Saturday, March 29, 2014

Talking Slappies With Jason Adams

The Kid at the Transportation Unit red curb invitational. 1st place. Time to start thinking about Street League

No trick can inspire cliched assertions like the humble, yet mighty slappy. In the deceptively simple act of throwing a grind on a curb without popping an ollie, some can find the essence of skateboarding. From there, the cliches just seem to pour out: It’s more than a trick, it’s an attitude...a lifestyle...a cult...insert your own philosophical sentiment here.

Among the greatest practitioners of the way of the slap is San Jose’s own Jason “The Kid” Adams. He’s perpetrated slappies in the darkest days of the flipped out 90’s, he’s thrown them down in video parts when no one else has dared, and, as decades of pro skating have taken its toll on his mind and body, it’s the slappy that keeps Adams stoked. I spoke with this slappy guru about the mechanics, magic and mystique of the slappy. We soon found ourselves probing deep into the Dao of slap in a way only two curb-crunching fanatics could:

First thing I’d like to do is play a little game. It’s called: “Are You A Slappy”. I’m going to throw out some things people have described as slappies or, at the very least, in the slappy family of tricks, and you tell me: Slappy or not a slappy. First off, slapping your nose into a curb without lifting your wheels and bashing into a noseslide. Is that a “slappy noseslide”?

No. I would say, no.

Slapping into a blunt slide on curb?


O.K., how about when you Grind up the bump in a driveway ramp into a grind on the top of a curb. Slappy or not a slappy?

Not a Slappy.

Alright, riding from the top of the sidewalk, carving over to the edge into a 50-50 on the top of the curb.

No. Not a slappy, even though I did that all the time.

I’m beginning to get the picture of your definition of the slappy.

To me, the slappy is hitting the trucks and putting your weight into it. Even though I slap into blunt slides and just last night I was skating with J.J. Rogers and we did the slap into a noseslide, to me the slappy is about the trucks. Slapping into a noseslide is cool, but I don’t consider that a slappy, not that is really matters, you want to call it a slappy noseslide, cool; I’m not going to tell someone: “That’s not a slappy!”, but to me it’s all about putting all your weight into a curb and the trucks. Put your weight into it and give it hell.

O.K., Here’s a tough one for me. In one of his videos Ishod Wair comes up to the side of a building, slaps up into a wallride, and, about waist high on the wall there’s a heating vent inset in the granite, so there's a little lip on it, so he bashes up the wall, into a crooked grind on the lip, all without ollieing and without any sort of bank to the wall.

Good question. To me that’s a wall ride to crooked grind, whatever it is it is impressive and really could go either way with it, it reminds me of a long time ago at Embarcadero...

I know what you are about to say: Danny Sargent slappying the big ledge at EMB? That was going to be the next there a point where if you go so high its stops really being a slappy...

Hands down that was gnarly. I remember seeing that and to me it was like: “Fuck, that’s a Slappy”. I don't know though. Who knows? You can say it’s a wall ride to 50-50...or you could say it was a slappy. I’m not going to rule on that one.

OK, last one: Slappy with Z-rollers. Slappy or not a Slappy:

A slappy’s a slappy. I guess I would have to give it to the z-rollers. Yeah. Is it fun? No. But it’s a slappy.

I have some old Transworlds at home from the early 90’s, when you were first showing up in the mags, and there are shots of you with baggy pants flipping around on wedges in the skatepark or hitting ledges...all through those years were you throwing down slappies when the cameras weren’t around?

Oh, For sure I was doing them then, especially in the early 90s. You know what was going on in skateboarding. It was hip hop, urban, white shirts, baggy pants, that kind of bullshit, and I was still like: I like punk rock, I’m from the suburbs. I grew up with The Faction and Black Flag and all that kind of stuff...I never grew out of it. (In the 90’s) one of my closest friends was Tim Brauch and he had the same attitude. We’d have slappy sessions, we kind of had that need for rebellion within skateboarding, that and San Jose pride was really heavy. I embraced it. I don’t think that was really seen until later when I rode for Black Label. With the other companies I was just trying to fit in, but (John)Lucero was the first to really stress “do whatever you want”, so I’d show him video and be like: “look at this (slappy) trick...I did all this stuff on a curb”, and he’d love it.

