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Features> Organized Chaos - Dave Swift Share

Dave Swift

What's your Name, Age, and Location?
Dave Swift, . . . . Uh, 44 (great), Oceanside, California.

How did you get your hands on your first board?
Ah my first board came to me as a hand me down . . . Well not really handed down, but was lying around the parents house back in '76. My brother was definitely done sidewalk surfing and it (the board) was a complete disaster flexed out pile. I was over it soon. Fast forward a year and I somehow got a real deck, wheels and trucks by using paper route funds and bought it from the local bro who sold skate stuff out of his room at his parents house. Yeah, no skate shops in 1977 anywhere near Rancho Bernardo (where I grew up). Board was a G&S Fibreflex with a kicktail, Tracker Mids and Road Rider 4's with Precision bearings. Sick, right?

Dave Swift, Back Smith
Bs Smith, Dave's backyard. Photo by Neal Mims

Ware did you start learning how to skate?
So as I stated before, home was RB, so inland North San Diego County. First skating was in the ditch out behind my parents house. It had one skateable wall and was rough as shit. Seriously, I haven't seen rougher in all my years of hitting up skate spots around the world. After that I checked out Carlsbad Skatepark and quickly became addicted to skateboarding—that place was so fun! Next parks were Vista, Escondido, Spring Valley, Oasis and finally Del Mar. I was fortunate enough to be a local at Del Mar Skate Ranch from 1980 until they closed in July of 1987. Fun times indeed.

Dave Swift Interview
Slob Fast plant, Dallas, Phot by O

When you were a local at Del Mar Skate Ranch, would the Oasis locals came up to skate the ranch with you guys? Was there a separate group of locals at oasis or was it pretty much the same skaters mixed in between the two.
In 1980 we didn't really notice what park others came from, we just knew they weren't Del Mar locals. The Stelmasky's (Kenny and Mike) were from down there. Once Oasis closed in late 1981 all the dudes that skated there would come to Del Mar, the few in particular were Billy Ruff, Ken Park and Chris Black. There were probably others but they didn't continue for long after Oasis closed.
Quote from Dave Swift interview
Dave Swift Fs Smith
Fs Smith, MLK Oceanside

You got your first G&S Fiberflex after that it was on, How did you go about finding rides or ways to skateparks like Carlsbad, Del Mar, Spring Valley?
The few times I went to Carlsbad it was with my 7th grade Spanish teacher. He would take a group of us every month if we were doing good in class. Definitely made studying worthwhile. The next year, after 8th grade (summer of 1978) the park opened in Escondido (Whirlin' Wheels) and me and all my friends got passes for the summer— I think it was $60 and you got to skate whenever you wanted. So sick. The first month we were still riding narrow boards and by August everything changed to ten inches wide. I had a sweet Castor team model. UFO wheels were the shit and we all had those. I actually got to see pros skate at that park for the first time like Gunnar Haugo and Jeff Tatum. The pool was called the "44 D" because it was two round bowls connected and it looked like a boobs from the air. It sucked but I got my first grinds in that thing.

After that summer I stopped skating for about a year but got hyped again when I looked at a magazine at the store down the street from my parents house. Things were changing so fast; everyone was doing airs, handplants, rock and rolls and ollies. That shit wasn't even happening when I quit a year before. Punk rock was also hitting and I was definitely intrigued by that scene and because the two went together it was time to pick up a skateboard again. The Escondido park had closed, so the closest place was Del Mar and at 15 the only way for me to get there was take the bus, which I did for the next three years. I met Gator Rogowski on that bus and we became skate buddies. He wasn't hot shit at the time but he did rip and got boards free from G&S, which he'd hook me up with after he was done with them. That was the beginning of my time at The Del Mar Skate Ranch.

Oh, you asked about Spring Valley. I went there once in early 1978. A friends mom drove us from RB—it was so far! Park was rad but crowded as fuck with people way better than me and my friend. We rode what we could but I was too scared to ride the pool. I always wish I coulda gone back and skated it again.


