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Original Issue

Head of the Board

By celebrating the punk vibe in skateboarding, Fausto Vitello reinvented the sport

STEVE CABALLERO,the skateboarding legend, is not a guy prone to sobbing. But last week that'swhat I heard when I retrieved his message on my cellphone. The only words Icould distinguish between the tears were, "Fausto is no longer withus."

We all knew himonly as Fausto. He needed no last name. Fausto Vitello (above)--the outspoken,cantankerous entrepreneur who died on April 22 of a heart attack--was born onAug. 7, 1946, in Buenos Aires. He moved with his parents to America at agenine. His interests in cars and motorcycles led to his joining TeamHarley-Davidson as a mechanic in the late '60s. Along the way, he becameinterested in the technology and culture of the emerging sport ofskateboarding.

By 1979, when theboom that catapulted skateboarding onto Wide World of Sports and launched amultimillion-dollar industry had gone bust, skateboarding enthusiasts like meand Fausto were left struggling to imagine the way forward. The prominent skatemanufacturers of the '70s--Bahne, GT, Sims--had promoted skateboarding as awholesome, safe, American sport. Fausto was among the first to figure out thatskateboarding's future lay in its celebration of its outlaw roots. Fausto wasthe only skateboard company owner (aside from myself) who for a decade managedto attend every contest held across America no matter how podunk. He was abusinessman with a skater's heart, and he never shied away from hopping fences,sneaking into backyard pools, ditching cops or thumbing his nose at theestablishment. He was one of the first to see that skaters were aligning withthe ethos of the punk movement. And he perfectly captured that rebelliousnessin Thrasher, the trendsetting magazine he cofounded. His mantra, "Skate andDestroy," became the slogan for one of his companies, Independent Trucks,which, along with Thrasher and other firms he built, not only helped saveskating but also reinvented it.

I clicked off mycellphone after listening to Steve's message. I was knocked out. I got my gearand went to skate at my local park in Santa Monica, where I thought about thetimes Fausto and I shared building this young sport in the '80s. While standingat the edge of the pool between runs, I said something to a few of the olderguys about Fausto's passing. They were all just as devastated as I was. Thensome young kids asked, "Who was Fausto?"

The onlyexplanation I could think of was, "He's one of the reasons you're skatingright now."

> StacyPeralta is the director of Dogtown and Z-Boys.



RAMPEDUP - Vitello (circa '78) built a skating empire.