Issue #8 May 12th - May 25th, 2006

Surf, Skate, and Snow...the Youth Movement
an interview with Steve McNutt from Altered Skates

By: Adrian Fallwell

When we first started this magazine a few months ago, I was driving around, setting up distribution, and came across an indoor skateboard facility in Edmond called Altered Skates. I didn't know Oklahoma had an indoor facility. The place rumbled with young kids cruising up and down the ramps. I followed the stairs up to the retail shop and office, where I met the owner, Steve McNutt. Steve told me about himself and what the place was about, and the energy behind his enthusiasm was contagious. So, I did an interview with Steve. His stories give direct witness to a legacy of how surf, skate, and snow "bums" having fun turned into million-dollar industries.

AF: You've been into skateboarding for 15, 20 years now?

SM: Longer than that, but yeah. Long time.

AF: What scene did you start out in, and give us some stages as to how you got to here?

SM: Grew up in Oklahoma, born and raised. Traditional Okie upbringing. Baseball, played regular, traditional sports. Did normal stuff, and then about 7th grade, in the early '70s, a friend gave me a skateboard magazine. There was a major mid-'70s skateboarding movement that had been going on for a while that really surfaced and became the "Dogtown" kind of era. Vans was fueling it, they were a shoe company, and then the board sales started happening. Skateboard parks went off, and I just kind of became a part of that from an Oklahoma standpoint, which was rare. By 10th or 11th grade in high school, I was basically just skateboarding. That was in pools. There wasn't a skate park, even though there was a skate park in Tulsa in 1977. Concrete, real nice, privately owned but open to the public skate park, which was part of that whole west coast movement too. New Jersey had parks, California, then Oklahoma. Texas had one right off the I-35. So, there was a scene back in the day when I was really young that I was a part of, and based on that, I just wanted to go to Cal.. I don't know why, but I wanted to go to California really bad. Surfing appealed to me, and the whole skateboard scene. So, I quit school my senior year and moved to Cal. to go to school.

AF: So, this is late '70s by this point?

SM: Yeah, '79, turning '80. I had surfing aspirations, but I was already a good skater, so that was kind of my in. Told the college where I was going to school there that I was 18, when I was really 17. Actually, I took my GED, got that, then went to a JC(junior college) for a year. Skated a lot, and just kind of got affiliated with California. It was a big change, especially in the '70s, because the cultural distance in the '70s was huge compared to now. If an Okie kid went to Huntington Beach now...because of technology, the whole world has grown much closer together as far as information traveling so much faster and cable...I could go on and on. That was even pre-cable. So, I'm an Okie in California. Even though I was a skater, and I was a more progressive-minded Okie than most, it didn't matter when I hit that place. Everybody was totally progressive.

AF: Was the skate scene really big there, or was it like everyone knew each other?

SM: Big. It was big, globally. It wasn't as big as it is now, as far as participation, but the team scene and the whole skateboard movement was there, as far as shoe companies starting to happen and apparel companies, hard-goods companies like boards and all that. There was a lot of money being made, but still there was this enigma over skateboarding then, and it hung around. Until just recently did that cloud kind of lift on the rest of mainstream America and globally. Acceptance is not the best word, because we've been accepted by youth forever. It was more of the mainstream acceptance from the moms and dads, and industry minded people, that it was still a negative. Which it wasn't. I never saw the negative side of skateboarding because everything has a negative and a positive side. I mean, there's bad priests that aren't good for religion, but yet there they are. Skateboarding had it's bad element. It was the thing that got blown out of proportion, and all the good stuff nobody wanted to even look at.

AF: Connecting to that now, we have board sports that are making there way into the Olympics and such, but skateboarding is still associated with youth. What about skateboarding on a professional level?

