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26 Years Of Skateboarding (Round 1)
by Buddy Rawls

WHAT IS A SKATEBOARD?

The first time I ever stood on a skateboard was at a roller skating rink around 1975, but I had no desire to pursue it. Later on, while staying at a friend's house, I discovered that his neighbor had two skateboards. We spent a lot of time on those boards that weekend. It was the typical first time experience on a board with the total flailing of the body and arms while trying to stand up on small rolling platform. This time it was fun and challenging. Based on my memory and peripheral events, this first real introduction had to have been during the summer of '76.

My first skateboard was a gift from my favorite relatives during the Christmas of 1976. It was a Roller Derby from Sears. I basically learned to skateboard on this. I skated on driveways, streets, and small hills. I learned to do turns, bunny hops, and power slides on Davis Hills' smooth slippery sidewalks. Eventually I learned tic-tacs and could almost do a complete backside 360.

I got my second board about 5 months later in the spring or early summer of 1977. It was another Roller Derby, an 'XK', with nice large wheels and a good kicktail. I even added grip tape for traction and eventually a set of angled RadPads to tailor the turning geometry and add wheel clearance. This was the set-up that enabled me to really skate without being limited by equipment. This was about as good of set-up as I could have had without progressing to the next stage, with precision bearings and serious 'name brand' equipment.

SKATEBOARDING GETS 'SERIOUS'

During our family's summer vacation at Ft Walton Beach, FL., I was introduced to ditch skating by a skater that I met at a local surf/skate shop (Celestial Surf). Dad drove me to it. It was a big ditch, about 6 ft deep with large flat bottom and bowled or capsule shaped end. I watched how the locals carved the end and maintained momentum by pumping. For some reason, it took only a few times and I was able to maintain momentum and it was a ball! I continued to learn more and more stuff, 360's (backside and frontside), slides, wheelies and other beginner style tricks. Somewhere during this time, I got my first skateboard magazine, it was a 'Wild World of Skateboarding' magazine. The hottest skaters were on the Brewer Team, or so it seemed.

I got my third board in the late summer of 1977. It was a fiberglass 24" flat deck, ACS 430's, generic tunnel-style wheels with real precision bearings!!. Somehow, I heard that people were skating a local ditch. It was the Woolco ditch. The place, even now, is still as virgin as it was then, 25 years ago. Having had a taste of good banks at the Ft. Walton ditch, skating at Woolco came pretty easily. The typical tricks were frontside and backside kickturns on (or close to) the lip and high speed carves on the turn. The dream moves were 540 degree kickturns high on the walls and lip slides. The first Huntsville area skater I met was Paul Zxyno. He was old school then!!!. He was in his late 20's and was skating a Logan Earth Ski with Trackers and Road Riders. Next, I met Kurt and Kevin Jose. I skated with Kurt often. He was my age and of equal, if not better, ability. I continued on downhill (tucks) and slalom skating in my neighborhood on 20mph hills when I was not at the Woolco ditch. I upgraded my board with ACS 651 trucks. I met Alan (Keith) Smith at school, who also lived close to Kurt Jose, and then the relationship started. I skated with Allan and Kurt all the time!!

In the Christmas of 1977, I got my first wood board. It was an Ampul 27" beveled bottom solid wood board with Road Rider 4's, along with my ACS 651's. Birmingham's Wheel-A-Wave Skatepark had just opened up and my first trip was during that Christmas break. On that trip, I got about 15 minutes of skating before it began sleeting (typical Alabama weather). It was the most outrageous skate terrain I had ever seen, even better than the magazine parks. They had a large bowl, that seemed like it was about 15 ft deep (of course, in reality is only about 8 or 9ft) that came down from this enormous starting hill. The freestyle area was very cool, a humongous reservoir with varying depths and curvatures and a bunny-hop mound in the center. It also had a bonafide slalom run with banked ends and a sort of ditch/half-pipe type run. I returned to skate B'ham again with Kurt and Alan a few weeks later. It was a total blast. The runs were so fast that (at our current skating ability) we could not start at the top of the hill. To the best of my memory, my favorite skaters were the Progressive Team from Atlanta (Tim Nunn, John Moore, Fred Franklin, and others). They had great ads, always it seemed, with drained swimming pools. I don't know what made them special, I think it was the simple fact that they weren't from California or Florida. They were just good old red-necks like us and yet they were in the 'real' skateboard magazines.

