Sk8boarding with a Pole
by Steve Holt 04/15/2022
"In the Beginning"
Boy that was some time ago, 2001, the start of my search for something that resembled surfing with room for growth. "Spreading the stoke with every stroke", I wanted the world to know of an alternative sport in its infancy.
My roots are from Huntington Beach, California, proud member of Gordies "Hole in The Wall Gang". After returning home from the Army in 1973, I immediately resumed my surfing. Married on December 7, 1974, had a career as a Field Construction Boilermaker for 25 years then a Journeyman Ironworker for another decade. I continued to surf throughout this life then injuries and folks with attitude in the water sent me in the search of trying something new. I loved skateboarding, well I called it skateboarding... Then by some genius stroke of thought Stand Up Paddling hit the masses. The ocean was filled with them not to mention the lakes, streams, ponds and beyond.
So, I decided to implement the use of a pole to push myself on a Sk8board. I immediately knew that this type of propulsion using a Sk8board and a pole truly had some potential. I began my quest to find a pole, wood, PVC, pole vault poles and cross bar's, were on the test list. First the wood dowels with old sk8board wheels lag bolted into each end with a pole length of about 7-foot. Definitely very little flex, slippery a bit heavy and was subject to breaking. Then came the PVC, 1 1/2 inch in diameter relatively light, flexible, experimenting with Super Balls for tips. This set up worked pretty good until one day I ran into a wheel bite situation, fell forward, shattering the PVC from the excessive flex, into sharp shards that almost pierced my stomach...No more PVC for me.
Through a friend I found a fella that recycled sports equipment, Cal Track, Rick Foster. I was searching for something that would provide flex, strength, and adaptability of various tip materials. I settled on a couple of used pole vault poles. Cut them down to length, 7 and 8 feet, and inserted a wooden dowel in each end secured them with gorilla glue, I then lag bolted the used skate board wheels in each end. I was already accustomed to the slip and adjusted my stroke to a more vertical motion. Although pole vault poles are very flexible, once you start cutting on them the flex is greatly diminished. Then I saw it...
While at the Cal Track shop, I noticed Rick had these cross bars for high jump and pole vault. 15-foot lengths and about 1 1/4 inch in diameter. Hmmm, very comfortable to the hand grip, not to heavy, great flex and it ain't going to break. I purchased a few of them and went to work. However, before leaving I noticed these giant orange triangular blocks made from sk8board wheel material with a durometer of about 80 used as airplane chocks. I bought a few of these blocks as well. Now piecing it all together was on the agenda. I cut the poles into one 9-foot section and one 6-foot, cut the orange block, and drilled a 1 1/8-inch hole into one side of the block and shoved the pole into the hole. Wholly smokes, this is where things changed and started SK8SUP aka Skeightsup San Juan.
As time went on, I became more interested in materials for tip's that I could use right out of the package. It was Zachary Simms who convinced me to start using KONG Balls. The "Street Sweeper" was born. Many may know that Surfers called the Stand-Up Paddlers "Sweepers", what a more appropriate name to call those that use a pole on the street with a sk8board.
"SSUP friends and SK8board designs"
Well now that I had the Pole figured out, it was time to get the right platform to ride upon. In the beginning I was using any type of Sk8board that would do the trick. Sector Nine was my first purchase The Luke Nose Rider, stock right off the showroom floor from Becker Surf and Sport in Mission Viejo. This set up was perfect for entry level experimentation with room to play with truck, wheels, and bearings. Now it was time to start putting down some mileage and perfect the use of the pole.
Being a virgin sport, there was nobody else to ride with, so I decided to contact Kahuna Creations, who I had just found out were making poles and sk8boards as well. I wanted to set up a race of some type just to get the sport a little incentive. Well through that contact it began a bit of an accusation that SK8SUP was using trademark and patent intrusion. All of this was nonsense, and it turns out that the threats of suing me were unjustified. It was another manufacturer by the name of NORGE boards that was the culprit and Kahuna’s owner, Steve McBride quickly apologized. This is the first time that the name "Street Sweeper" was used in any correspondence regarding my product.
