An Oral History Of Olympic Skitching

Special thanks to Calvin Kasulke with archival research, conducting interviews, poring over countless hours of athlete-filmed footage, and editing. Thanks also to Isaac Fellman and Charlie Markbreiter for ongoing assistance; without their tireless work interviewing the pioneers of the sport, this valuable information might have been lost forever.

On The Modern Foundations Of The Sport

Wild Bill Skitchok: I think it was ‘71, ‘72? It was just a bunch of us — Bob Iniss, Six Selnick, Hot Amber, and a couple of the guys from the Circle K — but none of us were good to drive. So I think it was one of the Circle K guys who suggested it.

Bob “Tourniquet” Iniss: I think the idea was that if you were good enough to grab hold of a moving car while staying on your board, you’d be good to drive.

Six Selnick: The idea was that if you weren’t good enough to drive — and by ‘72 the summer of love was fucking over, man, nobody was giving a bunch of longhairs rides anywhere, you could stick your thumb out all afternoon and still end up exactly where you started — that you could just take advantage of some fine upstanding citizen who was already heading in your direction, you know, not hurting anybody, just taking opportunities when your fellow man could no longer be trusted to help you out.

Hot Amber: I don’t see how you could say we invented it. Animals skitch, man. Little fucking baby possums skitch on mama possums. It’s human nature. Just like — you’ve got wheels, someone else has wheels, they’re going fast, you want to go faster, you grab on — it’s instinct. Maybe we harnessed something, maybe we kicked off a movement, but we didn’t invent it. You can’t invent an idea.

Marching Band Leeland: Kids had been skitching on streetcars in St. Louis since, like, the 50s, since the war, they just didn’t call it that. So no, I don’t think the Circle K crew “invented” anything. Didn’t stop them from acting like they owned the sport, though.

Hot Amber: That’s why I always skitch with animals. It’s about respect for the game. I think that’s why I never competed professionally. Like, if I can’t skitch in harmony with nature, then I’m not skitching for you.

Six Selnick: She never put that fucking possum down. It was weird. People didn’t understand it. I think she missed out on a lot of credit for pioneering the sport, you know, because no one could look past the possum. But it was kind of beautiful, too.

Hot Amber: I never stopped, you know? For me it’s always been just as pure as it was that day when we all realized we’d been pregaming before picking a designated driver. I never lost that. I think most of the others have.

Bob “Tourniquet” Iniss: I have a lot of respect for Amber, a lot of respect for how she’s kept it tight, but honestly, that’s ridiculous. She just didn’t want to grow up.

On The History of Olympic Inclusion

Big Duty Trent: The thing you have to understand, right, is that no one — I mean no one — thought it was going to clear the IOC Session. But something like 30 countries sat that session out, ‘cause of the New Zealand rugby team ignoring the South African sporting embargo, so there was no — it was anarchy, man. Just pure anarchy.

F. Scott Skitchgerald: It was chaos. They voted in street luge, which was dirt-level insane, because the winter luge guys had been cockblocking the vote since ‘64, and after that it was anything goes.

Big Duty Trent: Car surfing, freeway canoeing, X-Pogo, stiltbocking, uh, I think breaking and entering —

Troy Ottman: Hot Heels had a lot to do with that one.

Big Duty Trent: Freestyle jumping, synchronized guessing, ditchrunning, downhill skipping, party pong, power hour, indirect tabletop, extreme finding, hacky slacking, keepie uppie, floor is lava, the claw game from amusement parks, Uh-Oh 21, bottle juggling from the movie Cocktail, Deely bobbing, stumphammer, butthole sunning, reverse streaking, CB frugging, pencil escape —

F. Scott Skitchgerald: That old-timey thing where a bunch of kids in britches push a hoop down a cobblestone street with a big stick —

Steptime: And the thing was, the Olympics Commission had a “no takebacks” policy at the time, so once skitching was voted in, that was it. Suddenly we were [laughs] Olympians. Man, I wasn’t even allowed in the Hermosa Beach Mini-Mart, you know, because of their “no-wheels” thing —

Troy Ottman: Which was a fucking bullshit rule, because skitchers always honor the “No Shoes No Shirt No Service” rule in other people’s houses, other people’s establishments. That’s like, the code of skitching. We might not wear shoes or shirt on our time, on like, the street during a bump-and-grab session [Ed. note: ‘Bump-and-grab session’ refers to unauthorized ‘stealth’ skitching on unaware or uncooperative drivers, as opposed to ‘by-the-booking-it,’ whereby a skitcher grabs hold of a prearranged car with a companion driver], but that’s the street. House rules apply, man, and the convenience store, that’s your establishment, right, that’s your house, okay, and we’re wearing shoes and shirts —

Steptime: The shoes just happen to be on top of a skateboard. If anything, it’s like, double shoes. And I was like, okay, I can’t get into the Mini-Mart, but I guess I’m going to Moscow in four years?

Delete Pete: Apparently we could have gone to Montreal in ‘76, based on the ruling, but I don’t think any of us realized it.

Steptime: Where we supposed to just go?

Delete Pete: I mean, I think we could have, maybe. But it really wasn’t enough time to get our shit together. We had to learn a lot of Olympic shit. And a bunch of us didn’t even want to go — I remember Jason was really against it. Said it was antithetical to the spirit of the skitch, which I remember because I’d never heard this guy say more than “Right on” or “Not cool” and all of a sudden he’s talking about antithetical spirits.

Jason “Shoes” Boyle: It was. Skitching is about the opportunity of the moment. You can’t plan it. I’m not honor-bound by your no-takebacks, you know? Like, yes, if you’re offering me a free ticket to Moscow, I’m obviously going to go, because I hear Russian chicks don’t shave their legs, and I’m obviously going to be curious about that. But that’s it, man. You can’t buy me with plane tickets. You can’t buy skitching. A lot of guys forgot that.

