Who is Stacy Peralta? Placed 3rd in the World Pro Freestyle, being the only junior to make the finals, placed 5th in the Northern California Championships Pro Freestyle, being the only person from the pro finals at the World Contest to repeat. Responsible for introducing the modern surf-skate style to Australia. International pro by virtue of commercial activities here and abroad. A star of the 35mm film "Freewheelin'."
Yet he is virtually unknown by those outside of the skateboard intelligentsia.
Reasons - quiet, shy, unassuming, an idealistic perfectionist.
Easy to talk to, but difficult to confine discussion only to skate topics. Typical interview session yields 45-minute discussion on contemporary American southern music, its origins, influences, and directions - footnotes include Bessie Smith, Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys, Robert Johnson, English sea chanties, and the speeches of Lyndon B. Johnson, and the life story of Arnold Ziffell (the pig from Green Acres TV show). It seems that Peralta's father is a friend of Ziffell's trainer.
Perhaps the best way to gain insight is through comments of his peers:
"Nice guy and a real good skater."-Ty Page.
"The best all-around skater in the world-opinion based on viewing footage of all top skaters in slow motion."-Pat Darrin.
Why don't you describe how you decided to go to Australia?
I was surfing a lot and going to my first year of college, and not digging it. "I didn't feel like I was learning anything new, and school was a bore. I had just placed third in the World Pro freestyle, and was pretty burned out on contests. I decided to drop out of school, work to get some money, and go someplace new. I felt I needed new experiences to broaden my horizons. About this time, Russ Howell was in Australia on tour for John Arnold and Golden Breed, and they needed another skater. Russ was kind enough to recommend me, thinking that since our styles were so different, it would make for a good balance. I got a call on the phone from John Arnold, and he asked me if I was interested in coming down...I told him it was a dream come true. One day I'm down in Dogtown, and the next thing I know I'm Down Under.
What are your impressions of Australia in general?
I was only there several months, so I'm certainly no expert. Australia was a great, expansive country, with varied terrains and climates. The people are very friendly, and were into all sorts of outdoor sport-type activities. Lots of space, wild life, long stretches of coastline and good waves. Surfing there has obvious advantages, but many beaches are inaccessible. You have got to want to ride, 'cause a good day's surf might require two or three weeks in preparation and travel. The one thing that struck me was how out of touch you get with things living in Southern California. You begin to forget how things were. . .how things should be. In California, people drive on a freeway to the beach, park in a paved pay lot, and eat at Jack-in the Box. In Aussie, you go on a surf trip, and everything sets you up for riding waves. In California, surfing is just another hobby or pastime.
How high is the level of skating in Australia?
Well, the Australians were behind us in both the ability and equipment levels, primarily because they have only been skating down there for a year or so. However, they are super-stoked, and they really go all out. As they get more advanced equipment, they will catch up very quickly. Some of them are there already. A friend of mine from Aussie, Lynn Gross, came here for the Magic Mountain and Cow Palace contests, and she won in both.
What sort of skate spots did you encounter?
In the cities there were some sidewalks and large areas good for freestyling. In the country, you've got to run on the roads; lots of good slalom setups here. You can bank ride in the drainage ditches, but the one thing really missed were swimming pools. Australian pools are rare, and the ones you do find are rectangular, as opposed to the more sculptural oval pools in California. In general, there are fewer spots in Australia than here, but Southern California has got to be the cement capital of the world. The lack of existent spots down there might really be to their advantage since they already have built several skate parks. People who learn to skate at places exclusively designed for skateboarding will probably have an edge over those who don't.
Are you planning on returning there?
Yeah, for sure. Next time I plan on a much longer stay so that I can get a good feel for the land. One of the big problems of being on tour and doing demos is that there are a lot of things you just don't have time to see.
Did you notice any significant changes in the quality of skateboarding here when you returned?
