Viejo Guerrero #5: Charles ‘Chuck’ Amparan

Charles’ VG came out in November of 2008, nearly four years ago! At the bottom of this article you will find a gallery displaying Charles’ many Shitty Custom Skateboards that he hand crafted and decorated. Some pretty awesome shit(ty) I must say. Enjoy the interview…

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I want to thank the Ho-man for really going out of the way and delivering his best Viejo Guerrero yet. He even got quotes from other notable AZ skateboarders to reminisce about the one of the Valley’s true skateboarding institutions: Charles ‘Chuck’ Amparan. I myself fully give Charles credit for ruining my life-and at the same time-saving it. Chuck turned me onto skateboarding. He gave me my first set-up (I still got the blue Gullwing trucks)! Charles took me to my first pool, ramp and street session. So Chuckie, THANK YOU. And fuck you at the same time.

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Photo: Pete Johnston

When did you start skating?
I started skating in 1975 at the age of 7. My cousins had skateboards. They had their boards one day and said ‘how many 360’s can you do? I tried it and went 180 and fell on my ass. They laughed, so I said “Can you do this? I pushed as fast as I could along the sidewalk and carved down and up the curb in front of my house. That X-mas, I woke up in my bed with a little plastic board, what’s weird is that it wasn’t under the tree, it was in my bed. I rode that board for the next three years. In ’78 my neighbor Kevin came back from Cali saying “you still riding that little thing? He told me how he saw these huge boards with super wide trucks. He exaggerated a bit, holding his hands two feet apart, describing the width of the board. I was on a mission to get a big skateboard. I found a 7ply Variflex at a Walgreens and never rode plastic decks again.

You have been a part of the JFA team forever. How did that come about?
In 1986 I went to a skateboard contest at Jeff Popour’s ramp. A bunch of pros came out. That was the first contest that I entered. I didn’t qualify, but I skated in the same heat as Brian Brannon. He noticed my logo on my t- shirt and asked what it was. I said it’s a joke flower. I think he liked it so I said I would draw something for the new zine, “Bow to No Man” my friend Richard “Zuke” Zuccarello skated in the B class and won. I convinced Brian to put “Zuke” on the JFA team. We kept in touch, and more contests, sessions, shows kept going on until the International Skate Association held a three week contest. The contest was two qualifiers and a final. I got third at each event. After that I was on the JFA team. I had heard JFA since I was in eighth grade. I went on to see them at the “Our Neighbors Suck” house, play a gig during my freshman year in ’83. There was a ramp in the backyard and the JFA guys were having what looked like a private session, because when we went in the back they shut the lights off. That didn’t stop anyone from skating. I heard someone knocked the extension chord out causing the lights to go off.

So Charles, back in September of ’88 you and a bunch of Phoenix locals were featured in an article called Skatetown. It was written by the infamous Brian Brannon of JFA. Getting in Thrasher was huge, were you stoked?
Yeah, I was stoked. What tripped me out the most was seeing my picture as the two page spread. Doing a photo shoot with Mofo was a big deal, but I didn’t think I would get a spread shot. My dad was proud of me, my friends were stoked also. I was visiting a friend of mine and his little sister had my picture on her wall. It was surreal.

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Photo: Pete Johnston

You have had a lot of crazy skate sessions, Would you like to share one of your memories with us?
I went with the JFA team for a vert ramp contest in Las Vegas in 1988. Actually the whole trip was memorable for a lot of reasons. During the jam format practice Brian Brannon was doing the sickest frontside one wheelers smacking his truck on the way back in. I knew about when he would end his line so I would go after him. Total snake session going. After one of my runs, Pat Nogho said “you JFA dudes are pool skaters huh…I can just tell”. I looked at him funny and was gonna say something when he added “I just think that’s so fucking rad!” We were done at the ramp for the day so we took what seemed like the longest car ride in history to go skate the Blue Tile Lounge .Another snake session ensued, I was in the shallow end, I looked right at Jon Fabriquer’s board as it hit me right between the eyes. He bailed in the deep end shooting his board out from under him. It was just went so fast. The whole session stopped, I looked around and took a run as blood poured down my face….A few hours later that night after getting stitches at the hospital, Jon came over to our hotel room and made a peace offering. That was cool of him, he wanted to know I was alright.

