Visuals: Kevin Marks

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Our newest Visuals interview is with Kevin Marks from the Look Back Library. These interviews focus on a video part, trick, photo, and board graphic that have stood the test of time. Read on to learn more about the diverse selection of visuals that have made a lasting imprint on Kevin’s psyche…

Kevin Marks in the back of his Look Back Library van shot by Jeffrey Halleran

words and interview by Jacob Sawyer. Kevin Marks in the Look Back Library van. PH: Jeffrey Halleran


Kevin Marks is a lifer, the skateboarding-soaked mind behind the incredible Look Back Library. His magazine focused mission is inspiring. He has managed to turn his passion into something way bigger than an occupation. The library has become a way of life, hell-bent on enriching many others, as its founder plots a course for skate shops across America.

Kevin has worked within skateboarding since he was a teenager. He has staffed a shop, owned and operated shops, done international sales for Tum Yeto at a pivotal point in its evolution, written for a variety of magazines, edited one, owned and operated a distribution company, and sat on the board of directors for the non-profit organisation Launch. After shutting down his distribution business, and being self-employed for so long, he was apprehensive about seeking employment. He had also become acutely aware that he no longer wanted to sell things. The Look Back Library developed organically as he tapped into the pure source of his obsession. He is truly grateful to still be involved in skateboarding in this capacity. Contributing to the historic preservation of what has happened for the last 50 years or so has been his focus since 2015.

His first visual exposure to the culture he has dedicated his life to preserving and sharing, is something we unpacked in this article. These early memories were beyond impactful, they have guided Kevin’s life course, their relevance reinforced with every library he sets up, or magazine he trades. His enthusiasm for these milestone moments is infectious, and his selection is cross-pollinated with many connections that hinge on the biblical backbone of any good magazine collection, Thrasher magazine. Some of the visuals are iconic as you may expect, but a lesser-known magazine appearance, and a magic moment in an independent video you may have missed, are all part of the story he wove for us. We caught Kevin in his van in Minneapolis on a northwest tour that is currently heading down the West Coast. We hope you enjoy the result of our conversation…

The first ever San Francisco Downhill Extreme Chair Land Luge racing event from FM2

SF Downhill Extreme Chair Land Luge racing – FM2 (2002)


I mentioned to you that my favourite video of all time is Future Primitive and I always say that, FM2 is my second choice. Future Primitive will always be special to me because that’s the first video I viewed. After seeing a few magazines, I went to see my cousins in Simi Valley, California. They had dubbed copies of the Bones Brigade Video Show and Future Primitive. We just watched those on repeat for the whole week I was there in between skating ditches and messing around on our boards. That’s a no-brainer for the deep influence it had on me, it indoctrinated me into skateboarding and how fun it is, and just made me want to be a

Then many videos later while I’m a skateboard video distributor, Rob Hoovis makes the FM2 video, which stands for Fort Myers 2. I remember that Matt Milligan has stuff in there because he is from Fort Myers, Elissa [Steamer] is also from there. Rob [Hoovis] was living at the 6 Newell house at the time so there’s some Frank Gerwer, Nate Jones, and different appearances from a wide variety of affiliated people. For me this video captured most of the fun aspects of skateboarding without having the serious gnarly parts. I felt like it encapsulated the pure fun of skateboarding.

This wasn’t a company video, it was a regional video out of Central Florida. I really enjoyed Rob’s take on skating, how he put it all together, and the humour involved. It just made a lasting impression on me. I guess I also like to bring it up because not many people saw that one, it’s probably not making too many “favourite video of all time” lists. The Tilt Mode videos captured that same feeling on a more mainstream type of scale.


“I really enjoyed Rob’s take on skating, how he put it all together, and the humour involved. It just made a lasting impression on me”


I had a company called Overboard Enterprises, we had all the big titles, but we prided ourselves on having all of these regional videos to share with the nation. I sold a ton of the early Static videos by Josh Stewart, Benji Meyer up in Minneapolis made a few videos. We had North and North 2 from Canada. We supported up and coming film makers who were just coming on the scene with their first or second video from their hometown. As long as they had one well-known am or pro involved in the video, I felt I could sell it nationally. I may have only sold 20 of them but that was worth it. If I liked the video I felt like other people would too.