Definitely. Towards the end of my visit, I was feeling stagnant in Australia, because I missed the stimulation of being around hot skating. The most fun I have is when I'm challenged to get better. When I came back here, my friends blew me out heavily. . .I get off the plane and Paul Hoffman is consistently hitting around twelve one-footed nose 360's, while Jose Gallan is doing crossover rolls with a pirouette, while he takes off his hat and passes it behind his back and puts it back on his head again. I figured I would be behind when I got back, but what they were doing was unbelievable. So I skated with them a few days, and I was starting to acclimate when I ran into Jim Muir at Indians Well Pool. He was doing backside off-the -lips on the coping, and he's calling the pool "dead." So we go up to the Keyhole, where Bob Biniak is running full bore along the tiles and popping frontside off-the-lips wherever he wants to. I flashed again. Next thing, I went to the Carlsbad Skate Park with Tony Alva, who I haven't seen in eight months because he had been in the islands. We get there, and by the second run, nobody else is skating; they're all just standing around watching. Tony was so fast that with his loose, rubbery style and hair, he looked like a ball of fire. I was stoked. . .Now I knew what I had been missing. My friends showed me the way back home.
Were your friends the primary motivational factor in your development?
Yes, my friends and the area.
The area? How was that?
There are a lot of unknown banked spots in and around the Santa Monica area, and if you live there, you ride them.
It's sort of hard to explain, but when you're standing on top of the bank at Bellagio, looking into the bowl and then on down the line, with a hard wind out of the canyon howling at your back. . .well (laughing), you have just got to do it. If the boys are there, the competitive thing is really intense. I've seen outsiders who are pretty good skaters just walk away from a heavy session without riding; I guess they thought it was too insane. But it goes beyond people pushing you. Everyone around here skates, and people take it seriously. I think maybe the traditions push you as much as anything. Skateboarding itself started at Malibu, and the old Makaha and
Hobie teams were from here.
A year-and-a-half ago, we were riding this pool and were carving over the light. Skip Engblom checks it out and tells us, "George Trafton was blue-tiling in the very same pool ten years ago on clay wheels." Within a few minutes, there wasn't anyone there who couldn't get tiles. Another time we were all hanging out on the corner, skating next to the Zephyr shop, when this older guy walks up in a Grateful Dead T-shirt, and says he wants to borrow a skate since he used to ride and he wants to see if he can still do it. He gets on it, space walks, does several 60's, and has a good routine. Pretty far out, we figure. He tells us his name is Tom Waller, and he's got this friend who is really hot. A couple of days later, he shows up with Chris Dawson, who also hasn't ridden in years. Dawson gets out of his car, jumps on his old Hobie Flex model, and holds a perfect nose wheelie for a block. Unreal! It was by far the longest wheelie any of us had ever seen. He changed my idea of freestyle a hundred percent. What they were into was a challenge. They didn't do tricks; they worked out.
Are you aware of continuity between yourself and the older skaters?
Sure, you pick it up and pass it on. Helping out people is what it's all about waller and Dawson showed me the way to freestyle, and I sort of passed it on to Hoffman. Dan Bearer and Torger Johnson helped Tony (Alva), and he gives it to Paul Cullen. What we are doing now isn't anything compared to what the younger guys are going to be doing. Kids like Hoffman and Cullen are the stars; they will learn from us and go us several better.
The people in your area have a different style from those of other areas; in fact, it even differs from the older skaters in your own region. How did the low, pivotal, ground contact style originate?
It came from riding banks more than anything. How better to ride a wave of cement than to surf-skate it? Besides, the style we have is related to short-board surfing, while I think the older guys have more of a long-board skate style.
It's just different attitudes. In the old days you moved on the board, while now you move with the board and the board moves with you. It's much more integrated.
Bertleman's surfing was a real influence on it. People came on it individually at first. Nathan Pratt and I were skating Ocean View one night a couple of years ago, and we just started doing S-turn cutbacks, using our arms as pivots. Down at the beach, Tony and Jay Adams were doing the same things. Different approaches, same conclusions. People all over the area were skating more or less similarly. It really jelled, as far as everyone else was concerned, with the Zephyr team
The Zephyr team showed a lot of people what sort of skating we were into up here. At the Del Mar Contest we blew a lot of minds. The way we skated was really advanced. It was a total surf-skate with no tricks. People, in general, didn't understand it because they had never seen anything like it before. The surfers in the audience got off on it, while everyone was into handstands. We were so far ahead of what was going on in that zone it was amazing. I never realized we were different before that contest; the way we skated was the only way we knew how.
