An Interview with Steve Caballero

An Interview with Steve Caballero
November 7, 2016 Louise Balma

Full image of Steve used in the Tracker ad. Photo Ted Terrebonne

Steve Caballero Interview


LMB: When and where were you born?


I was born in San Jose, California in 1964.


LMB: When and how did you start skateboarding?


I first started out trying to be a BMX racer, but that didn’t pan out, because I was so short for my age. I went to one race and I just figured out really quickly that those guys were two feet taller than me with longer legs. Back then, they had these ramps that you would start off with to get speed on the flat. After one race, I figured out that I would probably never really be good just because of my size. My friend had a skateboard and a ramp, so I tried it out and fell in love with it. Everyone around that time in the late ’70s had the plastic skateboards. But, even before that, they had the wooden boards with the steel wheels; I think they were called Hang Ten. You know that famous red board with the steel wheels? I had one of those. I would see these new skateboards at the sporting goods stores all the time, the plastic boards with urethane wheels. So, I started way back in the day before sealed bearings. The loose bearings would fall out of the wheels if you didn’t tighten them really tight.


I think the first wood board I ever had was a Free Former Ty Page in a box with a photo of him doing his tricks. I bought it at a sporting goods store, not even at a skateboard shop. I used to go to the convenience store and buy candy and look at the magazine rack. I would look through Skateboarder magazines and see all of these skateboard parks happening down in Southern California. They would have ads of skateparks being built. I remember there was an ad for Concrete Wave. I was dreaming, “That would be so cool to skate those things.” I would see pictures in the magazines and would try to emulate what they were doing by building ramps, but obviously my proportions weren’t very good. The ramps I built had quick trannies, which made them super hard to skate. Then I heard there was a skateboard park being built in San Jose called Winchester, so I got really excited about that, and I was just waiting for it to open. In the meantime before it opened, I ended up going to the Concrete Wave, right across the street form Disneyland. I asked my dad, “The next time we take a trip to Disneyland, can we go check out the cool skateboard park?” So, after visiting the Concrete Wave in Orange County, I was hooked.


LMB: How did you get your first set of Trackers?


I got my first set when I actually got sponsored by Tracker, which was through Mike McGill once I got on the Bones Brigade. I got sponsored by them in 1979. I met Stacy and Steve Cathey at the same time at this competition that was happening in Escondido called the USASA Nationals. Our Nor Cal association got invited down to So Cal to compete. Stacy and Steve were judges, and that’s when I got picked up by Stacy to be on his new company, Powell-Peralta. Once I got on, Mike said, “Hey, now that you’re on Powell, would you like to get on the same truck team I’m on?” I didn’t have a truck sponsor at the time. A lot of the guys I looked up to rode Trackers, like Stacy, Tony Alva, and a lot of guys on the Bones Brigade, like Ray “Bones” Rodriquez, Alan Gelfand and Mike. Chris Strople and Tom Inouye were other favorites of mine who rode Trackers, so I was excited to get picked up by a board company and a truck company, as well. It pretty much happened at the same time.


LMB: Were your first trucks Extracks or Sixtracks?


They were Sixtracks, because we rode the wide boards. At the time, I was sponsored by Powell-Peralta, and we were already riding almost 10” wide boards. So, I went straight to the Sixtracks with the Copers.


LMB: Did you get magnesiums right away?


I don’t think I got mags right away. I was just going off McGill’s lead and what he was riding. I got mags really quick after that.


Cab with Tracker Mags and Copers. photo Lance Smith

GSD: And the Lapper.


Oh, yeah! The Lapper, I got that, too, and it was pretty cool to have, as well. You could go over the lip without hanging up. I was riding the Sixtracks with the Copers and the Lapper on one of my first set-ups.


GSD: I saw one photo of you holding your board and you had a little plastic cap on your kingpin. Do you remember that? Was that a pivot cushion?


Yeah, it’s crazy you saw that. I don’t even know where you ever saw a photo of that, but I remember putting that on the bolt. I just kind of hammered it on.


GSD: I’ve never seen anyone else ever do that. It was a good idea.


I saw that pivot cushion in the baseplate, and thought, “Hey, it would be kind of cool to hammer this thing on the nut.”


LMB: Did you know McGill before you hooked up with the Bones Brigade?


