Photos from the Vault

In 1978, skateboard-loving family built a half-pipe heaven in Atascadero

First skateboards featured ‘death wheels,’ but a kid from Maryland changed everything

Jack Smith of the Morro Bay Skateboard Museum tells the story of how skateboarding evolved from metal and clay 'death wheels' to the polyurethane that brought a smooth ride and international popularity.
Up Next
Jack Smith of the Morro Bay Skateboard Museum tells the story of how skateboarding evolved from metal and clay 'death wheels' to the polyurethane that brought a smooth ride and international popularity.

Skateboarding exploded as a national sport in the 1970s.

Until then, metal and clay wheels had been standard. But a pebble could lock up a steel wheel, and when clay cracked, it was the end of the ride.

In 1970, a kid in Annandale, Maryland, named Frank Nasworthy put polyurethane wheels on his board, forever changing the world of skateboarding.

A series of innovations followed, and today most towns in the county have a skate park.

In 1978, the best places to shred were often culverts. The guerrilla skate spots could be sometimes identified by a sun-baked broom left near the rim, to sweep away sand and gravel.

For a complete history of skateboarding, check out the Morro Bay Skateboard Museum at 699 Embarcadero.

The ramp in the photograph does not have a platform for skaters to drop in or any of the rails and jumps common today, but that doesn’t seem to stop them.

Here is a Telegram-Tribune story from Nov. 20, 1978, by Dorie Bentley:

It’s home on the ramp for skateboarding buffs

Decked out in headgear, gloves, special high-top shoes and elbow ankle, knee and rear-end pads, David Crother looks like he’s ready for a trip to the moon.

Actually, he’s the best customer at the homemade 23-foot-wide, 15-foot-high skateboard ramp that tops a rugged, rustic Atascadero hill.

The ramp was a weekend project for David’s dad, Loren, a carpenter friend, Bob Shaw, and five of the six Crother children. And it’s already offering a little bit of something for each builder.

1978 11-04 skateboard ramp
David Crother rides his famly's skateboard ramp while his brother, Kirk, left, waits his turn. Deanna and Loren Crother and Bob Shaw watch in the background. Tony Hertz Telegram-Tribune

The elder Crother built it to keep his skateboarding youngsters, especially David, at home. “At least we know where he is now,” said his mother Deanna.

David hopes it will be the start of something big — for skateboarding — in the county.

Shaw’s thinking about going into a skateboard-building business. And friend Bob Wilson figures he can build a better model.

The skateboard project is the second for Crother, a carpenter, and his children, David, 16, Ron, 17, Mike 12, Kathy, 11, Kirk, 10, and Bonnie, now married. They built the huge rounded wall, open-beam ceiling home which tops a Los Encinas hill. It took one and a half years to build.

The ramp-building project came up because David was spending most of his time away from home — in empty swimming pools, concrete drainage ditches and anywhere else he could skateboard, his parents said.

The project cost between $400 and $500 to build, Shaw said, took three days to finish, and was completed and tried out under car headlights.

Jack Smith's Wild Ride

He said the work crew laid out plywood, used string to make an arc, cut boards to fit, stood on the boards while nailing them down, and used scaffolding to reach the top. He thinks it’s the biggest ramp in the country, he said, adding that if he had it to do over again, he’d build it in a garage. The ramp is filled and glued to make it weatherproof and smooth.

“This whole area, San Luis Obispo, Atascadero, is so lacking for recreation,” Shaw said, adding that there are a couple of tennis courts, but no public swimming pools or racquet courts. “Since the demand for skateboarding is so great, he added, I might go into the business (ramp-building).

He said the ramp is the only one he knows of where youngsters “can go completely out of it, turn around, and come back down inside. These kids can't do that yet — but give them a coupla weeks.”

David said the half-pipe ramp is the highest in the county. “It has six to eight feet of vertical. Most ramps don’t have vertical.”

He said he wants to see skateboarding better promoted in the county “where we could do different things … competitions. Now we can just skate on ramps, in drainage ditches. There’s quite a few places to ride, but not as many as we’d like.”

He said he’d like to see someone promote a skateboard team, or build public ramps. “I bet guys spent more than $400 to ride. He said the new skateboards cost between $115 to $125 — then there’s the safety equipment that’s necessary. Good skateboard wheels, he said, cost about $10 apiece. He worked three weeks to buy his wheels.

David said he loans the ramp to anyone who wants to use it — providing they have their parent’s permission and adequate safety equipment. “Some parents won’t let their kids ride it. You have to be fairly agile, have a good sense of balance.”

Everyone in the Crother family, except his mother, can ride the ramp, David said. And Shaw said, “I stand in the crowd and cheer.” He said he is learning to ride the ramp, “but so far can only get two boards up.”

“It is one of the funnest sports to ever come along — besides surfing,” said David.

Related stories from San Luis Obispo Tribune

  Comments