First & Last: Lance Mountain

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We are proud to bring you a new First & Last interview with Lance Mountain. Lance is part of an elite crew of human beings who laid the foundations for everything we know and love; his contributions are unbounded and we couldn’t be happier that he took the time out to thoughtfully and comprehensively entertain these questions.

Any Lance footage propagated via Bones Brigade communications was pored over and his incredible talent was undeniable, and coupled with the sense of fun and comicality he was willing to share, his personality and his skateboarding won him fans worldwide. The joy he found in skateboarding was clear, and is something which has continued to reinforce his unique place in skate history for each new generation. He has remained a guiding light, relevant, and respected for over forty years. It takes a rare talent to do that, and one truly committed to the cause.

We can all summon up a different Lance in our mind’s eye depending on the decade we grew up in, so much strong imagery surrounds his legend. Your memory banks might transport you to Variflex ads, rooftop acid drops, Mountain Manor, Goldfish pogo stick parallels, 411 intros, Nike SB releases, or all of the above. Whether you picture The Firm, Flip or Powell graphics beneath his feet, we guarantee his legacy hasn’t left you untouched.

As much as Lance was a pioneer he still is, continuing to push himself as he approaches sixty. This is boundary-breaking stuff which shows the rest of us we can hope to do the same. Lance has dedicated his life to contributing to—and developing—our culture, but also has an unmatched reverence for skateboarding, for the times he lived through, and for those who came before him. This sense of wonder (combined with a good memory) made him someone we have always wanted to speak to. We are thankful he is still blessing us with footage, artwork, history, and insights in interviews like this one. Read on for some nuggets, from the first magazine he saw in 1975 to battling the same trick for two hours just the other day.

 

Lance Mountain self portrait for this First & Last interview
WORDS AND INTERVIEW BY JACOB SAWYER. Self portrait by Lance Mountain

 

First time you ever witnessed skateboarding?

My friend Enrique Esparza who was 4-5 years older and babysat us at one time. He had a board. It was him for sure but I can’t picture the exact first time, it seems like before most memories.

First mag you ever saw, what stood out for you?

Skateboard 1975 issue 1 vol 1 with Steve Monahan on the cover. I bought it at the bike shop on the corner.

First skateboard?

Enrique got a new deck when urethane wheels came out, He gave me his old white clay-wheeled solid oak deck. I soon went and bought Metaflex urethane wheels for it. There was a big difference. I had homemade decks for a while before I bought a deck in 1977, it was a G&S Stacy Peralta.

First person you saw skate in the flesh who blew your mind?

Besides Enrique another local called Chris Genovese. Then we saw kids at Montebello skatepark who stood out, Louie and Monkey. Then in a backyard JR. The first pros were Bobby Percy, Stacy Peralta, and Tom “Wally” Inouye.

First board shape that changed what was possible for you?

In 1977 the 8″ 7 ply Alva was a big leap from the first bunch of decks I had. I had solid oak, plastic, plexiglass, fibreglass, and wood wedge tail boards. Then a 10″ wide Alva. I went back to homemade decks for a year or so, just because I couldn’t buy decks. The Salba changed everything because I had been riding decks that would just flex when you tried to pump. Air, height, and speed changed with the first ride.

First 80s park or ramp you would resurrect, who would you go back there with?

Probably Whittier with the old crew. All of them had so many good memories but were so short-lived, 70 parks in 3 years. I skated most of them for only one contest and never got to play with every bit of the park or the locals much, just the run or bowl the contest was in. I’d watch all the other age groups of kids take 2 runs, best run counts, go home, hahaha.

First VCJ drawings which could have been your Future Primitive graphic?

You mean instead of my FP graphic? I was asking for him to do the coat of arms crest idea. He was working on a knee bone voodoo graphic, then my head possibly blowing up with ideas or something.

First graphic you designed or oversaw you were stoked on?

I worked on the idea for my Variflex graphic but did not draw the final. I drew the sketch ideas but not the final on the Santa Cruz Spidey, then the Dogtown Ben Schroeder and the Suicidal Dogtown shirt & deck. Each one was a learning process. The Powell Peralta Crest was the first where it was drawn over and over, helping me learn how to make it work with the screening process. But I would still rather see VCJ do it. Then my son did the art for the next Powell decks. The first might be the Future Primitive Dough Boy?

First 540?

Fred Blood, Duke Rennie and a few roller skaters had done 540s in the pools in 1980. Skateboarders wanted to but it seemed a bit harder with the deck having to be held through the spin. Billy Ruff figured out Units (frontside invert revert 540 spin) but only part way up the transition in 1981 or 1982. Many tried 540’s backside for a while halfway up the wall. In 1984 at Swedish Sumer camp the ramp had big transitions and Mike McGill figured it out. He was the first to actually try it 6 ft in the air not low or halfway up. He committed to the flip and he had the guts to lay it on the line.

