J. GRANT BRITTAIN Vintage Skate Photography

I talked to Neil Blender recently about his Polarizer Decks and the Fact Brand/Arkitip Shirt we collaborated on.

Grant: I’m with Neil Blender, Neil’s right here, we’re in OB down in San Diego, and I guess we’ll talk about that shirt– the photo that we shot that day. Do you remember what was going on?

 Neil: Kind of. We were skating around that St. Louis contest, about ’86 or something, and we went – we were just kind of sightseeing around, right? And we found that little break wall down by the fucking river?

 G: Yeah. The Mississippi.

 N: The Mississippi.

 G: The Ole Mississip!

 N: Me and Miller, I’ve seen the Miller shots, you said Lucero was there – I barely remember him being with us but I remember being down there for some reason.

 G: I didn’t get a good shot of Lucero, just you and Miller.

 N: But you got a good shot of Lucero on the Arch.

 G: Yeah.

 N: See, that might have to come out.

 G: And then a guy with a Smoky the Bear hat came out and busted us. He told us to split.

 N: Yeah.  (Pause) I’m surprised we didn’t go to jail.

 G: I wonder what the jails were like in St. Louis back in the 80s.

 N: Probably get knifed, just like anywhere else, I would imagine.

 G: Yeah. So, you remember that photo. We (Factbrand and Arkitip) stuck it on this shirt and I wrote all sorts of stuff on it.

 N: Oh yeah?

 G: What else was going on back then? Were you drawing back then?

 N: Yeah.

 G: When did you start drawing?

 N: Last night.

 (Muffled laughter.)

 N: Fuck, I’ve been drawing since like 3rd grade or something. Just little doodles and bullshit, dude.

 G: What did you start drawing first? What would you draw?

 N: Oh, like side views of motorcycles, and hillsides—like you draw the horizon line with a bunch of jumps, like 75 motorcycles doing stupid shit that would never happen. Guys getting their arm cut off in midair, stuff like that. My mom drew all the time, my brother actually draws, my sister draws…

 G: It was a family affair.

 N: How about that show, Family Affair! Where Buffy St. Marie…

 G: (laughs) No, that’s a singer. It was Buffy, was the girl in it, and Jodie was the boy.

 N: Jodie! And then that stupid Mr. French guy.

 G: Mr. French. Yeah, Sebastian Cabot.

 N: Yes!

 G: And then Brian Keith…

 N: Hah!

 G:  …was the dad.

 N: I can’t believe you remember that shit! It was depressing as fuck.

 G: I grew up on that shit, man.

 N: I seriously would get haunted when that came on TV. I was like, I gotta get out of here. It was like I Love Lucy, same thing.

 G: You know why I liked I Love Lucy? Because it reminded me of my mom. My mom would do stuff—she would sing in public and yell for us in public…

 N: Wha…?

G: And I just always thought she was Lucille Ball.

 N: That’s embarrassing. Did she have red hair too?

 G: No, she had blond or black hair.

 N: That’s great. I think we’re done! (Laughter)

 G: So, I think one of those kids from Family Affair died of a heroin overdose, I think it was Buffy maybe.

 N: Oh no! Wasn’t there a little dog in there too?

 G: There’s got to be a dog.

 N: There was so much bullshit.

 G: Do you draw dogs?

 N: Yeah. I draw dogs, a lot of faces, a lot of fucking nothing at this point.

 G: Yeah. Hey, what’s with the Polarizer?

 N: Polarizers are hot, dude. It’s basically a skateboard. It’d be like if skateboarding continued without anything getting wider.  Like when roller skates came out, that’s how it happened. People cut up roller skates. That’s all we’re doing. And now with all the good equipment, the good urethanes, it makes it so rad. The fast wheels, the bearings, the bushings, it’s all about bushings, dude— and pivot bushings! It all ties together.

 G: Do they have precision bearings?

