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It is impossible to overstate the importance of the gift Alan Gelfand bestowed upon skateboarding when he cracked the world’s first Ollie in Fort Lauderdale, Florida in 1977. Much like a fluke mutation in the evolutionary process, Gelfand has consistently described the first occurrences of the “no-hands air” as an accident stemming from a poorly built over-vert wall throwing his board back to his feet as he popped off it frontside. After the accident became his staple, and his nickname became its universal point of reference, skateboarding at large turned its collective attention to the wonder kid from Florida who could seemingly make the board magically stick to his feet. As he traveled the world with the Bones Brigade from 1978 to ’81, Gelfand humorously noted that on a number of occasions, befuddled rivals and grommets alike went as far as stealing his Vans to replicate his signature trick—convinced that he had planted Velcro or suction pads on them to keep the board locked in.
Even as the sheer magnitude of his impact on skateboarding had yet to run a fraction of its course, Gelfand retired in 1981 at age 16 due to reconstructive surgery in both knees. He had only been pro for two years and had actually only been skating for six. However, nothing could reverse the course of progression his accidental discovery had set into motion. A few years after his retirement, modern skateboarding entered a whole new stratosphere of possibilities, as the Ollie undertook further adaptation to flatground and the streets, and Gelfand’s nickname was forever woven into skateboarding’s past, present, and future.