Keith Meek Interview

Keith Meek Interview
Photo: Dave Nelson

Keith Meek, pro skater, surfer, and punk rocker, grew up in Nor Cal. Ripping pools and slashing waves Keith was a pro skater for Santa Cruz Skateboards. He has arguably one of the most iconic graphics in skateboarding, the Slasher. We catch up with the Meekster.

OGRT: Great appreciate you doing this Keith. What’s new in your world?

KM: Thank you for hitting me up, I appreciate it as well. What’s new in my world, well I’m finally getting over a long injury streak, I had back-to-back injuries, surgeries, infections, etc for about 3 years straight, then covid hit, so I’m basically just trying to get back to normal life.

OGRT: How did you get your start in skating and surfing?

KM: I started skating around 1973, there was a skateboarding boom in the early 70s and I just jumped on that early wave and rode it. I saw a bunch of kids getting into it at my school and it looked rad so I scraped together my first skate. My first go-out surfing was in 1976, but I didn’t really get into it until 79/80.

OGRT: Who were some of your early idols?

KM: My early influences from looking at Skateboarder Mag were Tony Alva, Jay Adams, and Greg Weaver, I always thought if you could combine Tony’s aggressive approach, Jay’s innovation, and Greg Weaver’s smooth fluid style, it would make for a perfect skater. My main influences were the guys I was skating with at the time when we first started skating pools though, Mike Fox was a huge influence on me, he taught me that style was really important, how to pump through transitions to get speed, all the basic components for the foundation of skating bowls and pools, he took me on road trips down south to skate Lakewood, Marina, and all those parks. He also brought me to all my first punk shows back in 1978. He got me to sing for the first lineup of Los Olvidados. (Mike played guitar for bands like Los Olvidados, Drunk Injuns, Hemi, The Dwarves, etc.) Kevin Thatcher was another huge influence, he started flowing me products and giving me rides to new spots, he even gave me my nickname “Meekster”. For those that don’t know who KT is, he basically started Thrasher Mag and drew the infamous Thrasher Logo also he was a huge part of the Nor Cal scene and vernacular. Basically, the whole nor cal skate scene was an influence, mostly guys like Rick Blackhart, Steve Weston, Robert Schlaefli, Tim Lockfeld, Buck Brothers, Peter Gifford, Kevin Reed, and the Alot A Flex guys.

OGRT: Who were your first sponsors?

KM: My very first sponsor was Systems Skateshop, our friend Nick owned it and Mike Fox worked there, Howard Kveck made all the decks, he even pressed decks for me in his mom’s garage with internal beams, some were foam filled, we were trying all kinds of shit, those boards were called Meeks Geeks boards. We even had a cool little crew that consisted of Scott Foss, Jim Martino, and Tommy Guerrero Lol After that I was asked to skate for Astral, a company out of Santa Cruz, I skated for them for about a month, Then Haut hit me up and I skated for them for about 2 weeks, then Santa Cruz hit me up, this was all in early 1978. I’m still riding Santa Cruz products.

OGRT: You eventually turned pro for Santa Cruz, how did that change your life?

KM: That was a weird deal, I was going to enter the first Winchester Pro which was the second season of the Hester series in 1978/79, Haut was going to pay my entry fee but I backed out, and I was really nervous at the time. Then I ended up skating for Santa Cruz but nothing really happened until 1985, so there was a 6-year gap between when I was originally going to go pro and when it actually happened. A lot went down in those 6 years, skateparks closed, all the skating was going back to the streets, which was actually really cool, punk rock was happening, I started surfing, I was drinking also, we were raging, having huge parties with bands an shit. So at this point going pro was the last thing on my mind. Plus I was surfing more than I was skating.

The only thing that changed in my life when I went pro for Santa Cruz was that I didn’t have to work and I got to travel. I was working at NHS, running the production area, and filling team orders at the time the Slasher came out, so they wanted me to focus on skating and not work. I was so stoked!! The thing is I was never a contest skater, I hated contests, I just wanted to session with friends, hit empty pools, or the parks. So basically I didn’t do my job as far as a pro skater goes, I hated the whole contest scene, it kinda took something away from what skating meant to me. So I wouldn’t practice before contests, I wasn’t focused, and I only did good in a few of them. I was surfing more than I was skating when I was touring as a pro skater. Rich Novak told me once, “How does it feel to have surfing ruin your skate career?” Hahahaha I wouldn’t change a thing.

OGRT: The Slasher graphic by Jim Phillips is one of the most iconic graphics. How did it come about?

