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SkateBoarder Magazine Interview
Vol. 5, #11
Hailing from the Hollywood, Florida area at age 15, Alan Gelfand represents the progressive cutting edge of the sport. Although he is currently an amateur (competitively speaking), he has earned the recognition of the pro establishment for his unparalleled innovative skating. His unique moves continue to astound and confound even the most hard-core observers. This interview confines itself solely to the topic of skating, which is just how the interviewee demanded it to be. While some of the questions may specifically deal with some of the questions may specifically deal with Florida trends, the general vibe is probably symptomatic of young skaters everywhere. Plainly speaking, Alan and others like him represent the future of the sport as well as some of the hotter aspects of its present.
What differences do you see between California and Florida?
About 3,000 miles and there's more good skaters in California, so you get pushed way more. Also, the parks are made better. All of the good parks in Florida are closed, so there's not much left to skate except a couple of parks which aren't that good. Another difference is that our parks don't have coping. Your bowls are our pools in Florida. Everything is mellower in Florida. Out here it's more radical. California pools have smoother surfaces and everything is done better because it has been done before. But then, nobody hears about the junky parks here, even though they exist.
I don't know the names! I've just heard there's a bunch of parks within 45 minutes of skaters' houses and that they have never even been to them.
You have sort of alluded to it, but how do you think the skating level in Florida differs from here?
In Florida there's not as many hot skaters..
Do you see any regional style of distinctiveness between where you're from and here?
Yeah. Out here there's more style. I guess they surf a lot more out here. There's also more smooth skaters here, probably because the parks are smoother. People do good in Florida considering what they have to skate.
Do you think the media does a good job covering Florida?
They're starting to now but they just don't have enough people taking pictures in Florida. Hopefully, they'll get people taking pictures not just for their own team use. Pictures should be taken of everybody, not just people on the photographer's own team.
How long were you doing your moves before any media people shot them?
Six months on the ollie-air and a year on the ollie-pop.
How did you get coverage?
I met Stacy Peralta about one-and -a half years ago and he saw me doing the ollie-pops. After that he sent me boards for a long time. Then I came out here this summer, and I saw him and I joined Powell. The magazine took pictures of me doing ollie-pops and stuff and that's it. I guess people liked my moves so they decided to give me coverage.
What are the biggest problems a Florida skater has?
The biggest problems are finding places to skate and finding rides to the parks since I can't drive yet. It's just hard to get to the parks. Then once you get there, you're not stoked on the park because its usually kinky or roughly surfaced and poorly designed.
Why do you think the park designs are so bad?
Most of the parks are designed by some investor, some guy who's got all this money and just wants to make a skatepark and get rich quick. But some parks - like Rainbow Wave, which is the best park right now in Florida - are designed by people who know about skating, so the lines are better. Kit Traversa at Rainbow Wave, surfs, so he knows what's going on.
Do you think the park situation is going to improve any?
So many parks have closed that all the investors are scared to build new parks in Florida. All the old parks are turning into goony golf places and pinball palaces, and they aren't doing all that great. Somebody's just got to go and build a small, good park, because it would really help. If a park like that makes money, other people might get into doing it. There are some parts of Florida that don't even have parks; like up in northern Florida.
Is it hard to get good equipment in Florida?
It's hard to get sponsors because there's no manufacturers. So everybody pays for their equipment.
Does skate equipment there have resale value?
Yeah, in Florida after boards are totally thrashed, people still sand them down and make them into smaller boards. It's unbelievable. Like a board that's cracked or delaminated, people use over again. They glue them back and stuff. They even re-use grip tape or go to the hardware store and buy sanding discs to use instead.
How long does it take you to get a board from the coast?
It takes awhile. And, during Christmas season or something, it takes you a month. Usually if your sponsors are on it, it takes about two weeks.
Are people's attitudes any different in the parks here?
Yeah. I can't understand some of the people, though. I mean, snaking is all right to a certain extent, but some people just take it too far. At some parks it's really bad. There are people who'll just rid and ride and ride for a half hour and then go home or something. They just take off every time. I like to have fun in a park and skate when I want to skate. When a lot of people are snaking in a park, you just can't get enough rides. When you want to go, you still gotta' wait because a guy's dropping in the bowl ahead of you. Everybody snakes. I snake and everybody else snakes, but you can only do it to a certain extent; too far is bad.
What's the general age group of skaters in Florida?
About 14-18. I haven't seen that many people 18 and over. In the contests, usually the 18 and over group is dead; there are not that many people in that division.
Who do you think has done the most for promoting the sport in Florida?
I think Hunter Joslin has done a lot and Bruce Walker's done some. His attitude and my attitude, personally, are different. He likes a lot more of the freestyle and slalom, and he's having this big slalom event. Well, I think he should have a big bowl event.
It seems after you were here three or four days, you started skating a lot better than at first. Is it jet lag? Terrain? Attitude, or what?
Definitely the terrain. When you skate kinky and junky stuff every day (there's usually nothing else to skate), and then you skate something good, you just want to go out there and skate all day long. You don't care about anything else; you just want to ride because you know in a week or two you're not going to have this anymore. You adapt to the good terrain, and you skate way better.
Do you think the Turning point ramps will have any sort of influence in Florida?
