Gonz & Toby T-Shirt

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This image of Toby Shuall sitting on Mark Gonzales’ shoulders first appeared in Transworld magazine. It was shot by Thomas Campbell on a trip to London back in 1992. For many years a photocopied version of this image was mounted on the wall of our Covent Garden shop, getting more and more dog eared as the years went by. For this reason it is almost synonymous with Slam. It made sense to immortalise this image on a T-shirt so we got Thomas Campbell’s blessing and went ahead. Toby wrote us a story about the specific period of time when this was shot and the Gonz even blessed us with some iPhone artwork we have turned into stickers. Slam team rider Blondey McCoy watching this sticker being created when he was on tour with Mark a few months back…

Photo by Neil Chester

and here is a making of video showing how he kills it on every medium. It’s like a micro version of the Hockney iPad experiments…

We were stoked that on top of this Toby Shuall took some time out of his busy schedule to tell the story of when this was shot. It was a magical time, a simpler time and he paints the picture well…

This photo was taken way back when I was 14, for the record I am now 40 and I still remember the photo been taken.
Firstly I would like to say I was given so much shit for this when I was kid, skaters were not nice to each other when I was growing up. A lot of people fucked with me about this for years, certainly at the the time when it came out in Transworld.

Times were certainly different back then that is for sure. It was the summer of 1992 and this image was taken in the car park outside Harrow Skate park, where I grew up skating. That year New Deal Distribution, who at the time distributed Real, New Deal, Black Label and some other old school brands had organised a tour of the UK with some Americians. Steve Douglas would have basically sorted this out, as Ray and Gary who owned the distribution company had no idea who was who in skateboarding.

They had just started distributing Milk which was Ron Chatman’s skate company. Christian Hosoi had a board but he was on the meth I think, attempting one of his comebacks. All the graphics for Milk were done by Gonz but he did not skate for it. In fact he had quit all sponsorship and was just skating for himself. He didn’t want to be pro anymore. He told me he had done all the graphics for Milk in exchange for a ticket to Europe to go on the tour that everyone was going on. There was hardly any money in skating at that point. I think for anyone really to get a flight to Europe and a hotel and maybe some money to eat was a big deal. No one in skating then was really making anything so for sure it was pretty amazing when all these American dudes turned up at Harrow.

Milk was a loss for Ray and Gary I reckon. They were pretty skint from the whole thing as they had to put all these dudes up in a hotel. Milk was very short lived and as mentioned they were distributing these companies on advice from Steve Douglas. When Ron Chatman turned up with the Gonz they had no idea who he was and neither did I. I didn’t really know who he was as I hadn’t yet seen Video Days. I had only seen 1281 and Useless Wooden Toys because at the time I was 14 and I was basically stuck in Harrow. You had to go up to town to Slam to see stuff that New Deal didn’t distribute. I did see Video days straight away after meeting the Gonz. After seeing him skate I had to find out exactly who he was.

They sent me and my mate to the station with 10 quid to meet them and we were instructed to get them fish and chips if they were hungry. So me and my mate go and pick up the Gonz and Ron Chatman from Harrow and Wealdstone station. My first impression was that these are 2 of the weirdest people I had ever seen or met at this point my life. The Gonz had a clear plastic board bag (that you use to protect the graphic on a new board) with some clothes squashed into it. He had tied a shoe lace and made into kind of a sausage bag. He had a shirt on his back, trousers and shoes and that was it. Ron Chatman basically had a bag. We introduced ourselves and they were super nice and cool. We were not used to this, warm, friendly, funny, nice people in fucked up clothes that didn’t give a shit and were happy with little kids coming to collect them. Thomas Campbell who I had met a couple of days earlier and Cardiel were equally dirty, scruffy and friendly. These meetings with these humans I have never forgotten, as this was the first time really in my life I had met free enlightened spirits. People who didn’t give a fuck and were generally free.

We asked if they were hungry they said they we were so we took them to the chippy. We explained that we had been given the 10 quid to get them fish and chips. They were hungry and happy to try this English delight. I remember 10 quid covered 2 cod and chips but not much else. We got it for them and went outside and sat on our boards. They both asked if we were going to get some for ourselves but we didn’t have any money. They insisted on sharing the food with us, we were stoked because we were hungry but were skint. It is funny now I am older thinking about this, they didn’t even give us any money to get some food for going to collect hem, we were doing their job. That was the magic of skating then, no money, no frills. Send some little kids to collect the Gonz and Ron Chatman.

When we got back to the Skatepark it was late afternoon and the Skatepark was quiet, just some kids and weirdoes around. I think all the other Americans had gone off elsewhere for the day. We started skating and I remember watching Gonz and thinking what the fuck! Who is this guy? He was pumping around the park with his legs crossed on his board and doing bonelesses and all kinds of weird shit. This is the era of tiny wheels and baggy trousers. Really it was one of skatings worst times as people were skating slow and doing pressure flips.

Then out of the blue he backside 360’s the top of the fun box. That was hard, I realised this guy was incredible, he was flying around as free as bird. I spent a lot of time with Gonz over the next couple of weeks. When Thomas Campbell took the photo it was at the end of this time. I remember being so bummed to see all the Americans leave and Harrow turn back to the bland suburban place it was to me. There were more holidays left though and I was happy to not be at school. That summer ended and I went back to school where I was put in all of the bottom classes. I was destined to fail all of my GCSE’s and become a genuine high school drop out. I knew all I wanted to do was skate and get the fuck out of Harrow, I wanted to go to America so badly. America was the mecca of skateboarding then and I just wanted to go there. It looked like paradise and the people from there I had met were not like the people I had known all my life. They were nice and open minded and full of energy.

It took me 2 years to make it to America after that but my encounter with the Gonz and all of the Americans that summer changed my life. All of them opened my mind. I had to go there and see it for myself, it was my destiny.

So there you have it, the story behind this crazy Thomas Campbell photograph frozen in time and a sticker image blessed by the godfather himself. Pick up these special items and see everything from Slam City Skates HERE