By Tom Vadakan
To coincide with the POKETO X CLUB MUMBLE collaboration, Ted has asked me to write a little something in respect to the early 80′s skate scene. More specifically, about the skate scene in our little area we grew up in. As I sit here typing, there are many memories of those days, most of them happy memories of those good old days, but it also brings sadness to my heart. I will warn you, this little blog will be my perspective, and even more narrowed down to the world of our little crew….. this is not an attempt at historical facts of the entire 80′s skateboarding scene. This is our skate scene (Laguna Niguel, Dana Point, San Juan, Mission Viejo, Laguna Hills), our little crews, our little world, in a very exciting time. This is by no means a complete or even comprehensible account of what went down…. it’s mostly a rant of whatever is coming to my mind as I type.
A little short history. My skateboarding experience started in 1977. My brother Tony and I got fiberglass Hobie boards, with ACS trucks and Road RIder 2 wheels. Bombing hills and pretending you were surfing, those were the things you did on a skateboard back then. Skate parks were starting to pop up all over Southern California. We frequented Skatetopia, Sparks in Carlsbad, & Skateboard Odyssey in Mission Viejo. The late 70′s we had Big O in Orange and the early 80′s Del Mar Skate Ranch was our home away from home. Right around the mid 80′s the skate parks started to close down, mostly because of the high insurance parks had to pay. The law was different then and the parks were liable for any injuries or death. One by one, parks closed down, and thus was born the era of backyard ramps and street skating. To me this was the most exciting period in skating, and also the period in which Ground Beef was conceived.
The SUBARU Ramp
Sometime around 1983 there was a ramp in an empty field, hidden from view by trees and bushes, behind a Subaru car dealership in Irvine. I am not sure as to who originally built the ramp, but it was one of those word of mouth things…… you know the secret password, you are in. Super fun, little 8′ ramp. Rumor had it that a developer was going to build on that land. In a panic, our crew of skaters decided that the ramp had to be moved. Now, we can go into a whole other story, a movie even, on the Vadakan household. But, if you were there, you know it was a no brainer that the ramp would end up in our backyard. We tore the ramp down, moved the wood, and hauled it 15 miles from Irvine to Laguna Niguel. Now, how we did all this and not get caught, I’m not sure, but again, these are stuff of legends. The new and improved Subaru ramp was better than ever. 8′ tall, 16′ wide with 12′ flat bottom and pool coping on one side. Not too many ramps back in those days were that decked out. It may not have been the best ramp at the time, but it was no doubt a very fun ramp. Local “shredders” were Jason Jessee, John & Joe Lloyd, Mike Lohrman, Timmy Romero, Ky Lambert, Keith Wachter, Chris White, QB, Steve Stearns…….the list can go on and on…… but we also started getting legit skate stars coming over-Tony Hawk, Lester Kasai, Tony Alva, to name a few. But, I’ll tell you who skated that ramp better than ANY one who ever skated it. A skater name Rick “Spidey” Demontrond. Spidey ripped that ramp. I saw everyone one, big stars, local heroes….. and Spidey killed them all on the Subaru ramp.
RSB, Street Skating, and Nor Cal
Back in those days, there was no “street skating” like there is today. It was all about skating transitions, whether it be a pool, ramp or ditch. However, around the mid 80′s more and more took it to the streets. It was mostly launch ramps, curb grinds, street plants and such. Innocent, creative, and pure fun. This was a period in which we started a local crew called RSB (Rotten Street Boys). My good friend John Lloyd started the crew and I like to believe I was a high ranking officer. It was above all, just a bunch of goofs having fun. At that time John and I made friends with a lot of skate pros, and traveled around a bit, visiting and skating with great skaters. Our buddy Spidey would supply us with the latest Santa Cruz skateboard decks (we were riding prototype’s that even some team riders did not have), and drive up to Northern California to stay with Corey & Gavin O’Brien and skate Stevie Caballero’s ramp, Derby Park and some amazing San Jose street spots.
This was also a time where “street contest” were starting to pop up. We met and befriended Mark Gonzales during this period. This was before Mark was pro. He was always a cool and interesting cat, really into the culture. Anyhow, Mark is legendary in the skate/art world now. When it comes to street skating, and coming from my perspective, I must also mention Thomas “Street” Campbell. Thomas is a few years younger than me, went to the same high school, and was skating around with us. When the street skating scene hit, Thomas adapted to it more than most of us did. That is where he shined. I am super proud to say that Thomas is now an amazing artist, filmmaker, and all around bitchen guy. As I’m ranting and writing, I realize all the greatness that came out of our little area. Who would have thought?
Skate ‘zines. This would not be complete without mentioning Skate ‘zines and it’s impact on us back then. Some of the better local ‘zines were Kinky Transitions, Joke, and Ground Beef. Ground Beef was the brain child of my brother Tony. It was more than just a skate ‘zine, it also covered music, movies, local gossip…….This was a time before computers layouts. Tony would paste up pages and Xerox them….. each and every page. My dad bought Tony a copier that could print 3 colors of ink. But you could only print one color at a time. Tony was genius. He would do 3 color spreads, running one color through at a time. Patience is a virtue. With the help of Quarter Boy, Tommy Kallall, Thomas Campbell and myself, Tony’s vision of Ground Beef never disappointed. He started getting skate companies interested, where we would run their ads for free boards, trucks and wheels. When you are a teenager, that is a sweet deal. In my opinion, Ground Beef was as good as any skate ‘zine of it’s time, and most of the reason was Tony and how he would delegate task to whom was best for the job.
I could probably go on and on, rant about things that nobody cares about. But it was our life….. a very exciting time….. everything was fresh, it was new….. the skate scene was fresh, music was new, we were young and ready. Years go by, life is mostly amazing, great even, but life takes it’s tolls. Tommy is gone. Quarter Boy is no longer with us. Tony passed away 6 years ago. Nothing can compare to those carefree days of the 80′s, the wild shit we did, how we did not care what people thought, we were just going to do what we felt was right. I think that is why the skate scene was so tight….. a bunch of kids that didn’t accept what was expected of them, but kids that had to forge their own way, creating, and living a life of passion. This to me was what it was all about, and it’s what I’ll always remember of our little crew.
Check out Tom Vadakan, his artwork, or send him an email at urbancowfolks.com.
The Poketo x Club Mumble series was conceived in collaboration with Bob Kronbauer, including the artwork of Andrew Pommier, Jeremyville, Tony Larson, and Travis Millard. These artists are prominent figures within the skateboarding community, but are also prolific self-publishers, product designers, gallery artists, and designers.