Dave Swift, Tailblock
In July of 1987 Del Mar closed, ware would you go skate and what was left to skate?
When Del Mar closed we (the locals) were devastated because it was more than just a skatepark to us—it was our hangout. Everything we did centered around that place. We partied there, we met girls there, we worked there, we slept there . . . It closed and was dozed within days. Gone for good. As for skating, at first it was rough because there wasn't much around in the summer of 1987. I think there was a ramp in Vista but those dudes hated us and we hated them. Oh shit, there was also a 12 foot wide vert ramp in TriCity (Pete Finlan's) that we skated once in a while and a mini ramp in Encinitas called ASL (Tony Hawk had the cover of TWS skating it). In August the first sessions at the Fallbrook ramp kicked off. That was the beginning of a whole new realm for me because we always like skating ramps but didn't 'cause we had the park. But ramps with metal coping opened up new tricks that were practically impossible at Del Mar like 50-50s, lipslides, slider's to fakie and on and on. It was rad to skate that place 'cause a lot of shit went down like Miller doing backside lipslides across the whole face wall into head high backside airs. Grosso killed it there. But the main influential figure was Jason Jessee 'cause that was where he shined. Airs to fakie for days. That was the new shit, going to fakie and he was beyond what anyone else could do.

Epic quote from Dave Swift in a interview
Fs Tailblock, W.S.V.T  

Chad Bartie, Gnar Fs 5-o Leucadia, Ca. 1995 (Photos by: Swift)
Chad Bartie, Gnar Fs 5-o Leucadia, Ca. 1995 (Photos by: Swift)

In the mix of the Del Mar park years say around 1985, what magazines would you try and get your hands on?
When I first started skating Del Mar the only magazine around was Thrasher. I mean, Skateboarder had turned into Action Now and it sucked real bad—Except for the Duane Peters interview that was in one of their issues. So every month I'd get Thrasher off the counter of the Pro Shop at Del Mar and read it cover-to-cover on the 45 minute bus ride home. Other shit I'd pick up was some free mags like Skate'N News (Free SoCal Newspaper type thing that had photos of all the parks and contests that had happened) and there was also a mag the Kona Skatepark in Florida did that would show up at Del Mar wheneverly. That was pretty much it for skate info between 1981-82. No videos or anything. But because Del Mar was pretty much the best park left in SoCal (Whittier was better) everyone who skated and lived outside California would come out and skate the park. I got to see the best from all over like Jeff Phillips, Tom Groholski, Dan Wilkes, Kevin Staab, McGill . . . So many. And than you had the dudes from other Ca. parks like Lance Mountain, Hosoi, Lester, Mike Smith, Alan Losi, Neil Blender, Cab, O'Brien bros etc. It was heaven and I was a local so that made it even better. Best times.

Chris Miller, Baldy Full Pipe
Chris Miller, Fs Air into flat wall May 2003

What's different about the vert ramps at skateparks these days compared to the Fallbrook ramp and all the backyard ramps in the late 80's? (As far as sessions, skaters, the ramps)
The main difference is the scene. I mean, if our a vert skater and your with your homies skating than it's probably the same. I mean, it's way different than when shit was in the backyard like Fallbrook, Death Trap in 29 Palms, The Ark in Fresno etc . . . these were ramp scenes that kept shit alive. A meeting point for skaters from the area and surrounding towns. The only thing similar is the Creature ramp in Ramona. A true backyard scene up in the hills. I've only been there once but they have it going on. Ramps like Encinitas and Clairemont YMCA's are great for kids 'cause they get to try it out and skate with pros and learn without dealing with all the lifestyle stuff they don't need to know about for years to come (beer drinking, smoking weed etc . . .). As a parent I prefer the park atmosphere but as a I skater I like the backyard scene. I try to get a little of both.