I have picked a section from FM2 that doesn’t have any skating in it, it’s captioned as “the first ever San Francisco Downhill Extreme Chair Land Luge racing event”. The stoicness that Rob [Hoovis] narrates the thing with, I find very humorous. Keep in mind that the video part I have chosen has been reworked and came out ten years after the original part which was included in the video. This later edit adds more flavour and colour to the whole thing. I love his dry wit as he narrates. It’s great watching the evolution of Frank [Gerwer]’s first chair, seeing them all get so fired up, and everyone getting creative and building their own chairs. They’re experimenting with things and taking them out for test runs. I wish I could have been there, they made it look so fun.

The final day when they’re sending everyone down this massive hill near 6 Newell is amazing. Frank almost dies, the look on Frank’s face when he sees what could have happened is captured. It’s not a handrail part, it’s not a ledge part or a vert ramp part but it somehow encapsulates the fun that is skateboarding for me. I think everyone who has skateboarded for any part of their life can relate to that. Everyone can get involved if they want to step up to the plate. Rob also made an edit of post-race interviews. The police are stopping traffic on the hills which is something that transferred over when Skate Jawn organised those hill bombs. The city can not let this happen but guess what, it’s happening. So the police have to take this position where there’s not much they can do to stop it so they may as well make it safer by stopping traffic.

Rob [Hoovis] is now back in Fort Myers after living in San Francisco for quite a while. He does different video projects now, he runs a video production company back where he grew up, it’s still called Old Sparky Productions and he still films skateboarding (@fmskateboarding). I saw him recently and he is working on a more polished documentary about the whole event. Sounds like he has re-interviewed half of the guys in the last five years to do something even better about this street luge event. Whenever he has a chance to interview someone, at Tampa Pro or wherever it may be, he’s getting it done. It may never come out or it may come out in seven years, but he’s got it in his mind and is checking off little pieces as he’s able to.

Michael Crouch pivots to fakie in Lawrence, shot by Michael Burnett for the May 1997 copy of Thrasher

Michael Crouch pivot to fakie. PH: Michael Burnett (1997)


Michael and I grew up skating together in Wichita, Kansas, in the mid to late eighties. He was on flow from Vision and was very much the best of the best in my area. He has four tricks in the Vision Barge At Will video, two of which were on my mini ramp. When he went off to college at KU he gradually fell out of skating. I went to college in Colorado and met Michael Burnett who was out there from Texas. This is before he started working at Thrasher, he was doing the zine called Feedbag with his friends. He ended up getting a few articles in Thrasher just by reaching out to [Jake] Phelps. This photo was in one of his earlier Thrasher articles entitled “A Giant Sucking Sound”. The article ran in May 1997 and it was a trip Mike [Burnett] was on with Scott Bourne and Jason Phares, travelling through the Midwest. They met up with Michael [Crouch] in Lawrence, skated the mini ramp at his house, shot this photo, and it came out in the mag.


“this is my old skate buddy from childhood who we all thought wasn’t really skating much anymore…”


So this is my old skate buddy from childhood who we all thought wasn’t really skating much anymore, yet here he is getting a full page photo in Thrasher doing one of my favourite tricks. This is why this is my pick for a trick embedded in my brain. I was very deeply influenced by Jason Jessee’s vertical skateboarding and his trick selection. We didn’t have many vert ramps to skate so I was more of a mini ramp guy, I appreciated lip tricks. I liked Tom Groholski because he did a lot of lip tricks, but the pivot fakie always stood out to me. It’s also one of a handful of tricks I can still execute currently. I try to get one in at most parks I visit nowadays. So this photo encapsulates part of my early skateboarding, my favorite trick, one of my personal early skateboarding influences, and a friend who has gone on to become editor-in-chief of Thrasher mag, if you can believe it.


“…yet here he is getting a full page photo in Thrasher doing one of my favourite tricks”


When I flipped through this issue for the first time I was unaware that this was in it. Burnett may have mentioned that he had seen Michael on his travels but I had no idea he had shot anything with him. I didn’t know he was working on an article but there it was in the magazine at some point. That’s the best way to see it right? No advance notice, just turn the page and there is your homie. It’s a great photo too, right on the edge, that’s prime real estate for a pivot fakie. Michael Crouch does pottery now, he also makes clay walls. Instead of drywalling he can come in and do a clay finish for an interior wall. If you want a unique interior in your home he can do it. I have only skated with Michael a handful of times over the last 25 years but he texted me recently because there is a new vert ramp in Lawrence, Kansas that got dedicated a few weeks ago. He was always the top street skater and could skate mini ramps well but we never had access to a consistent vert ramp. He is approaching 50 and he hasn’t been skating for years but he’s been learning all the basics on this new vert ramp. Dan Askew from Escapist has been sending me little clips and keeping me updated.

