To commemorate Tony's joining the Vans Skate Team, we recreated a couple of classic 1983 photos from "Sanoland," the drainage-ditch skate spot in Cardiff-by-the-Sea, California.
You might have already heard the recent news that Tony Hawk now proudly rides for the Vans Skate Team. You might have thought to yourself, “What took so long?” You’re not the only one asking that question—it is after all a pretty natural pairing of a great skateboarder and a great product. Tony is probably the best and most respected skateboarder who ever lived, and he would be a great ambassador for any company. Vans is one of the oldest and most reliable fixtures in skateboarding, with an unwavering commitment to the lifestyle and sport.
Don’t even think that this is Tony’s first time wearing Vans. In his early years, right after he first stepped on a skateboard, his feet were usually in Vans. I have photographed Tony since 1980, and during the first six years I shot him he wore Vans in most of the photos. Back in those early times, a skater would try to get as much longevity as they could out of a pair of shoes, and Shoe Goo and Duct Tape helped prolong a pair’s life. Skating delivers quite a beating. Young Tony was no different in trying to make a pair of shoes last, and the shoes he wore in a variety of the photos we took together are in different stages of wear and tear and decay, but in spite of that, his skating never disappointed.
Tony told me a few months ago that he was going to ride for Vans, and he was pretty excited about it. I was too. He also told me that he wanted to recreate a portrait and action shot that we took in 1983 at Sanoland, in Cardiff-by-the-Sea, California. Sanoland is a famous local ditch spot and has been ridden by skateboarders since the 1970s—at least that’s when I rode it with my roommates when I lived nearby. In 1983 Tony lived at the Cardiff Cove condos with his family, near the end of the skateable mile-long concrete structure. In the early 1980s, we Del Mar Skate Ranch locals would meet up now and then, session the rugged banks, and shoot photos. The Sanoland trench ran parallel to the Interstate 5 Freeway, and at the top section there was a small drainage pipe that started on the other side of the freeway, ran beneath it, and emptied out into Sanoland. Skaters would sit or lie down on their boards and bomb the pipe at speed from the top entrance, riding towards the light at the end of the tunnel. Once exiting the pipe and entering the ditch, they would carve the walls the rest of the way down.
The portrait that I took of Tony in 1983 shows him just sitting on his board at the end of the pipe, looking at me and my Minolta camera and holding still for a quick snapshot. I didn’t plan to shoot it—I just did.
Well, thirty-seven years later Tony and I went back to Sanoland (we both only live ten minutes from it) and shot a new portrait mimicking the original one the best we could. After taking the portrait, we reshot some action shots on the banks, recreating some that we shot back in 1983. It’s interesting to see in the images that even as he changes from a teenage boy into a fifty-plus-year-old man, you can still always see that young skate rat inside.
2020, Sanoland Ollie
I have included these shots here for your viewing, and there are others of Tony Hawk wearing Vans back in the day in my shop. With most of us spending a lot more time at home these days, fresh images can provide a window to another place and time, one that some of us have great memories of. I appreciate your support. Stay safe—we’re all in this together.
J. Grant Brittain