Jack Smith has a unique skate history and currently presides over the Morro Bay Skateboard Museum. No matter what era you are from, Jack has much to share with the skate world.
Jack, can you please give people a little bit of background on who you are and some of things you’ve been a part of with respect to skateboarding?
My dad made my first skateboard in 1964 when we were living in Texas, I rode it for a month or two, with clay wheels, it just wasn’t that much fun. The day after I graduated high school in 1974 I found a 1960s clay-wheeled Hobie in my friends backyard and started skating again. About a month later a friend introduced us to Cadillac Wheels, and I haven’t stopped skating since then. My first contest was the 1975 Bahne-Cadillac/Del Mar Nationals.
In 1976, I and two friends became the first people to skateboard across America. I tied for second in the skatecar division at the 1978 Signal Hill World Downhill Championships. During the early 1980s I was the Advertising Director at Action Now magazine. In the summer of 1984 Paul Dunn, Gary Fluitt, Bob Denike and myself skateboarded across America in 26 days.
In 1985, I organized the first skateboard summer camp in America and later that same year I was hired as the Advertising Manager at Transworld Skateboarding Magazine. I was the promotions and team manager for Kryptonics from 1987 to 1993. I skateboarded across the country again in 2003 and 2013. Adrian Pina and myself Published the Skateboarder’s Journal Magazine in 2011-2012. My wife, Cathy, and I founded the Morro Bay Skateboard Museum in 2012.
Of all the things you’ve done in skateboarding, what are you most proud of?
Actually there are two. The first is “Skateboarding Across America on Board for Lowe Syndrome” push across America in. We did the push to raise awareness and research funds for Lowe Syndrome, a very rare genetic syndrome that my son, Jack Marshall Smith, was born with in 1988. He passed away in May of 2003. Scott Kam, Nick Krest and Josh Maready took a month out of their lives to make the push with me; I will never forget their sacrifice.
The second would be skateboarding across America with my son, Dylan, in 2013 during the “Skateboarding Across America to End Alzheimer’s” push. We did the push in honor of my father who.died from Alzheimer’s. Other members of the team were Marc Juvinall, Melanie Leilani Castro, Colleen Pellech and my wife, Cathy.
Tell us about the Morro Bay Skate Museum – what are some of the reactions people have when they see the exhibit?
We get a wide variety of responses, sometimes we hear people say in a sarcastic way “what, a skateboard museum?” as they are walking through the door, then they end up staying for an hour and thoroughly enjoying themselves and saying, “thank you so much, I never knew skateboarding had such a rich and interesting history” as they leave. We have people get teary-eyed while visiting the museum; it takes them back to a much simpler, yet exciting time of their life.
If I talk to a visitor long enough we always seem to come up with a connection, be it a skate spot, a mutual skate friend, or maybe that we happened to share the same first board.
Everyone leaves the museum smiling!
We are lucky to have great relationships with folks such as Todd Huber, Daniel Perkins, Dennis Allgeier, Stephen Pizzo and Greg Hagewood who have either loaned or donated skateboards to the museum. We also have visitors to the museum who loan us skateboards. In fact, it just happened today when a guy brought in a 1960s Tuk n Roller!
What are some of the things you’ve been doing with Kryptonics Wheels?
Oh man, it was a dream when Steve Douglas asked me to become involved with the Kryptonics rebirth project. I have been involved in wheel testing, finding Ambassadors and team riders, handling a lot of the social media, writing text for ads and catalogs. My current project is putting together a coffee table book about the history of Kryptonics.
You and I have had a number of discussions about skate culture. What gives immense joy and what bugs the crap out of you?
I love when I see young people being drawn to skateboarding for the sheer enjoyment of riding a skateboard, the feeling of freedom it gives them. We must all strive to remember that we started skateboarding because it is fun.
What bugs the crap out of me? Skateboarding prides itself in being open minded and progressive, when in reality it can be just the opposite, especially the skateboarding media. There are so many ways to have fun on a skateboard, but according to the mainstream skateboarding media, the only two types of skateboarding that exist are street and vert. I also have grown tired of the “skateboarders are rebels” myth…your grandparents did it, cities are building multi-million dollar parks for skateboarders…you are not rebels.
What is it about skateboarding that most people outside of skateboarding can’t really understand?
