STEVE ALBA INTERVIEW (Salba)

“…I don’t know. I mean I don’t make any money any more outside of Hurley. I get some photo incentives here and there . That’s kind of a hard question . I’ve done my time and I’ve gotten a lot of good stuff out of it.”

Interview and photos by Jeff Greenwood

DATE of BIRTH: 2/6/63

Full Name: Steven Jerry Alba

It’s 2002, how long does that mean you’ve been skateboarding?

I didn’t really start skating seriously until 6th grade, which was in 75. That’s when I was true blue everyday skating. After the park (Upland) opened in 77, even though I was still doing other sports, I still was heavy into skating. That’s all I wanted to do.

Salba blasting across the Fontana parks big hip.

How old were you when you turned pro?
I was 15 when I turned pro and that was at Spring Valley.

Was that for Santa Cruz?
No, I rode for Tunnel, Gullwing Trucks and White yo-yo’s. We had just met Pineapple and me and him hit it off right from the beginning and I always thought he was one of the coolest, stylinist, radical guys, even to this day. We don’t see each other much but we still hang and just pick up where we left off, cuz we were still like best bro’s. We went through a lot of shit together at one point.

Did you compete much as an amateur?
Yea. The deal was before the Hester Series all the ASPO (Association of Skatepark Owners) members had contests between their park teams and that’s how that whole thing got started. All the skateparks had different dudes. Skatercross had Bowman and Chet Santoras. Pipeline had myself, Scott Dunn, Ted Hunt, and my brother and those kinda guys riding vert. Skatopia had like Olson and some of there guys. All these people started riding for these park teams and competing against each other. So I rode amateur for like a year or so from 77 to the end of 78.

When you competed, did you ever win 1st place?
Yea, I got first place. In the first contest I ever entered I got 1st. That was Spring Valley in 78. Then I got first again at BIG-O at the end of the Hester Series, then Olson won the overall deal and I won second. Then I won the Lakewood contest. I won like 5 contests, I was in the top 3 or 4 for a good two-two and a half years before I hurt my knee real bad.

Did Micke ever win 1st place?

Uhm, yea he did get first. He won Boulder. Plus he won the whole Hester Series that year, the second Hester series. The all around too, plus he got like top 4 at every contest at that point. That’s kinda when I hurt my knee and was out a couple contests. I got 7th overall which isn’t bad for the second year.

Are you stoked Micke has apparently started skating again?

Yea, here and there but not much. He’s just dealing with his kids…

Has skateboarding given back to you as much as you’ve put into it?

I don’t know. I mean I don’t make any money any more outside of Hurley. I get some photo incentives here and there . That’s kind of a hard question . I’ve done my time and I’ve gotten a lot of good stuff out of it.

It seems like you just enjoy it now
Hurley’s check that they send me every month really helps. I was really surprised when they were like ‘I know you don’t have a skateboard sponsor that pays you. I am psyched that they feel that there is a place for me in their program you know. They completely support me. If it wasn’t for Hurley right now then I would have nothing. I gotta lot thanks for Hurley and Gomez. Mr. Hurley and Bob are just the coolest two guys. I can walk in there and tell Bob if I have a problem or whatever. Who can call the owner of the company at any given point in the day and say What’s up and have a talk with him. He makes the time to talk to every rider on the team. Plus Hurley helps out Jesse (Salba’s son) and that’s pretty cool.

Shredding the Combi Pool at Vans in Orange CA. with a nosegrind.

How is sponsorship different today than it was say 15-20 years ago?

I have so many friends in the industry I can pretty much get any gear I need or want. That’s definitely cool and that’s the good end of it. Without my sponsors now I basically couldn’t do what I do. The big difference is that I don’t get paid like I used to. As far as a board royalty rate coming in anymore. So I don’t have to deal with any of the nonsense of the business end of it any more. It’s like a two edged sword because on one hand I would like to make a little bit of money and I would like to get involved and maybe have a board again. Kelly (Bellmar) makes my boards for me. He’ll make like 20 or 30 and I’ll go sell ’em here and there under the table more or less.
It’s nothing like it used to be where I could sometimes make 10 grand a month or a minimum of three grand a month. Sometimes it would be 5 grand, it just all depends you know. I have been through all the ups and downs and at this point I’m older now and I don’t know how to really go about doing the company deal. I really never thought about it. I never really cared. It might be kinda cool on one hand. There are so many board companies now compared to how it used to be. It’s like anybody can go ‘yea, I’m Joe Pro’ and make my own boards. It doesn’t have the same meaning it had when you were a kid. The only way you got a board is when you win contests and got in the magazines a lot. Even getting in
magazines wasn’t good enough. You had to do well in contests. Everybody had to go through that procedure at one point in there careers like Lance, Cab, Hawk, Tommy G, Vallely. A lot of the early 80’s guys who came up through the ranks had to do that all the way up into the 90’s. It wasn’t until the 90’s things changed. It wasn’t so much about contests it was about coverage in magazines and video parts. Videos are just as important as contests and that’s kinda weird. It’s such a disposable market now. You can sell any kind a little deal and people buy it.

