Steve Douglas (skateboarder)
Born in 1967 in North London, Douglas began skating aged 10 at various skateparks in the city such as Uxbridge, Skate City, Rolling Thunder skate park, Crystal Palace vert ramp and Harrow Skate Park, which he skated from opening day, alongside such luminaries as Rodga Harvey, John Sablosky, Jeremy Henderson and, later, the infamous H-Boyz of which he was one of the original 7 founding members.
At the insistence of skate-photographer Tim Leighton-Boyce, he began entering English Skateboard Association contests in 1981 and won every under-16 event he entered. This success attracted the attention of American sponsors such as Madrid Skateboards, Vans Shoes and Independent Trucks (and later Quiksilver Surfwear). At the end of 1984 the ESA managed to convince their US counterparts, the NSA, to label their contest series as a "world championship", thus enabling the ESA to obtain government grants to send a GB team to take part, a team that was to include Douglas, Lucian Hendrix, Sean Goff and Rodga Harvey. It was the first of many transatlantic excursions for Douglas that by the decade's end, lead him to become a permanent resident of California-in those days the only way to make a living riding a skateboard.
Throughout the early 1980s Douglas wrote and published a skate fanzine called Go For It! (named after a Stiff Little Fingers record), covering the UK skate scene, in the absence of any more official periodicals, over 16 issues-the last three in glossy, printed form although the penultimate issue was entitled the "Swindle Issue" as only the cover was glossy; inside saw a return to the rough, photocopied pages of old. Come 1986 and, following the release of a Go For It! calendar, Douglas's overseas work commitments had to take precedence and GFI ceased publication, its subject matter now being covered by Tim Leighton-Boyce's R.A.D., and later Shane Rouse's Skate Action and Steve Kane's revived 1970s tome Skateboard.
Douglas had by now changed board sponsor to Schmitt Stix, turning pro in 1987 and later releasing a signature model deck, the graphics of which paid tribute to his heritage in the form of a spoofed beer bottle label, proudly stating, "Imported from Crystal Palace, London, England".
In 1988 a "lip tricks only" competition was arranged at the legendary "Boomeramp" at the Raging Waters park in San Jose, CA. No aerial manoeuvres were permitted unless culminating in some contact with the ramp's lip-e.g. a tail slap, grind, board slide or disaster. Some competitors protested this restrictiveness, such as Dan Wilkes who only did aerials and sub-coping slides, avoiding the lip altogether. However, the vast majority of entrants enthusiastically embraced the premise, relieved that the usually overlooked aspect of vert skating was being validated at last. Along with skaters like Tom Groholski, Douglas was frequently cited as responsible for the surge in interest in lip tricks and was expected to triumph, but in the end first place was snatched by rookie Ben Schroeder. Douglas ended in 4th place, but was later quoted as enthusiastic about the contest and cited it as a highlight of his limited pro contest career.
One more signature model was released by Schmitt Stix before Douglas, sensing a sea-change looming for the skateboard industry, convinced Paul Schmitt to dissolve Schmitt Stix and relaunch with a new team, new product line and renewed focus under a new name, New Deal Skateboards. Paul Schmitt was a master woodworker and made among the best skateboards in the world, but in the skateboarding world of the day, marketing and image were taking hold of the industry, and Douglas had the foresight to see the change coming. New Deal went on to become one of the most important skateboard brands of the early 1990s.
This name Douglas also used to co-found a skateshop back in London, originally in a retail unit in Harrow and Wealdstone shopping mall, but later relocated down the road in Douglas's old stomping ground of Harrow Solid Surf Skatepark, later expanding into distribution too.
Along with Tony Magnusson's H-Street and Steve Rocco's World Industries, New Deal was one of the first of the new breed of companies that fully tapped into the emerging street-skating revolution that would eventually depose the "vert-heroes" of Douglas' own generation in favour of upcoming whippersnappers such as Ed Templeton,the undoubted star of New Deal's first promo video, 1990's Useless Wooden Toys
At the start of the 1990s, with New Deal's success on the rise, Douglas helped found Giant Skateboard Distribution, and by 1996 had risen to the position of company president. Over the next six years the company grew by 700%, until Douglas stepped down in favour of his old friend Hugh "Bod" Boyle who had joined the company in 1999. Like Douglas, Bod was an ex-pat Brit whose pro-skating career had begun in 1987 and curtailed in the early 1990s by a debilitating knee injury. Douglas was now free to spend more time with his growing family and to pursue his many other business concerns;
In 1992 New Deal's graphic designer, respected team-rider, and innovator of both the nollie kickflip and the ollie noseblunt, Andy Howell decided to branch out on his own, and so Douglas assisted him in setting up Underworld Element, later shortened to just Element Skateboards, which still thrives today.
In 1988 Douglas's teammate (first at Madrid, then at Schmitt Stix) John Lucero had flown the coup to start up on his own, initially as Lucero Skateboards, later renamed Black Label Skateboards. After some early success, growth stalled, morale withered, and by the mid-1990s, Black Label Skateboards was still being run, to all intents and purposes, from a lock-up garage. Under the combined guidance and motivation of both Douglas and Mike Vallely, Black Label Skateboards became and remains one of the giants of the skate industry.
Douglas also co-founded both 411 video magazine 411VM and later the On Video series, both crucial to skateboarding's development through the 1990s and the new millennium. He also founded a new truck company, Destructo Trucks, in the late 1990s with the usual success, and took over production of Bam Margera's notorious CKY video series way before Bam's TV fame came calling.
In 2004 Douglas accepted an offer from Burton Snowboards to be general manager at their clothing subsidiary, Analog. A year later Douglas was reunited with his old friend 'Bod' Boyle when they both came to work at Giant's rival Dwindle Distribution, Boyle as president and Douglas in an advisory position.
Aside from the business side of skateboarding, Douglas is also a committee member of both the IASC and USA Skateboarding, the National Governing Body of American skateboarding.
- When We Was Rad
- Skate and Annoy: DVD Reviews - Rollin' Through The Decades
- SkimTheFat - Your Guide to Skateboarding Videos
- Giant Skateboard Distribution
- Hugh "Bod" Boyle
- SURF Magazine
- Official nostalgia website of former top UK skatemag from 1980s/1990s
- Official website of Douglas's old skatepark
- BMX Action Bike Magazine, issue 50, March 1987. Article: Steve Douglas-The Forgotten Englishman.