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In the late 1970s, as an original member of the Dogtown skateboard gang in Southern California, Stecyk changed the look and attitude of skateboarding forever. As a result of familial and neighborhood connections in the Venice and Santa Monica areas of Los Angeles, Stecyk grew up around car customizers and auto style progenitors like George Barris, Dutch Darrin, Gil Ayala, Ed “Big Daddy” Roth, Von Dutch Howard, Phil Hill, Dean Jeffries and Ed Iskenderian, as well as legendary surfers and board builders Dave Sweet, Dale Velzy, Miklos Dora and Greg Noll.
Beginning his career as a surfboard designer and graphic artist while working out of the small Zephyr surf shop, Stecyk is considered one of the first to incorporate many outlaw elements of surf and skate culture into the equipment and attendant gear. He is perhaps best known as a documentary photographer. His articles and photo essays for Skateboarder magazine in the 1970s set a standard for throngs of rebellious individualists to follow. This original documentation of the mid 1970s Dogtown scene altered the lives of a generation, inspiring confidence and encouraging the rebel instinct to flourish. It was through Stecyk’s photographs that the modern skateboarder archetype was brought to light.
Since then, Stecyk has continued his documentary recordings, immersing himself in Southern California’s surf, hot rod and low rider scenes. In 1993, he curated the highly successful exhibition, Kustom Kulture, at the Laguna Art Museum, which featured such seminal underground artists as Robert Williams, Von Dutch and Roth. Stecyk also organized Surf Culture: The Art History of Surfing, was a founding member of the Juxtapoz magazine collective, and was the production designer and writer of the Sundance Film Festival award-winning Dogtown and Z-Boys.
There is a character in literature and myth known as the TRICKSTER. The trickster represents disruption, mischief and paradox. He is both creator and destroyer, a divine fool who sets out to crush the status quo but his lack of reverence for the status quo makes him dangerous. I believe Craig Stecyk is skateboarding’s preeminent trickster. He came into this life armed with a photographic eye, an uncanny ability to communicate through writing and a giant chip on his shoulder. Craig grew up in Santa Monica and Venice which in the 70s was considered a dead-zone for surfing or skating talent. Craig felt otherwise and set out to prove it through his photographs, his writing and mostly through desire to instigate and stir things up. The first time I saw Craig he was sitting cross-legged on a stool behind the counter in the Zephyr shop drinking a tall can of Budweiser from a plastic straw. He already had a formidable reputation from his published writings and photos in Surfer Magazine. Rumor had it that his IQ was off the charts, that he had a photographic memory and that he was continually at odds with teachers and anyone else in authority. Supposedly he spent a great deal of time in school forced to sit in the corner with his face to the wall. When skating began to explode in 73/74, Craig was in the thick of it; hopping fences, running from cops, clicking away his camera and relishing all the problems he could foment through his writings and photos. He saw skateboarding as a rebellion led by creative disgruntled youth, as an anti-sport and as an art form that feasted on the leftovers of modern civilization. Alva, Adams, myself and all the other Z Boys are indebted to him for the incredibly brave and creative work he did on our behalf. There wouldn’t be a Dogtown if not for Craig. Craig discovered us, defined us and introduced us to ourselves. Big shout out to Craig Stecyk who is still causing problems……..Tony Friedkin photo.– May 24th 2023 Stacy Peralta wrote this great tribute to Craig Stecyk: