The "Old Man" - A short story

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Jack Smith
Morro Bay Skatemuseum
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The "Old Man" - A short story

Post by Jack Smith » Sun Dec 25, 2005 8:53 pm

As I was packing up my gear yesterday afternoon at the Los Osos skate park I happened to glance up at the viewing area, sitting there was the “Old Man”. Of course, I know his real name is Joe Potter, one of the smoothest and most stylish surfers to ever grace the waves of the central coast.

I first met Joe sometime in 1976, when he started showing up the Morro Bay Ditch. The ditch or “swamp” as some people called is located between Quintana Road and Highway 1, just across from the Vons Shopping center. My friend, Jeff French had told me about riding his ten-speed down the ditch back in late 60’s, when he around 12 years old. Jeff and his brother would just bomb down the middle of the ditch, launching off the three drops.

When Jeff and I started skating together he told me about the ditch. He thought the walls, then covered with ice plant, just might be cement also. It was late on a Saturday afternoon, when we hopped down into the ditch and began pulling back the vegetation at various points; we were soon very stoked to find that the four-foot walls were indeed cement and the transitions even looked skateable.

That evening I called every skater I knew and asked them to meet me at the shopping center on Sunday morning, I also asked them to bring shovels, rakes, and wheelbarrows. When they asked why, I said “don’t worry about it, you’ll see when you get there”. About ten guys showed up the next morning, and after showing them what we had discovered, they were as eager as Jeff and I were to start cleaning out the lower section of the three different levels. What we thought would take a couple of hours, turned into a full day’s work. As the sun began to set, the ditch was finally ready to ride. Jeff was given first ride honors.

Now you must remember this was the first ditch we had ever ridden, most of us were on Bahnes or G&S decks with Chicago trucks and Cadillac wheels. We were stoked to just connect a frontside carve to a backside carve.

Kickturns? We didn’t even know what they were. A few weeks later Kevin Niccoli showed up and began doing kickturns and forevers, at first we thought, “What’s wrong with this guy, doesn’t he know how to carve”. However, by the end of the day all of us were kickturning and kind of pissing each other off, due to the fact that we could now work our way back up the ditch, thus creating much longer rides, and the advent of snaking.

The ditch soon became the focal point of skateboarding on the central coast; it was not uncommon to find 25-35 skaters in the ditch at any given time. The ditch sat down in this small canyon, and there would often be dozens of spectators lining the rim. We were never hassled by the police; in fact, when they encountered a skater in the downtown area they would direct him to the ditch.

It was a magical time, a time of great camaraderie. To me it was similar to the early days of surfing I had read about, where we were are all part of a small tribe. When you saw another skater you knew you had a common bond. You checked out each other’s skateboard, shared info on skate spots and were stoked to know that you weren’t alone.

Back to the future.

As I made my way up to the spectator area, Joe didn’t notice me walk up behind him. I softly said, “Hey, Old Man”, he turned and smiled, while saying “Hi Jack”. Joe told me he had actually been skating the park earlier that day on his new Death Box skate, he was stoked. I was stoked that he was back.

As we sat there reminiscing, Joe told me that he had very fond memories of those early halcyon days of the Morro Bay Ditch, I told him I felt the same way. We laughed about how all of us young guys used to call him “Old Man” back then.

The “Old Man” was 29 years old in 1976.

HUYNH BACH SAC Frédéric
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Post by HUYNH BACH SAC Frédéric » Sun Dec 25, 2005 10:39 pm

Nice story Jack, I like those kind of memories...
Podium or pavement... but PAVEL !

