Guns n' Roses have been showing America a lot of love this summer on their "The Not in This Lifetime Tour". They have played 24 shows in 20 different cities across the country and are about to go international with their shows. On numerous occasions Axl Rose has been spotted closing the show in style, wearing his very own Alva t-shirt. Thank you for the support Axl, good luck on your international tour.
From "Damn Daniel" to pro skating, the brand celebrates its 50th Anniversary
A lot can change in 50 years. Since Vans was founded 50 years ago on March 16, 1966, they’ve gone from skateboarding staple to J. Crew collaborators. One thing that hasn’t changed much: the shoes.
The Van Doren Rubber Company, later shortened to just Vans, started about a mile from Disneyland, in Anaheim, Calif., under brothers Paul and James Van Doren and partners Serge D’Elia and Gordon Lee. The first day the store opened, around 16 people came in to purchase shoes. “We did anything we possibly could to try and get a customer,” says Steve Van Doren, son of co-founder Paul Van Doren, who began working for the company at age 10 and retains a Vice President role with Vans, even though the company was acquired by VF Corporation in 2004. “So if someone wore a size 9 on one foot and an 8 on the other, we’d sell them a 9 right and 8 left and wouldn’t charge them extra.” In the beginning, theVans Authentic shoe, which still sells today, retailed as $4.49 for men, and $2.29 for women.
By the early-1970s, Vans had become popular with Santa Monica and Venice-area skaters, like the Z-Boys‘ Tony Alva and Stacy Peralta, due to their durability and thick rubber sole. As Alva explains, skateboarders at the time didn’t use grip tape on their boards, and they noticed that the rubber-soled Vans stuck well to the wood decks. “It’s just a practical product that really works for what we like to do,” Alva says. “They are by far the most functional and best shoes for skateboarding.”
The company responded to their popularity in the skateboard market by introducing a dedicated skate shoe in the mid-1970s—the Era, first known as “Style #95″—and letting boarders like Alva request custom shoes made out of their own custom fabric choices. Skaters were also the source of the iconic checkerboard pattern, which Van Doren introduced after seeing kids drawing on their shoes. In addition to the rubber sole, the Era offered skaters padding and greater protection around the ankles.
In 1982, with the release of Fast Times at Ridgemont High, the popularity of Vans exploded in response to the checkerboard slip-ons worn by Sean Penn’s character, Jeff Spicoli. In the years that followed, the company continued to move beyond the skateboard market and cement its place in pop culture: Since the early 1980s, Vans has hosted the Triple Crown of Surfing in Hawaii, and since 1995 have sponsored the Vans Warped Tourmusic festival.
The latest step in the Vans story is one that nobody could have predicted back in 1966.
In February of 2016, the “Damn, Daniel” viral video, featuring high school student Daniel Lara wearing a pair of white Vans slip-ons, brought the shoe a fresh round of attention—and even got Lara and his friend Josh Holz an appearance on Ellen. His gift from the company in honor of his new? A lifetime supply of Vans, naturally.
Summer into fall. Heat. There is no shade on the sun. I need the sound of rain... We go to Malibu. An ocean breeze does its best to cool things down a bit. Todd Glaser came along to take some photographs of Tony Alva. It was to be a fun session. Angelo, Mike Early, Olivia Castro, Jimmy Wilkins, TA and I were anxious to ride. Fun was on the agenda.
Jimmy Wilkins- double quick 5-0
The afternoon sun never let up and neither did we. Lines were in abundance and more than a little style was evident. TA charged hard, Jimmy Wilkins lit it up, Mike Early pulled airs in every bowl and Angelo went faster than most everyone. It was good.
Mike Early- frontside air
Jimmy Wilkins- backside disaster
The sun dropped slowly. The heat remained. It was a long hot summer. I squinted ino the glare. I thought to myself once again... I need the sound of rain. Thanks to Todd Glaser for the images. Skate- Ozzie
Our perception of things. It can change. Sometimes dramatically. I returned to the place where I lived after being gone for many years. The town was smaller than I recalled. Life was defined by my fading memories. Things were remembered differently. I guess it can be a matter of the importance attached to such things. Something super special might manifest much more magnificently in one's memory. Strange. I was going through the William Sharp archive and I came across an image of Tony Alva from the Canton pool.
