John Gibson Interview
By Larry Balma
When did you get your first set of Tracker Trucks?
The first time was in 1978, when I was asked by Jeff Newton, who was making Zorlac skateboards in his garage, to ride for his team. I said yes and our first road trip was to the Oklahoma State Championship in Tulsa. We get to the contest and all of these pros from California were on tour. They showed up in a limo. The pros who got out were Chris Strople, Dennis Martinez, Steve Cathey, Shogo Kubo and Tony Jetton. They all started ripping the place apart. At the skatepark, they had a Pepsi ramp on the side. Strople was ripping it apart. I joined the session and was showing off a new trick I just learned, the frontside Ollie. Strople was so impressed that he asked me to ride for Caster. I was so stoked. He said he would fly me to California to compete in the Hester Series pro-am at Del Mar in the summer of 1979. So, Jeff Newton found out that Strople had asked me to ride for Caster. He came up to me and asked what my answer was, I said, “Hell Yeah!” Newton was very upset. I later found out that Strople gave Newton a brand new pair of Tracker mags for exchange for me riding for Caster. After that, Strople didn’t have a board for me, so he gave a new pair of Trackers—Sixtracks, I believe. Man I loved those trucks!
Why was Tracker so important in the history of skateboarding? During your time on Trackers what stood out about their importance?
First of all, Tracker was there from the beginning. I loved all of their team riders in Skateboarder magazine. I studied them more than any book from school. What really stood out about Tracker was the magnesium Sixtracks. I loved for my board to be as light as I could get it. I rode a special six-ply fiber laminated Caster with Tracker mags and Gyro wheels. Gyros were heavy but fast, and Tracker mags helped make up the difference.
Which Tracker riders influenced you? Who were the guys you looked up to?
That’s easy, definitely Chris Strople and Tom “Wally” Inouye. If it weren’t for those guys believing in me and taking time out of their lives to bring me out to California at such a young age, I probably wouldn’t be talking about skateboarding right now. My life would be so different if it wasn’t for them. I can’t thank them and their parents and my mom enough for letting this happen.
Tell us about some memorable times on the Tracker team.
There’s so many! The time Bill Danforth and I stayed with Larry Balma. Bill and I got up early one morning and decided to skate down the hill to get some breakfast. It was really foggy and Bill spun out and cartwheeled down the hill. I thought he was dead. But we had pancakes like nothing was wrong. I never forget that.
Or the time Bryan Ridgeway came to Texas to hang with me and Todd Prince. There was a contest in Lafayette, Louisiana, and our band Bark Hard was to play at it. Well, the contest went good, the band was a train wreck and then what happened later that night is going to stay between Ridgeway and I. It’s our own little private joke! Ah, good times.
Do you have any closing comments?
I’d just like to thank Larry and everyone else who took good care of me in those early years. I was so young and y’all took such good care of me. It was an awesome chapter in my life, and I will never forget it! I can’t thank y’all enough for a life-changing experience.