(Sept. 28, 1941 – Oct. 3, 2023)
Very sad to hear of the passing of Dave Dash. He was the editor, director and publisher in charge of Skateboarder Magazine, and he was the guy who corralled all the great photographers that made our sport the visual feast that it is. We were in contact this year through his siblings and I sent him one of my Poolaroid books which really is a tribute to his work at Skateboarder. Sadly, I never got a personal reply as his faculties didn’t allow it. He was a Porsche owner and restorer too. You might remember him from the UK Documentary Skateboard Kings.Mark ‘Trawler’ Lawer
Rest in peace Dave
THANK YOU, DAVE DASH, you changed my life.
Meeting Dave Dash changed my life. Thank you, Dave. Or actually, maybe it was our mutual love of Porsches. But kindly allow me to digress.
I graduated from the University of Colorado with a triple business degree in the summer of 1976. I also was a test rider for Kryptonics skateboard wheels in Boulder, Colorado. But I was leaving Colorado to go to the only law school in America that accepted me out of the thirteen I applied to…Cal Western in San Diego. At least it was accredited.
I sold my split-window 1966 VW bus camper in Boulder and had inherited a spiffy Mazda with the smooth-purring rotary engine. It was old but was navy blue with a white canvas top and a sunroof. Fast and silky. (“and the Mazda goes hmmmm.”) That summer I drove around greater So. Cal. peddling Kryptos out of my trunk to whatever surf shop was willing to try them. Kryptonics was new to the west coast and the brand was little known or suspicious at best.
Kryptonics? Really? Sometimes I’d explain that Kryptonics was the “o.g.” urethane company and toss out scientific words like “resiliency” and “durometer”. I tried to impress but I hated going door to door doing sales regardless of how much I loved the product. Fall came and I moved to San Diego.
I had no connection previous to the surf or skate world. I was just another wannabe gromet that grew up looking at the magazines like everyone else. Truth be told, my real love was bodysurfing The Wedge in Newport Beach in big surf during a Baja swell in late August. I followed my older brother, who had shaped his own surfboard and took me to San Onofre. We were both kooks. I was never a shredder. But doing the Dawn Patrol and hitting Jack-in-the-Box for a Bonus Jack and a couple of tacos afterwards made me feel like I was one. My dad had gone to Harvard Law following WWII and I really didn’t know what else to do after college so I applied to law school and found one that would have me. But my heart was never in it.
I much preferred pumping my longboard (with Red Kryptos) up and down the boardwalk in Mission Beach from the jetty in South Mission, past Belmont, all the way to the PB pier without ever touching the ground. My best friend, Bill Rathbone, and I would study in beach chairs on the sand. He was a ski racer from Vermont. He was dedicated. Disciplined. I was neither. I farted around my first year in law school while loving my small business, Pelican Promotions.
I played by the first-year rules and didn’t use the popular Gilbert’s outlines on each subject. Instead I briefed every case as I was told. If I had a do-over, I’d use Gil’s in a San Diego minute. I drove 100 miles a day after school throughout San Diego county giving away Kryptos to hot skaters who were getting magazine coverage. I met the king of cool, Gregg Weaver, quite accidentally through his stepdad who ran the liquor store beneath my flat on Mission Blvd. My first legitimate connection.
We started getting the coveted magazine coverage which opened doors for other skaters to come on board from the streetstyle skate world and the racing world. We were breaking into the market. I was busy. But it came at a price.
I flunked out after my first year and was allowed to return if I resigned from being Vice President of the Student Bar Association. I was too embarrassed to return in the fall. “There’s Morin, too much of a dumbass to keep his office.” So, it was time to take some time off. Dad was not pleased. He had paid my first-year tuition. Now he wanted it paid back in full if I didn’t finish.
Pops could never really could fathom my lifestyle. I sold enough skateboard wheels that first year in law school to buy a second-hand Porsche and a second-hand sailboat in Oceanside. (I got a small commission for every wheel shipped to California where most of the national distributors were. It was a lot of wheels.)