I started skating about 1986, and in my neighborhood there was this real heavy scene going on at this grocery store I lived across the street from. Maybe it just seeemed heavy because I was 13 and everyone else was 16 to 18, but that’s what was going on. Punk rock, pegged pants, slap the curb, railslides, wallrides with your hand on the board or on the ground. I remember really early on it was a rite of passage, the slappy. There was a very aggressive attitude where I grew up: Nor Cal. Slappies, punk rock, that whole mentality is what I was fed. There was a certain pride in it. There were other tricks but the slappy was the one. We knew it was The Trick.



Who’s your money on as official inventor of the Slappy? Lucero says Lance Mountain, Lance says Lucero, I think Neil Blender may be in the running...

I really don’t know...there’s another argument that the O'Briens (Corey and Gavin) here in San Jose were in first but I think it’s one of those things where people were doing the same thing at the same time.

I’d like to talk about Slappy regionalism. I grew up in Indiana, we didn’t have very many good slappy curbs, so we had to hunt for them and it was kind of a big deal if you could do a real one on a real curb. For us it was all about parking blocks, in New York they’ve got the metal curbs or the granite ones. When I eventually got to California, it was like there were perfect slappy curbs everywhere, you could take it for granted. The slappy had a whole different context. It’s almost like the slappy is a different trick depending where you live.

Yeah, look at where we live, miles and miles of suburban sprawl, that’s where we grew up, it was just all this concrete, this new concrete, and the rest of the country there’s still a lot of old architecture, everything is weathered because you get rained on half the year. We don’t. And here they paint everything red...

And a lot of the west coast curbs are built different, a lot of them have that slight angle into them, that’s really rare, almost nonexistent in other places I’ve been.

Some other places it is almost like the curbs are at an inverted angle...

And there’s round curbs, the Natas “tootsie rolls” on the strand...

I don’t like it when it's banked or rounded too much. I like it when it's vertical. I don’t like it unless you have to put all your weight into it.

What do you think of parking blocks? That was really what we had to slappy.

I’ve slappied them but they’re dangerous. You can roll right over them. I love parking blocks though, but what we used to do was stack them up...put one going up the other, or three going up and down and you had to slide over the gap in the middle.

We’re talking a lot about throwing your weight into the curb, but slappies also take a lot of finesse, you slap your trucks in hard, but you have to shift your weight at just the right moment, and that shift changes depending on the shape or slickness of the curb, there’s a lot going on.

It’s weird. It’s like something that is unexplainable. People are like: “I don’t know how to do it!” and I’m like: “I don’t know how to tell you!”

A lot of people have the impression that, since its a relatively basic trick, you can’t get wrecked too bad doing it, but there are so many ways slappies can go wrong. You can snag a kingpin, overshoot and slide out, or miss the front truck and go into an unintentional boardslide and wilson...

Man you can get so fucked up. Some of my harshest slams are from just getting denied on a slappy. You go to hit it and your wheels just don’t even go and your momentum just stops. I eat shit harder skating a curb than anywhere else. You don’t expect it. You’re going full speed, putting your weight into it and you get denied, and the whole time your thinking: “It’s just a curb. I can’t get hurt.” And next thing you know your body is just smacking the concrete and half of your body is on top of the curb and the other half is on the ground. You can get served big time.

Are you a slappy evangelist? Are you out there spreading the good word about slappies?

