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Viejo Guerrero #6: Richard Zuccarello

zukeheaderFS_One_Footer-205x300Article first ran in 2010 – Introduction to the Introduction: I skated my first ramp with Zuke (The Taco Ramp with Charles, Pete and I think Ruben). Later that day I skated my first pool with Zuke. Rich, Charles and Pete sat there and egged me on until I made it over the light for the first time. That was my introduction to skateboarding and it set a foundation for me on what skateboarding was all about that I have carried with me for the past 26 years. It didn’t matter how good (or bad) someone was at skateboarding, they were just happy to spread the skate stoke. No cliques, no images, just pure skateboarding. Those simple, basic values I have carried a long way. -Rob Locker
Introduction: I first met The Zuke in the era when backyard ramps ruled the day. They were littered around in all areas of the Valley of the Sun. Every major neighborhood had more that a few, some good, most not so good, but I bet Rich rode more of them than anyone. Every area had its locals but Richard never really played that game. It didn’t take me long to figure out that if I was skating a ramp somewhere in town there was a pretty good chance that Rich would be showing up in short order. He was 100% skate rat right from the beginning. He didn’t even live anywhere near my neighborhood but he rode a lot of the ramps there more than the locals did… Mountain Ramp, Miller Ramp, Cardello’s ramp. Swinehagen’s. A couple years later Thrasherland and Tower Skatepark opened up. You could pull into Tower on a 115 degree day and there would be Rich holding it down on the big spine ramp all by himself.
There were a lot of guys that were really good around this time but Rich was the first person I really identified with. The first time I remember seeing him skate I was thinking, maybe out loud, “Where’s the fire buddy?!” Rich had a way of taking a trick and making it almost a whole new trick by pushing it to the absolute limit. I mean, why do a smith grind 3 feet when you can step on the gas and hurl yourself into one that goes 15 feet? He was always one of my favorite guys to watch or session with because it was always ALL THE WAY LIVE. You were guaranteed to get the full Zuke Experience every time; he does not do “cruise control”. What I learned from Rich was this, when you are having trouble with something it is almost always better to do it bigger and faster and it’ll usually work out! If not, well that just makes it more exciting for everyone watching. So, where’s the fire?? It’s still burning in guys like The Zuke. All The Way Live AZ-Boy. -Chris Kelley

The-Zuke-Graphic-Final-Flattened11. When did you start skating? I started skateboarding in 1979.
2. So you hail from Long Island, NY. When did you move to AZ? I moved to Arizona in 1978 at the age of 8.
3. My buddy Charles Amparan say’s you guys met in high school. What school was it? Charles and I met at Apollo High School.
4. Will you tell us a story about the infamous Taco Ramp? Ah yes the taco ramp how could I forget. That’s where it all began for me. Lets see it was my freshman year at Apollo back in 1985 I believe. Charles Amparan was the only skateboarder at our school at the time. I thought Charles was cool because he had the word “FEAR” written on his black and white Converse. He rode his board around campus and he did sweepers off the hoods of cars in the school parking lot. Charles was and still is very punk rock by the way. I asked him if I could go skating with him over the summer and he agreed. Charles took me to the legendary taco ramp where I met the one and only Pete Johnston, or the ”Taco Man” as they would say. The ramp was 12 foot wide and 9 foot tall with 10 foot tombstones. I could not have asked for a better ramp to learn on. I was super stoked because the ramp was only 1/2 mile from my house. We put together a crew of guys including Pete Johnston, Charles Amparan, Ruben De Clay, Rob “Psycho” Locker, myself and good ol’ Wayne. We had many sessions at the ramp over the next couple of years. I began to progress very quickly and before you knew it Pete was taking us to ramps, pools, pipes, banks, ditches, demos and contests everywhere. We even went to punk rock shows like JFA and the Circle Jerks. This was around the time that my skateboarding career began and I owe it all to guys like Pete, Charles and most importantly to the Taco Ramp itself.
5. So I understand you won the Jeff Popour Ramp contest. What was going on in your head after that? Yes I got 1st place at Popour’s. It was the first time I was able to put together a solid run in a contest. I skated against Chris Livingston and as I remember the judging was very close. In my opinion Chris and I were tied for first. Just sayin!
6. Brian Brannon asked you to ride for JFA after the Metro Demo. Is that how it went? Yes that was how it went. Charles was already riding for JFA at the time and he encouraged me to skate in the demo. Earlier that week I learned how to pull a “Gay Twist” so I just showed up, skated pretty good and did several gay twist’s in the demo. I think Brian Brannon was impressed with my skating so right before the show started he introduced me as the newest JFA Team rider. He also dedicated the song “Skateboard” to me, which was the first song in their set. When the band began to play we started slamming and stage diving. As you can imagine the energy level was high. It was definitely a night to remember.
7. Flash forward to 1988. You got a shot in Thrasher doing a frontside boneless @ Thrasherland. What other memories do you have of Thrasherland? I skated Thrasherland for many years. We were Westsiders and Thrasherland was our home park. T-land had a snake run, a full-pipe, a 6-foot tall mini ramp, a 3-foot tall mini ramp with a spine and two vert ramps. I remember one summer at Thrasherland they had a mini-ramp contest series. It was a total of five consecutive contests. I ended up placing 2nd overall.
8. I hear you skated for Gordon & Smith Skateboards. How did that come about? Henry Hester who was team manager for Gorden & Smith at the time attended one of the Thrasherland contests. Later he told a team rider named Cody Boat that he was interested in sponsoring me. Pete and I drove to the factory in San Diego to meet with Henery Hester and the owner of G&S Larry Gordon himself. Long story short they ended up putting me on the team that day. It was my first major board sponsor. Before I left I got chance to meet my favorite skateboarder of all time the legendary Neil Blender. Neil was upstairs in the art department working on some of those crazy stickers. This was around the time I began skating in N.S.A and C.A.S.L contests.
9. So how long did that last? I rode for G&S for about 5 years from 1987–1992.
10. I hear you were a big influence on Chad Muska @ Tower Skatepark. Would you like to elaborate on that? Sure. First of all I would like to say that Chad Muska is an all around great guy. Chad and I were introduced by a girl I was dating who lived in Sunnyslope where Chad grew up. She was always saying, “You have to see this little kid Chad skate he is so good!” Finally Chad and I became friends. We skated local spots like Tower and the Jai-lai Courts over on 24th Street. Chad was very young at the time. I think he was probably in 6th grade when we met. The first trick I saw Chad do was an ollie impossible and I was pretty dam impressed. I did not realize that I had influenced Chad until years later when he talked openly about it during an interview he did (long after he made it big). Looking back now I realize that I impacted a kid’s life who turned his own life around and impacted millions of kids lives. I can live with that. I am very proud of Chad and what he has achieved in skateboarding. Period!