I was never a true academic so being in the skate world was way more fun than academia. I thrived. I loved it and it loved me.
I was at La Costa, Signal Hill, the Catalina Classic, the Capitola Classic, all the Pro Bowl series, cracked a rib skating Spring Valley, skated drainage ditches in Hawaii, I loved the whole scene. Jim Ford would produce the world-class Krypto ads in Boulder and I was the boots-on-the-ground guy doing promotion. We made a good team.
One of the highlights, for sure, was waterman/skater Henry Hester’s HESTER PRO BOWL SERIES. It was the first circuit of professional bowl riding held at different skateparks around California. “H” was a visionary, a renowned slalom racer and La Jolla based surfer. Like Henry himself, The Hester Series was legend. (The Hester Series became the Gold Cup Series in 1980.) Besides becoming a player in the skate world, I had recruited a Krypto Team of hardcore up-and-comer skaters for the Hester Series: Steve Alba, Scott Dunlap, and Micke Alba. Plus, other explosive all-stars who rode our wheels like the enigmatic Duane Peters (“The Master of Disaster”), some G&S guys (like Peralta, Pineapple and Martinez), and some Dogtowners (like Alva, Adams, Shogo and Muir). Jim Muir was actually the one who started calling me “D. David”. My Kryptonics StarTrac corporate business card read “D. David Morin.” Naturally anything corporate looking had to be punked, after all, this was Dogtown where nothing was sacred.
So Muir started razzing me, ”hey D. David, D. David”, half mocking / half kidding. It stuck. I was no longer David Morin from Hollywood High and CU in Boulder, now I was ‘D. David’ the Krypto guy, ‘D. David’ the surf announcer, ‘D. David’ the TV host, ‘D. David’ the actor. I was dubbed (or taunted?) “D. David” in Santa Monica in 1976. It became my brand as a public persona. And still is. Thanks, James Muir, a skater from Dogtown who changed my name. Go figure.
My main job was to make banners for the contests, stock my team with product, pass out stickers, t-shirts, and any other Krypto swag I might have. To top it off, announcing professional surfing paved the way to announce the Hester Series.
A total privilege and a blast. Nowadays the Hester Series would be on ESPN as part of the X-Games. Each contest was an instant classic. The competition was fiery and feisty. The energy in every run of that Pro Bowl Series with blaring punk rock music for every skater was Richter.
The crowd favorite (as well as my own) was the doubles competition. Two skaters simultaneously flying full speed in opposite directions, popping airs over the channel, stacked on top of each other on the vert. Complete insanity. Choreographed mayhem. Maniacally mesmerizing.
Every pass was a nail-biting, adrenaline-filled near collision. So dangerous, it should have been illegal. So intense, it should be in the Olympics. At least on ABC Wide World of Sports. Thanks, Henry, for that indelible stitch in time.
I also had started writing for Skateboarder Magazine as a freelancer. I was everywhere and knew everyone, so it was natural for me to be a contributing journo. It was a thrill to be published in the Bible of skateboarding, SkateBoarder. It was a monthly, four-color glossy, re-born in Summer 1975, and a prized possession of any skater.
Dave Dash was the publisher of SkateBoarder. At its peak, Surfer Group was printing 300,000 copies of SkateBoarder every month with 300 pages and tons of full-page color ads. It was the biggest selling magazine in 7-11 stores, topping Sports Illustrated. The industry was booming. And Dave Dash, the publisher of this insanely popular and profitable publication, was near rock star status himself. All those guys at Surfer Publications lived on Mt. Olympus compared to the rest of us plebeians.
I had met Dave Dash in passing at the annual Action Sports Retailer show in Anaheim and at the SkateBoarder Magazine Poll Awards at the pavilion on Balboa in Newport Beach. Krypto cohort, Jim Ford, was usually collecting another award for ‘Best Ad’ for his sexy and sleek Krypto campaign. (not sure if that award was a thing but it should have been a thing.) I was there to cheer Jimmy, my skaters, and enjoy the glitz and glamour. Think Golden Globes Awards for skaters. The whole industry would pitch up. Dash wore a tux. He drove a whale tail turbo. He had a hot wife. He was 007.
I went back to law school after one semester off. If I didn’t go back then, I probably never would. And the Krypto gig was something I never saw as permanent, as fun it was. I pretty much hated law school. It was never my thing, learning to speak legalese. One exam on the SEC Code (Securities Exchange Commission), I walked out. I didn’t know what I was talking about, hated my handwriting, got up and left the building. I walked around the corner to the high overpass over the I-5 freeway. Looking down at all the cars racing southbound, I pondered. If the long fall didn’t kill me, surely the next car going 65mph would finish me off. I had flunked out once already and now I was going to fail again. I was stuffed. I probably spent five to ten minutes mulling it over. Just hop over the rail and no more disappointing dad.
My self-pity party was over soon enough, and the dean chastised me for being in the foyer when I should be writing my exam. I hurried back and bullshitted my way into another semester. Luckily the school needed my tuition, so I was graded on a generous curve. I got by. But by now I was a fulltime Krypto rep, part-time surf announcer, and part-time law student.
Enter “D. Dash” my final semester at Cal Wee Wee. Surfer Publishing Group had made bank on the SkateBoarder Magazine resurgence and saw an opportunity to capitalize on the rollerskating renaissance. Dash was to become publisher of RollerSkating and he offered me the position of Associate Publisher of SkateBoarder to learn the ropes for when I would become king…er…publisher.
The salary was decent and the wheel business wasn’t what it used to be. I never really saw myself practicing law. Especially at my dad’s practice in Hollywood. Failure to pass the California Bar exam three times cemented that thought. Three and a half years and all that tuition for naught.
I had become a Mark Twain protege… “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.”
So with my Juris Doctorate in my surf trunk pocket, I went to work in San Juan Capistrano at the hallowed grounds of Surfer Group, home of Surfer, SkateBoarder, Powder, and the recent RollerSkating. What really goes on inside there? It was like working at the Vatican. Legendary surf photographer Jeff Divine, whose photos I had committed to memory, worked there as well as the colourful and quirky Corky Carrol, a former USA surfing champion. And of course the godfather of surfing, publisher Steve Pezman, also wandered within those walls pontificating on all things surf and otherwise. Pez was like Yoda before there was Yoda. Surfer and Powder was on one side of the building, SkateBoarder and RollerSkating on the other.
Dave Dash was a perfect mentor. He was Members Only cool and unflappable. He taught me the ropes of the “rag” business: print runs, press checks, quality control, the power of subscriptions, advertising, the monthly board for page allocation, and the notion of deadlines. There were no regular office hours, magazines are a different beast. Just git ‘er done by the end of the month. Deadlines were truly deadlines. You’re dead if you missed our scheduled print session at our printers in Kentucky.
Dave and I also shared a love for all things Porsche. I had a vintage 1970 914-6 which was a 914 with a six cylinder 911 engine in it, plus it had the 911 five lug nut wheels. I put 16” black rims with Pirelli 205s. Silver with a black top. It was sweet. Or ‘sick’ as the kids say. Dave had various ones, including a badass 930 whale tail turbo. I also rebuilt a 911SC Targa, white with tan interior and black targa top. A real cream puff.
SkateBoarder was well the past its salad days and its ads went from full page to half page, or four-color to black and white. Sales for everyone were soft. The ship was sinking. We had to make a plan. But how far were we willing to shrink? Did we want to become a black and white newspaper mag? Or remain a four-color glossy with a reduced page count but still look sexy? Sexy won. But the skate industry was bummed. SkateBoarder had sold out. Our new direction was sending the skate industry down the river. It was a lose-lose proposition.
