Skateboard Museum: SMA Jim Thiebaud

Come with me as I take a roll down skateboarding memory lane, ollieing the cracks as I go…

Santa Monica Airlines Jim Thiebaud

This classic deck dates back to the late 80’s, I picked it up in 1989 if I remember.  At the time the Chester branch of Milletts, the camping and outdoors shop, were stocking skateboards for some reason or other.  They had some pretty rad stuff, too.

When the time came to replace my worn out deck and get a new one, I saved up my pennies/swapped vinyl records and got myself this Santa Monica Airlines deck from Milletts.

At least I think that’s where it was from, I can’t remember.  Either way, I didn’t support a skater owned shop on this occasion, to my shame.

SMA

SMA were really blowing up at the time, and Jim Thiebaud had been on my radar since I saw the (criminally minimal) footage of him in some of the Powell vids.

Thiebaud was – and is – a supremely cool skateboarder with a smooth, rad style.  He was one of those original street pros that I really admired.  Along with Gonz, Natas, Guerrero and Vallely, JT was a bona fide street skating pioneer and innovator.

The shape was perfect for me at the time, exactly how I wanted a skateboard to be.  It’s still a classic shape now, I really like it. Nice size tail, comfy wide deck – but not too wide.  Great street deck of the era.

This deck also had the cool comic book style superhero graphics which I loved.  I’ve always been a big fan of superheroes.

However I wasn’t cool enough to get on this particular wave of popularity earlier.  If I had, I might have picked up the previous variation on the graphic, which featured a bad guy designed to resemble the Joker.  The Batman movie was out around that time, so I guess the whole theme was prominent back then.

So the Joker version had to be scrapped due to some issue with DC Comics, I believe the story goes, and I ended up with the purple suited thug instead.

No matter – cool graphic or not, this deck was to be skated.  I transferred my Indy trucks and OJII wheels and was ready to go.  Well, when I’d also added the Powell Rib Bones as well.  Not to save the graphic, mind – in those days the received wisdom (at least amongst my friends and I) was that the rails helped you slide better.

This particular set up was particularly long serving and loyal.  It was like a magic carpet that seemed to respond perfectly to my wishes.  Honestly, I remember learning tons of tricks on this finely shaped beauty.  Footplants and Boneless variations were (still are) major tricks in my arsenal and I learned several on this very set up. 

Biggest of all though, was the kick flip.  We called it an “ollie kick flip” back then, and it was a pretty desirable trick to own.  I learned kick flips on this gorgeously wide beast and was unbelievably stoked.  I still remember that first one.

It was well skated – in fact the tail is worn to a sharp and splintered point – but this set up is still skateable.  It’s still around as it was replaced with thinner decks and trucks as shapes evolved; thus I never swapped it.

The SMA Thiebaud is still on the garage wall, still looks great, and still gets a roll every now and again.  Classic.

Take a close look at the photos and you’ll notice some interesting features:

  • Madrid Fly Paper grip tape (note the fly shapes cut out)
  • Rad SMA top graphic
  • Santa Cruz Cell Block riser pad
  • A couple of cool stickers from back in the day still hanging in there
  • The trucks are fitted with Grind King reversed kingpins, there’s even a sticker on the front hanger…
  • You can see some of the bands I was into at the time from the grip tape art, which I did with Tip-Ex…

HawRADen 2015 – BMX Fun Ride

HawRADen BMX Ride

Saturday 24th October 2015

Hawarden, Flintshire

My mate Danny is into BMX.  He gets BMX bike parts, builds the BMX bikes, rides the BMX bikes too.  Proper, old school BMX bikes – Haro, Mongoose, Raleigh – all the vintage legends.  He was into BMX when he was a kid in the 80’s, and a few years ago rediscovered his passion.

Nowadays, in addition to hunting down vintage bike parts to build his dream machines, he also meets up with other enthusiasts for a ride.  Apparently this is what these BMX geezers do: all over the North West, even all over the country, they meet up and go for a ride together.  There’s usually breaks in the ride for refreshments (ie they stop at a pub or two – soft drinks, obviously…). IMG_20151024_130248497_HDR

Dan decided to organise a local gathering for riders, which would take place in and around the home area of Hawarden in Flintshire, North Wales.  This all sounded like good fun to me.  I was invited and decided to tag along.

