Wentzle Ruml 2001 interview

November 2000

What was skating like before and after the 1975 Del Mar Nationals?
We were into skating heavily in D.T. before the whole Del Mar thing. We were tearing up the schoolyard banks surf style and searching out empty pools and new terrain constantly. We would get together in the morning and skate to school, hopping curbs at full speed and terrorizing anything and anyone who was in our path. After school we would all hook up usually at Jay's house and then catch the Big Blue Bus and head over to the Northside, Brentwood area to skate Revere, Kenter, or head up into Bel Air to skate at one big schoolyard bank. We would sometimes just stick around D.T. and charge the big smooth freshly paved hills such as Highland, Marine, or any number of hills heading from 4th Street towards the beach. Before the Z-Team formed me and Biniak used to make boards at school and then test them out on the banks. The team formed and shortly after that we heard about the contest at Del Mar and Jeff Ho and Skip wanted us to go show them southern boys what was up. We really weren't that into it but there had always been an L.A./San Diego surfing conflict, so we figured what the hell, let's go raise some hell. We got to the "GOONTEST", and there were no banks to ride, just this little flat boxed in area to do freestyle that we couldn't do shit in. There were people riding around stiff bodied doing gymnastic tricks in bright fancy uniforms and we were just like, "What the fuck is this shit!!!" We all competed and I don't know how well we did but I do know we blew some minds.

Why was that contest so important?
Del Mar was the start of the skateboard explosion on a commercial level. There became a lot of business interest and shortly after the first re-issue of SkateBoarder Magazine came out in 1975 I'll never forget it. We were all at the HO shop and they had a copy of the mag. On the cover was Greg Weaver in a pool about 4 feet up the wall and we all freaked!!! We were already buzzing tile, and getting backside axle grinds and here's this guy on the cover of the mag with the tile 4 feet above his head! Stecyk started taking lots of photos and we started to get some coverage. As a result of Del Mar there were more contests lined up to which we went and particapated, although we were all much more comfortable and effective in a pool or on banks and fast hills.

How did the Zephyr Team come together? Did most of you go to the same school?
We used to all hang out at the surf shop a lot, and Nathan, Sarlo, Tony, and Jay were all riding Zephyr Surfboards as well as Muir and Cahill was the top kneeboarder and my mentor as I was at the time a kneeboarder too. So there was that connection and also Jay's stepdad Kent was working with Jeff and Skip on designing the Zephyr skateboard. Kent Sherwood was a fiberglass and boat guy and together the molds were made and the Z boards were made. The team quickly came together. It was easy since we all skated together daily. We actually for the most part went to different schools. Me , Binak, and Muir all went to the same school, but I think everyone else was spread out.

Who were your influences, in skating, surfing, and life in general?
In skating my influences were my friends, and as I said over 20 years ago, you know who they are. As far as surfing I would say Larry Bertleman, Gerry Lopez, and Rory Russell on a pro level and then it would have to be the P.O.P. crew along with other hot local talent some of which were on the skate team, and a ripper by the name of John Baum. As for life in general, at that time nothing existed in my head outside of Dogtown, so without question it would be my friends, and Jeff, Skip, and Kent.

What kind of name is Wentzle Ruml?
A fucking hard name to go through school with, but one that I had lots of nicknames with and that I chose to use. I'm the 4th and nobody else in my family had the balls to use the real name and all switched to nicknames. It's of Slovick descent.

Where were you born?
In Los Angeles. . . actually Beverly Hills but I only lived there a few days and then back to S.M.

Who were the most under-rated skaters of the 1970's?
There were a lot that were under-rated for a long time but those who hung in there for the most part got some recognition, however it did seem that a lot of it came down to who the staff at SkateBoarder wanted to see in the mag. I think that there was some politics involved and do remember that the mag was located in San Diego and the top photographer for the mag was also from Diego county. Coverage changed considerably with the birth of Skateboard World Magazine and with the local talent of Glen Freidman. Glen started getting more photos in the mags and the Skateboard World guys put a lot of energy into Dogtown skaters and lifestyle.

Was it just money or egos that broke up the Zephyr Team?
As I remember it there were a number of reasons for the team falling apart. I think there were some problems with the production of the boards and something happened between Kent Sherwood and Jeff Ho & Skip of which I don't know the details, where Kent started another team called Z-Flex. I think the team was already starting to split up and that Stacy was already with G & S, and Muir and Wes Humpston were starting to think about getting the Dogtown skate thing off the ground. I don't remember egos being a big part of it, more that there was some confusion and since word was out the Z-Boys were breaking up there were people trying to sign us all up. I skated on the EZ-Rider team later to be the Z-Flex team with Tony, Jay, "Baby" Paul Cullen, and a few other guys for awhile and then Tony went on to get his own company going and Jay stuck with the EZ team. I was made big offers from different sponsors which for the most part didn't turn out to be what they were said to be.

