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Sidewalk Surfing - by Mike Purpus
Skateboards were developed in the 1950’s by California surfers as a way to recreate the feeling of riding a wave. The first boards were wooden planks with steel roller skate wheels nailed to their front and back ends. Roller Derby mass-produced the first skateboards in 1959. Completely lacking features which nowadays are common for skateboards, the Roller Derby had no concave, kicktail, or grip tape -steel wheels offered little to no traction. In 1963 Venice Beach lifeguard Larry Stevenson founded Makaha. He made skateboards by hand in his garage in Santa Monica and developed the first skateboard with all pro components called the “SURF SKATE”. Makaha boards introduced two revolutionary components – clay wheels, and Chicago trucks (the first double-action, adjustable truck). They were ordered through the mail for $10.95 - shipping included. Top surfers rode Makaha skateboards, including: Mike Hynson, Phil Edwards, John Peck, Mike Doyle, Dave Rochlen Jr., Mike Purpus and L.J. Richards.
The “First Skateboard Contest” was sponsored by Makaha, and held in 1963 at the Pier Avenue Junior High School in Hermosa Beach (outside the present Museum) - about 100 people showed up. Larry also put together the first skateboard exhibition team in 1963 with Westside and South Bay skateboarders, including Bruce “Earth Ski” Logan of Hermosa Beach, “I was skateboarding on the strand, right in front of the Redondo Breakwater when the Makaha team pulled up in a Chevrolet Nomad station wagon. The whole team piled out of the station wagon, and they all started skating.
Makaha manager Jimmy Ganzer came up to me and asked if I wanted to be on the team. We already had a team called the South Bay Skateboard Club, sponsored by Bing Surfboards. My brother had started it, and it was about as good as the Makaha team, but Makaha had a lot more to offer - travel, demos, department store appearances. They were the first to get skateboards into the big department stores. We were on TV probably half a dozen times.” A second generation Makaha team still included Bruce, along with other Hermosa Beach locals including Ty “Mr. Incredible” “Ty Stix” Page, and Mike Purpus (Hermosa Beach Surfers Walk of Fame). This team promoted the invention that changed skateboarding forever - the kicktail & double kicktail board. In 1965, the first National
Skateboard Championship was aired on ABC’s “Wide World of Sports”, and Skateboarding got on the cover of Life magazine. Skateboarding became very popular, and companies were fighting to keep up with demand. Over fifty million skateboards were sold within a three-year period.
Unfortunately, since no one wore safety equipment, just as the sports momentum began to build, injuries forced the sales momentum to a halt. Skateboarding “is not a crime”, but was declared unsafe, and outlawed in many areas. Some boards were shelved, and didn’t reappear until equipment improved. Some people still rode, even though parts were hard to find and boards were home made.
A soft urethane wheel developed by Frank Nasworthy in 1972, and manufactured by Cadillac in 1973, revolutionized the sport. These wheels provided much better speed, traction and maneuvering – no longer did skateboarders have to worry about small pebbles and cracks flinging them face first off their boards. Tricks evolved, empty concrete swimming pools became popular skate parks, and safety gear began to be worn – gloves, knee/elbow pads and helmets. In 1975, Road Rider made faster boards with sealed bearings packed in grease – no more adjusting & oiling ball bearings. In 1976, Kryptonics created the resilient wheel. In 1977, more than 30 companies were producing skateboards with wider “trucks” - the part that holds the wheels with better steering mechanisms.
In the late ‘70s, cities began building skate parks to keep kids off the streets and sidewalks. Surf shops became surf and skateboard shops. Unity Surf Shop at 422 Pacific Coast Highway in Hermosa Beach made the first skateboard push by sponsoring Ty Page and putting out a popular, wooden kick-tail skateboard called the Ty Stix. Eddie Talbot fired back with his own ET Ripstix - a wooden, kick-tail skateboard designed by Kevin Anderson. He has been with ET since the first day he opened the doors of ET Surf Shop. Anderson became the best vertical skateboarder in the South Bay. See and hear more about how Hermosa Beach “Skateboards Rule” at the Hermosa Beach Museum “Sidewalk Surfing” event.
The Bun Board - Interview with Don Guild by Mark Shoemaker
I have watched with fascination the beginning, and growth, of the skateboarding sport. Living my whole life (80 years) in Hermosa, I had a lot of personal experience with skateboards. Beginning with the old skates we attached to a 2
by 4 and nailed to a wooden box, all the way up to selling what I believe was the first commercial skateboard in the USA - right here in Hermosa, at Guild Drug, on the northeast corner of Pier and Hermosa Avenue. Here is what happened:
In 1957 a retired gentleman by the name of Alf Jensen approached me at the Guild Drug store and under his arm he was carrying a red board with skate trucks attached to it. It was very well finished and painted. On the top surface of the board he had professionally silk-screened the words "Bun-Board". It looked super, but I turned him down when he wanted to sell me 6 of them for $2 each - I knew that they would not retail for $2.88, so I passed. He was back 2 more times and said that a couple of kids had bought them from him and liked them. On his third return trip he said he would leave 6 of them, and I could pay him if they sold. "OK" was my answer, he went back to his garage on 15th street and in 20 minutes I had 6 shiny red skate boards sitting on a counter for sale. Well, a couple sold the first day and by the end of the week they were all gone.
Jensen then brought me 12 and they sold out fast too. Pretty soon I had kids calling from Torrance, Hawthorne, Inglewood, and other towns. Alf brought in a few of his cronies to help him, as he was a retired person, and the group of old ducks churned out as many a week as they could, but he was never able to supply all the orders on my "WANT LIST". Jensen was not suited to handle the pressure and it drove him nuts. After about 3 months of no sleep and numerous anxiety attacks, he sold the business to a fellow in North Redondo.
So, why the name "Bun Board"? At that time, next to the Bank of America on Pier Avenue was a Bakery where they used a hickory board for baking their buns. The boards became a bit charred after many firings and Alf fished them out of the trash weekly, and gave them a new life. That is it, and I sure wish I had saved a couple. Many thanks to Don Guild of Hermosa Beach for this article.
Pictured is a Bun-Board “Small piece of wood with roller skates nailed to the bottom of it. Used for coasting down hills…”. T-shirt design is by Rick Griffin who was born near Palos Verdes
amidst the surfing culture of southern California. After attending high school, he worked on the staff of Surfer magazine where he created his comic strip about a surfer named "Murphy". He became one of the leading designers of psychedelic posters in the 1960s.