Who are the Old Bros? Bill Billings Interview
When was the Old Bros first formed?
So I went to this 35 year Skatopia reunion out at Fontana and hooked up with a bunch of old guys that I used to skate with at Skatopia that still skated. We were all talking about we should just build something so we have somewhere to skate , because back then there wasn’t that many skateparks really. So right there and then these guys were like ‘“’well I’ll pitch in $500 bucks’. I’ll pitch in this , I’ll pitch in that. I work for a lumber company, I’ll bring a bunch of wood. That was it, it was on the spot. We’re like ‘ok, we’ll build it in my back yard’. That’s pretty much how that started. Once we started building it, well we just building it with a bunch of our old bros, so we’ll just call it the Old Bro.
Who’s Idea was it?
Well like I said, it all kind of came out of that day. Me, Ken Hada, Dale Arden, and about 10 other guys in that crew. That’s when we called the deal Bro. From there Old Bro became my brand and that was obviously my idea.
What does it mean to be an Old Bro?
Well for me it’s kind of like if you have a friend that you’ve been good friends with for like more than a few years for hopefully 6-8-10 years. Well that guy is your old bro. And there’s like kids who are like 15 but they’ve had friends that they’ve known since kindergarten. Well that guy is their old bro. You don’t have to be old. Then there’s guys in their 80’s that have know people for 75 years, obviously they’re old bros. It’s not just about skateboarding, it’s about all this other stuff . Like I snowboard a lot . When I’m snowboarding people will see the hat and will be Old Bro, what’s that all about? So that is exactly how I explain it to them and there usually do you have another hat?
I heard there are other chapters, where are they located?
There’s a Michigan Old Bro chapter, there’s a Canadian Old Bros chapter and there’s an Australian Old Bro chapter. And there’s a group of guys in London that will hit me up for stickers and stuff. That’s kind of a London chapter, but maybe not.
Is Old Bro just skateboarding or are other sports such as snowboarding included?
It’s kind of like I described, it encompasses everything really. For me its surfing and snowboarding and skateboarding. It’s motorcycle riding, it’s like Henry Hester has an old bro sticker on the back of his mountain bike helmet, it kind of covers everything. You could be a guy who’s just into fishing. You could have old bros and never skateboarded a day in your life. Skateboarding is just where it’s born from.
Any short Old Bro stories you care to share?
It’s funny because everything I do is usually with Old Bros. Every skate session, snowboard session is kind of an Old Bro story. I’ve gone places I’ve never been and seen an Old Bro sticker. A friend of mine was down in Mexico City and saw a Old Bro sticker. I was at a liquor store in Kauai and saw a Old Bro sticker in the window. I had somebody send me a picture of a Old Bro sticker on a snowboard shop in St. Anton, Austria, but I put that one on there.
Any stories from Del Mar Skate Ranch?
I was wheeling a wheelbarrow full of concrete above the halfpipe and it got away from me and it was too much weight and I spilled the whole thing into the halfpipe. I thought man I totally ruined the whole thing. So I run down and find the concrete guys and I’m like I just dumped a whole wheelbarrow. The halfpipe was all done and looking sweet. He comes up and looks, kind of casually goes down and gets a big hose , goes down there and just hoses the concrete into the drain and that’s that.
At one point we hired a security guard and he was this big ass marine. The guy was like 6ft 6in or something. Just a big ol’ lug of a dude and these kids come and find me, I’m inside the pro shop working and they come and find they’re like there’s a a squirrel there’s a squirrel outside and it looks like its sick. I go out there and it was a gopher.It was in this little planter and all these kids were looking at it. The security guard guy just comes up and stomps it and smashes it, right in front of these little kids. The kids are just horrified. Saw Mike McGill’s first Mctwist in the United States .
How do the Old Bros organize events?