I didn’t know him. I only saw McGill in photos in the magazine. I think he and Alan Gelfand got an interview before I actually got on the team. It all happened really fast. I knew that McGill and Gelfand were on this new company with Stacy, and once I entered that contest and Stacy approached me, I knew I was going to get on the same team as them. It all fell together at the same time. I got sponsored by Tracker in 1979, as well.


LMB: One of my favorite memories of you two guys was when you went at it in Upland’s combi pool around 1982. You were going head to head, and it was an outstanding display.


Yeah, that competition at Upland was pretty heavy. I still have a scar right here (points to knee), which I showed to Hosoi. I said, “See this scar right here? That is from the round pool. ” That’s how rough it was at the bottom. That was by far the gnarliest pool ever to skate. It had so much vert, and the coping stuck out super large. The pool wasn’t perfect; it was kinked and the bottom was super rough. We were doing knee slides all the time, too, so if your knees pads weren’t tight, they would slide right off and you’d get a cherry on your knee. Barry Zaritsky would be right there, putting aloe on it, icing it up and wrapping it. That was our first experience with Barry. Those were good times. That Upland contest was around 1984.

Cab on the cover of the Bones Brigade Intelligence Report.

Cab on the cover of the Bones Brigade Intelligence Report.

GSD: Do you still have one of your first pro model decks on Powell-Peralta with the propeller graphics?


I never kept an original one, but I do have the shirt that I wore in that ad, and I still have the original transfer of me doing a backside air, which was taken from the Tracker ad that I got. I guess I got the ad for Tracker before I got my pro model, because that same photo that’s on the shirt was from that ad.


GSD: They only made a few of those decks with the propeller, right?


I think they only made, like, six. I remember I had three of them. I gave one to my friend, and I remember seeing a picture of Tony Hawk riding one.


GSD: And you skated one.


I skated one, but never kept it. There’s a guy in Australia who makes reproduction decks, and he made me a repro of it that looks dead on perfect. That’s why I was asking you earlier about the Sixtrack magnesiums, because I want to get a pair of those to put on that board with some Cubics and make a complete. I would love to make that board look like it did back in the day. Of course, I’ll need the Copers and the Lapper, too. Do you have any Lappers left?


GSD: You can find them on eBay. Some people have them.


LMB: We filled a 20 foot dumpster with those things back in the late ’80s when the sales shut off.


Really? That’s a shame, because you could get rid of them now, big time.


GSD: I wish you had kept a few big boxes full.

Tracker Ad March 1980

Tracker Ad March 1980

LMB: Which Tracker ad was your favorite?


The most memorable Tracker ad that I had was a photo of me doing a backside air in the keyhole pool at Winchester. That was when Rectors first came out and I was wearing Rector elbow pads on my knees. If you look closely at the photo, my knees pads are really tiny, because I was wearing extra large elbow pads on my knees. I don’t remember another Tracker ad. Was there a sequence?


GSD: You had a two-thirds page black and white ad of the Caballaerial in Action Now. When you invented the Caballaerial, was that inspired by someone you saw do a fakie 360?


The Caballaerial was inspired by a pro skateboarder from Nor Cal who rode for Tunnel named Robert Schlaefli, aka The Fly. One of the tricks that he used to like doing was an RB slide to fakie, then a fakie 360 kickturn. He would do it all the time in every run right above tile. I remember one time I was sitting up by the clover bowl just watching him skate, and he did an RB slide to fakie, but had way too much speed. He pumped, went up and accidentally pulled a fakie 360 in the air as his board flailed away. At the time, I had already learned a new trick called the fakie Ollie, so I looked at what the Fly did on accident and wondered if you could actually pull it off—do a fakie Ollie and spin all the way around. So, I just got that idea in my head and became determined to do it. I just kept trying and trying it over and over again. At that point in my career, I had learned a lot of the modern tricks, and I was looking around for new tricks to come up with. I remember learning the 360 Ollie and calling Stacy on the phone. I said, “Stacy, I think I invented a new trick.” He asked, “Well, what is it?” I said, “It’s a fakie Ollie, but you turn 360 without grabbing your board.” He couldn’t understand it. He was like, “What are you talking about?” I said, “Well, I’ll just have to show you.”

An Interview with Steve Caballero 1

Steve waiting outside of Stacy’s Volvo ready to debut his new trick the Caballaerial at the Marina del Rey contest.

