R.I.P. Larry Gordon, 1939 - 2016

PART 1: The influence of Larry Gordon and G&S on the birth of modern skateboarding and its evolution during the 1970s is well-documented in A Secret History of the Ollie. Some of the first daring aerials took place on Gordon and Smith Fibreflex skateboard decks. These wood and fiberglass composite boards were light enough and durable enough to go the distance, whether you were using your toes to hold your board with a “gorilla grip,” or employing artificial devices like straps or velcro for an assist. Pictured in this page spread from Chapter 9 in the book is Scott Goodman’s original G&S rider from the 1970s, used for early kickflips and Gorilla Grip airs.

Best of 2015

Mother Jones Magazine has listed A Secret History of the Ollie as the “Best of 2015,” naming it one of the 10 Best Photobooks of the year. Celebrate with 25% off at the book website when you use coupon code "MotherJones” during checkout. Good through January.

A Secret History of the Ollie,” the award-winning book, is on sale now for 25% off. This includes the new gift packs. Use the coupon code “holidays2015” when checking out to get the 25% off discount. All orders include free shipping. Priority Shipping option now available for books, too.

Trick, or treat? Get 30% off our award-winning book “A Secret History of the Ollie: Vol. 1:The 1970s” as well as 30% off on our fabulous T-shirts. This is good through Halloween weekend when you use the coupon code “treat” during checkout. Special edition skateboard decks (1970s-style bowl riding deck and modern street deck) are not discounted BUT free shipping is still being offered! This award-winning 912-page book contains more than 1200 images and historic photographs.

Concrete Coverage

A Secret History of the Ollie is featured in Concrete Wave magazine, Summer 2015 (Vol. 14, No. 1), with an introduction by author Craig B. Snyder. Thanks to publisher Michael Brooke for the love. 

Ollie Power!

Recent cover for THE NEW YORKER (August 3, 2015), “The Endless Summer” by Mark Ulriksen. The significance of skateboarding’s Ollie cannot be overstated as it continues to transcend even the heaviest of metal and knows no bounds. Nice orange coloring on the artwork, too! A Secret History of the Ollie-inspired, perhaps?

Ollie Book Giveaway: The Lucky Contest Winners

We wanted to thank everyone who entered our July 12 Book Giveaway Contest on Facebook for a copy of A Secret History of the Ollie and congratulate the three lucky winners: Stephen Wood of North Carolina (broccoli & Backside Double-Axle Carve Grind), Jeff Anderson of California (asparagus & giant early release Frontside Air), and Terry Clark of Florida (zucchini & Backside Invert).

Pictured is Stephen Wood (left) on a ramp, circa 1989, and Terry Clark (right) riding the Monster Hole at the Cadillac Wheels Skateboard Concourse in Pompano Beach, circa 1978. Not pictured is Jeff Anderson, who has almost no photos of himself riding, but he worked at the California’s Reseda SkaterCross (center) during its heyday in the 1970s.

Both Cadillac and Reseda are featured in A Secret History of the Ollie, Vol. 1: The 1970s. You can still buy one at 20% OFF until the end of July. Sale ends at midnight on July 31. For more info:

“Penny Skateboards Find a Niche: They are small, plastic and relatively inexpensive, which appeals to a crowd that is ditching bikes in favor of a more portable commute.”

A Secret History of the Ollie gets a mention in this New York Times / NYT article by Courtney Rubin (July 22, 2015). The piece includes interviews with author Craig B. Snyder and 1970s freestyle champion Russ Howell. The subject is plastic skateboards. Anyone remember the plastic Grentecs from the 1970s? Was this your first skateboard? Grentecs get a historical mention in A Secret History of the Ollie: Vol 1: The 1970s in Chapter 5 (”Solid Gold”). Russ Howell, a Southern California skater who is one of the more influential skate figures of the 1970s is also featured in this chapter.

Guest Post: Kevin Donahue

This is a slightly modified version of a post in response Craig B Snyder sharing a picture of me doing an Ollie at Cherry Hill Skatepark (A Secret History of the Ollie, Thursday, July 16). Craig suggested I share my story here as well.

I’ve attached a picture below of me doing an Ollie in the right kidney (end pool) at Cherry Hill. This one is from fall ‘78 shortly after the park opened. I made the deck and created the logo which was actually done in black magic marker. The wheels and T-Shirt were courtesy of Tony Alva (it was literally the sweaty shirt off his back…I washed it of course). I’m not sure how many people were aware of this but there was a short time when Alva was making wheels. I was surprised recently to read that Brad Bowman said he was the 2nd to do an Ollie in '79, and if true, means that I was actually 2nd.