I made contact with KOASTAL Skateboards (Brad) and they were gracious enough to let me try one of their boards, with the Shark Wheels. This is also the time that I met the "Three horsemen" of WESTSSUP, and our first group ride at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.
The board worked pretty good but still needed something else. At the encouragement of Rick Foster, the pole supplier, he wanted me to get with Hamboards which was just a few doors down from his shop in Huntington Beach. I met up with Pete Hamborg and things really started to come together. Pete was gracious enough to let me try the Fish. Wholly catfish things really started to come around, the thing rode great for compulsory moves but was not great on long rides or hills, the trucks we're just to "wiggly" on descents and had some real issues when hitting variations in the road. Then I got the Pescadito, wow what a blast, things were really coming together. The Biscuit was soon to follow but that little morsel of skateboard was just that, "little".
I was hitting every event possible to show off the sport, Battle for the Paddle at Doheny State Park was a great venue to get some exposure, this is where I met up with Pat Guillermo and Jeff Sargent. Pat was building boards and inventing adjustable poles at the time and Jeff was just a beast riding on his equipment. The WESTSSUP crew was terrorizing and that's when the Andrelina and Pablo Lanatta was holding events of marathon distances at Fiesta Island, San Diego. What a great course and event.
Dee Jay had convinced me to try one of their designs so the night before the big race he delivered a BEASTMAKER. Wow, giant wheels, giant board, awesome trucks, with no adjustments I finished the race in 2 hours 15 minutes. I continued to ride that board everywhere, but there was still something missing. A lot of it had to do with my old feet falling asleep. So, I started on designing a more comfortable, efficient machine. After many experiments with multi truck boards I came to understand the dynamics of vibration, how do I get rid of it? Introducing the "Leaf Spring Technology". It's a winner!
I've met many folks over the past 20 years who have contributed greatly. Both in competition and product design, it's the continued innovation and involvement that will make this sport flourish. Now the Hamboards company "SUPSKATE" is designing the ultimate pole for me. It's very similar to my product "The Stripper" except for tapered ends which create a "flick" or "Whip" at the end of the riders’ stroke and is considerably lighter. The lack of competitive venues on the West Coast are far and few between, if any.
As mentioned earlier, I was having a tremendous issue with my feet falling asleep. I tried all sorts of things but could never achieve comfort. So I started thinking on how I could isolate vibrations to solely the trucks. At first I started adding center boards with rubber wedges placed to give a kind of arch. Then attach the trucks to only the center board then the deck to the center board. Ahh, that was interesting...I continued to try and get more spring out of the board but wood can only flex so much. Hello scrapyard.
Once I located some leaf springs now began the task on how to fit the truck mounts on them. Drilling holes in tempered iron is pretty much USELESS! Also restrictive and precise for a home shop. Clamping the truck to the leaf was the one and only answer. This opened up a lot of positives by being fully adjustable on the leaf and interchangeable with other leaf lengths. Simplicity was the goal now, what materials are available to everyone at some Home Depot or Lowes. Or even the local hardware store. This is where I got everything for the project.
What I found interesting is that I could use any deck that I wanted. I tried narrow ones, long ones, fat ones all but a few were already shaped such as the Sector Nine. After many trials and errors I settled on the Hamboard deck, the Pescadito. It really complimented the leaf spring. My longer leaf went to the Luke Nose Rider by Sector 9. A few of the challenges with the leaf spring was weight for one, but I liked the weight. When the leaf is torqued it has a tendency to twist, not much but enough to notice. When the leaf twisted it took away some of the action from the trucks, thus making it a bit long in the turns.
I found the dynamics of the leaf spring to be quite unique. As I learned how to ride this thing, I realized that when I pushed down on the deck I was getting some rebound energy, It allowed me to spin my pole and still maintain speed by essentially, "pumping". The trucks I use are Ronin, the wheels are the ABEC Electric Fly's 104mm. Seismic bearings (which I'm switching out for the G Bomb's). The glide and action of the board with the elimination of vibration make it the perfect balance for this ol geezer.
