Experimental Marketing

Once upon a time before the video star, you had to be a pretty heavy contender in the contest circuit to be considered for a Pro Model. Top 10 I recall was the cutoff to make the jump for Amateur to Professional. It makes perfect sense because it shows how consistent you are and maybe how good your skating evolved from first getting sponsored. There were some guys that you could clearly see were the next Pros and there where the guys who kind of leveled off. You earned it in a way that was more raw than the video star. Don’t get me wrong, video parts are stellar. I mean the David Gonzales part just dropped, it’s insane. Next level madness from the current generation that is taking it to another plane of rawness. The Girl/Chocolate video is coming and they have never put out anything less than excellent. Back to the point, the early 80s and 90s skaters had to compete to show the goods. If they a bad day there was no chance to comeback the next day and retry it. Skate good, land your run, and you were on the way to getting your own model as a Pro.

Mike Vallely experimenting with a shape.

I was curious about what boards the Ams would ride. I know it had mostly to do with the shape and what they liked. Did the company ever suggest what graphic they rode to promote a current Pro? It makes sense that the bigger companies might try and do that to sell more of a certain product. If that was the case, I bit. If I had a certain Am or Pro I liked, I would ride their gear. I emulated John Lucero and Jeff Grosso’s sticker jobs. Seeing them skate for different companies and putting each others stickers on their boards just seemed cool. Neil Blender and Lance Mountain did the same thing. Supporting your friends doing what you love is the goods. Then being the golden age of skate graphics made it that much more memorable.

They had me at Experimental

I remember how stoked I was seeing these Powell & Peralta Experimental stickers. Ray Underhill came up with an idea for a graphic for future Pros to have on their “experimental” shapes. When Powell & Peralta were on top, all I thought was one of the Bones Brigade was getting a new shape and graphic when I saw this design. Talk about hyping up the next Pro. It was even cooler when an Am had one, a new Pro model and graphic was in the future. Once you saw a rider that had it on his board, kids would ask the shop owners when the new “whoever” Pro Model would be at the shop. In turn the shop owners would contact their sales reps asking the same question. Powell & Peralta were the only ones doing it this way. On occasion you would see someone riding a blank board with stickers on it but, that was pretty dull in comparison. Just like Rome, Powell & Peralta eventually fell. Some of the guys who had the experimental graphic left for better things. Jim Thiebaud left and turned Pro for SMA with one of the most sought after graphics of all time. DC Comics ceased and desisted his very first Pro Model. Vernon Courtlandt Johnson was responsible for some of the most legendary designs at Powell and I still wonder what VCJ would have drawn up for Jim. It was great to see him finally draw up a graphic for Jesse Martinez 20 years in the making. The memories these old boards are like pictures to me. Remembering where I was, what tricks I was doing, and all the friends involved. Glory days each and everyone of them. -ERL

Ray Underhill before the Cross and Chain graphic. RIP.

Lance Conklin earning his at the Am Finals Reno NV.

Mystery shape from Jim Thiebaud.

I had it and even then the shop guy said not to skate it, DC Comics was going to kill it.


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