Biographical accounts from Don Piburn Pt.1: Bobby Means
We have the pleasure of introducing you to Don Piburn, a surfer, ’70s outlaw skateboarder, ’80s back-hill snowboarder, and late ’80s Snake River surfer (find out more). He moved to Oah’u in the ’90s where he continues a 30+ year career teaching infants, toddlers, and preschoolers with disabilities, surfs north shore, kayaks windward reefs, and takes weekly hikes with his Hawaii born and raised wife, Janice. Don reached out to us via the Veterans of Vert blog and wanted to share with us a series of fascinating stories from the hay days of quad skating. As a skater in the founding days of this scene, he has been exposed to some of the most influential skaters of our time. We look forward to sharing his records of this time with you all through this series. Take it away, Don...
Part I: Bobby Means
For context, it’s good to know just how fully we were into the 1970s outlaw skateboard scene. “Outlaw,” because we were going over the backyard fences all over the city to skate in parking buildings, drainage structures, schoolyards, and empty swimming pools. Suffice it to say that trespass was the name of the game. This started well before the emergence of skateboard parks, so when someone discovered an exceptional bowl, drainage ditch, or pool, the word got out. Riding pools had been pioneered my years before. My partner Seal Morgan remembers shadowing the older surfers who were riding a pool on Soledad Mountain clear back in the late 1960 clay wheel days. Cadillac Wheels, the very first urethane wheels, were initially marketed in the surf magazines, and soon in every Southern California surf shop as the demand grew. By early '75, all of us were exploiting whatever paved surface we could find in places like the Concourse Parking Structure, Escondido Reservoir, and the La Jolla Pipeline spillway. It was the Gregg Weaver, “The Cadillac Kid” on the cover of first 1970s issue of Skateboarder Magazine (Vol 2 #1) that woke us up and sprang my friends and me over our neighbors’ fences in search of their drained swimming pools. With all due respect for the accomplishments of the Santa Monica crew, the outlaw scene was thriving in Southern California years before their antics rose to the surface. I remember promotions for the 1975 Del Mar Skateboard Nationals where history records the Zephyr Team had their coming out. I vividly recall opting not to attend because I thought, “What does a flatland contest have to do with me? I’m a banked wall and pool skater”.
To understand just how very close to the epicenter of the sport we were at the time; take a look at 1976 Skateboarder Magazines. The Soul Bowl is featured prominently and was the apex outlaw pool of the sport at that time. It was located behind the San Diego State University, and my buddies and I logged a whole lot of hours there in both the day and late-night sessions. Those of us over 18 years old could buy our way into Friday night dances, and at midnight, we’d hop the fence and turn the lights down into the bowl, where we’d skate until the very wee hours. There are multiple pictures of me skateboarding Soul Bowl and other prominent pools of that era in the “Outlaw Skateboard Montage photo in Seal and my first article of the Lunch Counter Trilogy, http://riverbreak.com/news/stories/the-lunch-counter-trilogy/, and if you look at the adjacent photo entitled “DP Surfing Baja Point Break”, that is Bob Means surfing Mexico with me and paddling for the shoulder of that same wave at Chicken Shacks.
Having an apex skateboarding professional show up at our San Diego pools was common, and it was at the Soul Bowl that I first met both Kenny Means and Bobby Means in sessions just one day apart. Kenny was a full-blown skate-star featured in every issue of Skateboarder Magazine by then. He’d traveled down from LA to San Diego when I skated with him. Sharing the shallow end of that legendary pool with a legend was an honor. Nobody did quite what Kenny Means did in quite the same way as he did it, or so I thought until the very next day when his brother Bobby showed up. After our session in Soul Bowl, Bob, along with his San Pedro California childhood friends and I discovered we were driving our respective vehicles back to the same beach cities. It turned out that Bobby, his childhood friends, and I lived very close to one another not far from the beach. By the next year, we were either roommates or neighborhood surfing and skating buddies living in Mission Beach (MB). Whenever the surf was flat, onshore, or just for a bit of distraction, we would skate together either out along the MB boardwalk at all hours, or we’d head out to that era’s best-known outlaw drainage ditches, reservoirs, or empty swimming pools.
Bob had come into the sport later than his brother; thus, his talent never received the attention it deserved. Regardless of where we showed up to skate, Bob Mean’s skills were impossible to ignore. One of my photos of Bob is at the Kona Bowl, an outlaw pool in North San Diego County. The Kidney Pool at Del Mar Skate Ranch, the same North San Diego County skate park where Tony Hawk first cut his skateboarding teeth, was a replica of the Kona Bowl. They even replicated a toy version of that pool (https://www.amazon.com/Spin-Master-6011187-Tech-Delmar/dp/B0026SWRBO).
Bob’s daughter Sarah Louise turned one of my photos of her dad at the Kona Bowl into an artistic piece entitled “1977” that is available as framed fine art or as a print on a whole range of goods.
Soul Bowl II was another replica of the original pool with modifications at Skateboard Heaven in Spring Valley, California. That was yet another awesome first generation skate park that we frequented.
I was in the shallow end as Bob mentored other MB skaters Pete Stewart and Susan “Little Sue” Feldman on the finer points of riding banks and pools. The stance that all of the quad skaters shared, with heals diametrically opposing one another, while generating speed and flow was what we all referred to as a “spider stance.” Skaters could pump speed uphill or into a vertical wall, something we skateboarders could not do. The added speed and fluidity when it’s done well is truly a beautiful thing to watch. When inline skaters converted the brake from a toe stop to the axel behind the rider’s heal, spider stance suddenly wasn’t as functional, to that sport’s determent. I also trust folks aren’t taken aback by photos of skaters along or below the tile or coping. Those taking to the air at whim nowadays are soaring off the shoulders of those early giants — one last opinion (based on fact) before I close here. Apex skateboarding professionals claim to have been the very first one to take all means of vertical skating (pun intended) above the coping. That title belongs to Kenny Means. Ok, so his wheels were laced to his feet, but he and his eight-wheeled colleagues modeled those lines for all skateboarders to follow. I admit to a bit of a bias, but the truth is those 1970s quad skaters absolutely ripped.