The immense joy we receive from rolling around on piece of wood, two trucks and four wheels. It’s kind of funny, where I live there are a lot of older surfers, men and women from 50 to 70 plus years of age. People think it’s so cool that someone is still surfing at that age, yet so many people look at me like I’m nuts when I tell them my wife and I are still skateboarding in our late 50s.
I remember people telling me in 1974 when I 17, that I was too old to skateboard. I would respond, “I’ll be doing this when I’m 40”, I truly didn’t know if I would, but it sounded good and shut them up. Well 40 is in the rearview mirror and I’m still skating, with no plans to stop.
Skateboarding and the Olympics…Can of worms..or just a natural progression?
Natural progression that should have happened a long time ago. It’s funny to see the “leaders” of skateboarding battling to see who will represent skateboarding’s involvement in the Olympics, just a few years back some of these same folks were against skateboarding becoming an Olympic sport. How skateboarding being in the Olympics will affect the joy one has when riding a skateboard is completely beyond me. I remember when snowboarding became an Olympic event, some people were saying it would kill snowboarding…guess what folks? Snowboarding is still here and it’s still just as fun as it always has been!
I know the museum has a gofund me campaign happening right now. Can you please explain it in detail?
Our goal with this fund raising effort is to raise enough money to keep the museum open daily throughout the winter months of 2015. That amount is $20,000. Due to the cyclical nature of tourism, we have fewer visitors during the winter months making it difficult to meet expenses, such as rent, utilities and insurance. The money we raise will allow us to meet these expenses as well as expand the museum’s collection of historical skateboarding memorabilia and to offer new and exciting exhibits. You can check out our GoFundMe page here.
What’s the one “holy grail” piece that you haven’t yet got for your museum? How are you going to acquire it?
I would like to have a complete collection of SkateBoarder Magazine, including the first four from the 1960s. I have Volume 1 #1 from the 1960s, as well as most of the issues from the 1970s and early 1980s, thanks mainly to Stacy Peralta who donated a huge collection of magazines to the museum last year.
How to get the rest of them? Ebay and stack of cash! Or perhaps we’ll get lucky and some generous collector will donate or loan us the ones we don’t have
What are some of your plans for 2016?
Keep the museum open! Finish the Kryptonics coffee table book and possibly one more push across America to celebrate the 40th anniversary of my first push in 1976.
Jack asked me 5 questions (which is part of the deal)
What influenced you to start Longboarder Magazine?
I had finished up work on my book The Concrete Wave and I decide that I wanted to continue to write about skateboarding. So, I dived right in.
Why did you change the name and content to Concrete Wave?
I had a partner with International Longboarder and decided that I wanted to run things on my own. These things happen….anyway, I felt that Concrete Wave could cover more ground and the focus on all types of terrain and riders would make for a truly special magazine.
Tell me about the philosophy of Longboarding for Peace.
It is a movement of peace, balance and justice powered by Longboarders. It is NOT a charity. We harness the power of skaters to create a better world. We do gun buy backs, promote blood donation (via our blood bank your karma program) and teach people about injustice by shedding some light on the wrongfully convicted. We also do workshops on balance around the world.
How do you feel about skateboarding being an Olympic sport?
I would love to see MEASURABLE skateboarding categories in the Olympics and not just vert and street. Slalom and downhill are perfect for the Olympics. But I sense it’s going to take some time for that to happen. I sense that the politics and in-fighting and all the other Olympic nonsense is creeping into the skate world as things get moving for Tokyo 2020. I am disheartened somewhat, but realize that it’s all par for the course. I hope that it benefits independent skate shops and skate brands…
Do your children skate?
Yes, well, my two sons do. My daughter not so much. But the boys love all types of skateboarding. The eldest started with me at 6 months and Sparky was on board at 3 months. Start ’em young!
The folks at Loaded and Orangatang have come up with their fair share of very different marketing over the years. We wanted to find out a little more about this. So, we reached out to Brian Dolan of their marketing department.
Loaded’s advertising is unique – extraordinarily so. But what I like most about it is the humor.
Brian Dolen: We utilize the platform of print advertising to have fun, flex our creativity and challenge the viewers. If we open a new path of exploration,spark a weird web search or simply create a WTF moment we have done our job. I’m old enough to have not had the internet in my teens, so my escape was through books and magazines. The good pages felt like they were from another dimension. That’s how I want our ads to feel. I think we are pretty deliberate in what we put into the world.
Would you say it’s more difficult to create humorous ads than more traditional non-humorous ads?
