Originally published in January 2008, VG#3 is even more relevant today since Ping! has received some major coverage from Thrasher Magazine hailing his photo excursions of AZ’s fabled past:
This installment of Viejo Guerrero is for Arizona Master Skate Archivist Steve ‘Ping!’ Pingleton. I met Ping! at the Casa Grande Bowl ’bout ’89 or ’90 and we hit it off instantly. The dude was so far removed of what skateboarding “looked like” I knew immediately he was as hardcore as hc gets. Not only did this uber nerd carry a camera everywhere, he was also one the earliest computer artists, airbrush technicians and concert bootlegger. I wanted to grow up and be Ping! Needless to say that meeting turned into an endless barrage of skate missions, camping trips, concerts and epic parties. Ping! was stoked on how he could call me jonezin for pool info and I would always say “I’ll call you back in 5”, and the sesh was on! That’s enough of my Ping! ass kiss sesh. Here’s Donnie Ho’s interview of the mighty Ping! and some kill visuals to go along with it. Oh yeah, go to DesertPipes to check out Ping!’s archive.
1. How many years have you been skating?
A little over 30 years, since about 1976 or so. I never stopped during the great vert “black hole” of the late 80’s – 90’s when all the skate parks closed and vert skating died off. I skated downhill, pools, ramps, etc. to keep going.
2. When and where did you lose your vert-ginity? How was it?
We use to ride our bikes down alleys in grade school looking for pools. I think we had about 6-7 pools in four to five neighborhoods around my house growing up. We saw what was being done in the skateboarding magazines, so we took it from banks to pools pretty quickly. The first pool I really remember we called “Shaw Butte” pool. This pool was a nice round egg bowl with easy alley access. I remember some of my friends (Morgan, & Larry Mead) used to ride barefoot in that pool. I have some photos of Larry doing front side grinds and you can see his toes plus trucks. I tried skating barefoot and it did help to grip the board, but after getting bruised feet I went to leather moccasins then Vans when they came out. I remember my first big trick was front side carves over the light in my leather moccasins at Shaw Butte pool. Once I hit tile, then coping, I could never stop. It’s funny, thirty years later front side carve grinds are my favorite “soul” trick lately. What a long strange trip it’s been…
3. I remember skating the infamous “Dead Cat” pool with you and your brother John. You used to do those crazy airs off the love seat onto the side wall. Wouldn’t it be cool if one of the skate park builders would replicate that pool?
Yeah, those were good times! We rode that pool for five years straight. That pool was so unique, the massive size, the gnarly coping, the obstacles like the loveseats and a burned down mansion! Roman shaped pools are pretty rare. I have skated a few smaller back yard Romans but they were no where close to the Dead Cat experience. I think it would be a great design for a skate park bowl, i.e. round bowl, inverted loveseats in the corners, square sidewalls with more loveseats and death boxes. Dead Cat pool was truly a training ground for us all. It was so big and deep, you could go really fast on the super smooth plaster. You really had to have your shit together to ride there! I remember we all ripped that place up. You, Shelton, Joe Albilar, Jimi Howard, Morgan McCarthty, Slater, and my brother John. All the Westside/Litchfield crew, AZ legends were born there. I still have these excellent Dead Cat pool dreams like thirty years later. I will never forget that place.
4. I remember skating the desert pipes by Lake Pleasant, and then swimming at the flumes. Any comments on the Desert Pipe era?
The desert pipes were so epic, where do I even begin? The desert pipes really set us apart from Cal, especially in the 70s. We had the best skate terrain in the world. At first, at Lake Pleasant, we were just carving the huge pipelines, because we were riding pools and didnâ€™t know how to kick turn at high speeds. Once the pipes hit the magazines and the boys from Cal. came out and showed us how to ride the sections, it was on! The AZ locals caught on immediately. Those down hills were so fast and smooth you could go as high as you dared to go, and we did. Since the pipe projects were so remote it was cool to be able to skate pipes, swim in the CAP canals, camp and party in the desert which was all we wanted. Security was pretty weak, except in the Indian Reservations and we had lots of fun adventures. Lake Pleasant was close to Phoenix and the biggest project. It was the beginning of it all. I tried to document as much as I could on my website www.desertpipes.com. I have shared lots of photos from my personal stash as well as stories. I even put together a DVD of videos from my personal collection.
5. I think its rad that you and Joey had the fore site to capture those images and sessions with photos and video. I wish I would have saved some of my old skateboards and taken more pictures when I was young. What got you into photography?
Actually, it was the old school master skate photographers who first got me stoked on shooting skateboarding photos. Cassimus, Jim Goodrich, C.R. Stecyk III, Glen Friedman, Bryce Knaights. All those dudes who shot for the skate mags back then. Skateboarding photography was a challenge. The photo equipment was pretty primitive back then and good cameras were pretty expensive for us in High School/College. As far as video’s we felt lucky if someone could borrow their dad’s VHS cameras. I got my first 35mm camera from a friend name Mike Lanning about 1982 or so. Much respect to Mike, he was a great skate photographer and a big influence on me and Joe. I remember we built a darkroom at his apartment near Joe’s house and we all nearly died mixing fixer with no ventilation in 110 degrees during an Arizona summer heat. Joe Albillar went to High School with me and was a naturally talented skate photographer. He still continues to amaze me to this day. My mom was very supportive of me too. I hate to admit it, but I got busted in High School shoplifting film on my way to California with friends. My mom still let me go! I was poor but had to have skate photos. I did whatever it took I guess.