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Marion Karr
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Post by Marion Karr » Mon Dec 26, 2005 1:37 am

How many of us had "an old man" motivating us back in the day? For me his name was Sam. Sam was this crazy surfer dude/Karate instructor that had a killer van and was totally into spreading the stoke where ever he went. In Concord, North Carolina where I grew up it was Sam that was the first to have Cadillac wheels, a Bahne board, and the knowledge of how to ride it. I never forget the day he road through the neighborhood and saw me "skate skiing" behind a bicycle with an old water ski rope we found in the trash. He yelled out the window that there was a group of skaters all meeting at the Carolina Mall parking lot and that I needed to go check it out. I can remember slipping out of the house and riding my bike the 6 miles to get to that session. When I arrived the session was in full tilt and there were about 15 skaters of various skill levels and equipment all over the place. Growing up in that small town in the mill village side (read: the poorer section of town) I had no clue that there were that many people riding skateboards. It was magical and from that moment on I was hooked.

After a few weeks of meeting with this crew Sam "selected" his "Team" and it was on! He hooked us up with access to boards, wheels, and hauled us around to different skate spots. It was a great time and when he talked one of the skaters dad's into selling Logan Earth Ski's in his bike shop the whole scene exploded. My first "real" board was a Bruce Logan Oak with Road Rider 4's and Bennett Pro's!

Sam, shot tons of Super 8 clips and photos some of the stills I still have. For the Concord skate crew he was the Man! He encouraged us, motivated us, and just kept us riding. If it were not for him doing so, skating may have not become such an important part of my life that in the last 2 years I have returned to with such a passion.

A few years ago, I heard Sam was not doing well healthwise so I stopped by to see him while visiting back home. He looked frail and not well but the fire in his eyes was the same as 1976. We had a great visit and as I was leaving he reached behind the couch and pulled out his Bahne. As he handed it to me he said that he couldn't think of anyone better to keep that board for him. Thanks Sam. It is my most cherished skateboard and one of my most cherished pieces of my childhood and teenage years.

Some day, maybe we all can be an "old man" to a younger skater. We have the opportunity now. Go out and fuel someone's stoke. Being called an "old man" never will sound better!
Marion Karr DHB
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Mike Elwood
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Post by Mike Elwood » Sun Jan 01, 2006 4:50 am

I try my best to be that old guy Jack. In my 20's I didn't do much besides raise kids and fix up a home but when I could I'd show some kid how to "walk the dog" or do some 360's. Then would show them how to balance better or just sit on their butt and ride. In my mid 30's I taught 12-16year olds rogue kids how to race BMX or do freestyle better and sponsored a few. Now I'm in my 40's and everynowandthen a kid actually takes interest in my style of skating. There aren't many skaters in my area and nearly all are jumping down stairs or destroying public property and they get all nasty when I cruise by on a longboard or shout out "slalom is gay" when they drive by where I'm running cones (usually by myself). sigh. But I'll keep hoping that another kid will come along soon.
John 3:16

Marty Schaub
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Me too....

Post by Marty Schaub » Sun Jan 01, 2006 4:17 pm

Hey Mike, I know what you mean about the rail grinders giving you a hard time. There are 3 or 4 on my street that snicker every time I ride by. When I run cones out of their cul de sac I can see them watching with that "that's not cool" indifference all the while looking interested. Maybe 2006 will be the year I can hook one in, who knows.

I did get a pretty cool surprise this XMAS though. There is a young kid that visits next door a lot, family friend kind of thing. He has watched me run cones quite a bit but has never overtly shown interest. To my surprise, the day after XMAS he shows up at my door and asks me to check out the new board he got. He also tells me that his parents got him the cones he asked for! You could not hide my smile. I took him to the garage and upgraded his Wal-Mart bushings & bearings. I told him to skate every day and to bring his cones next time and we would go run some. You could not hide his smile either.

