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Ten years of Thomas: what constitutes a great skateboard career? What makes a great skateboarder? Is it talent?

We all know that Jamie Thomas has talent. But let's face it--talent is not enough. In the face of adversity, Jamie continues to conquer. Jamie is the visionary with the desire and ambition to see it through, every step of the way. He's an ever-scrapping, ever-hungry, 100-percent American mutt.

This is about a skateboarder and the big fat dent that he made in skateboarding. This is Ten Years Of Thomas!--Greg Ware

JAMIE THOMAS + THE TIMELINE

1984

Started skating around the neighborhood on a fiberglass board that was found in the attic.

1985

Moved to Florida. Bought my first board--Sims Superlight with Bennett trucks and OJ wheels. Started skating to school and around the neighborhood. First tricks were tic-tacs and sketchy 90-degree ollies.

1986

Got really into skating. Started to learn actual tricks and began getting into punk music.

1987

Moved back to Alabama. Saw a skate video for the first time, The Bones Brigade Video Show. Started racing BMX as the small skate scene began to die.

1989

Started skating again with much more enthusiasm as the skate scene in Alabama started to grow. Good times building and skating jump ramps all day and night. Looked up to Matt Hensley and thought that Hokus Pokus and the H Street generation were everything. Started a 'zine with friends called Unruly Youths. Fractured shin in the fall and couldn't skate for six months.

1990

Worked at Wendy's for six months to work off 500 hours of community service, then continued to work there for another six months in order to have money for boards. Started making pants, called Living Large and sold them at the local skateshop.

1991

Started traveling to nearby cities for local contests and skate jams. Worked ala skateshop, got sponsored by Thunder and Spitfire, and received flow packages from Real skateboards. Began dreaming about California.

1992

Quit school and started working al Burger King to save up for a car to make the drive to California. Stayed in Atlanta at my friend Devin's house for the summer and worked as a telemarketer to save for the trip to California.

Left The South in August with friends Sean and Hurley, headed to Texas for the NSA amateur finals. Got seventh in the contest, then headed to California. Ended up living on the streets of San Francisco for a little over three months. Contributed some ideas to a now forming company called Experience.

1993

Turned pro for the low-budget company Experience in January. First photo ever in a magazine, a quarter page Experience ad in SLAP magazine.

First photo in Thrasher, Left Experience in the fall of 1993 and started riding for Southern California-based upstart company Invisible. Shortly after getting on Invisible, took up permanent residence in Southern California.

1994

First magazine cover, June 1994 Quit Invisible after a Summer tour blowout. Ended up riding for Toy Machine.

1994

Finished first full-length interview, the theme being that it was all done in one day. Help put a new Toy Machine team together and directed the second Toy Machine video, Heavy Metal, which was released in the fall of 1994.

1995

Continued to build the Toy Machine team and filmed nonstop for Welcome To Hell throughout 1995. Made the first designs and started Zero as a small clothing company in December 1995.

1996

Zero started making logo boards in the spring. The third Toy Machine video, Welcome To Hell, was released in July of 1996. First pro-model shoe came out for Emerica in the fall.

1997

Got married to wife Joanne in February. Attempted the Leap of Faith in April. Released the first Zero video, Thrill of It All, in the summer of 1997. Left Emerica to help create Adio footwear later that fall. Got more involved with running Zero and started learning graphic design.

1998

Filmed non-stop with Erik Elington, Adrian Lopez, Jim Greco, Jud Ferguson, Matt Mumford and Ryan Bobier for Misled Youth.

1999

Misled Youth Premiered and was released in March. Accepted the Lord and became a Christian in May. First Thrasher cover and full length interview came out in the August issue.

2000

Started filming for the next Zero video which would be Dying To Live. Blew left knee out in August on a gruesome slam while filming in SF. Flew home and had major reconstructive knee surgery a month later.

2001

Worked on Innes clothing and started Black Box distribution to provide a home for Innes and soon-to-be-solo Zero skateboards.

Left knee was re-injured on summer tour, which was followed by another surgery. Spent almost a year recovering and filmed most of 2002 for Dying to Live.

Second Thrasher cover, July 2002

2002

Dying to Live premiered October 11th. The video was released after a three-weeklong world tour. Blew out left knee again, and had another knee surgery the following January.

2003

Started and launched Fallen footwear in September. Started and launched Mystery skateboards through Black Box in October.

