For a number of Canadian skaters who grew up during the 1970’s, seeing a shot of a fellow countryman in SkateBoarder Magazine was a huge deal. Alan Harrison was one of the those skaters who excelled at both freestyle and vert. His ability got him the attention of the SkateBoarder staff on a number of occasions.
I had a chance to meet up with Alan back in May at the world freestyle championships at the Cloverdale Fair.
1. How did you wind up in SkateBoarder Mag back in the late 1970¹s
During the summer of the 1979 Canadian Championships, the late great Rick Ducommun of GNC skates (now Skull Skates ) brought up Tony Alva and Steve Olson to wow the Canadian audience and crank up the intensity at Seylynn Skatepark’s ” Expression Session”. I grew up in North Van and Seylynn was my 2nd home. There were a lot of awesome skaters, loud music and great energy there that day; especially with TA , Olson, and SkateBoarder Magazine’s photographer Jim Goodrich. Most of the intense energy was at the bowl where we had built a makeshift wooden extension also where Jim had set up his camera equipment.
2. What are some of your favorite moments from the Vancouver scene back then?
Back in the mid 70’s to early 80’s, we had to hunt out and find skate spots; any interesting incline was key. There was the Granville street bank, The Davie street ramp, the East Van Ramp which Corey Campbell ruled. In North Van there was Kilmer bowl a concrete kiddie pool. The weird indoor skatepark in Burnaby called the Skateboard Palace and of course Kevin Harris’s backyard ramp.
The short lived Nelson street ramp in Vancouver’s west end was a massive wooden half pipe painted with rubbery paint which ripped your skin off when you fell. Tom “Wally” Inouye skated there, and really ripped it up. We did have some awesome gnarly skaters from Cal come up and skate with us at the Palace. Shogu Kubo, Steve Olson and Jimmy Plumer.
With the Ripping Squad with did all sorts of demonstrations and skating shows with our portable half pipe. One of my top ten moments would have to be when our team would do the half time entertainment at the Vancouver Whitecaps games. 25,000 people, lots of screams. Our half pipe was on top of a flat bed trailer. Sometimes we would run out of time and end up skating the half pipe on the truck while driving around the perimeter. I remember the truck suddenly stopping and Simon Addington got a lot more air than he bargained for.
I was very tight with the entire Ripping Squad. Niko Weiss, and Paul Addington were closest in age to me. Also on the squad was Rob Leshgold, Mike and Rich Lien, Kevin Harris, Mike Blake, Simon Addington, and Dave Crabb. Corey Campbell was also an incredible skater back in the day who liked to snake our Ripper demos. On rainy days (which never happens in Vancouver) I would bus out to Richmond and do freestyle with Kevin, Mike and Lyle Chippeway. In the later years, I skated with the late Don Hartley. Don was known to most people as the mad carver, He had a beautiful fluid style. I really miss him.
3. Did you ever think about pursuing a career in skateboarding after things died down?
After breaking my left leg two years in a row, at the Richmond Skate Ranch, I slowed right down and changed my career path. I got into doing computer graphics in a big way. I always was into drawing and had a fine arts background but lost interest until I took a computer art course at Emily Carr in 1986. That course changed everything. I was hooked and became a Computer graphics artist and have been in the film/tv/games industry ever since. Things went full circle when I was working at Electronic Arts and got to work on the amazing game SKATE.
4. You’ve got yourself a pro model board. How did things come together for this?
I met Rick Tetz in Cranbrook BC while I was with the CPASA ( The Canadian Pro Am Skateboard Association ) helping Monty Little run the regional championships. During the freestyle event, there was this guy using nunchucks, and swords; and skating. He had mad skills. This guy was combining martial arts with skateboarding. Who knew? That was Rick! After Rick moved to North Van, he and I would hang out and do freestyle in his underground parkade.
In the beginning of August this year, Rick connected with me on Facebook and pops the question: “Hey Al are you interested in designing your own board?” I was blown away. Very stoked, and honoured. I ‘m now riding again. Thanks Rick!