What do you think of contests in general?
There are good and bad aspects to them. I like getting together with people from different areas, and exchanging ideas. As for the bad, well. . .there are a million little things technically incorrect. If you want to deal with political problems, there's a billion things to gripe about. But why get into that; it's only a waste of energy. No one makes you enter a contest, and you can always walk away. Contests are there. . .why make a big deal of them and get upset.
What kind of contest would you like to see?
An all-around event dealing with freestyle, slalom, speed bank and pool riding. You could have overall and individual winners. A contest like that would be a real test of skill.
Are you into professionalism?
Yes, since so many people are making a lot of money off of skateboarding, it's only fair that the people who ride the skateboards can get something out of it.
What do you think about the recent allegations concerning drug abuse in skateboarding?
I'm not into making value judgements about other people, 'cause I wouldn't want others to put down on my personal trips. You have your own choices. I'm sure drugs exist in skateboarding. After all, they exist in most cultures of the world. As for competition, look at the Olympics or international bicycle racing where they test athletes for drugs that might give them a competitive edge. I personally can't see using drugs in contests for endurance, etc. because of the long-term effects. Why do something to win a contest that's maybe going to screw up your health later on? You have to look beyond your present. As far as hero-worshipping kids getting into drugs just because of the actions of some skate star. . .well, that's a pretty heavy-handed generalization. You would have to look at the individual cases to see the underlying causes. Being any sort of public personage does involve responsibility. Ignoring problems in our society doesn't make them go away; if anything it only clouds the issue. The best thing is to admit such things exist and discuss them intelligently and honestly; that way, people can come to their own conclusions.
What is your favorite form of skating-slalom, freestyle, downhill, pools, or banks?
I prefer banks and pools 'cause you can put something into it. You use your whole body and your whole mind, and you get so far into it you can't help but flow. Radical things come easily.
It's like pulling off things surfing; you rollercoaster on a surfboard and you rollercoaster on a bank. Riding the right pool feels just like being weightless in the tube. Employing a bank properly, you can just push off and work your whole body for the rest of the ride. Using the bank for speed, hitting the top, hitting the bottom, gaining speed with every move.
What are your favorite spots?
There are some I don't want to talk about because they are better off left unknown. A lot of the ones I was into aren't there any longer. The Escondido Bowl, Bellagio, Toilet Bowl, Rabbit Hole, Key Hole Canyon Pool, Bird Bath and Sewer Slide are all gone now. People cracked them up, knocked holes into them, poured oil and tar on them, filled them with dirt, sand and concrete, Put in speed bumps, etc. what reason was there to destroy them? Can't people remember what it is like to be a kid? It's ridiculous some of the things good people do. . .what are they trying to do, protect us from ourselves? Skateparks are neat and they may be the only hope for the future, but it's a shame that we don't take advantage of already existing spots that could become parks. In Santa Monica, we helped the police do skateboard safety clinics. It was a joint effort between the skaters and the police. We even discussed turning an unused city-owned parking ramp into a skate area. Later, they passed a law that made skateboarding illegal on the streets. It's a shame we were never able to get anything together. Now to ride a skateboard there. . .you've got to break the law.
What sort of equipment do you use?
I'm into one board, an original Zephyr Flex, built by Jeff Ho with different truck and wheel combinations for different situations. In this way I can use the same board for everything just by changing the setups. For example: Sure Grip mounts with medium-sized Sims Competition wheels. For straight slalom: Bennett trucks with Road Rider 4 wheels. For giant slalom: Tracker Trucks with Sims Pure Juice wheels. For pools: Bennett's with Sims Pure Juice. For banks: Sure Grip trucks with Sims Bowl Rider wheels. For downhill and speed runs: Tracker Trucks with whichever wheel has the correct composition for the running surface of the course.
