Ed Templeton’s Huntington Beach
For a skateboarder growing up on the East Coast in the 80s and 90s, Huntington Beach seemed like ground zero. Christian Hosoi, the most stylish skater of all time lived there; Jason Lee, one of the biggest early innovators in street skating was there; even my favorite skater of all time, New Jersey’s Mike Vallely moved there and teamed up with fellow street legend Ed Templeton. And when the Flip team flew over from England with Geoff Rowley and Tom Penny, who would quickly take their places in the vanguard of new street rippers, I couldn’t help but believe that Huntington Beach was the greatest place on Earth.
Then I visited when I turned 18 and it was like Hitler won the war. Blonde and blue-eyed was the norm. Not one person of color to be seen anywhere. Nazi regalia was sold in Army/Navy stores alongside Dickies and bayonets. Then I started hearing stories of teenage skinheads lynching black people like it was Alabama in the 50s. One of skateboarding’s kindest, gentlest souls and my childhood idol, Ray Barbee, was chased by a rabid pack of skinheads and barely escaped with his life. Not trying to sound racist, but I hate white people. In the immortal words of Huntington Beach’s local pro skater Jason Dill, “I don’t want to be white as much as you don’t want to be white.” I vowed that day never to return to Huntington Beach.
This past weekend, nearly 20 years to the day, I found myself in Huntington for the US Open of Surf, which played host to the Van Doren Invitational Bowl contest, the preeminent skateboard bowl contest of our time. The neo-Nazi sentiment was still there, just a bit more subdued (I saw one yoked out, shirtless skinhead in the stands with a 10-inch snowflake on his chest, a poor attempt to cover up the Swazi over his heart). Of the daily 100,000 contest visitors I saw, all but two were blonde and blue-eyed, and neither of them were black. The only real noticeable change was that the scantily-clad girls I recall from two decades before hadn’t aged. In fact, they’d regressed to pre-pubescence and their bikinis had regressed with them. A man’s natural reaction is, “Hey! Wow! Tits! All right!” but once I realized very few kids were of age I began to get sick to my stomach.
I was working on a video project while in Huntington Beach, and when I began to search for boys and girls who were over the age of 18 I found it nearly impossible. Even the ones with very adult messages written on their bodies like “US Open your legs,” “free blow jobs,” “stick it here” (pointing to their ass), “rape me,” “free rim jobs,” etc., etc. told me they were only 15 or 16 (and I’m quite certain they were lying about their age). For the next four days I kept my head down and looked at the sand as if they were all Medusas. I’ve felt less creepy while on gang bang sets.
Naturally nine days of whipping children into a sexual frenzy could only end one way: a good old-fashion riot.
Luckily, I was long gone before the cops showed up. But Ed Templeton, skateboarding’s most prolific artist and Huntington Beach’s hometown hero/advocate was there capturing the entire week’s festivities. I rang him up to get his take on the HB scene.
VICE: What was Huntington Beach like when you were growing up?
Ed: Downtown was surf shops, bars, and food. Quaint one- or two-story buildings. The locals ruled the place, and there were fights all the time. Skinheads hung out on one corner and said racist shit to everyone. Religious zealots would preach that we are all sinners. In many ways not much has changed.
How has it changed over the years?
Now it’s Starbucks and Jamba Juice, microbreweries, and ice cream shops. There are still surf shops, but they are bigger and more corporate. The skeleton of the past is still there, but Main Street is bigger, louder, and more geared towards tourists. The skinheads have stopped hanging out on the corner—they are all grown up and breeding families. A few racist kids still hang out down there, but they’re more stealth about it. Fights happen at night now when the meatheads who all think they are MMA fighters get their liquid courage to the right level.
You mentioned that racist element—I remember Clyde Singleton getting chased by skinheads with bottles, and Ray Barbee being as well on a seperate occassion. More recently, I saw a lot of Swazi tattoos this weekend. Why has that sentiment been so big in HB?
Orange County has the highest concentration of Nazi skinheads outside of Cologne, Germany. I’m not sure how old that fun fact is. But the gangs were here; there are remnants of it. Just today Deanna shot a photo of a guy with a white power tattoo on his chest walking shirtless down Main Street. It’s out there. The Ray Barbee story is the worst. I remember Jamie Hart and his friends beating up skinheads when I was younger. I see the Swazi tats, but those fucktards and their way of thinking is on the way out. Or so I like to think.
You and Deanna are both born and raised in Huntington, but I always felt you outgrew it. Why stay?
Deanna was born here in HB; I was born in Garden Grove—still the OC. I started skating in HB, and that’s where my life began. At the moment when I would have normally said, “Lets get the fuck outta here!” I was doing Toy Machine, and it was before the internet got so fast. I still had to Fed-Ex zip drives down to the magazines with Toy ads, and drive down often to arrange graphic stuff. I felt tied to being at least within driving distance from where Toy Machine was being made, which is San Diego. So the company kept me from moving. Now with the speed of the interwebs I could live anywhere, but again, when you get older you gain more perspective. And after traveling the world, which I continue to do, I realize that everyone in the world would kill to live where I do. It’s paradise. Yeah there are douchbags, but there are douchebags everywhere. The weather is perfect, the beach is close, LA is a short drive away with all of its culture and art, but I’m not in the middle of that. I’m here in a quiet suburbia where I can drop out and get work done.