Tag Archives: mark gonzales

Ronnie and the 20 Year Itch.

After a solid 20 year run Blind and Ronnie Creager have parted ways. Ronnie is the last link to a time where Blind skateboards was actually a groundbreaking company. Although, Blind should have been dismantled as a company after Mark Gonzales left the brand. All of the key ingredients that separated Blind from other companies were missing. The entire roster from Video Days were gone, they all left after The Gonz split. No Jason Lee, no Rudy Johnson, no Guy, and no Jordan Richter. That Team was so unique and the vibe you got from Video Days was so good, it should have ended there. Nothing against Tim Gavin or Henry Sanchez, Pack of Lies was so good. Brian Lotti was such an innovator and kept that style through all the pressure flip madness. By the time Lavar McBride was on it seemed like Blind was just a completely different company. It might as well been World Industries 2.0 and again, this isn’t a knock against the actual team or the skating. It’s like watching your favorite movie then when the sequel drops, it’s not the original cast and they story is bad. Because the first movie made a lot of money they have to make a sequel. “Conan the Barbarian” is a good example. It was raw, brutal, bloody, violent, and rated R. The sequel was “Conan the Destroyer” and it was awful. Rated PG, soft, weak, and senseless. By making it not so violent and controversial it made more money. Gonz was the Barbarian and anything after was the Destroyer. Literally, think the Reaper character they use.

Mark Gonzales also started ATM Click and was rad. Then he left and they kept it going as just ATM. It wasn’t the same either, $30 boards can be found at Dumiez in every mall across America. The thing with Blind was they always had some of the best guys on the team. I’m friends with guys who rode for Blind and they are still killing it to this day. With Creager, he never stopped innovating or even came close to slowing down. Despite all the team changes, it was always “Yeah but, Creager’s dope.” and he would come through with that smooth style and tech degree from the early 90s. That OG feel that made Blind have some form of roots and a relatable past. That style of skating that reminds you of why people say he should have been on Girl or Chocolate. Style like that doesn’t get old no matter what the current stair count is.

Not every company can be Girl or Chocolate. They seem to have a game plan unlike any other skate company. It must be nice to be Gino, Koston, or Chico and jump in the van to go on tour with a company that turned 20 years old. The same van that has the Trunk Boyz in it. They cared enough to take away Guy’s Pro Model board until he got healthy. Even when times were probably not the best, they didn’t retire Gino for lack of footage. Want to talk about a family vibe? The Crail Camp has it on lock. Steve Caballero has been the face of Powell/Powell & Peralta for three decades. He has riden for them for almost 34 years. Along the way I’m sure he had plenty of offers to leave and he stayed loyal, even when Powell kooked it and took away his Pro Models for a couple of years in the late 90s.

20 years is a long haul in any career. Think of how many 90s pros have disappeared. Sometimes we get comfortable in our position in the work field and change is good. Change usually breeds new life and creativity in people to find something new. Skateboarding is no different. Hopefully Ronnie gets sparked up and drops something heavy on our heads to remind us of why he’s on so many skater’s top 10 lists. That board control, trick selection, and style separates the Kostons, Howards, Daewons, Mullens, and Creagers from the “whoevers”. It always has and it always will. -ERL

Time waits for no man, even in Texas.

A bright future under a cloudy sky. Back tail transfer. ERL

A bright future under a cloudy sky. Back tail transfer. ERL

We all say random stuff when we are young. Normally it’s amongst your friends or family and maybe brought up every couple of years. Then sometimes it’s featured on the World Wide Web and your audience grows by a few million. Recently Austin Gillette said “People want to retire off skateboarding, which is pretty ridiculous.” “Skating ends at 30 or 35, whenever it is and you don’t want to be that jaded old guy that’s trying to stay in it.” “I feel like a lot of people these days are so, they’re really money hungry as far as that goes.” and suggested it wasn’t a bad thing to move on and try something else besides skating. Which it’s not a bad thing to move on if, you are ready and you no longer wish to be a Professional Skateboarder.

This past decade has shown there is enough room for people to skate professionally as long as they desire. Now there is a fair share of image over talent but, legends are made out of deeds not desire. That being said, there are a number of Pros who returned to the spotlight after their career was cut short by the “90s not cool enough” street movement. Mostly vert skaters which is rad. Seeing Chris Miller, Jeff Grosso, Hosoi, and Duane Peters still killing it is great. Most of these guys never stopped skating after the pay check ended. It didn’t start out as a job after all.

