Last weekend was Van’s 52ndBirthday. It’s probably the skateboard brand that’s closest to my heart. I got my first skateboard a couple of years after the Vans Co was founded and I bought my first new pair of Vans for £7 ten years later.
We all used to buy our skateboarding gear from a guy called Phil Lobatto who was one of the first guys to go to the USA make contact with all the key players and then import all the gear for us.
Here’s a little Vans history.
In 1977 the #36 Old Skool design was produced based on a quick sketch by Paul Van Doren. I’m guessing the stripe was a graphic representation of a skater’s motion from A to B. The #36 design was the first with leather panels for added strength. The very next year I went to skate in Paris wearing this new Vans design. Back then we used to buy two pairs and wear unmatching colours as you can see in this photo of me in the Paris skatepark. On one of the days we were there Jeremy Henderson arrived which was pretty cool except he slammed it and broke his arm in the half pipe.
My first Vans were the #95 Era style, probably the most copied and most iconic of all Vans. The #95 was designed by Stacy Peralta and Tony Alva who are both contemporaries of mine. (In fact Tony has said he likes my T-shirts which is pretty cool).
In late ’78 Vans introduced the Sk8-Hi #38 we called them high tops. The idea was to provide more support and protection for the ankle. I never wore these, instead I had Vans ankle guards, yes Vans made little ankle guards, a skateboard crashing into your exposed ankle was very painful indeed.
The rest is history, 52 years in the making. Here’s the full timeline.
Here’s Vans in Paris 40 years after me.
To have a range of VOS trainers is still a pipe dream. In the meantime you’ll have to make do with some T-shirts.
I love this old film because it was when I started skateboarding. We’ve all heard of Tony Alva right? Well if you haven’t he was one of the key members of the world famous Dogtown skateboarders from Santa Monica California good old USA. And he was a member of the pioneering skate team the Zephyr Skateboard Team which had 12 members. Here’s a photo of them with Tony on the far right and the late Shogo Kubo who I skated with in 1978 on the far left, he also signed my Dogtown T-shirt.
When Tony came to the Vans event in London in 2011 he saw someone wearing one of my T-shirts and he said ‘Hey man that’s a cool T-shirt’ which is actually cool. I met Tony in Soho and he signed an A3 poster of himself for me which I will be giving away in a competition this summer.
It’s a couple of weeks since Dogtown legend Jay Adams birthday. And five years since his death. I was born a little before Jay and although I lived by a famous sandy beach it wasn’t good for surfing. Only water skiing, skim boarding and wind surfing. I did all three of course. Jay started surfing at 4 years old so he was on boards about 4 years before me. Jay was famous for his attitude of not caring what others thought and just doing what he enjoyed. We had this in common. At that time skateboarding was emulating surfing, it’s what the surfers like Jay did in Dogtown when there was no surf to be had. Then in the mid 70s skateboarding came of age and developed into something more than stylish sweeping, carving moves. I contacted Jay on Facebook and we chatted for a while, he then asked for a couple of my Ts so I posted them to him. I always regretted not going over to the USA. Who knows I may have ended up staying there. The exact T-shirt Jay asked for is no longer available but the is the closest one.
It’s probably the very first thing that got me into skateboarding. A few years later I was to get a wooden green Stingray skateboard I think it was the same year as Woodstock – 1969 or maybe even earlier. I actually can’t remember using it so maybe it just lay in my dad’s garage. Instead I discovered and remember doing skim boarding on the beach. We we’re lucky enough to live on one of the UK’s most famous sandy beaches on the Jurassic Coast. Skim boarding was uber cool until some health and safely idiot had it banned. Years later I learnt to windsurf in the harbour but by then I was getting interested in things more expensive and dangerous – girls and motorbikes. I never did do much waterskiing but little did I know many years later I was to get involved in a global water skiing adventure that took me to New Zealand to ski with a world champion. More on this later.
A shot of my old man back in Norway in the early 40s. He was virtually born on skis and if he wasn’t on skis he’d be either fishing salmon, shooting Ptarmigan of sweating it out in the sauna. All these things were in his genes and so in mine too. I met a few of these dudes, my old man out-lived all of them and he didn’t smoke much at all of course. Checkout these awesome before and after photos of Norway here!