Vintage skateboard star John Sablosky profiled in 1977

Vintage skateboard star John Sablosky
Vintage skateboard star John Sablosky

Vintage skateboard star John Sablosky was profiled in Issue 1 of Skateboard Scene, in the Winter 1977 edition.

Here’s a transcript:

John Sablosky is only 14, yet he’s one of the hottest skateboatders in Britain today. The funny thing about John is that two years ago he hadn’t even seen a skateboard.

“It was only last year that I discovered skateboarding.“ he explains. “l saw some kids doing it neat where I lived so l thought I’d join in. “My first board was very cheap. It cost about one pound and it wasn’t particularly good. It had a wooden deck, single axis trucks and clay composition wheels. Even so it gave me a useful start.”

A lesser person might have despaired of having to use such primitive equipment, but not John. He quickly taught himself the basic techniques of skating and within a very short mace of time had graduated to a better quality board.

In those early days John Sablosky was careful not to take too many risks

“I think a lot of beginners make the mistake of trying to do too much at once. As soon as they get on a skateboard they want to attempt impossible tricks, but that only leads to accidents.

“l never had any bad falls when l started because l never tried anything dangerous. As long as you keep within your limits in skating you’re quite safe. “Later on when you feel more at home on a skate- board you can try to be a bit more adventurous. But whatever tricks you try to do you should always make sure that you are in control of the board.”

And while still on the subject of safety vintage skateboard star John Sablosky has one other word of advice.

“No matter how good you are there’ll come a time when you have to bale out to avoid an accident. When you do this it’s very important to know exactly where your board is heading. I’ve seen a lot of people get hurt badly because they’ve baled out and then stepped right back on to the board. lf they’d only checked to see which way the board was going they could have avoided it.”

In spite of all the risks John doesn’t think that skate-boarding is a particularly dangerous sport. “As long as you’re careful and wear the right protective gear there’s no reason why you can‘t skate without getting hurt.

“I know there have been a lot of accidents, particularly in America, but most of these have been due to surface imperfections. What usually happens is you get kids riding on pavements that have cracks. A wheel gets caught in one of the cracks and the next thing you know the rider is flung off his board on to the ground. Accidents like that would never happen if there were more properly built skate parks available for the kids.”

Nowadays John does a lot of his riding at London’s Skate City. As one of the star riders of the British Hobie team he has a chance to use some of the best boards available in Britain today. The board he uses at present is a Gregg Weaver model.

“I prefer wooden boards because they’re nice and solid. They feel right under your feet. I know a lot of people go for aluminium boards, but personally l find they are too heavy for their size and too skinny for their weight. They also tend to make a loud noise when you turn sharply, which can be distracting. But the thing l like least about them is the way they handle when you’re doing airbornes. They tend to fly away from your arms, when you take off, so you really have to hold on tight. Also the edges can get sharp.

“Flexi-boards l find are too springy for my liking. l know some people select them because they think it helps them pump up speed, and it probably does, but l just feel happier with wood. l guess a lot depends on what you’re used to.”

Though most of John’s skating has been done in this country he is, in fact, an American. His father, who is the Cultural Attaché for the United States Information Service, is currently based in Britain. When his tour of service ends in three years time the Sablosky family will return to the States. But in the meantime John can enjoy his status as one of Britain’s leading skaters.

“l don‘t try to be better than anyone else.” says John modestly. “l just skate for the fun of it. l enjoy skating in England. but the only trouble is that it’s too dark, too rainy and there aren’t enough sunny days. English skaters are handicapped by the weather. In the States we have an advantage over you because we have more opportunities for outdoor skating.”

Which brings us to the all important question: how do British skaters compare with their American rivals? “At the moment there is a really big difference between American and British skaters. The Americans at present are far better because they have had so many more years of practice. But l think given time the British will catch up.

“I’ve seen a lot of good skaters in Britain with a lot of potential, but they need time to develop their skills. In a few years time l can see English skaters being just as good as American ones. If only England had better weather, you’d stand a much better chance against the Americans.”

Despite the shortcomings of the English climate John ha found enough outdoor skating time in this country to perfect a number of startling skateboard tricks. The latest in his repertoire is the “tail-tap.” a manoeuvre that tests board and rider to the full.

“A ‘tail-tap’ is really an extension of a ‘nose-grab’”, explains John. “In the ‘nose-grab, the rider pivots round on the back wheels. In the ‘tail-tap’ he actually pivots on the edge of the board itself. In other words for a split-second all four wheels are up in the air away from the ground.” “It’s my favourite trick at the moment because it’s so exciting to do. As you go into the turn it’s vitally important that you have the right momentum and balance. Because when you swing round you are literally pivoting on the tail of the board. If not enough pressure is applied you may end up only doing a straightforward ‘nose-grab.’ On the other hand if too much pressure is applied you can suddenly find yourself airborne. You can only know for certain that the trick is a success when you come out of the turn. l remember the first time l managed it l was really thrilled.”

John first discovered the ‘tailotap‘ through his friend and fellow-countryman Jeremy Ross-Dougan.

“Jeremy goes to the same school as I do in London. He’s taught me a lot of things in skating that I never knew before. We both competed in the Watergate International down in Cornwall last month and Jeremy came first in bowl- riding. He’s a very fast and stylish rider.”

For John the most enjoy- able part of skateboarding is bowl-riding. “I’m not really interested in speed.” he admits. “That’s something anybody can do. For me the real challenge is in bowl riding. It’s fun to do, but it’s also very demanding. You have to concentrate totally on what you’re doing Otherwise you can easily wipe out. “I suppose apart from ‘tail-taps’ the thing l enjoy most when I go bowl-riding is doing airbornes. An airborne is what happens when you fly off the lip of the bowl at full speed and then re-enter. At the moment I can get about a foot in the air without exerting any pressure on the wall with my hands or if I use my hands I can get up to about two feet. Of course the higher you get the harder it is for you to get a smooth re-entry.

“My advice to anyone trying this for the first time is to make sure you get a good grip of the board. Otherwise you might find it pitching and rolling a little as you approach touchdown. It sounds dangerous, but if you’re careful and you don’t try to go beyond your limits it’s really quite safe. I suppose the most dangerous place I ever rode was inside a pipe. It was really a totally new type of feeling for me, because before that I’d never been in anything where I could get completely inverted. It took a bit of getting used to, and it meant a lot of hard work for my feet to pump me up the sides of the wall, but in the end l got up to a good height – about one or two feet past the vertical.

“I would have liked to have had a second attempt at the pipe. But unfortunately the following week when I returned I found they had filled it in.” Inevitably critics of skate boarding have compared it to the other great teenage crazes of the past such as flagpole climbing and the hoola-hoop, bath of which enjoyed tremendous popularity for a short while before vanishing without trace.

John Sablosky, however, has no doubts that the skateboard is here to stay. “There’s no way that this is a passing craze,” he says, mildly amused at the impertinence of the suggestion.

“People like skateboarding too much and there are too many people liking it for it to go out of fashion. “The equipment nowadays is so good and has so many possibilities and we haven’t begun to realise the full potential of the sport. Every day people are coming up with new stunts and new techniques and they are becoming so good it’s just incredible.

“In another ten years skateboarding is going to be one of the biggest sports in the world. There’s no stopping it.

And who are we to disagree with that!

From Skateboard Scene No1  – Winter 1977

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