The George B. McClellan Interview from Coping Block Skateboarding Magazine!

By Cleo Coney Jr.

George you are always very impressive to watch skate, I remember your long runs in Clearwater Skate Parks half-pipe. When did you first get sponsored?

I think Clearwater Skate Park was my first "sponsor", Jan of 77 I think. They hooked me up with free skate time and discount gear early on. They teamed with Flite for a while and they flowed too. Next up was Gullwing and then Kryptonics.

Did you and Ray Diaz have the same sponsors?

Yeah, Ray was on board. Krypto had a bunch of rippers in Florida back then. Ray, Fisher, SAA, Dan Murray, Brian Lilje from Atlanta. It was pretty cool to be associated with a crew like that.

What was your favorite trick to do at Clearwater Skate Park?

I can tell what WASN'T my favorite trick at the park! ANYTHING on the Plexiglas! Yeah, I was stoked to learn rock n rolls on it, but every hit on it was a mess for me.... But that doesn't answer the question. I had a few tricks that felt so good there. I got pretty good at popping Andrects on the non-coping extension, I
loved throwing Ollie’s high to low off the Plexiglas, and front side 50/50 laybacks.

What came first for you, skateboarding or surfing?

I didn't get on a surfboard until I was 16-17 years old. We found this big old rhino chaser behind our neighbor’s house in Harbor Oaks and we - uh - liberated it... When I moved to Ocean Beach in '82/83 I lived about 3 blocks from the beach and got pretty good, but I'll always be a skater first.

Who were the skaters that made up your skate crew back in those days?

Wow - flashback time.... I first started skating with my neighbor Will Jones and we charged all over downtown Clearwater. I met up with Ed Womble and Greg Harrison, we skated together a bunch at the old Maas Brothers hill and some of the hills leading down to the Harbor. When the skate park opened we had
already developed a crew (we used to hit Tampa Skate Wave on Hillsborough together) and a lot of it transferred into the CSP crew. Dave Adams came on board, Steve Fisher, JBM, Ed Womble, Tim Hubbard, RAF, Rat Parker, Tony Simotes (RIP brother), Mike Coccia, Todd Webb (still KILLING it) Shoemaker, Landsberry, Alan Wellbrock, D-Rad and B-Rad, Egg Bowl (what the hell was that guys name?) (R.I.P), Rick Phillips and Safety Al, tons of heads.... Every now and then Mike Daly and Chris Moriarity would show up and bring this little ripper girl Crystal along. Jimmy Marcus was part of the scene as well, fakie-ing up and down the half pipe on his cut down Markel.

What do you remember most about the Pro Shop at Clearwater Skate Park?

Those ridiculous porthole windows.... And the pinball machines - I remember there was one there that I owned, but can't remember what it was - maybe Captain Fantastic or something.

Obviously you skated other places around the state of Florida, what were your favorite skate spots?

Rainbow Wave was fun. Any time we went down south it was always an adventure, I've seen pics of me at spots (ramps mostly) where I have no idea where they were taken and no recollection of the session, but Danno or AG is in the background so I guess that is how we got there. Longwood Pipeline was always a hoot. I really miss the Basin the most.

                                                George boardsliding at Rainbow Wave during the Dayz of Glory

There’s a sense of class about you and skaters like Kelly Lynn that sets you apart from the crowd. Why do you think that is?

Thanks Cleo. I am honored to be mentioned in the same sentence as Kelly Lynn. I think there are some elder statesmen in the sport and we may be part of that group (or maybe we are just elder!). Guys like Dave Adams, Bruce Walker, Reggie, and others. We may have lost a few tricks out of our bags (well - except Reggie), but we still go out and have fun and promote the sport. But anyone who has seen Chris Baucom and me on a rage will tell you it's anything but classy!

Did you participate in all the “Fun n Sun” competitions?

Oh hell yeah! I loved that event. Muriel was so great for driving that! That was back in the days of the all-around skater. Loved it. Freestyle, cross-country, slalom, GS, pipe... are you kidding me? I took out Charlie Gonzalez at the last slalom event and then lost to Steve Evans on cone count and took third to Evans and Hutson(!). So much fun! Muriel flew Alva and Hackett in, The Jer was there (for about 10 minutes), and it was great.

What did you do when the skate parks all closed down?

