Warning: The following post contains material of an extremely trivial nature. Just saying.
I tried my best to address anything out of the graphic ordinary in the pages of The Disposable Skateboard Bible, but on occasion I did drop the historical ball and fail to follow through. One instance that nags me to this very day involved a couple of oddballs that I'd thrown into a spread of Powell-Peralta boards from the '80s with very little explanation—and by very little I obviously mean that eye-straining 5-point type that was used on the board credits (sorry, but I was unable to convince my publisher to include a complimentary Disposable-branded magnifying glass with each book; we'd already broke the bank on the fancy-ass red ribbon). Specifically, I'm referring to the Rat Bones and Mike McGill Skull & Snake boards found on page 187 that were randomly described as "UK Editions". You should know, however (or at least someone should because I'm not Catholic and don't have the luxury to unload this confessional on some random priest), that I kinda pulled this "fact" out of my ass based on a few semi-educated guesses. Not exactly good "historian" form, but so it goes.
Recently I decided to see how close to (or how far off from) the English mark I really was on these unusual suspects, but here was the half-ass forensic evidence as it stood prior to doing so.
1) Powell-Peralta Rat Bones (red): When I first held this board in my hands it just felt ... different. Additionally, the front wheel-wells looked a bit "off" in the traditional Powell drum-sanded manner and there was the inclusion of a "Powell Peralta Copyright 1985" that I hadn't seen on any other Rat Bones models [two USA production examples shown at right]. Fortunately I'd seen where this board originated from, as it was sold on eBay a year or two back from a seller based in ... the UK.
2) Powell-Peralta Mike McGill (blue and red): Ever wondered about those "eyes" that are floating in the sockets of the Skull & Snake graphic [USA production model shown at far right]? I did once. They're borderline cartoony, yet when you took a Sharpie and blacked them out it left the skull rather dead and lifeless. Funny what a few simple red and white dots can do. So when one popped up on eBay without the eyes it really popped out. But what else interested me were the curious front wheel-wells and merry olde location of the seller ... the UK.
3) While working on Disposable: A History of Skateboard Art in 2003, I'd happened upon one of those strange Powell-Peralta Steve Steadham pigs* without the background in Lance Mountain's collection. The Steadham pigs are unlike any other Powell manufactured board for the time period—squared edges, lack of wheel-wells, awful graphic registration/printing—yet all have had the trademark "C" stamped on them that Powell used to denote cosmetic blems/seconds. He also had a Claus Grabke of similar sub-par construction that he'd apparently grabbed up at the factory in the '80s. Lance wasn't sure what the story behind it was, but he did mention that at one time in the mid-'80s Powell had looked into producing boards in conjunction with Shiner, a prominent skate distributor based in ... the UK.
Taking all that UK coincidence into consideration, I called it a C.S.I. day and blithely labeled them as being made overseas—even though I had not a whit of concrete evidence to back the claim up. So much for fact-checking!
Well, the other day, I finally got around to contacting George Powell to see what if anything he could recall about a potential UK connection in the '80s. For the most part he said that Lance was correct.
"Chris [Allen] from Shiner came to apprentice here in Santa Barbara when he was a lad," George said, "and then went home to set up shop for us with a wood shop that made maple products. I went over there to help, but we were never happy with the quality and lack of control, so we killed it after a few months of frustration."
On the trivial issue of the missing McGill eyes, George had no clear recollection of any specific alterations made to the graphic.
I then contacted Chris at Shiner to see if he could fill in any other details behind this venture. He confirmed that, yes, he did go over to Santa Barbara for three weeks in June 1985 to learn how to manufacture Powell-Peralta decks. Apparently, the purpose was to reduce the cost of manufacturing and increase the supply overseas, as Powell couldn't supply enough decks to meet the demand at the time. Production-wise, the Canadian hard rock maple veneers came to the UK via the same source that Powell used; the veneers were pressed in the UK on presses that had been shipped from Powell; and the boards were all shaped on jigs also supplied by Powell.
"We produced 3000 decks before all manufacturing went back to Santa Barbara," Chris noted.
The Powell-Peralta U.K. models produced in that brief time frame included the Rat Bones, Ripper, Lance Mountain Future Primitive, Steve Caballero (stinger tail), Tony Hawk Screaming Chicken Skull, Steve Steadham, and the McGill Skull & Snake—all of which had wheel wells. When asked specifically about the McGill graphic, Chris stated that they didn't change the artwork on their end as it was all supplied by George and the screens were made to his specification.
So where does all this conclusively leave us with regard to these decks? I don't know exactly. I still contend that the Rat Bones and McGill decks are a product of this fleeting long-distance affair between Powell and Shiner, but for now it remains to be dictionary definition conjecture.
* Not to mention that a few of these Steadham pigs had been marked on the bottom with Sharpied prices in British pound sterling.