Ollie Rides Again

The man who changed skateboarding forever skates in Hollywood -- Florida, not California

Hawk, the X Games (ESPN's eight-year-old Olympics-style competition featuring skateboarding, snowboarding, motocross, and BMX), and a sports climate with an affection for things extreme can be credited with the current mainstream popularity of skateboarding. But most riders insist that high-flying vert skaters like Hawk actually make up less than 10 percent of the current skateboarding population. "A few years ago, if we even showed vert skating in the magazines, we'd get death threats," Brittain says dismissively. "Vert skating is the ambassador. It takes skating to the masses. The X Games show it." But, ironically, this exclusive attitude has alienated some of the sport's older denizens, who grew up on handplants and five-foot aerials. "How many people sliding rails can you see in one magazine?" 43-year-old skate veteran Murray asks. "In Transworld, all you see are sliding rails."

But with cities opening skate parks and a rising generation of kids with former or current skateboarders as parents, Gelfand, McGill, and others believe that the future of skateboarding will involve a combination of styles. Walker predicts that the spirit the older guys bring to the sport will infect the style of the younger stars. The next generation of skaters, he believes, will skate more like Tony Hawk, combining street flair with impressive aerials. Gelfand, McGill, and the corporations backing them are banking on that notion. Gelfand is introducing a signature line of kids' skate shoes for Payless shoe stores, and McGill has teamed with Wal-Mart to sell a signature line of inexpensive gear and boards, with both skaters' goods due out in time for Christmas. They're hoping to cash in today on the tricks they invented 20 years ago. Brittain thinks it's high time they did. "I've seen skaters get ripped off for 20 years," he says. "Whatever is coming for skaters now, I'm all for it."

Robbie Weir (top left) and Alan Gelfand (other pictures) practice making funny faces at the Olliewood ramp
Colby Katz
Robbie Weir (top left) and Alan Gelfand (other pictures) practice making funny faces at the Olliewood ramp

But with or without commercial success, Gelfand and his middle-aged friends insist they're happy just to be skating again. At Olliewood, weekend skate sessions are part-workout, part-high school reunion and tend to end by 10 p.m. so everyone can get home to his family. All of these skaters are eager to brush up on their fallow skills and, now that it's being written, to be included in skateboarding history. They want a world of young skaters to know that not everything started in California. "There's almost this evangelical feeling -- that we're all teaching the next generation of skaters about the history of skateboarding," Brooke says. "It's a real renaissance now, a rebirth. When you tell people that Alan 'Ollie' Gelfand is skateboarding again, you just can't imagine the response. It's huge."

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