1980's Vert Skater Cleo Coney Jr.
Updated: Feb 8, 2020
Over the last ten years, I've been asked when was my interview going to be available in the magazine. I wasn't interested in doing an interview on myself, so I just continued to work on the magazine and seek out the skaters and skateboarding related stories. My plan was and still is to shoot a short film on the Saint Pete Ramp, and riding backyard ramps during the eighties. However, at the end of the year I was asked to participate in other projects about skateboarding, which would also touch on Coping Block Skateboarding Magazine. I thought that maybe I should go ahead and say a few words in the magazine before those projects became public. So, I asked industry persons that I know to give me three questions each to answer. I appreciate all their questions and want to thank them. I hope this interview though brief, satisfies those that want to know more about my skateboarding history and why I created Coping Block Skateboarding Magazine. -Cleo Coney Jr.
Bruce Whiteside (Graphic designer for Schmitt Stix, Burg Bowl Decks, St.Pete Ramp Local)
What is your SINGLE best memory involving Skateboarding?
Wow, strong question Bruce! I have so many memorable moments involving skateboarding. The day I got my first set of good urethane wheels stands out, but the day I saw Alan Gelfand shred apart Clearwater Skate Park's half-pipe has to be among the most memorable moments. To see the trick at the time, those Brite Lite decks he and McGill had, and those day-glo bones wheels left a deep impression on my grey matter. I was so stoked at the time!
Who are YOUR top three skaters, any era, why, How did they impact you?
My top three skaters of any era? That's a heavy question because I've been influenced by so many great skateboarders over the years.
I'd have to say Jeff Phillips (R.I.P), Marty Grimes, and Monty Nolder. All for different reasons too.
Grigley's backyard Circa 1980
Any Regrets, has skateboarding taken anything away from you (Other than Injuries)?
Prior to skateboarding I was singing in choirs and auditioning for television commercials and movie rolls. I put all that aside for skateboarding in my youth. I did some small time modeling in my prime. But when I look back at those opportunities missed I'm not sorry I spent my youth on a skateboard. I'm glad I didn't miss skateboarding!
Clearwater Skate Park, circa 1978
Do you remember the very first time you really got stoked on skateboarding?
Tim, I remember getting stoked on skateboarding big time with the movie "Free Wheelin", featuring Stacy Peralta. He was pumping ditches and banks and carving downhill and that movie pumped my stoke on skateboarding to new levels.
It was carried on our local cable station back when cable only had about ten stations. It was on like three times a day, and my sister would let me know that it was on.
What was the hardest trick you ever learned?
Some tricks didn't have names back when I did them but front side pogo rocks were hard for me at first. I haven't seen anyone doing them since Monty Nolder used to slap them down hard.
Who are the locals back then that you hung out with, and who ripped the hardest?
My initial local scene was just John Grigley and myself for a short while and then it expanded to include over time, Bruce Whiteside, Bill Procko, Eggbowl (R.I.P), Walter Lewellen, Mark Bustin, Paul Schmitt, Thom Nicholsen, Chuck Hults, and Michael Daly.
But when the skate parks all closed our vert ramp was one of the only places to session, so our crew expanded with skaters that would visit frequently to include Billy Beauregaurd, Mike McGill, Chris Baucom, Sam and Donny Myhre, Rob Weir, Buck Smith, Todd Webb, Michael Alexis, and various crews from around Florida would show up and session. John Grigley was always shredding, the ramp was in his backyard.
Frontside ollie disaster cement quarter pipe Hawaii.
Why did you start skateboarding ?
John, one day my Dad helped a friend move and I went along to help, in the garage was a wooden skateboard with clay wheels and I was asked if I wanted it. I said yes, and I skated those wheels down to the loose ball bearing hubs. That's the only reason I started skateboarding.
What was your best trick?
Hard to say what my best trick was, I had favorites at the time, "Lake \ (Miller) flips", extended Andrechts, Frontside tuck knee airs to tail, hard to say during the Go Go 80's.
What do you think of the progression of skateboarding from 80 to 2000?
Well John, we were still inventing stuff with out the use of video playback, I think the ability for almost everyone to access video and be able to slow a trick down and study it at will is a huge difference between 80 and 2000? But that's a good thing, skaters are making what was once thought of impossible a reality. A 1260 spin? Really? Yep. It already happened on national television.
Lake Flip on the cross ramps.
What age did you start skateboarding ?
MR, I started skateboarding at the age of nine.
What was the first trick you learned?
My first trick was learning to tic tac! Yeah boy! I was the tic tac captain!
What was the best skate park you ever skateboarded?
Wow! Hard to say, they all have a kink I dread. But I guess it's the VANS skate park in Orange County.
Tarpon Ramp, Tarpon Springs, Florida circa 1991.
How would you best describe the changes that have happened to the sport over the last 20-25 years?