11. You skated for AZP (Arizona Pride Skateshop). When did that come about? I began skating for AZP back in 1991. They had a shop in Tempe and a shop in Flagstaff. AZP owner and good friend Brian Harper built a sick portable half-pipe on a trailer that was pulled by a Hummer. We had a GREAT team of riders Randy Colvin, Colby Carter, Chris Livingston, Dave Palmer, Chris Farrell, Jeff Ferris and myself along with many others. AZP hosted a variety of events including some Mill Avenue block parties, a Lenny Kravitz concert, a beer festival in Flagstaff and even a frat party in Tempe once. Those were definitely the good old days.
12. You rode for those guys for a while. How was it? I rode for AZP for about 7 years.
13. So how did you end up in Venice California? By the mid 1990’s? Living life in the fast lane finally caught up with me. So in 1998, I left Arizona and moved to Los Angeles to start my life over. I ended up renting a small apartment on Venice Beach right around the corner from Jesse Martinez. You have to earn respect in that neighborhood and it took me several years!! Then one day I found myself skating with legends like Jay Adams, Jim Muir, Steve Olson, Christian Hosoi, Eric Dressen and many others. In the summer of 2005 Eric Britton and I went up to Mammoth Lakes to skate in a mini-ramp contest. I ended up taking first place in the contest and got sponsored by LIB Tech that same day. I should also mention that Eric killed it and took second place. During that time I also rode for Dark Horse Distribution (Grind King), Pep Wheels and Old Star Skate Shop in Santa Monica. I am not sure if it was the ocean air or the friends of Bill W. but somehow my life slowly got better. Finally in November of 2008 I decided to move back to Arizona to buy a house and to be close to my family and friends once again.
14. How did you hook up with Old Star? One day while riding the bus I discovered a mini-ramp that was being built in a church parking lot in Santa Monica. I told a few people about the ramp and the word spread quickly. One day I met a guy there named Jim Callens the soon to be owner of Old Star. Jim told me that he wanted to open a skate shop in Santa Monica and he asked me if I would like to be a part of it. Less than one year later “Old Star Skateboard Shop & Ramp Factory” opened its doors in Santa Monica. I ended up being the team manager for the shop. We had a nice mini ramp there with a wall ride that went up the side of the building, it was pretty sick. We had many BBQ’s and skate demo’s there over the years. Each demo we would invite a different team like Grind King, Baker, Consolidated, Millenium, Black Label, 151, etc. As you can imagine some sick skating went down at Old Star. I still see Jim from time to time and we try to skate whenever we can.
15. So when you moved back to Phoenix all of a sudden there are a shit load of killer skate parks. Were you stoked? What are your favorites? Yes I was definitely very stoked! My favorite parks are Goodyear, Rio Vista and McDowell Mountain Ranch. Currently I am riding with a pretty big group of guys. We hit a different skate park each week. It’s a lot of fun.

Click to enter gallery
Click to enter gallery

16. Rob from AZPX is giving you a signature model. That’s a huge compliment. You gotta be diggin’ that. When does it come out? What got the ball rolling on this project? I agree it is a huge compliment and I am super stoked! The board comes out sometime in April. Rob and I threw the idea around for quite a while before we began working on it. AZPX team manager & photographer Pat McGinnis and I met one night to have dinner and to discuss the project. Pat and I agreed that the graphic should tell a story about my life and the places I have been. The two images that jumped out at us right away were the Phoenix Bird and the Dog Town style cross. The bird represents Phoenix, AZ where I grew up and symbolizes rebirth or renewal. The cross represents Venice, CA where my life took a new direction. Basically I lived it, Pat helped me visualize it and Rob the amazing artist drew it. We are VERY happy with the way the project has turned out.
17. I have heard about you for a while. We finally got to skate @ Goodyear. You killed it that night. What do you think about that kidney? I remember that session and thank you for the compliment. The Kidney at Goodyear is one of my favorite pools in Arizona by far. I have always enjoyed Kidney shaped pools mainly because the lines seem to flow endlessly and because I grew up skating similar pools at parks like Del Mar.
I’m having my 50th birthday party @ Goodyear in September. You have to be there and if you want to hook me up with one of your boards I won’t be upset. Thanks a lot for the interview. Keep ripping and good luck to you. Thank you Donny. I look forward to your birthday party. I will have a board ready for you. Take care until then.
Special thanks to Charles “Shitty” Amparan for helping me lay this out. -Donnie “Ho” Christ

Quick update December 2013:

The Zuke is still ripping harder than ever today. He is now the curriculum program director at Kids That Rip Skateboard School. Richard is currently training some the best young skateboarders in the country: Trey Wood and Jett & Jagger Eaton.

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