Don "Waldo" Autry dead at 55

O'Mahoney/Bobby Smith

Don "Waldo" Autry going over vert at Mt. Baldy pipe in 1975 and speed tucking on Signal Hill in 1976.

Don "Waldo" Autry, a former professional skateboarder known for his pioneering fearlessness and wild living, was found dead in his van late last month in Seal Beach, Calif.

Autry's van was parked on the 200 block of Main Street, near Upstairs Downstairs Beauty Salon, where he worked as a hairstylist.

The body of the 55-year-old Long Beach native was found on January 24, according to Matt Clark, who owns the salon.

An Orange County Sheriff's Department spokesperson said the cause of Autry's death cannot be determined until toxicology reports are complete, which could take several weeks.

"He lived life everyday and was always the life of the party," Clark told "He was always in an awesome mood, and he always said it like it was -- I liked that about him. And if you asked all the people who came in here [to the salon], there's not a person on the planet who didn't like him. It's been a big loss."

Clark added that Autry often captivated his clients with wild stories about his heyday as a pro skater in the 1970s, and more recently, as a competitive downhiller.

In the 70s, Autry's sponsors included Tunnel Skateboards, Pepsi, and Sims.

"Waldo was just a cool guy who rode a piece of [junk] skateboard, wore fluorescent lime-green socks, and was in the right place at the right time," said Jim O'Mahoney, who ran Skateboard Magazine in the '70s and photographed Autry, most famously skating the concrete fullpipe below Mt. Baldy in Southern California.

"Baldy was unreal," O'Mahoney told "Going up there was like the surfers in "The Endless Summer" finding Cape St. Francis."

Autry is featured "The Signal Hill Speed Run," a full-length documentary -- narrated by Grammy-winning musician Ben Harper -- chronicling the downhill skateboard competition held in Long Beach from 1975-78.

The Santa Barbara International Film Festival screened the film's world premiere on Jan. 25. At a private screening two days later, held at California State University, Long Beach, the audience honored Autry with a moment of silence.

There will be a memorial paddle-out in Autry's memory Feb. 23 at 9 a.m. on Bolsa Chica State Beach.

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