captain, my captain

Induction. That's a weird word, right? Or maybe only because we're hurtling toward that day known in the US of A as Thanksgiving and all my squeamish half-ass vegan brain can strain to do is associate it with convection ovens and that marvelous three-meat medley known as "turducken." But for today's purposes—even though I'm having a rather difficult time getting that Frankenstein-of-a-holiday-entree out of my head now—induction is defined as "the action or process of inducting someone to a position or organization" with that someone being Jim Fitzpatrick and that organization being the Skateboarding Hall of Fame. Before I give Jim his justly due credit, though, Imma first gonna treat him like Taylor Swift, pull some Kanye-esque shit, and talk about myself. Why? Because I'm a hack fucking journalist who only knows how to write by making it all about me, me, me! So it goes.

A Skateboarding Hall of Fame Inductee Table Still Life.

Shortly after attending the inaugural Skateboarding Hall of Fame ceremony in 2009, I received an email from Don Brown [1] asking for my opinion on the event and if I had any critical tips for the newly instituted institution's future. I'm not entirely sure why he asked me. Maybe I'm even making this up? I swear he did, though, because I distinctly remember saying something to the effect that it came off being too "by the book," meaning why make it just like every other hall of fame ordeal out there when it's skateboarding? Why not loosen the honors up to include those who have played a significant role in shaping the culture of skateboarding into the unique monstrosity we all know and love it to be? Because it's sure as shit more than just balls, bats, and stats.

First and foremost in my examples of such legendary individuals was C.R. Stecyk III. From his redefining words and photos in Skateboarder Magazine to his creative marketing genius at Powell-Peralta and his behind-the-scenes puppet mastery throughout the '80s and beyond, Craig's indelible fingerprints are all over the historical record of skateboarding and if anyone's worthy of being honored it should surely be him—even if he would mock the mocking mock out of it. But, lo and behold, the very next year C.R. was inducted as an "icon" into the 2nd Annual Skateboarding Hall of Fame. Did I play an ever so slightly small hand in altering the hall of these awards? Sure, of course I'd like to think so, ego is as ego does, especially in skateboarding, but I think Don may have responded that this was already something they'd considered implementing, so fuck me and everything I just wrote.

I purposely tried to leave this image rather large so hopefully it can be read in full... this was Jim's contribution to the Disposable Skateboard Bible in 2009 where he details everything I skipped or skimmed over below.

Anyway, here we are in 2023, 13 long (some very long) Halls of Fame later, and Jim Fitzpatrick now permanently resides in the hallowed icon annals of skateboard history. Some, I'm sure, may never have heard of him before, because one significant part of Jim's accomplishments pre-date skateboarding before skateboarding was even a recognized thing (his early Makaha board and four wheels are considered to be the first to ever roll upon the European continent), while the other stems from his tireless work behind-the-scenes in the '90s with the founding of the International Association of Skateboard Companies and the successful campaign to reform the public liability laws of California that had long dissuaded the construction of public skate parks. So if there's a public park in your area now, chances are that's because all the insurance dominoes fell after Jim fought to make it possible way back in 1997 (a year that I do now have to begrudgingly acknowledge as in fact being "way back").

A portrait of the inductee as a young surfer; or, Jim Fitzpatrick, the quintessential California Kid.

My relationship to Jim—or Fitz as I came to know him—began even more way back in the year of 1989 when I started working at Powell-Peralta. Fitz had already been there for a good minute, getting "hired" shortly before boarding a flight to Savannah, GA, to assist Stacy and Stecyk on the first Savannah Slamma video project in 1987, but was now actively heading up the company's promotional department in Santa Barbara while simultaneously maintaining a toehold down in the fabled "LA Office" where all the ads and video work were conducted. I was 19-years-old when I first stepped off the boat from Wisconsin, very naive and green to the western world of California and working in a semi-corporate environment, so Fitz, knowingly or not, became an unofficial mentor to me.

Through Fitz I learned to appreciate the everyday 9–5 absurdities at Powell-Peralta and find a way to laugh through the increasingly frustrating power dynamics and unfortunate circumstances that eventually befell the company in just a few short years. Perhaps the largest impression left upon me, though, was that he was the first adult I'd ever encountered who had achieved a functional life balance between immaturity and maturity and could masterfully play both sides of the field simultaneously. Over the years, I aspired to the same, but... well... while I've apparently got immaturity on lock, I never could quite get a grip on the other.