Are you playing music in a band at the moment?
Yea, we’re actually supposed to practice tomorrow night. We’ve been playing off and on. It’s really hard because the guys in my band have our seperate deals. Two of them have kids. Our drummer Corey Miller is a well known tatoo artist in Upland. He’s like one of the best tatoo guys in America and he’s flying all over the place and hanging out with other tatoo guys.

Do you have music playing in your head as you skate?
Yea actually I do a lot. Some days it can be so effortless and everything will be going your way and you’ll have the music in you head. You can hum it. You can come back to it when you fall. Other days you can’t do dick. Your board feels like shit and nothing is going right.

What 5 CD’s (tapes or whatever) are you listening too in your car?

I don’t have a stereo in this car. So I just play the radio. I alway’s listen to 90.7. The Global Village (in L.A.) from 10-1. They play some really trippy international music and some really cool stuff like Salsa, Cuban Music, Marangue, then the next day it’ll be all Brazilian Jazz, then Latin JAzz, Then mideastern Music like with sitars. It’s really cool and inspiring instrumentally and what I’m trying to capture with my music instrumentally. All those different genres of instrumental music all create this hybrid I like to call ALBACORE.

What’s the name of your band?
Powerflex 5. It’s kind of like electric gumbo, parts of punk rock, trash can 60’s rock, rockabilly, some blues and country. All these forms of American music just kinda twisted my way.

You’ve expanded since that real old Thrasher interview when all you wanted to play was punk and blues.
Yea. You gotta remember that was like 20 years ago in like 80-81. I know exactly what interview your talking about. I still like a lot of that stuff. Things kinda branch out. I was really into the Clash when I was a kid.

Is there an music you wont let your kids listen too?
I hate Metal with a passion. I hate any metal or dinosaur rock like Boston, Def Leopard, or Judas Priest. I hated all that crap. That’s kinda why I got into what I got into. My wife says I’m a full on musical slob. I do like a little bit of hard rock here and there. I really like old Aerosmith, or Ted Nugent, but I hate Led Zepplin or Kansas, or Styx. The only heavy bands I like Metallica, cuz all the guys were skating to that. I just like to hang with that or Motorhead. But all the other metal stuff I can’t stand. I got Jesse on the program already.
He’s learning different genres of music. He’s learning about Blues and Rockabilly and Jazz. He listens to all the stuff I listen to and he can pick out Hendrix, Santana, the Stones, ACDC, and stuff like that so that’s cool.

Are you able to bust out a kickflip?
I’ve never tried to tell you the honest to gods truth.

Back at Fontana for a patented slob air into the deep end.

How about a fingerflip to tail?
I used to try that but I slammed super hard on that ramp I used to have with Robison. I haven’t really tried them since. I used to think that was the sickest trick.

What’s been you lifelong favorite trick?
Frontside Air. I have always done them since the very beginning of time. I still like it. As far as doing tricks right now I like doing lean airs, lein to tails, nose grinds, disasters. I need to relearn lipslides again. For a long time I could do them pretty good.
It’s like you don’t ride vert ramps and mini ramps a lot you lose your tricks. There was like a full ten year period where we didn’t ride anything but pools. In 90 when all the shit happened there was nothing to ride. Everything was gone. All the parks were gone, our ramp was gone. Kelly and Chicken made their pools so that was our staple for the longest time. I have video of me doing a lipslide around Kelly’s pool corner which is gnarly and I can’t even do that now.
I need to relearn that. That’s why I’m really happy this Fontana Park is done because it’s so good, so smooth, and so kinkless, that you don’t have to worry about overcoming obstacles like bumps and lumps. It’s just more of a free form pure skate where you can work on your consistencey or work on tricks that you need to learn back. Also, I’ve been really psyched on vert ramps the last 6 months. The Vans ramp is so good at the Block!