2003

Wife gave birth to son, Julien Tiger Thomas on October 30, 2003.

2004

Trasher "Ten Years of Thomas" retrospective career article.

TEN YEARS OF THOMAS + THE FIRSTS

VIDEO

I had a dub with three videos on it: Streets of Fire, Savanna Slamma, and Sick Boys.

RAIL

A three-stair at Carmel plaza in Dothan, Alabama. Regular boardslide and frontside boardslide.

KICKFLIP

The first week I started back after quitting skateboarding for a year. I quit skating to race BMX and when I quit, no one I knew could do a kickflip. When I started back everyone could do them, so 1 tried nonstop until I learned them. That was 1989.

FIGHT

The first fight I can remember getting in was in fifth grade with a girl named Rachel Miller. She socked me, so it was on. I then got in my second fight that night with my dad for getting into a fight with a girl.

ROAD TRIP

To Pensacola, FL for my first contest with my morn, my sister, and a friend in 1989. I got 3rd; I was psyched.

CONTEST VICTORY

Myrtle Grove Turkey shoot in Pensacola, FL, 1990.

CONCERT

Rick Springfield, right when that song "Jesse's Girl" came out, I was in fourth grade.

CASSETTE

"Jam On It" by Newcleus.

PRO YOU MET

It was either Brad Baxter or Chuck Dinkins. They were both from Florida near where my grandparents lived. Chuck Dinkins was known for running and jumping into melon grabs.

VIDEO PART

My first part was in a shop video, Beach Plus. The Spitfire video was the first company video I was in.

AUTOGRAPH YOU SIGNED

Parker city fun day in 1990 (a small contest in Panama City, FL). Autographs definitely felt really awkward for the first few years.

TATTOO

Eight ball on my left arm when I was 16.

TATTOO COVERED UP

The same eight ball, six months later.

JOB

During the summer when I was 13 helping my cousin Rob lay tile.

CAR

a 1980 Mazda GLC. I bought it for $250 in 1991, My friends and I covered it with stickers and made a shark-tooth grill out of wood.

TIME ARRESTED

I got in trouble in high school for some dumb stuff and the cops came and took me out of class. After that, all my teachers told me that I was going to end up in jail. They said everyone who gets arrested at school always ends up in prison. I guess I beat the odds.

TEN YEARS OF THOMAS + THE INFLUENCES

Kris Markovich

Kris Markovich is from The South. He moved to California to become a professional skate-boarder. When Kris' first pro interview came out, it was factual evidence that it was possible to make it. This was a huge inspiration, and at my first opportunity, I was on a one-way trip to California.

Matt Hensley

I liked Hensley's parts in the H-street videos so much that I tried to skate and dress like him. When I finally had the pleasure of meeting Matt in person, he was more genuine than I could have imagined. Matt is the real deal and he is one of my all-time favorites.

John Cardiel

I've always been inspired by Cardiel's energy and positive outlook. His raw, unique style and approach has set him apart from everyone else. Cardiel just goes for it and makes it happen and that makes me want to follow his lead,

Sean Young

Sean Young is an innovator-when we were kids, he did all the tricks way before we would see them in the magazines. He has something special and you can see it carried out in whatever he does. Anything he decides to pursue, he makes it his craft and he masters it. His care-free attitude and style is infectous.

Frankie Hill

After watching Frankie Hill's video parts, I would go out and try to ollie the biggest gaps l could find. In his few years on the scene he took gaps and handrails to a whole other level. Everything he did in his video parts 15 years ago is still gnarly today.

TEN YEARS OF THOMAS + THE SPONSORS

1993

Experience skateboards Thunder trucks Spitfire wheels Vans Beach Plus skateshop

1994

Invisible skateboards Independent trucks Spitfire wheels Simple shoes Beach Plus skateshop

1995

Toy Machine Creature wheels Pacific Drive skateshop Sophisto clothing Etnies

1996

Toy Machine Emerica Mercury trucks Pacific Drive skateshop

1997

Zero skateboards Pig wheels Emerica Mercury trucks Pacific Drive skateshop

1998

Zero skateboards Zero wheels Adio footwear Mercury trucks

1999

Zero skateboards Zero wheels Adio footwear Mercury trucks

2000/2001/2002

Zero skateboards Zero wheels Circa footwear Monster trucks

2003/2004

Zero skateboards Zero wheels Fallen footwear and apparel Monster trucks

TEN YEARS OF THOMAS + THE VIDEOS

Spitfire video, 1993

Spitfire was my first sponsor, and the Spitfire video was the first video besides sponsor-me videos that I ever filmed for. The filmer, Brian Young, was my roommate, so filming missions just consisted of skating with friends. I didn't put any thought into what I wanted to do; we'd just go skate and whatever footage we had, when it was time to put the video together, is what went in.