William Sharp's - TA and Craig Stecyk photograph - Canton pool
I was reminded of the Tony Alva interview in Skateboarder Magazine of February 1977. Craig Stecyk had photographed TA in the Canton pool. In the William Sharp photograph, I can see Craig Stecyk looking through the viewfinder of his camera on the deck. He's taking a photograph of TA balancing at the top of Canton's side wall. I remembered the Stecyk shot from the Skateboarder interview and put the two things together. I had stumbled across something pretty cool. William Sharp had shot a photograph of Craig Stecyk shooting a photograph of Tony Alva during the Canton pool session for TA's first Skateboarder interview in 1977. Epic. I looked around and found the Stecyk shot. I compared them. Both shots were taken at almost the exact same moment.
Craig Stecyk's TA Skateboarder interview photograph
I decided to check with those involved. Kent Senatore had found the Canton pool. It was right near his dad's house. He said, "Canton was the first permission pool I ever had and it was the first pool where I went over the light and eventually would get one wheelers." Kent said that on the day these photographs were taken, he saw TA doing 'forevers' in Canton pool. He went the next day and learned back-to-back frontside and backside kickturns. I asked William Sharp about the photograph. He said that TA showed up with a photographer who was introduced as, "...this is so and so." The photographer was quiet and shot photographs of Tony and afterward they left.
When TA's Skateboarder interview came out, the Sharp brothers realized that the photographer was Craig Stecyk. They had not previously met him so they didn't know what he looked like! When asked, Craig Stecyk told me, "I think I gave the Sharp brothers a roll of film that day. Being drunk enough then, I cannot remember now." William Sharp stated that he didn't recall getting any film from Stecyk. He didn't really even speak to them. Memories. All in all, it is extraordinary. The photographs are historical. A slice of life... now gone. Yet they can live on in our collective memory. We have the fragmented stories of those involved. Pool sessions blending together. Hot summer days melting into the next. Decades drifting by... Thank you to William Sharp, Craig Stecyk and Kent Senatore for their recollections. Skate- Ozzie
The freeway was a blur of chrome and metal. Rushing. Frenetic movement. Everyone hurtling to nowhere. Tony Alva and I nimbly moved through traffic. We were going to skate a pool. As reggae music washed over us, I idly wondered just how many times in his life, TA has been in exactly the same situation. California, good music, sun-splashed days, a car loaded with skateboards... probably quite a few I surmised. TA has been a skateboarding icon for decades. For many people, TA and skateboarding are one in the same. It is just as true that when one thinks of pool skating and surf style, Tony Alva's name must be right there at the pinnacle of the list. It's a symbiotic relationship. We simply cannot have one without the other. They directly flow... TA started skating in Los Angeles when the surf was flat. It was a way for him and his friends to have fun. They emulated surfing. Berts, laybacks, surf style. TA admonished - "Style was everything. Tuck low, speed carve, cut back. If you didn't skate with style, why do it?!" With his long fingers resting on the steering wheel, a dreadlocked TA kept up a fascinating dialogue on his surfing roots, his early influences and where he comes from. "I was surfing as often as I could. When I wasn't in the water, I was skating. We were riding the banked school yards... Kenter, Revere and others. Around this time, we also started riding pools. There was a drought going on and this led to many pools being emptied. We would hop fences and walls. We were little urban guerrillas. We rode pools all over LA, Beverly Hills, the San Fernando Valley and even down into San Diego." I briefly showed TA a Warren Bolster image from 1976 or so. I asked him if it was the Soul Bowl over by the college campus in San Diego. "Oh yeah... Look at that. I haven't seen photographs of that pool in a long time" TA quickly glanced away from the image and then banked the car onto an off ramp. Trash carpeted the filthy sidewalk. Bums cluttered the underpass begging for coins. Dirty. Disheveled. TA mumbled something about being grateful. I nodded in agreement as we moved through traffic to a better part of town. We pulled in at a Japanese restaurant and went inside. Taking a seat, we soon ordered and then started looking at the Soul Bowl images.
