A LIFETIME LATER STEVE OLSON

In 1994 while functioning as Team Manager/Photographer for TumYeto (Toy Machine/Foundation) we began running ads in Thrasher for the upcoming Summer Tour, basically calling out the Kids of America to entice us to come to "your" house—the ad said show us your spots, chicks and what you can blow up and we will come with the sickest pros. On June 16th 1995 we rolled up to Eric W's house in Orlando, Florida, with Jamie Thomas, Ed Templeton, Frank Hirata, Troy O, Kirk Alexander, and Steve Olson. 25 years later I have Steve and Eric on a phone call with a voice recorder - photoBALLARD

Eric: Dude, it’s been so long, crazy to talk to you

Olson: Yeah, man, we met up, right in Florida one time, right?

Eric: Yeah, still here, a few miles from where we met, in ’95. Man, so like, you have no idea. I mean, when I was a teenage kid I was so intrigued by Steve Olson. I had four or five ads on my bedroom door, one of you and Frank, one of you drinking coffee. And when I met you… It was super rad with you at my house.

Olson: That’s cool man. I was just like you. I had hella magazine pages on my wall. And, I would trip out if I had those dudes in my house.

Eric: Man, my English friend and I were nerding out on Hubba Hideout, and you did three tricks before Hubba was even really showing up in videos.

Olson: I did f/s 180 nosegrind, and shovit out both ways, and on the other side I did backside nosegrind, and then came out switch revert.

Eric: Well, I mean, thinking back, what was going on? That ledge is huge. You’re riding a 1994 board set-up.

Olson: At that time, Frank Hirata was my roommate. And we were living in Encinitas. And Leigh Peterson… who was one of the best skaters out of Seattle. He was living in San Diego and had a car. We decided we’d go to San Francisco for a filming trip. And, I don’t think we’d ever been to Hubba Hideout… No, I had been. But, I think Rick Howard had done a noseslide on it, and some other guys did some stuff on it. And, 180 nosegrind was my trick. And, I never practiced a hard trick. I just would go try it. So, one of my first ads was a 180 nosegrind. And I did a 180 nosegrind on a huge handrail in my sponsor me video. But I just went to Hubba Hideout thinking, I’m gonna do this 180 nosegrind, and switch backside shovit out, and it was one of those things. I think I got it in five… No, two tries. And then I thought I’d try it and shovit the other way, and I fell about, from, eight feet high and got broke off, really hard. Landed right on my knee. Then I’m sleeping in Leigh’s car that night, and this was the only time this happened to me in my whole life… my knee was jacked. I could hardly walk. I was out for the whole trip. But, my Dad was really into, like, spiritual healing and psychic powers, and he raised me believing in those things. I just wanted to skate, not be hurt the whole trip. So, I remembered my Dad telling me that you could imagine white light to heal you, and when I went to sleep I just imagined white light going into my knee. When I woke up, my other knee was sore from skating, but my hurt knee, like, just felt new. There was no bruise. It was one of the craziest things that happened in my life. Then I went back the next day and did the backside 180 nosegrind tricks.


Eric: Well, that’s the thing, I mean I’d always hype you up to people. And, people didn’t get it, and looking back I think it’s because I saw you skate live. Taking you to my high school, and… just the way you guys full on assaulted the rails at my school. And, I think I saw you do about fifty, 360 flip lipslides at Tampa Pro in 1996, in the course of the day. You fell at one point, and Frank had to get you ice from the concession stand. But there was another time at Tampa where you ollied from the top of the huge wallride into the bank, went to the roll in, then did a hardflip over the pyramid, came back and did a frontside flip, and then you just did a bunch of tricks but you kept doing them over and over. I think your legacy as a skater was rad, just rad, seeing you live and seeing the whole energy in your skating.

Olson: That’s cool man, but actually I think I only did the 360 flip lipslide and landed it one time. But I tried it hella times. I’d flip my board, but it wouldn’t land to lipslide. And it wasn’t that high of a rail, not high enough to rack on it, but… I remember I tried it half the day.

Eric: But you must have landed it, because you placed 19th that year.

