Steve Olson interview from 2002

December 08 2010 . 03:37pm

Steve Olson
Around 1979, Steve, along with Santa Cruz teammate Duane Peters, was one of the first skateboarders to get into the burgeoning punk rock scene. Like DP’s first Santa Cruz pro deck with the caution stripes graphics, Steve’s checkerboard pro model was an icon in skateboarding around the turn-of-the-decade. Over the past 20 years, Steve has never stopped skating for long. It’s safe to say he’s a lifer who is still going strong today. Interview conducted by phone in late 2002.

When did you start skating?
I started skating in 1966 on a steel wheel Roller Derby board, cruising down the hills in the East Bay.

Did you keep skating throughout the late ’60s and early ’70s?
We kept skateboarding. That was the deal—we used to get a skateboard for Christmas. That’s how I got my first skateboard. I think I was five. You know what I mean? We’d keep getting…those Christmases, you’d get a new skateboard.

When urethane wheels came out…
That was insane—a breakthrough.

Did you get a skateboard then?
No, I was way past getting skateboards for Christmas, or whatever—birthdays. We were already buying our own, and surfing, and then it was on.

When did you start riding pools?
When we saw it in a surf movie. There was some little clip of skateboarders in a surf movie, so it was like, "Oh, wow! Let’s go find a pool!"

So you rode backyard pools before you went to skateparks?
Yeah, they were all over California, really–Northern California, Southern California.

Did you ever ride with the Dogtown guys?
Yeah, I saw those cats ride. I knew a couple of ’em through surfing, like Jay Adams and some of the surfing dudes. I remember seeing them skating at the Fruit Bowl, then it became a really cool pool, or whatever. But, I remember seeing them come there one time. Tony Alva and Jay were doing their thing back then and it was pretty sick.

Do you remember jumping over Duane Peters in Big O’s channel?

Do you remember much of those days?
Kind of. If I could go back and think about it for a second, I’m sure I could still have some kind of mind recall. But, yeah—absolutely.

Do you still have the Skateboarder magazines with you in them?
Yeah, my folks have those magazines.

Did you save any of your old Santa Cruz decks?
Some of them, but most of them I just gave away, traded or sold. But, I have every one of my models now—all of ’em.

You bought them?
I didn’t buy them, people were just like, "Oh, look. I got one of your old boards. I thought maybe you’d probably want it." Not collecting, or whatever. There’s this one girl who’s a skateboard collector who gave me a couple of boards I didn’t have. She’s really cool–this girl Gail.

Gale Webb?
No (laughs). Not skate mom…dot com.

Is she an old school skater?
Gale Webb? Yeah (laughs)—just kidding. Not at all. She’s just a chick that’s cool and she was like, "I like to collect skateboards, they seem pretty interesting."

How did your trip to Apple happen?
Who was on that trip? Brad Bowman? Bert Lamar?

I don’t know.
Were you not there?

I saw you there and got you to sign my board, but I can’t remember if you were with anyone.
I don’t know. I went there a couple of times. It was like, "This skatepark wants you to come out and skate their park for a weekend."

So you just went to Apple and back home?
One of the trips we went to Apple, Michigan, Wisconsin and blah, blah, blah. Ted Terrebonne was there snapping photos.

Do you remember anything from Apple?
Oh, I remember Apple well.

What did you like about it?
Oh, the two-thirds pipe, GSD! Hello! That was sweet! I just liked to skate it—that was fun, no? GSD, I’m asking you a question!

Yeah! I only went there two or three times. I didn’t have a car and I was two hours away.
Oh, drag. So, you’re telling me I rode Apple more than you.

Probably (laughs).
Okay, I’m just checking.

