INTERVIEW: Allen Sarlo – The Z-Boys Strongman
Ironically, Allen Sarlo is now the owner of an empty, skateable swimming pool, up in the Malibu hills at his house overlooking the ocean. Doubly ironically, where the empty pools of Lords of Dogtown were from the drought, Sarlo’s pool is empty because of the rain from the monsoons of the winter of 2004/2005. But that’s another story!
Thirty years ago, Sarlo probably would have invited the whole team to his house for a pool party, blasting AC/DC and Ted Nugent until the neighbors complained. But that was then. Thirty years ago, Sarlo was a teenager at Venice High – in the same class as Nathan Pratt and Stacy Peralta – and a member of the Zephyr team, a young surfer sponsored by Skip Engblom and Jeff Ho. Where some of the Zephyr team were frustrated surf stars who turned to skating, Sarlo concentrated on the surf star bit and had a good run of it as a competitor, traveler and big-wave surfer.
Now, Sarlo is a hard-working, harder-surfing father of two. He has a successful real estate business in that golden crescent from Marina del Rey to Malibu, and he surfs more than humanly possible – flying to Tahiti or Indo or Hawaii or Mexico at the slightest whisp of swell. During the week of May 22, Sarlo took a limo with his daughter Sophie and Skip Engblom to see the Hollywood premiere of Lords of Dogtown and then the next night, he took his son Colton to the cast and crew showing of the movie in Westwood.
Sarlo is never short on words, and he had some stories to tell on how he saw Lords of Dogtown from someone who was there.
SURFERMAG.COM: How is your pool?
ALLEN SARLO: We’re getting there. It’s coming.
SURFERMAG.COM: Still empty?
ALLEN SARLO: Still empty.
SURFERMAG.COM: Here is the million-dollar question: If a bunch of kids snuck up the road and tried to skate your pool, what would you do?
ALLEN SARLO: I’d chase them out. Vals go home!
ALLEN SARLO: Hey I don’t want to get sued. I got enough problems back there.
SURFERMAG.COM: So you’ve seen the movie twice now. That’s your life up there, sort of. What did you think?
ALLEN SARLO: I thought it was really, really good. I thought it was insane. I think my daughter Sophie summed it up best. What did you think of the movie, Sophie?
Sophie Sarlo: I thought the skateboarding stunts were incredible! I thought it was a lot better than Blue Crush! Hopefully all the people who got into surfing because of Blue Crush will get into skateboarding and this summer won’t be so crowded.
ALLEN SARLO: That’s my girl.
SURFERMAG.COM: Nathan Pratt was at the cast and crew show. He came out teary-eyed, but at some point I think I heard him say he thought the skateboarding was a little weak.
ALLEN SARLO: You’ve got to remember that the skateboarders that were skating were actors and you can’t compare them to Tony Alva and Jay Adams and Stacy. Those guys were magic.
SURFERMAG.COM: Those were the actors going over the light in some of the pool scenes.
ALLEN SARLO: Yeah, they learned how to do it so that was pretty good, but they’re not Jay and Tony and Stacy.
SURFERMAG.COM: You knew these guys very very well, so was that actor like Stacy and where those actors like Jay and Tony?
ALLEN SARLO: Yeah, I thought the actor did a really good job with Jay.
SURFERMAG.COM: Because in the movie Jay kind of goes through a Darth Vader transformation from Anakin Skywalker to the dark side. Is that pretty accurate?
ALLEN SARLO: Yeah Jay got heavy into punk rock and going to Hollywood and partying but he was a hardcore surfer. We used to get up every morning and go over to his house and Philaine would take us to the beach or we would ride our bike to the beach or we would walk to the beach.
SURFERMAG.COM: Philaine is Jay’s mom…
ALLEN SARLO: Yeah, Philaine would drive us to Topanga…
SURFERMAG.COM: So was Jay’s mom really that whacked out?
ALLEN SARLO: Jay’s mom was the sweetest lady in the world. She wasn’t high like that all the time. She took us to the beach and fed us and laughed and she was like part of the boys.
SURFERMAG.COM: Were they really that poor?
ALLEN SARLO: Yeah they rented the house for like 250 bucks and Jay’s stepdad Kent, he glassed for Dave Sweet and he had a big background in surfboard making and he helped with the production of the fiberglass Zephyr skateboards… you know, out of the mold.
SURFERMAG.COM: Did Tony Alva really have a hot sister?
ALLEN SARLO: Yeah. She was definitely hot.
SURFERMAG.COM: What about the actor who portrayed Tony Alva?
ALLEN SARLO: Tony… that is how Tony was. It was all about him all the time and he had a huge ego. It was fun being around him because you were on the Tony show. Stacy was quiet and responsible and a nice guy.
SURFERMAG.COM: What about Stacy’s family?