Chuck-5-787558In November of 97′ you made it in Thrasher again. You placed second in the vert contest at the Warp Tour. That had to be cool skating in front of that many people. How was it?
For that contest, we had to go to Cali. We were skating for the AZ semi-finals, but they had to put it on in cali for some strange reason. Just standing on the vert ramp deck was epic. There was a stage at each end of the velodrome, the ramp was off to one side in the middle. I hung out up there most of the day, watching the bands, drinking beer, having a very good time. For the contest, the skaters from Cali and AZ all went at the same time. Two of the AZ guys didn’t skate when their names were called but I just gave my best effort, didn’t bail hoping I wouldn’t come in last. The best part was the pro demo. New guys, old guys just ripping.

 

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Photo: Pete Johnston

 

 

We’ve done some gnarly downhilling…Fountain Hills and South Mountain. Your knee has been a little skecthy so you haven’t been able to go. Do you miss hitting the hills?
Most definitely, I miss the rush. Downhilling is the pure essence of skateboarding. I really took for granted how demanding physically it really is to bomb hills. I don’t mean cruising, I mean throwing down a tuck and going as fast as you can. Sometimes I wouldn’t even take the first run casually. Then I wrecked three times in the span of a month. My helmet should have 2 bushes and a mailbox on it. I will most likely pick it up again now that summer is over.

 

 

Donnie went the extra mile and got some quotes about the Chuckster from 3 generations of some of Arizona’s finest skateboarders. We’ll start with the ‘young crowd, fellas!’…I know Charles knows where that one came from….

From Josh Heath:
I think the first time I ever skated cactus banks was around 86 or so, my brother took me there, and we were calling them the “army banks”. Other skaters were always there, so I guess it was a pretty popular spot. In my perspective, this was one of my first skateparks, before there were actually skateparks. To me, and I’m sure a lot of others… it has always been a very special spot. This is the place where I first ran in to Mikey Williams & Jason Lemankiewicz, some time around 1990 we became a crew, and did our best to skate & destroy every corner of the valley.

Fast forward now to ’96 or ’97 or so… The three of us all work at sk8 shops, and lived near Cactus banks which we’d been sk8ing them every day, usually by ourselves. Sk8ing wasn’t too popular at the time, so we may have kinda felt like we knew all the only real locals. On the particular day I’m thinking about right now, we were sk8ing a yellow trashcan on the top of the bank that was formed by the truck ramp. It was probably hot that day… (I don’t know for sure), but it seems like we kept taking breaks, sitting perched at the top of the opposite bank that was our runway, and we noticed this crew of people making their way up towards us from Peoria down the center of the banks. They were kinda ominous looking, from far away. Too far away too recognize faces, but they were all dressed in black. The way their style was, and because we were in such a large, empty urban area, I think they seemed like a cross between mad max apocalypse people, and the daggers; carving, and tick tacking down a empty LA street. As they got closer, we could hear their tunes, there was maybe five of them, three chicks I think, and two dudes, one of the chicks was holding a boombox on her shoulder, I cant remember what the hell they were rockin now, but It had to have been some frickin punk. The girls were walking and the dudes were skating. We might have clowned on them to ourselves as they approached; after all, it was 90’s & mall punx had quickly been replacing all the legit punx from the 80s. We’d never seen these people before, so we were probably kinda thinkin’ they were posers. They weren’t! They’d been around for what seemed like a lot longer than us, and they were legit! The main thing I remember was Dan Lowe. Holy Shit!! This dude ollied the whole truck ramp! He was doing the first popshuvit tailgrabs I’d ever seen in person over the trash can, so high and powerful… I had never seen anyone skate like this, his style wasn’t necessarily old skool, but it showed history, and he definitely schooled us! There was nothing old about it. He had years beyond me on his board, and it was obvious, a true power rider. Charles Amparan was there too. He was sk8ing also, their boards had spray painted stencils on the grip tape that said “Shitty” I think it was in cursive. These guys were pure inspiration… They were the shit!

