It certainly doesn't hurt Alex Perelson's shred cred that he landed his very first 900 during the finals of the 2009 Maloof Money Cup vert contest, where he went on to take the win. Meanwhile, Alex's brother Brandon's skate resume is unquestionably beefed up by the fact that he has helped excavate new transitions (literally) at San Diego's renegade Washington Street skatepark and hosed down concrete trowels at day's end. But these young men must understand that their true rite of passage into the echelons of skateboarding lore transpired seven years ago at -- ironically enough -- the ASR tradeshow in San Diego.
It was then and there that Alex and Brandon, respectively 13 and 12 at the time, each got a free haircut from skate-punk legend Duane Peters at the Vision booth. The tradition dates back to 1979 in the bathroom of Southern California's Big O skatepark, where Peters, now 50 and riding for Pocket Pistols, would tear into young scalps with clippers and razors.
Brandon, who's now 19 and getting boards from Black Label, says Peters gave him "a rad mohawk." Brother Alex, on the other hand, was considerably less stoked with the haircut he received from Peters; a haircut, and accompanying Sharpie-drawn mustache, that made young Alex appear to resemble one of the most despised tyrants of the past century. "I was walking around the tradeshow and people were looking at me funny," Alex recalls. "I didn't know why and I went in the bathroom and looked at myself in the mirror, and then went home and washed off the mustache and cut off the rest of my hair."
By the time the Perelson brothers had been trimmed by Peters, they had already established themselves as local groms at the Mission Valley YMCA skatepark in San Diego's Clairemont neighborhood.
Alex was a mainstay on the vert ramp -- encouraged by vert veterans at least twice his age, namely Darren Navarette, Peter Hewitt, Danny Mayer, Neil Blender, and the stout Australian, Jake Brown. "I really liked the way Jake skated," remembers Alex, who now rides for Real skateboards. "He went really fast and really high and it didn't look like he was trying."
Navarette's influence on the vert prodigy was clear, as well. Young Alex rode a Creature board [Navarette's board sponsor] at the time, and pulled his socks up to his knees [like Navarette is prone to do]. "People used to call him 'Mini-Navs,'" says Navarette. "And now, damn, he's so good. I wish they could call me 'Big Perelson.'"
Around the same time, Brandon could be found in Clairemont's big concrete bowl, feeding his newly acquired addiction to cement roundwall. "I had never really skated a bowl before [Clairemont]," he says. "I started messing around in that thing and really liked it."
While both Perelsons are well-rounded skaters, their preferences for different terrain were clear early on. Brandon started ditching the park to skate Washington Street and scout out empty backyard pools, while Alex was launching into the waning world of competitive vert skating -- which at that point had such a small crew that many in the industry believed the gene pool for the discipline's future had evaporated.
"When Alex got interested in vert skating there were very few kids his age that were doing it," says cardiologist Glenn Perelson, the boys' father. "It was almost as if vert was missing a whole generation. Alex was stepping into a void, and he filled it."Indeed, he did. More than once, Alex has been called the future of vert. But he's more than that, says vert veteran and Fuel TV host Neal Hendrix. "The guy is super progressive, and he has the respect of all the mags and the industry ... and he rides vert."
Adds Remy Stratton, Vice President of Skateboarding for Volcom clothing, another of Alex's major sponsors, "Alex's trick choices within his lines are truly what sets him apart. He puts together poetry and runs it through a distortion pedal for a truly unique effect."
The Perelson brothers don't hesitate to give credit where it's due, explaining that without the support of their parents, they probably wouldn't have gotten this far. Before skating completely took over, Alex and Brandon were playing T-ball, soccer, even breaking boards in karate class with their mom, dad and older sister. Once the skate fix took hold, though, it was all about hitting skateparks. The brothers even rode a few summer sessions at Woodward action sports camp.
"We've been really lucky," says Brandon. "Our family has always been really supportive."
"I've always had the philosophy that you need to enjoy what you're doing," adds Glenn Perelson. "When I saw how strongly they felt about skateboarding and how happy it made them, I thought, that's great! And it didn't seem like an unrealistic dream, so I supported it."
That support has helped produce a pair of high-caliber skateboarders, each thriving in different realms. Brandon's drawn to the concrete canvases and backyard scores common to the feral adventures of the pool-skating tradition. On the other hand, Alex, despite the fact that he can be found skating a vert ramp alone for hours on end, seems destined for mainstream glory.
"People say, 'Oh, Alex is as good as Christian Hosoi, he's as good as Tony Hawk or Steve Caballero,'" says Navarette. "I can't do that with Alex, because I haven't seen anything like him. He's as good as Alex Perelson, just as rad as he can be."