Olson: But I remember Tom Penny was there, and he was switch backside lipsliding the rail, like every time. He’s so dope.

Eric: He is, but… Man lately I’ve been tripping out on how memories aren’t very reliable, so maybe it wasn’t fifty times. I’ve always prided myself on having a good memory. It had to be a few times. I remember at the awards, you weren’t there when they called your name. I always felt like a weirdo at that age, and I didn’t get the hype on the Girl and Flip team. I was hyped on those guys, but I remember you’d get the cover of a mag and your board would have no graphic on it, board would just be torn up. I’d wonder how you even skated at that level on such boards.

Olson: Well, I’ve tried to be humble, man. I dropped out of skating in 2005. I’ve had limited contact with people, and I don’t have to be a dope skater to make a living. I definitely proud of some of those things. I mean, 360 flip lipslide… I’m one of the first people to do that. I think Pat Duffy did it, at the same time, then Marc Johnson. But when I started skating, a kickflip was tech. Then Jason Lee was doing 360 flips. And looking back I’m happy I got to be part of that time of skating, the art of it changing. Tech was coming about. The whole art of skating changed a lot, and what people are doing now hasn’t changed that much. It’s gotten crazier and gnarlier, but a lot of what people do now we were already doing then, not like mega ramps or whatever but…

Eric: Yeah, all of that innovation happed in the early and mid-90s. But it’s cool that was your era. What was it that made you call it quits? Did you keep getting boards after?

Olson: I never quit. I’ve actually been getting more into it lately, like hitting up skateparks. For a while I was anti-skatepark. Coming from an era where there were no parks. Now I’m just like, screw it dude. I might as well take advantage.


Eric: It’s amazing how many popped up in the last twenty years. There were three in Florida. Now there are dozens. It feels different coming from an era where people didn’t understand skating and you looked weird. Now, I’m a college professor and wearing skate shoes in class and kids come up and wanna skate with you, and I gotta bust out my front crooks. And it was amazing how fast they progressed because they had skateparks in their backyard. But they’d also be like a football, tennis, soccer, baseball skateboarder, which was something else we also never saw. And, they’d think of it as if skating was just another sport, and I’d be like… What? No it isn’t! Do you know what the 80s and 90s were like? I’ll tell you something else though… I met a guy here in Florida that used to work for Tum Yeto, and he lived near you, near some Hare Krishna Temple… Do you remember?

Olson: Do I remember the guy? I probably do… but it’s weird, dude. I mean, maybe if I saw him, but I’ve met so many people, and I smoked, like, so much weed. I don’t anymore, but… I haven’t smoked any weed since 2008.

Eric: I heard that. You know the first time I ever saw someone smoke weed was you and Chad… in the van.

Olson: What, that’s crazy? Laughter

Eric: Yeah, I mean, I win the demo for the 1995 tour. I didn’t know that pros smoked lots of weed. I mean, I didn’t know a network of skaters. I mostly skated around my neighborhood. Didn’t know FASL or any network of contests, only went to the skatepark when I had the chance. I didn’t know many skaters until after I met all of the Tum Yeto guys. And you guys come to my house, and we are driving to the go-kart track, and you and Chad bust out the pipe and started smoking up in the van. I told you guys it smelled like mashed potatoes, because my Mom used to put lots of pepper in hers.

Olson: Oh my God! Laughter.

Eric: It was a rite of passage for me to watch you guys hanging out and being yourselves. And I remember you telling me, “We’re all just humans, putting our pants on the same way.” And I remember my Dad catching on and saying like, “If you guys need to smoke dope, go ahead, you just do it over there.” And Chad saying, “Aw, man, I can’t smoke weed at your Dad’s house, man…” (Laughter) I was bugging out. I remember that story though, about you living near the Krishna temple. I’d never heard anyone talking about Eastern Religions, but that next year in Tampa you were talking to me about the Creator of the Worlds in-between your practice runs. So, based on what you’ve said about your Dad, is this something you’re interested in? Is there one religion? Multiple?