This was in between the Big O and Marina del Rey contests of the Gold Cup. The Marina contest was going to be in the upper keyhole and sponsored by Powell-Peralta. I remember coming to that contest, and being very excited to introduce this new trick that Stacy just heard about on the phone. I guess he told Lance Mountain and Neil Blender, “Cab’s got a new trick. No one has seen it and he’s going to pull it out at this contest.” So, I remember pulling up in Stacy’s Volvo and getting out in the parking lot. Lance and Neil were just waiting there, saying, “We heard about this new trick. We want you to go up to the keyhole right now and show us.” They basically put on my pads for me on the way up, because they were so excited to see it. I remember I bailed two or three before I actually landed one and they were just blown away. After that, they went back home to Whittier to try it, but they couldn’t even come close. It was either Neil or Lance who said, “Maybe we can grab it.” So, they ended up grabbing it, and because they had to grab to make the trick I had invented, they thought it was gay, so that’s where the term gay twist came from.

LMB: Where did the name Caballaerial come from?


For the longest time, I just called it the fakie 360 Ollie air, but it was Stacy Peralta who named it. We used to have this newsletter called the Bones Brigade Intelligence Report, and I remember Stacy had written, “Caballero wins Upland with the Caballaerial,” so he called it that. I was so weirded out about having a trick named after me, for two or three years, I would just call it the fakie 360 Ollie.


GSD: Right when you started to learn the Caballaerial, how long did it take you to land one?


I don’t really have a record of how long it actually took. I think I tried it for a month. I don’t know if I tried it every single day, but I remember from the thought of it to actually landing it, I would get closer and closer each time until I turned around and just slid around and made it all the way. It probably took about a month to perfect it until I could actually show it. It’s kind of hard to actually gauge how long it takes to learn a trick. There’s a thought process that goes on before you even attempt tricks that you’re not sure are even possible.


Cover of Action Now,1981, photo by Ted Terrebonne

GSD: Well, the Boneless One didn’t take that long. It was really easy. It only took one try (laughs).


The Boneless One was cool.


GSD: You were the first one to take it to vert, right?


Yeah, it was inspired by Garry Scott Davis, who at one point was living in San Jose for how many years?


GSD: I lived there for almost a year.


We were skating a lot of banks. Did we take you to Montague? Is that where you did the first one?


GSD: I invented it in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1979-’80. In San Jose, I first did it at the Sink or maybe the Bricks. Remember the Sink on my Thrasher cover?


I remember watching you do that trick and I was like, “That would be kind of a cool trick to take to vert.” I went from learning it on a bank skating with you to taking it to my ramp, which was 12 feet wide and nine feet high. I tried it straight to coping on vert. I remember learning it, and then Palmdale was the next contest and I pulled out that trick to win the contest. That was 1983 and I was on Tracker.


GSD: Which was the first backyard contest, Joe’s Ramp Jam?


No, the first backyard ramp contest was Palmdale; that’s where the Boneless One came out on vert. The contest after that was Joe Lopes Ramp Jam, and that’s where I pulled the Backside Boneless One.


GSD: Were you the first to do that?


Yeah, and I did the les twist at that contest, too. The les twist came from grabbing the opposite rail of a gay twist.


GSD: What stands out in your mind about the performance of Tracker Trucks?


What stood out to me was the color of the yellow magnesiums. I wanted them super bad. I was super psyched to see them. I knew they were magnesium and I knew they were lighter. So, the light weight of the truck, the yellow color and fact that you had the Copers you could put on was pretty cool. With the Copers, you could grind farther, stand up on grinds, do 50-50s or grind places you couldn’t before, so it was really cool to have those.


GSD: Why was Tracker so important in the history of skateboarding?


Tracker was so important because they were the innovators of skateboard trucks. The whole sponsorship and the team involvement was important, too, and you branched out and also made TransWorld Skateboarding magazine, which was cool.


GSD: Tell us the story of how you left Tracker for Independent.