It’s weird how you can inhabit a area for such a long time, and never run in to certain people, but then after one such chance occurrence, they seem to be everywhere you go. After a little while I began to see the “Shitty” guys, and their “entourage” all over the place. They were regulars at Trent’s ramp, I’d see them at parties, “worlds greatest show” contests and they even showed up for the legendary “Korny” demo.

Well, another 10 years or so has passed since those days, and I’m happy to say, I still run into these dudes at heated sessions, and at backyard parties. They have stayed true to their art, and continue to progress, Dan Lowe still has long lost secret maneuvers, tucked way high up his sleeves, and he can reveal them on demand, at any time, proper, with the same powerful, and inspiring style. And Charles Amparan still sprays Shitty on his grip tape, but now he skates decks that he himself has made (maybe he was making them already back then…not quite sure)… A true DIY artist! Shitty Custom Skateboards is a underground reality!

Chuck at the legendary Nude Bowl Photo: Pete Johnston
Chuck at the legendary Nude Bowl

From Wrex Cook:
What can one paragraph say about Charles? The man should have a book written about him. I suppose that I’ll just tell a story about him instead. My favorite story to tell is actually the first time that I met him. I can’t remember the contest, but I remember it being thrown by the West Coast Connection crew out on the west side of Phoenix in ’83 or ’84. Everyone was getting in their practice runs on the course and I see this dude skating on the other side of the course.
People were skating all over the place, but one guy stuck out of the crowd like a thistle on a golf course. He was doing the weirdest array of tricks. You know, the kind of tricks that make you wonder if he was a little mental or something. A flurry of obscure foot plants and odd street plants with a whole bunch of slides and slashes in between. Definitely not the stuff we saw in the mags. This guy was in his own world. So the contest gets started and Charles is called to start his run. So far the contest has run in the traditional manner where each skater is trying to impress the judges with their imitation of what is going on in the magazines and on videos at that era. Not Charles. The announcer calls out Charles name and we look over at Charles and see him placing a pile of dirt on the nose of his board. We look at each other and wonder what the hell this guy is doing. Suddenly he starts pushing at his launch ramp next to the judges table really fast. He hits the ramp and does a method air and ejected the dirt off of his board directly into the faces of the judges!! Everyone busted up and howled!! Needless to say, he didn’t get a good score, but that’s not why Charles skates. While everyone was trying to impress the judges, Charles was trying to give them the finger. His style was completely individual and extremely punk. He didn’t care about glory, stats and style. His skateboarding was a personal art form and he never let anyone influence it. I have more stories about Charles & our JFA touring days but this is my favorite by far. I have a lot of respect for Charles and I am honored to be one of his friends.

Chuck-6-787487From Joey Albillar:
I’m a newcomer to the ‘friends of Charles club’. I first met Charles during the infamous downhilling sessions in Fountain Hills. We went through a phase where we would take a few downhill runs and then the coolers would break open and the beer caps would pop like the fourth of July fireworks! We would drink beers while we were downhilling, start with a full beer at the top of the run and have an empty beer at the bottom. Not too long after that, the artificial confidence would really set in. We would start higher and higher up the hills so we could go faster and faster. Charles and I hadn’t taken the most killer hill ‘Golden Eagle’. 18 percent grade warning from the top yet but we were in condition that day to take on the Grim Reaper. Grim must have been occupied draining the backwash out of our empties, or couldn’t catch us, because Charles and I survived bombing Golden Eagle from the top hitting speeds of at least 45mph!

From Donnie ‘Ho’ Crist:
To me, Charles is the valley of the suns version of Jeff Ho. He shapes it and he rides it. His boards are anything but ‘Shitty’. Charles has a multitude of shapes that are beautiful and functional. And he can ride those mutha fuckas! Charles is the real deal and a true Viejo Guerrero!

Editor’s Note:
I don’t know if it’s the Ho’s fault, but editing this thing was a true nightmare, the only person to have perfect spelling and punctuation was Wrex Cook. The rest of you need to go back to school, fools!

Charles Amparan’s Shitty Custom Skateboards Gallery

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