Morro Bay man starts skateboard magazine and museum

Jack Smith is putting together a skateboard museum in Morro Bay’s Marina Square. This display traces early development of homemade boards with skate wheels to those with more advanced shapes and graphics.
Jack Smith is putting together a skateboard museum in Morro Bay’s Marina Square. This display traces early development of homemade boards with skate wheels to those with more advanced shapes and graphics. dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

The first time he skateboarded across the country, Jack Smith knew he’d found his calling.

“When I did it in 1976, it changed my life,” he said. “I decided, in some way or another, I was going to be involved in skateboarding.”

For many years, his marketing jobs have revolved around skateboarding. But now Smith, 55, is stepping up his efforts with a new skateboarding magazine sold nationwide and a skateboard museum in his hometown of Morro Bay.

For Smith, who first stepped on a skateboard in 1964, it fulfills a longtime dream.

“Actually, I’ve wanted to do the magazine print version for about 15 years,” he said. But when he asked Steve Pezman, publisher of The Surfer’s Journal, for his input, Pezman said skateboarding hadn’t been around long enough.

“So, I took his advice.”

But now, he’s decided it’s time. And his magazine — The Skateboarder’s Journal — clearly mimics Pezman’s publication, known for its prominent use of photos, its older demographic and deliberately few ads.

“I was very inspired by The Surfer’s Journal,” Smith said. “I’m not even a surfer, but I read it cover to cover.”

His new magazine delves into the culture of skateboarding, focusing on art, travel, history and technology.

For the first two issues, Smith’s friend Stacy Peralta — whose film “Dogtown and Z-Boys” explored the history of skateboarding — wrote a couple of stories, including one on his next skater documentary, “Bones Brigade: An Autobiography.”

“Jack’s actually created a magazine that skateboarding desperately needed,” said Peralta, who was a No. 1-ranked professional skateboarder long before becoming a filmmaker.

Now, Peralta said, the history is there: “The photography is there. The archives are there. But more than anything, there’s perspective so we can look back on it with a different eye.”

The first two issues featured an interview with skateboarder Tony Alva, a preview of Ben Marcus’ new skateboard book and both retro and contemporary photo features.

While the magazine has no employees, Smith is using several freelancers, including editor Barb Odanaka, a skateboarder and former Los Angeles Times sports writer.

With his vast connections in the skateboarding community, he has also hooked up with a slew of photographers, writers and advertisers. Just two issues in, the magazine’s paid circulation is already 10,000.

“It’s been very well accepted,” Smith said. “We’re in Barnes & Noble all over the country. Our subscriber list grows every day. Our app was released on July 3.”

Being published in Morro Bay, Peralta said, could actually help the magazine stand out.

“Morro Bay has never been part of the media center of skateboarding or surfing,” said Peralta, who lives part time in Cayucos. “If you look at surfing and skateboarding, the media has always been in Orange County. I think it’s really healthy for the sport that it’s being done somewhere else, like Central California.”

Smith, who recently lost a bid for Morro Bay City Council, works as the marketing and e-commerce director for VS Athletics, which sells track and field supplies.

But because he works from home, he can also work at his Morro Bay Skatelab Skateboard Museum at Marina Square.

While the museum has not officially opened (Smith said he would have a better idea of when that might be next week, pending final approvals from the city), it’s already filled with dozens of skateboards, some with metal and clay wheels, dating to the 1930s.

“Some of them are mine,” Smith said, walking among the boards, “but the great majority of them belong to a friend of mine, who has a 30,000-square-foot indoor skate park in Simi Valley called Skatelab.”

The museum, with views of Morro Rock and the boats in the harbor, also features posters, photos and items for sale, including T-shirts, DVDs, skateboards and issues of The Skateboarder’s Journal.

Smith’s wife, Cathy, has been helping him set up the museum.

“I’m a teacher on summer vacation,” said Cathy Smith, who teaches third grade in Orcutt.

Cathy Smith, who skateboarded as a child, took it up again at age 50 so she could board with her husband. Furthering the family affair, Jack Smith said he’s eyeing another cross-country trip — which would be his fourth — next summer with his 20-year-old son, Dylan.

In the past, his cross-country treks have raised money and awareness for charities, including a 1984 jaunt for multiple sclerosis and a 2003 marathon for Lowe syndrome, a rare disease that claimed the life of his first son, also named Jack.

This time, he said he hopes to raise awareness for Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, which has impacted his own father.

“I think it’ll happen,” said Smith, who will have to squeeze it into his busy schedule. “And it’ll be really fun to do it with my son because he’s an avid longboarder. “

Check out the Morro Bay Skatelab Skateboard Museum Facebook page.