The spots I skate, little kids will come through and they’re tripping watching me do slappies, but I don’t even know how to teach them. It’s so different from what they do. I don’t know how to describe it. That and they think it’s cool but they don’t care that much...when I was a kid the slappy was like the kickflip. It was really only the first year that I skated that that was how it was. Things progressed so fast in street skating, and we still did them, but kids who got into skating even just a year or two after I did, it wasn’t like that. The slappy was just gone. In San Jose we had such punk rock pride we tried to keep the dream alive.

Frontside or Backside?

Personally, for me, frontside.

Have you ever worn a truck all the way through into two pieces doing slappies?

It’s impossible, when you get to a certain point your axle will bend, or the truck just breaks.

At what point is a truck best for slappies? Fresh, broke in a little? Down to the axles?

When they’re ground down and when the bushings are about ready to be dead. Down to the axle front and back. I’ve got a good wear on mine now and I’m supposed to try these new 149s and I’m like: “I don’t want to put new trucks on!”

They grind easier and smoother when they are brand new, but with a slappy is that what you really want?

It’s not the same. I really feel with your trucks you build a relationship. The more you ride the more you get a feel for them. Every once in a while there’s a board where you’re just: “wow this board feels great”, but trucks and bushings, you always get attached. I’ve been riding my current trucks almost a year.

Can you maximize a board for slappies?

I don’t think it matters, but for me, I like to have a little bit of flavor on my board, some shape. I like to look down and see something. I’ve never been trick-oriented, so for a slappy board I want something that looks old-school and has a little bigger and has that feel to it, but I kind of like that no matter what. That’s just a personal preference. It’s like saying: “I want a red board.”

You were riding the punk point before it got cool again, and you’ve got the pointed nose on your current board. I can see that as having function for slappies and wall rides, that angle in allows you to have the leverage of a big nose, but is not going to bash into the curb so easily...

No, the point is all for the flair. It's because when I was a kid all the dudes I loved like Ricky Winsor had the crazy pointy boards. I like the idea of carrying on the tradition. I don’t think if you have a popsicle stick your nose is going to hit the wall or the curb. It’s all about attitude, about looking down and seeing that shape. For me, personally, it’s about: “This is fucking cool. This is punk.” It puts me in mind of how I envision skateboarding. When I look down at a popsicle stick I’m thinking: “Why am I on this?”. The shape is functional, you can 360 flip it, you can kickflip it, it goes backwards...but I don’t give a shit. It’s all attitude, style, although, sometimes, when a board is a little wider in a certain place, a little rounder, it can work better for slappies, but the reality is it’s more like I want to drive a Cadillac, you know? I could probably do a slappy riding a 2X4

There’s one thing we have to bring up when talking about slappies. Something controversial. I’m talking about wax. What is your perspective on wax?

There’s no way around wax. Granted, some red curbs are ready to go, but the curbs I rode when I was a kid weren’t red curbs. You had to have wax, but, when I was a kid, if you over waxed you could get vibed out of the session. Once the curb got to a certain point it was good to go and you put the wax away. These days it has loosened up. I think before it was always “DON’T WAX IT!”. Trust me, you need wax. Sometimes you wear it down and you have to wax it a little bit, but you don’t want to over wax it and you definitely don’t want to over-wax the top, but sometimes you have to wax.
Check out Jason's Slappy Hour Prints, Coasters, Stokage at

Its not just about slapping the curb, its about how it feels, too much wax and you lose that feel.

It’s just a little bit of wax to keep it going. When you’re constantly chipping off concrete you’ve got to bring it back out...still, it’s almost like I’m being irreverent to the curb when I bring out the wax these days because of how I grew up. My first sponsor was Winchester Skateshop. For me to get on the team I had to slap the unwaxed curb.

Do you buy the fancy skate wax or you an old school candles and paraffin guy?

It’s all kind of the same, but what’s cool about the skate wax is that just having a big block of wax is better than a candle, and with candles or paraffin when you’re rubbing it down it starts to break up, but when they make skate wax they melt it at a slower speed, so skate wax doesn’t flake.  When you use candles they flake and you lose a lot of it. That’s because its heated quickly at a high temperature. Skate wax is molded at a lower temperature so it’s softer and it stays together.