What do you think has been the best piece of writing you have ever published (Thrasher, Juice, Whatever)?
Gosh… I don’t know. I’ve written so many damn stories now it’s ridiculous. I really don’t have a favorite. Sometimes I’ll write something and think that story was better than another one. I am definitely proud of some of the stories I’ve written. Some of them tell some pretty whack tales. It all depends on the angle I’m going from to or the influence was or how it happened. I am definitely proud of that pipe story in the latest Thrasher Book. It had some history about it. I was really suprised it made it into the Thrasher Book ‘Insane Terrain’. My wife got the book before I did and she ‘god your not even in the pool riding, how lame’ and then all of a sudden I turned it over and I had a full on shot at Baldy and then the big pipe story so that was kinda cool.

Do you read any Skateboarding Magazines?
Yea I read most the magazines. I don’t really watch the videos though. Videos to me are so lame. Why do you got to sit around and watch the damn video all day when you can go out and do it. I don’t have the patience sit down to watch video games and look at stupid video outside of something I’m kind of interested in. The whole essence of skating is rolling. If your not rolling in my opinion your not doing what you gotta do. Street is so sick and so technical it’s definitely moved the sport along but at the same time why would I sit there and waste my whole day trying something and not rolling, kickflipping a hundered times. It’s super sick in it’s own right and I’m not trying to bag on it, it’s just not what I’m into. I’m into what I do. Everybody’s got there own little deal so that’s what’s kind of cool about skateboarding.
Now a days everybody kind of understands the roots and where things came from. There’s not like all these schools where it’s like ‘ I can’t hang out with you, you’re a vert guy, well fuck you your a street guy and your tech guy your lame. Your just a pool guy your just and old guy’. I think it’s gotten a lot more rounded now. I think t.v. has really help that aspect of it but at the same time t.v. has really hurt it too.

Was the Chino Ramp your favorite?
Definitely.

What’s your best memory from that ramp?
Riding with Christian, getting to hang out with Grosso, Micke, and Chris Robison, and all the bros that skated there all the time. The whole original plan was all the people gave money could skate. We were kinda fucked about it, saying you couldn’t ride unless you paid, but that’s the way it was kinda set up through the house. It wasn’t really our deal. It was just the rules we had to make. I had to enforce them and I was the seargant. “Salba’s fucked, he wont let me skate”. Shit happens like that sometimes. It wasn’t my doing.
The whole thing turned out to be a nightmare after we learned about it anyway. At first it was really cool, we got Tim Pain only charging us 300 bucks to make that damn ramp. He stayed at my house and we skated Pipeline all the time and Baldy. Every vert gnarler came through town and rode our ramp and stayed with us.East coast, west coast, midwest or wherever. That was a rad thing. I got to meet Bod Boyle , Steve Douglass, Mike Cresceni that way. I think just skating it with Micke when he was killing it. He was at the top of the world. There is no denying it at one point Micke was definitely the better of us. I can’t say he wasn’t because he was. He was the king at one point and I’m not afraid to admit it. I’m psyched to because he was my little brother. Now I get bummed on him because he don’t even care. Him, Losi, Grosso, Christian, and Chris Robison would skate it all the time.
Probably the raddest thing I saw was Christian ollie the extensions massively frontside tail grab or backside tail grab.

When I was little I used to see you and Micke doing double in the Fullpipe at Upland. I can still picture how amazing the two of you were. Then a couple weeks back you were getting Duane Peters to do some doubles with you. Now do you think about doing them in a contest again?

I don’t know, we’ve been fucking around a little bit. We were gonna enter that ASR deal and Duane caught wind it was for Tony (Hawk) and was like ‘Fuck Tony I’m over it’. You gotta respect Duane for what he wants to do. I respect that. Not everybody has gotta like Tony and what he stands for. I think he’s cool. I thought it was kind of radder that Duane was like ‘Fuck It’ I’m not gonna do it.

Did you ever take a real bad slam from doubles?

Oh Yea, Many times! The hardest I slammed doubles was with Scott Dunlap or maybe Olson on a ramp. He went low and I went high and he flipped me over and I landed backwards on the wall. Slid down head first and knocked the air out of me. It was gnarly. Me and Micke had it so dialed. We knew each others lines so good I knew what he was going to do and if he fucked up I knew what he was going to do. Same thing with him and me. Out of all the doubles in all these year, there is definitely some rad double on ramps now. I don’t think anybody can top what me and Micke did in the combi at one point.
Criss cross lines over and under and so much shit we did going into and out of the pipe doing backside d’s.

No time for chilling at the Beach in Hermosa, Salba aint no slob!