When a job turns into a career you usually want to do your very best. Everyone wants a raise and to move up the best they can in the company. A skater wants to be sponsored so he tries his hardest and gets on flow. After more hard work he makes it on the team as an Am. After representing his sponsor for years and busting his ass, he becomes Pro. He is a professional as he receives a salary for doing his job riding a skateboard the best he can. If he stays healthy and doesn’t let the life style pile him out, who’s to say when it’s time to hang it up?

Certain skaters have that drive and fire to keep killing it regardless of age. Kids had their posters on the wall in the early 90s and they have the same guys now, just 20 years later. Reynolds, Koston, Mariano, Hawk, and Danny Way have that. Not only do they have it but, they still are marketable and skaters buy their products. They still go out and skate on the highest level and they earn it. They don’t rely on what they did 10 years ago and “milk it”. We want to see them succeed because they are apart of our past.

Others made such a memorable impact on us we don’t want them to fade away. Matt Hensley is an obvious choice. He had so much to offer and bailed in the height of his fame. Hensley, the Gonz, Cardiel, and Rick Howard are great examples of us wanting more. It doesn’t matter what they do. Certain styles are timeless and we don’t compare them to what the new generation of skaters are doing. No Rick Howard in the Pretty Sweet video was a huge downer. One line with some block tricks and a few flips and that’s enough to put a smile on our faces.

There is no age limit if you’ve reached a certain level in skating. If you paid your dues and you’re still doing your “job”, who’s to say you’re too old. We all started skating for fun and 99% of the older Pros are still loving what they do. Are you “money hungry” if you are still making a living riding a skateboard into your late 30s or early 40s? It sounds more like living the dream to me. If you have been competing for over two decades why not have aspirations of eventual retirement? The new generation didn’t have to deal with the 90s in all it’s “couch surfing, top ramen, Civics were balling, $1000 first place winning, check bouncing, your knee is blow and it’s over” glory. Hats off to the older generation still fulfilling their dreams and to the young bucks carrying the torch. Austyn crushes it and I hope to see him killing it well into his 40s. -ERL

Flame Boy vs Porn, Suicide, and Racism

It’s hard to describe to young bucks that there was a time in skateboarding where Blind and World Industries were so in demand. It wasn’t always parent friendly cartoon characters battling each other. My friends and I would call to see when the “World Boxes” were arriving and would be waiting to see what new graphic was out. All the brands out of the World Camp overproduced new graphics, so by the time a catalog came out they already had newer boards out. Shop owners hated it. We loved it. A lot of the time a new board was waiting in that box that was never seen before. Sometimes, that board was too raw to be on the board rack at all. More often than not actual Shop owners couldn’t seem to find to find a spot next to their Hawk Skulls, McGill Skulls, O’Brien Skulls, or Zorlac Skulls for Crack Pipes, Napping Negros, or Satan. Mom’s weren’t too thrilled seeing altered Romance Novels or White Girls sucking on Chocolate Popsicles let alone a busty brunett fucking a giant spark plug. Skaters on the other hand were stoked. Steve Rocco pushed the envelope and with Mark Gonzales, Natas Kaupas, and Rodney Mullen by his side World was unstoppable.

The Natas Challenger board actually offended me. I thought it was in poor taste because that event was a major impact on my life at the time. How dare Rocco poke fun at a national tragedy! In retrospect I was as guilty as the moms pissed about the Randy Colvin board. Pearl necklaces and poorly drawn vaginas were ok but, the Challenger was off limits? Not by a long shot. The Lynch Mob board was probably my favorite because it confronted rasism head on by using ALL of the no no words. To say the World Camp was ahead of the rest of the skateboard companies is not fair. They were light years beyond them. A small independent company changed the format of skateboarding and the big companies had to fight to survive.

