This is one of the first spots I found after moving to Austin two months ago. It's a wall ride setup downtown that was used for a Trend Bike Source street contest in the spring of 1990. And it was featured in the August 1990 issue of Go: The Rider's Manual. I pretty much drooled over the original photo (shot by Spike Jonze) for the remainder of the year. I wanted the bike (a Bully ll) even though I knew I would break it, and I tried unsuccessfully to do one-handed tailwhip foot plants for years afterward. (As soon as I took my hand off though, the bike spun out of control.) But for Vic Murphy, of course it was no problem. And of course he made it look stylish without forcing it. I shot the more recent photo on a recent Sunday afternoon ride through town. It was cold, grey and windy, but the parking lot location was bustling with people and cars. It made me wonder, how the hell did Trend manage to pull off a street contest in downtown Austin? But I already know the answer — it's that a lot has changed in 25 years.
By now, in case you haven't been paying attention, I spent a lot of last year riding at a location that I held sacred as a teenager: The Spot in Redondo Beach. For the most part, The Spot was inhabited by the editorial crew of Freestylin' Magazine, Craig Grasso, Pete Augustin, R.L. Osborn, Chris Day and any number of BMX riders that lived in the South Bay area in the mid to late '80s. Kevin Jones was not one of those people. He lived (still lives?) in York, Pennsylvania, and essentially defined and then redefined the flatland discipline by creating most of today's rolling and scuffing tricks, and then documenting them in one of the first homegrown, rider-created BMX video series, 'Dorkin' In York.' Because of this, early interest in him generated sponsorships from Skyway and then GT. Skyway came first, and for some reason, Kevin Jones ended up at The Spot (most likely pushed by his sponsor to get magazine coverage), doing a how-to for Super BMX and Freestyle sometime in 1987, pretty much right at the exact location where I did a bunch of Kevin Jones tricks over the past year (right). What's interesting here is that he has no cranks on his bike, and he's rocking the full factory Skyway uniform. Aside from his eternal influence on me as a flatland rider, I learned at an early age that Kevin Jones wasn't going to let himself be boxed in by sponsors. He did what he wanted to do with his riding and life, and rarely if ever allowed himself to become a commodity or sales platform. Hell, he probably got in trouble with Skyway for riding without cranks on his bike, shook his head and laughed it off. (Waits for Brett Downs @bdc4130 to chime in with the actual story…)
I'm in Austin, it's a Thursday night and I was wandering aimlessly around the University of Texas campus when I stumbled onto the fabled red rail. I guess my first interaction with this mellow rail was when the Gute grinded it for his final trick in the Homeless 'Trash' video in 1993. My 19-year-old brain thought I was watching some kind of optical illusion at the time and I could not comprehend how someone could actually hop so high or balance for so long in a grind. But that revolution was happening before my eyes because of the scene in Austin at the time. I tried taking a screen shot of the Gute's grind, but then I remembered the photo on the top from @sandycarson. It's @rubenalcantara grinding the red rail on a Huffy in Jnco shoes, with @davemirra and @ryannyquist waiting for a turn at the top. Basically, this rail has helped pioneer a lot of progressive riding in its heyday (Paul Buchanan still owns it: feeble to crankarm in a T-1 commercial) and it's awesome that it's still around (albeit mostly unrideable). So I got off my bike, walked to the top of the rail, shot a quick photo, and thought to myself that at the time, the Gute knew no boundaries.
(I realize the photo says “1986.” I need to fix that…)
It's been a bit of a whirlwind week, thanks in part to eBay. I did not win the Standard Shorty frame, but I did win 12 issues of Freestylin' Magazine in pretty good condition from the height of its popularity, approximately 1986 through early 1988, and I 'only' paid $150 for them. I know that's a lot to spend on magazines that originally went for $2.50, but I had to right a wrong perpetrated by my father's second wife (who threw out all of my BMX magazines). I don't blame her, but I did have plans to hold onto those damn things. They arrived today, and the first page I opened up to was basically my white whale — the Frank Garrido gap above the International Pier in Redondo. I've visited it multiple times (and took photos of it multiple times) and it's still pretty crazy to jump (even with bikes that can withstand abuse). Despite knowing the gap was there, I could not for the life of me find the magazine or anyone that remembered the gap. Part of my gamble in this eBay bid was proving to myself that I wasn't crazy and that this sequence did actually exist, and I'm happy to say that I'm not crazy. At least not nearly as crazy as Frank Garrido in the September 1987 issue of Freestylin' Magazine, as shot by Windy Osborn.
