We sat down with Mike Carroll and Jake Rosenberg to talk about their history in skateboarding! Check out the full interview in issue 3 of Kill Pretty!
KP: Do you remember the first time you went to the Embarcadero?
MC: First time I went was, I have no idea. I know it was before Animal Chin. It was just this place we heard of in San Francisco. What we’d do is skate at the stage. We were doing early grab “airs” to simulate like we were skating a jump ramp. That’s what we were doing. We’d end up there, here and there but it never really was this destination. It started becoming that….well when the Gonz ollied the Gonz to create the Gonz Gap. I don’t know how we all heard about that but we went down the next day and Rodney Mullen was there the day before but he wasn’t there that day but Natas and Gonz were there that day. Gonz did the sequence and they did what’s now known as the C-Block, we called it the Pyramid. They ollied it, they got a sequence both ollying it together at the same time. Me, my brother and a bunch of my friends were lined up all the way down it and the photographer didn’t tell us to move so we’re in that sequence and that was in Thrasher. It had to be ‘86 or ‘87. I started in ‘85. So within the first year I had to have been there so probably ‘86. Months felt like years back then.
JR: Recently I’ve been tripping out about old skate spots. I think it’s super relevant where the first kick flip was done. What was the first rail that was hit? In theory you would never want that destroyed. It’s pretty rad to see a spot that has so much history.
MC: All that shit that Henry invented at the Embarcadero is gone.
JR: Isn’t the three still there?
KP: The little three? Yeah. The little three is there and you can manual by the fountain, that’s what I did. That little curb right there? There’s a little gap you can ollie.
JR: Can you ollie into the fountain still?
MC: There’s water in it. If there’s no water I’m sure it’s still the same.
KP: We were interviewing MARVL US and he was talking about how the Embarcadero was this place where he could see all the kids from the city skating and tagging. It was a great place for him to meet other skaters and writers.
MC: Do you know SIRA?
MC: He was a guy we used to skate with out there and I didn’t know he ended up getting big in graffiti until years later. His name is Aris so it’s his name backwards. He passed away last year. I went to his memorial and it was just tons of graffiti writers. He and his brother Ben had a bunch of ramps and stuff to skate in their warehouse.
KP: That’s what Ron Ellis just told me, before any indoor park this dude had it. He told me this big story about it.
MC: We called it the Berkley Warehouse. We’d all go there when it was raining.
JR: It was a good setup too because you could do three tricks in a row. You could hit the quarter pipe, hit the spine and then hit the back.
MC: There’s footage of it in the first Plan B video.
JR: You did a frontside ollie. You did a backside ollie, frontside shuvit. You were going up backside and you did a frontside shuvit, smack your nose and turn in.
MC: No that’s just a front shuv. Shit shuffle or whatever and then come back. I don’t know what the hell you’d call it.
KP: How have you seen Embarcadero change?
JR: I never went to Embarcadero as a destination for skating. I’m sure the first time I was there I was filming. I was probably filming you or Greg. So I met Mike through his brother Greg because I was working for High Speed Productions doing the Venture video and the Dogtown video. I did the Dogtown video first. Dogtown was kind of about to go out of business so they were really wanting to put this video out to sell all the product that they had. Their team at that point was pretty fucking amazing.
KP: Was Dressen on it yet?
JR: It was John Cardiel, Wade Speyer, Karma Tsochef, Bob Beck, Wing Ding….
MC: I think my brother got sponsored by them. At that time skating was changing. All these new companies. Alva made New School, Fausto made Think, there were all these new companies popping up. Probably because of companies like H Street.
JR: By the time I was at Embarcadero it was a scene. I never saw it any other way. I was always with these guys filming them.
