PEP WILLIAMS I/V FROM WWW.ILLTEMA.COMI've been working on this long, drawn-out, in-depth research study that will either end up as a magazine, a book or a series of articles. It started out being about Black skaters, then ethnic skaters in general as I discovered D.L. Castillo and Chico Breaves and Javie Nunez and P-Rod and Apache Skateboards, etc., etc. Then there's this thing we're working on about O.G. VENICE...a/k/a DogTown.
One name kept coming up again and again, PEP WILLIAMS. Here's a really interesting Q&A from him...I didn't conduct this interview, it's from the online mag ILLTEMA.com. Check it out...>
I was born in 1971 in Los Angeles. While growing up my mother was a teacher (Mrs.Espinoza) in L.A and she still teaches today. It’s funny because she use to teach at Venice High and some of the kids I sponsor were her students. I came up with my sisters and my mom. I lived with my grandmother for awhile too. I grew up in Huntington Park, Watts, and Venice. It was rough at times but it made me who I am.
I saw my first skateboard in 1975 when I was 4. The way that happened was that my sister wanted one so badly, my parents actually got her one. My sister’s board was the GT Coyote 2. It was so fast. I still remember the big red wheels it had. It was about 2 feet long. Me and my sister Coti would fly up and down the driveway. I’m actually trying to find one now to cruise around on.
We always fought over that GT Coyote 2. I remember when she would go to school in Kindergarten, I’d be home so I could skate it. My sister is a year older so I wasn’t in school yet. My mom bought us roller skates thinking one of us could roller-skate and the other skateboard .Well I skated the left skate and my sister skated the right. They were so fast. Something just felt natural to me about skating with one foot.
I skated for years without meeting another skater. I didn’t really look up to anyone because I didn’t know anyone who even skated. Back then it was looked at as a habit you break out of and move on or grow out of it. I never did. Of course I had a bike growing up but I always had a skateboard also. I didn’t even meet another skater until I was 11. It’s crazy because I just skated for the love of it and nothing else. I felt as comfortable skating as I did walking. It was just a natural feeling.
I skated for six years straight without seeing another skater. In 1978 we moved to my grandmother’s house. They put my bike and our skates in the garage. I was bummed I couldn’t ride my skateboard or bike. It just so happened that my cousin had an old skateboard at his house. I think it was a Madrid. It was the first time I saw a wide skateboard with really big wheels. I was blown away. I skated that thing everyday. I actually learned how to jump off curbs on it. It’s crazy because that was in 1978. I would do it on my knees too. My neighbors didn’t really mind it because it was just me flying on the sidewalks and driveways.
I met John Conti when I was 10 in 1981. I never knew that older people skated. I was shocked. John was 5 years older then me. People would look at him and wonder why he was still on a skateboard at 15, but he skated anyway. It was crazy that people thought that way, but that’s how it was. I didn’t care, I still did it. We would skate a few hours together and then he would leave. I would skate about 7-plus hours a day. Even in the rain I had a spot at a school. I would wrap my board up in shirts and run to the 99th street school and skate the benches in the covered cafeteria area.
I was already street skating for about 6 years (street skating meaning tic-tacs and going on and off curbs) but he would always talk about pools. There were no pools near us so I just skated in the street. John still skates pools to this day, and he’s still good.
When I reached 13 years old my whole life changed. I made a fake bus pass and would ride all over L.A. One day I wound up in Santa Monica and decided to skate the bike-path. I skated through Venice and it was heaven. I met other skaters but they weren’t your average looking skater with the surfer look. They were more like a gang. My being from Watts at the time made it all love. We were all lil’ gang members back then.
We use to make fake bus passes at school. Back then it was stamps on a bus card and you just buy the stamp monthly. I would make mine out of construction paper, put it in a plastic case, and just cruise the city. I actually had Kareem’s (Campbell) pass for a long time after he got a car.