Olson: I just think there is one ultimate reality, one universe. It’s a living being. Atoms are vibrating with energy. Earth behaves like a living organism. Mountains and trees. I see everything as energy, lifeforce energy is what keeps us alive. So, when people believe in God, I believe in God, but for people who speak other languages, they believe in God through that language. All religions to me are different geographical, cultural, linguistic approaches to what is reality, of this ultimate reality, where were we before we lived in this body. Is it over? Does this force in the body live on? Are there dimensions we go to live in? I personally believe there is an afterlife. So I don’t believe in any one religion, but I study all of them and all spiritual traditions. That knowledge that’s in all of those traditions has helped me in my understanding of life, helped me maintain my sanity and cope with reality and just thrive in life. It’s helped me find my own truth…


Eric: I’d have to say it’s similar for me, I was raised in a religious family. It’s just weird how humans all hit this high point where they can’t think beyond a presence of a supreme being or energy. I’d always trip out on the idea of heaven and nothing went bad. Like, living forever for billions of years, and nothing bad happened? Wouldn’t you get bored? (Laughter) That used to freak me out. Did you ever think that?

Olson: My view on it is there is a heaven, it’s where we came from. I think there is something like that. It’s a plane of existence where everything is perfect and one. The supreme being, were in this universe, a supreme consciousness. There’s no limit. Its like a dream. So anything is really possible. So instead of being in this paradise, it’s almost like a video game. There are some realms where stuff is messed up like our world. It’s almost like an artistic creation. It’s like when you watch a movie and everything is happy and perfect. That’s not entertaining and bad stuff weaves together. The good and bad make an interesting creation of art. I think the Supreme Being has way more wisdom to know what to do. I mean, if life didn’t have the good and bad is all part of a higher plan of the good and bad. I mean, when you are ollieing down a big gap, there is no room to think or second guess, you just surrender to the flow. It’s what we are learning to do here, to surrender to this experience of life, the good and bad.

Eric: Speaking of skating, like ollieing a gap, as I’ve gotten older I kind of trip out when I look at stuff I would have skated. I think about how twenty years ago I would skate that, but I’ll do a small rail at a skatepark. Or like, I’ll look at 8 stairs and think I used to jump down 10, but this makes my legs feel weird. Do you feel that way or do you still roll up and take it? Jump 10-12 stairs, do a rail?

Olson: I could dude, but I’m 43. I haven’t been subjecting myself to that regularly. When I skated for a job and as a childhood pastime, I conditioned myself. You could do stuff a normal person can’t do. You’ve done it so much from a young age. I haven’t been keeping up with that conditioning. I’ve gone to skateparks, done stuff I used to do, and its all good but then boom you get broke off and get hurt really bad. I try to just… I think I could do some big stuff, but I’m not even about that. I look at it more like, even rolling down the street is good for me. I’ve been getting back into skating more. I’m getting stoked on parkour though. I’d like to get into that a little bit.

Eric: If you thought back to all your years of skating, is there one memory that always comes back and revisits you? A core event or experience?

Olson: I just love skating dude. It’s a crazy, modern, human invention of art. It’s kinda related to breakdancing, martial arts, some crazy Shaolin… At first unconsciously, now consciously, I’m a lifelong student trying to understand mind over matter. As humans, we are so capable of much more than we think we are. Skating is a perfect example that reality is not what we’ve been told it is. Kids have been doing crazy kung fu maneuvers. If they’d asked any authority if they could do something down a handrail or off a jump ramp, they’d be told “absolutely not.” But they do it, and do it all the time, and to me, all of life is just like skating… I’m just trying to understand who I am, what is the truth of this life, how can I make the world a better place, be of better service to humanity. Because otherwise, it’s just like, why? In another way, it’s just amazing to be alive. I mean, we are out of harmony with the universe. We’re really smart, but we aren’t like animals, which are in harmony with it all. They don’t pollute. I think humans need to figure out how we got out of touch with our true selves. Animals going extinct. We’re out of touch with having a loving heart.

Eric: Maybe it just takes a few breaks in life to reflect, you know? I look around and see people so stressed out and think maybe people don’t have a chance to reflect and think of how fortunate they are. I mean, right now, I’m in a touristy town looking at people having a vacation of a few days or so, and I wonder what the rest of their lives are like. If they get a break often. You and I have been fortunate to see the world, and maybe we get to think this way because we got out of our small towns.

