Steve Ibbertson – The Original Canadian Freestyle Champion.
I was born and raised in Toronto Canada in 1960. My parents were British and were really not sports minded other than my Dad liked to golf. With this being said all my sports experience came from school and from hanging out with other kids. As Canada is a very beautiful country, and one can enjoy many great sports in the summer, the winters can be harsh and one must learn to adapt. I started to ice skate when I was 4 and had the weakest ankles but I persevered and became a good skater and hockey player over time. Many days spent outside on open rinks playing until we were blue and couldn’t take it anymore. The next thing I became quite adept at was skiing. I learned on a very small hill called Don Valley Ski Hill. This was another one of those do it until you turn blue sports. I later went on to ski all over the world and have a true love over the sport.
Summers brought warm weather and my Dad dragging me off to the golf course with him. I thank him for this as I became a pretty good golfer and still enjoy the game to this day. My parents moved from an area of Toronto called Don Mills to Scarborough in 1972. These were town houses and kids hung out like little gangs playing games and doing the things kids do. In 1974 a kid called Mitch moved from California to our little part of the world and he brought this mystical thing called a skateboard with him. Nobody had ever seen one of these before, at least kids our age. Mitch could skate and he let us all take turns trying his board rolling down a little 2 foot wide pathway. Within a few months skateboards started to appear in some stores around the Toronto area but most were plastic decks with open bearing wheels. I saved up and came home one day with an orange Cal-240 board (my parents thought I was nuts!) My neighbor and friend Stuart Godfrey bought a Grentec GT and we skated together on these things learning to tic tac and do wheelies, 360’s and what ever other tricks we could think of. The next thing was the local convenience store selling Skateboarder magazine. We read this cover to cover looking at all the ads for real California boards hoping we could get one some day. Well winter came around again and we had to wait for spring to skate again (not that we didn’t try to skate winter in places like underground parking lots). Soon it was spring and my parents were going down south for a spring break of their own. My Dad promised me that if I was a good kid he would buy me a professional skateboard when they returned. I couldn’t sleep that week. My Dad as promised took me to Collegiate Sporting goods and I got a Hobie Competition with ACS trucks and sealed bearing wheels. My folks thought it was just another phase I was going through and didn’t pay much attention to what I was doing. As the summer went on Stuart got a G&S fiberflex and we would go to a large industrial parking lot every day and practice our brains out. We would bring Skateboarder magazine and try to figure out tricks based on pictures they had taken of kids in California (we had no Youtube).
Skateboarding was taking off at this point and there was a street contest put together by locals and I decided to enter. I took the bus accross town and there with a bunch of other kids we did our tricks and sure enough I won first place. My Dad went golfing the next day and could not believe his eyes when he saw me on the front page of the Toronto Sun newspaper doing a gorilla grip (inspired by Steve Shipp) over a stack of skateboards. My Dad god bless him put a quarter in the box and bought a copy and then closed the door and got out another 4 quarters and proceeded to buy one copy at a time. He came home from golf that day and told me he was amazed as he didn’t know anyone other than his crazy son even cared about these things.
I went on to win several more tournaments that year and got my picture in the paper a few more times and even got a few sponsors. In 1977 North Star running shoes sponsored and held the first Canadian Championships. I entered but this was a big and far more organized event than anyone had ever put on before with new categories such as high jump and slalom and bank riding along with freestyle. Stuart and I practiced every day and I started to training in all of the disciplines as I wanted to be ready for this contest. Tom Sims had set the world high jump record the year before at 4’ 1 “. Well before long I was not far off of that height. The contest came and I won all disciplines except bank riding (it was a muggy miserable hot day). Funny thing was I tied Tom Sims record that day and it became the Canadian record.
The grand prize for winning this event other than being crowned Canadian champion was a trip to Long Beach in September for the world California Free Former skateboard championships. Prior to me attending this tournament I was picked up by Free Former as a skater representing their product in Canada. I ended up going down to California to meet the factory team a week before the event. Now try to imagine one day you were reading about Ty Page and Curt Lindgren the inventor of the original kick flip and then the next thing you know you are skating with them like it’s no big deal. That is when I also met Mark Bowden and Bryan Beardsley. Bryan now had beaten most people at high jump and I got to watch, learn and practice with him. Curt took me to Redondo and Hermosa beaches to show me how to surf but for a kid from Canada who had never been near an ocean before it wasn’t easy but I did ok and later became quite good at it.
