Ed when did you get your first skateboard and what kind was it?
I think it was 1968. I had Chicago single bushing trucks and clay loose ball bearing wheels. Skated all over the place on that thing and learned how to adjust wheels, you had to.
How long did that board last you?
A few years, brought it to Florida in 1971. It was '75 when I saw GBM riding another board. I was back the moment I saw him doing stuff I had never seen before.
Were you reading Skateboarder Magazine at that time or did that come later?
Later. I think I pre date the mags. When it came out it was the reference guide for sure. I learned inverts and laybacks from studying the sequential photos?
Ed Womble laying back on the banks of the Sensation Basin.
What was the must have “set up” on your skate deck in those days?
For me I was always needing something that would float me, I skated surfy, sketchy and fast but sloppy. Kryptonics made a nice deck that I loved, INDY TRUCKS was the main thing. If it had Indys, I could ride it. Powell Peralta wheels usually, cubics?
Where was the nearest skate park from where you lived and when did you first skate it?
George, John and Mama Dorothy McClellan and I did the property survey on the Clearwater Skate Park. We skated it while it was being built. That was what? 1976? You should have seen the original plan. THAT would have been wild.
How long did it take for you to become a “local”, and who were the core skaters at the spots you skated?
Clearwater Skate Park: I was local from day one there. Locals there were Fisher, Rademaker brothers, Safety Al, Dave (I hate you because you're so smooth) Adams, George and John McClellan, Splat Parker (RIP Pat, love you man), Tim Hubbard, Tony Simotes and Mike Coocia. Oh yeah, some grom named Jimmy Marcus too.
When I got to Gainesville I was not welcomed easily. Talk about a vibe! After I ate it time and time again and kept skating Mason finally started talking to me. This was after months of skating by myself while they tried to ignore me. If they were skating the pool and I started to as well, they moved to the snake = so subtle. Possibly wearing the Clearwater Team shirt didn’t help.
The Basin: Bruce Mason, Chris Baucom, Rodney Mullins, Peter Andrews, Ronnie Brown, Wes Aho, Tony Romano, John McGuigan, Keith Hollein, Russ Thompson, Barry Zaritsky (he did skate occasionally), Donny and Sam Myhre, Monty Nolder…. Not a bad crew eh? And I know I am missing people….sensi clouds the memory.
Last session picture at Clearwater Skatepark
How were you getting to the skate park?
The GBM dream ship silver van, my parent’s cars, I also skated there. Whatever it took. Good times… And in Gainesville I skated 5 miles each way until I eventually convinced Mason that campus was on his way to the park…not so much, but his little silver Toyota Corolla had serious jams and a new 60 month battery, so we left the stereo on while we skated and when we got back to the car tunes were already blaring.
Were your parents into skateboarding?
They were crushed, but they never said so. I was being scouted to play pro baseball. The idea of winning or losing on your own merits got me fired up. After they saw how driven I was and how hard I was working they were, let's say heartened I was applying myself. Do the best you can do at whatever you do. And I did, except for that whole college grades area.
To help set the time frame of all this, what else was going on around you then?
I had just quit baseball after eight years, and my brother and sister were at school. I was always on the boat at Caladesi Island, disco was sputtering, the Cars were just coming on strong and I was heading to UF. So here I was alone with my parents, quit baseball and took up the nothing 'sport' of skateboarding. My amazing parents did not freak. Until, I came home from UF one year and declared I would be skating in California that summer. No you will not. Then they left for Europe and I thumbed to Bobby Mandario's house in Daytona and we DROVE to LA. Skated in the Del Mar Series. Could not pull off the invert so I got 24th or something out of 70 guys. Had to sell my board for cash to go, so Gelfand flowed me a board and wheels and I bought 169's for $5 from Bulky (well $4 really but he still won’t take the buck I shorted him to this day). Took the red eye home to Tampa and my Dad picked me up at the airport. Not a fun ride home. But I skated that night! With copers fresh from Del mar. Remember those?
Ed Womble inverted over the massive vertical walls of the Sensation Basin.
Of the following, which is your order of preference Ed, Blondes, Brunettes, or Red Heads?
Cindy Rugo first, then any of them if they put with my shit, no preference!!!
Were you rocking a “Flyaway”, a “Norcon”, or an early “Pro-tec” helmet in those days?
Standard progression. Norcon, Pro-tec, Flay Away. Bruce Mason and I had matching ones. You just felt too freaking good with one of those bad boys on. $50 for a helmet in 1978 was A LOT of money.
At some point you must’ve witnessed some gnarly skating at one of the parks, what skater represented your earliest influence and skate stoke?
GBM remains the inspiration. Never has anyone with more length than a skater should have, demand of himself that he achieve things on a skateboard that he should not be able to do. He wants it bad. The man has a lot of try in him.