Kareem Campell is my lil’ bro. I first met Kareem around ‘87-88, about 18 years ago. We use to skate together everyday and ride the 33 bus down Venice Boulevard at night to get home. Sometimes the bus rides were the best. You didn’t know if you were going to get in a fight or anything but as long as me, Kareem, and my bro Herdon were rolling together it was going to be fun. I was just talking to Kareem a few days ago. He’s an amazing person. He came from nothing to running an empire, but he still owes me $2 from when we were little.
Malcolm Watson is another one of my lil’ bros. I watched him grow up on the beach. I think I first met Malcolm in ‘88. He was just a lil’ kid, then. It’s crazy because I use to tower over him and now he’s taller then me and I’m 6’1. I’m actually having lunch with Malcolm tomorrow. Stevie Williams is a cool guy. He came around later on. I’ve hung with him at a few clubs and events.
Whether I was alone or not I would always roll to the Valley or Beach. I would catch the bus to Thousand Oaks to go skate. It would sometimes take close to 5 hours, but it didn’t matter. T.O. had killer spots and there I made some cool friends who I skate with to this day. Mostly I would take the bus to the beach. I would skate the sand gaps, benches and curbs in Santa Monica. Actually they were the first gaps I skated in ‘86. I would skate with Natas there. Also that is where I really learned to railslide the famous Santa Monica curbs. Thanks to Dan Clements (lead singer of EXCEL). He taught me how to go as fast as I can and just hit it. Actually me, Dan, Jason “Wee Man” Acuna, Heavy Metal Chuck, and Herndon would skate there pretty much everyday when we were young. I’m thinking 1988.
My first Ollie I remember well. It was on the Corner of 97th and Clovis in 1985. I was riding one of my bros pro models so it felt even better. It was a Natas Kaupas deck with OJ wheels, and Independent trucks (of course). And I had my Vans sneakers on. I was so excited I called my Mom to come outside to watch. Back then I slept with my skateboard next to me. I did my first wall-ride in the Summer of 1986 at the 99th street school. I was actually skating there last month and still busting wall rides.
Back when I use to skate in school there wasn’t much to skate, just walls and benches. I would kill benches. I’d just go as fast as I could and do frontside and backside railslides and lipslides (disasters). I never got sweated by anyone because no one was skating like that in L.A. and the Valley, only in Venice. People had never seen it before outside of Venice and just wanted to see me do it again and again. This was in 1986.
I started going to Venice often after that and meeting more people. Summers I went everyday. My first skate mag was Thrasher Nov/Dec 86. For months I’d put skating pictures from the magazine all over my wall. Then one day I realized something. The people looked familiar and the spots as well. On the wall were all of my friends and I didn’t even know. From Christian Hosoi, Jesse Martinez, Eric Dressen, Tim Jackson, Jay Adams, Aaron Murray, and so on. It was a trip. I had no idea I was skating with the best guys in the world everyday. They were my bros and I didn’t know they were pro. It’s still funny to me how I didn’t know.
People ask me sometimes how I didn’t recognize my bros in the mags. Back then it was just about skating for me, nothing else. And the people in Venice were famous all over the world but that didn’t matter. They just wanted to skate. I think that’s why I got along with them so well because I just wanted to skate. I just thought they were cool pictures. So I put them on my wall. It’s funny because the photographer who took most of the photos from Venice in Thrasher is my bro Cesario “BLOCK” Montano. He actually shot me for my first cover for Thrasher Magazine’s May 91 issue.
The way I got that cover was because BLOCK shot it and because I was getting a lot of press coverage that year. Thanks to Tim Jackson, Aaron Murray, and a super big thanks to Eric Dressen. They kept me supplied with boards. My friend said something to me the other day that I didn’t even realize. Eric Dressen use to come to my house to drop off boxes of boards for me. At that time He was the #1 skater in the world. Imagine the top pro out now coming to your house dropping off boards for you? But I just saw it as my friend coming by.