SM: Surfing, skateboarding, snowboarding, inlining...everything has gotten younger. The bar of the level of talent is higher, but the age of entry is younger. That's just a maturity thing. Kids can sit at home now, where I didn't have the luxury, and play Tony Hawk's Underground, and discover names of tricks and all kinds of cool stuff. Get all this input. They can watch DVDs. They have so much access to the information, and the tricks and how they're done. You can make such a study of it that everything is just maturing rapidly compared to how long it took skateboarding to work it's way from the '70s, to maybe the '90s, where it was just this kind of natural progression. Not that the last 20 years hasn't been natural, but it's an explosion. Not just skating, but everything, globally, whether it's one business or another, or art. An artist could take his paintings and set them on a street corner back in the day. Now, he can just post them on the internet, and people in Greenland can look at them. So, that part of society's evolution, and then board sports thrown into that, has made the professional part of it that much more polished, more available. Every kid on the planet knows who Tiger Woods is, Michael Jordan, and Tony Hawk. That's major league players representing major league situations that had profound influence on culture, on a lot of things, above and beyond just playing basketball. Michael Jordan definitely reached a level of even just Nike and shoes, if you just want to look at what he did for footwear. Good or bad, he helped do it. Tiger Woods has taken something that was unattainable for some urban kid, to go out and hit golf balls. There are always those individuals at one point in time, whether it's through a sport or whatever, that have a big impact, and Tony Hawk did. Many others. The whole "Dogtown" deal from the '70s is now finally being brought to the light for mainstream America.

AF: Going back to your time in California, what were your experiences there? Pick up were we left off.

SM: I went to school. Was skating, surfing. Trying to surf. It took a long time. Board sports, in my opinion, are the powerhouses of the entire youth movement, which encompasses a lot more than just board sports. Board sports are just so good at using art, music and fashion in there activity. What surfing, skating, and snowboarding has managed to do, and it started in the '70s, was become so much more diversified. It wasn't just surfing anymore. Surfing and music and so much more stuff piling on. When I reached Cal. in '79, '80, surfers were over here, skaters were over there. Musician over here, bike guy over there. Everything was heavily segregated. Very of it's own. I mean, even if you lived in Huntington Beach with the snow-capped mountains an hour and a half away, there's the surf right there, and there's concrete everywhere, that didn't mean you were going to be a surf-skate-ski guy. Snowboarding didn't really exist. Where from '79 to about '90, it took that long, but slowly...and the key element I think that I saw, was snowboarding popped up. It had been around since the mid-'70s, but just a real elite, underground deal. By the mid-'80s, it actually surfaced as a potential industry. Even though it was an infant, it was going to be an industry inevitably. That's the word I use a lot in reference to how things happened in the board sports industry and how the whole youth movement was kind of born. All the pieces are out there floating around, and snowboarding just happened to be in the right time, right place, and became the conduit for a lot of individual things that were going on. Suddenly a guy that surfs or skates, or just does normal activities other than those, had something that they could all commonly do. Surfing and skating are difficult. A lot of time, a lot of effort. A lot of failure over success. Snowboarding...a few days, a little effort, and you got it. However, it's the one that's the least accessible, as far as you need boards, you need lift tickets, apparel and goggles. It's a nightmare, and that kind of held it back, but then again, that's also what propelled it, because big market, sell a lot of stuff.'re not going to make any money off of surfing. The idea of surfing made more money than surfing ever did. A guy in Oklahoma buying a Quicksilver t-shirt was funding surfing more than some guy that scrounges wax on the beach that has one wet suit, one board, no job, no prospects. You know, he's a surfer. The real thing, a bum. Snowboarding kind of adopted that surfing mentality a little bit, in that skiing had become more of an elite environment. That's the way the ski industry wanted it, because that's the way they developed it. Rich people go to Aspen, spend a few thousand dollars, go away...bring in more rich people. Every single ski resort I had been to in those days, there was the term, "the ski bum". Worked at the local cafe, had a season pass. All he did was work his little, menial job and ski. He was a ski bum, loved it. More culture oriented. Snowboarding, when it came along, adopted more of that mentality, where almost every snowboarder, especially that early group, were, kind of, snowboard bums. As snowboarding matured, the acceptance from the industry came, and the inevitability of how it was the common denominator for surfers, skaters and all these other elements to pile on. It was the one to kind of make it all gel, and I just happened to wind up in the snowboarding industry in about '84.