Steve Caballero Frontise inverts for Mofo's lens on the June 1985 copy of Thrasher

Steve Caballero frontside inverts in san jose. PH: MOFO (1985)


I saw Future Primitive well before seeing the Thrasher cover, because I didn’t see my first magazine until September of 1986. This cover came out in June of 1985, so it was later in my life that I made the connection. The cover I had viewed for years, on repeat, from rewatching that video. It’s a real quick cut in the video where Steve throws up that frontside invert. They preface it a bit with a cut of Mofo adjusting his camera on the flat bottom of the pool. It’s a group of guys skating the pool. As a child that made me feel like this is very accessible, it’s not a closed off set of professionals. Kids are out skating a local spot, some pros come along with a photographer, you’re skating with them. Then holy shit, a photo they took that day, a day when I could have been there, ends up on the cover of Thrasher.

The more you watch that section in Future Primitive the more you see. You’re seeing Lance Mountain make jokes about spray painting in KT [Kevin Thatcher]’s ear. You’re getting a little glimpse at how Stacy Peralta is orchestrating things, he’s the puppet master. I feel there are few examples of that. Videos were so infrequent at that time, Future Primitive is truly at the dawn of the skateboard video. To see the connection from there it is in the video, to here it is on the cover of Thrasher, is special. You’re exposed to the whole process. There is also this perceived ease, how easily it can happen. It doesn’t need to be closed sets, a private ramp, a private pool, or a big production with lights everywhere. It’s a guy with a camera, a talented skateboarder, a unique spot, and boom, there it is.


“To see the connection from there it is in the video, to here it is on the cover of Thrasher, is special. You’re exposed to the whole process”


Another thing this did for me was to spark an interest to search for pools and other spots. It gave you the confidence to jump some fences and look around. It made me have more of a fire under my ass to bend a few rules in the quest for new terrain. Our equivalent was sneaking into the local public swimming pool called Edgemoor. It wasn’t transitioned there but it was all banks to wall. We would hop the fence in the winter when the pool was drained, duck to make sure there were no cops coming. We were scratching little wallrides, definitely not doing frontside inverts on the lip. It was exciting though, just that thrill, sneaking into somewhere you’re not supposed to be, and experiencing the exhilaration of skating a new fun spot. That can’t be duplicated elsewhere.

The video has Stacy spraying Future Primitive on the wall, not glorifying graffiti but reinforcing what this video was about, [Craig] Stecyk is spraying the Rat Bones logo up there, Steve [Caballero] is spraying The Faction on the floor. [Jeff] Grosso is in there, all of these little tidbits add up to such an experience. All of this speaks to Stacy’s vision. We hear so much about how Lance Mountain was the guy who had more time and was in LA so Stacy had more time to work with him. He would do what Stacy wanted and that allowed Lance to be everybody’s favourite. He wasn’t afraid to dork around and show you how much fun skateboarding, in any different environment, can be.

In this case Stacy is in this very specific backyard pool environment creating a scene but also giving you a little window into what it’s like. There are kickturns, Grosso skating around, jokes, talking about trying to find the next pool. It stuck out seeing Steve Caballero’s haircut too. I’d never really seen anybody with the braids he had in his hair, I found that to be distinctive in an era where everybody had the Tony Hawk flop, or dyed hair. It’s all very memorable, that’s my favourite photo, and my favourite Thrasher cover of all time.

Mark Gonzales cover of September 1986 copy of Thrasher doing a beanplant on his original Vision pro model

Original Mark Gonzales Vison Pro Model (1986 edition)


I imagine this graphic will come up again and again. The relevance of this board is based upon my first copy of Thrasher. It’s the September 1986 issue, Mark [Gonzales] is on the cover and has an interview in that issue. He is riding a yellow, dipped, Vision Gonz board with that face graphic. Again, this made a lasting impression at a time when I didn’t know too many pros, or too many board graphics. I got this copy of Thrasher when I was still riding the shitty Nash skateboard I got from the toy store after watching Back to the Future. I saved up enough money mowing lawns that it was time to go to and invest in a new one. I knew where the Riverside Bike & Skate was in my town and It was time to go pick out my first good complete. That graphic came in a myriad of different dipped colors as well as stained veneers at that time. This shop happened to have the yellow one, and that spoke to me, that was it, that was the one I was getting.

