Di Dootson Interview
By Larry Balma
Surfer girl, skateboarder, big sister, skate mom, Di was the enthusiastic glue that held us all in line and helped skateboarding to become a sport. Di was these from day one, she moved out of the Lake Drive A frame the day we filled the kitchen with boxes of truck castings because we needed more room in the workshop. All of us were fueled by adrenaline, those were exciting times.-LB
How did you get messed up with the whole skate thing and Tracker?
I was living with Dave and Craig, Craig Dootson is my brother. Dave Dominy’s been my friend since he was thirteen, we all lived in Hawaii together and I was the big sister that drove them to the beach surfing. I had the diver’s license and the car in Cardiff by the Sea.
We all lived in the same house on Lake Drive. Craig would come and go to sea, he worked for deep sea drilling, but Dave was there he was working finished Carpentry jobs at restaurants around town and when he came home he would go skateboarding. When Craig came home they would go skateboarding together.
Then when the urethane wheels showed up, I start skating because I’m not one to just watch and we went to La Costa skating.
Dave started doing sketches and drawings on the dining room table of Tracker Trucks. Then I met Larry and boom the whole formulation of the company comes together and off it goes. By then we were skating La Costa after work and every weekend. La Costa became the testing ground for lots of equipment. Bing was testing gear, Henry was working on his Fiber flex, Trackers doing one model after another after another. I started running races for everybody because when ever any two got together they want to know who went faster last week and we couldn’t remember. So I was writing it down and then I started a newspaper to track it all and everybody had their records and that became the National Skateboard Review. All along my heart and soul was with Tracker because it was the first real skateboarding truck the others were just adapted from roller skate trucks. I was proud and excited on what they’d accomplished and contributed to the second generation of skateboarding history.
You were instrumental in forming, organizing and running the International Skateboard Association.
Yep. When the manufacturers came together and formed the PSA, Pacific Skateboard Association, I was the secretary to that group because they wanted to come together to develop and promote the industry. But each of them were so busy with their own companies they couldn’t necessarily do a third entity or a separate entity which was the PSA. So I served as the secretary and kind of the glue that kept it together with the agendas, minutes and where we were going to meet, calling everybody and making it all happen. The manufacturers group, was made up of, only six companies. NHS was in it from the beginning, Tracker Trucks of course, NHS was from out of town but they were involved with PSA. Then the PSA wanted to go International, so they disbanded PSA and formed ISA, International Skateboard Association. They hired Sally Ann Miller as their director, so I stepped aside to do the newspaper, and Sally Ann took over the ISA.
The first Tracker factory was in the garage, If you want to know about the roots of Tracker. It started from the dining room table and Dave sketching like crazy, to boxes of things in sawdust. I learned about casting and sand casting and all that stuff that Larry does in some place up in Riverside County, God only knows how that all happens. Those big drill presses showed up in the garage, and then there’s solvent, I can still smell it in my memory. People in the garage drilling holes in base plates and grinding stuff down and pressing axles into hangers and all that stuff, and I’m out there doing my share too. I had a full time job, plus I’m starting the newspaper and all that, but the guys were fun, it was really exciting what was going on. I liked helping I liked keeping busy I liked working hard. When it got too big it moved out of the garage. Keith started selling like crazy, so it just blew up into this spectacular business that just grew and grew and grew. So it moved out of my garage and off it went.
Tracker was the first wide truck that was specifically designed for skateboarding, particularly downhill. It was before pools, and Carlsbad skate park was still under construction. Anybody who was a professional rode on Trackers for their downhill, and if you did a family tree of every famous professional skateboarder, I would say probably 8 out of 10 of them started on Trackers, because it was the only truck that gave them the professional advantage over other riders. Then Indy came in and made their claim, but if you did the family tree Tracker just jumpstarted everybody. You can’t beat a truck that says “Trucks you can Trust”, and if you can break it bring it back and you’ll get another one free. There’s not another company in the world that makes that claim on anything. I remember a truck sent back to us and I said, Dave what happened? and he goes well it looks like a little more than usual, but we still gave him a new truck, because you have to stand by what you say. No one in the industry will dispute that about Trackers.
Your close with Peggy Turner?
Yes, she’s was hanging out a lot because Bobby is designing the Turner Summer Ski, and I’m running the races and was keeping all the scores from how fast everybody went. Peggy worked at a publisher, so she goes let’s print up what you’ve been doing, so Peggy and I, together did the Skateboard Racing News, which was a single page front and back and Dave was on the front side of our first cover, which we printed the La Costa results. But soon after she was done, she worked in publishing for a living, and she didn’t want to do it for fun too, but I wasn’t done. So I said, I want to keep doing this, and she said fine I’m out, so I named it National Skateboard Review and it grew. It was a once a month and it grew every month after that. The next issue was two single sheets stapled, and the third one was 11” x 17” folded and it ended up in newspaper size, folded 14 pages long by the time I shut it down. The industry crashed in 1979.
Which Trackers did you ride?
I rode the early Fultracks, not quite prototype by certainly early production, and I still have those. Henry was testing the spring in his Fiber Flex, he’s a big boy, so at one point he says this one is too light for me, or I’m too heavy for it, so do you want it, and I kept it and it was perfect for me. So my slalom rig was Henry’s prototype Fiber Flex, Trackers and Road Riders and OJ’s I went back and forth between Road Rider 4’s and OJ’s depending on where we were. I ended up running contests but my most productive contest I rode in was Vail Colorado, a masters tight slalom and I got second, to some guy in Colorado. And then my speed run in Vail where I got clocked at 29 MPH. Remember those big Cooper hockey helmets I have this ugly picture of me with this big old Cooper Copper hockey helmet on, and the bib from the race and I just decided I was going fast enough so I came up out of my crouch and started to stand up and that’s when I got clocked at 29 MPH. I was older than the rest of these knuckle heads and probably the only one on the hill with any sense and I take pride in that part. It was pretty cool going 29 MPH, I could of gone faster but I didn’t want to. But then I got second in the tight slalom race so that was fun. Other than that I was running the races. I got paid by skate parks opening, ABC Wild World of Sports paid me $100 per day plus travel expenses to go all over the country and run contests and stuff.
The pros all started with Trackers and as their careers grew they went with other teams, I didn’t go international, but I followed them around to lots of places. I was siting with David Hackett and he said “ somebody just sent me the really cool video of me getting the first place trophy at Kona Skate Park and he starts the video, and I said, that’s me, with the results handing the trophy to the event organizer who was going to hand it to Hackett.
It’s really been great finding everybody again, because after I shut my newspaper down, I just turned tail, ran and hid. It was a heartbreaking thing. I went back to my career in recreation therapy and it wasn’t until La Costa in 2005 or 2006 that I saw Lance Smith after 35 years and then I saw the old crew, its really great to find everybody again.