In 1978, professional skateboarder Jack Smith squeezed stomach-first into the domed Vetter streamline skatecar designed by Cal Poly’s mechanical engineering students to race in the World Speed Championships at Signal Hill in Long Beach. Would his 60 mph downhill run win? You’ll have to see the movie, “Signal Hill Speed Run,” at noon Saturday at the Bay Theatre in Morro Bay during the San Luis Obispo International Film Festival (slofilmfest.org).
Thirty-five years later, Smith can’t believe he did it, yet the 90-minute documentary demonstrates his survival during the wild, early years of skateboarding before safety was a consideration. Now an icon in the sport, Smith hopes Craig Vetter and professor Steve Blair will join him and director Mike Horelick at Saturday’s showing. Immediately following the screening, Smith invites all to the official opening of his newest exhibit, “Anything But Wood,” at the Morro Bay Skateboard Museum in Marina Square, with skateboards on loan from Stephen Pizzo’s collection.
The museum opened in November 2010.
“I wanted to share the history and culture of skateboarding,” said Smith, who documents the evolution of skateboarding by showing boards from the era. His first board was made by his dad. He shows the steel wheels of the 1960s and sophisticated modifieds such as the skatecar. Many of his skateboards are autographed by notables.
In the 1960s, skateboards began as a kid’s toy, “steel wheels stolen from your sister’s roller skates.” In the 1970s, polyurethane wheels morphed skateboarding from a fad to risky recreation. Once skaters discovered empty swimming pools to challenge their skills, the extreme sport was born.
“The coolest is Stacy Peralta’s trophy when he won Skateboarder Magazine’s poll as Skateboarder of the Year. He’s an award-winning film director now,” Smith said. “My favorite board pictures my son, Jack Marshall Smith, who died of Lowe syndrome. We dedicated our 2003 Skateboarding Across America in his memory.”
Smith started skateboarding seriously after graduating from Morro Bay High School.
“We used to do it after dark because we were embarrassed it was still considered a kid’s thing,” he said.
He made the finals in his first competition at the Del Mar Nationals in 1975. That summer, he produced the first of 10 competitions for Morro Bay. Taking time off in 1976 as the then-Sun Bulletin’s circulation manager and sports writer, Smith, Jeff French and Mike Filben completed Smith’s first Skateboarding Across America. In 1984, it benefited multiple sclerosis. In 2003, it memorialized his son. This year, the tour will raise funds for Alzheimer’s disease.
Smith, the consummate entrepreneur, publishes Skateboarder’s Journal and had a small part in the movie “Lords of Dogtown” with Heath Ledger.