HARDCORE/GLOBE

By April 1986, I had arrived back in Melbourne after 4 months travelling in the U.S. , Mexico and Canada.    I was determined that I wouldn’t go back to welding , or anything even vaguely related, but had bugger all other skills to fall back on. I did manage to get some work doing basic signwriting jobs, but only 3 days a week, which wasn’t  doing much more than paying the rent.

Noel Forsyth - Long Beach California 1988

In the meantime, the Hill Brothers had expanded their fledgling skateboard import business, and were struggling to keep up with demand. To fill orders for Variflex boards, they had to resort to assembling them from components, and they roped me in to help out. Within a month or two, that had progressed to doing a day a week running around the surf shops taking orders and delivering boards.

Skateboarding was on a precipice – it was already running hot, but was about to explode. In the U.S., Transworld and Thrasher were alternately pushing their “skate to create” and “Skate and Destroy” mantras to legions of grommets who would rewind the first Bones Brigade video show so many times that they knew every corny line by heart.

Christian Hosoi at Vans' Ramp

Vert skating was king, street skating in its infancy. Hosoi was the 10 foot out styling speed hoon, Hawk was the incredible trick technician and there were already dozens of upcoming rockstar pros waiting in the wings to try to overtake them.

Allen Losi’s 1986 tour appearances in Melbourne and Sydney had wowed the locals and opened their eyes to what the new breed of vert skating was all about. As soon as he’d left, all the talk was of which American pro would be next to make the trip down under.

As with international surfing,  Australia would quickly become second only to the U.S. in the scale of enthusiasm for skateboarding.  The established surf shops were a readymade outlet for skate equipment, and they thrived off the back of the massive wave of interest in skateboarding.

It is no exaggeration to say that the skate business was the primary earner which allowed the 70’s era surf shops to expand and become major surf chains in the period from 1986 to 1990.

Australia’s skate distribution business at this point was run by a small number of players. John Hurren of JHS in Adelaide was handling Powell and Santa Cruz, Darren Burfurd was bringing in the first Vision boards and the Hills had a small but rapidly growing list of brands starting with Variflex and Zorlac. Within months, they’d secured the rights to sell Santa Cruz, Tracker and Vision as well.

By this time, I was “off the tools” and handling sales full time at Peter and Stephen Hill’s “Universal Skateboard Imports” business (later known as “Hardcore”). Peter Hill went and bought a computer to replace our hand written triplicate invoices, and the computer salesman told him to get dad to come in and talk turkey when he was ready to make the purchase (not popular, that one). We even had a fax machine – this was such new technology at the time that none of our U.S. suppliers had one yet. It’s not much fun having the latest piece of rocket science if no one else had one to play with……

Hardcore Warehouse 1987

We were moving so many boards that our little warehouse just could not deal with the stock flow. To stuff in a 20 foot container of boards, we had to unload most of it on the footpath, then madly pack a few dozen major orders which might eat up a third of the shipment, then stack the remainder into every crevice that remained inside. We actually rigged up large cartons with star pickets in each corner, the whole lot held together with strapping tape so we could stack things to the roof. There was nothing else we could do.

Through late ’86 and ’87, Hardcore brought out a bunch of Zorlac and Vision Pro riders across several consecutive Easter and November pro tours. To begin with John Hurren was happy to see the Hills do the heavy lifting of bringing out more and more pro riders, as all skate promotion worked to increase the size and intensity of what was, by now, a full blown skate revival. The new “pro era” of skating was fuelled by enormous board, accessory and clothing sales, which broke sales records month after month.

I remember at one point close to Christmas, Yodgees (a major skate/sport retailer of the time) would come in every Friday afternoon and buy 200 plus pairs of Vision canvas hightops to see them through the weekend. Surf Dive n Ski Melbourne would roll up and buy over a hundred decks – we actually stole a few shopping trolleys to make the collection process slightly more user friendly. Suffice to say that it was a hyped, frenzied atmosphere that lasted 3 years or more before skating’s shining light started to fizzle around 1990.