When and why did you stop skating professionaly?
I think I stopped because I got tired of being fucked over by sponsors and the whole thing got real commercialized and wasn't the same. It was the funnest when we would all just happen to be at somewhere like the Marina Park either before or after hours and just session together. It was more fun just to skate with Z-Boys than to deal with all the pro bullshit.

When did you leave for the East coast? And why?
I was transported out to the East coast in 1979 I believe. I was going through a rough time, partying way too hard, and was in a relationship that was messing me up so it was either leave L.A. for a bit or take the chance on dying in L.A., so I decided to leave.

What do you think of how skating has progressed from the 70's till now?
I think that there was a period where skating sort of slacked off and then it came back strong again and has stayed pretty strong now for a long time. I believe that we were sort of the pioneers in that we were making up stuff as we went along. We didn't have anyone to look up to but eachother, and that when the next generation of skaters got into it they looked at what we were doing and said to themselves that to be hot they had to be able to do the shit we were doing. They got to that point and then just kept going. We set the stage for them and they've taken it from there. Some of the stuff that they're doing is mindboggling and I don't know any better word to explain it than radical!!! The down side to all that is that the style is so much different, much more trick oriented, which in turn means the surf style is dwindling, and dying away. The boards are 99% designed with kicked noses for tricks, which is something I never rode or had a need to ride. I recently got a board sent out to me from Bulldog Skates AKA Wes Humpston, and it's an old school board that's hot!!!

Did you ever or do you still ever pick up and read skateboard magazines?
I take a look at them now and then but it seems like it's all air and tricks, no surf style stuff, so I lose interest.

What was the most defining moment in your professional or contest part of your skating career?
One big moment for me was after coming off an injury at the Manhole (Arthur Lake's pool) I was laid up for awhile and couldn't skate, and when I could I had to be careful not to fall, especially on my right side as my elbow was healing. My first outing in a couple months was to Skateboard World which was a park in the South Bay somewhere with a hot half pipe. Now my mother and brother had tried to talk me into an early retirement after my injury and I was questioning it myself. Shogo and Jay came and scooped me up and we went there to skate. I had a big Cooper hockey elbow pad on one elbow and regulation gear on the rest of me. When we got there we saw that Warren Bolster was set up on the half pipe with his new motordrive camera ready to snap photos. I took a few cautious runs and then on one run just happened to hit a frontside grind right in front of Bolster. He called out to me and asked me to hit it again, and then again a few more times. I could hear his camera buzzing with the high speed motor drive on each of those runs. About a month later I get a call one day from Jay who tells me that I got a 4 or 5 shot color sequence in the latest mag and that it looked hot. I thought Jay was bullshitting me, but then found out that it was true. That really boosted my confidence level up enough for me to decide I was going to stick around for a bit. I got great pleasure in showing that sequence to both my mother and brother who had so desperatly wanted me to hang it up. Another month and I got a call from Bolster saying that someone wanted to make a poster from a shot from that same day. I believe that day was a sign not to give up, instead, to go for it, which is what I did. I would say it was my most memorable personal skateboarding moment.

Did you have a "mentor" or someone you looked up to during your pro skating career?
Not really a mentor, I would say that we all pushed each other and that we gave each other a lot of encouragement. Coming off a run and having Tony or someone in the crew say to you "MAN THAT LOOKED HOT WHEN YOU HIT THAT!!!!" or hooting when you did a hot move during a run, just pushed you to try and get more of whatever you were doing.

Any regrets in your life as a skater?
I think I regret that when I started out it was just about fun and brotherhood, and by the end we were all seperated and into our own thing or deals and that the whole thing got so commercialized that it changed the whole scene. I had a good time with the money I made but also paid dearly for all the high stakes living and life in the fast lane scene. Basically, I pissed away all the money I made (which wasn't that much) but had fun doing it. On a commercial note, I wish the Z-Boys would have tried to buy Vans Shoes, which at the time was a little hole in the wall mom and pop sort of place on Colorado Blvd.
We first approached them to see about getting 2 color shoes, we called them 2 tones, and we had to order them and wait 2 weeks to get them, but we could get them in any combination of colors that they had solid shoes in. This was the birth of Vans Shoes, we put them on the map!!!! And nobody even knows it!! People started to copy us and it went from there until at some point 2 tones were a shelf item and orders were huge. I think for a while we got free shoes but that's about as far as any competition went. As far as personal regrets, I wish I would have held on to some old mags, equiptment, and maybe even a trophy (even though I don't really like the things) I had 1 trophy that I would kinda dig having which was the L.A. Sports Arena World Contest which was the first world contest, I believe in 1975. I placed second in Freestyle and third in Cross Country. I left that trophy at my girlfriends house and I'm sure it got thrown out when I did. Other than that I can't think of too many regrets, it was a fun time of my life.

