Anti Hero: 14 Things You Didn't Know About Anti Hero Skateboards
In this episode, we take a look at Anti Hero and how they were founded, who drew the logo, who got kicked off for being 'too corporate', who stole the logo, John Cardiel, and much more!
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01) JULIEN STRANGER: To talk about Anti Hero, we first have to talk about their elusive frontman Julien Stranger. Along with Natas and Gonz, he is one of the pioneers of street skateboarding as we know it today. Over the years he has solidified his place in skateboarding history riding for brands like SMX, Underworld Element, Dogtown, Vans, and Real. It's important to note that although you might not see any interviews with him and it's rare to see photos of him in the mags, he is still ripping on a skateboard today.
02) JOHN CARDIEL: John Cardiel is born in San Jose, California but spent most of his early life in Half Moon Bay California. In the 1980s Cardiel sees a group of guys skating at a cornerstone and starts hassling his mom to buy him a skateboard. Later that year, his mom surprises him by hiding a brand new Santa Cruz board in his laundry basket.
In 1990, after skating loads of contests around California, John starts skating for Dogtown, Spitfire, and Venture. Fun Fact: At one point John Cardiel was a pro skateboarder and pro snowboarder at the same time.
In 2001, John Cardiel goes to film his legendary part in Transworld’s Sight Unseen with other icons such as Ray Barbee, Bob Burnquist, and Jason Dill. This would be the standout part of his career amongst parts in all the Anti Hero videos.
The Injury: In 2004, Cardiel was on a filming trip in Australia for Anti Hero's Tent City video when he was hit by a trailer on the road. He woke up with no feeling in his legs, paralyzed from the waist down, and and spent six months in the spinal cord rehabilitation unit at an Australian hospital. He was told he would never be able to walk again. He returned to the US, and in the years following the accident he progressed from a wheelchair, to a walker, to a cane, to then being to stand on his own two feet. He later began to ride his bike and four years after the accident he had an ad for Anti Hero riding a skateboard. He even has a trick in the beginning of the Vans Propeller video in 2015. Since the injury he has put a lot of focus on biking and music. He has also started his own bike brand Break Free Customs, where you can get Cardiel to hand built you a bike.
Today John Cardiel is sponsored by Vans, Anti Hero, Spitfire, Independent and Chrome Industries. He is also listed at #11 on the Transworld Most Influential Skaters of all time, featured as a character in the EA Skate video games, 1992 Thrasher Skater Of The Year, and in 2015 was inducted into the Skateboarding Hall Of Fame.
03) THE START: In 1994, Julien Stranger was riding for Real skateboards when they offered him and John Cardiel the opportunity to start their own company. So in 1995, pro skater Julien Stranger founds Anti Hero skateboards under the DLXSF umbrella. They started the brand because they felt like skateboarding companies had grown a little stale and felt stagnant at the time.
In an interview with Vice Magazine, Julien says there was no brand concept and they just wanted to create the company to tip the scales of how boring everything else was at the time. They brought on famed skateboard artist Todd Francis who was known for his edgy graphics, in a time when when lots of graphics were just logo boards, after the days of World Industries and insane skateboard graphics.
04) TODD FRANCIS: Todd Francis was originally from Venice, California. He grew up skating and doodling graphics on his friends skateboards in his neighbourhood. After graduating from art school in Santa Barbara, he got a job doing political cartoons in San Francisco, not long after getting hired at Deluxe Distribution. He says he got the job at DLXSF in part because he went to school with Natas Kaupas. At DLX he worked his way up to head art director for Stereo Skateboards and Spiftire Wheels. And then in 1996, he was put in charge of creating the art direction for Anti Hero Skateboards.
Over the years he has done artwork for companies like Element, Anti Hero, Real, New Deal, Stereo, Spitfire, Oakley, Vans, Slap Magazine and Hustler (to name a few).
*show when animals rape people
05) THE ANTI HERO LOGO: Not long after Julien and John started the brand, they felt they needed a better artist to help with the brand, so they bring on Todd Francis in 1996 (as stated above). When Todd starts he designed the now infamous Anti Hero pigeon graphic. Julien came up with the idea of drawing a little pigeon that looks like he got beat up by life and a bucket of oil poured on his head. They chose a pigeon because of their resilience, and the way they can survive in every city.
