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Return of the 'd-boys'
'70s skating pro attends reunion of slalom racing's old school

Required equipment:  Randy Smith displays his mismatched footwear.  One shoe has a thicker sole to act as brakes after a run. / Photo by Missy Votel
It’s 10:30 a.m. on a Sunday morning, and Randy Smith and a buddy are sweeping gravel off a newly paved street in an as-of-yet undeveloped subdivision in Durango. They hasten about their business like men on a mission, buffing a particularly steep section of the road until it’s free of any debris. To the casual observer, it may seem a strange activity given that the nearest house is several blocks away. But to those well versed in the world of slalom skateboard racing, it’s all part of the ritual.

“People who go into the backcountry carry shovels,” Smith says. “Skateboarders carry brooms.”

That’s because, when topping out at 25 to 30 mph, one small rock can slam a skater down like a ton of bricks. And Smith’s got the road rash to prove it.

“Hippers are the worst,” he said, referring to diggers taken on the hip pointers. “You can’t sleep.”

Once the street meets their satisfaction, the brooms are put away and out come the orange cones. Smith places them, slightly offset, at five-foot intervals down a 50-yard stretch of road.

It’s a tight course that most people would have trouble navigating on foot, let alone on a hurtling piece of wood supported by four Urethane wheels, but for Smith and fellow racer George Pappas, it’s just practice.

“The real race courses are a lot longer,” said Pappas.

Back where it all started:  Smith displays one of his vintage boards, a '70s-era Turner slalom board, made by the late boardshaper Bob Turner, who died this summer of a heart attack.  Smith recently sold one of his old boards to a collector at a race in California for $400. / Photo by Missy Votel He and Smith, who was a pro racer in the ’70s, are riding the recent resurgence in the popularity of slalom racing buoyed by “Dogtown and Z-boys,” a documentary on the ’70s vertical skating revolution in Santa Monica, Calif., and the Fat City Racing Tour, a slalom racing series put together by former California pros John Krisek and Jack Smith. The series, which has been around for about a year and a half, has drawn some of the legendary names in skating out of retirement, including Henry Hester and John Hudson, as well as the attention of Fox Sports. Although Smith and Pappas, who was an amateur racer during Smith’s pro days, were based out of Colorado, they were contemporaries of the infamous Z-boys, often sharing the bill with them at races, here and in California.

“There was a race series based out of Summit County called the ARA, for Another Roadside Attraction, and it was a two-year circuit that went through five ski towns in Colorado,” said Smith. “All the good California skaters came out for it.”

Likewise, Smith, who was sponsored by Turner skateboards, would travel to California. In fact, he was even at some of the races shown in the Dogtown movie. But as luck would have it, just as Smith was at the top of his game – consistently placing within the top four – the sport took a nosedive.

“In the early ’80s skating just died and went underground because of all the lawsuits at all the skate parks,” said Pappas, who traded in his slalom board for a spot on the Kemper snowboard team.

Twenty years later, Pappas had all but forgotten about his skateboard, until he ran into Smith who told him about the race series and goaded him into getting back on the board. “I’ve been two times in 20 years,” Pappas said.

Smith himself was persuaded to dust off the old deck last spring after receiving a call from former pro and friend, Tommy Inouye, telling him about the death of Bob Turner, the founder of Turner Skateboards, who had died of a heart attack last spring. He also mentioned the upcoming Fat City races in La Costa, Calif., and Hood River, Ore. “He said, ‘There’s a race this weekend and all your old bros are gonna be there,’” Smith recalls.

Smith, who already was on his way to Hood River, where he spends a few months each summer, decided to go to the races.

At the races, he said he was blown away to find that some of the “old bros” were still ripping like they used to.

“I thought I was fast, but I wasn’t nearly fast enough,” he said. “I tend to hit more cones than I used to.”

In fact, Smith didn’t even qualify at the races, which drew as many as 60 pros.
“All the hot guys now are in their 30s and 40s, even their 20s,” said Smith, who is over 40 by more than a little.

However, Smith did manage to gain a little notoriety after one of the races when Fox Sports interviewed him on the death of Turner.

“They interviewed me as a has-been, giving the historical perspective,” he said laughing.

Nevertheless, Smith says it’s not about the glory of winning but just about enjoying the moment and catching up with old friends after several years.
“There’s eight or 10 guys from the ’70s racing again, and it’s really been a charge,” he said. “It’s just a blast, even if I don’t do very well.”

Yet Smith still shows a glimmer of the old competitive spirit when talking about an upcoming race in San Luis Obispo in mid-October.

“I just want to compete with my bros... who I used to beat.”





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