The Growth of Skateboarding with a pole
Well I've got to tell you, since I started doing this, since around 2001 the sport has grown to become recognized around the world. That is exactly what I was hoping for. Riders, manufacturers and stoke has come and gone with an assortment of individuals attempting to own the market with their concept's. My first encounter with the Kahuna group led to an unfounded accusation that I was somehow infringing on copyright law. They were actually going to sue me for contacting them to set up a competitive get together. Once I straightened the owner out a basic apology was given to me and then told that any "get together" would prove to be counter productive to the sport. Hmmmmmm, I guess the Ultra in Florida has been counter productive...
So here I am, an old geezer with a sk8board and a pole showing up at every event imaginable, rides for breast cancer, the Golden Gate Bomb, Battle of the Paddle, The Festival of the Whales, Andrelina in San Diego, free rides and the list goes on. It was through these "gatherings" that I came to know a couple of other pole and sk8board builders. One of which was E.J. Johnston, a well known competitive Stand Up Paddler. I gave him a couple of poles and went for a ride, he elected to use his Kahuna Pole of which he was sponsored by. We maybe did about 10 miles. He liked to do tricks, I was content with just riding. He was wraped up in the ocean sup and really didn't pursue SSUP that I know of.
Pat Guillermo comes around, and he's building adjustable poles and designing sk8boards with Croozer Boards. His riding partner was named Jeff Sargent, about my age and a stellar SUP'er and quite a SSUP'er. Crushed me in the first Andrelina. Pat is still active in the sport today just getting a bit older...
Things really started to pick up "Spreading the Stoke", somehow I became acquainted with the WEST SSUP crew of animals! I must say that these guy's were really putting the sport on the map. Rattan poles, Giant Sk8boards, Giant wheels and Giant accomplishments in regards to contributing to the sport and putting down some massive miles. We did a lot of riding together and I acquired the nick name of "Ol Yeller", a name that truly fit's me...woooooof.
Pete Hamborg and Hamboards. As mentioned earlier, my pole supplier was just a few doors down from his shop. At his encouragement, I met with Pete and discussed SSUP and formed a good relationship. I was very likely the oldest guy to have a limited sponsorship with the company.
It started with the Fish, that thing would turn on a dime and was a whole lot of fun but wasn't really that good on long rides, just way too much truck action. I took it to the Surfing Championships in Huntington Beach and rode around a bit on the board walk until I found an open parking lot that was closed to parking...but not riding a sk8board. My gosh I had the whole place to myself! I believe it was a fella named Rey Canno that yelled at me from the sidewalk and asked if the closed they whole lot for me! I must of been riding pretty good to catch the eye of spectators. Pretty stoked. The next boards were the Pescadito and then the Biscuit. The Pescadito was an awesome little thing and has become my go to board for riding and experimentation.
While riding and promoting Hamboard's I was using a pole that I called "The SK8 SUP Street Sweeper", a name taken from what surfers call the ocean SUP'ers when they're in their territory. I was a bit shocked when it showed up on National Television for the Hamboard paddle...I was not pleased, however I didn't have a trade mark nor a patent, they did. Then out of the blue comes Beach Mountain Land Paddles and the Street Sweeper? Hey wait a minute, are Hamboards and Beach Mountain together on this? Needless to say the relationship was over. But somehow through the fog I met up with Don Sandusky and the relationship with both Hamboards and SUP SKATE is currently being renewed and glad of it.
So today I'm riding my Leaf Spring with a Pescadito deck, an "OLD PESCADITO DECK" (hint) and using the "LOOOOOOONG" version of the "Street Sweeper", two bottom sections of the adjustable poles joined to make my exclusive Nine foot pole. As I posted before, there were a lot of similarities between my design and theirs, however the weight was dramatically different and the taper at the ends was just a bonus to the "whip" action of the SUPSKATE pole.
Well that's enough for a bit, I've got a couple more chapters to cover...
I want to thank you Don Sandusky and SUPSKATE for the opportunity to give an account to my involvement of the sport of Street Stand Up Paddling, "Spreading the Stoke with Every Stroke".