Around 1983-’84, I was getting a lot of attention from Fausto Vitello. He never asked me to be on the Independent team, he was just being very friendly and supportive and doing a lot with the industry itself with those backyard ramp contests, like Palmdale, Joe Lopes Ramp Jam and the San Francisco Street Style contest. He was very involved and I was involved in the scene, as well. So, I got pretty close to Fausto. At the same time, I felt a little distant from you guys at Tracker only because I was up north. I was seven hours away from Tracker, so I never got to hang out down here. I was the only Tracker rider in Nor Cal, and believe me, I got a lot of crap for that. People would always tell me, “Dude, why are you on Tracker? You should be on Indy!” I was like, “Because they were the first truck company to give me a chance. I’m not going to leave them just to be on this cool company. I know I’m from Nor Cal, but I’m backing the company that backed me.” For a long time, Gavin O’Brien and Corey O’Brien would give me crap, “Dude, you’ve got to be on Indy. I can’t believe you’re on Tracker!” I took the hits from Nor Cal people. I didn’t care what they thought; it was my life. But, from 1982 to ’84, I didn’t feel the love and support from Tracker, and I didn’t think we [Larry Balma and I] were very close. The only person I was close to at Tracker was the team manager, Lance Smith [who left in 1982]. I don’t know how much involvement you had with the team. My relationship with you was kind of like the same relationship I had with George Powell. I didn’t have a relationship with him, I had a relationship with Stacy.

Cab on the cover of the First TransWorld Skateboarding Magazine. Photo by Frank Hawk RIP, Tony Hawks dad.

Cab on the cover of the First TransWorld Skateboarding Magazine. Photo by Frank Hawk RIP, Tony Hawks dad.

LMB: In the ’70s, Dave Dominy did the promotions and Lance was our team manager and photographer. Lance left in 1982 because we went through a real down time. At that point, I had bought out Dave and had to keep track of everything and make it all run, which was tough. We came out with the first issue of TransWorld Skateboarding magazine with the picture of you on the cover, then I was up there for the street contest in Golden Gate Park. You came up to me and said, “Larry, I’m the only Tracker guy up here. It’s really heavy.” You talked about Fausto and stuff.


I guess when Lance left, I had no relationship and no communication with you guys. This was when Tony Magnusson and Tony Hawk were coming up, and I felt that you were putting a lot of energy into them. Because of the long distance relationship, they were closer, and I just felt left out. One time, Mofo came up to me and said, “Dude, Fausto wants you to ride for Indy, and he’s going to pay you!” I wasn’t getting paid by Tracker, I was only getting free trucks. So, I said, “Get paid, too? That sounds like a good deal since I’m pro. So, yeah let’s do this!” So, being from Nor Cal, getting paid plus the love and support I got from Fausto, it just seemed like the right transition for me. So, that’s why I left.


GSD: How did you start up Skate Punk zine?


I went to Sweden one year with Mike McGill and there was a skater named Hans “Puttis” Jacobson who was making a skateboard zine called Locals.


GSD: Do you remember which year that was?




GSD: Was it before Skate Fate? Skate Fate came out in July 1981.


This was before that, because I had never seen Skate Fate. I saw Skate Fate when I started making Skate Punk and then we traded zines. My first issue of Skate Punk was in November 1981.


GSD: I remember I still lived in Cincinnati when I got an interview with you on a cassette tape from Craig Ramsay. He sent it through the mail for me to print in Skate Fate.


I didn’t know about zines until Sweden, so I brought those back with me and showed Gavin and Corey. That’s when we said we should make our own zine. Did Gavin and Corey even know you before that?


GSD: Yeah, we were pen pals because of the zines.


Okay, because Gavin and Corey were part of Skate Punk. We started Skate Punk and then after the second issue, we had some little rivalries. I was putting skimboarding, snowboarding and all of that stuff in there, kind of like Action Now. They were like, “No! Not having it!” So, they broke off and did their own zine called Skate Scene, and their subtitle was “No pedals, water or snow.” So, I was kind of the Action Now of zines and they were the full hardcore Thrasher. I even had some Thrasher ads in my zine.

An Interview with Steve Caballero 2

Cover of Steve’s first Speeed Zine.

GSD: Your zine had a heavy stock glossy cover because your brother worked at a print shop.


That came after. The first ones were just Xeroxed, then I got the glossy cover. It ended at issue number four, then I stopped it. I took a little break for a while, then we made Speeed Zine. That’s when the first color Xerox machine was made, and I remember doing a Xerox cover of John Gibson on the Clown Ramp. He was on the cover of the first Speeed Zine.

GSD: Why did you change the name to Speeed Zine?


