My Lester Kasai Skateboard: 80’s Thrashing in Central Wisconsin
I’m a big guy, 6'1", 300lbs, played a little football in high school, wrestled, albeit poorly. To look at me, you’d never think I was a skater. But I was, and damn if I didn’t love every minute of it.
I caught the skateboard bug in 1984 and before I got my first and only real deck, I would read every skate magazine I could get my hands on. I would watch for skateboarding VHS tapes at our local video store and sit through them again and again (remember “The Bones Brigade Video Show”?) My heart nearly stopped the first time I saw Mike McGill pull off a McTwist!
It wouldn’t be until August of 1988 that I finally paid a visit to the town’s only skate shop and bought a fully-customized Lester Kasai street deck. Being larger in stature, I wanted something solid and heavy. The Kasai board fit the bill, and was a beautiful deep red color, almost like blood with gold and silver accents around the three dragons printed on the middle of the board.
It wasn’t too long before all the promo stickers I had collected got slapped on various parts of the deck, nearly obscuring all of the original artwork on the bottom of the board. I had gnarly hot-pink grip tape on the top, and I must confess, to this day, I have never seen a board as flashy or wicked looking as that. Most of my friends had solid black tape at the time, but I wanted something different, and I had it. The picture of my Kasai deck above shows a lot of hard rollin’ love on the streets of a sleepy town in central Wisconsin!
The Dairy State isn’t normally associated with skateboarding, given that we have winter 11 months out of the year. Much to my relief, I found a rather large contingent of boarders in town. Soon I felt legit, riding the streets at night, and discussing the ever elusive half-pipe that some kid was building in his backyard. Of course, no one knew who the kid was or where he lived, but still we searched. We listened to Minor Threat and the Misfits, we hung out in empty parking lots, we smoked, we wore low-top Etnies, and we showed off the ollie holes that eventually developed.
Despite vigorous protests from various “concerned” groups around town, skating became a normal part of daily life. Police still hassled us, jocks and jerks in their pickup trucks gave us shit, and the inevitable in-fighting among us skaters began. Suddenly there were five or six different groups of boarders scattered around the city, with my particular group preferring to skate in the early hours on Saturday mornings because there was no traffic and you had free run of the sidewalks downtown.
One of my friends had a paper route, which was a great excuse to leave the house at three in the morning on a Saturday, explaining to my parents that I needed to help drop off the daily paper. It wasn’t a complete lie as we would hop on our bikes, get rid of the papers as quickly as we could, and then put our decks down and rolled. Ever ride your board down the middle of a usually busy street before the sun is up? There’s something particularly liberating in doing that.
I just wish one of us had taken some pictures of our little ragtag skate crew. Now that I am firmly entrenched in my 40’s, married, in a secure job, I can’t help but wonder if I could jump back on and pick up where things left off. No illusions there, I would likely break my skull wide open today. But how nice it would be to once again feel the vibration of my Gullwing trucks grinding along the curb, my 60MM Slime Balls leaving a red streak on the concrete!
All I have to show for it today are some scars on my arms and legs, some great memories, and an old but still-loved street deck that has taken up permanent residence on the back of a shelf in the garage. I suppose that’s not a terrible legacy considering how much time I spent on my Lester Kasai.