Olson: I’m thankful I’ve had some breaks in life man, got to be a pro skater for twelve years, had time to reflect, to see something more to life than being a work robot and stressed out and trying to make money. I mean I have dealt with that, but…


Eric: So that moves onto the next topic. I went off to school and kept skating, but I hit a point where I just sort of held onto my tricks and felt good I could still do this or that. But I got into painting and reading about stuff I studied. You went off to get into music? I found Crazy Monk? You writing?

Olson: Yeah, I been doing my music since the mid to late 90s, have two hip-hop albums out. I make hip-hop, poetry-conscious-spiritual hip-hop, more like more 90s not the newer Casio keyboard trap beats. I’m really into books. Read hundreds, possibly thousands of books, on spirituality. I started writing sort of half, my own, spiritual view on life and then half my knowledge of spiritual teachers that inspired me. I’m just gonna keep working on it. Really into architecture too. I plan on buying some land and building some crazy buildings, like a pyramid… That’s a thing I’ve been researching.

Eric: So now weed is everywhere, but you quit before it was legalized widespread. Was that due to spirituality?

Olson: I mean, I smoked hella cigarettes, and I felt it. You try to jog or go upstairs. I smoked hella cigarettes and weed. I’m really into trying to eat healthy and figure out how to heal myself, never go to the doctor. 99% of the time, try to heal myself. Whenever get hurt or sick, I never think to ask someone else about it. I go read books about it, healing. Quitting smoking weed was health and spiritual. We are always trying to find happiness outside of ourselves, but it’s not the ultimate truth. We’re gonna die. We gotta find peace with who we are inside, find a happiness within. Its okay to indulge in life, smoke some weed, just don’t be consumed by it. Don’t get to the point that you gotta smoke to be happy.

Eric: Did you ever drink?

Olson: For most of my life it was never something I was that into. But skating and with other people I’d be like, what is this? I’ll try it? We were somewhere in the Midwest on a Foundation tour. I forget how, but I got this giant bottle of whiskey and chugged it, like a maniac. I was instantly drunk. Did like ten cartwheels down the street, being a spastic hella maniac. And then we were in the van and I had to puke, dude, and tried to puke out the window, and a tornado of puke hit the others behind me. One of those little windows that pop open. I tried to stick my mouth out the little crack.

Eric: Is there a least favorite part of pro skating? So you get to be a pro, but is there some aspect you don’t miss?

Olson? Uh… I don’t know. Some of the hard parts is getting hurt all the time. You’re just getting broke off. Probably most of the company owners are posted up in an office, and you’re out there breaking yourself. They’re giving you an opportunity to do something you love, so that’s a trade off. I didn’t know much about finances, but I later learned these people are making millions of dollars, and I’m making thousands of dollars but not ridiculous thousands of dollars! I wasn’t financially smart. I regret not getting paid as much as I could because I was kind of ignorant of the situation I was in… It’s all good dude.

Eric: Well, Muska put it on blast in an interview that on Tum Yeto he was only making $750 a month and that he left to make a few thousand a month on Shorties. I was happy to think you were at least in that ballpark of a few thousand. You started skating pro though in the dead days, 93 or 94.

Olson: My first paychecks were 100 or 300, not that much. But even if you’re guaranteed, 3 or 4 or 5, it’s not enough. Any type of a pro athlete should make more than that.

Eric: My Dad used to get really wound up, like when we met you guys, he thought you had a cool life, but he’d say, “You gotta plan on something else, this is not…go to school or something.” I think he saw injuries and the struggle, and having been through money struggles himself. Still looking back, having a pro skater life would be really cool. My takeaway of skating, getting to meet you… You say in this interview on youtube that you didn’t have a care about leaving a mark. But, I do want you to know, that, I think for me and kids that liked you, were fans of you… Not everybody has to be a Koston or a Pat Duffy. We found something in how you were a very innovative unique individual that we tripped out on.

Olson: Thanks man!

Eric: Skating always has the vibing and popular style. The big shorts, the five panel hats, white t-shirt or whatever trend… but you just skated. That was the best part about you.

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