Early retail experiences

I just watched the trailer for the Lords of Dogtown on the net – it got me to thinking about the first skate movie I ever saw - circa ’78, ‘Skateboard’ starring that complete tosser Lief Garrett but it did feature some of the Z Boys. 27 years down the track I can’t remember too much more about it.

It did get me thinking to my first retail experiences regarding skateboarding. With the world wide web everything is so close these days but way back when it was a matter of sending off a money order via snail mail and then waiting months for the cargo ship to arrive with the requested goodies. The horror stories of ‘no shows’ regarding ordered products were everywhere.

I saw the movie with my step brother – he was riding a yellow ‘Trax’ and I, a recently modified ‘GT’ (read clay wheels jettisoned, open bearing urethanes in place). The boards that were being ridden in the movie were enormous by local standards and appeared to be made from ply wood. Ours minds immediately went into overdrive.

The second we walked out of the cinema, which was somewhere in town, we decided our current set-ups were never going to get us to the places we needed to be (at 14 this seemed all too logical). We got straight to work on addressing our problem – in this case it meant going to the, now long gone, McEwans Hardware in Bourke Street. A bit of creative retailing and we were on the road to new set ups – albeit all we had ‘collected’ was some very primitive mounting hardware.

After a trip to a local marine supply store, where we got some marine ply ‘off cuts’ it was back to the garage. The marine ply was only 3 layers thick so we press glued three sheets together to make a very nice 9 ply set up. The hand sanded wheel wells actually looked pretty good.

The timber was ready, now all we needed was a shape. One of the other guys at school introduced us to Skateboarder magazine – problem of shaping our ‘boards’ solved – mine was a really crappy rip off of the Kryptonic deck used by Shogo in the famous frontside grind photo.

Although I can’t recall commercial grip tape being on the market – it probably was – we decided to solve our grip problems by gluing appropriate grade sandpaper to the newly created master works!!

At that point it all looked good – then there was the small problem of getting the thing to roll. Word on the street at the time was that Mordy’s Surf Shop was the place for BIG wheels and trucks. I took no convincing, so the next Saturday morning my bro and I took the worlds longest bus ride from Box Hill to Mordialloc.

Funds were very short so Tracker trucks were out of the question. A very nasty New Zealand Tracker rip off – Edwards – looked like they would do the trick. An unfortunate consequence of having a less than technical mind saw me overtook the fact that the king pin protruded lower than the hanger – the first real attempt at a grind certainly brought this point home!!! For wheels, I think they were call Big Reds or similar – very large, very soft and very slow – still they were big and that’s all that mattered. The natural slowness of the wheels was not helped by my selection of bearings – none of that German speed rubbish for me, not when a local product would do just the same job!! With the machining tolerances only seen on open cut mines these bearing were…how should I say it…crap. Still there it was, my first ‘real’ skateboard.

Hey Mick,

I followed a similar track with deck inovations marine 5 ply over a steaming kettle and a jig for rocker and i had a zephyr lookalike actually went ok chicago trucks ad cadilacs this was preceeded with a GT similar to your self.

Did you ever Skate the wall in lexton Rd???


Thanks for the response. Back then we used to ride the dunny rooves at East Burwood, Blackburn Lake and Antonio Park in Mitcham. Later we rode the half pipe at Nunawading and then the bowl at the back of the rail line near the Ringwood lake. I don’t recall having a session in Lexton Road – what’s the story there?


Skateboard world circa 1978. Thanks Dad. Sims Taperkick, green snakes and edwards trucks - no griptape!

Taperkick delamed and board shapes were moving fast, I got a DHD pig and the edwards were too narrow for it. Round that time, guys were banging wider axles in old trucks and using bearing spacers to widen 'em - remember?

Hung onto that ride 'til 1980 when my Dad took me again to Skateboard world for some 169 MFW’s and alva double cons with the badge inserts!

We used to buy decks from the factory that made Skateboard World decks here at Girraween in Sydneys west (RF Products). Ten bucks and you could buy a blemished Jones or Biff or an experimental shape. Then it was off to BBC for some rough arse sandpaper grip.


Skateboard world was like a dream factory. Used to take the train there just for a squiz. Don’t know how many times I asked them to take the Sims Lamar or the Rodriguez snub down (which I could never afford - shit I hadn’t even bought a train ticket!).