It kind of died with a whimper.... I bailed to Europe in '84 and was gone for 6 years, so I kind of missed a bunch of stuff in Clearwater/Pinellas. I skated a bit in Germany, Spain (sweet capsule ala Big O in
(Barcelona) and Italy. I built a pretty sweet ramp in Zaragoza Spain in 87. I came back to Florida and there were some ramps and indoor stuff, I hit Mc Gills a bunch. I kind of reconnected with Gomez and Pat Parker (Pat taught me how to do F/S 50-50s at McGill’s) and then faded again as I got career heavy and started raising my kid.

                                         GBM Frontside Air stink bug style. Photo by Craig Snyder.

When did you get into the banked, and down hill skating?

I moved to Albuquerque in '94 and got into the scene a few years after that. I was still a pretty hard-core pool skater and was hitting pools mostly with the locals like Ryan Simonetti, Abe Towery and Ryan EP. They took me to some ditches and I was blown out. I'll always remember the day Ryan took me to 3 Mile ditch, I was so tired after riding it the whole way. On 58mm Spitfires - rattling my teeth out - but grinning all the way. The Albuquerque crew was pretty much into skating anything and everything. It was no big thing to skate a pool in the morning, hit Indian School for a few runs and then go bomb some hills - and I'm talking serious hills - like 45-50 MPH type stuff. And then go over to Jeff’s house at the base of Indian School for a little BBQ action....

What kind of set up do you recommend for that type of skating?

There is so much good gear out there right now.... A lot of people have a real hard-on for drop-throughs, but they really don't work so good on mixed terrain so most of us roll tradition pintails in the ditches. Just about everyone is riding drop-throughs for downhill though. Sector 9 comes up with some great stuff, so there is really no need to look elsewhere. My go-to stick is a Sector 9 Goddess of Speed, with Randall IIs, and either the Goddess wheel (78a), or any of the Sector 9 race formula 70mm cored 80a. I rock Swiss 6 ball on every thing I ride. (Seismic is making some sweet urethane now too!) I wedge the front truck for quicker turning and de-wedge the rear truck for stability/drive. You need about a 32- 35 inch wheelbase to really feel comfortable in a lot of these spots.

What comes to your mind first when you read each of the following?

1) Bright Lite - McGill at Rainbow Wave, and Alan Gelfands "who's hot" in the mag.

2) Layback Air - I should say Kelly, but for some reason Shawn Peddie flashed into my head (remember that cool-ass Walker AD he did?)

3) Vertical Extensions - ka-kink. I'm so sorry we did that to everybody....

4) Space Invaders - I used to KILL that game - I had the shot counts down andeverything.                         (Thanks for the flashback dude!)

5) Lazer Trucks - I drilled mine for flints. Where did Lazer go?

                                             GBM Frontside Grind at Stirling Skate Park Photo By Ed Womble

You’ve moved west twice, first to New Mexico and then to California, where are you skating these days?

I'm in San Luis Obispo (or SLO-town as the locals say). We have a great park in Los Osos that is the most fun for me. Killer LH kidney with real cope (but no death box or stairs) and some really fun flow stuff and some big vert walls. I roll down to LA every now and then and hit some of the bounty there. I was at the Venice opening last week and that is one sweet park, almost worth the three-hour drive and having to deal with LA.... I like skating in Schmitt or John O's backyard wonderlands. Whenever I roll through ABQ (about once a month) I've always got a crew that makes sure I get some ditch time and some blue tile.

Over the years you’ve seen a great deal of skateboarding, participated in numerous competitions and watched the sport grow to “X”Game heights. What kind of Skate Park would you build if money were no issue?

Kind of like the Maloof deal? How fing strange is that? I watched Chris Cole roll away with 100 large this year! (Big thanks to Chris Conway, MR and the Professor forgetting me in there) Crazy! I think Steve Olson got about 2 grand for winning the first Hester Series (the entire series!). But I digress.... Park technology is getting amazing. I'd love to be able to re-create some of the old parks and see how we perform on them now - there is a true half pipe (no flat bottom) in the Alamos Park in Albuq and it is a blast. I know Baucom, Womble and Mason would donate a kidney to skate the Basin again. And who wouldn't love to hit the Peanut Bowl or Frank Nasworthys bowl (Lighthouse Point Skateboard Concourse) again? I'm a huge fan of skating stuff that wasn't meant to be skated, so building a "perfect" skate park is kind of tough to consider. I like backyard pools, I like sketchy mini ramps with weird extensions, I like a place like Lake Cunningham (San Jose) - big huge stuff, and some smooth skate lite vert ramp and half pipe action to get your stuff learned and wired on. You'd definitely need a handful of pools, kind of like Cherry Hill. Probably don't need to spend a third of the park on a freestyle area though!