What has been your worst injury?
So many man! Probably when I tore my ACL. I was out for like 9 months. I had to learn how to walk again. Back when I did it at 17 they didn’t have the surgery the way they do now. I had to suffer through all this gnarliness, my shit healed up wrong, my left leg is tweaked because of that. That was probaly the worst one. Maybe worse then that was the one I took at Pipeline the night before a contest. I cracked my head open and got 98 stiches. I was doing an alley-oop and hit the bottom with a flyaway and SLAMMED, blood all over the bottom. It was so gnarly.

How often do you go hunting pools down?

Lately I haven’t been going at all. I’ve been so busy. I went to Texas to ride the big pipes with Jake and everybody. We got arrested so we had to spend a whole day out there extra. It tweaked the whole deal. We haven’t even got to court yet, so we have to go back to Texas to pay the fine still. We don’t even know how much that’s going to be. We haven’t been looking too much. I get really pissed at people coming out here and skating my shit that I find. They find it and blow my shit out like Howard Johnsons. Some people will call and ask and that’s cool. For the most part I know most the guys that do.
But there’s a lot of guys that sneak under you. That kind of shit irritates me. I don’t go to their town and blow up there shit so why you gotta go to my town and blow out my shit. It’s kind of a two way street, some people are definitely respecrtful of the whole deal. At the same time who am I to say who can do what. I am not the lord of the whole deal. It’s just all a crap shoot.

Who has surprised you with their pool riding abilities?
The guys I like are deinitely Peter Hewitt, Al Partenon, Sam Hitz, Shaggy, Christian Brox. He’s another gnarly guy that is sooo out of control. Jimmy Moore. You kinda have to go by territory. State by state to see who’s gnarly underground and whos what. Everybodys got there own deal. You got Santa Barbabara, you got San Diego like Rhino and Steve Roche is phenomenal in pools. He’s so gnarly and so undergound, but he’ll just devastate anybody in a pool. I really like the way he skates a lot. Texas Dan is another guy I skate a lot with in pools, for sure Mad Dog and Rueler. Those are two dudes I hang out with more or less. John Zasks is another guy Jake Piaseki is another guy who is sick. There’s all kinds of guys who skate pools. Omar Hassan you wouldn’t really think about in a pool but he blows you away. Remy Stratton and Rune Glifberg are some another guys that can ride pools really good.
Not everyone can ride pools. I still think pool riding is definitely the harderst genre of skating to master and one of the funnest purest forms of skating.

As for park pools name a few of you favorites legendary park pools.
The Combi for sure, Whittier was super rad. I never liked Del Mar because it was too mellow. I kinda always hated to go that place but it was fun. Another park that had a super sick pool was Colton. Winchester for sure was one of the best pools I ever rode. Cherry Hill’s egg bowl was also super sick. Milpitas was pretty good. I rode so many pools in so many parks that it’s kinda hard to keep track of them all.
Big O, Marina, Lakewood, Dog Bowl was were super rad. As far as now a days I think the Denver Park bowl is super good even though it doesn’t have pool coping. The new Louisville park just kills everything I rode yet as far as gnarliness, because of the whole full pipe syndrome. I haven’t rode a lot of the new Oregon parks yet. I think you have to kind of consider Kelly’s and Chickens as skateparks in a sense, even though they are in a backyard. Those are definitely really good.

Would you offer any advice to new skaters?
I don’t know… my advice, if anything, just to skate and have fun. You just have to have a passion for it. It doesn’t matter about getting sponsored. It’s all kids worry about now.
I’ve been here for so long that if you don’t have at least ten years in my book then your nothing. It’s just like a drop in the bucket.

People like Lance Mountain, to me, is my favorite skater in the world. He’s the rulingest guy ever. Lance can do no wrong in my book. He’s definitely my favorite skater of all time. I think Christain is definitely one of the best guys and the smoothest and the most stylish. Christian has had his problems, but Lance is just all the way through, no turns, pure skating. I really like Duane (Peters) a lot. Duane’s kind of the same way. He’s got his music too so he doesn’t quite skate as much as Lance or myself, but he’s been skating a lot lately. He’s been killing it right now. Olson for sure. Cab, but I don’t get to see Cab that much anymore. Lance is just the coolest guy.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I wanna thank some of my sponsors like Indy.

How long have you been riding for Independent?
I was like the second or third guy to ever ride Indy’s. It was Blackhart, then Olson, then me. Since the begining since 1978. I am still one of the original dudes that still skates on a regular basis. I have to thank Spitfire for setting me up pretty fat. Hurley, Smith, Vans, Pro Design, and that’s about it I guess. Oh, I can’t forget Factory Skateboards, Kelly has been there for 10 or 12 years now.