I don’t know why. I think because I was not going to have punk rock stuff in there anymore, and I wanted to start a whole brand new zine and make it just skateboarding. So, that’s why it was called Speeed Zine.


Contents page of Speeed Zine.

GSD: How and when did your band The Faction get started?


I got into punk rock around 1980, before The Faction started. I wanted to get into playing music, so I started these little bands. I remember one of the first ones was called Xerox, which was based off of making my zine and Xerox magazines. Another one we had was called the Abandoned Children. The Faction started in 1982.


GSD: You made an Abandoned Children jacket. It’s right here in this photo.


You have it?


GSD: Did you ever see this? It’s in The Best of Skate Fate book.


No, I need to get one of those. You have a picture of me wearing that shirt?


GSD: Yeah, let me find it here.


Oh, my goodness! I remember drawing a little logo on the back called Abandoned Children. Dude, that is hilarious. Where did you get this photo?


GSD: It was in Skate Fate.


Look at that! It was before The Faction! Dude, I need to take a photo of that.


GSD: I can email you that scan.


This is probably 1981, because we formed The Faction on Halloween of ’82, so maybe it was ’82. Was this from a contest? I have a camera in my hand, so I must have been shooting photos.


GSD: Someone gave me that photo. Does it say Craig Ramsay on it?


It says photo unknown. It’s going on Instagram now. I was very intrigued with the punk rock scene / music, and I wanted to start a band. So, we started little side bands and then I finally got together with Gavin O’Brien and a few other Winchester locals, and that’s when we formed The Faction. We started playing little shows here and there. I remember our first show, we opened up for Social Distortion.

Cab on the cover of GSD's Skate Fate, 1983

Cab on the cover od Skate Fate, 1983

GSD: I used to see you play house parties when I lived in San Jose. I used to see you all the time. You made that cassette.


Yeah, house parties. Yeah, I drew that skeleton on the cover of our first cassette, or did you draw that?


GSD: No, I drew the skeleton on the first Faction seven-inch cover.


Yeah, that’s right. I remember we took photos at Adam’s school, then we posed the photos in the cartoon that you drew for the cover. Those were good times, man.


GSD: You ended up going on tours.


We toured the U.S. in 1984 and ’85 with The Faction, which was pretty cool, because at the time, I had never toured even with Powell. We actually went on our own tour of the U.S. just in a small van with four guys before Powell even thought about doing tours.


GSD: You released a couple of Faction albums.


Yeah, we made some 45s and a couple of albums. It was just that whole punk rock attitude, do-it-yourself attitude. “We’re not waiting for someone else to put out a record for us! We’re going to record our own record, we’ll book our own tours, we’ll make our own stickers, we’ll make our own t-shirts, we’ll make our own zines.” That was the attitude we had at the time. Even though the scene was really small and there wasn’t that much involvement from the mainstream, we just kind of did our own thing, and that’s when the whole zine thing popped up. That’s when I met you, Garry, with Skate Fate. It seemed like the zine thing grew really quick. People started making zines all over the place. That’s the first place I met Andy Howell, Bob Pribble, Rob Roskopp, Jeff Kendall from the Midwest. I remember trading through the mail.


GSD: Remember that time The Faction drove all the way from San Jose, California to Lincoln, Nebraska in one night?


I didn’t drive. I flew into Nebraska because I was there to do a demo. They had some wild hair to have the Faction come play it, too, so the band drove from San Jose straight through. We played three or four songs, then the cops broke it up and the band drove straight back home.


GSD: It’s over a thousand miles each way.


Yeah, but they did it for us to play in Nebraska. This is cool. How can I get one of these Skate Fate books, Garry. When did you make this?


GSD: I published it 2011. You can buy it on the <a href=>Blurb</a> web site.


LMB: Is the Faction still playing together?


Yeah, Vans is having a 50th birthday party for me on November 8, 2014 in the Vans skatepark at The Block, so Agent Orange and the Faction are playing. You guys should come out! It’s going to be catered by Pizzanista, which is Salman’s place, and Wahoo’s. It’s going to be a fun party.


GSD: When did you get on Vans?


I got my first pair of Vans in 1979.


GSD: Did you get sponsored by Vans then or later?