Now I’m makin up for it by buying whichever I want whenever I friggin-well want it!

I remember making the pilgrimage to Skateboard World (jeez Burwood was a long way away in them days…hang on it still is!) as a young bloke…lucky for me there was a plethora of surf shops in the area - and the recently defunct Turie’s just around the corner (skate shop and knife sharpening business!), unlucky for me I was not very financial so it was drool material mostly!

God some of the boards I’ve owned over the years - making our own decks, and carpeting them! One old fave was an Edwards plastic deck - It got hit by a car once, bounced, and all the damage was a couple of the bolts holding the trucks on!

My first REAL skateboard set up was mind blowing (at the time) went down to Torquay, RipCurl and Piping Hot had the raddest skate sections, Piping hot had all the Bones and Dogtown grafitti and anything you desired, RipCurl had the wall of decks, anyway for my birthday this year, mum and dad were to shout me a full setup, 300$ worth.
The coolest graphics, as that was how a decision was based by the young was to purchase a Vision Aggressor ( the chick graphics, purple background with neon hi-lites), tracker ultralites (blue) Vision Blurr wheels (the marble effect 95a) with NMB bearings and off course custom grip ( spelled my name in triangles, 2 colours pink and black) It was mint. First shot on the ol’ vert ramp, 4 pumps and was at the top, blew me away, especially when my last board took 15, wow the technology pluss i proved to the oldies that was why i needed a real board because the US pro 90 was holding back my progress. Back then the guro’s such as Chris Pain, Matt Davis, Tony Hallam were sesh’n it up and no one hardly ever was let to bottom feed, so the deal was to ride it, one must drop, that was the deal also of scoring a cool pressy off the old’s. So age 12, never dropped a vert, no such thing as a mini to work up to, Tony makes way and holds back the major snakes to let us go, scared shitless over the falls and never looked back, even though i would jump off the other side, but finally got to have a crack. Thanks lads. :smiling_imp:

seems like a good idea. we are into risks of another kind 8)


My first board was home made too . you guys had it good .All I could get was Chicago single rubber trucks running Chicago 76 clay wheels I purchased from Mick Simmons sport store.I had some old rollerskates but some one threw them out,so I had to buy the Chicago set up (cost $13 dollars too.)First board shape was all wrong (about 24"x5 1/2" ) surf board shape swallow tail too.Did lots of hills and driveway cruizing ,not too much carving cause the wheels had f%$k all grip at speed. Wheels wore out pretty quick so my next set were clay as well (Supremes )Four or five decks later I finally got some Cadillac Da Kine eurethane 's.Just for old time sake I still kept a Chicago and a Supreme clay wheel.I can tell you we have come a long way since clay so don’t winge cause we have never had it so good Keep on rolling Richie

My first board was green fibreglass,thicker than the Bahne or Golden Breed,had no flex at all.Surfboard shaped,approx 24"long,Chicago trucks,Red 8 wheels,loose bearings and cones.My Dad,Uncle Cec and Shane Steadman(ie SHANE surfboards/Brookvale)were drinking partners at Manly Leagues Club.I was 10 and the MAN Shane flowed me some prod!Stoked :wink:

Try thinking what it must have been like in 1962. 15 years old, you and your mate next door are one of the first to get a surfboard this far away from the beach - meaning you can only surf the odd weekend when Mum & Dad can get you to the beach - forget trying to lug a 10’ 40lb hunk of water-logged balsa and fibreglass to the beach on the bus and train.

Suddenly Warren (next door) comes in all excited that he’s seen a guy on a piece of timber down at Bondi with roller skates under it and he’s riding it just like a surfboard.

We didn’t even have a name for it for the next 12 months until we heard someone call it a skateboard.

Anyway, that same afternoon, Warren and I start looking for old roller skates. I remember my older sister had a pair of Jaco skates (Mick Simmons sold them) that she and I used for a couple of years about 1957. Despite the fact that she hadn’t used 'em for years, she wasn’t too impressed when she found I’d broken them into a front and back section and taken a hammer to the metal fittings at the back so they were flat enough to screw onto a piece of timber.

I was about to do the same to the ones from the other foot, when Warren’s Dad remembers that he’s got an old pair of skates that Warren and his younger brother Brian can use.

