In the Blood
Words by Eric Shirk | Photos by Evan Klanfer & Eric Shirk
When we as humans think of the word “addiction,” we tend to have a bad habit of immediately making a correlation to the abuse of potentially destructive substances such as drugs and alcohol. However, for a select few individuals in this world, addiction will be encountered in a form that could never be bought or sold. For these risk takers, soul seekers, life livers, or whatever you’d like to call them, the mundane is not an option. Maybe at one time they could have easily walked slowly and carefully toward their own demise, but not now. No way. That’s no longer an option. Because these select individuals are now hook, line, and sinker on what is possibly the most pwerful drug of all: the pursuit of radness.
Earlier this year I attended an event called “Skatercross” at Milestone MX in Riverside, California. In their own words, Skatercross is “a fun day of riding that welcomes pros from all walks of skateboarding to jump on a motorcycle and have some fun at the track”—basically “just a practice session filled with arm pump and bench racing.” As I pulled in through the gates, I began searching for the man who organized this event: Steve Caballero.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with this name, at age 12 in the year 1976, Steve Caballero began his own lifelong pursuit of radness as he picked up a skateboard for the very first time. From that day forward, nothing would be the same.
From inventing tricks (the Caballerial) to being sponsored by one of the most influential skate brands of all time (Powell-Peralta) to creating one of the longest-lasting and most popular professional skateboarding shoe models of all time (the Vans Half Cab) and even just revolutionizing the style and finesse of riding a skateboard as a whole, Cab was hooked from day one and is one of the most legendary skateboarders of all time.
So, that being said (and as much as I hate to admit it), I was definitely nervous to even approach the guy—especially since I was about to ask him if he’d be interested in being a part of the magazine that we all work so hard to put together. I mean, this dude has been one of my idols since I was a dirty little skate rat flipping through old Thrasher mags during middle school algebra class, cutting out the pictures to hang up in my room. Hell, just a few months ago I was skating the local pool by my house in Pennsylvania with my homies blaring “Skate and Destroy” by The Faction (the punk band that Caballero played bass and guitar for). What if he said no? Was I about to be denied by the same dude that I used to have a poster of on my wall when I was younger?
Alright, so I’ll quit fanning out and get to the nitty-gritty already. As you can obviously imagine—considering you wouldn’t be reading this if it went the other way—Cab was rad. Not only was he immediately stoked to even be asked about being a part of the magazine, but he took the time to give me a Skatercross shirt and his contact info, then show me cell-phone photos of some of the art he’d been working on. The dude even kicked it with me and talked skating. So yeah, I was hyped, and we ended up making a plan to head out a few weeks later to shoot some photos for the mag and talk about the feature.
“I took a six-year hiatus from mx, then caught the bug again,”
Cab told me as he took a break from riding during our photo shoot at the recently reopened Pala Raceway in Pala, California. Cab started riding moto in 2000 and ended up stopping in 2005, shortly after starting a family, out of fear of getting gravely hurt. “Stuff changes when you become a dad, and after seeing multiple people get seriously injured, it definitely worried me,” he told me. However, in 2011 Cab would break out the boots yet again and take on a fresh start to the same exact thing that he thought he’d quit for good. “My best friend, Salman Agah, encouraged me to get back into it, and by that time my wrist was itchin’ to twist some throttle!” Cab told me.
“Whether it’s skateboarding, riding, art, music, or anything I’m passionate about, I don’t think it’s possible to just quit completely. Not for me, anyways.”
Even during the short amount of time I spent shooting photos with Caballero out at Pala Raceway, you could just tell how invested in and passionate he truly is about the sport of motocross. All day long he was saying things like, “Dude, did you see that guy whip? I want to learn to do that!” and “Man, I want to learn to hit corners like that guy over there!” So let’s put this into perspective: Here’s a 50-year-old man who has done pretty much everything there is to do on a skateboard, is viewed as an absolute legend across the entire skate community—and he’s worried about dragging bar in a corner or throwing a whip? “I’ll teach you how to whip if you teach me how to do 10-foot-high lien airs out of the deep end of a pool,” I told him jokingly. He just smiled, though, then laughed, and continued to study each and everyone’s riding technique as if he were hypnotized by the riders’ modus operandi.
Sooner than later, though, the day had come to an end. I’d gotten my photos, he’d gotten his shred on, and we’d both gotten covered in dust due to the dry California weather that can leave its track conditions less than perfect, to say the least. As he loaded up his KTM 350 into the back of his pickup truck, I noticed the skeleton graphic on his shrouds that appeared to be crawling out of the abyss. I’d obviously seen this logo before, and I immediately knew what it meant: Bones Brigade. The Bones Brigade was a 1980s misfit skate crew that had included who would go on to be some of the most legendary skateboarders in history, including Tony Hawk, Rodney Mullen, Lance Mountain, and obviously Cab himself, just to name a few. But it wasn’t the crew that got me thinking; it was the graphics. This logo being on his motorcycle finally got me to realize after all this time that skateboarding and motocross are one in the same.
I felt like an idiot. All my life I’d been skateboarding and riding motocross with the mindset that they’re two completely separate things. But, in the end, whether it’s a sport, hobby, art form, or anything that we are passionate about, they are all connected by the exact same thing. All of these things are linked by that one addiction that we all have to our passions. Through trials, tribulations, and difficult situations, once you’ve found your passion, there’s no letting go—no matter what it is. For Cab, whether it’s skateboarding, motocross, painting, or making music, it’s these portions of his life that continue to leave him compelled to keep learning as long as he’s still with us on this Earth.
He’ll never quit dreaming, he’ll never quit learning, and he’ll damn sure never quit living.
That’s why at 50 years of age, Caballero continues to live for that one pursuit that’s been impossible to let go since he first picked up that skateboard 38 years ago: the pursuit of radness.
So, this being said, thank you, Steve Caballero. Thanks for keeping it up after all these years, and continuing to inspire us all to never let go of what we’re passionate about. Because just as you’ve said so many times before,