For us it became a matter of survival and the thinking was fairly solid. Broaden our editorial base, become a radical action sports magazine, and tap into all the advertisers at the Action Sports Retail show. We would cover skating plus surfing, snowboarding, skimboarding, bodyboarding, windsurfing, BMX, motocross, beach volleyball, fashion, music and more. We became Action Now Magazine. Radical action sports and more. We trimmed down from 300 in our heyday to 84 pages, with a lot of in-house ads. We broadened our appeal to more of the masses. Skateboarding was always our roots, our soul, but we had to diversify our editorial to bag more advertisers from other industries to stay in business.
Survival mode meant Dave Dash was staying on as captain of the ship. No ‘D. David’ at the top of the staff masthead. And the job of Associate Publisher was about to be made redundant. Read: if I wanted a job I had to become Advertising Director or Editor. And that meant sacking hard-working competent employees who were several years my senior. Awkward.
As associate publisher I became the hatchet man. I had never hired or fired anyone before in my life and now it was up to me to terminate someone’s living. Not an easy task. And I am the original “I want everyone to love me / I hate conflict” guy. I was 25 years old.
I fired Rus Calisch, our advertising director, and did his job for a spell. It really wasn’t my cup of tea so I brought in freestyle skater and industry darling Ellen Oneal as Advertising Manager. Rus was a staple at Surfer Group, a figure at SkateBoarder known throughout the industry, had done his job well for years when we were rolling, and was a stand up decent guy.
Who was I to fire him? Some kook who survived law school and was a retired wheel rep. It was the hardest thing I had ever done. I liked Rus, respected Rus, but it was time to shake things up.
Editorially, Action Now was a new concept and trying to find its identity. Editor Brian Gillogly had done a superb job as editor of SkateBoarder and was experimental as editor of AN. Brian had a degree from UCLA and was a real journalist. He was scholarly.
Plus he was the first eclectic art world buff I had ever encountered. He knew cool art bands, art house films, poets, writers, photographers, painters, and designers. He was well versed in culture and counter-culture. Gillogly was knowledgeable, learned. I knew jack squat. I was this Mission Beachcomber whose claim to fame was wearing shorts and slaps every day for the last four years. Not enlightened to the art world to say the least. And I had never taken a writing or journo class in my life.
Unfortunately Brian made a couple ill-advised photo choices that cost him his job. Eclectic choices with beauty, not hardcore action. Not “rad” enough. So I had to fire him also. It was the next hardest thing I had ever done. Brian was brilliant and his shyness made him a but aloof, which coupled with his intellect, was a bit intimidating to me. Plus, photo editor James Cassimus, Brian, and our art director, Paul Haven, were a team. I was the outsider breaking up the party. And now I was editor. The pressure to save the mag was on me.
A few months in, I got some affirmation from iconoclastic artist and magazine contributor C.R. Stecyk III. He was the first one who told me I was a “creative”. I had never seen myself that way before. We actually ended up having a lot of fun putting out Action Now and made some cool content. We were X Games magazine before our time. But any X rated magazine at that time was in a plastic wrap on the bottom shelf or behind the counter at the local liquor store. But would Action Now fly?
We covered our usual eccentric skate personalities and featured BMX freestyler founder Bob Haro, skimboarder Tex Haines, covered Adam and the Ants, Wendy O. & The Plasmatics, and the George Brothers’ cover (“Sure you can surf…but can you dance?”) could have graced Esquire magazine. We did fashion spreads, music, plus as much street skating, backyard ramps, and skateparks as we could find. We were trying, folks.
Dave Dash was always cool, was always there, and did the heavy lifting putting fires out with disgruntled skate manufacturers. Dash seemed to keep perspective while the mag and whole industry was headed toward an unsurpassable iceberg. Even RollerSkating had an untimely death. There simply weren’t enough Fred Blood’s out there to keep it visually exciting. (I wonder if RollerBlading as a title would have made it. But to be fair that craze didn’t hit until 1984 and we were done by then). Now anyone in media understands the concept of Headlines Sells Newspapers! And your nightly news tease is an attempt to maintain your ratings. Magazines are no different. We’re in the business, first and foremost, of selling magazines. Our covers need to generate sales. Pique our readers’ interest.
