Tandem Skateboarding

Infinity Skateboards graphic from the 1970's

The city of Dana Point has decided to erect a statue of barrie and I tandem skateboarding in their Waterman's Plaza.  The plaza has several statues of noteable Dana Point surfers from the past.  When they found out that a 12' tandem board was too big and after finding this old movie of us tandem skateboarding, they decided to do us tandem skateboarding.  

     Since the invention of roller skates, like most other kids in the 1960's, I would break apart a perfectly good pair of those metal wheel, clamp-on roller skates, nail them to a 1” x 6” plank and make a skateboard.  Actually, you could make two skateboards from one pair of roller skates; your trick board and your longer, high-speed downhill board. 

     I remember working my way further and further up Hill Street, near where we lived. Each run down was faster and more dangerous than the last.  We rode; full speed, metal wheels clanking down the sidewalk in swim trunks no shirt and no shoes.  After near misses with cars backing out of driveways, water hydrants, and brick walls, I realize now that I am lucky to have survived that time of my life without brain damage. But, little did I know that it was not half as dangerous as the tandem skateboarding I would be doing with my wife twelve years later.

     I met my wife, Barrie in 1968 through tandem surfing.  She was the cutest, prettiest and bravest creature I had met in my whole life.  Before long we were married, running our new business, Infinity Surfboards, and our life together was immersed in tandem surfing.

     In 1972, a big skateboard craze hit the USA.  Infinity quickly became one of the biggest name skateboard makers.  I converted half of my surfboard factory into skateboard production and hired 4 guys to make skateboards all day long.  Barrie and her girlfriends would, assemble the ball bearings and wheels onto the trucks, then pack the boards and ship them all over the world.

     For Barrie and I, it was only natural that we would try tandem skateboarding.  We found that we could do all of the lifts that we had perfected on a surfboard on a relatively small 36” long skateboard.  We were featured in several skateboard magazines as well as one of Bud Browns surfing movies; Going Surfing.

     Our favorite spot to tandem skateboard was in Costa Mesa on a newly paved street leading to a housing development that was being built.  The top part of the hill was 4 lanes wide and I could do 4 lane wide sweeping turns with Barrie up over my head in one of the tandem positions.  We would have big Friday night skate parties with all our friends and then go out for burritos and beer.  This worked perfect for quite a while until people started moving into the houses at the bottom of the hill and the occasional car invaded our skate park.

     One late afternoon, Barrie and I launched off the top of the hill and she climbed up into a one-legged shoulder stand, Arabesque position.  In other words, she was standing on one leg, leaning forward with the other leg raised backward above her head.  This is perhaps the most dangerous tandem lift to do on a skateboard because I am not carrying her in my arms.  If I were to run over a rock, or a wheel would fail, she would be launched face first, ten feet through the air onto the pavement.  But of course we were young and never really thought about the danger.  As we started down the hill, I was doing big sweeping turns taking up all 4 lanes of the road in order to keep our speed down.  Everything was going fine until that lady in the old Mercedes started up the hill.  She was doing about 30 mph, so I knew that I could extend my straight down hill leg a little longer until she passed me and then turn behind her before my speed built up too much.  The problem quickly became serious when she saw us and began slowing down.  At that point I had two choices: 1.  Turn early, cross in front of her and try to make a sharp backside turn after she passed or, 2.  Keep going down the hill and turn behind her.  I took choice #2.  The problem compounded as she kept going slower and slower which forced me to go further and further straight down the hill.  With in seconds, we were doing about 30 mph and still not past the old lady.  Finally, I got below her and went into a hard, steep right turn.  Barrie reads my body position and starts leaning over into space to keep her balance.

     The situation was so dire, that I was speechless, unable to make the critical decisions, verbalize them and ride the skateboard all at the same time.  An escape plan quickly materialized in my mind; I decided to just continue this high-speed turn, and follow the lady in the Mercedes right up the hill to an eventual safe stop.  The problem was that Barrie didn’t know the plan.  She could see that we were careening towards the far side of the street and would hit the curb in a split second.  She assumed that I was going to do another high-speed backside turn down hill to the left.   To get her body in alignment with a left turn, she did a hard twist to the left, but I continued turning right.  As we crossed the centerline, her leg buckled and she came tumbling down.  Her natural instinct was to crumple into a tuck and stay as close to me as possible.  In desperation, as she dropped head first in front of me I wrapped my arms around her and pulled her into my chest.  We began a forward tumble, but just before we splattered onto the pavement, the skateboard slammed into the curb, we flew fifteen feet through the air over the sidewalk and landed on nice soft grass!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

     Neither of us was hurt, not even a scratch, it was time for a beer!  We never did a one legged should stand on a skateboard again until 33 years later when we were 55 years old.  Our friend Bob Torres wanted to include tandem skateboarding in his tandem surfing video.  We hadn’t been on a skateboard in thirty years, but we wanted to be included with the new, young tandem surfing / skateboarding teams, so we practiced a few times went with the group to make the movie.  All the teams did several runs and my competitive juices were re awakened, so to cap off our skateboard career, we did another on legged shoulder stand.  I think we just wanted to see if we still had the guts to do it.  I am still married to the cutest and most fearless woman I have ever known.

You can check out a super 8 move we made of tandem skateboarding back in 1973 


If you want to see some Tandem Surfing here is a nice clip from Malibu taken in 1995.



More Posts