New Skateboarding Book by Delray Beach Man Tells the Secret History of the Ollie | The Daily Pulp | South Florida | Broward Palm Beach New Times | The Leading Independent News Source in Broward-Palm Beach, Florida


New Skateboarding Book by Delray Beach Man Tells the Secret History of the Ollie

In the '70s, South Florida was a hotbed of skateboarding. A group of about ten guys from Hollywood Hills, South Broward, and Cooper City high schools would gather at one of three parks in the area, including Solid Surf off of Oakland Park and another, popular with the surfers, in Cypress Creek.

But for that crew, the favorite was Skateboard USA, in Hollywood. Known for its imperfect walls, the park sponsored several local kids, including a slight skater named Alan Gelfand. Nicknamed "Ollie," Gelfand would go on to revolutionize the sport at age 14. He invented the "ollie pop" -- later known as the ollie -- a hand's-free maneuver that propels skater and board into the air. Today, almost every flat-ground skateboarding move owes itself to Gelfand's invention.

"It created so many possibilities, and it even changed the design of skateboard decks," says Rick Furness, who was sponsored by Skateboard USA in the '70s. "People used to steal [Gelfand's] shoes because they thought they were magic or had Velcro in them."

Although back then, the media attention wasn't on Hollywood's skaters. Skateboard Magazine -- basically the sport's bible -- was based out of California. The most famous skateboarders were the state's Z-Boys. It would take three months for anyone on the East Coast to learn what was happening on the West Coast, and vice versa.

For that reason, the myth of the ollie got jumbled. Furness says there are several guys to whom the credit could have gone -- like a guy named Jeff Duerr, who invented a trick called the du-air.

But in 1977, then-pro Stacey Peralta peeped Gelfand's ollie pop at a Fort Lauderdale competition, recruited him to come to California, and secured his place in the skateboarding canon.

And because the influential Hollywood crew that birthed him never got as much attention as Peralta and his Z-Boys (who were the subjects of a Sean Penn-narrated documentary called Dogtown and Z-Boys), one of its members has compiled an 850-page illustrated history of skateboarding.

It's called A Secret History of the Ollie, and it explores the entire evolution of skateboarding -- from its nascent days inside a Hollywood skatepark to the X-Games -- through the lens of that simple trick. Although it's been written, author Craig Snyder is raising funds for printing costs on Kickstarter. He needs $20,000 by the end of September.

So far it's gotten some pretty decent endorsements, like one from Betsy Gordon at the Smithsonian, who blurbed, "This book will re-write skateboarding history as we know it."

The museum seems to be taking the sport very seriously. Furness, a former Skateboard USA team member who now lives in Davie, kept a piece of the park where the ollie was invented. He says the Smithsonian wants to put it in the museum.

"It's the Plymouth Rock of skateboarding," Furness says. "That's where the ollie was invented."

Send your story tips to the author, Allie Conti.

Follow Allie Conti on Twitter: @allie_conti

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Allie Conti was a fellow at Miami New Times and a staff writer for New Times Broward-Palm Beach, where her writing won awards from the Florida Press Club and the Society of Professional Journalists. She's now the senior staff writer at Vice and a contributor to the New York Times, New York Magazine, and the Atlantic.

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