I never knew there was any difference

I would say it works better.

The other day I was at the park with my friend and this kid starts waxing a metal edged curb with a banana peel. We went up to him and asked what on earth he was doing, and he looked at us like WE were the crazy ones. Like everybody waxed curbs with bananas. Is that some west coast trend I missed? Waxing curbs with produce?

(Laughs) No. maybe they’re doing that in Berkeley, I don’t know.

I’ve done some weird stuff when being in a bind though. I’ve tried to soap a curb. I have used and seen used the kind of cups like you get at 7-11, they’ve got that little bit of wax on the paper...

Waxing a curb with a paper cup?

Sometimes it works just enough, when you’re sticking and you’ve got nothing else, use the wax off the paper cup.

How do you feel about switch slappies?

Me and J.J. (Rogers) were working on those two nights ago. I did some but they weren’t pretty, but I’m all about it.

What about flipping out of slappy tricks? Is that getting too tech?

I’ve always thought about doing those, but I want to do it right. It’s one thing if you go up on the curb and just sat on it, standing on it and you kick flipped out. You would need to do it so when you hit the curb it was like one motion...don’t sit on top at all and kickflip out. That would be rad. I’ve messed with it. I can flip it but I can’t land it.

If you get too technical the collision of the two time periods could warp the space-time continuum.

I love that idea.

What's the hardest slappy variation?

I have no idea...

What, because they’re all so easy?

No. Definitely not. The slappy 360 no-comply out maybe?

Which one is the most fun?

I guess just the straight frontside. When I do slappies I don’t really go up and sit on top of the curb, it’s more like one motion: “Whack!”, and at the end I’m up on the back truck. That’s the most fun. I just love it. You know what? I just lied. Slappy smith is my favorite.

So, when your doing the Smith slappy or even the 5-0, do you go straight to your back truck when you slap into it, or does the front truck have to contact for a split second before you are just grinding your back truck?

It’s just like a regular slappy. Front truck first, get the back one into position, then push.

So, do you think we are in the middle of a slappy renaissance?

It seems like it. I just think that skateboarding goes through these phases, phases where it gets so trick oriented and progression oriented and, as insane as that is, it gets boring. Then people want to go back to that “I just wanna have fun...I just want to fuck off” attitude. That was how it was when I started skateboarding. I wasn’t thinking “I’m going to be the best and I’m going to learn tricks”. I just wanted to get out of the house. I wanted to go hang out with my friends. I wanted to go have fun. I wanted to listen to punk. I wanted to just fuck off. Really that’s how skating started: “I wanna go fuck off.” Skating is getting back to that. The slappy is accessible. It’s for aging skaters just like skateparks. Now that there’s skateparks everywhere, it’s almost like: “we’ve been skating the skatepark, Now what?” Somehow the curb thing got re-hyped.

You ever roll up to a beautiful, state of the art park and notice there’s a waxed up slappy curb in the parking lot? It’s like skaters from a certain era can’t pass up a good curb even if the greatest modern, concrete paradise is just  a few yards away.

Oh yeah. I’ve seen one set up at one of the parks down here.

It took me a lot of years to realize this, but, being a skater when there were no skateparks, one of the most fun things about skateboarding was going out and being creative with your surroundings and all the things that weren’t meant to be skated. I think that was a huge part of it. Even though we dreamed about skateparks and even when they started coming about they were fun, but there was something lacking. It took a while to remember, but the heart (of skateboarding) was the search, getting creative with what you have.

I’ve been on this kick talking about how even older skaters should get out of the parks every once in a while. Locally source your skating. Just go out and ride what you find. Guys get burned out on the parks, and a lot of them just chalk it up to not being able to skate as good as they like or the vibe, but when you get down to it, for guys like me who fell in love with skating in those early street days, there’s that element of improvisation and using the everyday stuff out in the streets that no skatepark can ever fulfill. That’s part of what we loved. Skating curbs is a way to get that back without a lot of hassle.

