By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
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By Charles Lam
By Charles Lam
A disastrous marriage that resulted in two children, now 21 and 16, who weren’t biologically his caused Skitch to gravitate even more to the bottle.
“I’m in end-phase liver disease. I was supposed to be dead a year and a half ago,” Skitch says now. He shows off his different daily medications: soma, Xanax, methadone, liquid potassium, lactulose, the latter of which he downs, resulting in teary eyes.
“I knew Skitch was going to make it,” Smith explains with a faint smile, “when I went to the bathroom in his hospital room, and Skitch got up and put a chair in front of the door so I couldn’t get out. That’s when I knew.”
Smith promised a bedridden Skitch he’d make a skateboard model for him if he survived. Royalties and proceeds from the model now go toward Skitch’s medical expenses.
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Of course, the history of skateboarding, like all mostly oral histories, differs from storyteller to storyteller, from decade to decade and generation to generation, morphing its focus to vertical in the ’80s and then to street skating soon after.
In December, Huntington Beach-based Quiksilver hosted an All ’80s All Day Vert Challenge, inviting the biggest names in the industry—from Christian Hosoi and Tony Hawk to Steve Caballero and Andy Macdonald—to perform all the ’80s tricks on ’80s boards.
“If you listen in on conversations today, it’s going to be all about, like, who did what when and nostalgia,” says Macdonald, one of the biggest vert skateboarders of today—and a fan of Smith Safety Gear. “The only written history are the magazines, but even then, it was like so-and-so was at the park when this guy started doing it, then the next day, a different guy shot the photo and this guy named it!”
Macdonald believes things have definitely changed, even from the ’80s to now: “For the first time in skateboarding history, we have fans of skateboarding that aren’t necessarily skateboarders. They’re people who know the pros, play the video games, but haven’t actually stepped on a board in their lives—and love skateboarding.”
When asked, Hawk, in a half-shaven ’80s cut and a neon shirt, takes note of Orange County’s role in skateboard history.
“Orange County was especially important in the formative years of skateboarding because so many of the companies and the pioneers were from around here. Some of the first backyard vert ramps I went to were up here. There were definitely some skate parks in the ’70s, but I didn’t manage to get here because my dad wouldn’t drive me that far,” he says and laughs. “There were ramps and scenes here that were very progressive, and most of the skate industry is based ?here now.”
Hosoi, a current Huntington Beach resident, says, “There was a big part coming from Orange County. I was here in Orange County—Big O Skatepark, you know. Everyone has a big influence, but there are roots that come from somewhere. The reason why skating is, is because of surfing.”
Skateboarding’s resident punk and current U.S. Bombs singer Duane Peters was briefly coached by Smith and raised in Costa Mesa. He remembers firsthand OC’s lack of recognition while growing up in the ’70s.
“[Orange County] really got no love. It was always the Badlanders, the South Bay guys, Redondo, and then you had Dogtown. Orange County was always just kind of in between; we never really got a lot of love from the magazines,” a near-toothless, tattooed Peters grunts. “Whenever you said someone was from Orange County, it kind of just went in one ear and out the other. And now, half the industry is in Costa Mesa—that’s amazing. There were a lot of skaters from here, but everybody peeled off as it got gnarlier and gnarlier in the early pool-pioneering days. It was all about just staying in there. And then Orange County got put on the map. We had a time where it was like, ‘Where was ours?’ It was like fighting for territory.”
One thing was for sure: The day wasn’t really about the contest, or whether or not Hosoi would be still able to pull off his signature move in Spandex and a long wig. The day was a celebration of skateboarding and where it was today.
“There’s just a handful of us who have stuck with it for so long,” says Eddie Reategui, former Long Beach resident, pro skater and current owner of Daggers Skates, as he scans the room filled with his colleagues, peers and heroes. “We gave our lives. And it’s just great to see where we’re at now.”