Triple Click: Obviously 1980 was a big year for the sport. But it wasn’t until the 90s that things really took off — we’re talking Fruitopia sponsorships, with the really heavy-hitting flavor combinations. Strawberry kiwi. Big fuckin’ money. I heard the Steussy S people were even trying to put a team together for a while in ‘92, ‘93. Kurt Cobain was saying in interviews that he’d been a big skitcher in Portland back in the day, which was news to me, and I’m from fucking Portland. No disrespect or anything, but I highly doubt it.

Tree Network: The Olympics committee made a lot of noise about chariot racing being the precursor to skitching. Everybody got a copy of the Iliad in ‘83: “Eumelus was thrown from his chariot close to the wheel; his elbows, mouth, and nostrils were all torn, and his forehead was bruised above his eyebrows; his eyes filled with tears and he could find no utterance. But the son of Tydeus turned his horses aside and shot far ahead, for Minerva put fresh strength into them and covered Diomed himself with glory.” And like, that sounded cool, or whatever. But none of us knew a thing about fucking chariots. I think they just wanted to make it look more legit than it was. That was really the turning point, I think, when it started to turn into this machine, this rules machine.

Terms And Techniques

Double Pete: You couldn’t just cruise out and dock [Ed. note: ‘Docking’ is an informal term for grabbing the bumper of a passing car] a Pinto anymore. You had to “bump up” in the correct order — all of a sudden they were calling us a “make or miss league,” and I’m like, you need a term for that? We can see if you miss the bumper. It’s obvious if you make it or miss it. That’s like, the thing.

Harf Skinnick: And it was like, everything was suddenly illegal. There was no more Dukes of Hazzarding after the ‘88 Games. You’d get DQ’ed just for entering the field while someone else’s skitch was in play.

Trent Ottman: The announcers kept saying I had “great hands.” I had no idea what that was supposed to mean. I still don’t.

Brickbag: Ottman got a real boost in the rankings once the regulations started piling up. No soul.

Harf Skinnick: No more melon-checking, party rocking, no more whip tickling. Suddenly that was moved over to the ‘dressage’ competition, which was separated from straight skitching. And like, previously, they’d assigned scores on the basis of “man, you really got out there,” and all of a sudden, that was just gone.

Trent Ottman: Skinnick was a rawdogger, man [Ed. note: ‘Rawdogging’ refers to a skitcher grabbing hold of another skitcher instead of their own car]. Always trying to skitch off someone else’s skitch. That’s why he was so cheesed off when they started laying down the law.

Doorbell Soldner: I didn’t even realized I had qualified until what, a few days before things started in Moscow. Prequals are pretty informal for skitching — basically they just try to keep an eye on what’s going on in Manhattan Beach year to year, and if they think you’ve got the right stuff, they’ll try to send a guy out to let you know. Which is fine if you have like, a workplace or a mailbox, but a lot of guys don’t. So sometimes it takes a while to get the word out.

Scoring and Standards

Beft Skinnick: Used to be it was just “cool” or “not cool.”

Pills Geoffrey: Then there were points for handstands, goofyfooting. There was a few months in the late 80s where we thought we were gonna get a relay team going, couple of guys who thought they could turn pushing another guy around in a shopping cart you’d managed to bust out of a grocery store parking lot into something. Reverse skitching. Cyclists were trying to get in on it. It was insane.

J-Mack O’Donnell: It was a time of schisms, man. The skitching community was riven by skitch-schism.

HBO Femple: That’s when they landed on the five-points all-hands system. Simple, straightforward — just count the fingers, pass or fail, yes or no.

Scandals And Controversies

Titch “Skitch” Britches: Straightforward to some of the skitchers, maybe. The judges only cared about posture, dominant-handedness, length of seizure, ride duration. They’d donked you for something as basic as switching hands. But they killed the spirit. There were guys driving in cars to the stadium. Their own cars, man. Then they’d get out like a good little citizen and skitch in a circle someone else had planned out for them, and get their little awards, and then get back in a car and drive themselves home. Where’s the sport in that, you know?

Schafe: Everyone says Shoes boycotted the Moscow Games because of the honor of the game or whatever. That’s bullshit. He was DQ’ed for karate chopping in motion. Fucking showboater. It was all about precision points, and he knew he wouldn’t make the cut on form. So he did a bunch of fucking karate chops and shit, making out like he’s skitching his way through a bunch of invisible martial arts enemies. Which is arguably a cool thing to do. But it’s not regulation skitching.

Jason “Shoes” Boyle: I mean, all of a sudden guys were talking about “regulation skitching.” Fucking vampires, man. Regulations? Like, why don’t I just trash my skateboard and start driving a car through traffic in a suit and tie? That’s pretty fucking regulation.

On The Future Of The Sport

Trent Ottman: There’s a lot of kids out there doing great stuff, innovative stuff. I think Sloane Tasta is someone to watch, Kent Boulevard.

Jason “Shoes” Boyle: There’s no future, man. What future? Skitching died on the table in ‘92.

Hot Amber: That’s not — I respect Boyle, I really do, and I think his body of work speaks for itself no matter what some people have to say about him, but his negativity does not apply to the world entire. There’s always a future. We just don’t get to know what it is until it’s here. You can crouch, and try to cut down on wind resistance, and shift your wait on the board, but you don’t know when the next car is coming, or how fast i’ll be going, or if the driver’s going to try to shake you, or what. You just have to get ready, and grab onto it when it comes.

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