New Jersey Legends
It's arguable that the great state of New Jersey has contributed more to skateboarding than any other state (outside of California.) With the Street League Skateboarding Super Crown Championship's triumphant return to Newark, N.J., a few weeks ago, we thought now would be a good time to remind the world of some of the legends the Garden State has produced over the years.
Once know as "The Hot Shoe, Glue Foot," Mike Vallely is the first and last name you should know when mentioning New Jersey skate legends. In 1988, Vallely pioneered street skating in Powell Peralta's "Public Domain" video, while 25 years later his Berrics "Bangin'" video proved he's the only street skater from the '80s still ripping at such a high level. Vallely embodies the hard-working, blue-collar, no B.S. attitude that is synonymous with New Jersey -- and his company Elephant Skateboards is a huge source of pride for Jerseyans.
The newest and gnarliest addition to the Jersey pro ranks, Real Skateboards' Ishod Wair is the definition of skate rat. Real team managers John Alden and Darin Howard have told tales of physically lifting Wair off his board to get him to stop skating demos and get in the van. Over the last few years, Wair has made a big name for himself by winning the Maloof Money Cup in South Africa, and being the only Jersey skater invited to compete at Street League. He is the future of New Jersey skateboarding.
Poolside Skateboards' Tom Groholski has been riding a skateboard since before many XGames.com readers were born. Decades have passed since he originally went pro for Vision Skateboards, but his style and tricks are as timeless as they were in the '80s. While most vert skaters of that decade were skying high above the coping, Groholski skated the lip of the vert ramp much the same way that kids skate ledges today. And if you enjoy doing Hurricanes on a mini ramp/ledge/Hubba, then you have Groholski to thank for it. For a history lesson on "The Jersey Devil," as he was known, check out Jeff Grosso's Love Letters to Tom.
Perhaps the most beloved skateboarder from New Jersey, Fred Gall has weathered the storm, partied hard, slammed even harder, survived the trends of the last two decades. Today, he still carves out his niche with raw, unapologetic skateboarding. Watch out Chris Christie, there's a new Governor of New Jersey -- Fred Gall!
Born on the Jersey shore, Zoo York pro Ron Deily has arguably the best style in the history of skateboarding. Growing up as a beach bum, Deily has more of a laid back surf style than a windmill-armed, lead foot, typical of most skaters that perform the ole flip-in, flip-out ledge dance. Watched Deily's recent Venture part on Thrasher.com and you'll realize he might be one of the most talented Jersey Boys ever.
The only word that can describe Organika Skateboards' pro Quim Cardona is style. When Cardona emerged on the scene in the '90s with Real Skateboards, he had a completely different approach than anyone before him. Cardona made the most basic trick, the ollie, look like a work of art by launching forward in what looked like a karate kick, and boning out his lower body with his legs perpendicular to his torso. To this day it's hard to think of anything more beautiful than Cardona's Thrasher cover in November, 1995.
Tim O'Connor is hands down one of the most hilarious and charismatic people to ever step on a skateboard. O'Connor has exuded blunt and edgy New Jersey honesty throughout his career and each time he's MC'd a contest. O'Connor's video parts in "Eastern Exposure" and various releases from Element have become classics, making him a welcome addition to the Jersey Dirty Dozen.
Whereas Brian Wenning was on the low-impact, finesse side of the coin, Cliché Skateboards' Pete Eldridge showed the world just how big and burly the other side was. Handrails that many struggled to get on, Eldridge annihilated switch (his switch 50-50 down a 16 stair rail on the June 2006 cover of Slap Magazine instantly comes to mind.) Eldridge will go down in the skateboarding hall of fame as a game-changer for New Jersey.
Lock Down Skateboards' Brian Wenning is nowhere near where he was physically or talent-wise 10 years ago, when his video part in the DC Video knocked the socks off the skate world. But it would be unfair to ignore how revolutionary of a technical street skater he was at the turn of the century. Salman Agah might be credited with being the Godfather of switch-stance skating, but for his brief stint in the limelight, no one pushed the limits of switch skating like Wenning.
Perhaps Traffic Skateboards' Bobby Puleo's absurd views on others skating "his" spots in New York are laughable, but they should not taint the legacy he has created for himself. At the very least, when skating "his" spots, skaters should leave some change in a tin cup for ole Puleo as thanks. Because without him, they might not have looked at cellar doors and loading docks quite the same way.
Primarily regarded as a Philadelphia guy, Ricky Oyola was the de facto face of the '90s East Coast skate scene. Oyola championed big boards and fast wheels while the rest of the world were riding toothpicks and bearing covers. Make no mistake, Traffic Skateboards owner and ripper Ricky Oyola is a south Jersey native and, like Vallely, one of the baddest dudes to ever step on a board. Oyola was also known as an outspoken and blunt voice in skating, something that is tragically being lost as skateboarding grows in global popularity.
Rodney Smith is considered by most the Godfather of East Coast skateboarding. Shut Skateboards, founded by Smith in 1986, became the pivotal board company that moved the marker away from the surf vibe of California to the urban, street-savvy attitude reflecting the environment and ethos of the East Coast. Shut proved that skateboarding survived and thrived outside of California and the company helped introduce the world to some of its greatest skateboarders: Sean Sheffey, Barker Barrett, Mike Kepper, Coco Santiago, Felix Arguelles, Jeff Pang, Rick Ibaseta and more. And if that wasn't enough, Smith also founded the iconic NYC brand Zoo York. Skateboarding is forever indebted to Rodney Smith.
Chris "Dune" Pastras
Growing up with a mentor like Rodney Smith, Chris 'Dune' Pastras was destined for greatness. Pastras, along with '90s skater turned actor, Jason Lee, founded Stereo Skateboards in 1992, creating one of the most revered and copied skateboard companies of all time. Stereo's use of jazz imagery, mixed with Pastras' unique artwork and super-8 skate footage made Stereo stand out among the rest. Pastras and Stereo remain a beacon for those who choose the road less traveled.
Steve Rodriguez & Mark Nardelli
Sayreville, N.J.'s Steve Rodriguez has solidified himself in New York City lore with his hard-working, blue-collar brand, 5Boro. Since its humble beginnings in 1996, Rodriguez and his partner, New Jersey ripper Mark Nardelli, have literally changed the face of skateboarding in NYC. Rodriguez and Nardelli have spent countless hours aiding the city in building skateparks, fundraising and hosting events in all the boroughs. 5Boro has given N.Y. kids a home-grown sense of worth with an accessible brand for the skaters and by the skaters -- from New Jersey.