Gregg Weaver Interview
By Larry Balma and Lance Smith
On more than one occasion back in 1975, San Diego golden boy Gregg Weaver was in the right place at the right time! Cadillac urethane wheel developer Frank Nasworthy befriended Gregg, noticed his nascent four-wheeled talent, and featured him in the brand’s first ad, dubbing him The Cadillac Kid in the process. Around the same time, Skateboarder magazine editor and head photographer Warren Bolster snapped a photo of Gregg soul-carving the San Marcos pool and ran it on the cover of the re-launched mag’s first issue since the original skateboard boom back in 1965. On that day, Gregg became one of Warren’s favorite subjects; in fact, from 1975 through ’77, it was difficult to flick through a copy of Skateboarder without seeing Gregg’s mug plastered somewhere.—GSD
(previous photo of Gregg Weaver from a Hobie Skateboards Ad)
LMB: Where did you grow up?
I grew up mostly in San Diego county. I was born in San Jose, where I lived for a year, moved to Los Angeles for six years, then Encinitas, Cardiff and Leucadia. I also lived in Hawaii for 10 years. I built a house over there, lived in a rainforest and got in touch with my inner self.
LMB: When did you start skating?
In the sixth grade, my neighbor gave me a Black Knight clay wheel skateboard, and that became my transportation. It wasn’t really a sport endeavor for me at first. I would go to Cardiff elementary, bomb the hill, hit a couple of pebbles and lose some skin. Clay wheels really sucked. Eventually, I got a Hobie, my first real board. It had clay wheels, too. Then I got a set of Cadillac wheels and I was stoked—no pebbles, no problem! When I was skateboarding to my sister’s house down Neptune, I met Frank Nasworthy, who was the first to put urethane wheels on skateboards. When I was riding by his house, he stopped me and said he was supposed to go shoot his first Cadillac wheel ads with some other kid, but he couldn’t find him. Frank said, “Well I can’t find him, so do you want to go shoot some pictures?” and I replied, “Well, okay.” He said, “I’ll give you a wetsuit.” I got a free ride to La Costa and I got a wetsuit. So, we went out and took some pictures, and to this day, I don’t think Frank ever gave me that wetsuit. He’s such a liar (laughs)! Those were the original Cadillac wheel ads, but I guess Surfer magazine lost the slides; so they sent Art Brewer down to re-shoot the ads. Art sat on the back of a pick-up truck and I followed him down the hill.
LMB: When did you get your first set of Trackers?
I know I bought them. Prior to Trackers, I rode Bennetts, but they just weren’t dependable. That was the best thing about Trackers, they were more durable than your board. You could count on them. I started riding the Midtrack, which was my favorite truck for pools and bowls. Fultracks were a little wide, but I loved Midtracks, and Haftracks were a little tippy for pools. Tracker is a great truck with great turning response, and the durability is unquestionable.
LMB: What was your favorite type of skating?
Pools and reservoirs, because I sucked at freestyle. Hobie would make me go to freestyle contests with Kim Cespedes, and I would come in 20th out of 20 every time. I remember going to Nassau Coliseum. Everyone had their choreographed music, and I went up to check in, and they asked, “What music do you want for your routine?” I said, “I don’t know, what do you have?” So, they gave me “Higher Ground” by Stevie Wonder, and I just went out and did slides on the ramp. I also remember doing a kickflip in that contest, despite the fact that a couple of weeks before I couldn’t even pull it off. I was like, “Yeah! I can’t believe I just pulled that off in front of an arena full of people!” I had tried it three hundred times before that and didn’t make it. It amazes me what kids can do now when I watch one of the skateboard videos. Those kids are insane.
LMB: How did you hook up with the Hobie team?
I did those Cadillac ads and I loved that 30” stringer woody board, so I think they got ahold of me originally to be on the team. I went and met with Hobie Alter at his house on the beach in Dana Point—he was a really nice gentleman—and it just started slow like that. I think I signed a contract for, like, $500 per month, plus 50 cents per board. I liked that team. I loved everyone on it—Kim Cespedes, Mike Weed was a nice guy, Skitch Hitchcock. It was a good assembly of characters.
LMB: Warren Bolster was kind of like your pocket photographer, wasn’t he?