Where I had started work with Hardcore assembling boards, I rapidly became the full time Sales co-ordinator, then National Sales Manager as our agent network grew. 

Frank Dammenhayn - "Globe Apparel Mananger" and Noel Forsyth - "Sales Co-ordinator"

Vision Street Wear shoes and print tees became VSW apparel, our first venture into licensed clothing manufacture. Back then, most of it was cut, sewn and printed in and around Richmond – something that seems almost inconceivable now.

Like the hardgoods, Vision clothing kind of exploded – all of a sudden the Vision logo was everywhere you looked. This was to come back and bite the brand on the arse in years to come, because of the endless over exposure. For the time being though, you could sell every piece of VSW clothing you could push out the door.

The Hardcore business quickly outgrew our pissy warehouse off Brunswick street

The Hills bought what was formerly a plastics recycling factory in Abbotsford. When I first got there, it looked much like Berlin shortly post war. I don’t know what evil brew they used to churn out, but the creaking warehouse shell was covered in a couple of centimetres of oily plastic gunk that reeked of toxic waste. Having never seen a building development in process before, I think I figured they’d got in way over their heads and that the result would either fail altogether or run them broke. Mind you, I really had no idea just how much money they were actually making……

The new Hardcore building was just across the road from the Abbotsford Convent, and was generally known as the “night club” because of the glitzy , modern interior – all glass bricks, stainless and industrial tech.

As I’d taken over some of the skateboard stock ordering tasks at Hardcore, it was really only a matter of time before I was eventually asked to come to the U.S. to attend the circus that was the Long Beach ASR (Action Sports Retailer) show.  I’m not sure how long the show had been running, but the massive resurgence of skateboarding had transformed the surf industry from end to end. Probably more used to mellow cat old surf hippies trading stories about Malibu back in the day, the current ASR show was overrun by skating and loud, abrasive skate culture. I don’t think everyone was thrilled about that, but they sure as hell liked the cash injection that skateboarding provided to the slightly sleepy surf industry.

Even better, skateboarding meant the show management could run crowd pleasing events on site at the Convention Center itself. In the late 80’s this of course meant an 11 or 12 foot vert demo ramp, 3, maybe 4 skate sessions a day and every Pro rider worth talking about plus a bunch that never would be. 

Being classic freeloaders, every wannabe skateboarder in California would converge on the “Tradeshow” to scam anything that wasn’t nailed down.

Since every buyer from around the world was attending, many of the major skate brands gave away huge loads of product, just to ensure there were more crew running around the show in their brand.

It was a feeding frenzy!

Being a buyer for the biggest skate distributor in the world outside the U.S. wasn’t so bad, either. I got schmoozed left , right and centre and came home with quite a haul of free product myself.

We were told there was a barbecue and ramp skating session on after the show at Vans HQ, and we went along and watched a pretty heated session with Hosoi, Grosso, Lance Mountain and Eric Nash. They were all mates but fiercely competitive and it seemed the new tricks everyone wanted to master were long fast backside disaster slides and gnarly 50/50 to fakies. I was rockin’ around on top of the ramp taking photos like this stuff happened everyday, but of course I was really like a pig in shit.

Peter and Stephen Hill had become good friends with Lance Mountain and the next day we were invited to go skate at Mountain Manor along with Gregor Rankine, who was just about to get his first pro model on Santa Cruz.

Gregor Rankine at Lance Mountain's

Gregor was still recovering from some back problems and not skating 100% (well, at least not to his own expectations) but looked pretty solid to me. 

Stephen was doing 3 foot out Indy Canyons, but I was only getting some small Frontside Airs and Laybacks. Who cares? I’d watched dozens of videos shot at Lance’s famous backyard ramp and he and his wife Yvette were great hosts. 

Lance had just got into photography and came out and took photos of us skating and sent us the blow up pics later on… mighty nice.