Do you ever get recognized as "Wentzle Ruml" the infamous D.T. Z-boy??
Sometimes I do. If someone has heard my name they usually remember it just cause its an uncommon name. I was recently on a surf trip to Panama and I brought the trailer for the Dogtown documentary with me and when I got to the surf camp there was a guy named Clay from New Jersey who heard that I was coming down and when I got there he said I can't believe your here, we used to follow you guys bigtime!!! He asked me if I skated with Tony and Jay and Shogo and the rest of the crew, so I told him some of the old stories and showed everyone at the camp the trailer. They were all stoked and said they will be on the lookout for the movie. I'd say that it comes up when someone who knows me tells someone else that I used to skate pro in California that usually if they ask where and what team, when I mention Z-Boys or Zephyr Team they just say, "NO WAY!!!!" And then realize that I'm not talking shit when I tell them a little about my past.

Are there any skaters you like or liked to watch over the last 20 years?
I haven't really followed it that closely, and just know that there's a lot of hard-core talent out there and lots of new parks all over the country and world for that matter. also that people are really making some serious money now. The best news I heard was that Alva was still riding a lot and still rips!!!! RIGHT ON MAD DOG!!!!!!

Do you want to comment on your old Rector ads? There were a couple of pretty corny ones, they must have paid you well?
Yeah they sure were pretty corny alright. I guess at the time they were trying to make skating look like a clean all American, safe sport. Star Wars was in style at the time so they figured that the thing to do was make me look like Luke whatever the fuck his name was and that would sell safety gear. As far as the money goes, they did pay me well until they went bankrupt and in doing so burned me for a number of thousands of dollars!!!!

What were the old original Dog Bowl sessions like?
Invitation only, down to Earth , hot, hoot and hollaring, skating at its finest!!!

Did having having Marina Skatepark so close by change things in D.T.?
Not really, it just meant that we could legally go skate a hot pool and some banks thus less trouble with the law. It also meant crowds which I for one never really dug.

What was most important to you about being a "skater"?
Having fun with my friends and then for a while getting paid fairly well for doing something I loved to do. Also getting to travel to some places that I wouldn't have gone to on my own, or had a lot of great experiences and met some really cool people along the way. Most important was that I was able to be a part of representing a style, a town, a way of life that was unique to us and to us only.

Any good stories about showing up at a pool outside of Dogtown and dealing with the locals there?
Nothing really stands out, not one particular incident that is. We pretty much got respect wherever we went to skate and we usually weren't alone but anywhere from 2-6-8 of us out on a skate safari, so if shit went down whoever it was would have their hands full dealing with us. What could happen at times would be that we'd show up somewhere out of town and someone would point so and so who was just supposed to be SOOO HOT!!! and we would watch a couple runs and then we'd get in line and take a few ourselves. What usually would happen unless the terrain sucked, would be that the crowd would get smaller then even smaller until most people were taking a time out watching the Dtown crew in action. We weren't confrontational unless confronted and then look out if it came to that. On the flip side our skating spots in our turf or turf that we claimed was STRICTLY INVITATION ONLY!!!! If you weren't invited you would not even get to take a single run. If you came with one of the Z-Boys but it hadn't been cleared with the others you would stand a chance of even though being a Z-Boy being told to leave and it would have to be discussed to see what the deal was before you could come back. You might get a greeting from Tony or Muir as an example: "WHAT THE FUCK IS HE DOING HERE??? WHO SAID YOU COULD BRING HIM HERE???" See the fear was that one big mouth could fuck it up for everyone, so you just didn't bring anybody to a site without total consent on the agenda of the prospect. Now intruders on the other hand would be shown no mercy and would be chased off in a heartbeat and would not usually take the chance on trying to ever come back. We were very territorial, we were that way in the water, on the streets, on the boardwalks, and thus in all of our skating affairs. We were territorial because that's how we survived, that's all we knew. . .look out for your brothers and sisters and protect the ground you stood on, end of story!!!!!

