn’t good enough proof that I can make board sales? This was around 87 or so… not to brag or anything but I was among the most popular pros in the world!

There was just some stuff going on at Powell that I was pretty bummed about. This was after Stacy came at me with the Xeroxed copies and some other stuff I can’t really get into. But in the end, it all worked out. I’m glad I stayed.

Talk a little more about your transition into Street Cab in the late 90s. I realize that you gotta keep your job but you were really going for it there on some big rails. Not many people at that point in their careers could’ve made a transformation like that.

It’s pretty crazy to think about because I was about 30-years-old at the time and I feel like I didn’t truly hit my peak with street skating until around 35.

Honestly, that whole thing came down to the fact that the closest vert ramp for me was 2 hours away. If I wanted to skate vert, it was gonna be a 4-hour round-trip to Sacramento. That’s just not something I could do every day.  

There were no vert pros by then anyway, only street guys. San Jose had a pretty great scene going with Paul Sharpe, Gershon, Marc Johnson and Edward Devera… basically the start of the Tiltmode Army. It was great hanging out with local kids who were so into skating. And because I love skateboarding and enjoy growing within it, street just felt something new for me. Sure, I’d been kinda doing it all along but I was really starting to take it seriously now. It became my way of keeping interest… like learning a new trade.

It was kinda nice to just skate flatground for a while. Wake up every day and meet the guys down at the ledge. Get kicked out, grab something to eat and head somewhere else. Just doing the thing, man. Filming, shooting photos with local guys… it was fun. If this is what the magazines are promoting and people want to see, I’ll give it my best shot. Maybe I’ll learn some new tricks along the way.

I’d still drive out to Sacramento every couple of weeks but I had to deal with that I had. What are you gonna do? Sit around and complain about there being no more vert ramps? Are you just gonna quit? No way, man!

How long did that boardslide Magic ender take on what is now known as the Cab Rail? Isn’t that rail like a block long?

It’s a 22-stair but the steps are double-length so it’s more like 44 stairs. But because it was so long and drawn out, it’s not very steep.

I got it that day. We were driving around and saw it, got out and did it.  

The hardest part was just getting on it. It’s super high. If you watch the clip, I barely even get on it. I had to push my board up and over before I could start balancing on it. But I remember on my fifth try or so, I came pretty close to the end. I knew I could get it after that. Just get another one like that and hold on a little longer. I think it only took maybe 15 tries or so before I got it. But that was it.

Your Class of 2000 part I feel is easily your most underrated. Legit rails on street and front heels on vert, even a 540!

Yeah, I was kinda making a statement there. And to add to it, that video was actually a contest, remember? The guy who got voted best part won $3,000. So not only was I trying to make the best part I could, I also wanted that 3 grand!

I mean, it’s a bearing video. Something like that is not always going to get top priority for guys. So throw some money in there as an incentive to sweeten the deal and give these guys a reason to go after it a little more.

I learned frontside heels on vert on the Warp Tour actually. I don’t think that people realize how big the Warp Tour was for vert skaters back then. Just being able to skate a ramp like that every day for a month, not to mention getting paid to do so. It was awesome!

The 540 in there was actually part of a bet with Phil Hajai. I probably hadn’t done one in 9 years at that point but I had 3 days left on the tour, 6 hour-long sessions each to make it happen. I ended up landing one on the very last demo of the tour. They were actually removing the rails off the ramp because the demo was technically over but I just wouldn’t get off the ramp! I knew I could do it! I ended up coming up on the back a little bit but I still pulled it off. I think Salman is the one who actually filmed it. But to do a 540 again after that long felt so good… and to have footage of it? I had to put it in the video! (laughs)

What’s your personal favorite Powell part?

I’d have to say “The Perfect Line” one in Ban This.

Did you come up with that premise or was that Stacy in editing?

Well, Stacy came up with the title but the line concept was my idea. I was going to a lot of mini-ramps contests at the time, which were super popular back then. And once again, me being me, I get this idea to learn all the tricks that I’m seeing everyone do at these contests and put them together in one run. Just to keep things interesting and kinda prove a point, I guess. But yeah, Stacy came up and we filmed it.

I always thought that one came out pretty cool.

Did you ever actually wear those suspenders or was that just some Hosoi-type flair?

(laughs) It was just a fashion statement. I never wore them. Back then, everybody was always competing with each other over styles and different looks.

In the early 80s, I used to wear a little bondage strap clipped on to my pants, which was pretty popular at the time. The suspenders were just my way of trying to be different. They kinda did the same thing as that bondage stuff but not, you know?

I don’t know, man. It was a funny fashion statement for back then. Same thing with the bleaching of the hair. That’s the 80’s for you. (laughs)

Is it hard to skate in a Wookie costume?

It is very hard skating in a Wookie costume and I even made it more difficult for myself by getting a Cortisone shot in my foot the night before!

I’d gotten a bruise on the ball of my back foot from riding dirt bikes a few weeks before. It hurt super bad and just didn’t seem to be getting any better. It was still bothering me the night before and I knew I had to film this Star Wars commercial… it’s not like I could tell these guys I’m hurt. This is a full-production!