It's also interesting to note that the pigeon logo has been ripped off and redesigned many times over the years. We feel most famously by Jeff Staple, who did a pretty close knock off the pigeon graphic and has built his whole company around it.
It's interesting to note that Todd also went on to draw the Anti Hero Eagle logo, one of the most iconic logos in skateboarding. When he drew the eagle, it was so well received that it replaced the pigeon and became the main logo for Anti Hero skateboards.
06) THE EAGLE HAS LANDED: While touring Europe doing art shows with Element someone stole the original Anti Hero eagle logo artwork. Todd Francis was touring with Don Pendleton and Matt Irving, and says he distinctly remembers Pendleton asking him "Are you sure you want to bring that thing? It's like the Mona Lisa of skateboarding?".
At a super packed art show in London, a few hours in and people are having some drinks, and someone comes running up to Francis telling him that the eagle artwork was stolen. One of the locals at the show says he thinks he knows who took it, and makes a few phone calls. Apparently the guy who stole it wants to bring it back but is too scared and embarrassed. A few hours later the eagle is back on the wall and Francis is shaking hands with the guy who stole it.
Controversial Skateboard Graphics: Over the years Anti Hero is famous for doing some crazy skateboard graphics. Some of their famous board graphics over the years include:
Nature’s Revenge Board: Julian Stranger Pro Model
Anti Hero McJesus Board: Made as a dig against the fast food industry, with a specific aim at Mcdonald's. The slogan being printed was "over fifty million killed". This was Julien's idea, he loves attacking big corporations.
Richard Nixon: In 1996 Julien and Todd came up with a Richard Nixon graphic, Julien had always had a particular disliking for Nixon. They printed it and it showed up at the warehouse the next day. When the Nixon boards show up, Fausto and Eric Swensen were really pissed off. Todd says he's not sure if it's because they were conservative or because they feared getting sued. The boards never got sold and got rescreened. This story is told in the book “Look Away the Art of Todd Francis”.
The Nose Face Board: This Frank Gerwer pro model got a quick cease-and-desist from NorthFace
The Eat Shit and Die Series: corporate fast foot logos featuring a dog balls burger and a dead rat taco, ripping off some big fast-food chains.
Note: they did an even gnarlier fast foot series earlier on, that never saw the light of day, for obvious reasons. Featuring a bunch of fast food logos as terrorists, rioters, CEOs, and Tramps. Seen here.
The Disgruntled Employee Series: Francis notes the only negative reaction for this one was to Burnquist’s graphic.
The Forever Young Series: which Todd used to make fun of old people
The Monkey Suit Series
Antihero Powell Rip Off: This graphic got them in hot water with Powell Peralta.
The Hitler On Ice Board: Todd Francis drew the graphic, but it was turned down by the team rider it was for, because of fear that they would get kicked off their other sponsors.
07) THE TEAM: Over the years the Anti Hero team has been stacked with heavy hitters and gnarly skaters. Over the years team riders have included Julian Stranger, John Cardiel, Frank Gerwer, Tony Trujillo, Peter Hewitt, Andy Roy, Chris Pfaner, Tony Miorana, Grant Taylor, Raney Beres, Robbie Russo, Daan Van Der Linden, Brian Anderson, Andrew Allen, Tim Upson, Brian Seber, Eric J, Bob Burnquist, Jeff Grosso (RIP), and more.
SOTY Status: Of all board brands Anti Hero is tied with Real skateboards for the most SOTYs on any brand. Including John Cardiel (1992), Brian Anderson (1999), Tony Trujillo (2002), and Grant Taylor (2011).
08) BOB BURNQUIST: Bob Burnquist was born in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil in 1976. He learned to skateboard at a small skatepark with an attached vert ramp near his childhood home in Sao Paulo.
Bob would frequently skip school, going to the skatepark instead. And in response, his parents took away his skateboard on numerous occasions. He bursts onto the skate scene in 1995 after winning Slam City Jam contest in Vancouver, BC, Canada. He becomes famous for his blend of technical street style skateboarding on vert.