In the Winter/Spring 1978, I met more skaters, Doug Leighten and the Peddler team. Also the Alabama Crafts & Leather Shop guys Todd Quire and John Broussard. We staged large sessions at the ditch, sometimes with as many as 15 or 20 people. The magazines I read at this time were 'Wild World of Skateboarding', 'Skateboarder Magazine', 'Skateboard World'. Somewhere around this time, Bruce Risener attacked the back side of Governor's drive (60+ mph laydown). The Dickinson's began offering skateboard stuff at their house for insane low prices. I constructed two small inclined ramps that I could skate like a ditch in the privacy of my own back yard

From here on things started to move very fast and I know I am going to leave out key people, events, and mix up the events, but here goes. Sometime in the spring/summer 1978, I got some Gullwing Pheonix trucks and the new 'star-trac' series 65 mm red Kryptonics, both of which were the rage at the time. At the south end of town, more skaters were appearing. A vertical one hit ramp and eventually a half-pipe were built at Phil Scalf's house. I also met Paul Gierow around this time. The Makaha team comes to The Mall with a plexiglass half pipe. Wentzl Ruml (Dog Town) and Peter Boronski were the skaters at the demo. I also met Scott Brighthaupt, the owner of SE Racing (for the BMX guys). As cool as the gig was, they would not let us skate the plexiglass ramp!!!!!!

In keeping with the advancing new wider wood ply boards, I get a 28"x 8" Tiger Enterprises 'Wallbanger' model with a serious kicktail design called the 'foothook'.

In Gadsden, AL. the Flying Wheels park opened. We go there and have a ball. We stay more to the snake run and ditch like areas that we were used to skating. Phil Scalf, out of nowhere, is becoming a major hit and his doing one wheelers and awesome tail-blocks in the deep end of their long halfpipe (3 ft of vert!!!) His own halfpipe had really opened the door to his vert skating.

We continued skating Woolco, with occasional skatepark trips to Bham, and Gadsden. We were getting better and better. During this time, we came to the realization that vertical terrain was where it was at. Sometime in this era came the rumour that a Huntsville skateboard park was being planned.

THE RAMP ERA

However it happened, Phil Scalf's ramp disappeared and Paul Gierow's appeared. Todd Quire builds a nice one hit ramp (Kurt Jose almost dies on it from a bad fall!!!!), and eventually a super nice halfpipe. I build my own vertical one hit ramp. Kurt's infamous basement ramps are starting to really come alive, including the 'pool ramp'. Even now, I think Kurt's pool ramp was the best ramp I have ever skated. It was at just the right time, paired up with our current ability, that made it super fun. It mimicked a pool of about 5 feet deep with about 6 inches of vert. It had concrete pool coping and tile taken from the demolished Mount Charron Pool. The ramp was solid as a rock too. Where else, but at the Jose house, could you skate in a basement, out of the weather, dodging car engines in various stages of build-ups, and being fed steak tip shishkabobs, and be part of the the family. This was living!!!

During this time, Allan Smith builds a couple of one hit ramps and eventually one of two halfpipes that would be constructed at his house. Doug Leighten built a one-hit ramp. Also if memory serves me, the Ricter's one hit pool style ramp is completed. It was a ramp with one vert side and a starting ramp. The effect was like pushing off in the shallow end of a pool and dropping down into the diving well. Most of these one hit ramps varied from 6 ft to 9ft and all had atleast some amount of vert, usually 2-3 ft on the taller ones. The halfpipes were 16ft diameter usually with 1ft vert on the trick side and 2-3 ft on the high side (for speed). All the halfpipes were 8ft wide. More of the Davis Hills area skaters started their own ramps too (JR Streeter, Joe Williamson and the Moon Twins).