Noel Forsyth (Frontside Air) at Lance Mountain's

Noel Forsyth at Lance Mountain's 1988

Being his own ramp, Lance was of course just amazing – he was probably at his absolute peak, and could easily float 8 or 9 foot Method Airs, Lien Airs and all sorts of crazy Handplant variations without even raising a sweat.

Lance Mountain 1988

Back at the Tradeshow the schmoozing went on unabated.

Hardcore was already selling just about all the biggest brands apart from Powell, and the ones we didn’t were throwing themselves at our feet to have us distribute them.

Skateboarding was absolutely powering by 1988, but amazingly had still not yet hit its peak. I was doing more of the buying than ever, and laying out promo materials, price lists and photographic catalogues on the side.

The next ASR was even bigger than my first, and the skate stands must have taken up almost half of the enormous San Diego Convention Center. San Diego was far more interesting than Long Beach and beautiful and warm, even in February. The ramp set up was outside beneath the huge sail canopy, which was breezy and bright in comparison the indoor set up at Long Beach. By the crowd on the platforms, every pro from across the country must have been there, along with a couple of Euros like Claus Grabke and many I’d never heard of. Literally everyone was there and the skating was berserk.

I was meant to be studiously checking new product and talking to suppliers, but oddly enough, I’d somehow end up back in front of the ramp again…

I’d never seen a lot of the pros skate before, even on video, but I made my mind up pretty quickly who my favourites were – Blender, Hosoi, Cab, Lance, Miller. A really tough job, particularly in comparison to welding in a ship’s hold at the docks…..

They even had a street  and mini set up as well, so the skating took over the entire back mezzanine area where everyone was eating. You couldn’t help but realise that skating had become this behemoth – A really big business and a serious rival for the surf industry itself.

After the 4 day show had finally wound up, we drove down to the border and across into Tijuana. I have no idea how it is there now, but in the 80’s it was like the wild west. Dusty, dirty, cheap and nasty, but kind of entertaining in a weirdly trashy way.

Mike Smith - Frontside Grab

There was an English guy there too who I had never heard of – Bod Boyle. Within a couple of years Bod had become the sales manager at Santa Cruz and he still works at Globe to this day. One of the really great skate industry guys, and even then, an amazingly talented vert skater.

Bod Boyle Huntington

I took a couple of days off to hang out in L.A. and was lucky enough to hook up with Mike Smith, who had started his own board company called Liberty. Mike took me to a ramp session inland from Huntington Beach that was really cool. I knew a couple of guys there, one of which was Bert Lamar. Lamar was a very young pro rider for Sims in 1980, but by this time was a pro snowboarder with his own start up snowboard brand. He was still an amazing skater, and could probably have cut it alongside most skate pro riders. He did epic frontside inverts in particular.

Mike Smith - Frontside Air

One thing that was always fun to do was check out some of the old school surf and skate shops – you’d generally run into someone you recognised. Like E.T. Surf in Hermosa Beach. Kevin “The Worm” Anderson had worked behind the counter at E.T. for something like 30 years and I bought a re-pro E.T. Ripstix Worm model off the man himself. 

I dropped in to Rip City Skates several times too – this is the shop in the first Bones Brigade video that Lance skates up to. It wasn’t a huge store, but the owner had been collecting a ton of 70’s and early 80’s skate gear and nailing them to the roof. There were classic decks all over the walls and ceiling. It was my first visit to Rip City that gave me the idea to do a “skate museum” at Globe’s new office. Between myself, Peter and Stephen we had the beginnings of a minor collection. Mind you, at this stage no one was collecting old skateboards, like, full stop.