Ken, the changes in the sport have been huge! Our backyard skate scene used to be closed off, we were misfits. Now skateboarders are making real money while skateboarding in contests on national television. I remember Tony Hawk coming to our
ramp from California and winning the contest with a hundred and fifty bucks first place prize money! Now skaters are getting paid for sticker placement like NASCAR. We skated for the love and for the fun with hopes of free stuff to skate and places to visit. But skaters are buying homes and cars now as a norm. Only a few were able to do that back in my prime skate days.
If you could go back and skate one skate park throughout time, which park would it be and why?
I never got to skate Apple Skate Park! That's the one I would go skate because it was so good that Shogo Kubo moved there for a while to be the resident PRO. I hear stories about it, I've seen images of it. That's the park I'd go skate for sure!
If you had to explain the thrill, brotherhood, and perspective of the sport of skateboarding to an alien from outpace, how would you describe it?
Massive question Ken. I would explain to the Alien that it was a way we better our individual spirits. An art form that involves body movements, balance and determination, a way to expand our horizons without leaving our current plane of existence.
How would you compare to other “human activities”?
I would compare skateboarding to music. It's universal, no wrong or right kind. It's based on the individuals pleasure sensors. Not one form of it pleases all participants. But any form can be highly satisfying to those that listen to a particular variety of music, or participate in one of the forms of skateboarding.
When did you start skateboarding?
Heidi, I started skateboarding in 1973.
Who were your sponsors and where did they take you?
My first and longest sponsor was Tracker Trucks. I will always be grateful for what they did for me in skateboarding. G&S was a short term board and wheel sponsor of mine and after them I rode for Vision Skateboards. Sometime later I rode briefly for Brand X and Swatch Watch.
You have stayed involved in skateboarding for forty six years, and continue to help grow it. What are your current goals?
Heidi, I can't see a day in the future with out being somehow involved in Skateboarding. My future goals are to continue to promote skateboarding through my magazine Coping Block, and bring awareness to skateboarders that the major magazines don't cover. I would like to see Coping Block Skateboarding Magazine available in more locations world wide and that's what I'm working on now.
What was the impetus for starting Coping Block? Was it brewing for years and you finally got it rolling? Or was it a reaction to something that set it all in motion?
GBM, I started Coping Block Skateboarding Magazine because I wasn't getting what I wanted from the major skate magazines. I was getting tired of seeing the same skaters and watching the content turn into just advertising. Obviously you need advertising to survive, but they were getting so corporate that skateboarding in those publications looked more like a product and not a free flowing love of the sport we all participate in.
I started with a one page website and then a four page black and white fold over skate zine. It's now a forty eight page glossy color magazine, and I don't want to make it into a book, but just enough fresh content to make skaters want to read. Getting skaters to read, that's one of my overall goals.
The current face of skateboarding is pretty different from when you were representing some major brands. From your viewpoint - what are the similarities and differences between a kid trying to "make it" as an athlete in skateboarding now as opposed to when you were grinding it out as a pro.
At the time I was really involved in the sport, vert skateboarding was the highest form in the sport. That pushed all other forms to the side, even the super cool ones like freestyle. Today street skateboarding leads the way in the industry although there is a little bubble of vert skateboarding still making it'self known. Today, kids just keep making video's and sending them into potential sponsors. Years back sponsors wanted to see how you placed in multiple forms of skateboarding. Bowl, slalom, freestyle, etc. They looked for talent that was well rounded. The new Skate Park Series presents a mix of street and bowl.
At some time in your life, skateboarding was the top priority and that is all you wanted to do. We all had jobs, but a job was only means to get funds to go on the next road trip or build the next ramp. At what point did other things in life start to creep in and take precedence? (I remember my moment exactly, but this is your interview....).
Probably when I got my first steady girlfriend did I start skipping a few sessions. That whole love bug bit me and I was not skateboarding as much. But as I got older time on the job kept me away more than anything else. I wanted to travel more as a young competing skateboarder, but my parents said I had to finish my schooling both high school and college. So that's what I did.
What trick do you wish you could still do?
Bio anything! LOL! I'm not willing to lay it all out there over the ramp anymore.
Takes to long to heal these days! I've contemplated many times just going balls out one more time and completing a bio run. But it will probably take months of pre-stretching, and weight lifting followed by a week in an ice tub! LOL
Front Side Air Sensation Basin skate park, Gainesville Florida.
What attracted you to skateboarding?
Hey Rob, you know it wasn't just one thing that attracted me, I got a free board, the movie "Free Wheeling" motivated me, the individuality of it all was a big part of it. You can just go skate around by yourself and have a great time curb grinding or free boarding and flowing.
I loved doing a high fakie ollie on one wall and then a backside ollie on the next wall. Flying around. But the feeling you get from an extended Andrecht is always pleasurable!
Favorite skate park?