Later I got to skate at my first California skateboard park at Skateworld in Torrance and met some great skaters including Fred Blood and Cindy Whitehead. The following week was the big event and I was just in awe. Everyone who was anyone in skating was there. Peralta, Alva, Logan, Howell, Martinez even great girls like Thornhill, Berryman and Oneal were all there. I had the time of my life and placed 4th in my division. I went back to Toronto on a high and having rubbed elbows with the sports best I had a few tricks that few had seen. Winter came again and we tried even harder to find ways to skateboard we even thought to ourselves hey what about skateboarding on snow? We could call it a snowboard. (Nah it will never catch on) I had a green fiberglass prototype deck and little kids learning skis and I mounted them to the trucks and climbed up a local school hill and tried for hours to see if we could make it work. To us this was just having fun and trying to make light of winter. Spring came soon enough and I had local contests as well as demos that I had to do promoting Free Former and other products. We had a deal with MG at the time as Bryan and I were jumping cars, we were like the Evel Knievel’s of the skateboard set. The thing that set Bryan and me apart from anyone else was we jumped the cars with one board (we practiced this by jumping picnic tables). I got asked to do a demo in Fredericton New Brunswick but there were no MG’s there so they gave me a 1978 Corvette I thought I was going to kill myself. As it turned out I was so stoked I jumped high enough to clear the roof even though I jumped it between the windshield and the front tires. I made it my first try and I think I was more excited than the crowd that came to see me perform. When I returned to Toronto I had lots of kids that wanted to go skating with me, one of them became quite famous Mike Myers. He tried following me down a fairly steep hill on my freestyle board one day and he wiped out and I bet he still has a scar on his hip from that experience. Later that summer they held a big tournament at the CNE (Canadian National Exhibition) once again the tournament was divided up into different events I also won this tournament but the best part was the high jump event. My Dad had never really spent time watching me skate or coming to events but for some reason he attended this one. There were tons of entries and they started the jumping at around 2 ft. As the current record holder I was allowed a buy until they got to 4’ 1’ by this time there were only 6 jumpers left in the contest and I was still in my warm up gear. After 4’ 2” they all fell out and I was asked how high I would like the bar moved to. I skated over by my Dad and took my warm up gear off and he just leaned over and said show’em what you got! I was pumped. I told them to raise it to 4’ 9” and made it easy I went on to jump 4’ 11 “ and set a new Canadian record.
By this time though I was now getting older and the craze was slowing in skating and I needed a job. My dad got me into the sheet metal trade but I still kept my ties to the skateboard industry. A skater and board manufacturer called Wee Willy Winkle was now working hard on the snow board craze (never catch on…what was I thinking) Willy had partnered with Tom Sims to make some Skateboards and now was making these wooden Snowboards the one problem was they had no edges and these guys were in the wood business. Enter me again as I made the first metal brackets that were screwed onto these boards to become the edges. I still skated and got requests to do TV shows and jump a car now and then but we all grow older and get pulled away from the things we love. I eventually left Canada and took up a new life in sunny Las Vegas NV. I had kept in touch with a few people from
the past but skating was now an old memory of days long ago.
In Oct of 2012 I technically died from a heart attack and was revived and brought back to life. I tell everyone I got to the other side andthere was a sign that said, “Skate park closed…” so I came back (actually it was due to great effort of Paramedics, Fire Fighters and Doctors). This spring I was approached by Brian Logan of Logan Earth Ski to attend the Skateboard Hall of Fame event in California and I jumped at the chance to see some of
my old friends as well as many famous skaters that I have had the pleasure to skate with over the years. This event got me all fired up again and fueled my passion for skateboarding.
Over the next few weeks I will be releasing a new skateboard designed and built by myself unlike anything made before. I have returned to skating with the intent to return to competition in the Masters level by 2013.
I hope to see you out there be safe and ride for fun because that’s what it is… Steve