Strange flare fact: I wore a Michelob visor in one of the opening lines of my part.

Memoirs Of An Invisible Man

Invisible video, 1993

Not knowing what to cut out, I made my part in this video seven minutes long. In retrospect, if it was edited down to three or four minutes, it would have been much more pleasant to watch. From being homeless in San Francisco to my first few months in San Diego, this video part contained most of my early footage in California.

Strange premier fact: The invisible video was premiered on two 24-inch TVs on the top of two quarter-pipes on the Tracker street course in Oceanside. There were probably about 30 people in attendance.

411 #7 Profile, 1994

In 1994, I quit Invisible in the middle of a summer tour and proceeded with my own Greyhound bus tour down the East Coast. I went and visited friends in Boston, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Atlanta, and at home in Alabama. While most of the filming was done while traveling, I finished up my part in San Diego after selling everything I had to get back to California.

Strange poor fact: I sold my shoes to buy a ticket to get home and wore a stranger's shoes on the trip back.

Heavy Metal

Toy Machine, 1994

I got on Toy Machine just after their first video came out. The majority of the team had moved on and there was only me, Ed Templeton, and two amateurs. Ed and I started to rebuild the team and film for a video with the new squad. Aside from Ed's own section, he let me have complete creative control. It was the first video that I filmed and directed. I started to get more serious about how things were filmed and tried to set standards for myself and the team.

Fan fact: Josh Kalis' part in Heavy Metal is one of my all-time favorites.

Hi-Five

Etnies, 1995

Shortly after Heavy Metal, Etnies announced they were making their first video. They had such a large team that each of the riders were only given a few days to film their part. This was the first video in which I skated rails larger than 10 stairs, and I was thankful to have first part.

Fan fact: This was one of Tom Penny's first full parts, and it was indeed the highlight of this video.

TEN YEARS OF THOMAS + THE VIDEOS

Welcome To Hell

Toy Machine, 1996

Filming this video was the first time that I'd given a single project everything I had. This part helped me discover my potential and understand the value of focus. There was a lot of change happening in my life, but at 21 I felt like I had found my place as a professional skateboarder, and I realized that video parts would be my outlet.

Fun fact: The alternate name for Welcome To Hell was After School Special.

Yellow

Emerica, 1996

This video's deadline was fight after the completion of Welcome To Hell, so my part consisted of outtakes from Welcome To Hell as well as some random and spontaneous moves to make it a bit different.

I shared a part with Adrian Lopez. This video would he one of my last associations with Emerica.

Fun fact: Almost half this video part was filmed in shorts.

Thrill Of It All

Zero, 1997

After Welcome To Hell and the Emerica video, I suffered from a mild burnout that sent me back to the basics. The roots of our generation seemed to be the theme for Thrill Of It All. This video was filled with grabs, acids drops, and drop-ins. This was one of my shorter video parts. My part closed with the Leap Of Faith attempt that would end up almost eclipsing anything I had done prior.

Furl fact: The majority of this video was filmed in a 10-mile radius of San Diego.

Misled Youth

Zero, 1999

After Thrill Of It All, I felt the need to get refocused and work on a full-length part. For the next two years I focused on learning new tricks and taking them as far as I possibly could. I tried my best to find the same fire and ambition that I had a few years prior. It helped that we all had a common goal, and we were all just going for it, I have a lot of good memories working on this video.

Chomp On This, 2002

With very little stress, Chomp was probably one of the most fun parts to film for. It was the first project where it was fitting to put in absolutely whatever you wanted. The videographers and photographers that were the focus of Chomp were pushing themselves and it was fun to get behind them and to be there to help film. It was a refreshing role reversal, I was thankful to be a part of such a fun project.

Master P fact: This is the only video part I've had edited to hip-hop

Dying To Live

Zero, 2002

After having reconstructive knee surgery in 2000 and a second knee surgery in 2001, it was refreshing just to roll again. But after being injured for so long, filming my part for Dying to Live proved to be one of the biggest challenges of my career. I had to slowly gain confidence as I started skating again, trying to work my way up to the level I was once at. I think I worked the hardest on this video part, and it felt the most rewarding in the end.