Rip City

I was buying a ton of blank decks from a real character called Big Jim Lloyd (Little Jim was his son) who was the clearance man for the whole skate industry. If some brand had made a new wheel that bombed, Jim would have thousands of them at like a quarter of the original cost price. He was also holding literally thousands of old decks, mostly obsolete mid eighties fish tails, but he also had a lot of really collectable things like 36” Sims Oak Kicktails. These he sold for $20…all the prices were ridiculously cheap. Every time I went there, I rummaged through Jim’s shelves for something I was looking for –  entire boxes of Bennett plastic baseplates, dozens of old 70’s Tracker hangers without baseplates (pity they didn’t fit each other) and various bits of scrap dating back to the mid 70’s. By literally crawling through his rubbish I salvaged 2 sets of Lazer trucks, 2 sets of Gullwing Phoenix and even an ultra rare pair of Gullwing split axles circa 1976. These were considered rare and fairly valuable even back then, but I shamed Big Jim into giving me the lot for nothing. After all, I was buying over $100,000 worth of boards off him every year. Little Jim was none too pleased at this, but the customer is always right, right?

I think I went to every ASR show twice each year for the next 3 or 4 years, but by the early 90’s, skateboarding had all but disappeared. The big biz, big dollar atmosphere was long gone, and big companies like Santa Cruz and Powell had downsized and “gone back to their roots, man”. This was code for there not being a red cent to be made in skating. Pro riders (such as they were) didn’t want to wear anything that associated themselves with their sponsors. Vert and anything to do with transition was history.

In the late 80’s I don’t think anyone could have predicted just how fast the skating bubble would burst

For Hardcore, the only option was to go distinctly “non Hardcore” – for those long, dark years, all our bucks were made selling Rollerblades, pads, gear bags and related twaddle. I can’t complain though. Working with Rollerblade taught me an enormous amount about product development and marketing, along with a textbook education on how to build and then demolish your own company in 5 short years. Our final act with Rollerblade was taking them to court for breach of contract – Hardcore won and they had to pay us out pretty handsomely. 

Somewhat bizarrely , the entire management team at Rollerblade had been swept aside in the early 90’s to be replaced by toy industry “heavyweights” and then replaced again in ’95 by (wait for it) guys from the hair care industry. These knobs didn’t know the first thing about Hardcore’s relationship with Rollerblade, and folded pretty damned quickly. I had to suit up and go to L.A. for the legal mediation. I took along enough supporting documentation to shoot the new heads at Rollerblade down in flames. This of course, was pretty rad.

By 1996, things began to show the first signs of a recovery. Skating was still overwhelmingly about flatland and street, but the utterly ridiculous 40mm wheels and bozo jeans had been replaced by a new optimism. Skating had turned a corner and things were once again on the up and up. By this time, we’d canned Vision, and Airwalk had canned us (yet another story) so we started Globe as our own footwear brand.

In early ’95 I had gone to the Atlanta Super Show and thought I would drop by at the Airwalk trade booth. You might say they weren’t exactly expecting me. Airwalk’s International sales manager was sitting on a couch, having a chatty meeting with our (soon to be) replacement distributor. They were somewhat surprised that I’d appeared out of nowhere to come and join in the fun. This was really the final straw amongst a bunch of problems we had trying to work with their bizarre systems. Within a few months, it was curtains for us and Airwalk. Like Rollerblade, this turned out to be all for the best.   Airwalk’s skate shoe designs were already starting to look ridiculous, and they were flogging them to discount stores everywhere you looked.

With not a lot else to do, I wandered halfway across downtown Atlanta to the “New Products Show”, where I happened to meet up with a Korean company that was selling Vans and Airwalk knock offs. Not poor quality mind you, but carbon copy styles. It turned out their factory made shoes for Vans and Airwalk but both brands had since moved to bigger (ie: cheaper) factories.

Because I could draw, I sketched out some revision notes for them and before you knew it, we were looking at what were to become the very first Globe skate shoes. We didn’t even have a logo at this point, but we did have shoes, a brand name and we sponsored some of the best skaters in Australia. Our first skate promo video went out about the time the first shipment of shoes arrived. We didn’t have any good quality images to use on the cover, so it had to be a picture of a goat on the video sleeve.