What sort of physical techniques do you employ?
Basically I'm into a balance thing, with my style being a combination of a lot of different things. Skiing and surfing are the most obvious influences, and they are modified by approaches I have learned from friends who practice things like ballet, the various martial arts, Tai Chi, yoga, and other body-mind disciplines. Right now I'm working out on a tightrope, and it's starting to help me a lot. The most characteristic thing I do is gyrating in slalom. Gyrating is a technique of working your board and body for speed. By channeling all of your body movement into propelling your board and eliminating all excess motions, you use all your energy for speed. Henry Hester uses the same technique, and when he and I get together, we have gyrating contests. The last time, we were working our boards uphill from a dead start. My freestyle technique isn't nearly as extreme. In freestyle, I always try to remain centered so that all parts of my body offset each other. By equalizing your weight distribution, you are always in control, and can modify your routine for all conditions. For instance, at the Northern California Championships, the floor was extremely slick and not good for the more forceful rotational maneuvers, 'cause you'd just spin out. So I cut down the amount of force on my execution, and ran through the moves in slow motion at about one-third of my normal speed. In pools and on banks, I try to use the inherent power of the forms. No excess movements here, just working with the natural speed.
How do your surf and skate styles relate?
They work well together. I usually surf in the morning and skate during the afternoon. Skating keeps my muscles toned during the flat spells. Also, I've gained leg control and power for surfing. I really work my board a lot more now through the soup, picking up the speed. I surf goofy-foot, but skate regular foot, so skating helps me to surf better switch-foot. Between the two, I'm much more into surfing because I like dealing with moving and changing forms. I guess the lack of availability of surf also makes it more attractive.
Describe some of your commercial activities.
I've done several different television commercials that are seen here, in Australia, Japan and Canada. Done a bit of modeling, and I've been interviewed on TV and radio a few times. Probably the biggest thing was appearing in the 35mm film, "Freewheelin'," by Scott Dittrich.
How do you feel about doing these sort of things?
Basically, it's just a job. You work, you get paid, and that's it. Filming really is hard work, and a lot of hassles. When I first got into it, I figured it would be easy. . .you know, just skate around and get more money for it. Spending eight hours just to shoot one trick-only later you find out that the footage has got to be shot over because the sun went behind a cloud, or the background isn't right, or your hair blew too much, or your foot wasn't on the correct spot for the critical focus at the right time. . .well, it can really be upsetting. Seeing yourself on TV or in the movies is another weird trip; it's like watching some other person, one that you don't even know. You wonder what other people think about these things, how they see it. Like in this film, "Freewheelin'," I play the part of a person very different from myself. At first it bothered me to do some of the things they wanted in the script. I'd say, "Hey, wait a minute; I would never do this; it's just not real." After a while, I realized that it didn't matter whether it was authentic or not, because the person up there on the screen wasn't me, Stacy Peralta; it was someone else who really didn't exist. . .just a character out of a movie.
How do you feel about stardom?
I'm not into it. I consider myself lucky so far. Because I haven't had to contend with it to any great extent. For a while in Adelaide, Australia, I had been on TV and radio so much that people would come up in restaurants and ask for autographs. That was kind of a drag since it intruded upon my private life a bit, but it passed. Giving out autographs wasn't any big thing; it just seemed people were making a bigger thing out of me than I really was. I like meeting people on an equal basis, and when someone thinks you are a "star," you just don't have that. . .it becomes impersonal. Being known as a good skater to other skaters is fine, but I wouldn't want it to go beyond that. I'm just like everyone else-only a guy who rides skateboards, and there is really nothing more to it.
What about future plans?
The only concrete things are another tour to Australia, and a possible trip to Japan. I hope to gain enough money from my activities to be able to travel and learn about life in some different situations. Right now, I'm open to all the possibilities. You've got to remain flexible to go with the flow.