When did you first get sponsored and by whom?
Clearwater Skate Park in '76, Sensation Basin in '78 and then it was on. I was basically on flow from everywhere. Shot a commercial for Osh Kosh B'Gosh. And therein lies the pro status. I got paid for that commercial. So I rode for SIO, GBM and Schmitt. Never had a formal relationship with any one company per se. Now I did screw up a bunch of relationships with my attitude.
Ed Womble sporting a Sims Superlight during the dayz of glory.
Rice or Potatoes?
French fries…. LOOK AT ME!
Did you have any private backyard pools or ramps that you and your crew skated then?
We drained a typical municipal pool on Clearwater Beach and called it Log Cabins, for some obscure reason I believe GBM knows, or was it Log Cave Ins? That pool was deep with a quick flat wall, death box all around. It prepared me for the Basin I didn’t know I would be skating. We threw dozens of fish and grime and crap out of that pool. GBM cut the copper ladders out to sell for pump money.
What was your first impression of the Sensation Basin Skate Park especially the snake run, and when did you first visit it?
HOLY CRAP!!! First time there I got baked with George Wilson in the parking lot before I went in, he's starts killing it and my feeble kick turn was barely on the transition. I got better. Kind of reminds me of driving up to Skate Wave the first time, only this was vert.
The famed Sensation Basin Vertical Snake Run.
Did you ever camp out in the park?
Funny, I never did, but what a place. Skate all day, fish, cook out, listen to tunes, cruise the skate path and bake, have a beer. There were college girls roller-skating by the dozen. It truly was the best time of my life save my baby daughters, of course. They are awesome!
What was it about the Sensation Basin in your mind that made it stand apart from the bay area skate parks of that era?
First of all, it is hard to explain to someone who never went there but there were like three acres of concrete. It consisted of a Snake Run which was a vertical snake run, the Pool Bowl, Monster Bowl, a banked freestyle area, the Surf Run, a huge freestyle area (100 yards square with a mirror wall for Rodney Mullen) and a half mile path for skating around a stocked pay fishing lake.
Regarding the Snake run. It was nothing but focus. You could skate and skate hard anywhere. At the Basin if you messed up, you paid dearly. And you had to work the humps! There is nothing like a quick tranny and 12' of wall with 4 feet of vert to challenge you. If you pitch you land at the bottom on scratchy concrete. Knee sliding was not an option. I missed a lot of local skating in Tampa Bay but my style was loose anyway, so ramps and me where not on friendly terms. Man needs space….mess coming up so quick and I'm not ready!!!
Ed Womble working an old school handplant in the Basin's Bowl.
Pepsi or Coke?
Coke, love that stuff. *Slurp*
How many skate parks around the state did you get to skate back then?
Cadillac Wheels (OMG) camped out in that parking lot.
Solid Surf? (Had the water slide?)
Clearwater Skate Park
What was the energy level like at skate contests back then compared to today?
It was more kind of elite; how do you say this? You were happy to see people who shared your passion, but then you wanted them to leave when you saw they were better than you! Skateboarding was way more surf influenced! Shorts were way too short! and it was more team oriented. A van would roll up and out would spill 5 Walker Team guys, or Kona Ratt owners. The elite comment comes from the fact that was so few good skaters around. It was like a validation that someone somewhere else had been working on what you had been. The stoke level was extremely high.
Did you get to compete frequently or just on occasion?
I skate everything available for four years. Florida, Alabama, California. Then my grades went to a level where I would drop out of college if I got another D. So I went to work on school. Everyone knows there's no money in skating….
Big Ed reminding the coping that he still owns it.
Who are your all time favorite skaters?
Steve Olson, GBM, Kelly Lynn and Bruce Mason.
Let’s get into the “Sun n Fun” competitions that were put on by the Clearwater Skate Park people and the city of Clearwater. Did you participate in any of those events and do you think Slalom is missing in today’s skateboarding events?
Muriel Yantiss poured in heart into that event; an amazing amount of work. I loved all of the events and the scene was awesome. Visiting pros from Cal and everyone from all over the state came. I road down Drew Street the other day, with the wind you barely roll. Remember Rodney Mullins winning every event he entered one year. Not sure you could ever pull that type of event off again with so many disciplines and so many days.
Vans or Nikes?
I wore Jox back in the day, but now for me it’s Van's. NEVER NIKE!! It's not a skate company.
Doubles action on the Basins Walls.
Back in the day there were skaters that were all Sims, Kryptonic, G&S, Z-Flex, Astral, Markel, etc, for years! They didn’t even have to be on the teams, but they had a loyalty towards a particular manufacturer that doesn’t exist much today. Why do you think that is?
