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…

The Best of 2016

Well we’re now a couple of weeks deep into 2017 – how’s it going for you?  Well, I hope.

2017 at Platinum Al’s Virtual Hot Tub promises to bring you more of the great features you love, plus (hopefully) more in the year ahead.  But before I get all carried away and storm straight into new adventures, let’s take a moment to reflect.

Last year was a hell of a crazy ride.  But what Virtual Hot Tub blogs got you steaming hot?  Let’s take a look at the top ten most popular posts in 2016, in reverse order…

10. Skateboard Museum: Variflex Joker

The tenth most popular post in 2016 was this golden oldie from 2013, featuring one of my old 1980’s skateboards.  Skate nostalgia is obviously popular stuff, with internet searches keeping this article in view.

9. Wales Comic Con Strikes Back – Part 2

Up next was the second part of my report from Wales Comic Con in Wrexham from May, with loads of cool cosplay photos.

8. Tragedy – Gig Review

In March 2016 I went to see Heavy Metal Bee Gees tribute act Tragedy, at the Live Rooms in Chester.  It was pretty popular read (even the band liked it).

7. Sci-Fi Weekender 2015 – The Director’s Cut

Back in February 2016, I posted some photos I had left over from the previous Sci-Fi Weekender in March 2015.  Again, loads of interesting cosplay pics – plus a bit of comedy.  This was a warm up for the 2016 event.

6. Santa Cruz Snowskate

The next most read post was this blog about my snowskate, made by Santa Cruz skateboards, originally posted in winter 2014.  Internet searches kept this this one popular again this year.

5. Food Quest: To Koutouki, Chester

This write up of the excellent Greek taverna in Chester, posted in May 2016, has been very popular.  The most read food post all year by far, I hope it helps bring them some business, because they deserve it!

4. Wales Comic Con Strikes Back – Part 1

The first part of my report from Wrexham Comic Con was far more popular than the first, which came in at number 10 (above).  I don’t know why this part was better received, as it features the same style of cosplay pics.  Perhaps it was the pic of yours truly as Tony Stark that did it…?

3. Santa Cruz Street Creep

Another skateboard blog, this July piece featured text and photos of another 1980’s classic, in this case my Santa Cruz Street Creep reissue.  Rad.

2. Sci-Fi Weekender 2016 – Part 1

The second most read article on my blog in 2016 was the first part of my report from Sci-Fi Weekender.  The cosplay pics made it successful.

So what was the most popular blog post, with the most views, at Platinum Al’s Virtual Hot Tub in 2016?

It can only be…

Sci-Fi Weekender 2016 – Part 2

Yes, the final episode of our adventure at this years Sci-Fi Weekender convention was the most popular blog of the year.  Loads of photos of fantastic cosplayers having fun won the day, and not even my terrible photographic skills could ruin it!  No idea why Part 2 beat Part 1 though.

Thanks again to all the great folks who attended Sci-Fi Weekender, hope you enjoyed the photos!

Thanks to YOU too, for choosing Platinum Al’s Virtual Hot Tub.  Your feedback and is always appreciated.  Here’s to another year of fun – all the best!

Santa Cruz Street Creep

IMG_4705A few years ago, I had an urge to get me an old school set up.  I already had my everyday double kick street machine, but I felt I needed something that reminded me of my skateboarding youth in the 1980s.

This Santa Cruz Street Creep was the answer.

I remembered the Street Creep from those halcyon days.  I never owned one at the time, though I did own other Santa Cruz decks (see the blog about my Rob Roskopp deck, for one).  The Street Creep was a very cool shape and a cool graphic.

Luckily for me, numerous skateboard companies have been re-issuing the old shapes as collectors pieces.  I picked this re-issue up fairly easily.  I fitted it with some new, wide Independent trucks and some old Santa Cruz Slime Balls wheels and it was ready to go.

The wheels were rescued from an old relic of a board that was passed to me a few years back.  I always wanted some Slime Balls, finally I got a set!

The result is a rad skateboard that brings back loads of memories.  The shape is great, though it takes some getting used to after skating shorter, thinner boards for ages.  It’s a fantastic skateboard for blasting a few old tricks on – I find no-complys and some boneless manoeuvres easier on this set up.

With the big, softer Slime Balls attached, this board is great for carving up some of my favourite banked skate spots.  In particular, there’s a messy old “bowl” I like to skate – tarnished with grit and stones, but very skateable with this monster.

Plus there’s the graphic – if you’re an old 80’s skate hound like me, it’s all about the skulls!  Check out the close up the graphic and you’ll see dozens of smaller skulls and faces within the image.

Skateboards are a thing of beauty; this Street Creep looks and rides superb.

IMG_4713

Top graohic

Top graphic

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.

Santa Cruz Snowskate

Well we’ve not had any snow round these parts (so far).  And the Winter Olympics are over.  So my timing with this post is pretty off.  Never the less, I thought I’d share this item from my board collection with you.

This here board is a Santa Cruz snowskate.  Slightly bigger than a typical double kick skateboard, the snowskate is made of solid, tough plastic.  It’s designed to be ridden in the snow like you would a skateboard – ideally on the sort of urban obstacles (rails, walls etc) that you would ordinarily skate in the summer. IMG_2763

Where there would be grip tape on the top of a wooden skate deck, this board has a rubber surface.  It’s slightly spongy to provide grip, and nicely waterproof.  You wouldn’t want your grip tape getting all messy now, would you?  This makes much more sense.  Underneath the plastic is ridged, to help provide some control and a better riding surface.

Control is certainly crucial here – remember, unlike a snowboard, there are no bindings to keep your feet strapped in and attached.  Instead, you ride the snowskate exactly like a skateboard.  This requires balance, self confidence and fair old bit of craziness.  The result is a fun board that can easily be carted around the hills or local spots when the snow falls.

I’ve had some cool times riding this snowskate – the best thing about it is that it feels slightly different from both skateboarding and snowboarding – so you’re learning a new skill.  That said, the snowskate is similar enough to both disciplines to mean that fans of either will appreciate it.  Personally I’ve not mastered any tricks on this board, though I can ride it pretty well.  The problem is the snow usually disappears too quick around here…

A snowskate is worth picking up for those days when you’re snowed in and the local park is calling.  It makes a nice change from a sledge.  All I need now is some snow.

Admittedly, this isn’t a skateboard as such – though I’m publishing this in the skateboard section of the Virtual Hot tub anyway.  There’s enough common ground here for me to get away with that.  Don’t like it?  Write your own blog.

Technical Specifications:

  • Length: 35.5″
  • Width (widest): 92
  • Width (slimmest): 8.5″

Soundtrack: some frozen Scandinavian metal, like Kvelertak.

Check out Santa Cruz snowskates here.  Nowadays they’re being made with some cool graphics, if that helps convince you.  I like the sugar skull best!

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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