There will never be another time like this in skateboarding. It was such a drastic change and it was so raw that it was a one time event. The riders, board shapes, graphics, advertising, videos, and business ethics out of World Industries camp was genius. If people didn’t like it, they were probably old fucks afraid of change and losing control of “their” industry or Bible Thumping weirdos. As bad as the 90s got, they were one of my favorite timelines in skating. Hate Rocco? More like Hail Rocco. -ERL

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World Spring 1991

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Blind & 101 Spring 1991

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Liberty Spring 1991

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World & 101 Fall 1991

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Ghetto Wear Fall 1991

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Blind & Liberty Fall 1991

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World 1992 Spring

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Blind & Plan B Spring 1992

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101 & World Spring 1992

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Blind, 101, & World Spring 1992

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World Spring 1992

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Flip a Coin

In the 80s and 90s there was never a bigger example of taking sides than the Hosoi vs Hawk debates. Tech or style? Power or precision? Flow or difficulty? These things were part of taking sides for or against two of the most popular skaters of the day. For whatever reason, you had to take a side. I took Christians side although, I didn’t dislike Hawk. You know who did? Kooky punk rock dudes rebelling against the poster boy of innovation.

Around that same time Natas Kaupas and Mark Gonzales were changing the way we rode our skateboards in the streets. By changing I mean rewriting how it was done. The blue print that Rodney Mullen created was being used by Natas and Gonzales to challenge what could be done while “Street Style” skating. Take a mix of Vert and Freestyle moves to the streets and you’ve got a blank canvas for anything and everything. It was a time like no other in skating. There will never be period like that again where so many tricks were created. Plus there was this guy with a different name and a tough looking graphic. A name like Natas on the bottom of a board with a panther? Parents were confused by it and skaters were lined up for it.

Everything was changing right under their feet.

Even though the Gonz and Natas were on the same page during the street skating movement, they positively had their own unique styles. Just that time in skating allowed so much creativity and spontaneity that you could make a trick yours. There were no rules stating tricks had to be done a certain way because they hadn’t been done yet. The door was wide open to anything and nothing was really considered uncool.

I wonder if Natas could.....yeah, he could.

I wonder if Natas could…..yeah, he could.

The thing about both Natas and Gonz was no one really took sides. You never had to choose between Gonz or Natas. It was hard to compare their skating against each other even if you wanted to. How can anyone judge that type of creativity or invention? What they did was so special their individual styles complimented each other in such a way that it pushed boundaries. Me and my friends looked at a trash can or picnic table and said, “I bet Natas could ollie that.” or “I wonder if the Gonz could board slide something that high?”.

Natas had that surf style background and flowed through the streets. Gonz, to this day I can’t describe his style. It was just rad Gonz style. I think Natas never really quite gets the proper recognition he should. The kids just don’t know. Older guys get what he did and how far ahead of everyone he was. I think after he broke his ankle so badly in 92, he didn’t get the opportunity to keep pushing it like Gonzales did. Any Natas sitings were that much cooler and the few clips he had on Element was a sight for sore eyes. The Gonz just keeps on killing it and innovating to this day.

Before Duffy took it to the next level, Natas made it possible.

Before Duffy took it to the next level, Natas made it possible.

Natas briefly rode for my wheel company and expressed concerns based on not having any interest in demos, filming, touring, and limited exposure in ads. I could of cared less, I had Natas Kaupas riding for my team and that was the same dude I had on my walls as a kid. The same pictures are now on the walls of my shop. Skateboarding keeps evolving but, you have no future without a past. The tricks are bigger and kids see the past getting more and more distant. Style will always be what separates legends from “that one guy”. -ERL

On The Wall with Jared Isenberg

At some point everyone has opened a Thrasher, Transworld, Power Edge, etc and saw a picture that floored them. There’s going to be that one shot that made it on the wall above all others. There may have been an entire wall covered in pages pulled from magazines or posters but, there is always one that will stand out 20 + years down the road. I asked five people from Aces Tattoo to recall their favorite image of all time and discuss why it made such a memorable impact. Five skaters, all different ages, different generations, and unique personalties sharing their favorite photos that made it on the wall. Next up is Jared Isenberg.

1. Jared,  this is a tough question because skating is so unique and styles reign supreme in so many different eras but, what photo would you say is your favorite of all time?

Gonz -Thrasher cover September 1986.

2. Describe what it is about the image that made it your favorite, although it is a Gonz photo so it’s going to be a keeper.

Gonz was my idol. Look at that shit, Indy Boneless. Rad! This photo single handedly made me stop using rails, not to mention he’s riding my favorite board of all time.

3. Is this photo more about the trick at the time, the actual photography, or a blend of everything?

It’s not the trick really. I like the yellows and blues! I love the movement of this photo.