Well, we used to do Old Bro sessions all the time and then Doug kind of took it over as the Deathracer sessions during COVID. Because on the first part of COVID, people were paranoid and I didn’t want to get people together. So Doug started his Deathracer sessions. Before that, on the Old Bro group page we would just post about it. Before Facebook, there was the SoCal skate shop or SoCal skateparks message board and that was like a forum before Facebook and we used to post on there who’s skating where. Now it’s all group texts and stuff.
What is the best Old Bro session you can remember?
One of my best memories is at my old house with the wood bowl for a holiday where I invited 80 people and like a 120 showed up. Everybody from Jay Adams to Eddie Elguera to Tony Magnusson to Dave Hackett. All these old pro skaters all showed up. Jay had just been inducted into the hall of fame, but he left his trophy back at the place . So Mike Hurley picked it up for him and he brought it to my house . So we all presented it to Jay in my back yard. That was pretty memorable. The next best memory was when Agent Orange played in my back yard on the ramp and that was a fundraiser, so we limited it to 60 people. That was a blast.
What’s the story with the food fight?
I was working at Del Mar, I had been there a couple of years and I was like the closing shift guy.I don’t think I was a manager because they did really pay me any money. At night we’d kick everybody out and skate in basically the keyhole under the lights for hours. We’re doing that one night me and four other guys had this massive food fight in the pro shop. Throwing Twinkies and shit like everywhere, you know. Making a mess and we didn’t clean it up. I was like I’m scheduled in the morning, I’ll just clean it up then, you know, let’s go. I think we all left to get high in the parking lot or something. The next morning I had basically forgot that we had made such a mess and I went surfing before work and came in late. Because I knew Graf would be there. I got there and Wayne Surrell, he was the general manager of the skate park, was pissed. He was super pissed. He made me basically clean it up and then he fired me. I was like dude seriously and you’re banned from the skatepark forever. Of course I left and I came back the next day. I was wearing a staff tee shirt and I just crossed the staff out with a felt tip. I just went and skated. A few nights later, Wayne caught me and he’s like I thought we decided you were banned. I’m like, really dude? He just kind of blew it off. The food fight board graphic comes in from that story.
What were you using as snowboards when you first started?
So the first time I ever went snowboarding , I went with Sonny Miller and Jim Lacy. We were going skiing and Sonny brought a winter stick with him. Winter sticks work great in powder but not in hard packed. Well the day we were up there was plenty of powder like on the side of the roads and stuff. So we just hiked and rode the winter stick. Sonny had already ridden in twice in New Mexico. His mom had a place in New Mexico. So we all totally dug it . We’re like this is it . This is the future. So a couple days later, we came back up. The snow was all hard packed and the thing didn’t work at all. It would slide . It had no edges. It was a fiberglass super pronounced like swallow tail shape. After that I tried one of the Sims’. They have one of the plastic snowboards that you bolted a skateboard to. I rode that. It worked super half ass. There were no bindings, so you’re just standing on a skateboard. After that, Steve Cathy was making slicker snowboards at the G&S skate factory. Same thing, they were just wood. They had wood bottoms, no edges. They had fins on them. We rode those for one whole season.
What can you tell me about the Egypt Skatepark Foundation?
I went to Egypt for the first time in 2006, and I brought four skateboards. I built a small quarter pipe with ancient wood and rusty nails, and a 150 year old hammer, with four kids and I sent them home with the skateboards. The next year they invited me back and I brought 25 skateboards then the next year they wanted to make it an official sport at their summer camp so I came back again with 50 skateboards and eventually, after returning every year, in 2011, we built Egypt’s first concrete skate park. I have been back 15 times and have brought pros to do demos at the skate park, like Steve Caballero, Eddie Elguera, Tyler Hendly, and many others, including BMX riders like Ross Lanier and Dylan Stark, I hooked up with George Powell and he donated at least a dozen completes every year so I’ve probably brought close to 1000 skateboards over there, and taught at least 1000 kids how to skateboard, or at least just coach them, because I believe you can’t teach someone how to skateboard, they have to experience it for themselves.
- All photos untagged are supplied by Old Bros