D. David Morin – May 2020
So, for the October issue, 1981 (Vol. 8 No. 3) we ran a cover with Tony Alva shredding a ramp with the headline:
WHO’S TO BLAME??
CAN IT SURVIVE???
Four months later Action Now was done. And apparently, I had killed the sport. Ask anyone. “D. David” killed skateboarding. I was the fall guy. By reporting the truth? The truth that everyone knew but no one wanted to admit? The truth that the skateboard industry could not sustain a glossy publication? And although I’m flattered in a way, I don’t think one article buried inside a mag that nobody read could kill a sport or an industry. Dave Dash signed off on that cover. We all knew at AN that it was the truth of it. Besides, why would we want to kill our own livelihoods? As a cover, it worked. It was a grabber. But could it really kill anything? How can you kill something that’s already dead?
Okay, maybe not dead yet, but surely on life support system. Ask George Powell, Dave McIntyre at G&S, Rich Novak at Santa Cruz, Dave Dominick at Tracker trucks, Fausto at Independent trucks (RIP), ask the Logans, Sims, Variflex, Bennett, Gull Wings, Tunnel, Vans, Z-Flex, Dogtown, ask Tony Alva. The boom was over. Our readers were moving on. The demand for skateboards and wheels and trucks and all the accessories was drying up. The urethane resurgence with sealed ball bearing wheels was done. The curve had flattened. There was still Thrasher and TransWorld Skateboarding. Surely they were keeping the sport alive. How could one issue be the Grim Reaper? We weren’t a virus.
In short, I became the scapegoat. I killed the sport. But Dash had my back and we fought on as long as we could. The problem was we didn’t want to put out a shoddy product. We had our standards and loved making a slick monthly mag we could all feel proud of. Kill the sport? Heck, we kept it alive after the death of SkateBoarder for 19 months as Action Now. We carried the sport. Why would we want to kill the hands that fed us?
At the end of the day, our balance sheet tilted toward the red. We didn’t have enough advertising revenue to stay in the black. We were finished. February 1982 would be out last issue, skater Neil Blender on the cover with a Black Flag interview, Snowboarding, and The Great Ramp Hunt all billboarded. Surely, we had done our bit. (One of my last gestures at Surfer Group was mowing the carpet in Corky Carrol’s office with a gas-powered lawn mower I borrowed from the gardener outside.)
Dash was a visionary. He teamed up with ABC filmmaker and cameraman Don Shoemaker to make Action Now Magazine for TV. We shot a 30-minute, high energy, pilot before the age of GoPro cameras. Don used a 16mm camera helmet and the footage was extreme before it became X-treme. Dave Dash again was ahead of his time. (The pilot never sold.)
Lucky for me, Dave, ever the supporting boss and mentor, let me host the pilot. I got to utilize some of my on-camera surfing color commentary experience. Watching the footage now I seem flat and boring because I was. My next life step would remedy that.
As we were winding down at the magazine, I spotted an article in the local fish wrap about the television production department at Saddleback College up the road. I was keen.
They had a TV program called Lifestyles that was a magazine format show. It had two show hosts or presenters. I wanted to be one of them.
As fate would have it, another pivotal door was about to open. The semester I enrolled the male host had graduated and left. I auditioned and got it. For two wonderful years I worked alongside the vivacious and brilliant Michelle Merker (presently at PBS So Cal.)
We killed it. It took some time for me to become 100% comfortable talking into the lens but it came with practice. That experience later opened the door for me as a commercial spokesman one day back in LA.
So THANK YOU Dave Dash. You didn’t know it but you changed my life. If you hadn’t called and offered me a job as associate publisher, none of this happens. And I never would have sucked in that student film at Saddleback and moved to back Hollywood to study acting.
Thanks to you my life changed. You are one of a few people in my journey who put me on the right path for an amazing life. I’ll always be indebted, my friend.
“D. David” Morin
May 6, 2020. Lockdown Level 4.
Cape Town, South Africa.