Today, I’m still the same. I have many friends I hang with and some are very famous actors and rappers and I didn’t find out until someone told me or I was invited to a premier or something. If you are cool people I don’t care what you do. Let’s go skate or just hang.
For that same reason, I started claiming Dog Town around 1986. Not the company but the people from Venice. We were always down for each other and had each others back. I remember skaters being afraid to go to Venice because Dog Town was looked at as a gang. And if you got into it with one of us you had about 20 or more people to deal with and more on the way. From skaters, surfers, Crips, Cholos, and just homies. Dog Town isn’t just skaters, it’s everybody who was down for each other in Venice. But we all skated or surfed.
The Late 80’s were the best time. No one was really caring about getting sponsored. Then the 90’s hit. Skaters found out you could make a ton of cash. Special thanks to my bro Steve Rocco for flipping the skate industry on its head. At that time it was still hard to make a living only skating. I’d sell my boards on the beach to make money. Summer was cool because I toured a lot, but being 18 and having to pay rent was tough. But as long as I had my board who cared?
I don’t think it was one trick that changed the game in my opinion. What changed the game was the videos getting out to more kids. Then kids started making their own videos and that’s when it was over because skaters started becoming stars over night. Before, it took Thrasher or Transworld to make you popular. You did that by winning a contest or getting a lot of coverage in a magazine. In other words, you earned it. People call the skaters who get that over night fame, “video pros.” No disrespect but it is what it is. Many “video pros” make well into the six figures. I’m proud of them for coming up through skating. I’ve skated with just about all of them on tour or at the beach and not to knock them but thank god they had a good video editor. It’s all love, though.
I skated for Bronze Age. Tim Jackson hooked me up with the DogTown flow. I skated for Grind King too. Actually I was the tester for all of Donald’s products. I was the first to test and skate a Grind King truck. So if you skate Grind Kings, you’re welcome :)
Also Eric Dressen hooked me up with Santa Cruz stuff. I skated for Seek, Circle Skate, Pep Wheels(What I use to own), Slix Wheels and PepStar (My 2 companies).
I started PEP Wheels in 2002 with a partner. It went bad so I started SLIX Wheels which spawned PepStar Clothing. It’s going well and I’m building a really good skate team. I’m always looking for talent.
These days I’m just running my companies. I own Solo Distribution which sells blank skateboards all over the country and also Distributes PepStar, Suicidal Tendencies, Real Headz, and Break Water.
I was on the cover of the LA Times because they had heard of me and wanted an interview about me and my Blackberry. I conduct a lot of my business on my Blackberry. Most people I email or have a conference call with are in an office while I’m on my longboard, skating the bike-path in Venice and Santa Monica. And because of my Blackberry I can run my business and still skate the beach everyday.
Skateboarding today is more business-like. Meaning kids are skating to get sponsored. Not all, but many. It is rare I find people who skate just for the love of it. Also seeing kids skate because they heard it in a rap or a video I also think is cool. It’s cool that Pharrell and Lupe exposed many kids to skateboarding but we all know it’s a trend to most that will just pass. How can you skate with a $200 hoody and Bape sneakers and be
serious? It’s all good though.
The skaters I respect coming up you probably will never hear of most of them. They are just kids who could care less about what there wearing or if there is a photographer or videographer filming them. The skater I respect is a skater that just skates for the love of it, nothing else.
I’d like to shoutout my Mom and Family, Sev, RHD Crew,The whole DogTown Family,Tony Creed http://www.tonycreed.com, TLT Kicks, Suicidal Tendencies, Mike Muir, Aarec Baker,The Seventh Letter, Frame DTK and RIS Crew, Mara Milicevic, Rip City Skates, Miranda Jane Neidlinger, Sergio Arguello, Evan Cambell, Brenda Bourges, Tai Savet, Bod Boyle, Mike Hill, World Industries, Socrates Leal, Sal Barbier, Kareem Campell, and Illtema.com. Thanks for making 2006 real!