So from '84 to about 2000 I was a participant, as well as witness, to what became, what I thought, was one of the greatest times in the whole board sports movement, or evolution, ever, to this day. Even though it's still evolving and maturing, being more polished than ever, those were awesome times, I got to tell you. It was a small handful of Californians, a few Euros, a few Japanese, an east coaster here, Colorado guy there, that all had the same mission. California just wound up being the hub for what was to become the board sports mentality, the board sports industry. Quicksilver was a big major player in surfing in the '70s, still is. They were on the ski, surf mission. Snowboarding came along and suddenly, poof, Volcom, which was an apparel company started by actual employees of Quicksilver. They actually dubbed Volcom in the early '90s as a board sports apparel company. I had never even heard that term until Richard, the guy that had created Volcom, told it to me. "This is going to be board sports." "Board sports, what is that all about?" "Surf, skate, and snow. All three are going to be culminated into one apparel line, because it's all going to wind up being one common mentality." The cool thing was, if you lived in Colorado and were a snowboarder, you still kind of fit into the overall group of board sports enthusiasts, even though you didn't surf. A skater, wherever USA, could fit in. That little piece of it, that element of it, to me, was what was the magic. Now that's spilled over into tech, fashion, art, music. If you are just into one of those elements, you are into the whole enchilada. You are part of the youth movement, which is powerful stuff. Being in the snowboard industry, before snowboarding really became what it is now, I'd call Coca-Cola or Delta Airlines, or one of these big companies and say, "Hey, I think you outta jump on board. This is going to be one of the greatest marketing vehicles of all time. This youth movement. Snowboarding is kind of propelling it right now, but eventually you'll get so much for getting involved in what seems like so little right now." Coca-Cola wouldn't have anything to do with it. I happened to meet some people with Pepsi, Inc., just through circumstances, and they jumped on board. It wasn't all my doing, by any means, but I was part of that original brainstorm that Pepsi got ahold of, and realized that the youth-movement market could sell soft drinks. They could even spin off a new one if they wanted.

AF: So when was that?

SM: This was around mid-'90s. About 10 years ago, maybe a little more now. It may have been thrown around in the early '90s, but by the mid to late '90s, when they were going, "Oh my god, these people were right," Pepsi had already sunk their talons into it, and Coke didn't. Coke was the powerhouse forever, it seemed like. They were the preferred drink, almost to the point where they were like, "Pfft, don't need you." Pepsi was over there going, "We're younger mentality. We're a little more hungry." They moved in. "Do the Dew" campaign was about late '90s, Mountain Dew suddenly jumped on board. Then Sobe. They threw in their ability, their money, and their desire to help...not nurture the board sports culture, but at least throw some money at it and put it up at a higher level. Then Vans jumped in with them, then Burton, I could go on and on with other companies that all piled on. A lot of money. Let's say Mountain Dew put the event on. You got a hundred kids here, with 12 sponsors each, and all those sponsors are going to use images elsewhere. So, suddenly you've got all this cross-over marketing going on, where, "Hey, I'll scratch you're back. You scratch mine. We're going to run a poster of that event. It's going to have your logo on it." "Cool, this two-page spread in this magazine is going to have your logo on it." "Right on, we're getting double the exposure."

So, that part of it took off. Then the acceptance from mainstream America, suddenly everybody wanted to be a snowboarder. It seemed like, when I started going to southern Cal., it was 3 guys on the mountain. Everybody else skied. The following season, 30. The following season, 300. Then it was 3000. Then it was all over. You'd pull into a parking lot and go, "Where's the skiers?" They were still there, but they were overwhelmed by the amount of snowboarding. Snowboarding was just a shot in the arm to the whole ski industry, as well as it being the conduit for all these other elements that turned it into this youth movement, which today is so polished, so mature, so insane. This isn't just about money, really. Money is just the end result of culture, which is always cool, when culture is driving something. If you own an apparel company, and you think you can make just any move you want, and you're immune to doing something bad, as far as the way the culture accepts it, it won't work. You can't just sell to Shoes for Less if you're Adio Footwear. You've got an elite group you can deal with, to keep it real, and if you try and go above and beyond that, it's called the Air Walk syndrome. Air Walk was a shoe company that was bigger than life itself, it seemed like it was going to go forever, and then all of a sudden you could buy them at Kenny's or Shoes for Less, and it was over. It was like somebody pulled the plug on it over night, because that cultural backbone snapped. There's a fine line between culturally accepted and not, and that's a battle that is being waged constantly.