Hard to pick a favorite skate park, like I said previously, I like VANS Skate Park as the best I've skated. You know though Rob, what really made a park fun to skate was the people I skated it with. With that said, Clearwater skate park was a lot of fun to skate with my old crew!
How often did you get to skate Grigleys ramp?
Mike, I skated Grigley's ramp everyday after school that his mother would allow us to skate it. Plus weekends!
Did you learn inverts on his big ramp or did you go somewhere else?
Mike, I learned inverts on a quarter pipe first and then I went to the half pipe and perfected them on vert.
What made you wanna ride Trackers?
Tracker Trucks had all the best riders in the world back in the day, including you Mike!
Most of the best tricks were learned on Trackers and they were the first to produce a really solid truck. Many of the young skaters today have so many truck options to ride, but most of those designs are a version of the original Tracker Truck.
Do you remember what life was life before you discovered skateboarding? I’m asking if you had another love before you found skateboarding and exactly when did you know there would be no divorce?
Yes, I was really into singing and modeling and acting at a young age, I sang in some Opera's as a kid. Tosca, Carmen and I can't remember the other. I had some modeling gigs here and there, but skateboarding was more important to me as I really loved the feeling it gave me while in motion. I knew the day I took off on the solid oak skateboard with clay wheels that I was done with everything else. I just didn't want my parents to know yet.
How would you describe the energy produced by skating with your best friends and how does it spark the imagination on demand, and how did you navigate the outside obstacles….please elaborate on outside obstacles that tried to turn you away from this Love affair?
Well Ridge, the normal life stuff like school, girl friends, chores, and work. I had to start creating time for skateboarding when previously it was all I did and I made time for those other things. I had my job schedule me around skate sessions, I tried to complete all my home work at school or in the first hour after school, I would sometimes change my plans with my girlfriend to get to a skate session. When you'r with all your skate crew and the session is flowing, and you are pushing each other to pull off a trick, or a run it can be like a religious experience. That high you get while riding better and better is creating an energy bubble of positive vibes and were all feeding off of it together. No drugs or Alcohol needed. Straight edge since day one thanks to skateboarding.
Not only have you been influenced by others for decades, but what are you currently doing to contribute to influencing others?
I'm bringing the skate stories that are lessor known to the forefront. I want every skater out there that lives far away from the nearest skate park to know that their skate visions and skate dreams are important. Coping Block Skateboarding Magazine wants to hear about their curb spot, banks, driveways, small ramps, rad street spots, downhill runs etc. I want those stories in the pages of Coping Block because we lived through a time of no coverage and lost our skate parks, our magazines and access to other skateboarders. So it's of great importance that they know their skate scene no matter how small counts in the world of skateboarding.
How'd you get so cool? Ha, miss you my friend, life is a little complicating for me right now, but will push through it and looking forward to hanging again with you soon.......
I'll see you soon Ridge!
What was going on in your life when you decided to focus more on skateboarding? What was you perception of being a young black man in skateboarding?
Chuck, I was part of one of the greatest skate crews at the time, and I wanted to get better at skateboarding. I was still in high school at the time and I stopped shooting hoops, playing street football and baseball. That's how important skateboarding was and is in my life. Coming up there was racial pressure to stop skateboarding. There were names flown at me from both sides of the color divide, but neither could deny me my love for skateboarding. Skateboarding seems to bring people together, go to a skate contest like the Tampa PRO and it's a huge difference from the time I was the only black skateboarder for miles at a contest in Greenville, South Carolina, or Gainesville, Florida.
What made you the happiest with skateboarding?
The friendships I made over the years through skateboarding are some of the strongest bonds ever. All of my original skate crew showed up at my fathers celebration of life event. As I recall there were many skateboarders at your wedding. These bonds happened because of skateboarding.
Presently, what are your feelings, views and hopes for skateboarding? b) do you consider it a “sport” and c) what are thoughts on skateboarding in the Olympics?
I have great feelings about skateboarding! Think about it, Skateboarding survived after 97% of all skate parks closed. When there was no vert avenue, street skateboarding took off. When Skateboarder Magazine became Action Now Magazine and no longer covered skateboarding 100%, Skateboarding survived. Skateboards started off skinny and small, got wide and large, and are now small again. It didn't kill the sport, it changed and it grew. There are more young skateboarders than little league baseball players. Skateboarding can be "SPORTED" but it's an activity to me with multiple industries cashing in on the adrenaline rush. The Olympics really need skateboarding because what it was originally based on is fading. Classic sports aren't as popular anymore. Would you rather watch a rad vert contest with contestants from all over the globe, or Ping Pong? Not that there's anything wrong with ping pong, curling, bowling or cross country skiing. They are all skilled events. But ramp skating is more enjoyable to watch in my opinion.
Skateboarding has that it factor, art, music, fashion, friendships, and world wide love all in one. Skateboarding is alive, and I'm never stopping.