Cool times ahead in 06!!!
La Costa Boy For Life

Andy Bittner
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The Old Man

Post by Andy Bittner » Sun Jan 01, 2006 11:03 pm

While it lacks a certain surf-culture, guru romanticism, I'd like to note, for the record, that the first, inspirational, older skater in my life actually really is my old man. He was running clay wheels through Dixie cup slalom courses on a clickety-clack, sidewalk-cracked hill, before I was old enough to even consider actually standing on a skateboard without assistance. There was absolutely no surf ethos about it either. My dad and his buddies, who were like a bunch of rowdy uncles, are all skiers. There's nothing laid-back or beach culture about those guys. Theirs was (and still is...) more like a rowdy, loud, ski across your tips, terrorize the mountain approach. So, when those guys gave my dad his first board, on his mid-June birthday in 1966, it was to give him, a skier, some way to entertain himself during the summer. That's why slalom was the first thing we ever did with a skateboard. It was a natural for us. Surfing? The only thing I knew about surfing, until nearly ten years later, was Gidget, Frankie and Annette, and the Beach Boys' music. I still have that board, although it's many sets of clay wheels later, and I definitely don't have to wonder what ever happened to "that guy". He's still my hero and I still see him regularly.

Mike Elwood
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Post by Mike Elwood » Tue Jan 03, 2006 6:59 am

Sounds like your "uncles" surfed on powder. That's a cool story. Wonder if anybody else slaloms 'cause of ski background. When I was a kid folks used dixie cups for cones.

I know there are a ton of kids who want to skateboard but don't feel like it's cool unless they do the "dangerboy" thing. My main objective with kids is to teach them to be themself. To try new things and enjoy life like it is. Giving a kid better bearings etc was pretty dag-gone cool and a wise move to say the least. He'll likely pass over pebbles better and may even skate longer since broken bones tend to keep the parents from blessing skateboarding. He had his own cones? Neato!!!
On New Years day three boys were leaping down some stairs as my son and I skated by on Barfoots. They called us over to check out our longboards. It was kinda like when Kevin Costner first spoke with those Indians on Dances w/ Wolves. They had popsicles stix w/ bearing covers for wheels and the shortest trux I'd ever seen. My ABEC 70mm and Revenge trux sit way up off this 48" bannana deck. Of course I was invited to leap the behemoth down the stairs (which I gladly declined). I think that's what the kid was asking anyway. I offered to let them try a kickflip or ollie but they declined too. We went our separate ways soon afterward but a genuine dialog was acheived.
John 3:16

Gregg Taylor
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Hey Jack Smith...I was around the CA skate scene 1976-1978

Post by Gregg Taylor » Tue Feb 21, 2006 6:30 pm

Jack....I came across your post and was much "intrigued" by your mention of Kevin Niccoli. If it is the right Kevin, he was a good skater friend of mine along with Scott Parsons in 78-79. We were out of Santa Maria and skated all over California. All sorts of ditches and pools around San Luis Obispo, Morrow Bay, Santa Maria, Pismo Beach, Santa Barbara, Arroyo Grande, etc. I even had a cool irrigation ditch in the back of my house in Santa Maria. We would create a mini dam of dirt and skate it just about every day. It was about eight feet deep with decent transitions. We skated and competed at many of the old skate parks as well. I remember Upland, Reseda, Oxnard, Anaheim, and many others. Kevin was an awesome skater quite ahead of his time. Well, I guess we all were. He was really good at freestyle. Scott and I were more into aggressive vert skating. We dug the surf thing but progressed quickly into vert. We were skating such terrain in the early days and even hung out with a few of the big dog skaters of the time (Alva, Weaver, Sims, Peralta, etc.) once in a great while at the many bowls, ramps, pools and ditches we skated. However, a lot of them were "secret" spots so we did not get to them as much as we would have liked. I believe we even ended up in Skateboarder magazine at least once skating some of these awesome locations. We also surfed quite a bit. Those were awesome skate and surf memories for sure. I wonder where Kevin and Scott are now and what they are up to. We also used surf Pismo with a couple of surf crazies Kyle and Eric who were as wild as the day is long. There was also St. Anns, Rincon, etc. I graduated from Santa Maria High in 1978. Those were the glory days of skating, surfing and youth, no doubt...L8TR