I don’t think any of us thought that would be the way to try if we were slamming halfway up with no full spin, but the air time allowed the full spin. I saw him do it, grabbed my board and tried it right away. I landed legs on the deck and flipped to the flat. He came back to the Del Mar contest and did it, then everyone knew they had to. I think Tony [Hawk] learned it quickly. When I got home It took me a month to commit. There were a good 3 or 4 years where only 5 or 6 people could do them.

First tricks you witnessed in the flesh which changed skateboarding forever?

The ability to do over ten 360s. Most people who could do over ten could do 20-100 of them, Wheelie variations, nose, tail, early early skateboarding. This did not change skateboarding forever as much as show that balance and technical skateboarding would be the future one day. Bank, vertical, aggressive skateboarding led until both re-connected with modern-day street.

Even Kevin Anderson skating backwards in the 70s would become switch one day. Knee sliding changed skateboarding, kids could go higher and try new stuff then we could slide out of it easy. Alan Gelfand’s frontside ollie on vert, I saw him at Lakewood. Bobby Valdez’ invert, I saw that a Lakewood as well. The flatland ollie, stalling, invert techniques, 540’s. Kareem [Campbell)’s kickflip flick to got over a trash can rather than rolling on the ground. Handrails. So many.

 

Lance Mountain Sadplants at Crystal Palace Vert Ramp in 1985. Photo by Dobie Campbell
Lance Mountain not far from his Lewisham roots. Sadplant at Crystal Palace Vert Ramp in 1985 shot by his UK host Dobie Campbell

 

First skate trip to the UK?

I went in 1975 and then in 1979. We skated the Mad Dog Bowl first because it was close to our home. That’s where I met Seth [Parker] Gittins and Pino PPT. We went to Harrow and Rom and saw Mark Sinclair. It was around the time Shogo [Kubo] did a demo there, I remember flyers for it. We went to Rolling Thunder and met Jeremy Henderson and John Sablosky. I skated Southbank. There was a ramp in a parking lot where they were trying to build a wooden bowl, I still can’t remember exactly what city that was in.

I think the next time was when I didn’t go to the Del Mar contest after the 540 summer camp. I went with Yvette who is now my wife, [John] Lucero, [Steve] Keenan & Spidey [De Montrond]. We toured around and stayed with Dobie [Campbell] and Shane Rouse. We skated the Farnborough ramp and Lucero says I tried to show them 540s. We slept in a rainy field for the KiddyComp. Good times.

First best funny contest memory you think of?

The first contest I was in was at Montebello. It was high Jump, then a bowl/snake run contest. This was before they held any pro pool/bowl contests. They held am bowl contests in the parks. Runs and tricks, or as they were called then ‘manoeuvres’ were not judged yet. The contest consisted of going down the run and riding over taped-off small boxes with numbers in them. Boxes with 1 or 2 added up points and whoever collected the highest number of points won.

Louie was the only one at this time doing roll-outs and roll-ins on the steepest part of a grindable lip, the rest of the run was made up of rounded lip banks. There was a box on the deck with a 5 in it. He could roll out and get 5, roll in, roll out and get 5 more, over and over. He collected about 100 points. The rest of us went down the run and collected about 10 points. Some of us could pump back up get a few more, then back down for another 10 points. He won.

First time you skated with Tony Hawk?

A.S.P.O. (Association of Skatepark Owners) had am contests. There were probably a hundred kids in all different age groups and levels. It was split into 1a, 2a, 3a. Unsponsored, park team, amateur company team. It was mostly a park against park contest. Tony was younger and in a different age group. I’m not sure if he was unsponsored, park team or am sponsored the first time I knew of him.

We didn’t skate against each other until the Gold Cup where we were sponsored ams and there was no age group. It was 1980 and at his park, Oasis first. At that time there was talk about his way of doing things. I think most people knew that what he was doing, and how he was starting to do it, could change things soon.

First street trick you recall you filmed in the 90s you are happy you did?

In the 90s? The difference from the 80s is that it would be flips or rails. Mostly all of the new stuff in the 90s because it was starting over. I did kickflips and rails in the late 80s so it would be more of the kickflip varial, double flip, pop shove-it, heelflip, heelflip varial, K-grind, and noseslide stuff I guess. Some bigger rails. I’m just glad I got to roll through that time skating with the guys and trying new stuff. Riding down the sidewalk and cutting in and out of driveways, from the skateparks of the 70s.

First skate photo you shot yourself you were stoked on?

We shot a lot of pictures of each other as kids in 77-79. I shot some photos of the Pepsi team in 1977 but they’re not very good. The first good photo of a pro I shot was Steve Alba at a Lakewood contest in 1979. I shot some others as well at that contest, Bobby Valdez, Brad Bowman, George Orton, and Jimmy Plummer.

First trick you saw named?

