1975

THE CRAZE

Stacey Peralta - Bloodbath 1975

photo: Peninsula Surf

SKATE CRAZE

The craze took hold in Australia in ‘74/75. 

All of a sudden there were long- haired, barefooted sidewalk surfers carving up every inch of smooth concrete with an incline or contour.

The hot moves were wheelies, 360’s, handstands, high jumps, endovers and spacewalks. Slalom was still a little understood discipline at this stage, and the small amount of bank riding being attempted took place at drainage ditches such as The Spillway in Mt Waverley, and Sydney’s Boat Ramp. As far as I know, there’s virtually no photographic record of Victoria’s early bank skating scene, although there is a single shot of Spillway in an early Aussie skating book.

 

King’s carpark in the city was the venue for many dizzying downhill sessions, as well as a number of high profile demos featuring U.S. pros such as Russ Howell, Stacy Peralta and Torger Johnson.

Melbourne had a thriving surf/skate retail scene in the mid 70’s, and many of the original stores such as Surf Dive 'n Ski, Melbourne Surf shop and Mordy Surf are still around today, although the incense tinged atmosphere is long gone. Whilst not central to skating’s rise, these stores were a gathering point where you could go to ogle the latest skate gear (and then try to steal it). There were several surf shop sponsored teams that competed at the various Melbourne comps put on by companies like Coke, Golden Breed, Hang Ten (both surf/ skate apparel brands) and Big M. Freestyle was always the showcase event, and wheelies, spins and handstand variations were the standout moves that scored heavily for the hotter riders.

 

"Slicks" covered the scene, but it seemed to be a bit Sydney–centric. Perhaps this was due, in part to the bigger surf scene in Sydney, which in turn generated more media and sponsor attention. The northern beaches Sydney blonde surfer / skater kid was an entirely different breed from the local Melbourne skater. Down here, you honed your skills dodging and weaving to avoid the attention of Skins, Sharps and other threatening groups of urban Boganry.

This wasn’t exactly the stuff of dreams, so Slicks mag’s editorial angle was in general aimed at locations much further north.

THE TSUNAMI PASSES

Although much of the country’s top skating talent seemed to come from Sydney’s Northern beaches surf/skate scene - 

Melbourne was to become the breeding ground for a harsher, grass roots form of skating, just as the craze was fading away entirely.

It’s no exaggeration to say that there were only a handful of skaters who continued riding after the craze, spurred on by images from the earliest copies of the resurrected Skateboarder magazine from the U.S.

In Australia , from such a distance, it was almost impossible to tell fact from fiction and bullshit skate product from legitimate goods. The early Skateboarder mags were full of shots of unmakeable tricks, but, hey, what did we know? Those of us who read the magazine from cover to cover repeatedly, began to follow the rise of prominent Californian skaters such as the original Dogtown crew, Mike Weed and Waldo Autrey at Mt Baldy, and a bunch of other new U.S. riders that we badly wanted to emulate.

At the time, it seemed that the only Melbourne skater with a good feel for skating’s future potential was Wedge Francis.

Wedge had toured Australia and New Zealand , and been a major star in Golden Breed’s surf influenced team during the craze of ‘74/75. Wedge was the top proponent of the high speed, hard pumping, “anything is possible” school of skating, and so far ahead of his contemporaries, it's hard to imagine what kept him motivated.

 

Wedge seemed to inherently understand “gyrating” (ie – the pump) having skated extensively with U.S. pro’s Russ Howell , Stacy Peralta and Kiwi Peter Boronski.

 

At the peak of the craze, Wedge was Australia’s premiere freestyler, capable of spinning up to fifteen 360’s, endless footwork tricks and a multitude of handstand variations. Wedge took out several state and National titles until the competition scene dried up along with the craze itself in mid 1976.

After the craze, it became totally uncool to skate, and even as a 14 year old, you were instantly looked down upon for doing something so “childish”.

 

In your teens, peer group pressure is a strong influence, and it was difficult to explain to your girlfriend that you were actually still skating, and hanging around with a bunch of like-minded outcasts.

Worse still, as the skateboard “craze” rapidly became about as important as last year’s yo-yo infatuation, the school jocks (who never could skate) sneered at you all the more.

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