I loved SIMS, Z-Flex had the bad boy image with Dave Hart, and he was a terror. They were kind of like the “black hat” cowboy image. Kryptonics was good too! Plus, to get any flow from a manufacturer, you had to have the product on display with stickers FIRST! There was so much innovation going on with product that you developed an allegiance with each new thing that worked for you. 10" concave Brad Bowman was awesome. We wanted to look good and shred!
How did you handle the time period when the skate parks started to close down?
That was about the time my GPA was one step away from 'go home for a year' status. The Basin was closing, Clearwater closed, Rainbow Wave closed, etc. And I skated kind of like Bulky so my ramp riding was dreadful anyway. So I kept my boards but focused on finishing college. I had a piece of the Basin concrete for decades. Not sure where it is now. I still dream of that place.
In your opinion what’s missing in today’s skateboarding that existed in the era’s past?
Working with “SpoT” (Skate Park of Tampa) on Boards for Bros, I used to think there was something missing, but now I do not; skateboarding is just different now. The team thing is long gone and organizing skaters is like herding cats anyway. We do this because it IS individual. Gone are the good ole days, and here are today's good ole days. Viva la difference!
You were voted into the Florida Skater Hall Of Fame, how did you feel upon the announcement of this great achievement?
I was stunned and happy. To be voted in by your peers is a wonderful feeling. I wasn't in a 'fraternity' in college and then as time went by and the Internet allowed us to get back in touch, I realize that I WAS in a fraternity after all. I was living in North Carolina when I discovered the website FloridaSkater.com. I was so stoked to find out about all my old friends! Felt damn good. Still does. The burden of voting the right people in is one that I take very seriously. And there are a lot of good candidates. You are one!
Ed and his girls.
What has kept you around skateboarding all these years?
Individuality, the fact that even at 50 when I skate I feel free. Taking my time, choosing my line.
Transition skateboarding, or Street Skateboarding?
I always loved round wall. There’s something gravitationally illegal about it. Surf style with a hint of extreme air is a good mix. Yeah, we skated street but we surfed the street and curbs, rails and steps - nah? I believe that the closing of parks due to legal issues and the fact that you will not ever kill the fun that you get from skating, left a vacuum of places to skate which in turn led to more street skating development and that wound up being a pain in corporate big wigs rear end. Comes around goes around. If they build parks and pools everywhere you will still be able to see when school let out. The kids will skate. The cats out of the bag.
Ed's energy is still raging. Above: Ed Womble thrashing the lip.
Did having children of your own change any perspective of skateboarding that you had?
Not really. They love the fact that I skate. You know how some media guys have said that they had to experience acid one time in order to report on it? Well if you have skated it helps you to understand a lot about why people do the things they do. You just say, yeah, I get that. I try to teach my kids from my experiences - good and bad. I try.
What is your affiliation with the Florida Gators?
I spent six years there, and got one four year major, and now oldest goes to school there. Love me some Gator sports. When I was there the football team was miserable. I am enjoying our recent success but know that this too may change. GO GATORS!
How often do you get to skate these days?
This is embarrassing. Almost never. Life deals you things sometimes and then you cannot afford to be hurt. Skating scared is no way to skate. I think there is a higher probability of getting hurt when you cannot go for it. When I do skate I want to skate well. And I will never be able to skate the way I want to again. Last year I did a nice grind and got hung up a bit, slammed straight down at Dunedin. Had to drive myself to the hospital and was unable to do anything for a week. Me no like. So, down hills and around the neighborhood often, does that count?
If given the opportunity to live your skate past all over again knowing what you know now, is there anything you’d have done differently?
Learned more tricks after I learned the invert, pure backside air set up perfectly at 3rd wall. Never learned it.
I would have enrolled in the 'how to be a good sponsored athlete' school. I was an obnoxious kid and loud and no one wants to sponsor that. We worked so hard, we were 'punk' and we didn’t want anyone to tell us what to do. Well that blew various possible sponsorships that I will not name. I am still learning to deal with my inner demons…One day at a time.
Any companies or individuals from the past or present that you’d like to give a shout out to or a thank you to at this time?
Phil Chiocchio Sensation Basin a Saint
Barry Zaritski - SIO a Prophet
Muriel Yantiss the most giving woman who I do not call Mom.
Any lasts comments?
Boards for Bros is now in our 5th year! Donate your old stuff to us or to some kid. Give the gift of stoke.
Hope to see you at Kona in January next year for the HOF!!!
Chicken, or Beef Ed?
Push, Carve, Grind!
For more great Skateboarding stories please visit http://www.copingblock.com/
Push, Carve, Grind!
For more great Skateboarding stories please visit http://www.copingblock.com/