 N: Yeah! You can make them without them if you want. Just get an older truck and use the bearings, but it’s like, this is kind… it’s a thrill. It’s actually a little bit scary when you learn to ride these and roll in with them in situations, so it’s really fun.

 G: Who are you skating with?

 N: Peter Hewitt, he has a model now, Mokul Morris, Lefty, Adam Burns, Germ, Arty, Damon, those two dudes work at Watson and screen the boards. Chad sometimes, SD Rhino, not Rhino with the photography—there’s a bunch of dudes who just come to the park and we ride these boards around—some people are kind of liking it, some people are like, oh, these are hard.

 G: Are there young guys too skating?

 N: A few. We’ve gotten people on it like Tom Remillard, Raven Tershy rides em, but they get crazy. They ride them like their regular board, and they do airs and like, that’s cool. Oh yeah, Auby Taylor – Auby’s been fully getting into it. But it’s more about carving. It’s like the 70s, basically.

 G: What’s the deal with the downturned nose and stuff.

 N: It was from years of trying to figure out what board to ride and I finally had this Paul Schmitt board. I finally looked at it and thought, wow, this has the right distance between the kicks to put this…because usually it’s too close together. If your trucks are too close it’s bad. Anyways, I cut that board up and I turned it upside down, because, and this is another reason – I found a board at a thrift store. A hard, oak board in Ohio when I lived there and it had convex. The top was rounded…it was just from sitting by the pool, it looked like. I’d always thought about convex feeling rad on your foot and it turned out that it’s the best way for these boards. It makes it really comfortable on your feet, I have big feet and it’s like, the boards are 6 inches wide. So, it’s like, why would you need concave? And why do you need a kicktail? You don’t need either of them.

 G: Where do you sell them? How does somebody get them?

 N: Online I have a thing, theheatedwheel.com, but I haven’t put any up yet because I don’t have enough to sell – they always come in small batches, like 12, and we finally got the flex right so they’re perfect now and I can start selling. I sold a couple. Pete has a model, it’s called the No Games model, it’s a little bit different shape. It’s rad, these boards are basically just mimicking early 60s surfboards. They’re wide in the back…

 G: They’re sick.

 N: …tapered in the front. We just got Joel.

 G: So, they’re cool boards but nobody can get them.

 N: Not yet. Yes, they can, but it just takes a while! We just got Joel Tudor riding one today and he’s looking good on it. Cody Chapman also looks really good on one.

 G: All right. Do you still do Heated Wheel?

 N: (In angry voice)That’s what it is! That’s all I do. It’s Heated Wheel. I make a wide board too, it’s a 9 and 3/4s, it’s pretty wide. It’s good. It’s a knock off of my very first board, with G & S, and it’s got the same graphic but now it’s blown up the way I first envisioned it when I first gave them the graphic, but you’re so young back then and you don’t know how to do anything. Here, put this on! And they used it the identical size, which was drawn on a piece of paper so small, drawn with a Bic pin so the lines are so thin — it looked like shit. I should have hit the buses after that but it’s like no one told m But now it looks good. The new board looks good. So, I’m selling three models on Heated Wheel. And it is a website and it is available. Those boards aren’t available right now, but they will be. They’re all going to be available.

 G: Well, (Announcer voice) Available soon, Polarizers through Heated Wheel…

 N: Peter Hewitt No Games model, and then the vert model.

 G: Can you ride them on vert?

 N: Yeah, you can ride it on vert. These boards work the best in banky situations.

 G: Like at OB?

 N: OB’s perfect. It’s a place without coping, so you can roll in and roll out without getting fucking dead.

 G: Mm hmmm.

 N: If you’re older they help you not slam as much. You still get a rush out of it. You still get the perfect amount of exercise and it’s rad.

 G: Are they good for going to the liquor store?

 N: Laughs. Perfect for going to the liquor store. And coming home!

 G: All right. OK, that’s it! Bye, say something…

 N: Bye people, I love you.

 (Laughter)

Neil Blender limited release J Grant Brittain FACT Brand/Arkitip Tees available at factbrand.com


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