1.) Let's begin with...how did you start skating how did you get on Madrid?
My parents were divorced when I was eight or so. I lived with my mom from then on and my dad, while mostly absent, showed up to our apartment one day in 1977 with a skateboard he'd borrowed from a friend for me to try. He had little impact on my life overall but I remain consistently grateful to him for that and for getting me into model rocketry which led me into a career in science and engineering. The board was typical of the day; probably ~7" wide, roughly bullet-shaped, and made from a single block of perhaps maple wood with a wedge glued on top as a kicktail. It also had the common 4" wide strip of 3M black grip tape down the top's center and different colored polyurethane wheels. I don't recall the trucks. He then took me to the freshly opened Pipeline Skatepark to observe and I clearly recall that the park was packed! I mean there genuinely wasn't much room between skaters throughout the entire property fer reals. My mom later bought me a Pool Tool skateboard with, I think, tracker trucks, multi-colored polyurethane wheels, and that 4" wide grip tape down the center.
I had grown quite close to Tony Hawk and Rodney Mullen during the early- to mid-80s. I had fixated on the idea that I could be good enough to skate for Stacy Peralta's Bones Brigade someday but I was delusional and that was never realistic. It's great to set lofty goals but I regret annoying Stacy and Tony during that aspirational period. I share this because I had offers to join Madrid for roughly two years but resisted as I still wanted to live the Powell Peralta dream. I think I was at Del Mar practicing for an NSA pro contest when Beau Brown approached me once again in the parking lot about riding for Madrid. In that moment I finally acquiesced, snapped back to the reality of my talent level, and accepted Beau's offer. I skated for them for a few years and had two pro models; the first of which, the punker smashing my name in a warehouse, you have reissued under your Decomposed brand. Thanks! I should mention that Spencer Bartsch, singer of Shattered Faith, designed both of my graphics and also managed the team.
2.) From our conversations, I see that you enjoy dissecting and analyzing tricks. Did you have any dream tricks you were working on in the 80s that you have yet to pull off? Name some of your influences who had affected your skating style.
I'll admit that these free-body-diagram analyses have emerged late in my life as I sign boards for friends. I hadn't yet taken physics when I was skating professionally so I'm circling back to add some specificity to otherwise perplexing tricks (like the Lollipop :)
I never pulled a triple ollie flip. The closest I came was landing it with my big toe on the tail which then proceeded to slip off. Terrence Yoshizawa, cousin to Lester Kasai, used to generously and skillfully coach me when he was visiting the Pipeline. One night I tried that trick probably thirty times sequentially refining each iteration with Terrence's input but could never make it. Grrr.... I also pulled a few vanilla 720 shove-its and aspired to extend that to 900 shove-its but no dice. I'm 6'2" tall and had grown to most of that in the mid-80s so I was jumping high and far but this helped neither trick. Finally I once saw Rodney pull his 50/50-flip-50/50 and that still represents a pinnacle in freestyle for me. I was able to make that occasionally and also learned 50/50-one-and-one-half-flips down but aspired to learn 50/50-double-flip-50/50... never made it. Shocker.
Clearly Rodney Mullen had a huge impact on my formative years and that carried throughout my 'career.' Per Welinder also amazed me with his fluid style atop highly technical and novel trickery. I'll admit that I was involuntarily caught up in copying Rodney's tricks. It was difficult for me to avoid that, however, as he was so prolific and I remained mesmerized with every new video I saw of his incredible innovation. It was impossible to match his pace even just with copying! Eventually I sought to break out and invent more of my own tricks but recall sharing them with Rodney in person and he would consistently, if reflexively, scoff at my attempts to create something new. Hilarious. I do not mean to paint Rodney as unsupportive or unkind in any way because he's still an awesome human being. The reality was that he really had invented nearly everything very early on during the emergence of freestyle. Even today there aren't many new tricks from modern freestylers other than adaptations to/from street. Never give up though, people, as undiscovered trick territory must still abound!
3.) You had a memorable board graphic in the 80s. The 'Punk Rocker' on Madrid. Lynn Cooper helped popularized this board later on when it was featured on the 'Reverse' dvd. What's the story behind the graphic and how did you develop this board shape?
I have always embraced humility over arrogance. Self-praise seems pathetic and desperate to me (#trump). I prefer to do my best and if something seems praiseworthy then I try to internalize any resultant compliments. Back in the 80s I was even less (more?) self-deprecating than now. I liked hardcore punk (Crass, Dead Kennedys, Peter and the Test Tube Babies) and I loved the idea of a punker smashing my name. I think I still have my original sketch of that graphic somewhere so I need to dig that up from the depths of the garage at some point.
4.) Your second model on Madrid has to be one of the rarest freestyle decks out there. Not only is it impossible to find; most people have never even seen it until recently and would love to have it in their collection. What is your home address? Sorry.....I mean, tell us more about this deck.
My second model emerged when I was a freshman in Chemical Engineering school at Cal Poly, Pomona. Its graphic collages my face on Sir Isaac Newton's head (lifted from my calculus book's cover) with my favorite insect, the Praying Mantis, along with some blocky, abstract lettering that Spencer made up. It's true that very few of those boards were made because skateboarding for Madrid suffered relative to my engineering studies and work to pay for college. Freestyle had plateaued at that point and life's priorities took over.
5.) Freestylers today skate everything. Singlekick. Doublekick. Small. Big. If you were still skating in your prime today, would you pick a different shape or use a different mold for your model?
It turns out that my feet require size 12-13 shoes today for best comfort. In the days when I was skateboarding 12 hours per I used to cramp my feet into size 10.5 Converse to try to make them smaller to fit on a 7.25" wide board. If I were to design a board today it would likely be similar to my old shape but I'd probably make it 7.75-8.25' wide (with proportionally increased length). This would be a tough optimization, however, as rotational velocity is inversely proportional to board width so flipping would be slower. Although that doesn't seem to matter to modern street skaters so what do I know?! :)