MC: That summer I had some family issues so I ended up going down to San Diego. I stayed in San Diego for the summer at the H Street house. After that summer was done I went back home. My friend Henry was good but never that good because he was always trying all this crazy shit. I’d always give him my hand-me-downs, he got sponsored. I got sponsored first but he turned pro before me. So after that summer I came home and he was insanely good, consistent and he was never like that when I left. So that time when I got back he was like, “Meet me down at Embarcadero.” So then, that was when it really started. It was already happening before but it started for almost everyone then. It was happening before then, we would skate all over the city and a couple of our friends would end up getting stuck down there, so we’d skate around the city and end up down there. I remember talking to a friend who was like, “Why don’t you leave this place? Why do you stay here all day long?” and I said something about him sounding like an asshole. There were older dudes that stayed down there that were like surfer skaters and they would just stay down there and skate, slappy the curbs and they’d have kegs down there. This was in the middle of the Financial District. They’re just chillin’ there with their shirt off and a keg. I only saw the keg out but after talking to some friends I guess they used to open up the trash cans and put the keg in the trash cans. I never knew that so there were probably even more times where they had a keg that I didn’t know about.
KP: If they had kegs down there it must have gotten pretty wild.
MC: I was a little kid just skating but I didn’t think it was crazy, you know? But those dudes would always get into fights. There were always fights.
JR: I think everything that was possible to happen in skateboarding happened at that spot. You could get in fights, you could get busted, you could break yourself, you could meet a chick, you could hook up with a chick…
MC: You could meet a girl there and take her to Hubba Hideout and five guys got all their hands up in her. She’s getting passed around giving each dude head. Then there’s this light post and were like, “Hey, do a dance!” and she’s butt naked at the top of Hubba Hideout. I was like, “Yeah, slide down on your pussy!” It was gnarly because she did it and her pussy just...you know… (Makes a disgusting indian burn type movement with his hands) I was like, “WOW that was gnarly!” And to top it off she ended up being on her period.
KP: Oh no.
MC: Yeah. That was “The Runaway” or “Helen Part 2”. She wasn't the original Hurricane Helen that blew threw. So all kinds of shit happened. So those older dudes pretty much set it off, the Embarcadero. They were kind of a crew, THK, The Honkey Krew.
JR: You ever see any of those dudes ever again?
MC: Yeah, one of those dudes Ryan was on one of those court TV shows cause he beat some dudes ass at the beach or something like that.
KP: When did you guys first meet?
JR: Were the Reno Finals ‘89 or ‘90?
MC: I think it was ‘89 because I was 14.
JR: I think it was ‘90.
MC: Okay that summer I was 14 I turned 15 right after.
JR: So that photo I showed you was the first time I saw him skate in person. I was taking a lot of pictures, I was filming quite a bit. I had been down at the Powell Quarter Master Cup. I was 17 and I drove my car down and met Guy, Rudy, Gabriel, Salman, Jason Adams, Sean Mandoli, Spencer Fujimoto, all these sponsored skaters. The Am Jam was on Friday and the Quarter Master Cup was on Saturday and Sunday. It was summer because I remember getting my first traffic ticket driving down there and my second ticket driving back. I was taking photos then after that I started filming for New Deal for Steve Douglas and I kept in touch with Guy, Rudy and Gabriel. Then I went down to LA to film with Guy, Rudy and Gabriel for Video Days. Then when I went out to the Reno AM Finals Guy, Rudy and Gabriel were there in their Blind shirts. Rick was there, Rick got third place he was still riding for Blockhead.
MC: Rick and Rudy were battling that whole contest series. It was like first, second, third, there was this crazy rivalry that they were serious about. Then Lance Conklin won that.
JR: Lance won that and then he turned pro. But that’s the first time I saw Mike skating. At that contest. I took a photo of him. I knew who he was of course but because he wasn’t in the street finals and I knew most of the street skaters I probably didn’t end up socializing with him. So after that I started filming for his brother. I was working for this magazine from France called No Way.
KP: How did that happen?
JR: I went to skate camp in 1988 in Santa Clara and I ended up holding a camera for Mike Ternasky. Mike thought I was a really cool kid, a little bit of a trouble maker but we connected. I broke my arm but I stayed in camp and they wouldn’t let me skate. So I just hung out with him and played arcade games. When everyone went to lunch they’d film on the empty street course. He’s like, “Hey Jake you can carry the camera” it was 30 pounds and I weighed 80 pounds. I definitely could barely keep it up but I was like, “I gotta do it.” So I’d filmed Mike and I’d met all these pros, one of them was Ryan Monahan. I took a picture of Stephanie Person who was friends with Ryan and that picture was for this french magazine. I get paid maybe $1,200 and I’m like, “This is fucking amazing.” Then he asked me to do more stuff for the magazine. I say, “Hey there’s this guy Mike Carroll, do you want to do a spotlight on him?” At that time Mike had just turned pro for H Street. I was there when you got your first package of boards. So I did a pro spotlight on him and that was probably the first time we hung out for an extended period of time.