We have a loose mandate to not show skating in our ads, for no other reason than to have more fun and create a longer lasting impression. If humor is achieved that’s just a bonus.
What¹s the longest you¹ve bashed an idea around?
I have a folder on my desktop called “GENERAL RADNESS” it’s a library of references I’ve culled, scans made decades ago and photos I’ve taken over the years. This is where the bashing around happens. There are some concepts in there I’ve been trying to find an outlet for a long time.
Does longboarding need more humor?
Skateboarding has always been a gateway to art, music, fashion, travel and culture at large. I think as creators we have a responsibility to nudge our community to grow in all ways.
The video for your latest gloves (V7) features sausages, eggs, bloody beach balls and bananas (and that¹s just in the first minute). Can you take us inside what was behind some of the ideas that we see presented?
The Glove Video was an exercise in color and studio production. The goal was to shoot simple movements as if they were photographs. We borrowed from surrealist imagery and made it our own with the bright colors and random juxtapositions, but mostly we just wanted to make Dandoy wear lipstick and put Ethan in a gimp suit.
Has there been any ad or video that you created that garnered feedback that surprised you?
I am always in awe of how many people leave such passionate comments on our videos! It’s especially great that we have such an amazing community that cares what we make and appreciates the effort that goes into everything from the produdcts to the videos.
Back in July of this year, my son and I had the opportunity to ride the brand new Velosolutions track in Brooklyn, New York. The track is absolutely a blast to ride and we spent a few hours soaking in the great vibe. A quick pump around the track will leave even the most experienced skater’s heart pounding. It is perfect for short boarders, longboarders and anything else with wheels.
Our contact for the park demo was Alon Karpman. It was Alon, along with his business partner Joner Strauss who worked tirelessly to get the project built. We wanted to get a better understanding of what Velosolutions and get a sense of where things are headed.
Right off the bat, Alon tells me the response has been phenomenal to the pump track. “It’s better than we could have hoped. We have seen more than 1,000 visitors per month, with the number growing as the word is spreading. We are constantly amazed at how both new and experienced riders get a thrill out of riding.”
Alon says there are some exciting new builds coming in 2016. The first being in Leavenworth, Washington. “It will be the first paved track in the US featuring a head-to-head design. We are really stoked about that one” he says with a smile. The company is hoping to announce a few additional builds after this.
In addition to the Velosolutions track, Alon and Joner set up an association. Alon explains that because the pumptracks lend themselves to a new experience for short and longboarders, they set up a new racing league along with after school programming aimed at taking advantage of the tracks. “Our Miami location now has over 40 kids enrolled in the after school program.” Their goal is to set up programming and races at each location to serve the community and host world-class events.
When I asked Alon about his favorite memory from this year, he was quick to explain something that took place at the track. As he explains, “the magic in a Velosolutions track is that anyone on any set of wheels can ride on it. And because everyone is riding the same direction, there is more of a feeling of community that develops.” For riders, this means you don’t have people getting in each others way. Alon says that riders start to recognize how the technique they are using to pump their board can be applied to riding something else on the track.
For Alon, the best memory he has is the day he not only saw bikers and skateboarders on the track getting along, but actually trying each others’ rides for the first time. “To witness a die hard biker and skater switch out their rides and not switch back for the rest of the day, fuelled by pure stoke, was something I never thought I would see. I think these tracks will bring a lot of new people to the sport.”
I first met Alon about four years ago in Brooklyn. He wound up moving to Florida, and with the construction of the Velosolutions track in Brooklyn, now finds himself back where he started. I wondered what he liked about both places. “Well, you can’t take the Brooklyn out of the boy! I moved to Florida a few years ago for a more well-balanced family life. I have two small kids and want them to still be able to ride around during the winter months.” Alon says the best thing about Florida is the weather. But he readily admits that nothing beats the energy of NYC. “It’s the capital of the world,” he exclaims. Alon said to keep an eye out for news on the Brooklyn park in the winter. “On a good day when it snows, we are planning to pack it down and test out how it will ride with snow skates and fat tire bikes.”
When it comes to predicting where things will be in ten years, Alon and Jonathan have a vision. “One way to see it is that there is now such a thing as a longboard park! We hope to see cities get turned on to this and start building.” Alon encourages skaters who wish to have a Velosolutions track built in their neighborhood to reach out to their local city or county commission. “They are the ones that decide on projects and are happy to serve the needs of the community. Get motivated, get a group of people, reach out to your commissioners and tell them that you want a Velosolutions pump track!” We couldn’t agree more.