Tell the story about when you went to Apple’s owner’s house for dinner.
Oh, okay–I’d be more than happy. I was going to relinquish that. The deal with Apple was really funny, though, because it was 1979 or ’80 and I had dyed my hair blond. I think I went to the park a little early and they didn’t know I was Steve Olson–the guy with dark hair–and I didn’t really say anything. I was just like, "Oh, yeah. Can I skate?" And they were like, "Well you gotta pay." I was like, "Aw, come on! Just let me ride a little bit." They were like, "No, you gotta pay. Do you have your pads?" I was like, "Yeah." They said, "You have to wear ’em." They were whatever, trippin’.

Then the owner came out and he was like, "You know, we don’t really have time to sit here and try to negotiate any kind of deal with you, sir. This is the admission cost and these are the requirements to skate the facility," blah, blah, blah, blah. So, I pulled him aside and said, "I was just kidding around. My name is Steve Olson." He was like, "Oh, well, that’s good." He was still clueless (laughs). You know what I mean? I was trying to be nice about it, like, "I think you guys flew us out here." But, obviously, he didn’t know anything. I think I put a weird taste in his mouth, because after everyone else showed up, he was like, "Oh, this is one of those pro guys. He’s a troublemaker." And I wasn’t even a troublemaker. It was kind of funny to me that this guy who owned the park couldn’t get it together and didn’t know what the fuck his schedule was (laughs). Then he invited us over to his house for dinner that night.

Do you remember his name?
I want to say Gene.

Yeah, Gene Goldberg.
Oh, was it? Nice! See, my recall is still working, my brains cells still have life. But, Gene had a daughter that was probably around thirteen or fourteen and I think Fred Blood, the rollerskater kid, was with us and he was just out of his mind trying to get with her–chasing her, trapping her in the bowls and dry humping her, and stuff.

(Laughs). Was he over eighteen?
I want to think he was, but I think maybe he wasn’t. But, it didn’t matter, because there was definitely a big age difference kind of a deal, from thirteen to seventeen, there’s a gap at that point in living, right? But, whatever, it was funny. I think Bert Lamar, myself, Brad Bowman, Dave Andrecht and Fred Blood and I don’t know who else–there were maybe a couple of other heads there. But, they invited us over to their house for dinner.

All of you guys were there?
All of us went to Gene’s house for dinner–his wife was cooking and it was obvious his son skated or something and dad was the businessman who made the skatepark—typical scenario. Santa Cruz used to send me boards when I would get to a skatepark. They would ship boards there so I could have them for the tour or whatever the fuck it was, and they’d always slip in a big bag of weed.

Right? It was really great weed, cuz it came from Santa Cruz. I remember I had just got the box right before we went over to the dinner, and there was the weed and I was stoked. So, we got to the house and I hadn’t really got to sample any, so I was thinking, "Fuck!" We sat down to dinner and it started to get kind of boring, so I excused myself from the table and went into the bathroom and rolled a joint. I smoked a little bit of it, opened the window and blew it out and they didn’t really know. I got so stoned that I forgot my bag of weed on the sink in the bathroom when I walked out.

I came back out to the table stoned and everything was funny. So, I started laughing at everybody. Bowman and Lamar realized that I was stoned and they were laughing, cuz they thought it was funny that I was stoned and laughing. If anyone said anything, we would just start cracking up, like, you know, when you have laugh attacks. The family started to laugh with us and we were laughing at them. So, in retrospect, they were laughing at themselves (laughs). It was really funny. That went on throughout the whole dinner. It happened at a couple of different houses. But, at Gene’s house, we were having the laugh attacks, like the milk-coming-though-your-nose kind of laugh attacks, and shit. It was out of control, basically. It was funny, too. Then we got back to our hotel room and went to sleep. The next day, I saw this guy Gene at the skatepark and he was really put off and avoiding me. I was like, "What’s wrong with this psycho?" I hadn’t yet realized that I lost my bag of weed. He was like, "I’d like to have a word with you!"

I was like, "Cool! What’s up, Pops?" He was like, "I really don’t appreciate that kind of behavior and bringing that type of thing into my house." I was trippin’, like, "Whoa, dude. I thought we were all having a fun time." He was like, "Here, take this," and gave me back my bag of weed.