So there we were, an hour later, with (so far as we knew) the 2nd, 3rd and 4th “surfboard skates” in Australia.

The Jaco skates had rubber wheels but they were slow and hardly turned at all. The other boards were steel wheeled and super slippery on turns on concrete. But they were much faster than the Jacos and turned nearly as well as the much later Chicago truck copies on the Midget Farrellys in 1964.

We caned those boards for a few months and it made a huge difference to our surfiung skills, despite the infrequent tips to the beach.

By now our rectangular pieces of timber had been shaped like mini-surfboards and we’re doing bottom turns and top turns (sort of) on the driveway and footpath. Pretty much the only other move was hanging five or ten, or occasionally actually staying on deck when the thing slid out sideways.

Then our friendship almost ended. Warren’s Dad worked at the Goodyear tyre factory. One day he comes home with both of the other boards with a layer of rubber moulded onto the steel wheels.

All of a sudden Warren and Brian have moved into a new dimension - surfboard skates that grip, roll fast and turn hard, just like a surfboard. Unreal.

I give up on the Jaco model and just ride either Warren’s or Brian’s boards whenever they let me. I hound Warren whenever we meet to try and buy one of the boards from him. He won’t sell because we don’t know where we would get another set up like this.

Eventually we arrive at a price and I’ve got the board to ride whenever I like but I know he’s in two minds about whether he should have parted company with it.

I ride that thing almost to the death until I have almost finished school in 1964 and my worries are over - the Witzigs come to the rescue with the Midget Farrelly models. Despite the clay wheels, another giant leap forward in what you can do on a thing we now called a skateboard.

Even better, an endless supply of trucks, wheels and decks as fast as you could wear them out and cash in enough empty drink bottles to buy a new one.

The next six months would be heaven on wheels, skateboard contests, instant recognition with the guys at the beach (“hey, so you can’t ride a surfboard very well but you sure can skate”), and skating everywhere we could.

Then suddenly it was all dead again. 6 months and the “craze” was over. Only the occasional sessions when you found a set of wheels you could adapt, until they became unskateable and you went looking for another set. That was the scene for almost the next 10 years.

And you guys thought it was tough when you had to go all the way to Burwood or Mordy Surf to get a new board? Ah, well, them’s the breaks. :laughing:

You did have it tough DHD. I’m not as old as you (quite) but started in 66 at the age of 6. Had an early victorian board - a GT so I didn’t have to worry about making one. Still got it but not with its original wheels and trucks - I’d worn them out by the time of the second craze in 75 so it got updated in that department before I moved on to better equipment. By that time you were making boards so I really didn’t have to worry about finding good gear.

But your story is like some others. I know a guy here in Melbourne - name of Brian Clearihan who’s younger brother Gary came second (I’m pretty sure) in the Victorian skateboard championships in 66. He’s in a photo in TT to HF. Lost out to John Laws (owner of Quicksilver). Gary was introduced to skating around 63 -64 by Brian. Brian had been up in Byron Bay on a surf safari and a saw a surfer riding a fence paling with rollers skate wheels nailed on down hill there. (Given your dates I suppose there is a fair chance skateboarding must have been introduced into Australia through Sydney). Brian, a surfer, had certainly never seen this or heard of it before in Victoria and when he got back to Beaumaris he immediately built one for him and his brother. Gary became quite proficient (hence his results in 66) and never really gave up. Unfortunately he passed away, a little young, in the late 90’s - however Brian and Gary’s son still have the boards (all home shaped and painted decks). There is some Super 8 footage of Gary existing - along with another young kid who used to ride with him. This kid is doing slide berts (yes) and low surfer style drag hand bottom turns in 66-67 (pure Z boy style) but before that ever happened.

Brian maintains - though I have not seen the board - that Gary had a set of very early urethane wheels before the 70’s. He believes they came from a roller skate manufacturer in the USA and they were very soft and wore out quickly. Brian described Gary as more than a little obsessive in terms of tracking down equipment. Don’t know if you can shed any light on that.

Youre co-ordinates are locked on TEXAS and the missiles are in the air. Prepare to be vitrefied.


Tried my hand at Texas hold em!
Faaarrrk, I lost!!
the prick got my house, wife and kids!!