TA was chuckling under his breath. "Look at the gear! I'm wearing one Vans shoe and one Makaha shoe. This was when I was on Logan Earth Ski. Torger Johnson was a huge influence on my skating and through Torger, I met Bunker Spreckles. Bunker was the step son to Clark Gable. Bunker was wealthy, surfed, traveled the world and lived larger than life. He really knew how to roll! Anyway, our crew would ride pools all over. We would go down south from LA, we'd surf and then ride local spots." TA pointed at an image of himself balanced precariously on the tiles of the Soul Bowl. A huge green palm tree stands in the background. The blue sky is like a dream. He continued - "Look at the transitions. The Soul Bowl was really good. It had a big fence around it but we just snuck in there and skated. I don't recall ever being hassled there. It was pretty mellow. Back then, we were hitting the lip. Tiles, edgers and carving." I asked TA about Logan Earth Ski and his sponsorship and contests. The waitress brought us our food and left us alone again.
TA spoke of his early days surfing in Venice. He talked about early skate sessions in the streets. TA moved his plate around and with a flourish of his chopsticks continued- "Well, like I told you, we would come down south. We rode La Costa, bombing hills, slaloming, riding banks and pools... anything. After the Z- boys split up, I started riding for Logan. I was heavily influenced by Torger and he rode for them so it was a natural progression that I went over to Logan Earth Ski. Besides that, Brad Logan - -the youngest of the brothers--was a friend so... I think I was 17 years old at the time. Being on Logan gave me direct exposure in the magazines as well. In 1976, the Hang Ten Championships were held at the Carlsbad Skate Park. The contest had downhill, slalom and other events. It was pretty crazy. I had been learning a great deal of freestyle moves, headstands, high jump and things. I think that these skills really helped me get competitively to another level. I won the Overall World Champion title at the contest that year. I ended up beating the heavily influential Logan brothers and Torger Johnson. Skating was really tight back then. There were only something like one hundred pros. We knew who was who!" I listened attentively then motioned for the waitress and ordered more sashimi. I watched her saunter away. Tony smiled. I asked him who he thought was really good from back then. "Oh... that's pretty easy. Jay Adams, Torger Johnson, Henry Hester, Bob Skolberg, Bobby Piercy, Stacy Peralta, Ty Page, Bruce Logan, Brian Beardsley, Chris Chaput, Mike Weed, Dennis Martinez, Doug Pineapple Saladino... You have to understand something. There were good skaters from all over California. Just remember, whatever they could do, we did better. It was how it was." I looked up from my sushi. His voice was impassioned. TA had stated this in all seriousness. It seemed an egotistical statement but given the subsequent impact TA and his friends had on the skateboarding world, I didn't feel the comment went without merit. Factual. History. Believe it. TA took a sip of green tea as the pretty waitress stopped to check on us. I sat back and stretched. A flute echoed hauntingly from a recessed speaker system as I questioned him about Gonzales pool and the Dog Bowl.
"The Dog Bowl was a pretty unique place. It didn't receive its name because of Dogtown but because the owners had all these dogs that would run around the lip of the pool while we skated." I laughed. I had heard the story before. It was ancient skateboarding lore. Myth. Legend. TA went on - "Basically the story goes like this. Paul Constantineau and a friend had heard about the pool. The house was on a huge estate in LA. The son --Dino-- was this really young guy who was dying of cancer. His parents were cool. They wanted him to have a good exit and all. They pretty much just let Dino do what he wanted. Well, Paul and his friend went over and checked out the pool. Dino was like - "Sure, go ahead and drain it." We did and that is how the Dog Bowl came about. It was the summer of 1977. The pool was huge! Dog Bowl was our sanctuary. We would bring our girl friends, smoke weed and skate. It was perfect. Dino would sit there in his wheelchair and smoke out with us all. He would watch and be happy."
"Dog Bowl was the very first pool where we learned lines and shallow end skating. It was the first place that I did airs. We were hitting the lip. I kept generating so much speed frontside that I was continually pitched out of the top and off of the coping. I thought that maybe I could make it. The next run, I tucked my knees up and floated. It happened. History. I didn't hang up and I rolled away." TA sat back and took a sip of water. He looked outside and repositioned himself in his seat. I digested what he had told me. It must have been an awesome experience to be a part of. Boundaries shattered. TA saw me in thought. He added - "Skating was basically in its infant stage. We were behind wrought iron gates riding. No one knew. Unless Craig Stecyk or Glen E. Friedman documented it, we just did what we did. We were kids. There was no sport really. There was no future... we didn't think that way. What we were doing really didn't exist until we did it. I recall the Gonzales pool in the same way. It was actually better for us. It was a real secret. Even more so than the Dog Bowl. It was very private and it was ours. We could ride there and take what we learned at the Dog Bowl and apply it. Progression."
