For the last 30 years of my life, I have had the privilege of learning from one of skateboarding’s most iconic figures, Bruce Walker.
Bruce has often been sighted riding his skateboard, performing flat-land routines between Coconuts and the Beach Shack, usually at sunset time.
In the 1980s I used to watch the Walker Skateboard Team at contests, demos and even in the streets near 1st St North and Woodland where the Walker Skateboard Factory was located (currently being occupied by Twin Style Hair Salon). Anyway, I would skate to the factory and wait for Jim McCall, Bruce Walker and sometimes even Reggie Barnes to come out on a “skate break.” They were masters of flat-land skateboarding. They’d watch each other take turns putting routines down on the asphalt. 360’s, space walks, nose wheelies, handstands, kick flips, old tricks, new tricks, they did it all.
Looking back today, I am not sure I ever realized how important those sessions were for me to witness. If California had the industry, magazines, scenes and pros, then 1st and Woodland had it for Florida. That intersection was the mecca for a number of years. The factory was also a distributor that carried all the brands. Lots of Walker team pros and amateurs would come to our little section of skateboarding culture and skate the flat and “curb cuts” near the storage units. Both Jim and Bruce helped to pioneer the modern skateboard movement and invented numerous tricks. Most notably, McCall with the first “Frontside Air” on a ramp or pool, and Bruce, along with many other accolades is credited with being the first skateboarding distribution businessman in North America. Bruce also had constructed the earliest “curved” skateboard ramp.
Bruce is a Skateboarding Hall of Fame member and a Surfing Hall of Fame member. Standing about 6’4” and with a physical resemblance to a classic physically fit Batman or Superman character, Bruce is impossible to miss at the skate or surf session. Bruce rides a non-traditional skateboard that is 42” long and is special made with eight plys of maple instead of the standard ply. He has ridden a long skateboard since I have known him. Classic photos of Bruce in pools on conventional short boards proves his ability to ride anything and any type of board on any type of terrain.
Bruce offered guidance during my early competitive years. He would explain to me how urgent it was to skate the entire course, emphasizing the importance of style, speed, continuity, difficult tricks and variety. I understand now that this was one of the most important conversations I had as a young skater. I was not even on the Walker team, yet I had the guy who coached Jim McCall, Rodney Mullen, Sean Slater, Reggie Barnes, Kelly Slater and Chuck Dinkins helping me with my contest runs and strategy. It was not like we spent hours reviewing footage or techniques, just constant conversations about how to do better in contests. I was a contest skater. I lived for contests. We would travel all over the state for any competition. Often I found myself hitching ride to contests in the legendary “Walker Van”. I was hungry and wanted to be on the Walker team like nothing else. Bruce would see me win contests, place in the top three, and even get last place sometimes. He always was honest and supportive. Again, mind boggling that he even gave me the time of day since I was not on his team.
As time went on Mark Lake, one of Bruce’s most influential pros was starting his own brand, Lake Skateboards. I would join the Lake team in 1988 but not before knocking on Bruce Walker’s office door to ask for his advice. For the last two years I had been riding Walker boards that I got at a discounted “B-Team” rate, so naturally I felt like I owed Bruce a conversation due to the drastic levels of loyalty I had for Walker Skateboards. Bruce told me (again) that with him, Chuck Dinkins and Jim McCall all in CB and Melbourne that he really would be oversaturated, geographically, by adding me. I totally understood and he was right. If I lived in middle-America I would have had a way better chance perhaps. He went on to say that Mark had a cool, edgy thing going and I would fit in well with that team. I actually did want to join Lake since it was a new Florida brand with the strength and history of Mark Lake. I still ride Lake Boards today, 28 years later. Mark Lake actually got to watch me win a contest in March in Ft. Lauderdale. Then I got last in the very next contest, so not much has changed. Only now, to talk contests and skateboarding with Bruce, I will just have to call his cell phone. Hopefully, he will be able to chat in between sessions at Pipeline and the North Shore Skate Park.
I’d like to send a huge “Thank You” to Bruce for all you have done for the world of skateboarding and surfing, in Cocoa Beach and beyond. See you soon!