By Matt Coker
By R. Scott Moxley
By Charles Lam
By Nick Schou
By Gustavo Arellano
By Gustavo Arellano
By Steve Lowery
By R. Scott Moxley
Throughout their careers, Skitch would treat younger brother Garrison as a guinea pig of sorts for his experiments.
“Gary was Skitch’s test pilot,” Smith says with a smile. “Gary was a fearless warrior for Skitch in his pursuit to design and make stuff that nobody else was making. It really was like a space-travel kind of deal. ‘How big of a hill do you want me to go down? How big of a wave do you want to surf? What do you want me to do? I’m ready to do it. Hey, you want to put me in this car and push me down a hill? Sure!’ That’s Gary.”
A 3-year-old Garrison was pushed by Skitch down the same Long Beach hill in an orange-crate scooter with a handle. Old Chicago roller skates split with a key provided the motion.
“He got me inside, like this thing was going backward on St. Joseph between Fifth and Broadway, and he went,” an aloha shirt-clad Garrison pantomimes with his legs pumping, and then a push. “Skitch is rolling around laughing, and I had no control. I hit a parked car at about 25 mph. Wood went crashing everywhere.”
Skitch laughs with glee and nods in approval. “My brother’s eaten some really bad crap because I push him into some bad situations. But usually, we get away with it and laugh about it.” He pauses. “I am two-and-three-quarter years older, so his life started with me climbing into his crib and beating him up daily.”
Garrison scoffs and reminds his older brother of the time he finally knocked him out when he was 18. “He looked for me for three days.”
Skitch was an accomplished Olympic-level gymnast from junior high through high school. The regimented training was apparent in his skateboard and surfing style, from the strong upper body right down to his pointed toes during handstands executed while rolling on his skateboard. (And later, he would even do handstands on his surfboard. Pro surfer Christian Fletcher [son of Herbie], vividly recalls seeing Skitch perform such a feat at 38 years old. “He used to do handstands while surfing in front of three people at a time and riding all the way down the whole damn beach. Skitch did things you never dreamed of doing,” Fletcher says.)
“I was going to go to the Olympics! I was going to be a star! And get a gold medal! And then I got into acid, and it allllllll melted away.” Skitch dreamily sighs. “I was state champ. You know what? If it’s a choice between ‘eat acid and not going to school and surfing’ and ‘going to school and having your coach of eight years beat the hell out of you for five hours,’ I’d rather do the LSD and go surfing.”
Skitch shares that he used to eat acid like they were M&Ms, stating that the drugs assisted in his creativity in surfing and skateboarding, though one night he was so busy with the cavern of vortexes on his bedroom ceiling he missed the last time the Doors would play in Long Beach. And then there was the 20th-birthday party that involved two 5-gallon containers of strawberry Baskin-Robbins ice cream and a six-bottle case of Strawberry Hill wine with 40 hits of acid in each bottle.
“I sold acid from 15 years old, and because I had the best source of acid, I always had a good clientele,” he explains.
That best source of acid really was the best source of acid: Timothy Leary himself, who then owned a large mansion in Laguna Beach, though Skitch insists he wasn’t privy to the inner workings of the Brotherhood—something he insists that would probably get him killed even today (see Nick Schou’s “Lords of Acid,” July 8, 2005).
Skitch skated for Hobie from 1975 through the end of the skate company in late 1979. During that time, he was constantly innovating the sport, with unheard-of prototypes and tricks. He designed and skated on the first kicker ramp, that same little launch ramp you see all the kids in your neighborhood taking off on today. It’s the reason why he became the first world champion of skateboarding at the 1975 World Contest.
“I placed above everybody by about two points. It’s because I initiated my aerial with a ramp for the first time. Everyone had seen me get air, but no one had seen me get, like, 6 feet of air. I needed a ramp to assist me to get higher,” he explains. “It was the first time it was used in a competition. I’d have nothing but hassles using my ramp—and now all of skateboarding is ramps.”
Smith and Garrison are quick to list Skitch’s many accomplishments. “All the boards he was making at the time were innovative on a spectrum of the highest-quality ideas. He made his boards lighter and stronger so he could be the first to do an aerial maneuver. He’d just grab the board with his toes in a gorilla grip and lift off the ground and glide,” Smith explains.