6. The High Roller days were awesome. We had some bionic sessions there. Do you remember skating the hell out of that place and then partying at North Mountain Park then going back to High Roller and skating all hammered?
OMG, dude you were there. How can we ever forget those days! Looking back we were so blessed to have the quality skate park we had. High Roller’s design was so far ahead of its time. It is one park that I would love to see replicated. The big full pipe/flat wall was as good if not better than the original Upland Pipeline Skate Park. They had much better bowls. Yeah I remember the raging keg parties at North Mountain Park in the 70’s & 80’s. The cops could not control it at all. Since we were all under age North Mountain/Shaw Butte were good party spots on the way to High Roller in Sunnyslope.
Crazy things I remember about High Roller were; huge follow the leader sessions in the free style area at night (10-20 people) jumping the fence at night to skate the clover bowl and pipeline under the street lights, skating drunk on top of roofs at Keg parties on North Mountain then back to the skate park. We also were lucky to have Skate in the Shade (12ft keyhole) in Tempe, Permanent Wave, Thrasherland and tons of banks and pools. High Roller was also such a proving ground for early AZ skaters. Even the pros from California came to respect us at the High Roller contest.
7. Now in the 21st century, living in the North West you get to ride some killer parks. How do you like skating those huge parks?
I moved from Phoenix to Seattle in 1994 (13 Years Ago) It was a huge lifestyle change for me. My entire AZ wardrobe was shorts & shirts. I froze my ass off when I first moved here!!
There were no pools here but good snowboarding and mountain biking which was a
good alternative for adrenalin fixes. About 2000-2002 Dreamland/Grindline
was born in West Seattle and they started building these sic/scary skate parks all over the pacific northwest. Looking back I think Seaskate at Seattle Center (11 ft combination bowl) the original Ballard Bowl (sweet 10ft combi bowl) & Sumner set the standards for all the epic skate parks we have now. One of the best sessions of my life was at Seaskate
(Seattle Center) during the Experience Music Project “Hey Punk” event in 2001, with Brian Brannon, Duane Peters & Tony Alva on a late summer day before the demo. I shot about seven hours of video during the three events from 2000-2002. I am just finishing up editing the DVD’s with all of the bands and skaters. The new parks rule, they just keep getting gnarlier. I have two full pipes over 18 feet within 1 hour of my house. The closest is 20 minutes away. Big cradles are way fun, Lincoln City is incredible, similar to Arlington and Goodyear. Portland has the raddest skate parks right now. Pier and Vancouver are so scary. It’s a good time to be alive and skateboarding!!!
8. Seeing you have skated in the last four decades, do you see a difference in the skate scene today as opposed to the 70’s & 80’s?
The major differences I see are in the equipment and the magazines. It really amazes me that there is so much money and emphasis now in street skating. Vert skating is making a comeback with the X-Games, Gravity Games, Concrete Rodeo and Oregon Trifecta. Those guys Burnquist, P.L.G. Sandro Diaz, Shawn White, Bucky, Danny Way, all risk their lives skating BIG vert walls!! But the big money goes to the street skaters doing flippy tricks over stairs and rails. (WTF?) Has the sport been totally sold out to the big corporations just to sell shoes and gear to poser kids from the suburbs? It seems like its more about the money now than the soul of the sport. Don’t get me wrong, I do respect street skaters for irritating the local cities enough to build the new generation of skate parks. It’s just the exploitation of the sport and commercialism I really hate. In the seventies we were the pioneers and it was all a rad new adventure. The eighties started out with cool skateboarding and Punk was in, then it died because of the greedy, paranoid adults. The nineties were the “great void” for us vert skaters. All of the skate parks were closed and street skating became popular. In the 21st century vert skating is being reborn with all the new terrain. I predict it will re-emerge on top again.
9. You’re a seasoned veteran and a true Viejo Guerrero. Any advice for the groms?
Respect the locals, watch and learn from everyone. Don’t follow fads or trends and do what feels right for you. Ride what works best for your style, screw what others say. Wear your pads and helmets because 20 years from now you’ll be glad you did. Safety equipment is cheaper than a trip to the hospital. Skating consistently with soul & style is way cooler than any flippy, or robo trick that you finally pull off after 20 tries. Above all, have fun because that’s what it’s all about.
10. Well Steve, you’ve skated over 30 years so far and you’re riding as good as ever. If you keep it up you could hit the half century mark. What do you think; do you have another twenty years in you?
Boy Don, I sure hope so bro! You know I just had shoulder surgery 6 weeks ago for a torn rotator cuff but I actually feel lucky compared to many skaters. For my age I have not had that many major injuries. I got nine stitches in my forehead by dropping my back truck into the death box on a front side air off of the loveseat at Dead Cat with no helmet. Joe A. drove me to the hospital. I dislocated my shoulder in 2003 but other than that I have had sprains, bruises and cuts but nothing major. I think vert skating is a really good aerobic exercise, especially pipe skating. I skate 2-3 times per week for one hour or more. I also snowboard a lot and do some mountain boarding and hiking. My body really needs the hard exercise, and the adrenaline is really the best drug. I hope to be skateboarding as long as my old body can handle it. Vert skating can be brutal, but with all the (sic) new skate parks being built it’s just way to stay stoked on life and I will keep skateboarding everything as long as I can…peace…