The Hills had always fostered whoever was the local hotshot up and comer skaters – from Tony Hallam,  Lee Ralph and Gregor Rankine to the Pappas Brothers in the mid 90’s

Ben Pappas

As odd as it sounds now, I had done some “own brand” wheel development for Tas and Ben in 1994 and despite being vert skaters only, they both wanted their wheel models to be around 45mm diameter. Did I mention that skating was awful in the early – mid 90’s?

I worked on a mid cut skate shoe model for Tas in 1996 – his signature shoe and the first Chet Thomas model were the first specialised skate shoe designs I’d worked on. In ’96, it was really kind of an open field – DC had only been in business for a year or so, there was Etnies , who were yet to really do anything big, Vans of course and Airwalk, who was already on the fade.

The shoes were nothing amazing, but considering what was around at the time, they still stand up pretty well. I used to design sole lug patterns by finding some random textile design or something that “tiled” well – ie: could be repeated so it would interlink endlessly, and then I’d photocopy it, cut it out with scissors, sticky tape 4 or half a dozen together, copy some more and so on.

It was totally Neanderthal, but just as effective as any other method. I used pencil / rubber / liquid paper / sticky tape and the photo copier to develop a couple of different shoe uppers and even sole designs. These I would draw out actual size, then do cutaway views at several spots along the length of the shoe to show the 3D contours of the rubber sole.

Ben and Tas had both scored their first trips to the States – it’s kind of scary to imagine how they would have been running round off the chain over there at age 14 and 16

Ben Pappas for Globe

Tas Pappas for Globe

Vert was all of a sudden back off the shit list

More street guys started to dabble with transitions, mini ramps and (inevitably) vert tricks they could actually make. A new school of vert guys was emerging like Danny Way and Colin McKay – they incorporated more tricky flippity stuff too, as vert riding started to merge street moves into their act – it was working both ways.

In late ’96, Steve Hill told me he wanted me to work on an air sole for Globe. At the time, this was definitely considered off limits – “real” skaters wouldn’t swallow the idea of a skate shoe with an air bag in it. It was interesting though and our Korean factory was able to make the soles, so I designed what was subsequently dubbed “the vagina sole” by Big Brother magazine in their skate shoe review. Myself? I couldn’t really see the resemblance, but I think those guys would love to say shit like that just for shock value.

We got about a dozen pairs of Ben Pappas’ brand new shoe run off so we could show them at the ASR San Diego shoe in February 1997. The sole mould shape was all wrong, the mould makers hadn’t included a lot of the surface detail I’d requested and they were sitting way too tall. I wasn’t thrilled by how they looked, but with nothing else to show, they went on display in our show booth, straight out of the shipping carton.

I was kind of cringing a bit, waiting for some of the staff and team guys to give me a hard time about how the new “whizz bang” sole design had turned out. To my surprise, everyone loved them.  I had requested samples in 3 dark and fairly basic colors, but somehow the factory ballsed it up and made 4 instead. Despite telling people that the extra color was NQR, the retailers were determined to place orders for all 4…an extra 25% business on top based on a mistake…... If only it was that easy these days.

Globe Catalogue 1997

Globe Mid Advertisement 1995

I was both the Australian Sales Manager and the shoe designer, a position that would start to get a little difficult as Globe expanded into the U.S. and numerous European markets. By 1999 we had hired a (real) shoe designer and my design work slowly began to take a back seat.

In the meantime, I designed a very popular pro surf shoe for Mark Ochillupo, who had won the World Champion surfing title the year before. Occy had come back in his early 30’s after a stint “on the couch” and a sizeable beer gut, to blast through the opposition and take the Championship. This was unheard of stuff then, but of course Kelly Slater and Bucky Lasek have since blown the “Old guys aren’t competitive” myth out of the water.

As well as Occy’s shoes, I designed two Rodney Mullen Pro shoes, the first 2 Chet Thomas models, Ben and Tas’ shoes and a bunch of team styles like the Option and Tactic.

