While scanning a pic of Mark Gonzales the other day, I took notice of the neighboring images on this single strip of film. I remember now that the session I was shooting was for a Ray Bones Rodriguez interview that ran in Poweredge magazine in 1989. The strip features Ray, Omar Hassan, Gonz, and Jim Gray. All legends and classic skaters now, so what better time to get Jim on the phone and catch up about that session some 30 years ago.
photoBALLARD: So what did you think about the photos I sent you?
Jim: I was pretty stoked you found a photo of me. I was like "Whoa, I like that"
photoBALLARD: Do you have any idea what year it was?
Jim: I'm guessing, but it was like '88, '89, something like that.
photoBALLARD: I figured it was '89. How old do you think Omar was?
photoBALLARD: Were you guys ramp locals at Vans?
Jim: Yeah. I mean, there wasn't much to skate in Orange County. I got Omar some sponsors when he was a kid, you know what I mean? So I hauled him around a lot. We just had backyard ramps in Huntington, Costa Mesa, and the Vans ramp. We went wherever the scene was. I'm looking at these pictures and, honestly, it does look like the Vans headquarters. But there was different iterations of it and I don't really remember the mini ramp being next to it. It's just so bizarre how a lot of times those scenes only went on for a year and a half, or so. But when there was nothing else to skate, that's probably why we went there frequently.
photoBALLARD: Yeah. I remember there being two iterations of that ramp. One of them had an over-vert hump in the middle of it.
Jim: I don't remember that. Omar and those guys probably remember more: I was never a big detail guy. I showed up, I rode it. I remember Vans; the mini ramp at one point had a high and a low section. I have some videos skating it, because I was one of the few guys who had a video camera back then. I have a lot of video of the mini ramp at Vans from around that same time.
photoBALLARD: Who were you riding for at the time?
photoBALLARD: I thought you rode for G&S.
Jim: I rode for G&S in, ooh, probably '79, '80-ish till '84, '85, and then I quit G&S because they had drifted off and became a surf clothing company. I liked them, but their skateboard sales were weak. It's not like we made a lot of money back then; I needed to move on and do my own thing. For a short period of time I rode for Haro bicycles because they made pads. I would go to the Haro factory all the time, and one day Bob Haro was like, "Man, we should make some skateboards". And I'm like, "Yeah, that sounds fun". I actually have a Jim Gray model Haro skateboard that there was only a couple batches made. And then Haro was purchased by some big bike distributor, and they didn't want to do skateboards anymore, so they canned the program. And that's when I called Dave at Blockhead, because I had met him at a trade show and he's like, "Hey, if you're ever in between sponsors, hit me up". And so I just called him and worked something out.
photoBALLARD: Do you remember who the locals were at Vans?
Jim: Well, there's was a crew called the Chrome Domers, which was Mark Cernicky; there was the Cass brothers, Johnny Cass, Chris Cass. And those guys all traveled around and skated together. Mike Barnes... God, who else was part of that? Seth.
Jim: Remy for sure was a Chromer. Then you had Cara Beth, because she was the Vans girl, so that was her spot. I was actually really surprised to see Ray Bones there that day. He was ripping.
photoBALLARD: It's amazing how those early street skaters all skated vert, too.
Jim: Yeah. Gonz had a vert ramp in his backyard, it was a mini vert ramp. Jinxs and I used to go skate at the Gonz's house all the time.
photoBALLARD: He still skates vert, right?
Jim: You know what's really funny? He's been trying to do Gray slides for years, the trick I invented. And he's never been able to. And I freaking just love it because he can do so many damn things, but he always sends me pictures of him trying to do Gray slides. And then he shows me videos and he never makes it. It kind of makes me feel rad, you know what I mean? Because he's frigging so good.
photoBALLARD: The invert photo of the Gonz on that film strip is why I pulled it, to scan it and make a print.
photoBALLARD: And then I took notice of all those other photos next to it. I was like, "This is pretty rad".
Jim: Yeah, for me too. It gets me excited to see. I know where I fit in. I was just a good skater, a low-level pro skater. Photographers were trying to get photos of Hosoi and Hawk and Cab, and I was right there with them. You know what I mean? I was super fortunate to have been in a lot of really rad sessions with the best pros in the world, and having the best photographers in the world there to document it. Sometimes I get an e-mail or a text from guys like you or Grant Brittan that say "Oh, look, I found these pictures of you".