FTC isn’t just a skateshop. It served as a meeting place, a charity house, and a second home for some of the most beloved pros of all time. There’s enough history around the shop and its riders to fill a book, so skateboarder and writer Seb Carayol took it upon himself to make one. He collected some photos & excerpts that didn’t make it into the FTC book and shared them with us here, giving us a raw and privileged glimpse into the wheel-on-brick era.
This is an “FTC in a nutshell” type of photo. Super iconic. This one was shot the day the “real” FTC opened in 1994 with a random cast of cats including a young, Adidas-clad Mike Carroll and English photographer Richard Hart. I think I remember it being hung at the shop forever, but I might be wrong. In the book we had all the other FTC’s (Barcelona, Tokyo, Sacramento) try to re-enact this photo. It kinda worked. But not really.
This photo of Jovontae Turner (which didn’t make it to the book’s final edit) is very dear to me because it’s a straight childhood souvenir. Videographer Jacob Rosenberg (of Plan B Questionable
and Waiting For Lightning
fame) never really told anybody that he used to take photos. But I knew, because I used to see them in the only place he ever published them: these old French skateboard magazines called NoWay and B-Side. He had a few Jovontae and Carroll gems that I remember seeing in these mags when I was a kid. This is one of them. Vision shoes and shirt!
Along with Del Tha Funkee Homosopien (who actually drew the cover for FTC’s first video) and Robin Williams, Dave Chappelle is one of the few celebrities who shops regularly at FTC. He’s so down with the shop that he accepted to write a foreword for the book (how dope is that?!?) in which he explains that he used to tell his kids that FTC means “For The Chappelles.” Now friends, das wassup.
The next trick of Carroll on this camera roll (nollie switch crooks) ended up on a cover of SLAP mag
. The cover shot showed Carroll’s board with a FTC sticker scratched off, but in reality it was intact on the slide sheet. I asked Kent Uyehara [FTC’s owner] and he told me that back in the day there was always this weird beef between Thrasher and FTC. Shortly before that, Mike Carroll got a Thrasher cover rocking a similar FTC sticker on his board but, according to Kent, “The Thrasher cover was initially rejected. But Bryce Kanights, the photo editor, stood his ground and said that this was the shot he wanted to use. So they used it.” Funnily, SLAP editor Lance Dawes remembers this one differently: “I might have got a free deck or something from FTC, and ended up shooting what was going to be a cover with Carroll – I didn’t want anybody to think that the board, or whatever it was I got from FTC for free, was some kind of bribe for the cover, which explains the scratch off.” End of story(ies).
One of the pillars of the FTC saga is “the tab book” or “the black book” or whatever it was called over the years. “The” book. It was a unique trading system put together by Kent [FTC’s owner] that became the stuff of legend. Getting to have your own page in “the book” allowed sponsored skaters to trade stuff from their package for other items in the shop. It truly meant something – it was an accomplishment in itself – and it still is to this day. In an interview, Josh Kalis says that once he found out about it, it became his goal in life to have his own page in it. That’s the true sign that you were part of the family. I wonder what “2 Videos” Julien Stranger borrowed.
This one is an unseen outtake of the cover shot, with Carroll looking more sideways and the focus of this pic is more on Chico’s trick. When I saw the slide sheet in Tobin Yelland’s garage at 10 PM while digging through his old stuff, I knew this was going to be the cover. It says FTC in a nutshell: Carroll, Chico, EMB, filmed by Meza. I shouldn’t say I was digging in Tobin’s archives: unlike other photographers, the dude is mega-organized. He numbers each slide sheet and has them all archived in his computer.
My first FTC tshirt. This is basically the reason why me and my buddies, the Calas brothers, went to SF in the winter of 1994, from our town of Montpellier, France: to stock up on shirts, catalogs and stickers from FTC (which stands for Free Trade Center, by the way), as we were obsessed with their first video. Remember, these were pre-internet times so to know anything about anything, you pretty much had to go somewhere in person and find out (which was actually maybe more interesting?) Anyhoo, we met Josh Kalis while we were there. Around this time he was flow on Toy Machine, Jean had popped his cherry, and he filmed the sickest line at Wallenberg, ever, by… JB Gillet. I gotta transfer it to digital some day. Anyway, yeah, we were a bunch of French dudes who crossed the globe to go film French dudes. Ha.
In the FTC book, we put in a photo of Kalis’s actual trick (an ollie over the two bars), and it was also used in an old SLAP. But whenever I looked through photographers’ collections, I loved to find these kind of moments: the photo before or after, the dude getting ready…etc. These moments are priceless.
Lennie Kirk… Where to start? I guess we could begin with this Dennis McGrath pic, which was used in one of the most iconic FTC ads ever. It caused a whole generation of kids to try and ride skinny boards with giants trucks and wheels! I personally got to go a bit deeper with Lennie, and that’s why I wanted this photo to be part of this selection. No matter how big of a “Gospel Gangster” he was (and believe me, he was), he’s the only established pro who let me shoot all the photos I wanted with him. He just didn’t give a fuck if I sucked or not – I did, as I had never touched a camera before moving there. Getting a photo with him was a long process because he’d stop and try to “save” EVERY person in sight, for the longest time. Non-stop, crazy preaching. He gave me a Bible that failed miserably to save me, and after that I kept loosely in touch, which led me to interview him in jail a few years ago. I also interviewed him for the FTC book right before he went back in for a long stay. Thanks Lennie, and hold tight in there!
Kent’s mom Kim is super-pivotal in the FTC history. She became a substitution mom for a lot of these dudes. Sam Smyth’s mom would come to the shop just to hang out with Kim and Jovontae Turner even named his daughter after her. To interview her, I had to hide my recorder because she’s too shy, but she was cracking me up– saying how she’d let skaters know when she knew they were smoking weed, and how Plan B boards were the best. The true Godmother of FTC, and an amazing human being.
For more check out the FTC book, with interviews, unseen photos and more history.
Words / Captions: Seb Carayol
Intro: Morley Musick
Photography courtesy of: Seb Carayol, Jacob Rosenberg, Kent Uyehara, Lance Dawes, Tobin Yelland, Dennis McGrath.
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