Peter Hewitt, Fs Rock
Peter Hewitt, Fs Slide and Roll

When did you get into photography and was it something you kind of always thought of doing, or did you just decide to pick it up?
I think I was destined to work at a magazine for some reason. I mean, as a teenager I was so into looking at them. The photos, the spots, the ads I absorbed it all. I gotta admit, I didn't read many of the stories, just the interviews with pros I was psyched on. After High School, when I was riding the bus to Del Mar I pretty much memorized every Thrasher cover to cover. And when TWS started, my best friend Swank got a job there because he was tight with Grant and he'd taken some photo classes. I was so jealous but I had no money for a camera so I just skated. In 1989 Swank was quitting TWS and let me know they needed a writer/editor at the mag. I applied and got the gig but right away I knew that sitting at a computer all day wasn't gonna do it. My excuse to get out was to take up photography and Grant had some extra gear lying around. Grabbed it and started shooting lousy photos (Crooked horizons, bad exposures, wrong shutterspeed etc . . . ) of all my buddies (Owen Nieder, Mike Youssefpour, Jordan Richter, Alphonzo Rawls, Fred Olande, Peter Hewitt, Paul Wisniewski) until I got good enough to actually have a printed photo in TWS (Steve Caballero, FS Rock N' Slide, San Jose Warehouse Summer 1989). Believe me, I was hyped. So I was an editorial assistant (that's what I got paid for) and a contributing photographer for TWS for the first two years. That was a good time.

Chad Knight, Pivot Fakie
Chad Night, Bs Pivot Fakie
Dave Swift interview
You were the photographer for Transworld for 15 years strong, then decided to start something new, a new skateboard magazine. When and how did you think it was possible?
I was the Editor In Chief at TWS! I actually was hired to write and kept that as part of my deal (gave me a stead paycheck all those years). Photography was a big part of my deal for sure and that's probably what I'll always be remembered for. Shit, writing is so much harder. I can't even tell you how frustrated I get trying to write an article. Never happens with shooting photos of skateboarding, 'cept maybe when a cop or security kicks you out before you get what you needed. Even that's funny in the end!

So yeah, we (Grant and I) were told for years by TWS publisher Larry Balma (Tracker Trucks) that making a magazine is the hardest thing in the world! for the first ten years we believed him but we changed our mind when we saw TWS balloon to 450 pages (more than half of that ads) and we delivered the content every single month. We'd been doing it so long that why couldn't we do it on our own? All we needed was some seed money and some other partners that were willing to come along for the ride (Mike Mihaly, Atiba and Ako Jefferson and Kevin Wilkins) and it was on. Five years later were still making a monthly magazine that only has skateboarding and skateboarding ads in it. You can't say that about any of the other mags.

Lance Mountain, Eggplant, 1999
Lance Mountain, Eggplant, 1999

Now that the Mag is going, what have you been up to? What's the daily routine?
My daily routine is answering tons of email from industry goons . . . I mean pals. Uh, planning issues, talking to Kevin Wilkins, Atiba Jefferson and Ako Jefferson on IChat about what is going on and the most important thing is, I make sure that the photographers are out there getting it done. People always ask me if I shoot much anymore and I tell them I really don't. I consider myself more of a photo dispatcher sending the minions out to get photos. Sometimes I miss shooting but it seems so much more gratifying when I do go out and shoot a photo these days. It's more about me wanting to, rather than having to. I definitely don't miss the traveling 'cause that shit gets old after a while. But when I see photos of things I want to skate it makes me want to get out of the office and skate.

Remy Stratton, Ollie over the hip in Anaheim.
Remy Stratton, Ollie over the hip in Anaheim.
Dave Swift Interview
Was there anybody in the industry that may have tried to "sabatoge" the mag or wanted to see it fail?
Nah, we just got help; especially from Ken Block of DC shoes who hooked us up with the Danny Way shit. I mean, that pretty much killed it for us in the first issue because no one had a clue what Danny was up to. It was pretty rad handing out that first issue hot off the press; a feeling I never had before.

Al Parten, Bs Smith
When the mag was starting up did you guys run unto any major problems that you didnt expect?
Things went pretty smooth when we started the mag; the only problem was not getting paid for three months which pretty much depleted any savings I had. I think because of who we were as a group the industry accepted us on our merits; but nowadays its' dog eat dog and if you ain't kissing ass or selling out the heavies in the skate industry aren't your best friend. I just wish people would advertise in mags because they're down for what they do rather than what the advertiser gets out of it. No more details needed for that.