Sadly, we are a nine hour drive from the park, so it’s going to be some time before we’ll be able to ride it again. But the skaters and bikers (and yes, even scooter kids) of NYC have got themselves a truly special track. When it comes to what he’s been able to give to the community of riders in NYC, Alon is truly humble “I’m just grateful that I was given the opportunity to add to the city landscape and offer something unique.”
Matt McDonald: At DB Longboards I am currently the Marketing / Team / E-Commerce Manager and videographer/photographer. I am also occasionally referenced to as “Mountain Dad” due to the bear and “School Zone” because I don’t go very fast.
I am intrigued about DB’s 100% repurposing of scraps in your manufacturing process. Where does some of the stuff go?
Yep! We try to recycle everything we can. Everyone does seem to think we are all hippies up here living in the trees anyways. The scraps go to a wood recycler and they get turned into particle board and some of the scraps are turned into rock climbing holds made by our Sales Manager Nathan Pauli. We have lots of other ideas also.
What has been your favorite road trip story with the team? Can you share any highlights?
Favorite road trip this season is tough. Whistler was super fun, but I gotta go with our road trip to Santa Barbara with Garrett Creamer and Richard Docter to meet with Sean Woolery who lives down there. It was super fun to explore and capture photos with Garrett and Sean on some famous runs around Santa Barbara. It was also great to meet Tom Flichbaugh, of Santa Gnarbara, and sit in his car for some follow runs. Tom is easily one of the most talented people I have met in the industry. The only downfall was I may have eaten too many chesseburgers on that trip due to Sean introducing me to the Habit and I had to compare it to In N Out mulitple times. It was for science.
What has been the reception to DB outside the USA? Are there some places that we should know about where you are selling product?
Europe is a strong market for us and we distribute to countries all over the world. It’s also fun to connect with our European riders like, Toni Conte in Spain, to see how people receive our products across the pond and people really seem to enjoy all the boards.
What are some of your plans for Cloud Ride Wheels? Anything new coming in for 2016?
Ah yes, Cloud Ride Wheels does have some new things on the way. We are almost done perfecting our race formula in the new Storm Chasers and we also have two other new slide wheels on the way that are going through some heavy testing this week.
When you look back on 2015, is there anything you would have like to have done, but just didn’t get round to? Are you planning on doing it?
I just started this job a year ago and with everything I know now I would have liked to put on more local events and help support the event organizers. I plan on doing that much more in 2016.
Are you looking at bringing in any female riders to your team?
We are always looking for new female riders. We have Rosanne Steeneken in Europe already, but I would love to find a female-Seattle rider to join the team.
What is something that most people would find surprising about Atlas Trucks?
Atlas is about to launch a “Tinder Enabled Glove” and by that I mean the Atlas Touch Enabled Slide Gloves that I think people are really going to like. I refer to them as “Tinder Enabled Gloves” to all the single people out there, so they can work on there pick up game in-between runs (To my girlfiend and Jackson Wells girlfriend: We are not on Tinder. Don’t worry).
What upcoming skate event are you most looking forward to?
I am looking forward to the Washington Triple Crown of Downhill on Nov. 21st. I worked as a photojournalist for a newspaper before I took this job and I really enjoy capturing events and candid moments. Should be a lot of fun. If you live anywhere near Seattle you should come. I will take your photo.
What’s the one place you’d like to take the DB team to visit?
Hawaii. I haven’t been there in several years and want to go back to do some serious longboard filming with the team.
Tonight daylight savings ends. This means more people are going to be using your lights earlier? What are your thoughts?
I, like most, have always dreaded the end of daylight savings. To get dark around 6pm is just too early to stop being able to see. But ever since creating Third Kind skate lights the setting of the sun can’t come soon enough; it means the hot sun of the day has retreated giving us bearable riding temperatures (in Florida) and less traffic. With Third Kind I know I’m lit and visible and I know everyone else riding my lights shares the same stoke. I have heard countless times from riders with my lights that they can’t wait for the sun to set so that they can go skate with their Third Kind lights. The end of daylight savings gives these riders that much more play time and that is a total stoke!
How did you come up with the idea of Third Kind?
The idea for Third Kind came from a culmination of a few sources but I can attribute the spark to a couple of friends; Ryan Stewart and Chelsea Brito. I had seen garage projects before on the internet, but after meeting them and seeing the rig in person we started thinking and designing mini assembly lines to “mass produce” the “garage model” which simply included a 9V battery, some wires, solder, glue and an over the counter LED strip.
