Vans Brings Black Rainbows Back to the FutureThe Whalebone History Dept. jumped back in the old DeLorean to visit the Van Dorens last week. We hit 88 and landed in mid-1970s Venice for a talk with legendary Dogtown and Z-Boy skateboarders Tony Alva, Jim Muir and Peggy Oki, all sitting on the lip of a re-creation of the Dogbowl with Zephyr founder and artist Jeff Ho. Elijah Berle, also in the neighborhood, stopped by to sit in and did a few tricks for good measure.
Vans constructed the pool in a building on Rose Avenue in Venice and brought a Civil War reenactment’s precision to the proceedings, also conjuring Tony and the crew’s flophouse quarters complete with the smell of stale bongwater and a faithful depiction of the original Van Doren shop.
Along the walls were a museum’s worth of Zephyr and Dogtown originals courtesy of Ho and Muir, and an exhibit with the timeline of the creation of the first skateboarding shoe. Legend (and Tony himself) has it, the shoe (now called The Era by Vans) came about after Alva told Steve Van Doren he needed a shoe for when he went “off the wall.” The original Van Doren deck shoes (as in boat) were modified after input from the Z-Boys, who were already fans of the grippy waffle-pattern gum soles.
As the shoes and riding styles evolved, so did the boards.
Jim Muir, who started Dogtown Skateboards mostly out of necessity, because nobody was making the sorts of boards he and his friends needed, said he innovated the industry by accident. The planks got bigger he said because they were tracing old broken decks with Sharpies to make new ones. The boards became concave when they ran out of straight wood and resorted to warped wood. Others said he might be being a bit too humble.
The roll down memory lane kicked off Vans’ Black Rainbows (a term coined by Jeff Ho for the marks skateboard wheels leave on walls) in Venice, a 10-day long festival of music, movies (including a new Alva documentary), panels, and, that first night at least, a little bit of mayhem courtesy of a set by Venice-born skate thrash veterans Suicidal Tendencies (led by Jim Muir’s younger brother, Mike).
The band bashed through a set of old school jams, driven by the beat of former Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo. The crowd even included longtime ST and Infectious Grooves bassist (now a member of Metallica) Robert Trujillo. The throwback vibe continued with old-timers and new blood alike moshing and crowd surfing through the set, and by the end of the night, ears were ringing and the bongwater smelled a little less stale.