Do you still skate at all?
A little bit, but more inclined to surf as water is much softer than concrete or steel.

Do you think you could still skate at a level that was comparable to your 70's level?
No possible way!! I've not only gotten older but I've had a few injuries along the way that would interfere greatly with regaining anything like full ability.

When did you last skate a ramp or a pool?
I remember the day well. It was September 22nd of this year (2000). I must say though that after not being on a board for nearly 15 years in any terrain other than flat stuff with my kids, I rode a park with a half pipe and within 30 minutes I was hitting the cope with backside onewheelers and frontside axle grinds. The down side is that I took a fall and tweaked my wrist and being 42 years old not only did it hurt a lot, it takes longer to heal and had put a damper on some surfing plans that I had for early October at my buddy Mark Keidsers hot bed and breakfast in Kauai. Needless to say, my family wasn't too happy with me when I announced that Kauai wouldn't be happening for awhile. It sure was fun hittin' it again though!!!! I think I'll still skate some but will be more likley to surf as much as possible in this next decade.

What was your first reaction about hearing about the Dogtown documentary?
I was stoked!! I got the call from Glen Friedman and then talked to Stacy, and within 24 hrs. they flew me out to do my interview. I've had people here on the East Coast say to me, "we used to worship you guys!!! They should do a movie, the story must be told," one friend of mine has been saying that for a number of years...I saw him late this summer and told him that that was exactly what was finally happening!!! He was stoked.

Were you stoked to do your interview for the documentary? Did a lot of memories come back to you pretty easily?
Yeah I was stoked!!!! As I told Stacy afterwards, I don't even remember the interview. I just tuned out of the present and went back in my mind to the day. It was fun to hang out with P.C. and in some ways we were still the same as 20 years ago. A lot of memories came back to me on the plane ride out and then on the way back East I felt really drained, like I had gotten to tell my part of a story that's been needed to be told for a long time. I felt a sense of relief that was coupled with an adrenelin like excitement. Since L. A. in May I've had more memories and lots of skate dreams at night with the whole cast of characters appearing at different times. It's been a trip dowm memory lane and at the same time a real rush.

What did you think of the SPIN Magazine D.T. article?
It was good, I think the movie will tell the whole story better, at least that's my hope.

What comments do you have about the following people?
could be as little as "no comment" - or as long as you want..

Tony Alva:
T.A., A.K.A. MAD DOG was definitely a big influence on my skating style, and was always a really good friend except when we were fighting over a girl or who was paying for breakfast. Tony and I definitely had some good times, both in Hawaii, and in Dogtown.

Jay Adams:
Jay and I go way back. He was like 12 or 13 when we hooked up and he was like a little brother to me for quite some time. I probably skated more hours with Jay than anyone on the team. We lived a couple short blocks from each other and hung out a lot.

Stacy Peralta:
Stacy was a very versatile skater and could do a lot of different things well. His freestyle ability was good and he did well in contests, etc. He also did the same kinds of bowl and bank slides that I did so I think we both pushed each other in that area of skating.

Paul Constantineau:
P.C. and I were tight. We both rode for Makaha for a period of time after the Z Team fell apart and after he had finished riding for G & S we hung out quite a bit and skated a lot together. I recently hung out with P.C. when I was in L.A. to do the movie interview and we had a great time going through the old stomping grounds.

Bob Biniak:
Me and Benny were tight for a lot of years and went through all kinds of mayhem together. We also lived very close to each other and spent a lot of time hanging out, skating, surfing, and both went to school together from the 7th grade on. We used to hit the Canyon Pool before school and have some good uncrowded sessions there. Ben could get some serious speed on the downhills too, That's why he was A.K.A. BULLIT.

Shogo Kubo:
As far as Shogo goes Shogo was sort of a drifter who fit right in with us in Dogtown. I think there was some kinda heavy shit going down on the homefront he didn't talk much about. But I could tell it was hard for him. Shogo pretty much moved to D. town and stayed with me a lot at my house and also with Jay and then with the Valentine family. He became one of our street family pretty quickly and like us skated everywhere and had the Z-Boyz style from day one. When the team formed it was a no brainer that Shogo would be recruited. I skated a lot with Shogo before I moved to Hawaii and then when I turned pro and went back to Cali he was still there and was ripping it up. Shogo did these unreal straight up and down tail taps in a pool that were just like SNAP!!!! You could hear the wood just slam the cope and he would be straight up and down poised in a totally stylish configuration and would bring them back in. Shogo was a good friend and could be a little to himself but when he broke out the skate he let it all hang out. He took a lot of shit at times from people teasing him because he didn't really have a secure place to live, and I used to get really pissed when I saw people treating him that way. I always tried to be there for him. I hadn't heard from him in 20 years until about 2 weeks ago when I got an email from him and I was so stoked to know that he was alive and well in Hawaii and I wrote him back right away. This is the kind of shit this movie thing is doing, at least for me, It's putting me in touch with my street family again after 20 years!!! I hope we can all get together and spend even a couple days just going over the days in D.T. and to catch up with a lot of time when there was no communication.

