Let’s start with the beginning. What was it like growing up in Milford, Ohio?
I didn’t move there until I was a teenager.I grew up in College Hill, closer to Disc World, closer to the inner city. But I started skating in College Hill.
And that was like ’88?
Yeah, I was eight or nine. I got in on one launch ramp session while those days were still going. My brother’s friend had a launch ramp and it was classic, like 20 dudes waiting to do their one launch ramp trick. So I caught the tail end of that era. And then when I got my own board and was skating a decent amount, all the other dudes that had quit had old launch ramps that we would put on our boards and push back to the house.
When did you end up going to Disc World?
That was our shop. I went there to get some wheels for my older brother before I skated. So I rode my bike over there and there was a Bill Danforth demo happening. And I got out of his way. He’s like, “Get the fuck outta my way kid!”
How old were you when you moved to Milford?
13. I had a group of friends that I skated with in College Hill. Milford is, you know, mega-suburbed out. The best spot was a K-Mart with a tall curb manual pad. But I had to skate up the side of a four-lane highway to get to it. And this is the early ’90s, so I had huge pants and small wheels pushing a half hour skate to the one good spot.
Where did Joe Castrucci come from?
The westside of Cincinnati. We would skate spots around Disc World. Even Gary Collins was around that time. I was like 15, maybe a little older. I would catch the bus downtown and skate around solo and run into people.
What was the first video you were in?
“Solid.” It was a bunch of guys that went to Disc World and just got small runs of boards. They had a random woodshed, it was hard to do that back then.
And that was Castrucci’s first video?
He didn’t even make the first one. This guy Dave Ackels, he does that Absorb company now. He filmed the first video. We drove to Dayton a bunch, most of it was filmed up there. It was strange, for some reason at that time Dayton had all the spots. It was a weird thing. For the second video, Castrucci had got a nice three chip camera and he started filming. After that video came out, and all those graphics, he got hired by Alien Workshop like a year later. When he got that job, Solid got absorbed by this company Nation, under Strength Magazine. Remember Strength? Strength was owned by this guy that was a snowboarder that came from money. When he got out of school, he started an “extreme” magazine. And he hired a bunch of skaters that all went to DAAP (a design school in Cincinnati). The offices were in Norwood. So Nation was out of there. They also did some Wu-Tang boards out of there too.
Like a collaboration?
Nah, I think it was just like a black board with the Wu-Tang symbol in yellow.
So did Castrucci hand it off completely?
Yeah, I think Tony Hietz was running Nation. And he was like, “all the people that were on Solid can ride for Nation.” They had Jason Rothmeyer and they had James Riff. Remember the Rifty Fifty? You ever heard that term?
Never heard of it.
It’s when you grind a handrail and take it to a ledge.
So many people came out of the that group…When did Disc World close?
When Anonymous opened. It was in Clifton, and they were making the videos. It was like a little golden era of Cincinnati skateboarding.
And what is “The Block” for the people that don’t know?
It’s just a block. The block that the shop was on in Clifton, Ohio. It’s just fucking flat ground on a street in the college town of Cincinnati. It’s smooth and slightly downhill. And down the street from that, my friend’s parents bought a house and rented it to all his friends that were skaters. And we built a ramp in the backyard.
The famous mini ramp?
Yeah. So you would hang out at the shop, skate flat ground, and then go skate the ramp, or “the beach house” as we used to call it.
Who was in the infamous doubles photo on that ramp?
Was it Kokomo and Gary? Yeah, for sure. Because they were all right there. Most of the dudes dropped out of college, pitbulls had torn up the yard, there was no grass, just mud and dirt. And his dad was the sheriff of Clermont County. They couldn’t own a place like that. So they sold the house and kicked everyone out. And a few months later, the skate shop moved out to the suburbs. It was like, “are we still gonna hang out in this area?” And it turned out we did. It lasted, it became The Block.
When did Al Davis start coming around?
He was around during the Anonymous and Block days. He was pretty young and already super good. And doing everything pretty easy, that’s why Ned was calling him “Al Butters.” Just super consistent and doing everything.
Gary Collins told me to ask you about “Gentlemen’s Hour.”
(reminiscently) Gentlemen’s Hour. The hour before the shop closed was Gentlemen’s Hour and everyone had beers. They almost damn near did have to move the skate shop because of all the skaters hanging out. Parents would come in there with their kid and Ned, Gary Kokomo, and a bunch of dudes heckling a skate video, with tall cans in paper bags. We shot ourselves in the foot by hanging out there too much.
And what was Cody’s Cafe?
They had jazz nights that would go on. And maybe a rap night too. It was a couple blocks from the skate shop and so that was usually our spot to drink heavily after skating. And then it became a thing to go bomb hills after going there cause we were drunk enough.
When did you move to SF?
Late 2003, with my girlfriend at the time. Drove a minivan across the country. Had it decked out and slept in it as we drove across. And even when we got to SF, we lived in it for a couple weeks till we got a place. Then we got a spot, and soon after she was over it and went back to Ohio. I was like, “fuck, I’m not leaving.” So I ended up staying in my friend’s hallway. Trevor Prescott who made all the Seasons videos. He hooked me up and let me stay on a yoga mat in his hallway for a couple months.
Did you find work or a place?
Couldn’t even get a dishwashing job while I was out there. It was like I was unemployable. So I got an EBT card and I was getting Rasa Libre boards cause Nate Jones was living out there. It was right when Rasa Libre just started so I was getting friend flow. I thought I was more hooked up with it, but it turns out I was really friend flow. So I’d go to Deluxe and get a bunch of boards to sell, use the EBT card, and use skate every day.
What was your first job in NY?
I worked at Abercrombie and Fitch overnight stocking clothes, because I was going to get that job in San Francisco. It was a job that a bunch of people worked out there. It was an easy skate job you could get. They would hire anybody. You would work overnight. You could say “fuck it” and not go in one night and not get fired. And it paid okay. So I went in with four or five of my friends, we all lived in Dobbin. A week later, they called my friend James, I think he was the only one with a cell phone. They called him and told him he got a job. He asked if his friends got hired and they said, “yeah, they got hired too.”
So you all worked together?
We’d just go in there and fold clothes all night. It was like you’d be out skating all day, then you’d go in at 9 or 10. When I moved here, there was this website called opener.com. So we would have a list of all of them. It’d be art shows or bars with little events promoting something. And there were tons of them. So it’d be like, go to work? Or go drinking for free all night? So we’d end up working like twice a week, the bare minimum to eat.
But you live an adult life now right?
I guess, but it took a while. Actually, I don’t know. Is this an adult life I live? We’re talking shit at noon on a Tuesday.
Max White: It’s Wednesday.
I guess I’m not living and adult life yet. I had a couple stints of adult life, but I guess it didn’t sit well with me. I clawed my way out of it. Moved back into Dobbin.
Maybe in ten more years?
That’s what I keep telling myself, “maybe in ten more years.” Those ten years go by and I’m still not ready. Actually, I’ve come to terms with it, this is it. I hope to die in that motherfucker (Dobbin Block Lofts).
“Dave Caddo, 87-years-old, oldest Dobbin resident.”
I have a feeling Jerry (Mraz) will still live there. We can meet back up, do the same interview. “Where are they now?” Nothing has changed, same, same, same.
Does Dobbin keep you young? What keeps you going?
I don’t like doing anything else. Skating is the thing I’m most into. I’ve been losing my mind with this back injury. Shouldn’t I be into other shit? I’ve tried.
Alright, that’s probably a good place to wrap it up.
Yeah, probably enough rambling.