Prior to us forming the Zephyr alliance, the three of us were each working on our own differing designs and hustling in the surf industry to generate the revenue to keep up our personal experiments. Our mutual desire to build innovative foils and to pursue advanced composite constructions made it logical that Skip, Jeff and myself partner up. For money we would knock out production boards for well-known brands and then go home and build our own stuff. It was an interesting period because our stuff was so much more progressive than what was going on in the general market. Eventually it all worked out for us.
Did you already paint surfboards at the time?
My father was involved with modifying automobiles so the family workshop
had spray equipment and lacquer paint. I used to go with him to see George Barris the car builder. George was known as “The King of the Kustomizers,” and because my father was a business associate of his we were over there several times a week. Other people I encountered through my dad included Ed Big Daddy Roth, Von Dutch, Gil Ayala and Art Martin. We went to the biggest shows and I was aware of car painting techniques. And my Mom and Dad also had a ceramic studio so there were plenty of brushes, pigments and glazes about. So when I wanted to work on surfboards I already had an angle grinder and a spray gun so I started sanding and painting things early on. Bicycles, skateboards, t-shirts, surfboards. There is a Dave Sweet stringerless with abstract painted bottom in the Smithsonian that I did in 1967. With Ho and Engblom encouraging me and contributing ideas we evolved the Zephyr aesthetic. The best boards we did were so offensive to the status quo that other manufacturers were aghast. Terry Lucoff the owner Natural Progression shop who was the biggest surf brand in the area circa 1972 proclaimed “You will never be able to sell these offensive ghetto boards.” He was right, of course that’s precisely why we wanted to make them. We were pursuing an entirely different vision. Mr. Lucoff is now the top real estate guy in Malibu and the three of us are still individually involved with building surf and skate vehicles.
We know the word “Dog Town” came almost by chance but how did you come up with the Dog Town aesthetic?
The attitudinal stance of our environment was reflected in the art. The neighborhoods were blended in our region and they reflected the diversity of the residents. All communication of our shared values had a hybridized aspect as a result.
What were your inspirations?
My birth at the western end of Route 66 meant that our environs were at the end of America’s continental manifest destiny. I specifically lived at the end of the road where it collided with the Pacific Ocean. Abandoned amusement parks dotted our oceanfront. The grim shadows which inhabit Hollywood’s under belly were the dominant light on the horizon. I was inspired by the flotsam that washed down the sewers from the land mass and by the jetsam of the Pacific-rim that floated ashore. High tide was the source of my haute couture.
When did you start to make structured projects with photography or cinematography?
I grew up dealing with those media. At some point other people noticed and began responding to my efforts. As an activity gets labeled or classified, society superimposes a structure around it. In my case I became perceived as an artist rather than being considered as a miscreant. There is very little difference in what I am doing. Virtually identical artifacts that an individual makes can have drastically different fates. Things that I created which were freely distributed on the street have ended up with diametrically opposed deployments. One may go to the dump. The other may make it to the art museum.