One of the many things I love about skating is how accessible our heroes are. We all have stories about seeing random pros at our local spots. Being fortunate enough to have grown up a less-than-1-hour train ride from NYC, I have an abundance of such tales. One dude in particular, who I've been running into at the banks, the seaport, and tri-state skateparks in the winter for the last 15 years, is Bob Puleo. Even got to play him in pool one night at Cherry Tavern. Just a few months ago, I found myself skating under the BQE in Brooklyn, and who shows up? Yup, Bob Puleo. We say what's up, exchange names like we always do, I mention Bobshirt, and the following interview is what transpired.
intro & interview - Mike Regan
photo - Josh Stewart
Where did you grow up?
Clifton NJ, about 13 miles outside the city.
How did you get into skating? How old were you?
I was 10. A friend of mine came back from the Jersey Shore that summer with a Brand X and it was on.
What was you first proper setup?
A gray Powell Peralta Sword and Skull with Red Ventures and Rat Bones.
Who did you look up to?
Being from the East Coast, did you find getting recognized a bit harder?
What was your earliest memory of the banks?
The first time I ever went there I was in HS. A friend of mine drove in after school one day and we nearly got into this terrible accident on Rt. 3 going into the tunnel. If my mother woulda' found out I went into the city by myself she woulda' had my nuts. I also thought the place was going to be a lot bigger. I remember thinking to myself and marveling about how small the space was. It was gritty. This was prolly 1990.
What's your most vivid/favorite memory of the banks in the early-mid 90's?
The absolute chaos happening there. There were mass amounts of people living in the anchorage at the time, so you were skating in these people's front yard. There were a lot of homeless people there at that time. Dirty Gary writing his name across the banks was sick. All the grafitti, Sev, CBee, Set. The place was sick. The look on Qulon's face all the time.
In your opinion, what is the best trick done over the Bank's wall, documented or not?
Either Koston's nollie back heel for the time he did it or Welsh's switch 3 flip. Wouldn't you agree? That's nuts.
Who did you skate with in 1994 that you still skate with now on the regular?
How did you get hooked up with Stereo?
Through Dune and Huf, which was through Zoo and Metropolitan.
How did things end with Stereo?
With a phone call.
What were the top five albums in your tape deck/disc man in the year 1995?
Jeesh, prolly De La, Tribe, Group Home, That KRS solo joint, and Black Moon/Smiff and Wessun.
It seems like 90% of skateboarding is creativity right now, and you were at the forefront of that. Do you think some skating is forced these days? For example, it seems like some dudes are trying too hard to come up with the creative way to do something on a skateboard and in the end it backfires and the trick seems contrived and unoriginal.
Sure, I mean it is difficult to do something creative when so much has already been done. That's why I tend to stick to spots. There's always new spots to skate where nothing has been done yet. It just takes the motivation to seek them out.
You have been in the game for quite some time now and developed a devoted following. Do you feel its hard to keep up with the newer generations, or if it's even necessary?
I mean if anything, it's hard for the newer generation to keep up with me. It's not easy what I do. It takes a lot of time and a lot of dedication. It's one thing to have some one take you to a spot, it's another thing to find it on your own. Just like it's one thing to be the first to skate a new spot than it is to be the second or third, or after the spot became popular. I mean that's called following. Or biting.
What are your top 5 favorite shoes to skate in- past & present?
Cabs, Converse Pro's when Mariano chose to wear them, not Converse asking and paying him to wear them, same with Rick Howard era Campus, and then anything with a good cup soul and a good suede upper. Doesn't seem like there's too many good shoe brands out there any more.
Who are your top 5 favorite pros?
MG, Guy and Julien.
What was the first skate video you saw?
What's your favorite skate video?
You've skated to everything from BDP to Van Morrison. How do go about selecting a track for your parts?
Well I didn't choose the Van Morrison song. Actually I hated it. I just choose what I like. If it works I use it. If it doesn't I don't.
Gino Iannucci once said, "I miss the times when skating was hated on." Back in the early 90's, because skating was so hated on, I think it took a genuine interest to get into it. As a result, skating in the early 90's felt more genuine than it does today. Do you agree? If so, why?
Sure. I mean skateboarding, real skateboarders belong to a club. You get initiated, indoctrinated. You earn your wings. Too many kids these days don't understand skateboarding, it's history, it's origin and meaning. Too many kids learn about it through video games and TV and think they know it and that they are skateboarders. They have no idea that there is an etiquette. I had a kid come up to me the other day who could barely kick turn on this bank we were skating and ask me if I wanted to play skate. I couldn't believe it. And he was serious. That's what kids think skateboarding is. Another way to compete. It's sickening. Partly you have Gino to blame with Nike. It's insanity.
Would you agree that skaters today treat skating more like a job than in the early 90's when for example, it wasn't unheard of for a skater to wear another team's shirt or ride another team's board just because he simply liked the graphic. Like Richard Mulder wearing a Menace shirt in Mouse, or Lavar McBride wearing a Girl shirt in Trilogy and so on.
Absolutely. wearing another brand's tee shirt? That's unheard of.
What do you feel are some of the biggest differences between skating in 2003 compared to 1993?
Tricks, obviously. Skateboarders on TV.
Who do you ride for these days?
Traffic, Venture, HiFi and VKTM BRAND.
Do you have any plans for after skating?