What's been the most dramatic experience since The Skateboard Mag started?
There is drama everyday so picking one isn't real easy. I mean, we all get along from working together so many years but we still have different opinions on skateboarding. I think that's why the mag is so good because everyone brings their own experience (or how they view skateboarding) into the mix. Sometimes we don't really like each others articles but that's okay because in the end the mix is good.
Al Partanen, Bs Smith  

The Mag has a very diverse staff. What goes into adding somebody to the staff? Is there something lie a staff vote? What kind of people do you look for?
Atiba and I pretty much have reign over the staff photographers. Like he brought on Landi and Acosta and I hooked up Price and Bart Jones. We talk about that stuff and it usually works out, I mean, Adam Conway had his moments; I liked him anyway.
For me personally I look for people that are 100% down with skateboarding. All kinds, no real set agenda other than going out and hooking up with the shred whether it be street, pool, park or whatever. I like radness!

Jon Goemann, Boardslide to hurricane, Portland, Oregon.
Jon Goemann, Boardslide to hurricane, Portland, Oregon.

The mag has been able to avoid censorship (tws) and not had to give into gimmicks (satan) to be successfull? Whats the mags overall objective as a skate publication?
To tell you the truth, after dealing with all the rules and regulations over at TWS, some of which were super ridiculous . . . Here's an example: One time there was an ad that had an empty pack of cigarettes (trash) on the ground and they made the advertiser photoshop it out. Funniest part about that was the person (one of the owners) who made the final call was a 2 pack a day smoker. TWS would have blanket policy's about things like guns. You couldn't even have a toy gun, or a cartoon gun in an ad or editorial. How weird is that? Yet they were willing to take ads from the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force (who are just recruiting to send our kids to fight in foreign countries). It was kind of an anything for money situation. I'm sure if there was enough money exchanging hands they'd be glad to take a cigarette or gun ad 'cause that is what it's all about over there. I mean, at the time it was frustrating but I respected what the owners wanted to do and just went with it. In my last year at TWS they made me go to a class where they told me what to say if I was asked about smoking marijuana in an interview. Like they had blanket comments for questions like that.

We all know Thrasher has their gimmicks and they do a great job marketing the magazine as a brand. Things like King of the Road and Skater of the Year and the events they do are all great. My only complaint is how the claim so much ownership over skateboarding. Its as if none of us skaters who've been around forever have a different view that even matters. I'll admit that I've read every issue since they started and in many ways it's still the same mag but in many ways it's changed. You can't argue with the level of skating that goes in there but the layouts and paper sometimes make it look cheap. But maybe that's what they want. I guess it's cool that all the mags do their own thing otherwise we'd all be the same. At the end of the day we're all fighting for "Market Share" in a shrinking industry. At the end of the day I admit to looking at all the mags and I like certain things and other shit I could care less about.

Here's the deal, it's good that all the mags have there own thing going 'cause when I first got into skateboarding there was only one to choose from which is most likely the reason we all made our own zines that showed more what "WE" were all about as skateboarders.
Do you think we should come up with some hot marketing schemes?

As for us, we've made our fair share of mistakes but it's just a handful of us doing the mag and we're spread out over different areas like Ako and Atiba live in Los Angeles, Kevin Wilkins lives in Lincoln, Nebraska and Grant and I are in Solana Beach handling the everyday shit. We started with no rules, just gut feelings and if we feel something is just too gnarly than we decide that as skateboarders. It's funny that since we've been publishing I know of at least one of the bigger skate mags hthat really toned down their censorship policies. They try to push the boundaries a little more but it comes off really contrived; like they are just trying to preserve market share with "Core Skateboarders!" A term the mainstream part of the skate industry uses to designate skaters with brains over the age of 17 that really don't buy into all the bullshit marketing that goes on. To me these are the very people we make the mag for, skaters who will be riding well into their 40s. Anyway, just pure skating in all it's glory! Ha, that sounds funny. The reality is, we just try and show the different styles of skating legitimately. Like each photographer does his shit and it has a certain flavor that corresponds with that persons take on skating. Look at an Atiba story and it looks and feels the way he'd want it to, which is way different than what Bart Jones, Matt Price or Jon Humprhies would do. All those different perspectives make the mag what it is and that is the goal—just skateboarding.