Methods were the first trick I remember Neil Blender naming. He saw Dave Andrecht do backside airs grabbing behind the foot at the Big O contest. This broke a new boundary. He started doing them that way and pulling them up higher with his knees lower than the deck. Your body is higher on a straight backside. He said it was the ‘method’ to make them higher. I saw lots of tricks named before that mostly by what they were or who did them. Neil started naming tricks with almost a secret code. But some came before that. Rock Walk, rock and roll, cess slide, fakie, ollie.

First time you visited Slam City Skates?

Not sure but definitely on a Powell Peralta tour, at least when I was on Powell. I think we looked for SLF [Stiff Little Fingers] 45s.

First pair of Blazers you saw and first pair you ever got?

The first pair I remember were in [Tony] Alva’s Skateboarder interview 1978, the issue with Steve Olson on the cover. The first pair I got was when I got on Nike SB in 2005.

First trick you’d like to have back for the day?

Kickflip backside lip on a handrail.

First thing about skateboarding that makes you smile when you think about it?

The last answer.

 

Lance Mountain Magazine Covers through the ages
Two fistfuls of Lance Mountain covers spanning 1983 until 2019

 

Last skate video that warranted a re-watch?

The early films I saw as a kid. Five Summer Stories, Super Session, Magic Rolling Board, Freewheelin’, Skateboard, Skateboard Madness, Skaterdater. Videos?

Last trick you did again you thought you may have done for the last time?

Im still delusional, there are still tricks I think I can do that I won’t.

Last trick you consciously retired?

I’m retiring more unconsciously, if you don’t do them every day now, you have to relearn them. Yesterday I was working on a blunt-tailslide over at this spot. I thought it would just be easy but realised I had not done one for 10 years. I’m not even sure if it is considered a trick if you don’t flip into or out of it. Who cares. It was fun.

Last thing you thought would ever happen to you which has?

Grandparents of 5, the best thing ever. I had hoped for maybe one.

Last time you visited the UK?

Nike SB ‘Bird Is The Word’ tour ?

Last person you saw skate in the flesh who blew you away?

I saw Carlos Ribeiro film the switch flip over to crooked grind on the rail for his part.

Last trick you made you were stoked on?

I started to try to film something for when I turn 60, I’ve got 2 years. Everything landed so far that I want to save has made me stoked. I’ve got 1 clip in the bag.

Last film you saw?

I watched the movie Steve Cab had a little piece in, The Case For Heaven by Lee Strobel.

Last book you read?

Ephesians.

Last record you listened to the whole way through?

Wow can’t remember on actual vinyl. On digital I think Captain Sensible Power of Love or Joe Jackson Look Sharp.

Last creative project you enjoyed working on?

I like them all, coffee tables, art, little deck projects with skaters. I built a new cover for tools in the backyard.

Last thing you were proud of achieving within skateboarding?

Skateboarding providing for me thanks to other skaters who have responded to things we enjoyed doing still blows me away. If I look back at it and try to simplify it-that still being my reality, so stoked. Proud of? My wife and I raising an awesome boy during it all.

Last time you surprised yourself?

I tried something for over 2 hours the other day and didn’t make it. I didn’t get mad, I was so exhausted but thought of going back to try it again.

Last time someone from your generation surprised you?

I can’t believe how gnarly Tony Hawk is. Not that his skateboarding hasn’t always been next level, but his pain threshold and determination through it with his broken leg.

Last trick you noticed you thought you had seen the last of?

Are people doing layback airs down a handrail still?

Last time you shot a skate photo or wish you had?

Not since digital cameras came out. I haven’t missed it.

Last piece of memorabilia you would ever let go?

I think I would like to keep my sanity

Last time a random encounter made your day?

I ran into Guy Mariano the other day. We saw some skaters coming up to a spot, they saw some skaters coming up and we both started to leave for the others to skate by themselves. Then it was “is that you Lance?”, “Is that you Guy?” We skated together.

Last thing skateboarding brought to the table you think the world needs more of these days?

Skateboarding was different then to all other things (Sports, Games, Activities). It was a toy to play on and interesting to all of us because it was wide open to make up parts of it for ourselves. Invent things, find things, build things, compete in different ways as that came along. Find friends, see new things, make memories.

Last Words?

Thank you all for giving me a life of fun times.

 

Lance Mountain plants his foot and clears the channel at Bob Burnquist's
Grandparent of 5 in flight. Footplants at Bob Burnquist’s filmed by Jason Hernandez

 


 

We want to thank Lance Mountain for taking time out of his daily life to ponder these questions, and for everything he has done and continues to do for skateboarding. We also want to thank the Read & Destroy Archive and Dobie Campbell for the beautiful Crystal Palace photo

Previous First & Last interviews: Jarrad Carlin, Colin Kennedy, Henry Sanchez, Mike York, Amanda Perez, Mark Gonzales.