Companies weren’t into sponsoring then, they just flowed. So, even though I turned pro in 1980, I was just getting free shoes from them. I wasn’t getting paid and I wasn’t on a team, I just got flowed. Stacy would get shoes from Vans and he would give them to us. It wasn’t like this direct relationship or involvement with the company. Around 1985-’86, Vans started really getting into BMX, breakdancing and all of that, so there wasn’t much love. Stacy wasn’t getting any more free shoes, so we just started searching out other shoe companies. We started wearing Converse. That’s when Air Jordans came out, so I started wearing those. Tony Hawk and I even went out and bought pairs of Puma Prowlers at Big Five. I was wearing Pumas for a while. I was wearing a Vans shoe on one foot and a Puma on the other. It was right around the time Airwalk started. I think Vans were losing market share of skateboarders and said, “We need to start getting back into this!” That’s when Everett Rosecrans contacted me in 1988 and said, “Hey, we want you to ride for Vans and we want to pay you.” I was like, “Sign me up! Getting free Vans and getting paid? Yes, that’s a good deal for a professional skateboarder.”


So, I signed up and about six months later, they approached me once again and said, “Hey we want you to have the very first signature skateboard shoe for Vans.” I was like, “Cool! Let’s do this!” Then I saw the contract, which said the more shoes I sold, the less royalties I got. I said, “That doesn’t make any sense to me, because for the last eight years, I’ve been getting $1.00 per board from Powell, and the more boards that I sold, the more royalties I got. So, I’m not signing this contract.” Their whole thing to me was, “Oh, well. If the shoe sells, it’s not because of your name, it’s because we make a good shoe.” I was like, “Okay, you can keep your contract.” So, time went by and they kept bugging me, saying, “We need to make this Caballero shoe!” I responded, “Well, I’m not signing the contract.” I remember Lance Mountain came up to me, and I said, “Lance, these guys keep bugging me to make a shoe, but the contract sucks.” Lance said, “Well, let’s put it this way: What would you rather do, not get ripped off and make no money, or get ripped off and make a lot of money?” I was like, “All right, I’ll sign.” So, I signed the contract and—boom!–that’s when the first Caballero high top shoe came out in 1989.


GSD: That came out right after the etnies Natas, right?


I’m not sure when the time frame was, but when Natas got his shoe, etnies wasn’t a U.S. company, they were in France, so his shoe only sold to Europe. So, I’m not sure which one came out first. They would have to go back and look at the actual dates, but they both came out in 1989.

Cab mini ramp session. photo O

Steve Caballero. photo O

GSD: How did the Vans Half Cab shoe come about?


Around 1992, vert started dying, and street skating started to become very popular. A lot of the street skaters who wore Vans were cutting off the Cab shoe half way. The trick the half Cab was invented by Kevin Staab and Tony Hawk. I didn’t have anything to do with the name or the trick; they actually ended up calling it the Half Cab, because they were doing a fakie Ollie to 180, coming back fakie. I had already invented the Caballaerial, and in their minds, they were just doing half of a Caballaerial, so they just called it a half Cab. So, that trick was already invented before the shoe was even thought of. In 1991, after I saw the trend of all these street skaters cutting down my shoe, I started cutting them down myself. They would put duct tape all around to hold in the foam; some used stickers and some even sewed it together. I was like, “Why don’t we just make shoes like this?” I called up Vans up and said, “Hey, Steve, there’s this new trend going on with my shoe. Everyone’s cutting it down. Why don’t we cut it down, put out new colors, and just call it the Half Cab, because it’s half of the Caballero shoe.” Vans went with it, and that’s how the Half Cab shoe started.


GSD: It became a huge seller.


Yeah, because everyone wore the shoe. After time, we started developing new shoes, so the Half Cab went on the back burner. It was always in the line, but they didn’t promote it that much. If you saw a catalog, there was still a Half Cab–either a navy or a black one. It’s been kind of a sleeper over a lot of years. Close to 15 years ago, they started revamping it and doing collaborations, so it’s kind of grown, and now it’s the staple for skateboarding.


GSD: It’s still around now?


Yep, it’s still selling really well, and it’s probably one of the most copied skate shoes on the market.

Cab's been riding for Powell-Peralta for 36 years plus. photo Craig Fineman RIP

Cab’s been riding for Powell-Peralta for 36 years plus. photo Craig Fineman RIP

GSD: And you’re still on Powell-Peralta?


I’m still riding for the Bones Brigade.


GSD: Do they still produce your deck models?


