“That shit flat-out stuck” – Fred Gall in Philadelphia

And then, in 1994, it all came together.
Rather than simply crossing Newark Bay into New York City to skate, young Fred Gall started heading down into the city of Philadelphia. There, amongst the abundant stairs and ledges of such storied spots as City Hall, Muni, and Love Park, he thrived. Surrounded and elevated by a close cast of friends built around the Sub Zero skate shop that included Sergei Trudnowski, Matt Reason, Jerry Fisher, Eric Ruwadi, and mayor Ricky Oyola, Fred put himself in the vanguard with his switch-stance ledge skills, inebriated proficiencies, and slouching style. Amongst the constant training that was aggressively skating from spot to spot and an adherence to the unwritten code including pushing with your back foot when skating switch, Fred emerged as the skater to watch.

Fortunately for those wanting to watch, this entire scene was diligently documented by lensman Dan Wolfe and released throughout the year by way of several VHS videos. Let’s check them out.
Please note that a lot of the footage from these three videos has been sliced and reedited into both the Eastern Exposure Zero video as well as Fred’s easter egg part hidden within the Inhabitants DVD.

First up we have Freddy’s Rookies section from 411 video magazine issue # 8. To announce his ascent into the pro rankings for Alien Workshop, Fred gives a sampling of what he at the time would be known for: Lots of switch and nollie ledge tricks around Philly, with an occasional handrail thrown in there. The part, like the Digable Planets song it is set to, is meandering and leisurely with a lot of casual lines. Not a bad thing, especially when you have an appreciation for the rarity of quality non-mongo switch pushes happening at the time. This part exudes “East Coast”ness with its spots and its pacing, which is significant considering how California-centric the whole skateboarding industry was at the time.
The highlight of the part would be the City Hall line that features a nollie noseslide down a hubba, a 180 into a switch nosegrind on one of those amazing granite benches, and then a pedestrian buzzing switch 360 flip. This part also has Freddy giggling during his brief interview overdub and Jerry Fisher snuggling in bed with a cat, which is adorable. Not a legendary part, but a great overview of his talents and probably the most seen part released that year as the others were in much more regional (although now much more celebrated) videos.

Next up we take a look at Fred’s footage from Wolfe’s fabled Eastern Exposure 2 video. While the video is a smorgasbord of spots and skaters and Fred does have a trick here or there in other parts, the bulk of his tricks are grouped together between Serge and Reason in the Philadelphia section. Clocking at just a little over a minute, the footage, with only one exception, was filmed entirely at Philly’s Love Park and City Hall and scored by a frantic John Coltrane saxophone solo. With just a handful of sessions documented Fred again manhandles the area. The complete ambidextrous nature of the skating with fluidity and grace from both stances was novel for the time. We also get treated to some stair skating with Fred’s always solid but underutilized heelflip and a monster straight nollie.

This photo ended up as the cover of Thrasher’s On the Road video.

My favorite clip of Eastern Exposure 2 is Fred’s opening line on the upper plaza at Love: backside flip, switch 5-0 180 out, the hairpin turn pushes, nollie nose slide, and then the only fakie 360 flip the Fred ever committed to video. That sequence with the front foot shuffle after landing the bs flip, two switch pushes, badass ledge trick and then Fred tucking his hair behind his ear while cutting the tight turn and heading back towards the camera has all the subtleties that make this just so emblematic of Fred Gall at this time. This is how every young skater on the East Coast, including me, wanted to skate.

I thought I had every scrap of Fred’s skating memorized from this time period, but, for the life of me I could not locate a single instance of a switch 50-50 grind. No photos neither. This seemed odd, as a switch 50 on a handrail in City Hall was famous enough to get mentioned specifically in Fred Gall’s amazing Chrome Ball interview. When I had the opportunity to speak to Freddy about the missing trick, he immediate pointed me in the right direction: “Its in Thrasher: On The Road. You will find that there. I have kinda a little part in there.

And so he does, and there it is, along with some other Philly bits you might enjoy.

The pinnacle of Fred Gall’s amazing year was the final part of the Sub Zero shop video Real Life. While the other part of 1994 may have sampled the goods, this is the footage feast. Set to the unlikely soundtrack of the flute-filled summertime Canned Heat jam Going Up the Country, Real Life has Freddy savoring all that Philly splendor. Sticky handrails, those amazing Afro Banks lip tricks, a pair of street gaps, and well curated lines at all the notable plazas in the City of Brotherly Love.

Real Life premiered the day before Freddy’s 16th birthday.

This part features two incredibly pleasing heelflips: the quick footed up the bench to over the trashcan at Muni that would get homaged 19 years later by Habitat teammate Mark Suciu, and the mammoth Pulaski planter gap to end the part.

Memorably, Real Life gives us some bonus credits scenes of an intoxicated Fred and Ricky clowning around the late night streets of Philly after, apparently, about 8 beers. Just to be clear here, that’s a drunk 15 year old Fred Gall nollie frontside 180 to switch 5-0 grind a ledge in the dark, and it is amazing.

Photo by Kelly Ryan

After 1994, Fred would slip off the video radar for a bit, traveling here and there with Alien Workshop, dropping out of school, dropping acid, shooting photos in SF for Slap magazine, and enjoying the life of a pro skater while not generally worrying about capturing every session on camera.

Bonus Fred:
A pair sweet tricks including one of my favorites, the bs 180 to switch bs 5-0 on that SF ledge-rail, from the Chaos section of 411 #9.

photo in SLAP by Diggity

Bonus Bonus Fred:
Fred also had a Fine Tuning segment in 411 #9. While the literally phoned-in trick tip is worthless (as they always were back then), the footage of the straight-on backside noseblunt slide at Love is priceless.

Bonus Bonus Bonus Fred:
Fred also had a trick tip in 411 #7 from early 94. It’s at 35:30.

Also check out Jamie Thomas Pro Files in this issue.

Bonus Bonus Bonus Bonus Fred:
Youtube user Skate Video Vault uploaded Sub Zero Real Life in its entirety, but somehow Fred’s part has the skate noise but no music. While I happen to love the Canned Heat track, it is interesting to see this part without music:

Fred starts at 9:41

Bonus Bonus Bonus Bonus Bonus Fred:
Fred did a lot in 1994, so much so that some of the bonus bits will be grouped with the next episode. Or, as is the case here, I’l just keep updating this page with more bonuses. With that in mind, Fred won the Love Park contest in the “Sponsored” division (he wasn’t pro yet at the time) in the winter of 93/94. He talks about selling weed at this contest in his Bobshirt interview (around 5:00), and you can find the 411 #6 contest footage here (around 23:50).

2 thoughts on ““That shit flat-out stuck” – Fred Gall in Philadelphia

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