                                                    GBM Flappin an Andrecht hand plant at the Sensation Basin.

If given the option to resurrect any skate park from the past for a weeklong private session with friends, what park would it be?

Ha! I guess I should have anticipated this question.... The Basin for sure, and Winchester, (partly because so few people got to skate it), also Cherry Hill would be good to unearth. Maybe the Big O? Cherry Hill is still around, just buried under a warehouse now. Hmmmmmmm.... I can run a backhoe.

How big is your quiver these days?

Too big! I will always have a pool board (currently Deckcrafters monocoque with Indy’s and
SPF55s), a ditch board (9-ball Goddess) and a beer run board (right now it is a Krooked Zip Zinger). But I’ve got a huge stack of other things I've put together and ride from time to time. Just about every Albuquerque local has a Bear board. I've got a mini ramp board, some slalom boards, and a couple of OG sticks I break out on old school night. I set up a reissue McGill F-14 with Six Tracks, Copers and Cubics and ride that from time to time to remember what flat pigs rode like. Copers are a blast! I have a Sims
Super light with Comps and ACS 651s that is a rider. I have a longer wheelbase helium prototype that Schmitt hooked me up with that is set up with softer wheels for the Vert ramp at Abes property. I've got a McCall freestyle set up. I've got an OG GBM Custom that is still set up! It goes on and on Holmes... At least 20 completes litter the garage.

What particular skate event, or skate session from over the years sticks out in your mind and why?

Too many to list.... seriously. Skating Baldy (finally) with my homeboy Palmer a few years back was pretty epic. Sessioning an insane backyard amoeba with Benji, Reul, Torcia, Greene, Sketch, Palmer, Burro and a few others and being fully welcomed. We drove up to the place in a Lincoln Town Car (plastered with 9-ball stickers)! The best skate car ever! What else stands out? Being able to talk Salba out of a few gems the last time I was in the IE. Some of the old contests like the WRAPS at the Basin or the Rainbow Wave event in '78. It is tough to say, it seems like now things mean so much more to me. Back then it was just something we did. I do remember the first pool I hit - Dunlap’s in South St Pete (Thanks Mike Daly!) and I realized that this was some serious stuff. Fisher got knocked out that day (wearing a pro-tec I think). But I was hooked on round wall then ('78?).

Will you ever return to Florida as a skate resident?

I'm trying hard! I was back there a few weeks ago for a Gator game and some down time and realized I need to be back in the Sunshine State! The 14% unemployment kind of makes it hard though... I'll get there sooner or later.

You’ve skated with the best of the best in Florida’s skate history, which skaters influenced you the most?

Wow. Good question. Hmmm. Jim McCall was the first real pro I knew (pro in every sense of the word) - I learned a lot of discipline and focus from watching him prepare and skate. I skated a lot with Mike Folmer during Cali days (we both skated for Gullwing) and he had a great long view of things, enjoy it all (Mark Lake too!). He got me into stretching and taking care of myself. I pretty much wanted to have Clyde’s baby, he was so cool and surfy. Mike McGill and Kelly were a few years younger so the only thing they influenced me on, was wanting to beat their little Asses every time they beat me in a contest! Gelfand had the ultimate cool and pace - he would always save something for the end of the contest or session or whatever. He never seemed to get pissed or have a bad day. I learned a ton about gnarlacide form Monty in his amateur and early pro days at the Basin. And the Rude Boy - his approach to learning tricks was
amazing - Chris and Ed probably pushed me the hardest, I learned so much around those guys. And Dan Murray - I would always steal his lines cuz we skated similar (we were tall lanky regular footers with no style but a deep bag of tricks). Scroggs showed that you be a pro with skills on and off the board (I miss that man).

Do you have any last thoughts or thanks that you’d like to pass along at this time?

Have fun and pass the sport along. Be an ambassador! It is amazing how far this sport has come and why. I am constantly amazed at how big and how tight the brotherhood is. I can pretty much go to any state or town and find out the deal before I get there and have a session waiting. I've made so many friends and skated so many places and the locals are just stoked to bring you into the scene. I've tried to live most of my adult life without being a kook, (notice I said ADULT life - I realize that I've been a kook in the past) and that has gotten me into some pretty cool scenes. I've got to thank every cool scene for inviting me in as a brother. Albuq, LA, San Diego, Phoenix, Oregon, Amsterdam, Sardinia, Zaragoza, Vancouver, South Florida, the list goes on and on.

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