TEN YEARS OF THOMAS + THE BOARD GRAPHICS

Experience (1993)

This is a fax of the graphics of my first pro model on Experience. There were only 50 of these boards made. Unfortunately I didn't save one, all I have is this fax.

Experience "JT" (1993)

My first board with a run over 50. Considering our budget, I thought this New Jersey Devils rip-off graphic was epic.

Invisible "Jamie Bond" (1993)

This was my first Invisible board, and my worst graphic of all time. I thought it would be cool or at least funny. In retrospect it was neither.

Invisible Angel Demon slick (1994)

In contrast to "Jamie Bond," this graphic is still one of my all-time favorite graphics and I eventually got it tattooed on my arm.

Toy Machine Uncle Sam (1996)

This board was inspired by the fact that I was poor after paying taxes for the first time.

Toy Machine Wooly Mammoth (1996)

This is another graphic that I liked enough to get a tattoo. This was my favorite Toy Machine board, and probably the board I rode the most while on Toy.

Toy Machine Leap Of Faith (1997)

This is the board that I tried the Leap Of Faith on; for years it had a footprint on the grip tape from where my front foot landed and broke the board.

Zero Smith Grind by Dan Sturt (1999)

The photo on this board was shot the last few days of filming for Misled Youth, It's been one of my bestselling boards of all time.

Zero Cross board (2001)

The most controversial graphic of my career. I wanted to make this graphic as a testament to my faith. *

Zero Rattlesnake (2004)

This is one of my latest Zero boards and it is already one of my favorite graphics.

* I was advised not to do so by our sales staff and my peers; they felt it would not sell and that it would hurt my career. I didn't care, and suggested they make smaller runs. It was worth it to me if only a few people got the message. The board ending up selling more in a short period than any other hoard I'd ever had. Ironically, I was then accused of making this board to make money, so even though the board was in high demand it was eventually discontinued. I feel the message was received better than I ever could have imagined. I donated the profits to my church.

TEN YEARS OF THOMAS + THE INJURIES

What's the first injury that really put the fear of God in you?

When I was a kid I broke my leg on a mini-ramp. It hurt ridiculously bad and I got that harsh sick feeling you get when you break something. I actually broke my leg twice; the first time I broke it, I just fractured it, but the second time, my shin was disfigured; it looked jacked.

Both times on a mini-ramp?

No, the second time I broke it on vert.

What were you doing on vert?

I just learned backside airs, and I was trying to tweak them out. I ended up half-way bailing and landing in a backside boneless on the face of the ramp. My body weight and my board ran over my leg and broke my shin.

What did your dad say?

My mom and dad told me I should join the chess club; this skating thing wasn't working out for me. They seriously said that. So in defiance I wrote on my cast really big, "I will skate again!" It was also to kind of remind myself that I would skate again. 'Cause when you're a kid, six months is forever.

With all your knee injuries, were you trying to keep them on the down-low?

My first knee injury in 2000 was so devastating to me; I questioned if I was gonna be able to skate again. I knew I had enough obstacles to overcome without a bunch of people telling me how hard it was going to be or that I was done. I just thought the less people knew about it, the less they'd talk about it and the less I'd believe it. I just wanted to focus on making a full recovery. After talking to Danny Way a lot and seeing all that he went through, I realized that it doesn't matter what anyone says; as long as you've got it in your heart, you can come back.

Have you blown out both knees?

No, I hurt the same one three times. I tore my ACL twice. Shortly after coming back from my first surgery, there was a big chunk of cartilage that chipped off and it was getting stuck in my knee. They went in to clean that out and that surgery, which was just a clean up ended up--taking me out longer than my first ACL surgery.

For all those kids tearing their ACL every day, what are some important things to know about it?

If you actually tear your ACL try to get it fixed as soon as possible, so you don't do more damage to the joint. Then follow through with your physical therapy. That's the most important thing. Your muscles atrophy so much after surgery, it's basically like your leg's held together with a shoelace. If you go out and try to skate without building your muscles back up, you can tear your ACL again really easily.

What about the one time you hit your head and said, "All I see is black?"

There was a period of time where I hit my head a lot. I don't know what was going on. I don't know if I was pushing it too hard or if I didn't know what I was doing. But for about four or five years I hit my head two or three times a year where I was unconscious, drooling on the concrete.

Was it all handrails?