I recalled the Glen E. Friedman images. Skateboarder and Skateboard World magazines. They were in my blood. A part of the collective psyche. Those photographs were burned into our brains. We saw and we wanted it all. TA and the others could not know that what they were doing in a random back yard, would send a signal throughout the world. It was a flag. Anarchy. We followed. Pretty soon the accolades poured in. Life became bigger. Money, fame and its ever-present shadow -- decadence-- insinuated themselves into their lives. They were young street kids thrown into a world of increasing attention, wealth and popularity. TA reveled in it. I asked him if he ever really believed in the hype surrounding himself. TA moved his hair away from his face with the back of his hand and sighed. Pensive. He didn't answer. Silence. I sat and said nothing. TA murmured thoughtfully - "People hated me. Once I was World Champion, it really started. It was like - "Put up or shut up!" I won it all. My ego grew. Wherever I went, I rode as hard as I could. I let my skating do the talking for me. Having an ego is one thing but I could back it up. Our crew was like that. We could back it up with our skating." As we left the restaurant and headed to the pool to skate, TA told me that those times were crazy. It would've been difficult for any young man under 20 years old to become a World Champion, have all the fame, money and women thrown at him and go through it all unscathed. Everywhere that TA went, he shined like the sun on the water. On a skateboard, he was better than everyone and the attention was incredible. Status. Fame. Ego. It was a virtual certainty.
Marina Image: Friedman
When stars explode in the galaxy it is called a Supernova. A massive torrent of energy is released. Within the laws of physics, some stars grow old in predictable ways. They become dense balls of carbon and oxygen. They are hot... but not hot enough to fuse the carbon and oxygen. Hence - no Supernova. Tony Alva? He was a star that became a Supernova. He won contests, broke new ground and ruled everywhere he skated. He went from Z-Flex to Logan Earth Ski and then rode hand-drawn Wes Bulldog Humpston boards. TA was a white-hot commodity. Finally, with his star hanging high above the horizon, TA started his own board company: Alva Skates. It dominated. Board sales blew through the warehouse supplies and TA was on the road continuously supporting his company and skateboarding. TA unleashed a 'massive torrent of energy'. He had exploded onto the skateboarding scene. He was the original skateboarding - "Rock Star". He had learned well. The heir to the Spreckles Sugar Company fortune - Bunker Spreckles - had taught TA the art of rolling in the big leagues.
"Bunker was almost like my Sensei."
While living in Hawaii on the North Shore for a time, TA had traveled and partied with Bunker. They lived the high life. Tony spoke to me of that time. His voice was tinged with regret and sadness. - "Bunker became my mentor. He was almost like my Sensei. But, he had too much money and with that comes all sorts of problems. Too many good drugs. Sniffing, smoking then... It was the times. The beginning of the end. When you have fifty million in the bank and are 27 years old and in the grave... what good is your money!?" TA looked out at the traffic as he drove and his sunglasses couldn't hide his disappointment. We've all witnessed people go down those tracks. Seeing friends die is difficult. Watching the train derail is a whole other mess in itself... Could we have done something? What if...? Questions. Remorse. Guilt. TA- "You know something? I'd rather hold onto what is dear in life. So many people burn bright and then they are gone. I've seen a few go that route. I miss people to this day. Bunker was a great guy and he taught me things that I can still apply to my life today."
Bronson Canyon - Los Angeles
We drove through Los Angeles. Chrome and glass buildings rose like monoliths against the dirty sunlight. Neon signs and billboards continuously tried to sell the same tired things. People jostled for position on the tangled overpasses. I looked out over a run down neighborhood and watched for pools. I saw drug dealers and the face of fear. Gang signs. Division. Violence percolated just beneath the surface. TA drove and we remained thoughtful. For what seemed like the millionth time, we pondered how a city could chew up so many lives. Coming up into Malibu, I asked him about the 1980's after skateboarding effectively died as an industry. What happened with Alva Skates? Did he regroup, invest his money, and move on? I knew some of the answers but I was looking for the story behind the story. TA gave me that look. It said- "Come on bro... you know what happened." TA changed lanes and smirked at me. "Well, I started up the Alva Posse and we had a good run in the mid to late 1980's. The team was strong and we really had some gnarly skaters. The industry changed drastically in the early 1990's. Street became king and pool skating died. Only the most hardcore guys really kept at it. Many of the vert and pool guys couldn't handle the change. Others quit. Others went down that dark set of train tracks and... you know? They fought their demons. Sometimes the demons won." TA named names. He spoke of furtive gatherings and drug-fueled excess. Rivers of booze. Demoralization. TA looked over at me. I nodded. I understood. TA has dealt with his own demons as have I. We understand each other. "These days I need to stay out of the pollution and in the solution."- he added with a smile.