So I call up the producer and he suggests possibly getting a Cortisone shot to numb it up and I’d be good by tomorrow. Okay, cool.

But I wake up the next morning and I can’t feel my foot at all. It’s completely numb, to where if I couldn’t look down and see my foot, I would’ve sworn that it was gone. So what’s worse? Hurting a little or feeling nothing? I guess we’re gonna find out.

So here I am skating in this Wookie costume right in the middle of this super hot day and I can’t even feel my backfoot. And I’m sweating up a storm in this suit. I was so hot, man. The suit is just soaked and I had to be in it the whole time. It was rough.

Didn’t you have to do a frontside invert in that thing?

Yeah, that was the first thing we filmed. I wanted to get the hardest one out of the way.

I couldn’t really bail in that thing either because whenever I kneeslid, it would scrape the toes off of these huge Wookie feet they had built into the suit! They’d have to fix them every time. So you really wanted to try getting everything first-try.

It was a long day. (laughs)

Incredible, Steve. And thanks for taking the time to do this. As we wrap this up, what keeps you going, man? What’s your motivation to still be out there at age 52?

I mean, I love skateboarding, obviously. But there’s more to it than that. I have to say that the fans are such a big part of this. The guys who are still excited by skateboarding and the ones that still care about what we have to offer. That means so much to me.

Sure, it’s my job. But I just don’t want it to end.

From the very beginning, just getting free skateboards, man… it’s the best! To this day, whenever I get a box in the mail, it’s still feels so awesome. All these years later, it still feels like Christmas. Whenever I have a new board come out or a wheel with my name on it… even these collaborations I’ve worked on, opening that box and seeing whatever it is for the first time will always be an amazing feeling.

To this day, man… whenever Fed-Ex or the UPS guy stops by my house, it’s like Santa Claus. Who wants that to go away?


chops said...

FYI, while I did bring it up, Cab did not want to go into the comments made in Max's recent interview and I respect his wishes.

Anonymous said...

Cab is Jesus

Anonymous said...

wow. Just wow.

DEVOUT said...

You should do a book.

Anonymous said...

schaaf is a ripper but he's gone way off the deep end in cooler-than-thou, hipster chopperville. you can tell he thinks he's way more important than he actually is. yeah, he builds cool bikes. he's an 'artist'. so what. it's not like he's working 80hrs a week in a research laboratory trying to cure cancer or something. some people take 'lifestyle' bullshit way too seriously. i always chuckle when i see somebody like him scowling at 'kooks'. go paint an old gas tank and get the fuck outta here with that cab dis.

Mike Hamerla said...

Nice.. Was at Upland the day of the Gotcha photo shoot. Pulled into the parking lot and first thing I see was Cab blasting a backside air. Still have my mini Cab signed from that day.

jaybird said...

Skating is a lifestyle and that's what normal people don't get . You know it's easy to sit there and say skating/bike building ain't a big deal when it's not your life .That gets some people out of bed in the morning . Maybe it's money that drives you and that's why you don't get it .Tell me what makes him think he's way more important then he is ?

max schaaf said...

First off great interview, very thorough and very informative and well done. Let's get one thing straight, i grew up watching the bones brigade on repeat, i wasn't into cartoons or comics, but everyone of those guys was a super hero to me. Lance and Cab stand out very strongly in memory in those videos. I hold anything I've done on a skateboard as very minor compared to their impact on skateboarding. I think Cab says it early in this interview that he is heavily into competition and strives to be at the top when competing..... I feel very differently, i've always dreaded contests and competition. To me skateboarding will always be Art, and yes lifestyle(bullshit). I knew there would be backlash from the sidewalk interview and i welcome it, I'm not a legend, i do not have the pedigree that Cab has, but i am welcome to state my point of view, and i was asked about him and that was my honest answer. I respect Cab's skateboarding and am impressed at the level he can still skate after all these years.. As far as his interests in bikes which he has had since the 90's, we have very different approaches maybe parallel thought to our skateboarding. Off to paint an old gas tank. Thank you.

reno said...

Yes that Etnies (they were called Etnics even before that time) Natas shoe came out way before the Vans one. But yes, only in Europe I believe which back then barely got any coverage in US mags. So Etnies' Natas was the first pro model shoe.

Unknown said...

Aside from the hand me downs and penny type boards before Penny existed, the Cab bats and dragons in yellow from Skully Bros was the first board I paid for with lawn mowing savings. That said, I like both this interview and Maxs'. Both speak their minds, but humility goes a long way, just saying, and I need to remind myself everyday

Brendan said...

Cop the suicide bolts on Cab's board in the photo with Lance!
Had a black and gold dragons and bats in '88,awesome board...and awesome interview,well done,yet again!

Anonymous said...

i was thrown off by the kruk ad. didn't recall him skating for standard either. was there a reason he left indy back then? perhaps there's a blurb about it elsewhere on the web but thought i'd chime in here first.

fauverism said...

The Dragon board with the bats was my first. I always loved the way Cab skated. I'll never forget the long bluntslides that he did in an underground parking garage across for Bad Boy Club Demo in Marlton, NJ back in 92-93 that got rained out. He was also at the first LOVE contest. Favorite skater ever.

Rich Servo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.