Yeah, Warren Bolster made my career. He took me under his wing. I was his partner to shoot with. I was the only one who would go with him, because his car was so filthy (laughs). It was like, “Did you did get a tetanus shot before you got into Bolster’s Pinto (laughs)?” He and I became good friends. He would take me to Big Rock and go surfing. He was an awesome surf photographer. When he and his wife Susan were out of town, I’d watch his house with my girlfriend. He wasn’t the easiest guy to click with. Warren was a complex character, but a great guy and photographer. The first cover of Skateboarder, where I was halfway up the pool, I said, “Really, Warren, I was hitting the tiles.” But Warren replied, “This shot is aesthetically perfect,” and I said, “Really? I’m just right above the shit line, below the light, and you had to use this?” He didn’t care. It was all about the lighting and the angle.
LS: So, you were hitting the tiles?
Oh, yeah. I think I was flying out then. That was just a weak shot, it was embarrassing. It gave the Dogtown guys a bunch of fuel [to tease me]. “Look what’s happening down South.” I never lived down that one.
LMB: Who were Tracker’s best riders?
Kim Cespedes. Rodney Jesse. He’s by far the best in my opinion, as good or better than all of us. Rodney was the gnarliest, he had no fear. I’ve never seen anyone skate like that. There’s super 8 film of him just blowing away Carlsbad skatepark. I’m embarrassed to be on the same film with him. Tony Alva is an all-time great.
LMB: Rodney seemed to have a style that made what he was doing look more gnarly.
That was Rodney. He was crazy. Rodney literally had a couple of screws loose. But, he was by far the most balls-out skater I’ve ever come across. Dave Hackett still does it. He’s crazy. Does he realize he’s over 50? The Dogtown boys.
LMB: Which Tracker ad is your favorite?
The one where I’m at El Cajon skatepark, doing a handplant, just because I remember Craig Stecyk saying, “Flush twice, it’s a long way to El Cajon.” He thought that would piss me off, but it just gave me a fire in my belly. Any ad that Lance Smith took, he’s a great photographer. We have a shot at Hedley’s pool by Lance. That was a pool-and-a-half. It was the Waimea Bay of pools, with square coping, too.
LMB: Why was Tracker so important in the history of skateboarding?
Because the trucks worked, they were functional and didn’t break. You could count on Tracker, the most dependable truck I’ve seen. I don’t know what you guys did with the radius, but it turned. Like I said, I rode Bennetts before, and on banks, they were squirrellier, like more of a street truck. But, they broke. I don’t know how many Bennett trucks I broke.
LMB: Do you recall any memorable skate trips or demos?
We went to Tokyo, which was awesome. It was right before I quit skating. I was 17 or 18, and I was living with my stepfather in Los Angeles. Rodney Jesse came up with a friend of ours, Ron, this surf promoter who got us the trip to the Japanese National Skateboarding Championships. He needed a couple of guys and a girl, and I said Kim Cespedes is the best bowl riding girl I know of, and Rodney, who’s my buddy. Rodney was so lackadaisical. He just showed up and said, “Okay, let’s go!” I said, “No, you need a visa.” The day we were leaving, my stepfather, who was a test pilot for Lockheed, took off work, rushed us to downtown LA to get Rodney’s visa to go to Japan, then somehow got us on the plane. We had a layover in Honolulu, so we went to a bar and drank mai tais. Unbeknownst to us, the plane was waiting for us out on the tarmac. Poor Kim was looking for us, and the airline crew was screaming, “Where are they?” So, we weren’t very popular when we got back on the plane. But, the trip was awesome, the people were beautiful, as nice as could be. That was the most memorable trip.
I also did an East Coast tour to New York, Washington DC and Florida with Warren Bolster, Tom Inouye and Stacy Peralta. It was also cool skating Carlsbad with Larry Bertelmann and Buttons. That was the fun part. Skating, for me, was always a branch off of surfing. Surfing was my lifeline and skating was a branch off of that. When they invented skateparks, that was perfect—you could surf on the concrete.
LMB: Which was your favorite skate spot?