MC: Yeah, I had just turned pro because that was the same year as the AM contest and everyone turned pro right after that. That was in August and in early September Rick turned pro on Blockhead. I think Rudy turned pro and I was asked to turn pro in December.
JR: So November 1990 to January 1991 we filmed. I think we filmed before that because I have that one day where we started out a day in the city and we took the bus out to the Embarcadero and I was filming you that whole time.
KP: Out of all the boards you’ve come out with do you have a favorite board graphic?
JR: That first board shape was really good.
MC: Yeah, I was looking at that H Street graphic recently because someone just sent it to me. FTC had it on the wall, it’s mine, but they asked me if they could borrow it and use it on their wall. I needed it for a photo shoot so they sent it back to me. I have it just chillin’ at my house and I keep looking at it like, “Damn, I used to think this was the sickest shit.” It’s a cool shape but the way I envisioned it back then is definitely not the way it is now. I guess my first board graphic is my favorite just because it’s my first. I’ve had so many Girl graphics. The “Stroke It” board, that was Plan B. I wanted to do it for Girl when we were starting out. I wanted to do the girl version. I wanted to do it how a girl would masturbate, her POV of masturbation. Her legs up the wall of the bathtub with the faucet with water coming down. Have little sticky spots on the wall.
JR: Why don’t you do it now? Controversial stuff is in.
MC: It’s so hot right now.
KP: And put a paper bag over it like they did with the Naked World board with the chick spreading it! I’m a huge Sean Cliver fan and usually the weirder, darker boards end up being my favorites. It seemed like those were out for a while and now they are coming back in…
JR: Those Fucking Awesome boards are rad.
MC: Yeah, I think they do a good job. I think for some reason right now everyone wants to bring back the 90’s because it was so rad. That kind of graphic isn’t really shocking anymore to me. You gotta do it pretty gnarly.
JR: Shocking is done. You’ll never making anything more shocking or more gnarly than what’s been done, in my opinion. So now it’s just interpretation.
MC: I don't feel like FA boards are shocking. We do our graphics with humor and not taking ourselves seriously.
JR: Every time I see those boards I think, “Okay. There’s a thought behind it. It’s good design. It’s simple, it’s clean.”
MC: So there are graphics out there like that, that are a little darker. I think it’s because people are inspired. You know who does really funny graphics is Brad Staba, Skate Mental.
JR: Girl is pretty family safe.
MC: That’s the thing, I only started it that’s why my female “Stroke It” graphic never came out.
JR: Now’s the time!
KP: Is that something Girl does purposefully? Keep it a little safe?
MC: No, I don’t think so.
JR: I’d say they’re a little more clean than safe. You guys have stuff that’s funny and inside jokes.
MC: I don’t think it’s a choice to keep it family friendly or anything like that. I think one of our partners wasn’t too into having a female masturbation board. I can respect her decision or her wish on that.
JR: You could do a Fucking Awesome guest board.
MC: We’ll just fucking do it for ourselves when we do it. I’ll still do it! But who knows how hot girls are masturbating now?
KP: You’re going to have to do some research to find out.
JR: He’s done a lot of research.
MC: The way I had the “Stroke It” board we had the magazines laid out exactly how they would have been but now you have your laptop or your cell phone. Digital fucking age.
KP: You could split it down the middle one side is the magazine one side is the laptop.
MC: We did something like that once. It was called the “Same Difference” board it was split down the middle one side had a full on racist skinhead and the other had a black racist 5%er. Same difference that was Plan B.
KP: I heard that you guys had a lot of fights over the years.
JR: There was only one physical fight but we definitely…
KP: There was a physical fight?