Now, 2006, you've got Shawn White blowing Bodie Miller out of the water. As far as pre-Olympics, Bodie Miller is the man. That still has that old, winter Olympics feel to it. Ice skating and all that, which as far as I'm concerned, was a bust. Then you've got Shawn White and Kelly Clark, and even Jacobellis who was hot-doggin' in the finish line and fell. She was on the television the next day going, "I had a blast. It ruled. Right on. Silver's sweet." She had no problem with it. It was a big positive for her. So, that kind of stuff that you see happening, even today, has really put us over, above and beyond the top. It's good stuff. You couldn't have painted a better picture for the board sports industry, taking a massive leap forward. The old school industry talking a massive leap backwards, based solely on the Bodie Miller, Shawn White deal. That's just one little tinny element. That doesn't even touch the surface of all the music, art, and fashion, the whole youth movement thing I was telling you about. Hell, the youth movement has recently made skiing cool again, because you can do the half-pipe in skiing, you can wear all the cool gear now. Oakley is back on board because of all the exposure that the good skiers are getting because of the x-games. Skiing did not invent the x-games. Board sports did, yet skiing is taking full advantage of it. Snowmobile people and ice climbers, and god knows what else are going to pile onto the board sports industry. Rollerblading, even though it was inevitably not ever going to take off, it still got to ride around on the coattails of skating and surfing and whatnot. Even boogie boarding was cool for awhile, even though surfers knew it was never really legitimate. Inevitably, you shake enough and they'll fall off, and skating has been shaking people loose for years. That's why skating to this day is not in the Olympics, because it is really anit-establishment, to the point were, "Uh huh, even though you need us, we're not going to do it."

AF: So, how did you end up back here?

SM: After 20 plus years in Cal., I had kids of my own, and had done and seen it all. That was the beautiful thing about being in the board sports industry there, and just being in the right place at the right time. Having some skills to go in and negotiate a deal, set up a team thing or a photo shoot. I was in college to be a sports trainer, sports medicine. Tape ankles for a 100,000 a year, and work for the Lakers, Dodgers or Rams, they have all these intern programs. Then all of sudden I meet Tom Sims, and the next thing you know I'm working in the snowboard industry. Ground floor mind you, but after a few years snowboarding picked up, and so did my ability to make a lot of right moves, which made me more valuable. Within 5 years of everyone reaching it, seeing it, it was blowing up. Within 10 years it was everywhere, and I got to be a part of that. So, I got to fly all over the world and participate in ground breaking stuff with ski resorts, or skate-surf-snow combo events. Actually being a part of that original group that, not resuscitated, but basically created what was already there. We just had all the ingredients, and was like the chef that made sure it all got mixed properly, there was balance, and that it tasted good. All of that information, and then coming back to Oklahoma, where I was originally from anyway, was a skater, and had a lot of roots, was really cool.

Started Altered in about 2001, in a different location. Just retail. I followed the retail feel of what I thought So. Cal.'s cooler shops were all about. It wasn't mainstream, or bought and paid for. It was just a legitimate skate shop. It has since then evolved with the same core skate shop we started with, but because of the whole mainstream acceptance of surf-skate-snow...skate being the most available globally. Anywhere there is a flat surface you can skate on, you've got access. You don't need waves or mountains and all that to-do to get into surfing and snowboarding. Skating is the obvious choice for anybody, anywhere. So, timing, you know I'd like to think it was all my doing, but just me being here at the right time, starting Altered, and then pushing the idea of lessons, or pushing the idea of a birthday party. Pushing these ideas out there, knowing I'm going to have to basically build my own market, at least in the Oklahoma area. There's the mainstream thing floating around out there the I got to feed from, but there wasn't an existing birthday-party market for skateboarding in Oklahoma. There wasn't anybody teaching lessons. There was nobody with an indoor skate facility. Nobody. So, we kind of had to break ground continuously.

Met some good kids when I first got here. Got involved with the Edmond skate park, which was through those kids. Started my team, and...once again, it's a cultural deal. You can't just move into town, thrown some money into a shop, and, poof, it's legit. All that history I had in Cal., and then the history I had here before Cal., all are part of the reason why Altered has been successful. The legitimacy too that, not just me, but the people I surround myself with, the locals, have. The connections still from the west coast, and globally for that matter. If you've done good things in business, you don't move to Oklahoma, and it all vanishes. It's still there, intact. To the point, I bring 5 or 6 of my team riders and employees out to Cal. every year for this trade show, the ASR show, which is a big action sports retail show. You can actually see the whole youth movement in living, breathing fashion at these big trade shows. These little 10' x 10' booths 10 years ago are now 60' x 100' booths and 300 million dollar companies, with kids running them. They just happened to be a part of that whole gelling of the board sports industry, because there's massive markets attached. Every kid in America wants a Volcom t-shirt and a Hollister t-shirt. It's so mainstream now. Big money being made. A lot of it being made for all the right reasons, and then, obviously, there are people out there that are just evil, making money off of board sports. They have no cultural ties, have nothing to do with it. Jamie Salters--if I get arrested for slander, good--he's a perfect example of a money guy that came in and was buying out weak companies and ripping people out of it, selling it off, and just doing that bad business 101 to board sports. I witnessed this first hand, but now board sports has grown to the point where it's not even vulnerable anymore, where a guy like that can't feed on it so much. The K-2s of the world, who despised snowboarding when we were down there planting the seed, now own half of it. Stuff like that. Over-mainstreaming is a bad thing after a point. I definitely look back at snowboarding and go, "God, it was so cool back in the day." And it's still cool. A kid whose gettin' into it now is having a blast. He's taking advantage of every mountain that calls itself a resort, which has a terrain park that is specifically designed and built for kids on snowboards. All the positives are there, and I'm sure they definitely out-weigh the mainstream negatives. You can't really dwell on one or the other. They are all there and it's just part of it.