My only problem was the fact that I don’t own a BMX bike, at least not anymore.  That left me with two options: my mountain bike or my Schwinn low rider.

It had to be the low rider.  The Schwinn is a retro styled bike that looks like a Harley Davidson chopper, but pedal powered.  I figured this bike was my best bet, it has a cool look and was a little different.  Also I decided to kit myself out in heavy metal/biker gear – rock t-shirt, bandanna, mirrored shades.  Not taking the mickey, but I thought I might as well go the whole hog, on my hog.

So off I went, a Happy Shopper Dennis Hopper, to join the ride.

The meet up point was the Fox and Grapes pub in Hawarden village.  Luckily they were a friendly bunch, so although I only knew Dan, I wasn’t left out.  With a few stragglers to round up, we just made the train from Hawarden station up to Buckley.  It was just one stop and a free fare for most of these BMX bandits.

A short ride then up to the Shamrock in Buckley, where the owner, also a BMX aficionado, laid on some food.  Good stuff, great boozer.  More BMXers met up with the original party here and the group grew a few more.

By the time we left the Shamrock on the ride across Buckley, there must have been twenty odd BMX riders (plus one Easy Rider interloper).  The ride was through the streets and finally the first downhill stretch of the day, which was a relief.  It’s hard work without gears, this bike riding malarkey.

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A short break at the Parrot in Drury and we were off again, this time a nice long downhill stretch to Ewloe.  I think a few heads turned as drivers and passers-by clocked the throng of bikers rolling down the road.  One rider got a little too rad and ended up with the only injury of the day – but we all have to pay our dues some time.

The final stop, for me, at any rate – was the Running Hare in Ewloe.  Never my favourite pub, never the less the open space outdoors for bikes and riders was ideal.

Throughout the afternoon, there were stories told and memories recalled of bikes and adventures from our youth.  There was a very positive and fun atmosphere.  It was all very light hearted and I was made to feel welcome, despite not having a BMX bike.

The group then rode on to complete the circuit back at the Fox.  I bailed out and rolled down the hill to home, having enjoyed a great afternoon of nostalgia and banter.  These BMX bike rides are a great idea – here’s to all the Rad Dads and other forty somethings keeping the dream alive.

My Christmas list this year will feature a BMX bike, for the first time since about 1984.

The Greatest Skateboard Graphic Ever

Santa Cruz Rob Roskopp “Face”

Everyone has their own personal choice.  Over the years I’ve seen many amazing skateboard graphics – some intricate, some clever, some stupid, some risque.  Back in the 80’s it was mostly skulls and gore.  At the end of the decade, these themes became extinct, replaced by ironic cartoons and brand logo appropriation.  You name it, it’s probably been featured on a deck somewhere.  There are great examples of art of all styles.

The two giants of skateboard graphics in the 80’s, at least in my eyes, were Vernon Courtland Johnson and Jim Phillips.  VCJ created the many iconic designs for Powell Peralta such as the Ripper and Skull and Sword.  Awesome graphics that made my eyeballs pop, as a kid nurtured on comic book art and monsters.

The art of Jim Phillips featured on many Santa Cruz decks, including classic pro decks for Jeff Kendall, Jeff Grosso and Jason Jessee.  My absolute favourite though was the Rob Roskopp street model, with a huge ugly face on it.

I first saw the Roskopp graphic in my sisters Smash Hits magazine, of all places.  They did one of those lame “introduction to skateboarding” type of features, with things like “how to talk like a skateboarder”.  It did feature UK hardcore band The Stupids however, and a model holding the deck in question.

As soon as I saw it, I loved that graphic.  It was big, bold and over the top – but beautifully detailed.

A couple of years later, I eventually acquired a Santa Cruz Roskopp Face of my own.  The deck itself was white, with the graphic in black screaming out from the bottom of the board.  I was very happy that regardless of the fantastic art, it was a great shape and well made board.  So the decision wasn’t made purely on the artwork. IMG_2797

I don’t remember what happened to that particular deck, I probably wore it out and swapped it with someone.  There’s a photo of it somewhere.

