In 1988 I was a number of things, a comic book fan, a budding artist, a metalhead (more specifically a Metalikat), a lover of cartoons, a Garbage Pail Kid collector, but more importantly, I was a skateboarding poser. As much as I loved the culture, brands, imagery and artistry of skateboarding, I was super timid and afraid of getting hurt, and thus I spent a couple of years steeped in the sport, standing on a board very comfortably on the sidelines. I bought issues of Thrasher magazine, I adored movies like Gleaming the Cube and Thrashin’, and I had more fingerboard key chains than fingers. That was one of the first times in my life when I desperately wanted to be a part of a clique that I absolutely knew I’d never be accepted into. I’m not throwing blame on anyone but myself here, but being a heavy kid who was awkward at best and downright terrifyingly clumsy at worst, it felt impossible to break into the culture. That didn’t stop me from wearing the clothes, obsessing over the movies and begging my mom for a skateboard in the months leading up to Christmas 1987.
I actually lucked into my first hand-me-down skateboard sometime in early 1987. It was an Action Sports Kamikaze, a white board with a knock-off red, Hosoi rising sun graphic on the deck, red wheels, and black rails, tail and nose guards. I have no idea how I ended up with it, whether I traded with someone to get it or if I found it in a yard sale, but I know it wasn’t purchased new by my parents. It was beat up with gouges scraped into the art, which I artfully covered with some extra Garbage Pail Kids stickers from my collection, in particular a Greaser Greg which I thought added a nice level of badass to the deck. I happily rode that board up and down my street doing the only “trick” I knew how to do, kickturns, which is about as basic as you can get.
Where I grew up in Florida in the mid to late 80s, the BMX, surf and skate culture was pretty hardcore. I’m sure it was noting in comparison to southern California, but you couldn’t throw a rock in my neighborhood without hitting a homemade launch ramp in the street or a gang of kids out “shredding” the pavement. Hell, every 7-Eleven in my area (just north of Orlando) sold bars of Sex Wax (for waxing down your surfboard) next to the candy! Everyone was decked out in Powel/Peralta, Sims, T&C, or Santa Cruz t-shits, wore Vans, Dynos, Chuck Taylors, or Airwalks (before they were co-opted by Payless Shoes of all places), and had the hairdos to go along with it ( either the ‘Tony Hawk’, semi-shaved on one side and along the back, with long bangs flipped to the other side, or the ‘Brian Kelly’, short-ish and gelled to either wave to one side or be semi spiked.)
I had a weird mix of the Brian Kelly and the Tony Hawk cut, lived in T&C shirts and surf shorts and wore a lot of Dynos and dual color Chuck Taylors. I used to sport a Tracker Trucks painter’s cap with the bill flipped up and the word ‘Rad’ written in sharpie across the bottom. In the winter I wore a grey and aqua green Billabong corduroy denim jacket. Actually, I pretty much lived in that jacket from the winter of 1987 until my sophomore year in high school, during the fall of 1992. The only reason I finally took it off was because my friends were so sick of seeing me in it that they chided me until I go so pissed off that I literally took a pair of scissors to it during home room and cut it into small pieces so I could throw it at them like confetti in the hallway at the end of fifth period. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
I was an all out poser. Though I did have a love for the culture surrounding skating, I hardly participated. I just rode my board up and down the street, and would sit on it by the curb when friends and neighborhood kids would take turns flying off the homemade plywood launch-ramps they’d build on the weekends. What solidified it for me, in my mind, was when I started obsessing over the idea of getting a brand new deck. The year before I got a really awesome BMX bike, a baby blue GT Performer with white grips, mags and wheels. I loved that bike so damn much and would ride it at top speed everywhere. When I was on that bike I felt invincible, like Bill Denbrough on Silver (his 28-inch Schwinn) in Stephen King’s IT, I could do anything on it from jumping curbs to speeding down the steepest hills at full tilt. So in my 10 year-old brain I thought this would translate to getting a new flashy skateboard that I dreamed of having built custom from a local skate and surf shop. Makes sense right?
Well, somehow or another I convinced my mom to drop $150 on a brand new board for me in Christmas of 1987. By this point my parents had tired of surprising me and they usually either took me out to the store to pick out a few gifts, or like in this fateful year we made the trek out to a surf and skate shop down in Orlando. Now, I knew about a lot of the pro skaters by this point from endlessly scanning the pages of Thrasher magazine, and when I walked into that shop I knew exactly what I wanted, a Mike McGill Powell/Peralta deck. I mean, everyone knew that the Bones Brigade was the shit, and of all the pages I tore out of my skate magazines, the McGill handplant pictures were my favorites and the ones that ended up tacked to my bedroom walls. So I had the opportunity to pick out all the components for my new board and I was very stoked. The board itself was silver with the classic skull and snake design, but with a subtle purple coiled snakeskin pattern in the background…
The first thing I picked out was the grip-tape for the top of the deck. I wanted mine to stand out, so I decided to go with a clear version. I also got a couple of intact sheets so that I could cut it up into a sort of rough camouflage pattern, little silver-dollar-sized pieces in weird shapes that I applied myself later. Since there was purple on the board, I decided to get a set of matching purple Tracker Trucks with a set of black risers. I picked out a couple of black rail guards and a black tail guard to match the risers. Then the coup de grace, a set of 4 lime green Santa Cruz Slimeball wheels…
So, I loved this deck. Like love, loved it. Took it everywhere with me. I practiced handplants on the edge of my bed with it, sat on it in the living room while watching cartoons, and rode it all around three neighborhoods (the one in Florida where I grew up, then in New Hampshire for the 9 months we were there and then for a couple years in Georgia.) I just wanted to be clear that I loved that board to death, and I was in good company too. I mean, Axel Rose was also a fan so…
But at the end of the day I always felt like a phony. Unlike the GT Performer, this McGill deck did nothing to bolster my skateboarding prowess. It didn’t help my with my anxiety of breaking every part of my body on a launch ramp, help improve my balance, or assist in the weight loss I so desperately needed at the time to help with my self image issues. This is all plainly obvious of course, and I knew it at the time in my heart, but damn if I didn’t hope that a cool pro deck would make me, well, cool.
The cherry on the top of this crap sundae is that even though I felt like such a poser on the inside I did love that board. So, a few years later when I was living in Georgia and it was stolen out of our garage by some local doucebag, that really hurt. Kind of like how you never mess with a man’s car (ala Pulp Fiction), you do not steal a kid’s skateboard. I eventually manged to find out through the very active neighborhood kid grapevine that it was taken by a fifth grader who thought I looked like a jerk. He didn’t even keep the skateboard, he instead threw it down a sewer one neighborhood over. It was one of those kinds that didn’t have a handy manhole cover either, because I was all set to go spelunking to get that skateboard back. It was gone, lost to the underground, and with it pretty much my entire identity of that surf/skate/BMX culture that I had wrapped myself in. By this point my parents had given away my GT Explorer without asking me, stores had pretty much stopped carrying T&C clothing, and all I really had left (now living in Georgia, light years away from the beachy atmosphere of Florida) was that old and by this point ragged Billabong jacket.
So when my friends started giving me crap for wearing it everyday, even in the sweltering Georgia summer heat, I had had enough. That was the day I literally cut the poser off of myself, into pieces, and threw it away.