I was a surfer so I was more of a style guy (not that I had any, but I tried) and not really into “tricks”. The primary reason I started doing Ollies was because I couldn’t bend down quickly enough to do a traditional air. The Ollie & Rock & Rolls were pretty much my the only moves I would call tricks. Otherwise it was basic carves, grinds, and slides. I could spend hours in the L-Bowl and used to enjoy roll-ins in the half pipe and blasting frontside into the ¾ pipe.

Working at Cherry Hill was the best high school job anyone could ever have. Yes, there was a ton of the best skating ever and the pics and comments from the legends of the sport prove that out. The most fond memories however were the relationships I built with people like Larry MacDonald, Steve Durst, Bob Hurley, Richard Hartline, James K Tait Jr, Gary J. Spatola, Bart Keagy, Tom Hartline, Jim DeFrates, Patrice Pagano, and a whole list of others that were the people that created and ran the place that today still gets so much praise.

Another HUGE benefit of working at Cherry Hill was getting to know some of my heroes of the day on a much different level than the kids that lined up for their autographs. Partying with Shogo, TA, and Jay Adams at Steve Durst’s house, eating cheese steaks and pizza with Alan “Ollie” Gelfand and Mike McGill, skating a session with Stacy Peralta and having him say “Nice Run” (it really wasn’t, he was just a super nice guy), splashing paint on boards, sneakers, etc. with Brad Bowman in the “party” room above the pro shop and watching him work out moves when the park was empty (BTW, nobody skated the keyhole like Brad Bowman…he rolled into that beast to line up frontside airs across the channel), hanging out and drawing pictures with Ray “Bones” Rodrigues on a weekday when the place was empty, getting the latest updates from Duane Peters and Steve Olsen on the LA Punk scene, getting to skate the Turningpoint Ramp with the Senatore brothers at the New Jersey state fair and riding Jimmy Plummer’s Moto-Board around the Trenton Speedway. I also enjoyed watching guys like Mike Jesiolowski (master, perhaps creator, of the Rock & Roll board slide), Jami Godfrey, Victor Perez, and Jamie Mosberg get “sponsored” (translation…free gear, bragging rights, and potentially getting your picture in a magazine).

This post is already WAY too long but if I get a few beers in me I could go on forever. Special thanks goes out to Larry MacDonald for hiring me on the spot in the summer of '78 when I was a scrawny 16 year old kid with a skateboard strapped onto the back of my Moped…that was the beginning of what turned out to be one hell of a ride that continues to this day.

— Kevin Donahue

Kevin Donahue, Cherry Hill, 1979

Kevin Donahue in 1979 with an Ollie Air in the halfpipe at the legendary Cherry Hill Skatepark, Cherry Hill, NJ. Kevin’s setup was nearly identical to the one that Alan “Ollie” Gelfand was riding at that time. On the left is Kevin catching up on his reading at “A Secret History of the Ollie” book signing outside The Franklin Institute at the Philadelphia Science Festival in May 2015. It should also be noted here that Kevin was accidentally left out of the book due to some misinformation. He should have been mentioned in Chapter 56: “Case of the Missing Shoes”, as he was part of the all-skater work crew who were laborers on the construction of the celebrated skatepark. The others, already named in the book, included Gary Spatola, Stephen “Biif” Spatola, David “Mondo” Beck, Chris Bender, Bill “The Greek” Vasiliades, Robert Mackin, Steve “Number 9” Sundstrom, Richard “Tall” Hartline, Tom “Small” Hartline, Jim Tait, and Bart Keagy.

Do you have a vintage photo of an Ollie, or another form of air on a skateboard? Let us know and we will try to feature it in the next installment of TBT Ollie on Facebook, Tumblr and the book blog.

Book Giveaway on Facebook!

We are giving away three copies of “A Secret History of the Ollie” during July as part of our July Independence “20% Off” Sale. This award-winning full color 912-page skate and surf history book is packed with over 1200 images and photos, many of which have never been in print before. Contest ends in one week at midnight on Sunday, July 19 (New York time). Winners will be chosen at random and announced on Tuesday, July 21.

To enter this contest all you have to do is complete the following:
1. Like this post on Facebook
2. Like our page on Facebook
3. Share the post photo
4. Name your favorite vegetable in the comments
5. And answer this question: If you could only do one maneuver on a skateboard, what would it be? (This is not a trick question, and you don’t have to say the Ollie.)