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Post by kevin niccoli » Sat Apr 15, 2006 11:12 pm

hey jack smith & gregg taylor , yeah those were some great times back then. skating all of those gnarly ditches. morro bay ditch, s.l.o. ditch, los alamos bowl, surf city in santa maria, the taylor ditch also in s.m. plus many others. this was waaaaay before parks or ollies, or street skating. 1975-1977 was raw agro rough bowl skating with no pads or helmets. i saw many a skater leave these spots dripping blood from elbows, knees, hands, & heads, including myself. we called it paying you dues!! every day we were pushing each other to get better. it seemed to me that all the skaters back then were stoked on every one elses run not just their own. all these moves were new & on any given day you would see someone pull off a move you NEVER saw before, ''WHOOOOH DUDE!! DID YOU SEE THAT?? SO GNARLEY!!!'' after ditches came pools. we skated some nice pools in s.m. the crew was gregg & tim taylor scott parsons, curt bisquera, frank camaduren, ruben''plastic fantastic'' cortez,'' crazy george'', gilbert brebes. man those were some crazy dudes!! jack dug up a killer pool in morro bay, so we drove up there to ''session'' a couple times a week with their crew of crazies. what a blast that was, carving over the light on 7''x 24'' fiberglass cue. jack gregg & i are still skating after all these years, and you know what? i'm still stoked today as the first day i skated those rough, rude, crude dranage ditches. later skaters KEVIN NICCOLI

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Post by Curt Bisquera » Thu Jun 01, 2006 6:46 pm

Ohhhh yeah....all the "old" homies!!! Gawd...i love the internet!!!
First and foremost - Jack Smith...I have much respect for you for sk8ing all these years...same for you too Kevin Niccoli and Gregg Taylor. GT was the "Jim Muir" of Santa Maria,he moved to S.M. w/ his bro Tim and they stepped up everybody's game quite a bit. Kevin Niccoli of course being the master skater,magician,juggler,uni-cyclist ...and now drummer!!! Jack, your performance in LODT was an Oscar winning role...when I saw you, I yelled:"Jack Smith-Morro Bay in the house!!!) I got a few chuckles,but the mom sitting next to me and her 2 kids were not too thrilled...Anyway---I learned alot about skating at the Morro Bay ditch. My (infamous) cousin Van Curaza lived there and he would be skating there when we would pull up in Kevins' red Pinto ( i miss that car).I learned carving and kickturning there as well as in S.M. @ the Nipas Ditch.But, my fave spot was Bradley Ditch, right behind Gregg & Tim's house...that was like heaven to me!!! Smooth tranny w/ a rounded square lip for powerslides...awesome!!! As I write this I am in Padova-Italy on tour with Italian pop star Eros Ramazzotti. 3 weeks before the tour started back in February,I decided to bomb my hill where I live...long story short, I ate s••t and thought:"ok.. no tour for me!" but thanks to my lovely wife and lots of Aloe Vera...I'm cool-thank God!
Shout outs to: Jack Smith and all the MB Boys,all the SLO skaters,the Taylor Bros,Kevie-Kev Waterbed,Hogbert,Kenny Battles,The Cortez Bros.,Scott Parson,Frank Commaduran and all of the surfers & sk8rs of the Central Coast who inspired me.
Curt Bisquera

Jack Smith
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Post by Jack Smith » Fri Jun 02, 2006 10:53 pm

Curt...what a blast from the past! You must come skate with Kevin and I at the Los Osos Skatepark next time your in town.

Those were great days.

Curt Bisquera
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Post by Curt Bisquera » Sat Jun 03, 2006 12:11 am

Jack!

I'd love to come up to Los Osos and sk8....that would be fun!!!
I'll see if Niccoli wants to go too.

Perhaps I just might have to purchase a Bahne to add to the quiver.
hmmmmm...how can I sneak another skate past the wife???

hahahahahahahahaha!!!!!

Curt

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