January 3, 2015 was my last visit to the Torrance office park where Wizard Publications existed during the mid to late '80s. It's on a street called Kashiwa, now home to a small brewery named Strand Brewing Co., and pretty desolate on the weekends. I imagine that during their tenure on the street, Wizard Publications were the outcasts, with ramps in the parking lot and all types of riding happening in and around the building. Here, R.L. Osborn poses during a cherrypicker for the lens of sister Windy Osborn (on the left), from a bike test for a race bike, the 1985 GT Pro Series, and the same location as iPhoned by me on a weekend day in early January from the same location. Basically, I drove to Torrance on a Saturday morning to take a photo of a bland garage door for the sake of Instagram. But it is cool to see R.L. Osborn not riding a Redline, General or Bully. I am a nerd, I know.
My only connection to Lomita, California before living in the South Bay came courtesy of an All song written in 1988 about a Mexican restaurant in Lomita named Alfredo's. The lyrics read 'At Alfredo's, in Lomita…' and paid homage to their favorite restaurant to eat at when the band was not practicing. Then I moved to Redondo and slowly began to head south on PCH and explore the weirdness that is Lomita. On one of those bike rides, I came to realize that Mike Buff and the BMX Action Trick Team did demos on almost every corner in Lomita, including at this motorcycle tire repair shop on Western Ave. in Lomita. On the day I shot this photo in late December, the tire repair shop was open and I ended up talking to the repair man on duty about the BMX demo that had happened thirty years earlier. I even had the original Mike Buff photo to show him. He thought it was weird that the logo of the business had not changed in all that time, then doubled back, shook his head and said 'things don't change around here.' Later in the day, I found Alfredo's. It's still there too.
I always hate Venice Beach cause of the people that try to sell my mix tape CDs. 'No, I don't care about your rap music,' never went over well with that lot. And the parking situation, it was not a good time. But I knew my history enough to know that it was more than just home to Hank Moody on Californication. On the Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend, amid a head cold and a light rain, myself and @robinfenlon decided to take a drive up to Venice and walk around. Because of the holiday and the rain, no one tried to sell us mix tape CDs and parking was a breeze. And then I remembered this infamous shot of Ron Wilkerson at a 1985 AFA comp right on the beach. What can I say about Ron Wilkerson that hasn't been said already? His status is beyond legendary in BMX, and his 2-Hip King of Vert and Meet The Street comps created movements within the sport that are still being replicated today. He also had a gyro with only the bottom cable attached on a pink 2-Hip Pork complete bike last time I saw him. And then there's that unprinted book written by him about himself and his Haro teammates on the road in the late '80s. Okay, I can say about Wilkerson…
When I first moved to Redondo Beach, I would ride at night at the train station in North Redondo. One night while I was riding there, a Hawthorne police officer stopped in his car to watch me. He eventually came up and started talking to me, and mentioned that on the other side of the tracks, there was another parking lot where an older skateboarder 'that owned some skate companies' would practice the same type of tricks on the flat ground at night. The officer said this skater was famous but very shy, and that he skated for hours by himself at night. I decided to see who he was talking about one night, and lo and behold, I discovered Rodney Mullen skating by himself in a random parking lot not far from my riding spot. I decided not to bother him. Here, Rodney Mullen finger flip ollies above the International Boardwalk in Redondo Beach, as seen on the cover of the December 1986 issue of Freestylin' (shot by Windy), and the same location this past December at the same location, as seen by me.
Before 'street riding' was a real thing measured in YouTube views and steered by Internet bullies creating rules, it was just people riding around on BMX bikes, trying to adapt their skills to the terrains of the surrounding environment. I know that all things change and that street riding has become more of a commodity than anything these days, but I like to think that, to this day, there are pockets of people that just ride around looking for new stuff to ride so that they can have fun with their friends and open their minds to new possibilities. Once upon a time, Pete Kearney @peekay981 was a full-time college student living in Hermosa Beach and riding for General Bicycles, Hammer and Vision Street Wear. He was an awesome flatland rider, but because of his location and the riders he lived with, he expanded into riding the terrain surrounding him, including this much worn-in bank to chunk thingy in the Riviera Village area of Redondo Beach. Abubaca in 1988 on the left shot by Spike Jonze, and last weekend on the right shot by me and my non Spike Jonze creating iPhone aesthetic.