In the 1990's, TA watched skateboarding change, The world he knew previously was gone. The attention, autograph-seekers, photographers, sponsors and media exposure dwindled quickly. He found himself surfing, skating and selling skateboards out of a small shop in Oceanside. Storm clouds gathered. It became a gritty existence. Hangers-on, leeches and parasitical people made themselves his closest companions. They were attracted to his name and legacy. They facilitated and enabled his debauchery. TA lost sight of what was real. TA lost sight of TA. He couldn't escape the very thing that held him down: himself. In 2000, Stacy Peralta started a new project, The Z-Boys Documentary. TA cleaned up a bit and helped make the project the success it was. He fought regularly with himself. He realized that he suffered from a spiritual malady. Eventually, TA asked for help and received it. He became sober and spiritual. Things had been dark for far too long.
North Malibu. We climbed up a winding lane with the sun at our backs. Red and purple Bougainvillea grew in massive mounds of flowers and spiny vines. Huge houses were scattered sparsely over the hillside. In this place, land runs at a premium. People pay for their privacy. One won't be living on top of others in north Malibu. We pulled up at the location. The stone house perched on a bluff. Heavy trees screened the home from the tiny lane. Black wrought iron fences quietly said - "Invitation Only". Lance Mountain met us there. We went poolside and stretched out. We skated. The owner --Angelo --was home and he rode with us. His pool is a clover bowl. It is nestled in the backyard overlooking the deep green sea. When I saw the pool and the view for the first time, my blood thrummed in my veins. The perfect transitions of the clover, make it feel as if we are floating. It was idyllic. I watched TA, Lance and Angelo cruise and grind through the pool. I heard their laughter. I smelled orange trees and squinted into the sun. A day of days.
A sea-gull floated on the wind and hung there... like a perfect moment. The wind brought its cry as it dipped and was lost again among the wet rocks. TA watched the surf as the waves rolled in and licked the sands. He has come full circle. His silhouette was dark, his dreadlocks hung shaggy in the breeze. He looked like a statue ; frozen in an unknown thought. Momentarily I thought of the Tony Alva that I once knew. I remembered his ego, partying, his raw edge and anger. I was happy that he had found the real Tony Alva. Gone was the contentious 'rock star'. Turning, he came towards the pools edge and stretched. Glancing left, then right, he rolled in with surf style and sober grace. Timeless lines. Masterful and fluid. Our cultural icon. Thank you to MRZ, Glen E. Friedman, Warren Bolster R.I.P. and Wynn Miller for the images. This originally was written for the Skateboarder's Journal and I thought it needed to be reprinted and read. Skate- Ozzie
We had a great time here last weekend at the Danforth Release party. Thank you to all who came out to help us celebrate. And a special thanks to Bill Danforth, we are stoked to have this opportunity to work directly with him on these decks.
There they are, the full model Limited Edition Danforth Circle of Skulls Re-Issues, in all their glory. We can't stop staring at them, and no one's blaming you if you can't either. So here's the info, we are posting the Circle of Skulls full model (above) & Mini model available for pre-order here on our site Thursday November 13th and shipping will begin that following Monday. The official release date is going to be Saturday November 15th. That day we are celebrating our new location alongside G&S and Sk8Supply.com with a Skater Trader Show / Danforth Release. It's guaranteed to be a goodtime with Bill Danforth & TA in attendance. If you are in or near San Diego come on by our shop from 11a - 6p, help us celebrate, and be one of the first and one of the few to get your hands on a Limited Edition Danforth.
We are so close... just weeks away from releasing the Bill Danforth Limited Edition Re-Issue decks - Circle of Skulls full and mini models. We have been working with Bill on this project for a while now, and we are stoked and ready to get these decks into your hands. With only 100 of each model, we can't guarantee they will be available forever. Each deck will be signed by both Bill Danforth & Tony Alva and they will all be numbered 1/100, 2/100, 3/100... and so on. But we aren't going to give all the info away at once. Keep checking back for official release date and more information...