This was a time where a lot of graphics were skull related. Powell kind of makes fun of that in Future Primitive where the TV interviewee guy is describing the blood, and the gore, and the dagger through the head, and the snot and all that stuff. I felt that this board was still very visually stimulating, visually pleasing in an 80s neon kind of way, and didn’t have that blood, guts, and gore angle to it. Then one of the early ads for this graphic, Vision made into a poster, and Tod Swank shot that. This is a further connection as I ended up working for Tod later in life. I love that photo of Mark blasting out of the jump ramp at one of the early Sacramento street contests, and there he is riding that board. This is a time where a board graphic for a pro could last two to four years, so these images really became burned into your brain. You identified with the pro, and identified with the brand. It never seemed like you’d had enough of a certain graphic and were waiting for what’s next. I was just content with seeing it in different colours.


“It never seemed like you’d had enough of a certain graphic and were waiting for what’s next. I was just content with seeing it in different colours”


I went on to be influenced by different pros and board brands. After the Gonz board I moved onto Powell Peralta, I had the [Craig] Stecyk designed Vato Rat. Then I had a Tony Hawk board, it was still the hawk skull graphic but it had an elongated nose, and the pattern on it instead of it being all one colour. Then I moved on to Alva, I had a Bill Danforth, and then a Sims Kevin Staab pirate. At some point I had two boards, a street board and a ramp board. I don’t own that Vision Gonz board, it’s not something I have in my collection. I do have my original Thrasher copy framed in the library at my house.

A couple of years ago I got to go through Jay Croft’s family’s warehouse and his father at some point had found the original Nash board that I had, which was technically my first skateboard ever. He gave me that and that is also in the library. At some point I would like to have the Gonz on the wall. Those boards are all quite pricey now though, and I don’t see the need to spend the money on that to possess it. If it comes my way at some point I would love to have it, it’s just not necessary at this point. Chris Rice (@destroyedwood) has compiled a load of information about the evolution of that graphic in one of his Skateboard Stories. He talks about how you can tell what year a board is from by the wheel wells or changes to the graphics, the nose got a little more upturned at one point. Not many people ever realised these nuances.

Circling back to humour, and getting back to this copy of Thrasher, it has a Mark Gonzales interview in it. It opens with a lifestyle photo of him wearing a homemade shirt that has a picture of himself on it that says ‘brainwash victim’ underneath it. It’s self-deprecating humour to the max and I loved it, I still do. I have that image on my phone and I’ll still post it in my stories every so often.

I would love to hear from Mark the backstory of how he came up with that idea, and how he was able to make that T-Shirt with a photo of himself on it back in 1985 or 1986. It speaks volumes about the high level of personality involved in skateboarding and how that can influence young minds. I was a Catholic school boy and I was very reserved, very shy, and very introverted. Then I was exposed to Jason Jessee’s personality in Santa Cruz videos, Natas [Kaupas]’s personality, and it really opened my mind to being a bit more exploratory, and less afraid of what other people think in the pursuit of fun, and new experiences with my friends. All of these things really opened a lot of doors for me as a teenager.

Kevin Marks doing one of his favourite tricks. Pivot fakie for Joe Brook's lens

Kevin Marks backing up Michael Crouch with one of his favourites. Pivot fakie for Joe Brook’s lens



We would like to thank Kevin for his time, and the care he took recalling all of these moments. Be sure to bookmark Look Back Library and follow the @lookbacklibrary Instagram. Kevin invites you to DM him on there if you have any magazines to donate or if you have any suggestions of a shop that would benefit from a library installation. Find out more about the Look Back Library mission in this Preserving History Through Print video.

He needs help growing the International portion of the library. If for instance you have any English, Spanish, German, or French mags that you don’t need, they would be welcomed. These don’t have to be straight donations either, Look Back Library will happily mail a trade. Perhaps there is a Thrasher, Slap, or a Transworld you are missing? These trades keep that historic world of media turning and help the library so get in touch.

Thanks also to @destroyedwood for the photo of his original Vision Gonz complete. Thanks to Neil Macdonald (@scienceversuslife) for magazine scans. The Steve Caballero doll pictured in the article was acquired by Kevin a day after our conversation at Cal Surf in Minneapolis.

Previous Visuals Interviews: Joe Gavin, Chewy Cannon

Related content: First & Last: Mark Gonzales, Michael Burnett Interview