By this point, I was spending much more time visiting Korean sampling rooms than glitzy trade shows in California. I had started to learn the essentials of shoe production engineering, as opposed to design, which is a completely different deal. The mechanical side of how shoes are made is actually kind of fascinating – despite how the finished product looks, they‘re still basically hand made by sewing piece #1 to piece #2, and so on.

That said, the Koreans developed many tricky moulding and laminating processes that would eventually result in some of the amazing basketball and athletic styles and crazy synthetic materials now in use.

Skate shoes, by and large, the Koreans considered pretty “easy” to produce, but they definitely had a lot to learn about how to construct shoes which could hold up to the assault of grip tape and pavement. 

This, they were not used to – they’d be presented with a totally trashed pair of team skater’s shoes and would be in disbelief that such damage could be inflicted on a pair of shoes in just a few day’s riding.

By 1998, I had worked at Hardcore / Globe for over 12 years.

I decided it was high time I took some Long Service Leave. My partner, Sera and I took 6 weeks covering much of Southern Europe, but we split up mid-holiday so I could side track to check out the first Globe sponsored Munster Monster Mastership competition in Germany. This was a long running event, and by the late 90’s, had become the biggest skateboard event in the world. The crowd of 25,000 crazed German skate fans were camped out all around the arena rioting literally every night. I was somewhat surprised to see signs which said that everyone coming into the event would be body searched for knives and other concealed weapons.

Globe would eventually go on to host many big budget stadium skate events, but at the time, this seemed incredible

Globe had only been in the skate shoe business for just on 3 years and was already sponsoring the biggest annual event in the world. I was pretty much blown away. Of course, the skating was pretty rad, too.  Vert ramp skating had not disappeared as dramatically as in the U.S., and was even on something of an upswing.

Danny Way was kind of at his peak and was dominating proceedings, doing massive method transfers off the corner of the vert ramp onto the launch platform for the street course. The distance was probably like 25 feet. It took him a few shots to land one, but every time the whole joint would go wild. A highlight was seeing Rob “Sluggo" Boyce trying his huge, rolling back flip airs. Now there’s a trick that you don’t see anyone have a crack at these days. He would go maybe 7 feet out and roll straight over backwards. He was trying to win the best trick competition, but I must have watched him try it 30 or 40 times. Each time he bailed and I was convinced he just wasn’t going to pull it at all. Then he just rolled one (even higher again) and nailed it perfectly…the whole stadium was on its feet yelling for like 15 minutes.

Mark Gonzales was skating in the Street, but was always a super strong vert skater. He was one of two guys (Blender being the other) I’d ever seen doing stalled frontside inverts. He’d wobble around straight arm for 3 or 4 seconds, then just casually drop it back in. I told him he should enter the “best trick “ comp with one of these, but I don’t think he did. As well as the rad skaters and good dudes, there’s always going to be the utter cocks, too.

In this case, they were Mike Vallely and Sean Sheffey. Sheffey was a huge muscly bastard and was drunk the whole time, swigging from a bourbon bottle or something. He was yelling shit at people left, right and centre and eventually wailed into some poor kid for nothing. I was hoping the German security would take him out with a baton or something , but I think they were wary of touching any of the yank skaters in case the whole place jumped in.

I’m not sure whether Vallely was ever a “great” skateboarder, but at this comp, all he did were pretty basic old school tricks and not even so impressive at that. I think he placed 7th or 8th (I’d have had him way further down the list than that) and yelled and screamed like a baby at how it was rigged by “dumb fuck Euros”…. bleat, bleat, bleat. I was totally embarrassed for him being such a knob, but he evidently thought he was some kind of living legend, who had been cruelly slighted.

Something pretty funny happened in 2004 

Our Korean agent / manufacturer had somehow persuaded a Korean T.V. network that his rags to riches run over a few short years off the back of Globe’s success was a story worth telling to the Korean public. They asked if we would co-operate in helping to film the whole thing on site here in Melbourne, with some scenes to be shot in L.A. Given our close relationship, we were always going to say yes, but then it started to get a little weird…. 