Neil Heddings Fs Alley oop 270Neil Heddings Fs Alley oop 270 Dave Swift Interview
I was watching sight unseen and noticed your name in the intro. How involved with the transworld videos were you? What was the first and last video you were a part of with tws? Will we ever see anything full length from the mag?
Originally I did a video with the help of Skin Phillips called Dreams Of Children in 1993 that TWS turned down because they were only concentrating on Snowboarding (their bread and butter at the time) and didn't really give a shit about skateboarding because there wasn't enough money in it. So we talked to my friend Tod Swank at TumYeto to see if he was interested in producing our flick and it was a go. Days before it came out, the bosses at TWS found out from a skateboard company (they were asking questions about when the "TWS" video was coming out) and they wanted in on the action. Too late we were comitted to Swank. I had my boss come in and give me a talking to and nearly got fired. Swank fired back and saved my job. The only deal was, now we had to make videos at TWS without getting paid more (at first at least).

We were cool with it because making skate videos seemed like fun but after doing the first two (Uno and Four Wheel Drive) with the help of Ted Newsome, Grant Brittain and Atiba Jefferson (Skin pretty much bailed on doing any of the TWS videos for some reason) I knew I'd be better off just supervising and making the mag. Ted and Grant also were crammed with mag work so we hired Ty Evans to help out Atiba and the rest is history. I figure if it wasn't for me, Heath would have never done the part in Sight Unseen because he had a fight with Ty a few years before over the editing of his part in Interface (I think). I talked him into it and the rest is history I suppose. So I hired Ty and than Greg. Ted Newsome hooked up Jon Holland 'cause he was a homie from Alabama.

As for videos from the mag. Well, we'd love to do them because they are a huge part of the skate media and can be fun as shit to do. At the moment we just have plans to do some stuff with the Mag Minutes but you never know..

How do you feel about digital media? Will the mag always be in print? Has online content changed anything about what actually makes it to print now?
I think you kind of need both to be taken seriously. I mean, cool what Slap did but why totally give up on print? Kind of early for that. I think online should be more about video, events and interactive stuff that the print mag can't bring to the table on a daily basis. At the end of the day you can't beat holding a mag in your hand and looking at amazing photography on good paper (we happen to have the best paper quality out there).

John Cardiel, Frontside slider, Denver, Co.
John Cardiel, Frontside slider, Denver, Co.

How about a little constructive critisism for Typical Culture?
I think your sight is rad. It was cool that Zack hit me up and even though I wasn't sure I knew him it was rad to learn that he was one of the kids who skated C-Mont a few years back with me. Those were good times and I like that the skate youth isn't just kicking back and partying their asses off. Shit, making your own shit happen is the best. I'm proud of you guys and Typical Culture is awesome. Keep killing it forever.

Jamie Thomas, 50-50, Dave Swift Interview
Jamie Thomas Gap 50-50
Dave Swift Interview

You now have had the chance to travel around the world, skating and taking photos. Any advice for someone wanting to do the same thing?
My advice to someone getting into it now would be to have fun. Same thing I tell people riding skateboards. Don't get into it thinking your gonna get paid 'cause that just fucks it all up. I mean, if it's gonna happen you'll no at some point—don't force the issue by coming in hot looking for money right away. It's funny because I deal with young photographers like Matt Price, Anthony Acosta and Bart Jones and right away I knew these guys cared more about shooting skateboarding than getting paid. And that's why they have staff credentials—they don't want any money! No, because I know they are doing it for the love. It's cool to make a good living but skateboarding has it's ups and downs and sometimes getting paid tons of loot just ain't in the cards. But if you stick it out you'll be fine in the end. Shit, I better knock on wood! Ha. Enjoy the travel and all the skating you get to do while your young and you'll never forget the good times.

Heath Kirchart, B Tail
Heath Kirchart, Bs Tail

Would you like to Thank anyone for helping you out along this jounery?
My thanks go out to Tod Swank, Grant Brittain, My wife Stacey and the kids (Maddy, Colin and Abby), my parents and to all the skateboarders I grew up with in the wild 80s. Those were the best of times..

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