I saw the Gullwing Full Power Trip video in 1990 or 1991. I remember Chris ruling it throughout. I was skating behind the ‘flannel curtain’, in central Pennsylvania at Buster Halterman’s barn ramp. Buster was a huge fan of Chris and rode Schmitt Stix boards religiously. If you compare Chris and Buster, you will see many similarities. Both can go high, flow at all times and seemingly drip style from every pore. Comparing the incomparable. At the Brick, NJ skatepark, they had a piece of wood on the stairs of the vert ramp, entitled ‘Vert Gods’, with names listed. Both Chris and Buster were on it. I met Chris one day in 1991. Buster was at Woodward skating with Chris, who was a visiting pro that week. This was before Buster opened the door for me to start running things at Woodward. I drove up there and found out that Chris had slammed on a ‘body jar’-I think. He was done skating for the day. At the time, vert skaters would melt their shoelaces -virtually- every time we would knee slide. I had managed to find Frankfort Leather in Philadelphia. They made super strong laces with metal ends. I would give them to friends that rode vert. I remember giving a bright orange set to Chris…he just smiled at me strangely, thanking me. Odd gift. Buster told me that I was a “goon”. I answered incredulously, ”But, he’s Chris Miller! He does that FS ollie to truck thingee.” Anyway, that is the memory I have of meeting Chris. I have run into him many times thereafter. He came with Dave Swift, Andy Mac & Moffett to ride Gonzales pool when I painted it. Chris put a new board together and destroyed . Period. I thought I would question him on the basics and sent him some questions. This is what went down - Ozzie
BTO- When and where did you start skating?
Chris- I lived in Santa Monica as a kid during the Dogtown heyday, ‘76-‘79. Not that I was part of the DT scene at all, but skating was just part of life for kids in the area. I got my first board for Christmas in 1977, it was a G&S fiberflex, Road Riders, and Bennett trucks. My first few years were spent skating the schoolyards, alleys and garages of Santa Monica. I lived on 7th street and went to school with Bela Horvath. This was also where I skated my first backyard pool… except it was in front of an apartment building.
BTO - What parks did you ride most and were you a local at any?
Chris - I didn’t go to a skatepark until 1980. My parents split up and I moved out to Claremont (Upland area) with my Mom. I was pretty miserable about it, but the consolation was all the skateparks. Pomona Grand Prix was my first park. It was not a great park, but to me it was amazing. I loved it until I found out about Pipeline in Upland, which was much much better.
BTO -Did you ride the Baldy pipe often and with whom?
Chris - I started riding Baldy with the Upland locals after I had been coming to the park for a year or two. It’s funny but I can’t remember my first time there. I do have plenty of memories doing little missions from the skatepark up to the pipe. We would get dropped off (none of my crew was old enough to drive) skate the pipe for a while, and then skate down the wash to Arrow Hwy, where there was a rope you could climb out on, and then go back to the park. It was only about a half mile from there. Skated many times with the Alba’s, Chris Robison, Eric Jueden, Tim Galvin and all the locals.
BTO- What is your ‘Pipeline’ history?
Chris- Too much to even talk about, but I spent literally every day there from fifth grade until I was eighteen. It was my sanctuary. Skating with all the groms, watching the Alba’s, and Dunlap and others rule the place. I got to see the Hester Series, Gold Cup and all the major pros from that era come through. One of the best days ever was when Cab, Scott Foss and the Powell Peralta team came. This was pre Bones Brigade and Cab and Foss were the new generation… Stacy gave me some stickers, and made fun of me for using the term “flow” when asking for them.
BTO- Who are your influences?
Chris - Salba, Micke, the Hoffman family, the Badlands, Dogtown, Steve Olson, Brad Bowman, Billy Ruff, Neil Blender and everyone at G&S. It doesn’t end there, but those were key people when I was young.
BTO - How did you start Zacharys Planet Earth?
Chris - After Schmitt Stix, I was looking for something new and felt uninspired by a lot of the brands that were offering me sponsorship. I wanted to start an artistically inspired brand and Tony Magnussen and Mike Ternasky offered to help. H-street and World were the new brands changing the industry, being run by skaters and mixing things up. I was inspired by them, but wanted to do it my way and continue that lineage that Neil Blender started over at G&S by doing his own graphics. Skateboarding and skateboards were about personal expression, a canvas for art. I felt that the world was a crazy place and the perspective of Planet Earth seemed to fit as a name. I was also 21 years old with a wife and baby son named Zach, and in many ways it was more about providing for my family than anything else. Hence, the corporate name Zachary’s Planet Earth.
BTO - Is there something you’ve never done yet always wanted to do in skating?
Chris - I’d love to do frontside rodeos, and front noseblunt slide the combi corner.
BTO - Do you have any threshold moments?
Chris - I tried 540’s for like a year before I made one. It was so frustrating. Then, when I hadn’t tried one for a while, I was at a demo in Portugal with Tony Hawk and he did a run with every variant of a 540 possible, including an ollie 5. I was just like, “if he can do all that, then I can at least make a regular Mc Twist.” I spun a couple and then just made one… perfectly. Like I always could do it. I went on to make the next forty or so that I tried. I was more consistent on them than backside airs for a while! It just shows that if you believe you can do something you can do it. That day represented a shift in my skating, and I was far more confident and progressive from there on.
BTO - Do you still try progressing or ride for fun mostly?
Chris - It’s all just for fun now, but progression is fun. I am always pushing to skate the best I can, not necessarily leaning new tricks but pushing myself, new lines, big airs, etc.
BTO - How do you see your boys skate? Do you see yourself?
Chris - I love skating with my sons Zach and Luke. They are so different as skaters but both are super rad in their own ways. Zach’s style is smooth and controlled, kind of a more modern version of me or Buster, and Lukas is totally creative and unique, kind of Craig Johnson meets Jay Adams, throw in a little Gonz and take it back to 1977.
Zach and Chris Miller
BTO- Whats the deal with you winning all the combi contests? (HaHa).
Chris - I love that pool. I love skating it and the contests are really fun. I get nervous, but also love the energy. I also never won a pro contest at the OG combi, so it’s pretty cool to get paid back for all my blood, pain and broken bones!
BTO - What is in the future for you?
Chris - Keep skating as long as possible. I am inspired by Salba! If I can I’d like to be riding pools when I am 60!
BTO - Do you ever still ride backyards?
Chris - On occasion, but I am pretty lazy about leaving North SD county. Encinitas, Carmel Valley, Clairemont, Washington Street, Bucky’s! It’s all too good, but I do love the fun and challenge of a good backyard.
I would like to thank Chris Miller for taking the time with us and to all the photographers that allowed me to use images. Grant Brittain, MRZ, Arto Saari, Jim Goodrich and Brian Fick. Skate- Ozzie