4. Was the Gonz your favorite at the time or was it purely based on the photograph?

Fuck yeah. Hands down fave, tied with Rick Windsor who never got enough coverage.

Even then he was changing everything.

Even then he was changing everything.

5. To even mention Windsor is rad, underground ripper. How about an of the older advertisements? Was there one particular skate ad that made you run out and buy it up?

No ad ever made me buy anything but, the World/Blind ads in the late 80s early 90s ruled. Especially the Powell one, “Dear George”.

I have that ad on the wall at the shop!  Thanks Jared, everything Gonz is the right stuff. – ERL

Wheels of Change

Days of Future Past

Every generation that sees the path it created change too much seems to cringe. Change is a hard pill to swallow at times. About the time I started skating I heard tale of Duane Peters hating Tony Hawk. Tony’s tricks were deemed more of a novelty than true skating. This was because it was a changing of the guard. 9 times out of 10 the guard doesn’t necessarily want to be changed. The tradition of the 70s and low ariel tricks were being swept away by the next generation of skaters. Tony Hawk, Christian Hosoi, Lester Kasai, Steve Caballero, and a handful of younger Pros were creating their own path. The foundation of tricks that were laid by the generation before helped to inspire the young guns to go higher, grind longer, and slide farther. The change was needed but, not always appreciated.

I always wondered what the OG skaters felt like after that first air by Tony Alva, that’s what set if off it seems. Once you see what is possible, you push it as far as you can to see what’s the limit. A great example is Alan Gelfand’s ollie to start off no handed airs and 30 years later look at Jaws. That kid is certainly pushing the boundaries of what the human knees and ankles can endure. Giant stunt jumpers are not my cup of tea, although I respect it for what it is. Another form of change that dudes a lot younger than me consider the norm. I’ll take some footage of Gino Iannucci, Guy Mariano, Mark Gonzales, Jeff Grosso, or Paul Rodriguez skating pretty much anything over most roof jumpers. Style counts to a large degree in skating, that’s the beauty. Want a great example of style? Watch Steve Olson push down the street.

Style over steeze has no shelf date.

Some change is unstoppable which may or may not be a good thing. Again, it depends of your generation and what path you helped create. Are print magazines going the way of the Rip Grip? The digital age is here to stay kids, kinda like that Boy Band music you thought would fade away. Every skateboarding publication is fully equipped with some great websites these days. There you can find out within a moments notice what your favorite Pro skater is up to. A new graphic or shoe model gets leaked, BOOM it’s online in a heartbeat. Team changes, gossip, opinions of a 13 year old mall rat, and lies are available to the masses. Video parts and pictures are available everyday on all of these sites. The overkill is almost deadening how special it all once was.

Gone are the days of wonder and the magic of it all. In the glory of it all you  would wait to see the latest Bones Brigade, Santa Cruz, Vision, or contest series video. They were so few that the rumors you would hear about a trick or a part would kill you with expectation. You would pick up a new Thrasher Mag and see an advertisement for the new “Street Shape” from your favorite Pro and anticipate its arrival at the local skate shop. Shapes were so damn sick. It was your heart and sole shaped out on a signature board you worked at for so long. Skaters would ask local shops when was the best Amateur turning Pro and shops would call companies asking the same. Amazing photos of Matt Hensley skating an overpass, Natas Kaupas board sliding the roll bar of a Toyota truck, and Steve Caballero blasting 12 feet at Raging Waters were torn from magazines and plastered on skaters walls. Print magazines are the pages of our Bible. Thrasher has been the Bible since day one. Print mags losing readership is the change I have no use for.

The “New Graphic Available” made for a lot of calls to the locals shop.

20 years from now I hope to see Thrasher Magazine, Transworld Skateboarding, The Skateboard Mag, and hopefully Big Brother back in the fold of print mags. I’ve seen a lot of change in skateboarding since 1984, even in the dark days of 42mm wheels and hobo clothing I wouldn’t change a thing. Actually, I liked the lack of ramps and the street direction it took. The late 80s and 90s weeded out a lot of people who lost the love of riding a skateboard. A large amount of those dudes ended up snowboarding and didn’t like change. Skate everything man! Change has always been such a key part of skating, it’s needed. No matter what direction skating heads towards, the heart of pushing down the street will always be the same. Adapt, change, mix it up and never stop skating. -ERL