Steve Olson: “It has no graphics. Which makes its own statement: it’s all about the shape”

In 1966, skateboarding was far from having died what, four times now? “You had a skateboard for Christmas every year,” Steve Olson laughs, “it was a staple.” That didn’t last, though. But Olson hung in there and trodded through the jungle with better than a machete in his hand: an attitude. You can’t put a 44-years experience on a skateboard to sleep with lullabies and an award-winning, romanticized depiction of how it went down.
“I think it’s just ego speaking when people say pools were the original expression of skating”, Steve states. Skating on the streets was the first form of expression, period. I’m sure there’s a lot of egomaniacs that say, when I first got into a pool that’s when it really happened. Go die. Please. Don’t fucking blow ass.” Not surprisingly, what he picked as his own five favorite boards ever is a bit on the manifesto side, too.


Santa Cruz Checker 2 (1982)
Art by Bucky Olson

“My first pro-model for Santa Cruz was probably 8 inches wide. I tried to make them do certain type of boards, so when the 10-inch boards came out, I was like fuck off, I was riding wide boards way back. I came up with a couple designs but they never felt them. They did later on, but then it was too late and who cares.

My first pro-model with them had some ghetto-ass, stock generic design thing that Santa Cruz had. Then my brother, artist guy, surfer, surf board maker, airbrush painter, he did all my graphics at Santa Cruz, not Jim Phillips. This fucking guy has the audacity to put it in a book that he designed my boards. That’s pathetic.

Anyway, we took the checkers pattern from the flag in the racing world, which my dad was a part of. He did decals and stickers and stuff. The checker flag was already on the Indy 500, which was a longboard made by the same company that made Black Knight. So it’s not something original but it did what it did. This one stayed out for maybe a year. Skateboarding was dead at that point.”

SOS Splatter (1985)
Art by Bucky Olson

“The name SOS stands for whatever you want, it could be Steve Olson Skates or Swallow Out some Spooge, or Sit On it, Stupid. I did it with Santa Cruz and it had potential to become really huge but then I walked away from the deal. We went maybe for four to six months then a department store came and said they wanted to do all this stuff and they wanted SOS and the ad campaign I had done with my friends. There were projections and contracts and everything, at a moment where skateboarding was really small, still.

Come ’88-89 it was gigantic, it would have been in line for it. But Santa Cruz kept trying to push Santa Cruz so I was like, I am not gonna make these guys one more penny, I’d rather be poor the rest of my life. Only two boards came out on SOS, there was another one that had tire tracks on the bottom. After that I did a board with Skull Skates. Then I never made a board again, until the deal with Black Label.”

Formica board (2006)

“I like formica, I rode formica boards in the late ’70s as well. So it’s nothing new. These are not for sale, I just have them made for myself, I just ride custom boards. That’s my favorite board ever, period. And I had shapes like that in the late ’70s as well but they never let me produce them, with the pointy nose and the upturn kick and everything but they didn’t understand shit.

The upturn nose, dudes had them in the 70s. But then there’s this guy Mike Weed who rode for Hobbie, he had a very similar board to what people ride now. Both nose and tail looked similar and both had kick or upturn nose. I saw him ride one of these at a contest in 79 I think in Lakewood skatepark.

Anyway I tried to do the pointy nose on SOS too but they shut it down, they said it was too dangerous. Bullshit. I really love this one, that’s the board I ride all the time, it has no graphics. Which makes its own statement : it’s all about the shape.”

Pavel Rocka (2007)
Art by Donald Campbell

“It’s a certain kind of fiberglass and foam, made and vacuum-sealed by hand. It just rips. It’s a definite race board. I met this guy in Düsseldorf, Germany, his name is Donald Campbell, while racing through Europe. The only people who are into doing interesting, new things in skateboarding are the race people. A lot of people say they’re nerds but at least they try to push it. They are improving. But manufacturers would never switch molds and everything cause it’s gonna cost money.

I used to race all the time, I love racing. I haven’t in a while but I’d do it again. My favorite is giant slalom where you go real fast and do big turns, you’re doing 40 miles an hour, but not straight. So far the favorite event I ever attended was thrown by Henry Hester, who was a slalom champion back in the 70s, at this famous hill in North County San Diego. I hooked up some equipment and I smoked them all. And then I got completely bored again.”

SMA Drag City Racing (2008)
Art by Yaniv Evan

“The artwork on this one was made by Yaniv Evan, from Powerplant Choppers. It’s more like a cruiser, 36 inch, it’s just a guest model that was produced in a limited run. I’ve done guest models with Gonz and Krooked, an other one with Real, one with Deathbox, some reissues with Santa Cruz. I’ll only do guest boards now.

That one is a certain type of glass. I mean they’re all different constructions. Maybe the rest odf the industry thinks wood works best, and maybe it’s true. But I like to try new things, makes it more interesting than just stick with something.”

You’ll never find Olson’s boards.


5 Responses to “Steve Olson: “It has no graphics. Which makes its own statement: it’s all about the shape””

  1. 1 Bevilacqua April 3, 2010 at 8:27 pm

    Great post – as usual.
    There was a long portrait of Yaniv Evan in a late “Juice !”.
    Félicitations !

  2. 2 sebcarayol April 3, 2010 at 9:10 pm

    Yeah, and it was so interesting, that Juice article. Pretty badass. Again, peoples : subscribe to Juice !

  3. 3 Gustavo | SkateIsLife April 16, 2010 at 9:03 pm

    Yeah! It’s all about the Shape…


  4. 4 Joshua Maloney August 6, 2010 at 11:03 am

    Hey Mr. Steve Olson i know this is lame but im really trying hard to get it touch with u and find out if u remember skating with my dad Chris Maloney or his older brother Mark Maloney he says u guys use 2 shred

  5. 5 Sco March 17, 2012 at 9:18 am

    Been there done that! Olson is z man … Period! Also have all his decks! Everyone from the start! Love it! Thanks!

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Le boardnographe du phonographe

This is an archive for my eponymous monthly page in Skateboarder mag. Plus a few extras few and far between, whenever I get a chance...
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