As the van rolled out of the parking lot, the side door swung open as Andrew Reynolds and Jim Greco were thrown into a nearby hedge. With laughter echoing from the van, they picked themselves up and ran after it as it sped away without them.
This happened only minutes after I watched Andrew and Jim make fun of Tony Hawk for being such a geek and whining the entire tour about how he missed his computer…and being 1992, I guess Tony knew something the rest of us didn’t. Guess who had the last laugh as Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater would be released 7 years later.
I had just hosted my second straight year of bringing The Birdhouse crew to town for a demo and was barely holding on to my business after watching the popularity of skateboarding plummet from 1988 to 1992.
As early as 1984, I was skating several hours a day, every day. Afternoon’s were spent skating the Brewer Park vert ramp in Ottawa with Tom Boyle, Bill Wiess and Brent Jordan or the ghost curb and the Boy’s & Girls club with a very young Rick McCrank with many backyard ramp sessions at my house with anyone who happened to stop by. I would make a decision that summer that would take me on a voyage through the skateboard world, while participating in it’s early evolution through it’s corporate oversaturated stage on to the Olympic era that is upon us today.
Four years earlier at the age of 18 I declined three offers to attend business college and had decided to open On Deck Skateboard Shop. With no plans to continue in the structure that was the school system, I wanted out to be free to educate myself through business and experience.
In June of 1988 I turned 18 years old and scraped together enough cash to pay for first and last months rent in a 500 square foot shop with which I signed a three year lease. I purchased barely enough inventory to fill the space (12 decks, 6 pairs of trucks, 4 sets of wheels, some bearings and 12 T’shirts). I will never forget that first shipment from S&J’s distribution arriving at my home! It was like christmas as I had never seen that much new product all at once. My doors opened August 6th to a line up of local and non local kids waiting to purchase their first skateboard.
On that wall of skateboard decks were Tommy Guerrero’s Flaming Sword, Lance Mountain’s Future Primitive and a Tony Hawk. I sold decks week-after-week, which allowed me to slowly restock with the cash that would come in.
My memory of decks at the time were the Vision Gator and Mark Gonzales, Schmitt Stix Joe Lopes and Bryce Kanights, Powell, Skull Skates, Sims and many more…
I decided to take our shop demo’s on the road, and transformed my dad’s stock car trailer into a portable halfpipe that we would fold out into a 5 ft x 12ft ramp. We skated in towns across the Ottawa Valley, spreading the word that skateboarding was not going away. One night in Brockville at their annual festival Riverfest we skated to a crowd of 300 people while a little unknown band called The Tragically Hip played in the background to about 50 people. We later purchased their ‘cassette tape’ self titled album in support.
In the early 90’s it was tough to keep the shop open as skating was starting to falter…then skateboarding took to the streets entering in the era of Small wheels and big pants.
Highlights for me in the early 90’s would be having Tony Hawk, Andrew Reynolds, Willy Santos, Matt Beach and Ocean Howell in my backyard for a BBQ to battling my local township and succeeding in building a local skateboard park which we skated daily for 4 years straight. This prompted the posting of my “Gone Skating” sign in the shop window, The sign read “Gone Skating – I am at the skate park skating….. if you need anything from the shop come up and get me.” Many people came to drag me back to the shop to purchase skateboards and accessories when needed. With the winter months so long we turned to snowboarding for a winterized version of skateboarding, and with that came my next business Freeload Snowboards which I sold across Canada, USA, Europe and Japan. I would have my boards manufactured in Canoga Park, California, making several trips west to design and quality control my winter brand. At the time, snowboarding was skating on the snow, and we would travel and ride anywhere that would provide us with terrain that got us through until summer to get back to skating again.
In 1993 I made a decision that would make or break my business. I rented a 1700 sq. ft warehouse and built Ottawa’s only year round indoor skateboarding facility, which is still my current location 25 years later, where I continue to share my passion with hundreds of up and coming skateboarders through our camps and lessons provided at the shop.
There were growing pains, but like any skateboarder I just found ways to make it work and kept getting back up yea-after-year, driven to continue to share my passion for skateboarding with Ottawa. During this time I continued to push for Ottawa’s first poured concrete skateboard park, and after 5 years of meetings and rejection we got the go ahead to design and have Legacy Skate Park built.
I always felt that I had an obligation to support the skateboarding world and did so by bringing pros into Ottawa from around the world. Many skated On Deck’s ramp. Kris Markovich , Matt Mumford, Ed Templeton, Bam Margera, Ellisa Steamer, Jamie Thomas, Phil Shao, Jesse Paez, Scott Johnson, Wade Speyer, Jon West, Josh Kasper, Mike Vallely and many many more leaving ghosts of sessions past and ones yet to come.
In this time, I also opened a second store in downtown Ottawa and started District Skateboards and Grapes Bearings, which I sold out of the back of that shop to stores across Canada and the US. I sponsored skaters giving some a start, and kept others rolling. From Ottawa and across Canada, into the US with the likes of Gailea Momolu, Sam Lind, Brett Rehman, Daven Bouchard, Trent Matley, Dave Nolan, Wade and Mike Fyfe, Mike Pezzi, Dustin Monte, Alien, Chris Lesperance , Jon Overly and many more.
With all of the hundreds of hours spent filming and hard earned money given to sponsored skaters, I have to say it has been tough to always justify and a real frustration at times. Some showed respect for what they were given and worked hard, while others just expected more and did not show any respect for what they received. In conclusion, I feel sponsorship can ruin many people and who they become, as some just don’t understand what it takes to sponsor someone.
In 2001, with the industry I knew and loved shifting out of the hands of skateboarders and into the hands of the corporate businessmen, I found myself at a crossroads with my lifelong passion. I decided to reach out to the only person I thought that would understand what I was feeling and sent an email to Mike Vallely. I asked what it would take to get him here to Ottawa to show this city what skateboarding was all about and hopefully renew my passion for skating. Those that were here on that January day in 2001 witnessed something that would stick with us all for the rest of our lives.
Mike Vallely would skate for an hour and a half as a one man wrecking crew, pulling tricks on on my ramp that will never be seen again. He then sat down and spent the next 2 hours talking and meeting with the 100 plus fans that had come out to On Deck that day.
We ended up back at my place for dinner and spent the evening watching Hockey Night In Canada and talking skateboarding. I’m sitting there on the couch with Mike V and I turn and say “Mike I have to say this is crazy having you sitting here in my living room” …… Mike answers “Trevor, I am a New Jersey kid and love hockey and am sitting in a Canadian home watching Hockey Night in Canada, and this is the first time I have ever seen Don Cherry!”
The next morning I would drop Mike off at the airport, shake hands and wish him a safe flight back to California. We would keep in touch over the years with the odd email year-to -year until On Deck started carrying Mike’s Elephant brand and now his Street Plant brand.
Earlier this year I sent Mike an email asking him if I could fly him back to the nations capital to celebrate On Deck’s 30th year in business, and also if he would be interested in doing a collaboration skateboard On Deck x Street Plant ….. Mike emailed back …. “Done and Done !”
I came up with a graphic idea and described it to Mike in an email, and we had Greg Higgins bring it to life with the board to be made by no other than Paul Schmitt.
There is not a person in skateboarding that I respect more than this man, and Mike V once again joins forces with On Deck Skateboard Shop through his company Street Plant in support of us both reaching 30 years in this crazy industry that we have dedicated our lives to. Join us July 21st at 1pm in celebrating On Deck’s 30 yrs as Ottawa’s skateboard shop . TA – On Deck x Street Plant.
Words and Archive Photos courtesy of Trevor Alguire