Skateboard Nostalgia Dominates ‘Back in the Day’

William Sharp Photo Book Captures Golden Era

Among legions of fanatics who recognize Ventura’s Lonnie Toft (pictured at Endless Wave skatepark in Oxnard, 1977), their most common flashback showcases his innovation of the eight-wheeled skateboard. Toft said recently that after his older brother Dan turned him on to the concept, circa 1973, he promptly bought a pair of clay-wheeled roller skates at a swap meet, took them apart, and fastened them to an extra-wide skateboard deck he had cut from an old door. “I liked to have a variety of boards,” he said, “and the eight-wheeler was just part of my quiver.” Lesser known is that Toft ​— ​who rode for the Radon boats skateboard team before getting picked up by Santa Barbara–based Sims Skateboards in 1976 ​— ​built and rode some of the very first snowboards. Toft also tried to compel Tom Sims to introduce wider skateboards to the burgeoning industry. At the time, a Sims deck was skinny and pointed, like a miniature surfboard. “I told Tom, ‘Hey, there’s no offshore wind here, man,” Toft remembered recently. “We’re not surfing, okay? And I need a bigger place to put my feet.”
William Sharp

With the hefty thump of a hardbound photo book, an advance copy of Back in the Day landed on my desk in mid-November 2017. I instantly planned to assemble a photo-heavy article in time for the holidays — a loud shout-out to photographer William Sharp, writer Ozzie Ausband, and Berkeley-based publisher Gingko Press.

Then Thanksgiving arrived. Then my friend Jim died in his sleep. (I wept for Jim in the broader confusion of his early departure, but also because I had really wanted to witness the singular stoke in his eyes as he slowly flipped through the book’s 466 pages. You see, as a lifelong skateboarder and a longtime photographer for Santa Barbara’s Powell-Peralta Skateboards, Jim woulda dug it the most.) Then the Thomas Fire came to town, followed by that horrendous debris flow, which buried any well-intentioned goal to return to how things were before.

The first edition of Back in the Day was limited to 2,500 copies, half in orange, half in blue. That’s skate legend Tony Alva getting high in Arizona, 1978.
Courtesy Photo

But this isn’t an excuse-laden apology to Sharp, Ausband, and the kind folks at Gingko. It’s really a short testament to the timeless vibe and sweet power of nostalgia evoked by a collection of color and black-and-white photographs of young innovators blowing up a small region of radical. Plus, for us Santa Barbara–based fanatics, there are shots of Jay Smith, Stacy Peralta, Steve Caballero, and Ray “Bones” Rodriguez, among other Powell-Peralta team riders.


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