Career longevity with Steve Caballero
The consummate professional
Founding member of the legendary Bones Brigade, Steve Caballero is the consummate skateboarding professional. For the past 35 years, he has stayed loyal to his one and only board sponsor, Powell-Peralta, he's remained one of Vans' top sellers for 23 years with his Half Cab pro model shoe, he's won vert and bowl contests in five different decades and he's kept a smile on his face and a positive attitude through all the ups and downs. Earlier this month, Steve celebrated his 51st birthday -- happy belated birthday, Steve!
The early days
Steve Caballero was born Nov. 8, 1964, in San Jose, Calif. He began skating at age 12 and turned pro in 1980 for Powell-Peralta Skateboards at age of 16. Although it's obvious after watching Steve skate for a few seconds why he's considered one of the greatest of all time, it's surprising to hear that he never expected any of his success. In 2012, Caballero told Juice Magazine, "I never looked at it as a career. I never went, 'I want to be pro someday.' I just did it because it was fun and challenging and I've always liked challenges. That's what excites me -- being challenged by something. Skateboarding was something that I could be good at and progress at."
After Alan Gelfand invented the ollie in 1978, the progression of skateboarding went into warp speed. New tricks were being invented nonstop, and back then, the trick was generally named after the person who first landed it. Steve Caballero was the first to pull a fakie 360 ollie and thus, the Caballerial (also known as "Full Cab") was born. Cab is also credited with the first frontside boardslide (pictured here).
Steve Caballero can also be credited as a pioneer in the music world. In 1982, Steve's punk band, the Faction, was one of the first punk rock bands to emerge, comprising musicians who were also skateboarders. The genre became known as "skate rock." Thirty-three years later, the Faction continues to perform, albeit with varying lineups throughout the years. They've played with such punk notables as the Melvins, the Supersuckers, Suicidal Tendencies and Social Distortion.
One team to rule them all
Like the ring of power in "The Lord of the Rings," there was one skateboard team that ruled them all in the 1980s: Powell-Peralta's Bones Brigade. Made up of Tony Hawk, Lance Mountain, Mike McGill, Rodney Mullen, Tommy Guerrero and Steve Caballero, the Bones Brigade was bigger than life itself. Caballero told The Skateboard Magazine in 2011: "I remember in 1987 when my biggest check was $18,000 for one month of just board royalties. I averaged between $12,000 and $15,000 a month. I think at the end of that year I made $250,000 just off board sales, which meant I sold 250,000 decks because I got $1 a deck."
The Bones Brigade got so huge that even the Beatles knew who they were. Cab recalls: "It got so big that we became pretty big rock stars. Even George Harrison's son, Danny, was a fan. He was 10 years old at the time and he heard the Bones Brigade was in London and he found out where we were staying and his mom called our hotel and said, 'Hey, do you want to come over and have dinner at the Harrisons' and meet my son?' We were blown away that we were going to go to one of the Beatles' home. They picked us up in a limo, they drove us out to the countryside and we see this huge house. We pull up and out from the door comes George Harrison to meet us. We didn't even know he was going to be there. It was a pretty amazing thing. It's a highlight of my skateboard career."
As the 1980s came to a close, vert skating began to take a back seat to street skating, and board sales for the Bones Brigade began to dwindle. Luckily for Steve Caballero, Vans made him one of the first skaters in history to get a signature pro model skate shoe in 1989, the high-top Caballero. Three years later, Steve struck gold again with a mid-top version of his successful first shoe. As the story goes, according to Cab: "In 1991, I noticed that a lot of street skaters were cutting my shoe halfway down and wearing them that way, so I gave Vans the idea to make a lower-cut shoe and call it the Half Cab." Today it is the longest running pro model in skateboarding history. "To me it's pretty amazing to see the resurgence of the shoe and it still being so popular," says Cab.
In 1999, Thrasher Magazine named Caballero the "Skater of the Century." One of Caballero's strengths is his ability to adapt to any terrain: pools, vert, mini ramps, street, etc. At the tail end of the 1990s, big handrails were becoming all the rage and Steve mixed it up with the best of them, chomping some of the biggest rails of that era. "What brought that on," Cab told The Skateboard Mag, "was survival mode. I wanted to stay in this industry and I had to figure out what it was gonna take for me to stay relevant. But if you saw some of the slams, you'd see that I worked for it. I killed myself in 2000 for this video we made called "The Class of 2000," and I think that's the best video footage I ever released. I killed myself that whole year trying to do the gnarliest bangers I could and after that, I was over street skating. I didn't want to fall like that anymore -- it hurt too much at my age."
In skateboarding, a career that lasts more than a decade is typically filled with many sponsor changes. What Cab has accomplished by sticking with Powell-Peralta throughout his entire 35-year pro career is completely unheard of. Steve told The Skateboard Mag in 2011: "What was able to keep me on Powell-Peralta was that I made some pretty secure choices in my career that enabled me to stay there and one of them was riding for Vans. When skateboarding started dying down for the vert skaters and street skating started becoming popular, deck sales started to drop. We suddenly weren't selling 18,000 decks a month -- we were selling 100 or 200, and you can't live off that. When it came to Tony Hawk, Lance Mountain, Mike McGill and Tommy Guerrero, they didn't have the opportunity I had with a signature shoe that was generating income, so I didn't have to leave. But if I didn't have the signature shoe with Vans, who knows where I would be."
The sky is the limit
At age 51, Steve Caballero continues to skate at a high level, winning most every legends contest that he enters. His dragon models remain a top seller for Powell-Peralta, and his Vans Half Cab shoe is an eternal classic for skaters of every generation. It's often hard for a person to judge their own legacy, but in 2011, Steve told The Skateboard Mag that his longevity and dedication are what he should be remembered for. "In my eyes, it's the longevity in the sport and trying to keep pushing and trying to present a positive message. It's important to remember that skateboarding isn't everything. There's more to life than riding a four-wheeled toy, which I've learned by getting married, starting a family and having a relationship with God. My life and my achievements aren't really that important without him. It means nothing unless I have a relationship with God."