Wes Humpston:
Wes was and is a hot artist and board designer. He used to make these super hot bellyboards and could bury himself super far back in the tube and ride inside for a long time, sometimes coming out from a place where you would say "NO WAY!!!!"

Jim Muir:
A.K.A. RED DOG, Muir ripped it up!! And was always a blast to be around. He was also good bodyguard material to have around if any one was trying to fuck with you. From what I hear he's tearing up the slopes on a snowboard, BIG AIR, etc.

Peggy Oki:
Peggy was beautiful to watch skate. Really smooth and at the same time radical. She was no doubt one of the original Dogtowners. Haven't gotten any word on what she's up to now, but I hope she's well.

Arthur Lake:
Arthur was the kid who had the pool in his backyard and shared it with Z-Boys. He was the kid ripping it up barefoot, no gear, in shorts, and making it look easy.

"Baby" Paul Cullen:
B Paul was a little, I mean really little, ripper. You would watch B Paul at the Dog Bowl and when he was hitting cope there was a lot of pool under him. Tony used to push him to go for it and that he did, he was super stylish and was like a little pitbull.

Dennis "Polar Bear" Agnew:
Polar Bear ripped from the first time I saw him and was the first I saw doing hand plants and making them at the Marina Skatepark.

Jimmy Plumer:
Super radical and not afraid of much of anything. I've seen Jimmy do some big air and hand plants.

Paul Hoffman:
More of a freestyler, could do endless one foot nose wheelie 360's

Larry Bertleman
Larry layed down the lines we started following in the water. We just brought it to land, and always refered to our low cutbacks as "Berts," he could skate too, but would be the first to admit he couldn't do Berts like Z-Boys.

Nathan Pratt:
Nathan was also very artistic and was on the scene with Jeff, Skip, and C.R. when the whole Z-Team started. I didn't really skate much with him.

Alan Sarlo:
Alan was a hot surfer and from what I hear still rips it up good.

Chris Cahill:
Chris was my mentor on a kneeboard and was a good friend. He was one of my roomates in Hawaii and tried to get me to go out in some BIG ASS PIPELINE!!!! I said no thanks, he went out and dropped in so deep that they threw him out of the contest, a true Dogtowner.

Jeff Ho:
The guy who made it all possible. Man did he put up with some shit from us in Del Mar!!!! He used to just look at us with a big smile and just shake his head in disbelief.

Skip Engblom:
Skip was the scout leader and also put up with a lot of shit from all of us but he dug it and would laugh, I'll never forget Skips laugh. He was also very supportive and was there when you needed him to cheer you up or kick you in the ass depending on what you needed at the time.

C.R. Stecyk III:
Craig was the guy you wanted to get the call from that he wanted to film you. If he snapped you, there was a reason and it usually meant you were going to get magazine coverage. He knew exactly what he wanted to shoot when he took you out and you could only follow directions and hope that when you were finished that you saw a smile on his face, then it was time to leave.

Glen E. Friedman:
Glen would call me up and say come over I have an idea for a photo. He'd tell me what to wear and say hurry up. The thing I didn't get was that it was pouring outside. When I got to his house he handed me an umbrella that fits on your head like a hat and sent me out into the rain to skate. The next month he calls again this time to ask if I've seen the latest mag. When I look he's got me in the "Extra" page with the fuckin' rain hat on, I couldn't believe it!!!! Artistic would be an under-statement, Glen is all over the place making waves and turning heads.

photo  g.e.f. photo  g.e.f.

Marty Grimes:
Marty and his brother were both hot skaters and moved with style and agression. They were the first black skaters I had seen and they were asked to join our team and so Marty continued to shred. He could tear up Kenter with style. The Grimes brothers were great to be around.

Any other folks from back in the day you think deserve some attention or a few words?
Yeah, what about Billy Yeron???? There's your under-rated skater, I knew there was one. Billy was a goofy foot that ripped the Dog Bowl and just about any place. He and Tony were like best friends and went everywhere together yet Billy didn't get as much recognition as he should have. We called him BILLY Z KID.



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