Words/interview: Renko Heuer
Having opened his newest art show “Hawaii, stuck to me” in late June, Mark Oblow has been busy building his own brand moblow between surfing, skating, consulting, shooting photos for various clients and enjoying the beaches and food of Costa Mesa. Recently added as a RVCA advocate and creative ambassador for Electric, the man known for launching Color Skateboards (!) and Prime in the nineties is the kind of guy that went from rolling with Natas and Gonz in the early-early days of skateboarding to (still) rolling with Dylan Rieder and Evan Mock nowadays. Of course we wanted to hear his take on the various youth cultures that shaped his life up to today…
If you take a closer look at what attracted you to skateboarding and surfing and the culture surrounding it back in the early eighties, and compare that to what it – that “thing” – is to you now, what do you say? Is it still the same at its core? What is it – for you? >> So much has changed in 35 years, so if you try to compare the 80s to now in 2016, you just can’t. But the attraction to riding these boards is still the same or the excitement I get seeing someone ripping just pumps me the fuck up. For me, it’s my life…it’s what opened all my doors and traveled me around this earth. It made me the man I am today.
You got into this whole world together with guys like Natas, Hosoi, Cab… do you remember a specific moment when you first fell in love with this whole movement? Describe the energy… >> I started skating more and became close friends with Johnee Kop. He rode for Hosoi and when I was about 13, I met Hosoi. That’s when I knew I was in love with skateboarding. I was living in Hawaii and my house became the place to stay and to get fed by my mom. The early years of skateboarding were a bit different as there were only a handful of guys so when you saw another skater you gave each other respect and a place to stay. There was a strong bond and brotherhood and the energy around skateboarding was insane. Just pure fun for a pure love.
And so photography entered your life because you wanted to document some of that? >> Yes, I picked up a camera because I was skating with all my heroes! Hosoi, Natas, Gonz, Cab, Tony Hawk, Lance Mountain, Tommy Guerrero, Gator, Jason Lee, etc. This list could keep going for days. It was hard because I wanted to skate too, but I learned to split it up with taking photos. I met Kevin Thatcher and he was a big influence on me along with Bryce Kanights – pro skater/pro photographer. He was the shit!
When exactly did you start your journal? >> I had art books when I was in high school but didn’t really start my journals until Natas came into my life. He was the person who inspired me to make them. I’d say circa early 90s. Natas was such a big influence on my life artistically. One of the biggest, as well as Gonz.
What about art and music: Is there a song, an album, a book, an image, a piece of art you found so inspiring and game changing that it made you want to do what you do? (Or was it rather meeting various people?) >> I got inspired by the artists that were around me. Natas and Gonz were the two that inspired me the most. The paintings they did on their grip tape was my first hook in, then everything else followed. Not to mention Mofo, Grant Brittain, Kevin Thatcher and Bryce Kanights on the photo end. I had the best being surrounded by the legends of skateboarding and call them all my friends.
When was the last time you’ve seen or experienced something like that? >> I have nothing that can compare to the beginning. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’ve had amazing things happen but they all come from the beginning where it all started from.
What are you currently working on with your moblow brand/outlet? >> Right now with moblow, I’m making some enamel pins. I just released two that I did and they’ll be followed-up by a pin design from Langley Fox and one from Porous Walker. Then I’m going to make some skateboards. Moblow is my outlet to be able to create whatever I want and not have to think about anything holding me back. Everything is limited and there will be no re-runs. I’m not flooding the market with shit you’ll see everywhere.
So coming back to that energy: What do you feel when you see someone like Evan Mock skate? >> Evan handed me the lighter to restart my fire. Pure energy, style and having a good time when he skates. I can see he still has the purity for skateboarding and I want to help him keep that and spread the message of pma and aloha.
Speaking of that, a last word about Hawaii? >> Hawaii is my home. There’s a pride that comes with being born on this magic island we call Oahu. Put it this way, I’m proud to be an Oblow, I’m equally as proud to be from Hawaii and call myself a Hawaiian. Not by blood but by heart. If you go to any of the islands of Hawaii, like anywhere else in the world, show the locals respect… you’ll have a great time.