Speed Wheels Stories: A Conversation with Eric Dressen
Coinciding with are recent feature in our Fall 2021 quarterly on the Art of the Speed Wheels and the current exhibition, The Art of the Santa Cruz Speed Wheel on view at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History through January 2, 2022, we will spend the next few months dipping into the Santa Cruz skate archives and speak with the designers, artists, skaters and team managers who were influenced and shaped by the era and designs. Today, we speak with skate legend and team rider, Eric Dressen.
Lee Charron: How would you describe what Speed Wheels represented in the 80’s skateboarding scene?
Eric Dressen: I think they just represented the best. The best wheel formula, the best team, the best shapes, the best graphics- the graphics are still to this day the best wheel graphics ever.
It's funny you say that because I was thinking about this question like you know Speed Wheels is just sort of a huge family of riders, but some people were like- you were an OJ guy and whereas like Roskopp was a Slimeballs guy, Salba was a Bullet guy. There’s like a division and no division, ya know?Yeah, sometimes they’d send you Bullets or something else or just OJ’s, but I always represented Speed Wheels as an OJ guy.
What do you think made Speed Wheels different from everything else that was happening at that time?
I think the team and the focus on it and the product, the ads and graphics.
How did you get on OJ originally?
Originally, I rode a pair of OJ’s the first time out in early '77. My friend Carlos had a paper route and he saved up and bought OJ’s right when they came out- the orange ones. He was skatin’ by, and I was like “let me try your board” cause I’d seen the ads at the skatepark and a couple days later I was like “hey let me borrow your wheels for a couple days.” I gave them back so worn out because I had just skated non-stop Saturday and Sunday. I just skated for miles, skated everything and gave ‘em back and they were all worn out. I feel bad to this day.
You could feel a physical performance difference in OJ’s?
Yeah, and I think with OJ’s and being on the team, I got so much support from them, they were the first- I mean I got on OJ in like 1987 right when my skate career was taking off and they were the first brand to pay me to ride for them, support me and give me photo incentive and give me regular boxes monthly and I could call anytime day or night and they’d answer my call, that was Richard Metiver.
Yeah, so you talked how Metiver was kind of your wheel team manager?
Yeah, he was the one that put me on the team. OJ was always in my corner, when there was a contest, they were in my corner. He was super supportive of me and that’s why if you look at a lot of my old pictures, I’m always wearing OJ t-shirts. I always got stickers on my boards. I always felt like I was part of something. I could call anytime, or he would just call me out of the blue. When I was at a contest he was in my corner for my runs. OJ gave me my first ever video part Speed Freaks.
How long did you get to film for Speed Freaks?
I think it might’ve been two days. I just got a call Roskopp and Tony Roberts were coming down and to meet up with them and film some stuff for a little promotional video - I didn’t know it was going to be a full-blown video, I thought it was just going to be a short video they sent to shops with some of the riders on it, to play on the VCR. Then Tony Roberts and Roskopp showed up so I took them to all the spots I normally skated on a daily basis. Went and skated Kenter banks, went and skated a rail, went and bombed a hill, went, and skated Venice, skated the Vans mini ramp behind the shoe factory, then went and skated a pool I had going at the time. Little did I know that video part was going to be something that I’d always be remembered for.
I went and found all of Tony Roberts raw tapes from that, so I have like twenty-five minutes of footage of you, there’s some good unseen stuff.
That was a fun experience because I had never really done follow footage, like occasionally people would have a video camera and would just stand there and film you and you’re lucky if you ever get to see it. But like Tony- we were at Kenter School, and he was like “oh I want to follow you and next thing you know I’m like hauling ass and he’s keeping up with me and I was like hell yeah this is sick, I could go as fast I can, it was cool. We were just trying to get as much footage as we could in a really short time.
Is there any Speed Wheels ads from that era that were most memorable to you or stick out to you as being super rad?
Probably the one of that became the Santa Cruz Rip Blip with me, Hosoi and Natas doing triples at Venice High. That was one of my first ads I ever got in Thrasher- an OJ Wheels ad.
That was super insane, wasn’t there a lenticular sticker where it moved when you moved it.
Yeah, that’s the Rip Blip, they called it a Rip Blip and that was me, Natas and Hosoi.
Back then did the riders have any input into their ads?
Yeah, they’d always want a quote, that was the thing about if you had an OJ ad, you had to come up with a quote, and that’s hard- that’s why I think some of them were really silly or they were super good. I think one of mine was ‘Blaze All Terrains’ and OJ uses it to this day.
Did you have a particular wheel that you feel like stuck out that you rode all the time?
I always rode OJ Team Riders, I loved OJ Team Riders, the first ones and the second ones I always rode those. I like the shape and the formulas- they were just the best and the fastest, I love that wheel.
Do you have one memory at a contest or filming for the video or anything that you feel like epitomizes your time with OJ?
Just filming for Speed Freaks. I didn’t have any pressure on me, I could just go out and skate and that was like my normal day. I'd wake up early before everybody because everyone went out the night before and partied, but I would always stay home because I always wanted to be fresh for the next day. I had my little daily routine, and that’s what Speed Freaks was, my daily routine. I end up getting to film all that for my Speed Freaks part.
The Art of the Santa Cruz Speed Wheel will be on view at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History through January 2, 2022. Throughout the fall, go to Juxtapoz.com for exclusive stories from the skaters, artists and brand managers on the history of Speed Wheels.