Alphonzo Rawls has done some of the most tech variations on transition that we’ve ever seen. Whether he nailed them on a mini ramp, vert or over a spine, he’s locked into and rolled away from a series of banging creative tricks that put unique twists on classic moves.
So we had to find out what was rolling through his mind in the early 90s when he threw down a library of them back-to-back with ease in H-Street’s ‘Next Generation’ video and their follow up ‘Lick’.
So we hit up Alf to ask him some questions about the ones that stood out the most to us and discover how he innovated them, his influences, inspirations, behind the scenes experiences and his advice for learning new tricks.
Read his interview below to find out how some of his creations came together and also get an update on his work for his brands Savalé and Everybody Skates.
How did you start to film for the Next Generation video?
We never stopped filming back then.
The footage just rolled over to the next project after one project was done.
Who filmed the majority of your part?
Tony Magnusson filmed most of the footage.
I did have some help from Tony Hawk who would always take time out of his day to come film me around town when I needed.
What was skating like at the time and who was the crew that you usually skated with?
Skateboarding as a career for me back then felt like it was coming to an end. A big part of the team split off to create Plan B and it felt like our days were numbered. The break up left me and Eric Koston, whom I lived with at the time, to question if H-Street skateboards would be around for too much longer.
That uncertainty lead to Eric leaving to join 101. My skate crew up to that point were my roommates, Dave Kruseman and Eric Koston then when Berra needed a place to stay he became a part of the crew. Those were fun times while it lasted.
Your fashion and hairstyle were so different then. Who were you looking up to in terms of style back then?
I will go ahead and blame Sal Barbier for his influence on the hair style, that was just me trying to emulate him!
As far as the cut off jeans and white t-shirt era in skateboarding, which I was credited for starting when I appeared on the cover of Thrasher, that was influenced by a female classmate whom I had a crush on years prior.
Your intro to your Next Generation part starts off with that Ollie over the pool but your board goes in. It’s jokes. Where is that spot and why did you decide to skate the gap that day?
The pool gap I Ollied was at the hotel we stayed at in Houston for the “Shut Up and Skate” event. We filmed that at 6:00am before leaving to the airport that day.
The Gonz had a photo doing that in a magazine a couple years prior to that.
That Backside Ollie 540 One Foot you did looked gnarly. How did you end up throwing your foot off of 540s and what was the toughest part of doing that one?
One Footed Ollies were all the rage back then so it was natural for me to elaborate on the Ollie 540 in that way as we tried, at one point, to do any and every trick, at that time, one footed.
It really didn’t seem that difficult because my front foot would drift off of my board slightly with most tricks so it was just a matter of exaggerating that movement.
Your Blunt to Back Tail around that hip edge is still wild. Had you done that before and what was the toughest part of doing that trick?
Hips and spines were my favourite to skate because I would come up with a lot of ideas for them.
That idea came natural to me because it wasn’t too far off of a Bluntslide into the hip.
All I had to do was place the tail down instead of going all the way in off of the Bluntslide. It also allowed me to control my speed upon landing.
Alf, Blunt Fakie: Shot by Mark Waters
Your Frontside 5-0 Pivot 270 Out and Rock to Backside 360 Out are both so tough. Which was the toughest for you and what did you like about taking tricks to new limits on the coping?
I really liked the Rock and Roll Revert because not many people have done it since.
Lip tricks on transitions are my favourite because there is so much creativity to be explored that doesn’t necessarily require back breaking effort.
I enjoy the creative aspect of skateboarding and new lip tricks challenge me to think. It’s like solving a puzzle.
Your Nosegrind One Footer was wild. What’s the secret to doing that trick without bailing? It looks so difficult.
That was another one of those tricks where just doing them normally my front foot would want to come off on the way in.
Grabbing the tail made it easy for me to kick my foot so it didn’t feel much different than doing them normal.
Your Frontside 180 Grabs, that you tweaked back to Fakie were so tight. How did you learn those?
I don’t recall which you’re referring to but Backside 180’s and Backside revert tricks always seemed natural for me. I was doing Backside Ollie reverts on vert in amateur contests in 1988 before I learned Frontside Ollie reverts, long before I saw anyone else doing them. I felt safer bailing out of tricks in that position as opposed to Frontside.
That Shuvit Late Shuvit that you put down the 5 stair is rad. What did you call that trick and had you ever done it down a set of stairs before?
I heard Mike Carroll talking about that trick as an idea but had never seen it done so I decided to try it that day and it worked out to my surprise.
What was it like filming for Lick in the beginning?
We just kept filming from the project before and everything that didn’t make it into that prior project was put into Lick.
How did your Fakie Ollie Back Foot Flip go down and what inspired it?
The Fakie Ollie Back Foot Flip didn’t seem that difficult.
It just took a little finesse and timing.
I had been skating with Eric quite a bit back then and those were some of the tricks he was doing on street so I was inspired by that.
How did your Cab Back Foot Flip go down and what was the toughest thing about nailing that one?
The Cab Back Foot Flip was Koston’s idea.
I saw him trying it on a mini ramp one day and remembered that the day I went to skate vert after an 8 month hiatus. I really didn’t know what I was doing so I winged it.
After several attempts I just got impatient and started trying to land on anything remotely close to my feet.
You did a lot of coping variations that you rarely see today. What was the hardest thing about going from stall to stall and what’s your favourite one that you have done?
Skating transition always came natural to me. I learned a lot of my street tricks on transition before I learned them on the street.
One of my favourites is one I learned a few years ago on a spine ramp. I do a Frontside Pivot and continue rotating into a front Pivot on the other side.
Any advice to skaters who want to innovate new tricks?
Creativity is a thinking man’s game.
When I’m not skating I think of new skate tricks. Although skateboarding has evolved so much there are still plenty of new ideas yet to be explored.
Some tricks are just variations of others, sometimes it’s a matter of doing a trick switch stance and sometimes it is about creative implementation of the terrain, combos and so on.
You skated over a lot of steep spines Fakie, that’s next level, but what’s your favourite trick you’ve done over a spine and why?
Another spine trick I enjoy is Backside Pivot and continue my rotation to Backside Pivot, on the other side, to Fakie.
It’s a fun trick and looks aesthetically pleasing.
Are you working on anything new with Everybody Skates?
Yes. I just did a signed Matt Hensley x Ray Barbee collab deck release that dropped on October 5th, which is both Matt and Ray’s birthday.
I will be doing the third and final “HAWSOI”, Tony Hawk x Christian Hosoi Limited collab deck, colorway for Everybody Skates. It will be in silver, signed by both, Hawk & Hosoi dropping on November 3rd.
I urge anyone who’s interested in these collab projects to go to www.EVERYBODYSKATES.com to sign up for our mailing list to be notified of our latest drops.
Rad. Also what are you up to with Savalé at the moment?
Savalé Footwear is doing well! It’s a culmination of my 25+ years in footwear design.
With skate fashion and culture being such a relevant source of inspiration for high fashion for so many years I wanted to create a footwear brand that was elevated and allowed me a broader scope of creativity in my design.
Savalé has been such a great creative outlet for my designs.
Before I let you go are there any shoutouts you want to make to people reading this?
Shout out to everyone who’s ever supported my endeavours and have given me an opportunity to continue doing what I love. Ive always followed my passion, from skateboarding to art and design I feel very lucky to get to do the things I love and am very grateful to everyone who’s allowed it to happen.
Any last words Alf?
“Trust the science” (LOL)