Green Kryptonics are beginning to be the rage as we start moving from the street skating to ramps and more park riding. Most everyone is skating them exclusively. Frontside airs are starting to become the trick, occasionally as high as a foot out. One wheelers and grinds were in vogue as well.

Somewhere in this era, two guys move in from LA, California. Tim and Greg Taylor. Tim was styled with surf carves and arm movement. Greg was like 7ft giant and basically 'ripped'. We built the second halfpipe at Allan's house. This one had a masonite surfaced ramp that actually got too slick (as it weathered) but we learned more and more tricks.

During this time, I meet Holly Holt and Delourdes McCoy, girl skaters. As far as pools were concerned, the Weatherly YMCA pool was skated, the Colonial Gardens country club pool skated, the campground pool by the Space Center, and a few others (the kidney in Lakewood, may have been being skated now, but I think it happened later)

During the winter of '78 and early '79, the wider pig boards start showing up, a 10" Alva and a Dogtown too. I get a 10" Alva, but had to put the ACS 651's back on. The leap from an 8" board to a 10" was a major jump. Eventually, I get some new 7" gull wings (conventional centerbolt design) and never skate any other brand trucks from that point on!!. As we continue skating ramps, somewhere in this time frame we get word that Huntsville Park construction has begun. This is right around the time that Iran was being evacuated and the Ayatola is taking over (Christmas '78).

We are starting to really gain momentum and are skating at several areas in Huntsville. Major groups: Phil Scalf, Paul Gierow, Ed and Ralph Desanctis (all from the same neighborhood), Peddler guys (Doug Leighten, Robert Mcmahan, Jim Bentler, etc), the Lakewood and Davis Hills area (Jose, me, Smith, Streeter , Williamson, Moon twins, Mark Ralph, Mark Tidwell, Eddie Bussam, etc). The Butler area and Alabama Crafts guys, (Quire, Broussard, Ballantine, Robby ?, Mayfield, Wilson, Kwon Kim, etc). The Lee area (Victor Burrous, Mike Schrimsher, Eric Felts, Jimmy Hicks, Rusty ?(skated with Eddie Bussam, the hotrod car guys). The Huntsville high area (Drew Ricter, Steve Worthy, etc). Birmingham was hopping with Andy Spinosi, Mark Eddings, and numerous others. Hopefully the groups are semi-correct and I know there are numerous people I forgot to mention. I got to know Pat Wachter during this time. He was sort of overseeing the Huntsville park construction effort. I also remember him living at the construction site. In Gadsden, Clark Harrel, Bart Burgess, Donnie Redmond, Ray and Jay Robinson (Jay eventually became 'jay alabamy'-big skater in California in mid 80s). Florence was hopping with Steve Hobbie, Tyler Ledbetter, Scott Sloan, Max Russell,and others. My current quiver is made up of 2 identical 10" Alva's, with Gullwings , and Belair Lip-Bomb wheels. The hot sessions are still at Kurt's basement on the pool ramp.

THE GET-A-WAY

The Get-A-Way opens up in spring of 79, it was like heaven!!!! We session the baby pool almost exclusively while the south end guys (Mcmahan and others stay in the 13ft deep keyhole. These were the transitions and style of terrain we were familiar with. The Tricks: double axle grinds, that eventually turn to one footed carves and grinds!!, a true riot, then rock and rolls and frontside airs.

In summer/fall 79, the movement begins migrating to the big keyhole. Also learning to kickturn over vert in the ¾ pipe frontside and backside is a happening thing. Inverts are starting to become hot trick. My Current board is a Powell Double Beamer, Gullwings, and Lip-Bombs or OJII's. Delourdes is skating now (for sure).