There’s curbs everywhere. Its not about jumping the fence, you don’t have to deal with the cops for the most part. I’m 40 years old, I occasionally do the street skating thing with the boys but I honestly really don’t want to deal with cops at all anymore. I don’t want to jump fences anymore. Curbs are what I grew up with. Its almost like looking at a high school yearbook, not that I give a fuck about high school yearbooks. I did my time for skateboarding and tried to be the best I could and now I get to go out and have fun and ride curbs just like I did when I was a kid.

Skateparks are funny because a lot of them have bowls so the old vert/pool crowd has something to get them back on a board, Vans re-built the combi-bowl from Upland, that kind of thing, and then there’s the modern street and flow sections with the rails and hubbas and all that for the modern skater, but what about the middle children of skateboarding, the guys who started skating street in the late 80’s and early nineties? Where’s the late 80’s skatepark? What would that look like. It would be a flat parking lot with a painted curb, maybe a couple benches, parking blocks...

Salman Agah was up here and I took him to the red curbs and we were talking about how all these guys have their big “training facilities” you know, and how if I had the funds I would not only get myself a better studio workspace, but I would have this 80’s-ass park at my fingertips. I’d have a curb, I’d have some kind of crazy horseshoe shaped slider bar, a wall ride.

So is there a final frontier of slappies? Is there anywhere else they can go at this point?

It goes back to that question of “is this a slappy or not?” People are doing stuff I always dreamed of, like crazy wallride grinds down hubbas...I used to look at stuff and go: “I wish I could wallride 50-50 down that thing...” and now people are doing it, 50-50s down huge hubbas. I always had that stuff in my mind. There was so much I could do if I had bigger balls, but you only have what you have. I always knew I could only do what I could do, and kids now are so skilled and so confident they can kind of do whatever they think of. They’re taking the slappy to the next level. For me, with curbs, I’ve always been into skating them, but the last six months it’s sparked this whole new thing where I’m always thinking of tricks: “What if i could do this...?”

I’m out with J.J. Rogers skating curbs two nights a week trying new tricks. Here we are like kids behind whatever grocery store trying to do new moves at 40 and 44 years old, it makes skateboarding super rad again, not that it ever wasn’t, but I was burnt for a little while.

The slappy is my favorite trick. I love it. All I do is drive around all day and look at curbs...looking at the lighting, looking at the bust factor...

Slappy gone wrong, or Secret San Jose mind meld technique? Photo via Tiltmode Army

Have you ever found yourself out on a date and gotten that thousand-yard-curb stare checking something out and then got called out on it? Like “What on Earth are you staring at”?

It never ends. My wife sees me doing it, and knows what I’m doing and pretty much everyone I know is linked to skateboarding so they know what I’m doing, but sometimes I still get the “what are you looking at?” The thing is, it took a long time for me to realize I even did it.

I’ve come to realize there’s no way in hell anyone who is not a skater ever really looks at a curb at the grocery store, no one has any idea. All they know is: “drive around it” I still look. I still look at stuff that I can’t even skate.  


  1. Great stuff. Jay seems like a rad dude.

  2. super good interview. Thanks Kyle for being awesome.

  3. Round curbs are sick
    Parking stones are sick
    Shaped noses do help wall rides and slappys
    Nose slide slappy is cool as long as you don't have that wide stance for to long, and don't lift your front truck......and go fast so no one will ? It.... He's right its about the curb bash then the pull though......
    I just skated my first ever slappy contest...

    The slappy has always been fun...
    Sick interview. .....Sticky Nichy

  4. I lift my front truck on nose slides and they are beautiful.

  5. Just re-read this interview and it's still one of the best.

  6. You got a really useful blog I have been here reading for about half an hour. I am a newbie and your post is valuable for me.

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