KM: That was all Jim Phillips Sr.’s brainchild, it was originally a flyer for a WSA Amateur Surf Contest but the people running that contest thought it was too gnarly or something, so it actually sat on Jim’s shelf for a while. It was then offered up to Steve Olson for his S.O.S. line that NHS was producing, Steve wasn’t feeling it, and fortunately, it landed in my lap. It was a perfect fit though, the Slasher dude pretty much embodied my lifestyle at the time.

OGRT: What do you make of the resurgence of old-school skate decks?

KM: I think it’s pretty cool, I have had a lot of people say my board was their first board and that they were really stoked to have that same deck again. If it makes people happy then it’s a good thing, right? I wish I could get some of my first boards I rode.

OGRT: How many Slasher boards do you think have been sold since they first came out?

KM: I have no idea, that would be a good thing to find out though lol

OGRT: Skateboarding has really embraced their legends, talk about how that has been for you?

KM: I don’t really pay too much attention to what is going on, some of the events are rad but I pretty much do my own thing. I’m not into huge crowds so I avoid most gatherings hahaha As far as the reissues, it helps pay the bills so that’s good. It is sick to see the respect for the old guys, it’s insane to see guys rolling in their 50s and 60’s, that was unheard of when we were younger.

OGRT: Any other old pros you still keep in touch with or skate with?

KM: I’m still in touch with a lot of dudes I skated with back in the day but haven’t really skated with any of them recently. Most recently I skated with my friend Dan Sparagna, Peter Hewitt, Darren Navarette, and Mike Lohrman when I was in San Diego a few months back. Usually, I just stay around the Santa Cruz area and skate with friends. I’m still in touch with Blackhart, Kevin Thatcher, Scott Foss, Ray Stevens, Rob Roskopp, and a few others.

OGRT: How much do you get out skating and surfing now?

KM: I skate when I’m in the mood to skate or if someone hits me up, I love it, it brings me back to my youth, there is something about a good grind that will always satisfy. Surfing is a joke these days, it’s so crowded, and the rules we learned when we were coming up are basically gone, at least in Santa Cruz. It’s been a mental thing for me that I need to get past because I love surfing so much. I plan on getting back into it more in the next couple of months, I got a few trips to Central America planned this summer.

OGRT: You were always a backyard pool ripper, what do you make of all the skateparks with perfect transitions?

KM: I like it, a good pool is a good pool. Backyard pool skating is a whole different world though, I like that world way better. 

OGRT: Is there a day Keith Meek does not skate or surf anymore?

KM: I know there must be a day/year when that reality has got to hit but I don’t see it coming soon, I just turned 60 last month, I got my 60 grinds for my 60 years a few days after my birthday, so that was cool. I’m getting more psyched on it now than I have been in the recent past.

OGRT: What do you think of the progression of skateboarding?

KM: I think skateboarding is all about progression and it always has been, I’m not into the flips and spins much but I have respect for it. The stuff I see going down in backyard pools these days is just insane!! Same with surfing.

OGRT: Who are some of the current rippers you like to watch and why?

KM: Man, I can’t even keep up with what is going on with vert or park skating, I’m pretty clueless with who’s who, as far as backyard pool skating goes, John Worthington is on fucking fire!!!

OGRT: How did getting married and becoming a father change you?

KM: Getting married and having kids pretty much straightened my life out, I always say my wife Danna saved me lol. I was just surfing, skating, and raging when I met her, she helped me get my shit together. Having kids is my greatest accomplishment in life, raising two kids with Danna and getting them through college has been awesome!!

OGRT: What’s the story behind Meeksterbrau?

KM: I used to make really bad homebrew back in the early ’80s, me and some friends were sitting in my backyard drinking on a flat summer day when I lived on Pleasure Point, we were drinking Meister Brau and someone said fuck Meister Brau it’s Meekster Brau, that’s how the name came about. Made a few batches with a few different people throughout the years. This was way before beer was being made in the surf skate industry. I ended up making some t-shirts and adding products over the years and made some decks a few years ago also. It’s more of a brotherhood than a company. Smooth As Gravel baby!!

OGRT: What do you hope to be remembered for?

KM: I hope to be remembered for just being who I am, nothing more.

OGRT: What’s next for Keith Meek?

KM: I want to travel more, surf more, skate more, it’s time to slow down on the work and start living again. My kids are adults now so it’s time for my second childhood! hahaha

Again, thank you so much, Keith! 

-Old Guys Rip Too

Thank you for hitting me up!! -KM

Keith Meek Santa Cruz Pro Model

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