Throughout the winter of '80 we continue to skate hard. Anything in the mags was being done by someone in the area. Airs were approaching ½ foot out (13' deep bowl remember). Long carves and frontside lay backs, lay back airs. etc…… We were making frequent trips to Gadsden, but at this point B'ham was becoming 'old school'. Their business was dropping. They tried to get back in, by building a capsule pool somewhere in this time. It was skateable and hosted some contests, but was really badly made and kinks were everywhere.

Through the Spring and Summer of '80, we continued progressing. Airs were beginning to match the current magazine trends of around 1 foot, however we would soon realize that the magazines lagged the real skate scene by about 4 mos. At the true Grand Opening of the Get-A-Way, some pro skaters showed up for a demo. Tom Inouye, Tony Jetton, and some other big names came, but they actually seemed a little out of their element in the 13' ft deep pool. But, David Andrecht, a heavy hitter in the current magazine scene, seemed at home in the big pool. That's when we got a dose of how we were lagging, by following magazines. He was catching 2 ½ ft airs and a host of serious rude tricks for that time. We matched with technical ability his tricks, but not HEIGHT. At this time, I could backside and front side double axle carve grinds ONE FOOTED!!!!!. My laybacks were starting to be made with 50/50 frequency, but were not on coping yet. Kurt and Gierow and the other guys were doing inverts and layback airs, etc. From here on out we strived to increase our skating ability even higher. Current boards I am skating are Powell Brite-Lites and Ray 'Bones' Rodriguez Snub Nose, using 8" Gullwings and Powell mini-cubes or Gullwing 'Wings' wheels. I am making frequent trips to Gadsden to skate on the weekdays. Somewhere around this time I get to skate with Lance Mountain, Eric Grisham and Alan Losi. Eddie Elguera came at a later date, but I did not skate with him, but Mark Tidwell showed him how to do real footplants. Shawn Peddie, George Wilson, and many others came. Hewbie Daniels came from Texas for Zorlac. But notable in an interesting way was a nomad skater named Jo Jon. As the pros and out of town skaters came through, they always stayed at motels. This means lots of parties ensued during these times and that meant an occasional chance to skate the motel pools. Make no mistake, good times and hard partying were a major part of the skate scene, especially during this time.

MUD GUPPY

In the fall of 1980, a skater from upstate New York named Jeff Keagle came to Huntsville. He had the northern accent, the punk rock attitude, and the funniest sense of humour ever I had ever seen. He drove his parents old rusted out bomb. They had owned a tropical fish store in New York, and this was their company car!!!!!!. It was like a 74 Catalina, it was huge and had so much rust that a cloud of red dust came out when it went over bumps. It had the timeless logo painted on the side in big block letters: 'Aqua-Tec'. He quickly found his way into our skating sessions and extra-curricular activities. Wherever we went, he was with us. Somewhere along the way, Kevin McMahan gave him the name 'Mud Guppy'. It stuck, it was funny, and it fit him perfectly. If you have never had the chance to be at a party with a bunch of rowdy skaters and mudguppy, then you have never been to a party. This was truly a spectacle. Mud Guppy was one of the few guys I have ever heard of that could vomit at a moments notice. No finger gagging, just instantaneous 'blahhh'. Pair this up with his flaming red hair, that upstate New York accent, and you had a critical combination that was guaranteed to be fun. But he was more than a spectacle, he was a close friend and chances are if you saw one of us out on the town, the other was there too.

SPONSORED SKATER

In the fall 80, I get a call from Clark Harrell in Gadsden, he received an amateur sponsorship from Tom Sims. Shortly after that, I was contacted by Pat Wachter (who was a pro, not for Sims, but had 'connections') and Clark Harrel. They both said for me to contact Sims about skating for them. I called Tom Sims directly and described who I was and told him who had asked me to call him. He was already expecting a call from me!!! I asked about auditions or proof of ability. He said it was already taken of. The information had already been shown and described to him from other sources. I later learned that this was mainly thru Pat Wachter's efforts.

