Speed Wheels Stories: A Conversation with Jay Howell
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 artist and animator, Jay Howell.
Lee Charron: What did Speed Wheels represent for you in 80’s skateboarding?
Jay Howell: I think it was a perfect companion to skateboard deck graphics and t-shirts and the whole look of it all together. I feel like Speed Wheels and the whole Santa Cruz/NHS wheel family, you had Hosoi’s, you had Bullet’s, you had Slimeballs, you had OJ Team Riders, which are such sick graphics. I feel it represents such a nostalgic piece of skateboarding. I love that stuff.
Is there a favorite ad of yours that you had from that time? My very first Thrasher mag I ever got it had that ad with the Slimeball wheel in the guy’s nose with the nose hairs coming out. That ad just seared into my brain. I was like “that’s the fucking grossest thing I’ve ever seen, I love it.”
For me there was a Slimeballs ad, I think it was Roskopp throwing up on a wheel. I got sick to my stomach as a kid when I saw that. Roskopp is barfing like chili or something all over the wheel. When I was younger, I really hated seeing people throw up, so I remember that one a lot.
Did you have a particular wheel that you rode back in the day, a Speed Wheel that you really liked?
Yeah absolutely, I rode a ton of different Speedwheels. I definitely had a lot of Slimeballs back in the day, OJ Team Riders and some Bullet 66’s.
All the ads always had like funny tag lines, like ‘Ride the Terrain Insane,’ do you remember any of that stuff?
I remember seeing all that stuff, I was just there for all of it dude. I loved looking at the mags. I liked the art of skateboarding just as much as I liked skateboarding, so I was like if these guys are saying that this stuff is cool, I was there for it.
Did you have a particular rider that you were like “yeah, that dude”?
Oh, damn man, I was always wondering about Natas. It's really cool that all the behind-the-scenes stuff is coming back from that Speed Freaks video. I recently saw the Neil Blender’s behind the scenes footage. I recently saw the Tim Jackson behind the scenes footage. I think Speed Freaks was like my favorite skate movie, maybe of all time. Top five for sure.
I was actually talking to Dressen about it, and he was like yeah, they filmed that his Speed Freaks part in two days and he said, “I was just skating all my spots I always skated and it’s crazy that that’s what I’m known for, they just told me they were coming down to film, and we filmed this thing in two days.”
That Speed Freaks video especially was just super, super cool, like the Tim Jackson part, a little Alan Peterson part, Dressen’s part, Tom Knox part is sick, everyone in that video and on that team was sick.
Yeah, it's crazy- and this is what I’ve found out in these interviews is how the team was so massive, different board sponsors but it was all the gnarliest dudes on this one wheel team, it was really crazy. You have any other special Speed Wheels memories?
I think they should bring back the OJ Team Riders full blast. I think those wheels are sick. I think that’s long overdue for sure. Mostly I just loved seeing the graphics work so well with the wheels and the wheels were just like mini skateboards, like you can have whatever board but if you had Speed Wheels you were part of cool skateboarding. I’m such a Jim Phillips fan, such an NHS fan, so whatever the graphics were on- a deck, a wheel, a tee- I was just excited about it.
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.