Have you seen him? You may not have known it, but Jim Fitzpatrick graced the top logo spot on Bucky Lasek's first pro model for Powell-Peralta in 1990.

The two of us were eventually let go from Powell. My stint abruptly ended just a few days before Thanksgiving in November '91; Fitz stayed on for another couple years or so until he too was cut loose from the swiftly compacting company. Whereas I had gone down to Camp Discordia and proceeded to spend the next several years throwing rotten golden apples at the industry wall, Fitz was on the other end of the spectrum trying to repair the damage done to the skateboarding community by all the shitass kids (like me!) playing Lord of the Fucking Flies. In 1995, he established the International Association of Skateboard Companies in an effort to try and bring back a semblance of order and civility to the industry and foster initiatives that would positively benefit skateboarding as a whole, e.g. his aforementioned lobbying in Sacramento for the public skate park cause.

The man, the myth, the optimal orator—Fitz on the mic on the night.

Sadly, our paths didn't cross often over the next couple decades, but just within the last few years we have managed to reconnect and it's been nothing short of awesome [2]. Fitz's memory is still tack sharp with a wealth of fantastic stories and anecdotes under his belt, his gift for affable conversation whether you're a close friend or a complete stranger remains second to gregarious none, and his love for all things skateboarding to this day is as genuine as it comes—all of which came across resoundingly clear in his somewhat abbreviated acceptance speech at the Hall of Fame ceremony on November 10th.

My only photo with Jim from the night that mattered and we're bookending Donna Cliver, Chandler Kim, and Steve Caballero.

Congratulations, Fitz! It was an honor to be seated at your table. I wasn't prepared for your abrupt departure and totally botched a heartfelt farewell, so hopefully this will do until we meet again some sunny day. —Sean Cliver

**************************** 

1. Or was it Per Welinder who contacted me? No… if anything it must've been both, because I can't imagine I'd just pull Don Brown's name out of the random ass morass I like to call my memory bank. Regardless, freestyle. And Dead Zone [3].

2. It's not like it's a big secret or anything, but a year or so ago Fitz and his son Colin approached me with an idea for a short documentary project that has put us back in each other's life orbit. More importantly, though, it's given me a chance to hear innumerable stories of his from the past that I was previously unaware—namely how he came to be employed at the company under legendary Savannah Slamma circumstances—and piece together a few of the patchwork gaps in my knowledge from our time working together at Powell-Peralta (the continental divide between the SB Headquarters and LA Office was indeed very real).

3. Inside joke.


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  • Ron Wright on

    Yeah man, Is it true Jim coined the phrase “Fruit Booter” HA! Its probably not but it was once joked about one day while working with him during one of the Quarter master Cup contests back in 90.
    My introduction to Fitz happened in the infancy of my career during a night shift in Screen Printing warehouse in early1988. We were printing the first run of Public Domain shirts before the Premier in LA. George chartered a bus for employees to go to it. GEEEZZ what a drunken blast that night was. Anyway, fast forward a couple months to the Makenzie Park Skate Zone demo Jim put together. (A video of the event exists in the Skate One web site video vault) to sway the elitist Santa Barbara city council to build a public skate-park. It was only 12 short years later this finally came to fruition but the event I believe was the nucleus of Fitz’s vision to help the nation finally get public stunt wood parks. I was assigned to be Tony’s grommet bodyguard that day. LMAO. My point? It was a blast to work with Fitz and “the cause” along with the rest of things involved at the factory especially at the Skatezone factory park contests (outdoor then indoor). Thank you Fitz, skateboarding and screen printing!!!
    I regret not going to lunch with him during my recent time working in Austin while he was living there as well. I told me he is back in S.B. now and I am back in the Boulder CO area where I occasionally throw my 58 year old frame around at public skateparks that Fitz is ultimately responsible for!!!
    P.S.- George has made some fubar decisions over the years and Jim’s exit was a major one.
    Sean, keep up the good work. Fuggn A

  • Jim on

    I’m silenced…Frances read this and said, “Sean is such a good writer!”


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