ALLEN SARLO: Stacy’s dad was a hard-working guy and his mom was a housewife. They lived in Venice, Mar Vista.
SURFERMAG.COM: They owned the house?
ALLEN SARLO: Stacy’s mom still lives in the house and I believe Stacy’s dad passed away.
SURFERMAG.COM: Did Stacy ever get in fights?
ALLEN SARLO: No he avoided that whole…
SURFERMAG.COM: Was Stacy that good of a skateboarder?
ALLEN SARLO: In the beginning you know Stacy wasn’t that good but Nathan and I told Stacy he should be doing 360s. He was always practicing his 360s at lunchtime and after school he’d go, “Allen! Nathan! Come here! Let me how you how many 60s I can do!” Like he did like 5 360s with his hair spinning around. And then we go, “Hey man we gotta get you in front of Skipper to do that,” and that is how he got on the skateboard team.
SURFERMAG.COM: Did you all go to the same high school?
ALLEN SARLO: To Venice High School. The Gondoliers!
SURFERMAG.COM: Same year in high school?
ALLEN SARLO: Yeah.
SURFERMAG.COM: Nathan, too?
ALLEN SARLO: Yep.
SURFERMAG.COM: Stacy and Jay and Tony.
ALLEN SARLO: No, Stacy, me and Nathan were the same age. Tony was a year younger and I think Jay was like three or four years younger.
SURFERMAG.COM: Alva’s dad?
ALLEN SARLO: Alva’s dad wasn’t around much and they lived in sort of Santa Monica like on 26th Street and we all hung out at Jay’s house or we hung out at the shop. Jay lived in Ocean Park and it was all about surfing and skating and… having fun.
SURFERMAG.COM: The Sid character was for real?
ALLEN SARLO: Sid was somebody that wanted to hang out with the Zephyr team and he had cancer so his dad let him drain the pool so the Zephyr team could come skate. In the movie Sid is the shop boy, but back in the day I think the shop boy was Nathan. I think Sid was two characters, Nathan the shop boy and a rich kid with cancer.
SURFERMAG.COM: Was Sid that good friends with everyone?
ALLEN SARLO: I think he was friends with the pool skaters.
SURFERMAG.COM: Do you see those guys often?
ALLEN SARLO: I see Jay all the time on the North Shore. I surf with him all the time. He just got married to a 24-year-old, beautiful girl who is a hot skateboarder. Nathan and I speak every so often, I see Skipper all the time, and Tony I saw in Oceanside on a visit.
SURFERMAG.COM: So Jay’s still there and he still surfs?
ALLEN SARLO: He surfs so good. Still super-stoked but now he’s got…a new young wife and the Lord.
SURFERMAG.COM: So he is that good of a surfer?
ALLEN SARLO: He is a really good surfer. Always has been. Back then we would walk or ride our bikes to Santa Monica or Venice Jetty. Jay was always the inspirational surfer… we used to laugh because when he surfed he looked like BK and Larry Bertlemann, you know. He had the BK takeoff and bottom turn and then he would go right into the Larry Bertlemann cutback. And then he went to Hawaii with his mom, after the whole Dogtown thing and became really good on the North Shore.
SURFERMAG.COM: Did Jay make that much money?
ALLEN SARLO: No, because you see his step-father Kent made the Zephyr skateboards. He made the molds and he was popping them out. So when Tony went to Sims first and Stacy went to G and S, Jay felt a lot of pressure to stay with Kent. Jay could have made a lot more money if he had left Zephyr, but his step-father was really cool. He helped Jay out when he was growing up, so he felt loyal and didn’t want to leave the whole stepfather, Zephyr thing.
SURFERMAG.COM: Why did people leave Zephyr?
ALLEN SARLO: There weren’t that many skateboarders in LA. It was more of a San Diego, San Clemente thing and those were the… I mean, LA, who was skateboarding in LA? Not that many people. There were way more surfers in Huntington and San Clemente and San Diego and that is where all the big skateboard companies were.
SURFERMAG.COM: So where is Allen Sarlo in this movie? You were one of the boys. You had a Zephyr team shirt.
ALLEN SARLO: It was really weird. That summer… the summer of ’75 when all this went down I was really focused on surfing The West Coast Championships, WSA contests and winning the Malibu AAAA contest. I used to skateboard Bicknell but when those guys got into the pools they would come back hurt, with broken ankles and broken wrists… I was into surfing. Besides Skipper wanted me to surf and not get hurt
SURFERMAG.COM: You didn’t want to get hurt.
ALLEN SARLO: I didn’t want to get hurt. It’s hard to surf after you have a big raspberry, you know? Your heat is starting and you’re trying to put on your Body Glove jacket with a broken wrist.
SURFERMAG.COM: Those wetsuits were hard enough to get on.