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Ollie, Wally and Bert
Trick tips from Sky

Larry Bertlemann
Larry Bertlemann went down in skating history for his namesake trick—the "Bert."
(Photo: Courtesy of Larry Bertlemann)
When I think about sharing "trick tips," one question comes to mind, "Where do I begin?" First of all, none of the tricks I do are actually created by me. The "Bert," the "Ollie," the "backside air"—these are all moves from some of the sport's earliest skaters. That's when I realized that the best "trick tip" I can give is to go back to the beginning. Learn about the early skaters (a few of which I've been lucky enough to meet), and know where the tricks came from.

Skateboarding has come a long way since the 1970s, when it really took off, but there still isn't a whole lot of awareness of the origin of today's tricks and styles. In the first days of skateboarding, a group of guys decided to start skating (on boards with metal wheels) on days when the waves weren't good enough for surfing—"sidewalk surfing," they called it. One of these guys, Larry Bertlemann, is a surfer who became a skateboarding legend.


Also known as "Rubberman," Larry Bertlemann started surfing in Hawaii in the late 1960s, when he was 11 years old. Today, he is known as the guy who forever changed surf and skate style with his radical moves. He was on the covers of more than 19 surfing magazines, and the first surfer known to put his hand down in the water while surfing a wave.

"We were just having fun," Bertlemann said to me. "I didn't think I was doing anything that would change history. I was doing on land what I did in water."

Bertlemann went down in skating history for his namesake trick, the "Bert." It's a move that is done by putting one hand down on a bank, pushing your feet outward on the board and turning in a circle, before returning to standing position. It was the kind of move that skaters were all trying to imitate in the '70s. "The Bert" is now a skate move in the Tony Hawk American Wasteland video game. Gravity Skateboards has even made a signature board bearing Bertlemann's name and image.

Tom "Wally" Inouye, carving the keyhole pool at Skateboard Heaven skatepark in Spring Valley, California, 1978.
(Photo: Jim Goodrich)

Tom "Wally" Inouye is another important figure in the history of skating. He is best known for his signature moves—"wall rides" and "backside airs." Inouye started IPS (Inouye's Pool Service) back in the '70s, and was one of the first pool skaters.

"In 1976 we were riding empty pools," said Inouye. "No one knew what all there was to do, so we were having a good time and seeing how far we could push it."

"Pushing it" is exactly what led to his signature moves. A "backside air" is a move that involves approaching a vertical wall in a backside manner (when your back is facing away from the wall or pool), grabbing the board as you clear the top, and returning to the wall. In a "wall ride," you ride the board onto a wall and back to the ground.

"We were all trying to go up onto the wall. I guess I was the only one who did it," Inouye said. "It became a trick called a 'wall ride' and the name 'Wally' has stuck with me ever since."

Wally is still ripping it up, and competes in the grand masters division of park, bowl, and pool competitions. Today, he owns a skate shop in Hood River, Oregon, called (what else?) "IPS Skate Shop."

Alan "Ollie" Gelfand, catching air at the Sensation Basin skatepark in Gainesville, Florida in 1979.
(Photo: Jim Goodrich)

The "Ollie" is a trick fundamental to all other tricks. Allan Gelfand invented it in 1976 when he was just a teenager skating at Skateboard USA in Hollywood, Florida.

Here's how you do the Ollie: While rolling, push your back foot down on the tail of the board while bending your knees to jump up and forward. Your front foot rolls forward on the board, lifting as the board goes up. Then you push both feet down to bring the board to the ground.

"People would steal my shoes trying to figure out what I had on them to make the board stick," Gelfand told me. "I had no idea that it would be such a big deal then."

It was Gelfand's friends who called his signature trick by the skater's nickname—"Ollie."

"I have a great bowl here [that] now I call 'Olliewood,'" said Gelfand. "It is 10 1/2 feet deep at the deep end, and tight. I am still skating all the time."

Bert, Ollie, and Wally are just the beginning of the story. If you want to know more about tricks, dig some more into the history of skateboarding. To better understand skating, learn about its soul. It all began with a bunch of kids who wanted to surf on the sidewalks. Sure, it's about tricks and style, but it's also about friendship and fun. That's what makes it great.