Yeah. I guess most of it was. I don't know if it was going after new terrain or what, but it was mostly handrails.

Do you ever feel stupider?

No. I wondered, though, if I was getting punch drunk or if it was damaging my brain. There was one year where I often felt dizzy, but I found that was more due to diet and stress. That was the first year of me running the company on my own. I went and got an MRI and they said they could see the scarring from all my concussions. You could see it on the MRI. It was pretty heavy.

Popular TV devotes a lot of time to showing skaters taking it to the nuts. What have your own experiences been taking it to the nuts?

I don't like it, I can tell you that.

It's not as fun as it seems in TV?.

Definitely not! It never looks fun to me. I've taken it to the nuts a few times. It's really sketchy 'cause you don't know if you're doing permanent damage. It's just one of those things; you're banging your nuts real hard and hoping for the best.

You've got a baby, so I guess it all worked out OK.

Yeah, I didn't know if I was even capable of having kids. I was really happy when Joanne told me she was pregnant. Now, I'm thinking of putting some on ice in case I hit my nuts real hard and can't have any more kids.

Really?

Yeah.

When are you gonna get that grill fixed? You're rich now! Get your tooth fixed!

I don't know, man. It's not high on my priority list right now. Plus, I really hate the dentist. I've been going lately to get some cavities fixed and there's only so much of the dentist 1 can take. Maybe I'll get to it some day.

Anything else you'd like to say about injuries?

I wouldn't necessarily say they're a bad thing. My first knee injury humbled me, and it made me appreciate skateboarding a lot more--the fact that not everyone can do it and that it can be taken away from you in an instant. It's easy to take things for granted, and sometimes injuries help put them in perspective. I've actually liked the trials and tribulations of coming back from these knee injuries. I think they've made me a stronger, more patient person with more conviction, and I'm truly thankful for that.

TEN YEARS OF THOMAS + THE FAVORITES

Videos

Life Soldier's Story H-Street Hokus Pokus Planet Earth Now and Later Blind Video Days Antihero, any of them

Shoes

Fallen Rival Fallen Chief Fallen Sting Zero Chucks Slip-ons

Styles

Tony Trujillo John Rattray Donny Barley Oly Todd Sean Young

Vert skaters

Danny Way Hosoi Jason Jessee Chris Miller Peter Hewitt Darren Navarrette

Rail tricks

Backside 50-50s Frontside 5-Os Frontside boardslides 180 nosegrinds Backside Smith grinds

Skate towns

Atlanta Los Angeles Phoenix San Diego Barcelona

Cars

'02 Ford Crown Vic '69 Camaro Z28 I want a pick-up

Thrasher covers

Phil Shao, grinding the top bar at Fort Miley Tony Trujillo, stalefish at Ripon Jeremy Wray, water tower ollie Peter Hewitt, frontside invert in Ecuador, SA Henry Sanchez, crooked grind the high block at Embarcadero

Video parts

Matt Hensley, Hokus Pokus Sean Sheffey, A Soldier's Story Frankie Hill, Propaganda Corey Chrysler, Debunker John Cardiel, Antihero Josh Kalis, Heavy Metal Anthony Van Engelen, DC Video

Childhood boards

Jeff Kendall Street Graffiti Vallely, Elephant Natas, Panther Hensley, Church Glass Lance Mountain, Future Primitive

Movies

Braveheart Rocky II Band of Brothers Shawshank Redemption Super Troopers

Bible verses

John 3:16 John 8:32 Joshua 1:9 Romans 5 Psalm 18:1

Trips

West Palm Beach, FL, with my friends Billy and Adam, 1990 First trip to California, 1992 Freedom Tour, 1994 Welcome to Hell Tour, 1996

Musicians

The Who Johnny Cash Rush Hendrix Lynyrd Skynyrd

Flair items

Bandana Flannel shirt

Gadgets

Cell phone Laptop Digital camera Pocket Connect Four

Ways to relax

Work Skate Film Family time Nap

TV shows

Monk Chappelle Show Reno 911 Everybody Loves Raymond VH1 Behind the music

'80s Pros

Jim Thiebaud Tommy Guerrero Natas Kaupas Mark Gonzales Lance Mountain Matt Hensley

'90s Pros

Frankie Hill Kris Markovich John Cardiel Tom Penny Ed Templeton Drake Jones

Today's Pros

John Rattray Geoff Rowley Tony Trujillo Jon Allie Chris Cole
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