Bob also the most medals in summer X-Games history, with over 30 podiums. He currently lives just outside of San Diego on a 12-acre farm with his own personal mega ramp in the backyard. The ramp measures 75 feet in height, that launches you over a 70-foot gap, and then hits a 20-foot quarter pipe.
Fun Fact: Bob Burnquist has an Anti Hero eagle tattooed on his lower back.
10) THE MOST VIOLENT TEAM MANAGER EVER: Mickey Reyes has a long pro career as a rider for Santa Cruz skateboards. He later went on to be the team manager for all the Deluxe brands: including Antihero, Krooked, and Spitfire. Mikey claims to have punched every one of his team riders in the face and noted in an interview with Chris Neiratko for Vice that he had knives and loaded guns all around his house for a period of time.
On a flight for an Anti Hero trip when Tony Trujillo asks Mickey Reyes to move to another seat so he can lay down. Him and Mickey get in a heated argument that turns into a full on brawl. Mickey punched Tony in the face multiple times before the flight crew could break it up. A witness on the place made a statement saying he thought they were terrorists, and that one of them had a shoe bomb. The flight made an emergency landing that left both guys in a Detroit jail cell.
Mickey has since mellowed out a lot and recently opened a bar in Portland called the Cat's Paw Saloon. They even did a Nike SB shoe collaboration a while back.
11) VIDEOS: The most notable videos from Anti Hero are The Anti Hero Video, Fucktards, 2 Song, Cash Money Vagrant, Tent City, Destination Unkown, and Beauty & the Beast Tour (with Girl Skateboards).
12) JEFF GROSSO: Jeff Grosso was born in Acadia, California in 1968. He picked up skateboarding at the young age of 5. By the time he was 14, he was sponsored by Vans and was a powerhouse in the 80's skateboarding explosion. He rode for Powell Peralta and had tricks in their Future Primitive video, and later left to ride for Santa Cruz where he spent most of his career.
He got a Transworld cover in 1994, and in the mid 90's he had his pro career derailed by substance abuse. He also rode for Black Label later in his career, after a lifelong friendship with John Lucero. Lucero and Grosso had tensions over the years due to Grosso's heavy drug use, which always bothered Lucero. In a Transworld interview, Grosso noted that his drug use was so bad, he was registered as DOA (dead on arrival) on multiple occasions before being resuscitated at the hospital.
In 1997, Jeff Grosso started a journey to sobriety and did a good job at turning his life around, as well as having a second life as a pro skateboarder. He came back and rode for Vans and Anti Hero. Anti Hero welcomed him to the team with this amazing first ad.
JEFF GROSSO ad #1
Grosso became the voice of skateboarding through his web series "Love Letters To Skateboarding" produced by Sixstair Productions and Vans. The series covers interesting topics in the history of skateboarding.
Jeff was a humble and hilarious voice within skateboarding and never took himself too seriously, saying on many occasions that he "wasn't very good at being a pro skater". Sadly, in early 2020 Jeff Grosso passed away from a heart attack. He leaves behind him, his son Oliver Grosso, who gets royalties from the Vans Jeff Grosso Sk8-Mid Shoes.
13) A LOVE LETTER TO DLXSF: We wanted to take a minute and write our own little love letter to Anti Hero and Deluxe Distribution. As a small independent skateboard shop, have been amazing brands to work with, and have always treated us so well.
Over the better part of two decades, Anti Hero has been one of our top-selling board brands. Even with the trendy flavour of the month brands coming and going, Anti Hero has always remained steady and consistent.
They really do walk to walk at giving back to skateboard shops and events and don't just talk the talk. To this day, they still don't do direct to customers and push their products direct, keeping core skateshops alive.
14) SKATER BOY: No Anti Hero article would be complete without talking about TNT. Bursting onto the scene in the early 2000s, filming amazing video parts, and winning loads of contests. With a 20-year skate career, which is hard to do, a SOTY trophy (at 22yrs old), and multiple pro shoes.
In an old Thrasher Magazine, they talk about Tony Trujillo being asked out by Avril Lavigne. Apparently, Avril got a Vans employee to go to TNT's house and ask him out on a date. Tony responded with "That chick is so fucking dumb". Needless to say, they never went on a date.
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