So now I am officially sponsored by Sims. Mike Folmer visited and gave me some of his boards, they were 29" x 10" snub nose designs, like the Powells I was used to skating previously. My best moves were seriously long 'snake' slides, laybacks aka Jay Smith contorted style (and fakie versions too), backside and frontside airs in the 2-3 foot range, nice contorted inverts, fakie ollies (completely out, full board length). Rock-n-Rolls and slides and the (360 toe spin variation) and the ever popular roll-ins (BS and FS). Not to mention the one footed carve grinds. On the non-vert terrain, board slides and high ollies over the hips in the cloverleaf bowl were common. Another thing that I attempted but did not really stick with, was riding the board backwards (called switch foot now). Duane Peters did a new move called an 'Acid Drop' off the hip of the combi pool at Upland, Ca., so I tried it in on 13ft deep with 3ft vert. Definitely a cool trick. Folmer took back lots of photos, especially of the acid drop. I logged a lot of time skating with Ray Underhill. Skaters from all over were coming through Huntsville. They came from Mobile, Memphis, Atlanta, Chattanooga, and even the northern states. The Huntsville locals that I skated with the most now were Kurt Jose, Paul Gierow, Kevin Mcmahan, Mud Guppy, Mark Tidwell, and I cant even remember all the others. Somewhere in this time frame is when Pat Wachter began carve-grinding the top of the ¾ pipe. This made the magazines and can be seen on various sites on the internet occasionally.

This was the way everything progressed thru the summer of '81 and into '82. But something began to happen. For some reason, I began to loose interest. Why?, I don't know! Everybody was. The best magazine had tuned into a roller skating/bmx/motocross hybrid called 'Action Now'. Even the funky Surf-Rider/Skate-Rider (flip-flop) magazine from Florida had folded earlier. A magazine, or rather newspaper, had started up called Thrasher around earlier in 81, but was never perceived as a heavy hitter, primarily because of its low budget newspaper format.

Then one weekend, Clark Harrell came up to visit. We were skating the big keyhole. (my guess is spring 82, but may have been earlier). He was working on the 360 Ollie on Vert and I was polishing up on a fakie ollie grab thing. Deep down, I was not enjoying skating anymore. The funny thing was, neither was he. Skateboarding had gotten to be a chore, something to strive for with constant improving. It seemed like fun was taking the backseat competitiveness. At that very instant, I took my pads off and walked away!!!!! It was done. I was urged by several people to not stop (Pat mainly), but it was over. It was not fun anymore. That was it, the past times, friends, and my Sims sponsorship, were all gone. I did not get back on a board till spring '83 (roughly a year later), at Auburn University, and that was only a one day occurrence.

THE RAMP DESTRUCTOR

While at Auburn University I was contacted by a skater from Texas who recognized my last name and home town. He was even living in the same dorm that I was in. He knew a lot of pro's and was real close to the Zorlac team, plus he knew who I was. He was getting articles and photos published in Thrasher regularly. He talked me into going out to skate a local halfpipe. I had no skate shoes or pads, but even worse, no board. I borrowed one of his boards. We went to this ramp with a few other non-skating friends. The ramp was a little worn, but not bad. We were tearing this ramp up. High frontside airs, rock-n-roll slides, fakie ollies, footplants, etc. The ramp began developing a small soft spot from the old weathered surface. Then it happened!!! Like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. He goes berserk and starts ramming his board into the ramp and bashing bigger and bigger holes in the surface around the soft spot. It was like a 'punk rock' slam dance/destructo party. Then the locals started showing up and it turned into a big heated scene. He single handedly trashed their ramp (to the point of being unskateable) in about 5 minutes. I continued to hang out with him occasionally, but I never skated with him again! He eventually went on to run a very popular skateboard company and became pretty noteworthy in the skating media.

THE END OF ROUND 1