I’m not sure exactly what story they’d fed the T.V. crew, but all of a sudden we were re-creating scenes of phenomenal success which were quite a ways removed from reality

The first scene we had to shoot was cobbled together quickly, in order to coincide with the February ASR Show in San Diego. The Koreans flew out a 5 strong TV crew to film a re-enactment of the crucial meeting between myself and the Korean agent which had taken place in Atlanta some 8 or 9 years earlier.

To stage the shot, the Koreans took a small booth at ASR and decorated it with a bunch of their almost period correct wares , computer printout signage and other bits and pieces which were meant to set the stage. It was absolutely necessary that I wear a suit, as the Korean public  simply wouldn’t understand the idea of an up and coming business dude wearing shorts and a tee shirt.

So there I was, shooting a bunch of takes in my just slightly shabby suit, in the middle of the ASR Show, with the shonky Korean TV crew and even more shonky hanger - on Koreans in tow. A couple of people who knew me dropped by to laugh at how uncomfortable I looked in my monkey suit, whilst I attempted to look deadly serious.

When the Korean film crew came to Melbourne, it only got worse. They asked us to set up a fake, very presidential looking boardroom desk scene to represent some contract signing which had never taken place. The enthusiastic Koreans dragged in all the office chicks to stand by and add golf clap applause at the moment we co-signed the “contract”. It was kind of difficult to keep a straight face, but what made it even funnier were the chintzy looking rotating desk top globe and ceremonial Australian and Korean flags which they stuck on the desk in front of us.

The next scene was supposedly our “go bananas” office party

This took place on the occasion of having sold 1.5 million pairs of Globe’s Option shoe – something which absolutely never happened, and a figure we never came close to approaching. Our sales reps were in town for a sales conference, so everyone had a ball popping bottles of cheap bubbly, laughing their arses off and throwing streamers for the cameras….  

Once my son Fergus was born in 2001, my travel to the U.S. in particular slowed up, mainly because I was already travelling to Korea and China regularly to check on shoe sampling and production, but also because I suffered the first of 4 separate broken ear drums, all whilst surfing. Each time, I had to stay out of the water for months on end, and couldn’t fly until my ear had healed enough to handle the increased pressure of flying.

Once I’d started skating regularly again with the MOSS fellas in 2005, I started to drop in the odd side trip to the latest Southern Californian skateparks.

I skated Santa Monica with Pat Ngoho, the YMCA park at Clairemont, Encinitas, where I had a few runs with Renton Millar, Culver’s big clover bowl which I skated with  Jesse Martinez, and the Lake Forrest / Etnies park.

By this stage, Frankston Skatepark had been built, and it was no stretch to say that it was better laid out and constructed than most, if not all of these U.S. parks. Having discussed this with a few people recently, it seems that the situation is still much the same – later parks like Newcastle and Noble Park are actually the equal of or better than any comparable parks in the U.S.

I did glance at The Vans Combi several times whilst looking at retail stores there like Pac Sun and Zumies, but I was always in transit to somewhere else. The one time I actually came prepared to skate, I was 30 minutes late after their last session or something. I told the staff I would pay full price just to skate for the final 20 minutes, but being the knobs they were, this was clearly a no – go.

The last park I had a skate at  was Encinitas, in Northern San Diego. The vert bowl was a left hand kidney which was quite a bit like Frankston’s big bowl, but maybe a weeny bit tighter.

I don’t really have to be too concerned with no longer being able to skate the latest U.S. skateparks , as we seem to have more and better than they do! With parks like Noble and Brunswick, and soon to be Torquay, I think the gringo trail of skaters down to Oz can only increase over the coming years.Then we’ll have the best of both worlds, better skate parks, and a constantly rotating list of crazy hot internationals coming through to ride them.

These days, my work trips are pretty much China, China and China. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a skateboard being ridden in China even though they tell me Shenzhen in the South has a reasonable street scene happening.

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