Stacy is back with George again, so Powell-Peralta are doing a lot of re-issues. Those are flying out the door like hotcakes. The collectors can’t get enough of them. Every time we put out a new colorway, it’s like, “I’ve got to get that colorway!” It’s really cool to see what’s happening at Powell, seeing them develop new colors and re-releasing those decks. It’s not only stoking out the skaters who used to skate, but new collectors and even kids are getting psyched on those graphics that were so famous in the ’80s.


GSD: Almost 10 years ago, somebody gave me a re-issue of your dragon graphics with the bearing. I still have it in shrink-wrap. I bought one of the originals in 1982 when I lived in Cincinnati. Do they still re-issue that graphic?


They have re-issued the bearing graphic a few times, but right now they’re just selling the one that doesn’t have the bearing–just the dragon.


GSD: Do they silk-screen the Powell re-issue decks or use heat transfers?


I think they silk-screen the heat transfers. They just make them and if they have orders, then they screen them. They are screened onto heat transfers and then heat transferred onto the decks.


LMB: What were the highlights of your time in skateboarding?


One of the highlights of my skateboard career was being inducted into the Skateboarding Hall of Fame in 2010. That was a special night for me, it was amazing. All of my friends and family who I’ve met over the years of my career were all in one room. It was amazing growing up with these people for over 30 years, and still seeing them in the industry. People have come and people have gone, and to give a speech about my whole career in five minutes, there was a lot of emotion there. It was just an honor, because in my whole life, I never thought that I would make an impact, let alone be somebody in the sport. I just did it for fun, it was attractive to me, and I just did it for the love of it. I was very passionate about it, and I just wanted to do my best in every aspect of skateboarding. People recognized that, so I was very happy about it and very proud of all of the achievements that I’ve gotten from it, and all of the blessings I’ve got from the industry. Just being part of something and having a positive attitude to go along with it. As long as I keep rolling, there is always something around the corner, which is what I love about skateboarding. There’s always something exciting happening.


GSD: What do you like to do besides skateboarding?


I like to do a lot of art in my downtime. I’ll be creative that way. I ride dirt bikes, which is a lot of fun, but super dangerous. I’ve got hurt so many times riding dirt bikes, but I can’t stay away. I’m an adrenaline junkie.


LMB: Do you ride dirt parks or desert?


I ride on tracks, jumping and going fast. I like skimming. I like collecting old cars and old bikes and stuff. But, most of all, I like hanging out with my family, my kids, watching them grow, teaching them things about life, introducing them to things that I’m into, which is skateboarding, motocross and artwork.


GSD: What are their names?


My oldest daughter, Kala, is 17. I also have a seven-year-old boy named Caleb, and a four-year-old named Clover, who will be five this month.


GSD: What’s your wife’s name?


My wife’s name is Rachael Caballero, and I’m actually going to be a grandfather in about a week.


LMB: That’s quite a spread, from 4 to 17.


Well, I got re-married. From my previous wife, I have the 17-year-old daughter, who is having a baby in about a week or two. So, I’ll be a grandfather probably before I turn 50. She’s having a baby boy named Cairo. But, I like spending time with my kids. That’s one of my main enjoyments in life.


GSD: You’ve never had a day job, right? You’ve always made a living off of skateboarding.


Yeah, I’ve been a professional skateboarder for basically my whole career, which started in 1980 when I turned pro, until now. Maybe a lot of people don’t think of it as a real job, but it’s been a lot of work. It’s a different type of work. There’s a lot of pressure and a lot of demand, a lot of traveling, spending a lot of time on the road, living out of hotels, eating junk food, meeting new people, dealing with fans wanting something from you 24/7. That kind of lifestyle seems grand on the outside, but it takes a lot of work to be in the limelight. It’s not an easy thing. I’ve seen pros come and go who couldn’t handle the stress. Being a professional athlete, you have a chance of getting injured. Skateboarding is a very dangerous sport, and I put my life at risk every time I hop on one. That’s why we get paid the big bucks. That’s why insurance companies won’t insure us, because we’re a liability. I get my insurance because I’m an employee of Powell.


GSD: Skateboarders can’t get insurance?




GSD: What about motocross dudes?


I don’t think so, or maybe through the companies. I think there’s a foundation that helps riders pay if they get hurt. I don’t know who wants to insure extreme athletes. It’s not about if you’re going to get injured, it’s when. It takes a special person to be a professional skateboarder. It’s not made for everyone.