He gave it back to you?
Yeah, and I was like, "That’s cool." Then he was like, "You’ll never be invited back to my house again!" I was like, "That’s okay, pal!"

I can’t believe he gave it back to you.
You know, he wasn’t a bad guy. I’m making him out to sound like a prick, but he wasn’t that bad at all. But, it was funny how it all went down.

Do you remember anything else from Apple?
Yeah, meeting Dave Bush. He was a cool kid—the one lone punk rock kid. Back then you were still considered a freak, outsider, outcast—and every other word that could be negative toward being different or individualistic. Dave was cool, but to remember exactly what shit went down, no. But, I liked Apple—it was fun. I think it was snowing.

Did you consider it to be a really good park?
It was a really good park, there’s no considering shit. I don’t think a lot of people got to ride it.

No. It was open less than two years.
Right. But, it was sweet, man. They had that one weird pool that went to vert quickly—the big one.

The kidney?
No, it wasn’t the kidney. It was more like a…

The egg.
The egg was a steeper pool than most, right? Yeah, that was a sweet pool.

It had about three feet of vert.

Remember the L-bowl?
Kind of. It was just like, indoor skatepark in Ohio, snowing outside, wow. That’s pretty cool.

Did you go to Cherry Hill?
I went to Cherry Hill. They had their three-quarter pipe, but I think Apple’s was better.

Yeah, but Cherry Hill definitely had the better pools. It was just sick—it was another egg bowl. It was just better—the tranny was much more cooperative. Before we went to Ohio, we went to Michigan and I had a hair incident there, too. I went to the park a little early there, too, rolled in and started skating and the skate patrol guys were like, "Hey, man! You gotta wear your pads and stuff." I was like, "Ah, fuck you!" and kept skating.

This kid Spike, who was a little twelve year-old leather coat-wearing kid with spiky hair, and some other little buddy of his, like an Eddie Haskell character, were like, "Yo, man! You’re pretty good, but, you know, those California guys are coming and they’re really good. You got Brad Bowman, Bert Lamar, Dave Andrecht, Tony Alva and Steve Olson." I was just like, "Right on. They don’t even know because of the blond hair." I was like, "They suck!" They were like, "No, man! No they don’t! But you’re pretty good. Where are you from?" I didn’t tell them. They were totally cool little kids. They thought, "This guy’s from our town, he’s one of us, he’s a little older."

Then everyone else rolled in and said, "What’s up, Olson?" and these little kids were like, "Oh, my God!" I pulled them aside and said, "Listen. Don’t you even start going anywhere near that weird vibe trip. You treat me like you did when you first met me, or I’ll kick your ass," and they were down with that. You know like when you would roll into some new place and all of a sudden you’ve got all of these little kids? These little kids said, referring to TA, Bowman and LaMar, "Who are your little friends, Olson?" So, they were immediately accepted by the pros. Those kids just thought they were the shit. It was funny.

There were also great stores down there in Ohio and Michigan with cool, different types of clothing. I remember they had all sorts of great gear there.

You mean thrift stores?
Yeah, thrift stores and vintage stores. Back in ’79, vintage stores were not considered cool like they are nowadays.

Do you remember anything else about Cherry Hill?
I have Cherry Hill stories. Are we doing Cherry Hill stories?

Oh, good. What is this for?

The Apple Skatepark web site.
Oh, it’s an Apple web site? Who goes to it?

Who do you mean?

All of the old school guys.
Oh, they do? That’s funny.

You should check it out. There’s a picture of you standing in front of a pinball machine in Apple’s game room with a crew cut kind of dyed at the top.
Hey, this phone’s going to die.

Okay. Tell us a Cherry Hill story.
I think this phone’s going to die before I can tell it.

Can I call you on your home phone?
Can I call you back on yours?

I’ll call you back in five minutes.
[Note: Steve never called back.]

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