What are the first skate shoes you remember? Who were your idols?
I and most everyone else skated barefoot throughout the 1960s and early 1970s, due mainly to the fact that grip tape didn't yet exist. The first grip tape company in skateboarding was Foot-Tred, a Florida company that started around 1973. Prior to that, without grip tape, it was hard to skate with shoes on. I’m not talking about gorilla-gripping or anything like that, but being barefoot was the only way to be able to ‘feel’ your board and keep yourself comfortably on the board. For ten years of barefoot skateboarding, I could definitely skate better, but my feet were always getting destroyed. When we finally started using grip tape, I was quick to start wearing shoes. The first skate shoes I remember were blue Keds low-tops. Keds weren't actually ‘skate’ shoes by definition, but they were what I saw people wearing early on and they were remarkably similar to many of the skate shoes being worn today. Simply put, there was no ‘skate shoe industry’ at the time.
Professional or famous skateboarders didn't even exist. It was just me and my friends and others like us. I was pretty much on my own as far as learning and progressing. I was always a better skater than most all of my friends, so I had no one to guide me. I got third place in my first skate contest in Hawaii in 1965 at Schofield Barracks. Gary Heisel got second place and Robbie Stoutner won it. They weren't my idols though. They were my competition. I was however, somewhat influenced by Robbie Stoutner since he was easily the most advanced skater I was aware of up to that point. I skated with him again in Pennsylvania in 1968 or early 1969 and he was still better than me. The first skaters I ever heard of were Torger Johnson, Davey Hilton and John Freis, mainly due to their competitive success in California, as covered in the early issues of Skateboarder Magazine that were released in the 60s. Looking at them from outside the world of California, it appeared to me from still photos that I could skate at their level. I was always curious about that though, and I finally got the chance to skate against Torger, as well as Logan, Alva, Hackett etc in 1976 at the Magic Mountain Masters, which featured 30 invitees from around the world. Alva won the Downhill slalom race, Pineapple Saladino won the Flatland event, and I made a decent showing and was finally able to realize that this was the crowd I was comfortable skating with.