I soon realized there had to be a better way. I had to design and create a product that would easily mount to any board and handle the riggers of skateboarding. To be a successful product and brand I had to produce a patentable product that could be mass produced and mass marketed.
How did you come up with the name?
The name was the hardest part, it came from my mom’s favorite movie, Close Encounters of the Third Kind because of the out-of-this-world look the lights create. You truly look and feel as if you are riding a spaceship or a hoverboard.
What is one key thing you’d like to tell retailers who are out there and wondering if they should carry the lights in their shop?
One? Oh my, there are dozens. Oh, I know THEY SELL THEMSELVES! It is not like trying to push a board, wheels or bearings where there are hundreds of options and the ones that sell are backed by significant marketing budgets. Our product speaks for itself, just turn it on in your shop and watch your customers be drawn to them just like flies to a bug light. We have had shops sell over 100 of our lights in a single month! And that was just the original model that came in a ziploc plastic bag.
When people tell you the lights have save their life, how does that make you feel?
Proud and motivated. When creating the lights safety was not even a thought in my head; I did it because they look so darn cool. They are the closest thing to looking and feeling like Marty McFly on his hoverboard. It was not until a few months after receiving the first production model that I started receiving calls from riders that claimed my lights had saved their life.
From that moment I had an entirely new motivation; this is no longer just some rad looking gimmick, I have the ability to save fellow skater’s lives. I have to share this around the world! Our latest model received an endorsement for safety from a Sheriff’s office because a rider can be seen up to a mile away with Third Kind lights.
What has been the reaction from the longboard community? Many ride at night.
It’s a good blend of stoke and apprehension. They love the look and see the safety aspect, but they are very savvy consumers, without actually seeing and touching our kit the first thought is cheap tricks that won’t hold up to their riding or “I can make that myself”. As soon as they see our product and hear that it is skater designed, featherweight, bulletproof and very water-resistant that apprehension fades to total stoke and they quickly realize a lot of “board” meetings have gone into Third Kind Skateboard Lights. They love knowing they are seen by car drivin kooks, this allows them to relax and skate instead of constantly looking over their shoulder wondering if they are seen or they need to bail.
Is it difficult to capture the lights in photos?
No. Photographers rave about our lights because of how bright they are. They do not have to make them brighter in editing or adjust their shooting technique to capture them; we are using top of the line technologies you won’t see in other mainstream electronics for several years to come. One thing I will say though is that your simple camera or camera phones will capture them, but they will not do them justice as to how bright they truly are.
Have any skate companies contacted you to make the lights standard on their completes?
Not standard, but Local Skateboard Company, Beercan Boards, East Coast Customs CroozerBoards and STRGHT offer them as an upgrade item. We would love to have more board companies offer this because it is such a rad and potentially life saving accessory. It also really helps boost their sales because our lights bring so much attention and uniqueness to a board. A rider can instantly change and customize the look of their board with the touch of a button.
Can people outside of North America use Third Kind Lights?
Absolutely! Our latest model features USB recharging so it is completely universal. And last I checked the Sun sets to night worldwide so we don’t want to leave anyone in the dark.
Are the lights water-proof?
They are *very* water-resistant. Waterproof is a touchy word; I don’t want people to get the wrong idea and go diving with them, but if you get caught in the rain on your ride and go through some good puddles our lights are designed to handle that. We have made great improvements in this area because of our trip to the ISPO in Germany earlier this year where Europeans expressed water as a major concern for skaters due to the wetter climate. Here in Florida rain is more rare so we don’t ride in the rain; for us that is just a great way to ruin your board and bearings. As a skater though I want my lights not only to handle any riding style, but any riding climate.
What are some of your plans for 2016?
Road trips! We have a fantastic product and brand that we are constantly improving upon but most do not know that lights are available for their board and even less riders know that there is actually a kit worth a darn. Many riders hear about skateboard lights and think of the other junk available or the junk that was available in the past. Marketing our quality product is our biggest hurdle. As just a skater/surfer dude from Florida I don’t have a million dollar marketing budget (not even close) so we have to do it the old school way of road trippin to get our lights in front of as many fellow skaters as possible so that they can see it, ride it and experience it. For 2016 we want to travel and be at as many events as possible, especially longboard events. So if anyone has an event we would love to be apart of it!