A few years ago, I picked up a reissue of the Roskopp deck.  It’s yellow, with the same great graphic as I had all those years ago.  It’s never been skated – I keep this one on the wall, right above my desk (I have other boards for actually skating).  It hangs there as a proud reminder, and an example of great skateboard art.  That’s what this skateboard is to me – pure art.

In my opinion, the Santa Cruz Rob Roskopp “face” is the best skateboard graphic ever.

Check out the latest reissue here.

The Santa Cruz website is here.

Skateboard Museum Update: Variflex Joker Photos

Variflex Joker – new photos

You may remember recently that my post about my Variflex Joker skateboard was the fifth most read article of the year.  All well and good, but the photo used to accompany that blog post wasn’t the best.

So I have attempted to make up for that earlier oversight here, with some more pics of the board in question.

Remember this skateboard isn’t the original one I rode in the 80’s – I found this on a site selling old boards and snapped it up.  It was brand new, complete – sealed in plastic and everything.  Nice bit of kit for my collection.

Please take a look at the original post about the Variflex Joker here.

Happy First Birthday, Virtual Hot Tub!

The Top 5 Posts on the Virtual Hot Tub

Platinum Al’s Virtual Hot Tub is now one year old!

Actually, the first anniversary was on March 24th.  So I’m late, again.  But I’ve been so busy capturing vital events like Sci-Fi Weekender, Kurt Cobain’s passing, Easter and all the other stuff that I just haven’t had time to get round to celebrating it.

So it was 24th March 2013 when I first welcomed you all to bathe in the soothing waters of the Virtual Hot Tub.  Since then, I’ve posted all manner of weird and wonderful items on the blog.  But which ones have been the most popular?

I checked out the stats; and here, in reverse order, are the most read posts in the first year of the Virtual Hot Tub’s existence:

5. Skateboard Museum: Variflex Joker

There’s obviously loads of people searching the interweb for old school skateboards.  This post about my old Variflex skateboard has been constantly showing in blog results.  Nice post – shame about the photo.  I’ll remedy that soon.  Take another look here.

4. Questions #2: Full English Breakfast Ingredients

All of the “Questions” posts fared well in the rankings, particularly the food related items.  This one was the highest placed.  Read it again here.

3. Hammer Glamour

I went blog crazy in October with my Hallowe’en Horror Fest.  This post, which counted down the top ten Hammer Horror babes, has been incredibly popular.  Lots of people Googling sex and horror, I guess.  Check it out here.

2. The Best Man’s Speech

Over 150 people have read this post, commemorating the wedding of my friends Cathryn and Jarrod.  It’s nice that this article has been read so many times.  Have another look here.

So what’s the most read blog post on the Virtual Hot Tub, in the first year?  It is:

1. A Letter to the New York Post

This piece, which recounted my experiences in New York on September 11th, caught people’s attention much more than I thought it would.  I suppose it went “viral” – more than 475 views.  It certainly received an amazing, and heart warming, response.  Thanks to all who shared it.  Read it again here.

There you go: the top 5 blog posts on Platinum Al’s Virtual Hot Tub.  Thanks for reading, thanks for sharing, thanks for being a part of it.  Your contribution – and interest – has helped make this worthwhile.

Plenty more to come, so stay tuned.

Skateboard Museum: Variflex Joker

After the red plastic skateboard, I “graduated” to what was commonly known as a Turbo Two. These were larger, wider boards in the contemporary style, but cheap Far East versions. It was another step up, but I soon learned that the board wasn’t going to last long.

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Variflex Joker. Camera strap in view AGAIN.

My next skateboard was a slight step up again – a Variflex Joker. This was a complete board sold with higher grade components. Aluminium trucks, polyurethane wheels and the deck itself had a much nicer shape and feel.

The graphics were also a really good job and very much in the style of the time. A skull wearing a jester’s hat, with a playing card design. Not exactly Powell Peralta but still very cool. It actually looked like someone at Variflex had taken a sneak peak at VCJ’s sketchbook and stolen the idea. Powell must have been mad.

However Variflex were not in the best shape in the late 80’s – they’d fallen to being a purveyor of intro level complete boards and were not in the same league as Powell, Santa Cruz or Vision. A nice board for a starter, the Joker would also be superseded by a higher quality deck.

I kept the trucks and wheels though for a while, and put them on my next set up. This was a Zorlac deck which I rode for a while with the Variflex under carriage, until I was able to afford Indy’s and Santa Cruz wheels.