AF: If a kid is getting into skating around here, where would you recommend he start?

SM: Well, come on in to Altered, obviously. Altered is probably the best, single unit for a young kid getting into skateboarding. Come in, you know we'll give you the right direction. You'll know you got the right equipment. We have the facility from first lesson all the way up to advanced stuff. We do camps. We do enough of everything, and it's really geared at the younger crowd. I'll sell retail to anybody and everybody, but the park, the vision that we have, is not just entry level, but entry level to a point. Safe, fun, very mother friendly. I think it's awesome that skating has finally been accepted , so that some Okie mom that was soccer mom 3 years ago, now finds herself shuttling a bunch of little skaters in her van from spot to spot. It's neat when a mom comes in and realizes the turmoil that skaters still go through, as far as misconception. She's always had a perspective, and then all of sudden she's dropping off 6 little kids in her Escalade at a little 3-stair by whatever, and out comes security guy, and not only runs them off like villains--which you know, it's a liability issue--but treats mom like total dirt too. Here she is thinking, "Hey, I'm soccer mom, don't be talking to me like that." She's seeing it first hand, the enigma that has shrouded skateboarding for so long, which is false. A bunch of good kids having a good time, and the real problem doesn't lie in skateboarding's presence. It lies in everybody's perception of it. Your common society just doesn't get it. That little concrete ledge that's getting a few chips and getting some wax on it, that kid's love, has more clout than the kids themselves. Society will say, "We don't want you skating here because you're chipping up the concrete, for crying out loud." Wait a minute. You've got a dozen kids a day over here, enjoying life, and you're telling me that concrete is more a priority. That whole misconception is going away. The guys who think that way are slowly evolving out of the system, and younger, smarter, more intelligent, youthful-thinking minds are taking there places. It's just inevitably a matter of time that skating will be so accepted, it'll be like baseball and apple pie. It's getting there already. As much as skaters probably don't want it to happen, it's going to happen.

AF: With your experience, in more detail, can you kind of predict where things are going?

SM: I see to where, if you try and put a skate stopper up--which is finding a skate thing that is naturally a rail or something, and they put things to keep you from skating on it--those will be outlawed. If you have a skate spot in your town, you'll have to cater to skateboarders. You won't be able to say, "No, we're anti-skateboarding. You can't skate here. Yeah, you can ride a bike or inline skates, or throw a frisbee and toss a football, but no skateboarding." That's stupid. So, the ignorance lies more in civic, and the system, but it's getting overtaken by the board sports industry and that whole youth movement. It's not just skateboarding by itself anymore. It's culminated into this massive gorilla of an underground marketing thing, of something that is socially killer for kids. Even a tech head, that's at home doing whatever, now he's building web sites for skate shops or something. He's involved. It's just a gigantic positive for the whole youth movement that there's so much good going on. To just take away from it and say that skating is bad, or surfers are bums, or snowboarders ruin the hill...I've heard all that. It's there problem, not the youth movement's. Still, 10 years from now, it'll be so mature, and so nuts, that people will have forgotten about Bodie Miller, and Shawn White will have spawned something out that in weeks and weeks before the winter Olympics, they'll be touting that end of it, instead of the old-school end of it.

The next skate camps are May 30th and 31st, but are filling up fast, so for contact and information, go to, or call (405) 341-8132.


Oklahoma's Own Main Page

©2006 NONCO Media, L.L.C.