GSD: How did you decide to move down to So Cal?


I’ve been living in Nor Cal my whole life. I’ve been holding it down for Nor Cal for 49 years, but pretty much every company that I ride for is based in So Cal. I’m in my mid-life crisis. I’m going to live to be 100, so I want to spend the rest of my life in So Cal, where the people who support me are. Even if I stop skateboarding, at least there is something in the industry down here that I could be a part of and work at. We’re still paving the way for professional skateboarders and careers. Myself, Tony, Lance, McGill and Hosoi are still skating and we’re still competing. We’re not sure when we’re going to hang up the towel. We’re still paving the way for the generation under us.


GSD: Maybe when you turn 100, you’ll move back to San Jose?


I don’t know, I like So Cal. I’ve lived most of my life down here, commuting back and forth, so I think I’d like to retire here, for sure.


GSD: When you moved down, did you get vibed by Gavin and Corey?


I did go into the Blank Club and Corey said, “Dude, why are you moving to So Cal? You can’t do that! You’re from Nor Cal!” It’s just time for a change. It’s not only for myself, it’s for my kids. They’re going to go to better schools. It’s also for my wife. She wants to recharge our relationship and have something that we built together ourselves. The house we lived in was my ex-wife’s and my house, so you know it’s a girl thing. She never felt like that was her house. She moved into something that was part of someone else’s. So, now we’re starting a new relationship down here, a new vibe. We own the house together. It’s cool. I’ve made very good choices with my investments and stuff, so I own the house, it’s paid off, no mortgage. That’s all through skateboarding and Vans shoes, of course. But, this is America, so you don’t really own anything, I’m renting the land. I still have to pay property taxes. You don’t own anything in this world. When I die, I’m not taking anything with me. I’m just kind of a steward of everything that I own. I’m borrowing something to give to someone else to enjoy. In reality, we don’t own anything, were just stewards. We came into this world naked and we’re going to leave naked.


LMB: Any closing comments?


Thank you for having me here. I appreciate everything you did for me in my career, Larry. I was stoked to be part of the Tracker team for the years I was on it. There were good memories there. I just hope for the best for you guys and hope we see a Tracker resurgence someday, get that going again. There’s a lot of history there that can’t just get swept under the table. With everything, it takes passion, so you’re going to have to be passionate about it to see it flourish.


LMB: Thanks for everything you’ve done for skateboarding. There are not a lot of people like you who have stuck with it your whole life and been as productive as you have. That’s an accomplishment, and that’s why you’re in the Skateboarding Hall of Fame, dude.


Thank you. I’ve worked super hard to maintain where I’m at. When people say, “Oh, you’ve never had a real job.” Dude, skateboarding has been my job. Why do you think I’m still a skateboarder? I’ve worked so hard to be where I’m at, and it’s not just physically, but mentally. I’m always planning, always trying to make the right choice. Don’t burn any bridges, just have integrity and support the people who support you, and be honest in everything that you do.


LMB: Every time you’re in public, you have to be on because you’re Steve Caballero.


Even when you don’t want to be on, you have to be on, and that’s the part of the job that becomes the job. I can’t turn off who I am. I’m me 24/7, so even if I’m outside of the skateboard industry, I’m still in it, because that’s who I am. You can’t turn that off even in the public. There’s always going to be a fan out there looking at you, looking at what you’re doing and being inspired by you, and you’ve just got to know that if you’re in the limelight, it doesn’t matter if you want to inspire someone, you’re going to inspire someone. You’re going to encourage them, so you should do the best job you can. I learned at a very young age that if you work hard for what you do, if you do it honestly and do it with a lot of passion, then you will benefit from it. That’s why I stuck with Powell for so long, because when I got sponsored by Stacy, that was a great opportunity. “I’m getting sponsored by this skateboarder who I looked up to in the magazines. I don’t want to lose this, so I’m going to do the best job I can.” My whole thing with Stacy was I always wanted to impress him and I always wanted to do the best I could for him, because he was my boss and he was friend, my coach, and my team manager. I knew if you kept them happy, then you would still have your job. It’s kind of like having a wife, too–keep her happy and you stay happily married. It’s work. Relationships–business or personnel–are work. I’m still working on mine all the time.

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