Larry Ransom and his friend Eric Shugats started Pure Fun zine with nothing more than a typewriter, a pair of scissors and a shoebox full of photos of them and their high school friends skateboarding around suburban Lockport, New York. Twenty-four years later, Ransom is celebrating the 11th issue of the one-time teenage pet project on the other side of the country with a party and concert in another kind of skateboarding destination–Long Beach.
Pure Fun existed in its original incarnation for nine glorious months in the early 1990s, when Ransom and his friends spent the harsh East Coast winters dreaming of moving to California, where the skateboard scene was full of famous names and endless summers.
"I couldn't wait to get my hands on the newest skateboard magazine or video to see what was happening out in California," Ransom says from his current home in La Verne. "After a little while, Thrasher couldn't come out quick enough and to fill that void waiting for the next issue, my friend Eric and I decided to make our own skateboard zine. It was a good project for the winter months."
For nearly a year, Pure Fun was Lockport's go-to monthly skateboard zine, a black-and-white, fucked-up-and-photocopied pamphlet dedicated to all the street shredding happening in western New York state. And then, after nine issues of culture-documenting brilliance, it was gone.
Instead of cutting and pasting photos and text on his living room floor, Ransom began filming his friends' skateboarding antics and after moving to Huntington Beach when he was 25 (and making friends with professional skateboarders and getting a job at Revelation Records), Pure Fun became even more of a blip in his teenage past.
Fast forward to 2010, when the then 36-year-old Ransom got the idea to do a much-belated new issue of Pure Fun in honor of the zine's 20th anniversary.
"I was on a tour with my friend, skateboarder Mike Vallely, in 2010, shooting footage for him, and someone had mentioned doing a promotional zine for a new company instead of a catalog, and I thought, 'That's so awesome, I want to do a zine,'"Ransom remembers. It was only then that he realized it had been 20 years since Pure Fun began. "I'm kind of a packrat and I'm into archiving and documenting stuff so I still had all my old stubs and photos. It was perfect timing."
Two years later–and 22 years after the first issue–Pure Fun printed its 10th installment with a photography exhibit and release party in Lockport, where it all began (a redux release party was later hosted at the now-shuttered Long Beach Vegan Eatery). Issue #10 was thick and perfect-bound ("The idea was to make it halfway between a super professional book and total photocopied zine," he says) and featured old cuts from the previous nine issues plus lost photographs, unpublished interviews and more yearbook-type nostalgia.
The latest issue, Pure Fun #11, is yet another step forward for the iconic skate zine: it features all new content, created specifically for modern readers. From interviews with editors of the skate zine that originally inspired Ransom back in Lockport (Awake) to recent action photos of Vallely, the 36-page saddle-stitched zine is printed (in Orange County!) and ready for its debut.
It will have its only release party in Long Beach, at DiPiazza's this Sunday.
"These zines are entirely created between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m.," says Ransom, a new dad who now works full time running social media for a networking company. "The house is asleep, the computer comes out and I start tinkering. Especially as I was putting this one together, I realized that I just really love this process. "
The release party lineup features a who's-who of old school skateboarders-turned-musicians–from Lance Mountain's Noise For The Needy to Steve Alba's Powerflex 5–a fitting night of skate punk for a revived skate zine.
Headlining the show is Johnny Rad, a skateboard-song-belting lounge singer who achieved cult status after being featured in the third Bones Brigade video, The Search For Animal Chin (above). Though the character was entirely fictitious, the name has become a legendary code word among skateboarders–ending up as the name for skate shops, eateries, a music festival and (unbeknownst to many) an actual band fronted by the actor who played Johnny Rad.
Ransom also interviewed Johnny Rad for the new issue of Pure Fun, creating an even stronger link to skateboarding history.
Despite the resurgence of zine culture and the interest in vintage skate culture that only continues to grow, don't expect Pure Fun to return as a monthly photocopied missive sporting the latest suburban skateboard happenings.
"Maybe I could do it quarterly and get a subscription service going," Ransom says. "I think before I decide to fully go there, I'll see what happens with this issue. I'll probably want to do another one next year though–it'll be our 25th anniversary."