Tom Wally Inouye

Tom “Wally” Inouye

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Tom Wally Inouye with hos SHoF Trophy, Photo Greenwood 2019
Tom Wally Inouye with hos SHoF Trophy, Photo Greenwood 2019

If you were serious about skateboarding in the second half of the 1970s, the name Tom “Wally” Inouye is forever stamped into your mind. Simply stated, he was one of the most prominent pros of the time. Who can forget Wally’s three classic Skateboarder covers (two of them in a row!), Sims ads, and one of the best centerspreads ever (Concrete Wave)? No one, that’s who. Born in Los Angeles, California on January 22, 1959, Wally started skateboarding around 1967 when he found his sister’s metal wheel roller skates in the trash after she sliced open her chin. “She was over it, so my friend Jack’s father took them apart and nailed them to a 2” x 4” so we could each have a board,” Wally explains. His first good skateboard was a Black Knight, which he acquired around 1970. After that, he made his own for a few years.

Tom got the nickname “Wally” around 1973 when he invented the wall ride. It all went down on a three-foot high vertical wall with three inches of tranny. “I would hit it and try to do an off the lip. I finally started pulling them, and Gary Zack started calling me Wally.” Mr. Inouye has always been an all terrain ripper, enjoying freestyle, slalom, downhill, banks, pipes and pools. Back in the ’70s, he could usually be found riding with the likes of Ed Economy, Brad Strandlund, Chris Strople, Dale Smith, Brad Bowman, Sonny Miller, John Gibson, Kyle Jenson, Mitchell Long and Curt Kimbel. During his freestyle days, Wally’s first sponsor was Stinger, Bennett, and Tunnel. After turning pro in 1976, Wally signed a contract with Sims on July 7, 1977, followed soon after by Tracker, Brad Strandlund Bearings and Robinak. A bit later, he switched over to Caster, Gullwing and Gyro. Wally’s first phase as a pro came to a close in 1983.

In 1976, Wally started up Inouye’s Pool Service, a clever ruse to gain access to unsuspecting homeowners’ backyard pools. He even sold IPS t-shirts and stickers to his fans! Wally’s famous cover and interview in the October 1977 issue of Skateboarder featured a radical jump out of Upland’s full pipe (Did he make it? Look inside…), which was pretty much an Ollie before the Ollie even existed. He also scored a cover and profile in the November 1978 issue of Skateboard World, complete with a cross-step carve. In 2019, Wally’s sponsors include Lifeblood, Ace, Bones, Swiss, Adidas, Airblaster, SnoPlank, Dakine, and Smith. Skating mostly in the spring and summer, in fall and winter he snowboards in the mountains, which he considers “one big-ass skatepark.” Wally also enjoys surfing, windsurfing, making art and cooking, as well as spending time at home in Hood River, Oregon with his wife, Kathryn, and his daughters, Aspen and Autumn. He works as the food and beverage manager at Timberline Ski Area, and is the owner / chef at Wally’s Pepper Sauce, which offers a full line of hot sauce.