Alphonzo Rawls is an innovative skater, shoe designer and graphic artist who turned pro in the early 90’s.
Alf went pro at a time when skateboarding was changing at an incredibly quick pace and although skateparks were being shut down left right and centre he was one of the pioneers on the front of that new street skating transition who did some of the best tricks on ramps too.
He now runs his own satirical graphic design company Everybody Skates, designs shoes for the biggest names in the game and after three decades is still one of the most creative skaters out there on and off his board.
We are stoked that Alf is now a No Comply Network Member.
So we had a chat about growing up in Cali, going pro for H-Street, skating street and vert, art and design, how he become a shoe designer, Everybody Skates, starting up Expedition, advice for upcoming skaters and his favourite things on and off his board of all-time.
I’ve always been into art, design, and all things creative, thats just my personality.
My love for creative expression is what drew me to skateboarding.
The ability to think of new tricks and then learn them intrigued me much more than throwing a ball through a hoop.
What kinds of things were you making?
I started off drawing with pencil trying to create realistic art then started illustrating with prisma colors and color pencils which I still enjoy.
I now use Adobe illustrator quite a bit for a lot of the art and design work I do.
Who was in your first skate crew?
My first skate crew was a group of friends from Oceanside.
It was me, Lamont Girton, Charles Ragland, and Frank Evans.
It was rare back then to see black skateboarders so me, being Black and Thai, Lamont was Black amd Japanese, Charles was Black and Filipino, and Frank, was a black kid.
We didn’t exactly fit the stereotypical description of “skateboarders” at the time.
What spots did you skate at the time?
We skated the elementary school I attended called Libby Elementary in Oceanside which later appeared in videos and magazines.
There was also a 1 foot tall curb cut thingy with a little lip on it up the street behind “Lavicios” (a local liquor store) we would skate.
After a couple years of skating me and some friends “borrowed” enough wood from various construction sites to build a 7 ft tall, 16 ft wide ramp in a field steps away from my Jr High School bus stop that I used to skate every morning before school.
Who was your first sponsor?
My first sponsor was Mike McGill Skateshop in Encinitas.
How did you get sponsored by H-Street?
When Mike McGills skatepark opened in 1988 I skated there every day with Danny Way and we became good friends.
He made the suggestion to Mike Ternasky and Tony Mag and they were really receptive.
I got on the team the day after the premier of “Shackle me not” (H-street’s first video).
When did you realise you could make a living out of skateboarding?
I realized when I got on H-street that it would be achievable.
Where did you go on your first tour and who with?
My first skate tour was a 30 day tour in a motor-home across the U.S. (in 1989) with Eddie Elguera (+ wife and kids), Danny Way and myself, from California to New York and back.
Danny and I were 14 years old.
Who did you go pro for?
I turned Pro for H-street Skateboards in December 15, 1990 which was the day before my 17th birthday, at a miniramp contest in San Jose CA.
What do you think made your skating stand out?
The most frequently acknowledged ability has been that I am able to skate both street and transition.
You skated street and vert, which one was your favourite to skate and why?
I really did;nt have a favorite per say.
It was a matter of mood or accessibility.
When all the skateparks closed down in the early 90’s there weren’t as many ramps around so that was when my skating began to lean heavier towards street skating.
How did you push yourself to learn so many variations on transition??
Its what excites me most.
Coming up with an idea and seeing it through is my favorite part of skateboarding.
Skating for H-street was the perfect platform for my kind of skating.
The team and the projects we worked on together set the tone of skateboarding at that time and we knew that so that was all the motivation we needed to push ourselves.
What’s the best trick you ever did on transition?
I get a lot of people still talking to me about the Cab back foot flip…
I think that the “scariest” thing I’ve done on street was at a Slam City Jam “Best Trick” contest where they had a gap out to a 8 (ish) stair rail that I did a frontside 270 back lip on… I got 2nd place.
Favourite place to skate back in the day?
I would have to say Mike Mcgill’s skatepark.
Lots of great memories and relationships built there
Skating there was the launching pad to my skateboard career.
How did you decide to start Expedition?
Chris Lambert and I started Expedition and through our lack of business experience had it taken from us by who we “thought” was a good friend.