Note: You do not need to live in the USA to enter, but we will only ship to a US address due to the high cost of international shipping. If you live outside the US and would like to order a book, visit Their rates for international shipping are extremely reasonable—and actually quite amazing.
Amazon direct link:
For more info about the book, visit:

A SECRET HISTORY’s 'Pivotal’ 15 seconds of Fame

In the beginning of Episode 49 of Jeff Grosso’s Love Letters to Skateboarding, Grosso flashes “ A Secret History of the Ollie” at the viewer before beginning his next rant and rave. Episode 49 was originally going to be “Skate Rock” but his plans took an unexpected turn and it was retitled “The Pivotal Episode (That Was Supposed To Be Skate Rock)”.

Celebrate with 20% off!

Order A Secret History of the Ollie directly from Black Salt Press during July and get 20% off when you use coupon code “fireworks” during checkout. 

A Secret History of the Ollie, Orlando, July 1-3

If you are going to the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando for the annual National Education Association (NEA) conference and you are interested in getting a look at the award-winning A Secret History of the Ollie then be sure to visit us at booth 301.

Exhibit Hours are as follows:
Wednesday, July 1, 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
Thursday, July 2, 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
Friday, July 3, 8:00 am – 12:00 pm

A Secret History of the Ollie:
Finalist, FAPA President’s Book Awards

It was just announced that A Secret History of the Ollie, Vol. 1: The 1970s is a Finalist for a FAPA President’s Book Award. The awards take place on August 8, 2015 at 7:30pm at Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista, Walt Disney World Resort, Lake Buena Vista, Florida.

A Secret History of the Ollie, San Francisco, June 26-29

If you are going to be in San Francisco for the American Library Association (ALA) annual conference this month and you are interested in getting a close-up look at A Secret History of the Ollie then be sure to visit us at booth 2701.

Exhibit Hours are as follows:
Friday, June 26, 5:30 pm – 7:00 pm
Saturday, June 27, 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
Sunday, June 28, 9:00 am – 4:00 pm
Monday, June 29, 9:00 am – 2:00 pm.

NPR broadcast: A Secret History of the Ollie

A Secret History of the Ollie will be featured on National Public Radio this month in a piece produced by WBUR in Boston. It will air on “Only A Game” on the weekend of May 30-31. Craig had conducted an interview at the station with producer Karen Given during his visit to Boston in early May to collect his award at the 58th Annual New England Book Show. (A Secret History of the Ollie had taken “Best in Category” for Illustrated General Trade books.) 

Update 2015-06-01: If you happened to miss it, here is a link to the story and broadcast:  “The ‘Secret History’ of Skateboarding’s Most Fundamental Trick

Book Award: A Secret History of the Ollie

A Secret History of the Ollie (Vol. 1: The 1970s) did better than 1st place. It took Best in Category for General Trade, Illustrated books at the 58th Annual New England Book Show which was held at Boston Symphony Hall on May 5, 2015. Runners up in this category included The Best American Infographics 2014 from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Topless Cellist: The Improbable Life of Charlotte Moorman from The MIT Press.

House Design for Skateboarders, by Pierre-André Senizergue, Gil Le Bon Delapointe, and Francois Perrin—and by the Ollie!

“Imagine a city of the future where skateboards are used as the primary form of transportation and recreation – in and out of your home. A utopia city for skateboarders would mean that a skateable path, like a ribbon connecting everything together, links each building in an unending ability to keep in motion on your board. The PAS House takes this concept and brings it to life through an architectural project mixing a modern single family home with a skateboard ramp structure – all from an environmentally-driven perspective.”

One has to wonder what this unique house design (still in prototype stages) would look like without the Ollie. The oval deck shape used throughout the house as a theme was a by-product of the Ollie, as well as certain design aspects of the interior to entertain Ollie-based maneuvers. Pierre-André Senizergue, founder of the Etnies brand and its mother company, Sole Technology, has been working with designer Gil Le Bon Delapointe, the man behind the Skate Study House project, and Los Angeles-based, French architect Francois Perrin, on the PAS House where skateboarding and art collide.

Book Review at

Chris Eggers, publisher of the online magazine, was quite puzzled when he saw the crowdfunding project for A Secret History of the Ollie. Strange, Eggers had pondered, it has already been said. But then after Eggers got a copy, he was, in his words, “blown away.” See the nice article and photos that Eggers posted for his review of the book.. At the end of the article Eggers has also included are some rare  and vintage skate images from Germany including one of an early flatground Ollie. Check it out!

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