Escondido reservoir, I loved that place. The Valley Center pool was a bitchin’ place. The Kona Bowl. The Fruit Bowl was cool. Mt Baldy. The Arizona pipes were awesome, like nothing you’ve ever skated before. We flew out there two or three times with Warren Bolster, Tom Inouye, Waldo Autry and Stacy Peralta. When we drove up the first time, there were these massive pipe sections sitting in the middle of nowhere, and we were all, “Really? Cha-ching!” They were perfectly smooth like silk. We found some that were already connected into a tunnel to bring Northern Arizona water to Phoenix. It was a monstrosity that descended into the darkness on a six percent grade. Before I knew it, I was dropping in and going side to side. There were two-inch wide gaps between the sections, but I didn’t really think about that. So, I was going frontside, then came down and caught my wheel on a gap and…thud! I was just laying there, thinking, “Someone pull me out!” No one had on their safety gear. We were all so stoked to see the pipes, we just jumped on our boards. After that, it was like, “Okay, let’s put on the gear.”
LMB: You needed Alan Gelfand to show you the Ollie.
You couldn’t see the gaps in the dark, though. It was brutal.
LS: Did you ever skate San Onofre?
No, but the same company, Ameron, made those pipes. I think they were the same size—22 feet diameter interior, 25 feet outside—as the desert pipes.
LMB: So, which pipe are you skating in that photo over there?
That’s Mt. Baldy. We’d actually go up there, and sometimes it would be leaking water a little bit, so we would bring towels to dam it up at the top, and dry it. That was one of the first times we ever skated it. How did we hear about it?
LS: Warren Bolster. He shot Mike Weed there. You’re carving there.
Yeah, I think I was riding a longboard then. It looks like I’m a little worried, because
there’s a 20-foot deep drop-off at the end.
LS: That thing was so scary to just walk across.
LMB: Anything else?
I forgot to tell this story. During my senior year, I was sent up to Los Angeles to live with my stepfather. I was the only surf kid at Burbank High School in North Hollywood. So, basically, I ended up ditching class every day to skate this pool in Barry White’s guesthouse backyard. He had a kidney-shaped black pool with a cascading waterfall back there, which was so cool. We would sneak around back to get in. We skated it every day for probably two months. We even met his son, Barry Junior, who was an amateur photographer. He came out and shot pictures, and took us down into his parents’ house, where we met his sister. We all become friends.
I saw an interview with Bob Biniak, and he actually called me “The Great Gregg Weaver.” It was complimentary, because I didn’t think those Dogtown guys liked us. Bob was a really cool guy. One day, I ran into him in Venice while I was skating back and forth on the street, and I told him about the pool at Barry White’s house. Soon after, in the middle of summer, when it was 105 degrees in the shade, Bob showed up there. While we were skating, Barry White walked up wearing an intimidating, full-length mink stole with a mink cap on, and said, “Mmm, I’m afraid you boys are going to have to leave!” We said, “Okay!” then ran and jumped over the fence. So, we got a little shakedown from Barry White. We never skated there again.
LMB: So, tell us about some other famous people you’ve run across in your life?
We skated with Craig Chaquico, the lead guitar player for Jefferson Starship. Warren Bolster brought him down once. I remember he was totally into skateboarding, and I think he skated with all of us at the Carlsbad skatepark. He’s a great guitar player, but a shitty skateboarder. He wore wrist guards, but still almost broke his wrist. Really, dude, you’re going on tour, but you’re going to break your wrists. Plus, you suck. What’s the point? Stick to guitar playing. If I could play guitar like you, I wouldn’t be skating.
LS: Any other rock stars?
Just you. I play a mean ukulele! Not really, I suck. But, I like it. Thanks for the trucks, they saved my ass.
LMB: Are you still skating at all?
Not really, I blew out my Achilles tendon probably about 6-7 years ago. I lived in Newport and I’d skate 12 miles a day from Huntington Pier to Newport and back. One day, my buddies said, “Come on, let’s kick back and have some beers!” I had so much fun, I went back out to skate, overdid it and blew out my left Achilles tendon, and so I kind of stopped then. I’m ready to skate again, because it’s healed. My right one’s screwed up, but it’s okay, I guess. I wake up every morning and there’s something else wrong with me, so why quit? Why throw in the towel? I’m surprised I can get out of bed sometimes. I’ve broken so much crap, it’s ridiculous.