The Turning point ramps seem hot and all, but they're only going to let pro riders skate them. Also they'll be traveling all the time, and it would be fun but they have such insane plans for it that it might be too radical.
How are they insane?
Like fog machines and skating with strobe lights and all this other kind of stuff. In Florida at night time you can't skate those kind of ramps because the humidity makes them too slippery to skate, it gets dew on them.
Where do you think the best ramps are in Florida?
Mark Lake makes the best ramps around, up in Melbourne. We have ramp by ourselves which is really good; it's sturdy and everything.
Do you think Florida skaters have any assets going for them?
Eventually we're supposed to be getting some good pools and some good half-pipes. People will learn more moves. There's a new magazine out and that might help the East Coast a little bit. I can't believe it, the magazines are made back there but they show you these pictures of people in California. They should show people from Florida if it's a Florida-based magazine plus skaters from California and the Midwest, all over. That new park in Cherry Hill is bringing up a lot of good skaters. They should cover everything, not just 20 pages promoting the "big star." People don't want to see that stuff anymore; they want to see a lot of different skaters.
Do you see any pronounced cultural differences between California and Florida?
Most of the people who snake every ride are the ones who've been in the magazine a lot. They think they can go every time and they do go every time because nobody says anything to them; maybe they think they're God or something.
Do you say anything?
I've said a few things a couple of times. I just don't like people pushing me to go when they don't want to snake me. I don't like people pushing me; I want to go when I want to go. I wait my turn…usually….well sometimes…(laughter).
Do you think any of the touring California pros had any kind of influence on the level of skating in Florida?
A lot of the "new" California skaters haven't been to Florida in a while. Shogo has been to Florida and everybody likes the way he skates. A lot of people tried new movies of his and it really helps when skaters like him come to Florida.
Which Californians can you think of that have toured back there, have been particularly influential?
A year ago Kent Senatore, Stacy Peralta and Scott Senatore came by one of the parks and they really showed us a lot. Jay Adams has been there, and he made a lot take notice, Chris Strople was there and people dug his aerials.
Who do you think the best skaters in Florida are?
There are a lot of people from down South. A guy named Kevin Peterson, and Jeff Duer learn moves real quick. There's a lot of people; it's hard to name them. Folmer - he's just getting over his leg injury that put him out for a while.
How long was he out?
He was out for about two months. Just after he got back from California he hurt his leg; he broke his femur (the main bone in his leg).
Do you think there's a time lag from something becomes popular here and when it becomes popular in Florida?
Yeah. The magazine out here is put together really early. I don't think people realize that it is made a couple of months earlier and that the pictures taken are even earlier than that; so we're two to three months behind usually, if not longer.
Why can't you carve in Florida?
You can't carve in Florida because the half-pipes in the parks are so tight and the wooden ones are usually only 8' wide. Everything's tight; there's no room. They built a lot of small bowls thinking everyone would like that better, so there's just no place to carve.
How about freestyle; is it very popular?
Yeah, freestyle is real popular because when you don't have anything to do, you can go out in front of stores and do freestyle. Also, a lot of people do curb grinders! It's getting big.
How about slalom?
No one's really into that. It seems boring to me.
What about bank riding?
Bank riding is really popular. There's no natural banks though. Out here, at most of the schools, you can ride banks. In Florida there's no banks except in the parks, and who wants to ride kinky banks? They're all bumpy or rough, and they're hard to do slides on.
How about the contests?
Rainbow Wave Skatepark had a really good contest. Everybody was taking it easy; they just wanted to skate and have a good time. There were no real complaints about it. At the last Clearwater contest this lady named Murial Gannis was doing a good job, but she was running it so official that a lot of skaters were bummed.
What's the best contest you've seen in Florida?
The contest at Rainbow Wave had everything; it had freestyle, it had a good half-pipe and cross-country. The cross country was kind of weird because the local people had it wired and the local people were the ones who won the whole thing.
Are you going to turn pro?
I don't know. I have to get way better, I think. I'm just going to take my time 'cause I've got a lot of time left.
So you think that turning pro in Florida isn't worth it?
There's no money in the pro contests in Florida. Five hundred dollars divided five or six ways doesn't go very far. There's only a pro contest once or twice a year. One park had a "pro contest" and the grand prize was $16.00. What kind of pro contest was that?
What about the amateur contests in Florida?
The amateur contests are run pretty good most of the time. They just don't have good enough surfaces to ride on. The trophies are pretty neat.
What good are they?
They show that you won.
Where do you think the energy pockets are for Florida skaters?
They're mostly on the coast. Gainesville, Jacksonville, Tampa, and the Miami-Hollywood-Ft. Lauderdale area are all big. All of Southern Florida's really big because it's right next to the coast. Tallahassee's coming on pretty good.
How does the Florida style relate to that of the rest of the Eastern Seaboard?
The Florida style is about the same. I've seen people from New Jersey and those people are getting good 'cause they have the new park in Cherry Hill park is really hot. It's better than a lot of the West Coast parks. Those guys ever there will probably improve real fast.
What are your plans for the future?
Just to find better places to skate; there's this new pool going up by my house and it's going to be done soon. Also, I'm into learning more moves, and learning all my moves until I've got 'em down to a science.
Do you have any closing comments?
Eat more Red Hots!