OCEANSIDE — History, action sport and local legends all come together in the soon-to-be-released coffee table book “TRACKER – Forty Years of Skateboard History,” available this summer.
The book is for those who lived through the history of skateboarding and younger skaters with an interest in the sport’s timeline of innovations and legends.
It captures the 40-year history of the trucks that changed the sport with text, interviews and more than 1,000 photos.
More than 40 skateboarding legends from the past four decades were interviewed, and more were photographed showing off iconic skateboarding tricks.
Included in the book are former Tracker team skaters Tony Hawk, Mike McGill, Tony Alva, Jay Adams, Steve Caballero, Bucky Lasek, Stacy Peralta and Chris Yandall.
The 388-page book is laid out in a sequential timeline, beginning with the sport’s early link to roller skates and scooters. This bit of history is important, because skateboards used to be made with roller skate wheels and trucks.
“Roller skate trucks, an inch and three-quarters wide, were stuck on skateboards,” Larry Balma, Tracker Trucks founder, said. “Tracker Trucks were designed by skateboarders for skateboarders.”
It was not until Balma, a mechanic and welder, along with co-founders Dave Dominy and Gary Dodds, built stronger, high-performance trucks that the sport of skateboarding took off.
Wider trucks built with aircraft-grade aluminum, steel axels and precision ball bearings were able to maneuver for tricks, and withstand the impact of a land.
The book chronicles efforts to make the trucks work.
“It was a learning curve,” Balma said. “We rode ditches and pipes, guessed what would work, and said, ‘Let’s try this.’ ”
Balma said the stronger, wider trucks paired with new polyurethane wheels, which provided cushion and grip, were a game changer for the sport.
Aerial skateboarding tricks followed, and pushed the sport ahead of innovations in surfing.
Balma said the first major notoriety for the trucks’ performance came when Alan Gelfand won the South Florida Skateboard Championships on Tracker Trucks in 1976.
Gelfand invented the ollie, a trick in which you pop up and your feet stay connected to the board. Balma said the ollie is the basic move for the majority of skateboarding tricks that followed.
Since Gelfand’s win, hundreds of professional skaters have been team riders for Tracker.
A side-by-side photo of top trucks manufactured in the 1980s illustrates that they are replicas to the original 4.25-inch wide Tracker Trucks built in the 1970s.
Tracker trucks received the Icon Award from the Skateboarding Hall of Fame this May.
Fittingly the award is the final chapter in the book that has been two years in the making.
Balma said writing the book was very much like writing his life’s story. He has spent the last 40 years designing, testing and improving trucks and sponsoring 450 team skateboarders.
Balma said conducting days of in-depth interviews jogged memories he had forgotten.
He added it was great to hear about times gone by from the point of view of then aspiring skaters, who are now legends.
In addition to the book release, a limited, signed collectors edition is available. Complete interview transcripts will also be posted online.
Balma said an exact release date has not yet been set, but printing presses are rolling and preorders are being taken. For more information go to trackertrucks.com.