I don’t remember what happened to my original Variflex Joker. Around 2006 I found a website selling new Variflex skateboards – apparently old stock rather than re-issues – and picked this sample up for a very reasonable price. It was in perfect condition and came complete with all the plastics, everything. I’ve only ever ridden it a couple of times as this skateboard is really just a memento. It’s a great item to have in my Skateboard Museum.

Technical Specifications:

  • Length: 30.5″
  • Width: 10.25″
  • Wheelbase: 15.75″
  • Wooden deck with concave and kicktail (complete with griptape)
  • Metal Variflex trucks
  • Variflex Street Rage II wheels (polyurethane, estimated 90a)
  • Plastic rails, nose saver, tail saver, copers and lapper

Purchased from Skate Pool

Soundtrack: Metallica, Anthrax, The Stupids

 

My First Skateboard

Sometime in the early 80’s (1980 or ’81, I believe) my Gran informed me that she had picked up a present for me.  Gran sometimes did that, finding bargains at charity shops and jumble sales for me.  These items usually turned out be toys and games that were great fun.  This time, my present turned out be something different: a skateboard.

It was a small red plastic skateboard that she had found at some local kids garage sale, and bought for a few pence.  At that time my only concept of a skateboard was of a craze that had peaked a few years ago when I was younger.  Kids didn’t ride skateboards anymore and the thought of actually trying to ride it didn’t appeal to me.  So the skateboard was left in the garage for years and never used.

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Red plastic skateboard. Amateurish camera strap in view.

Fast forward a few years and I saw the film “Back to the Future”.  This is something of a cliche now, but suddenly my eyes were opened to the possibility of what I could do with that old plastic board.  Out of the blue skateboards had become “cool”.  The toy in the garage that bemused me previously now had serious potential.  That looked like fun.

Our driveway at the time was about twenty feet long and fairly steep.  I decided that I would dig the skateboard out of the garage junk and ride it down the drive.  Placing the board at the top of the drive, I held it in place with my front foot.  Then carefully lifted my back foot off the ground, placed it on the board and started rolling.  I rolled about three feet, lost my balance and fell.  Grazes to right hand and that was it.  No more skateboard.

The board went back in the garage junk pile, there to stay forever more.

But it played on my mind.  Over the next week or so, I could remember the few seconds of riding the board successfully.  And I could imagine what it would be like to ride it again.  I could see in my mind’s eye what it would be like, and what I would have to do to stay on.  I liked that feeling.  My imagination was sparked.  What if I made it to the bottom of the drive?  Wouldn’t that feel great?

So I tried again.  Skateboard at the top of the drive, facing downhill.  One foot on, then the other.  Rolling.  Keeping my balance this time, like I had in my mind’s eye.  And I made it.  I rode the board to the bottom of the drive.

When I reached the bottom I felt great.  I felt a feeling of accomplishment that I hadn’t felt before.  This was to be the beginning of an amazing relationship.

I then began to learn to ride the board, down the drive, along the street.  I learned to turn, left and right, and keep rolling.  Big sweeping turns and short, quick turns, leaning to each side.

At the time I was unaware of (then modern) skateboarding tricks so learnt from old 1970’s books.  I practised over and over, doing the same moves and fine tuning them.  Kick turns left and right, round corners – over and over again.  Hour after hour, learning and perfecting just very basic techniques.

That’s over twenty five years ago now.  I’ve had many skateboards since then, of different sizes, shapes and styles.  Learnt new tricks.  Travelled to new spots.  Met great people, some of whom I’m still friends with.  Some aren’t with us anymore.

I still have the small, red plastic skateboard that I learnt to ride.  It’s faded and looks a bit worse for wear now.  It only cost a few pence and was eventually superseded by larger, better quality boards.  But of all the skateboards I’ve ever owned, it’s probably the most important.

Thanks, Gran.

 

 

Technical Specifications:

  • Length: 22.5″
  • Width: 5.75″
  • Wheelbase: 12″
  • Plastic deck, flat with no concave.  Minimal kicktail.
  • Metal trucks.
  • Wheels: Unknown – hard – not polyurethane.

Soundtrack: Huey Lewis & the News.